The recommendations book tag

I have mixed feelings about tags, but I love that this one is straightforward and book focused (none of that “name a book that has an orange tea cup on the cover” or whatever), and I was tagged by the lovely Naty, so here we are!

The rules, as set out by original poster Ally:

  • Tag Ally @ Ally Writes Things so I can see your recommendations!
  • Give at least one recommendation for each of the prompts below
  • If you don’t have a recommendation, talk about a book you want to read
  • Tag your friends

I will additionally challenge myself to mention recently read books, or at least, ones I haven’t talked about much.

A book about friendship

Days by Moonlight by André Alexis is a roadtrip novel about unlikely friends. A troubled young man accompanies an older friend of his deceased parents on a quest to find a reclusive poet, and their travels through Ontario take them to some weird places. I was about to call it a fever dream of a novel, when I remembered their destination ends up being a town called Feversham. Alexis is the type of author who can pull this off.

A translated book

I can hardly call Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (translated by Megan McDowell) overlooked, but it doesn’t seem to have garnered the same outpouring of praise as her novel, Fever Dream, or her story collection, Mouthful of Birds. This novel-in-stories worked a lot better for me. The hybrid form seems more suited for her bizarre style. Great for tech pessimists.

A diverse romance

I won’t pretend not to know what this phrase is getting at, but I must point out that a single thing, book, person, whatever, cannot be “diverse.” Luckily, the only romance (okay, erotica) I’ve read recently, A Feast of Sparks by Sierra Simone, features a cast of six main characters who certainly are diverse in terms of race, socioeconomic background, occupation, and sexual predilection. They are a bit more uniform in their dedication to having sex with each other as often as possible. I learned, in researching this entry, that Ms. Simone is herself a white, Midwestern, married mother of two… take from that what you will.

A fast-paced book

Not that she doesn’t always bring the drama, but The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton really puts poor Undine through the wringer. Most of Wharton’s books involve turns of fortune, but in this one, we really see the rise and fall… and rise… and fall… of one of the most flawed heroines I’ve ever read. One of the original disaster women.

A non-fiction other than a memoir

In The Last Royal Rebel, Anne Keay tried to redeem the rakish Duke of Monmouth (that I first encountered in Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver) into a serious military and political strategist. I was a little more interested in his relationships – with his parents, his wife, his longtime mistress, his children, but this was an accessible and tragic account of a time I’ve only glanced at through historical fiction.

An underrated memoir

It’s been a while since I read a good memoir. Ally mentions Braiding Sweetgrass, which I would not characterize as a memoir or as underrated, though I did love it! I am hereby soliciting memoir recommendations.

A book with fewer than 10,000 ratings on Goodreads

This threshold seems awfully high! The last book I read has well under 10,000 ratings, but I don’t want to link to it, because the most “liked” review, and therefore the one you will see prominently displayed, is full of inaccuracies. I got off Goodreads a couple years ago and I haven’t regretted it for a moment.

Oh okay. The book is The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy and one of the chief complaints in that review is that the elephants don’t display enough emotion; upon finding the mutilated corpses of their poached family members, “the reaction feels like “oh, dead. let’s move on.”” In fact the book contains many, MANY depictions of elephant mourning rituals and imagines the emotional experience of the elephants taking part in those rituals. Like… it’s kind of the point of the book.

Goodreads is garbage.

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist

Though A Feast of Sparks provides many opportunities here, and I suspect Hungry Paul of Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession might be asexual, I will look back to The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (translated by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre) as the best lesbian romp I’ve read since I went on a Sarah Waters binge many years ago.

A book by a trans or non-binary author

Naty recommended Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi and I will second that. Though it didn’t entirely work for me, I will also recommend Twin Studies by Keith Maillard, a nonbinary Canadian author, as an off-the-beaten-path choice. He’s got a memoir about gender identify coming out in a couple of weeks.

A book with more than 500 pages

It’s been a while since I read a chunker that I really loved. I hereby solicit your recommendations! I mean, I loved The Mirror and the Light but it probably could have used an edit…

A short story collection

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa won the Giller Prize last year, and seems to be making inroads in the States, so it hardly needs my recommendation… but it was really good. Some of the stories are immigrant stories, but there’s also a romance between a young man and an old woman, that was so delightfully weird and tender. That’s the one that stuck with me.

Book you want everyone to read

This should be the easiest category, but I’m drawing a blank. So far this year, my favourites have either been popular contemporary novels or classics, so enough people will read them as it is. I guess I think everyone should read whatever they want. Sorry for the cop out!

Tagging: pace, amore, libri, Consumed By Ink, I’ve Read This


  1. Ally Writes Things

    Ahhh thank you for doing the tag! Days by Moonlight and How to Pronounce Knife have been on my TBR for ages, and I really need to read more Canadian authors this year, so I should definitely prioritize them!

  2. annelogan17

    Ohhh interesting that Keith has a memoir coming out! I will keep my eye open for that because I really enjoyed Twin Studies.

    Also-please tell me immediately what book has a picture of an orange teacup? I am DYING to know LOL

    • lauratfrey

      haha! It’s the first random item that came into my head! Yeah it’s out in May. I found the gender identity themes in Twin Studies a little bit heavy handed but it would be interesting to hear him speaking about his own experience.

  3. Rebecca Foster

    Some unusual memoirs you might like: The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen (or is it autofiction?), Modern Nature by Derek Jarman, and In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado.

    My goal of reading a doorstopper a month has long since gone by the wayside, but I still manage a few a year. The best ones I read in 2020 were Americanah and The Emperor’s Children.

    • lauratfrey

      Tove Ditlevsen was on my radar, I’d never heard for Modern Nature but it sounds great (and great cover!), In the Dream House might be too hyped but one day 🙂 Thank you, these are great recommendations!

      • Rebecca Foster

        Hype or not, it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read — utterly unique. Though in that it’s in the second person it reminds me of Winter Journal by Paul Auster, which I think I originally heard about from you.

  4. Naomi

    It’s been a long time since I read The White Bone, but I remember loving it. I also love Days by Moonlight and How to Pronounce Knife. I still have Twin Studies on my shelf and now I want to read his new memoir as well. There are some fun books on this list!

    I don’t read a lot of chunksters or memoirs, so I’m not much help to you. When/if I do this tag, I will think harder about those! That last one is a hard one, too…

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