Books That Beckon To Us Like Old Friends

Consider this the first meeting of our Man Repeller Book Club

11.24.15

One of the absolute best feelings in the world besides a sun-warmed towel following an ocean dive and the sensation of sticking your hand deep into a barrel of dried beans (these are a few of my favorite things!) is when you’re doing something — anything — and a little itch comes over you to get back to your book.

Your book beckons like no television show or Netflix series or unfinished movie can. You’re confident that cinematic characters pause with the remote, but those people in your book? For all you know they’re running around like maniacs, blurring the pages and breaking shit and acting like rockstars in a hotel room — this even if you’re reading an autobiography on Thomas Jefferson. You have to get back to them.

I’m not sure why that feels so good. Maybe it’s because it’s a little reminder that you do like reading. Isn’t that always strangely reassuring? Especially after you find yourself stuck halfway through a crap novel and give up. It’s like ending a serious relationship: you never think you’ll like or love again, but then you do.

Sometimes it takes a few bad dates in-between. A ton of duds. Nice but not great. Nice but kind of boring. Mediocre dialogue. And then…

Your friend sets you up with the perfect book.

(Oh, sorry, you thought I was still talking about our love lives. I kind of am!)

We at Man Repeller want to be the friends who set you up. Click through the slideshow above for our various picks. Some are old, some are new, some are borrowed and if you’re reading this I promise to give it back!, some actually are blue, and some we’re in the process of finishing — no spoiler alerts.

Add your own favorites in the comments section below. We need new reads, too. The kinds we can’t wait to get back to.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis

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  • Anne-Sophie

    Jamaica Inn by Daphné du Maurier.
    Read it 10 times, forced my boyfriend to read it, read chapters to friends over the phone and being annoying about it since 2002.

    • I should probably check this out. Been annoying everyone about Rebecca since 2002.

    • ava

      I will pick it up – Love Daphne du Maurier

  • Chetna Singh

    Great list.. I needed some more names! My absolute favorite..Pride and Prejudice, To kill a mocking bird, Gone with the wind, Palace of illusions to name a few!

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      If my copy of pride and prejudice had been in NY I would have included it!!! Austen at her BEST.

  • Quinn Halman

    If you love to get emotionally attached to fictional characters I recommend “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. “Middlesex” is great when you want to not speak to your siblings for a while with a valid reason. Lastly, I recommend “The Winter People” to those who want to be kept up at night!

    • Quinn Halman

      Also, “The Interestings”

    • pamb

      My MIL gave my daughter, age 14, ‘A Tree’. I’m sure I read it, but don’t remember it. It’s her Winter Break reading, and I’ll read it after that. Mother/daughter Book Club!

  • Evalyn

    One of my staple books that I always love to go back to is Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk, I couldn’t put it down after I got through the first few pages. A classic that I’ve always loved is Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann (but who doesn’t know valley of the dolls?). And when I need a good laugh, I just like to pick up Bossypants by Tina Fey. Happy reading 🙂

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      Wait, I’ve been wanting to read Valley of the Dolls for a while but just haven’t boughten it when I’m perusing a book store (but usually end up carrying it around for a bit while i decide). I should finally pull the trigger?

      • Lucy Korn

        Yes! It’s great in a sort of languid, sticky way.

      • Evalyn

        Absolutley! I’ve read it like 3 times, and watched the movie when I need a quick fix. Oh and sorry for the really late reply haha

      • Chetna Singh

        yes you should! Read it a while ago but def worth it!

  • Ahhhh, The Secret History … was rereading Donna Tartt this summer, what a pleasure.
    Another author I will be rereading, sort of, is my favorite: Terry Pratchett. Curiously enough, I first read his Discworld novels in German and since I liked them so much and we listened to the corresponding audio books so many times, I actually didn’t consider reading the original versions till this year – so this is what I have been doing this few weeks. “Thief of Time”, “Pyramids”, “Guards, Guards! and “Equal Rites” (read in English so far) are really a blessing with no disguise. Really very, very beautiful.

    Luckily, I tend to forget plots and characters so I am/will be able to enjoy my own books a few times in life. Not a bad investment, is it? 🙂

  • I just about died and went to heaven reading every page of Patti Smith’s M Train. I went to a reading of hers and was thrilled to find out that she really is hilarious and excitable. Just like her songs, every paragraph is basically a stanza of music that makes the prose seem like poetry. So good!

    • Her life is a poem! She is the best! Her writing oozes with excitement, as you said. We are so lucky to have her on our little planet 🙂

    • Emily Katherine

      Just Kids is also amazing

  • Ashli Molina

    About to start reading “Night of the Gun” by the late David Carr. Anyone going to start reading the books on this list?

  • All good choices!

    Krista — totally agree with you on The White Album. Very hard to pick a favorite Didion work, but I remember the very first time I read her essay “Holy Water” and how overcome with emotion bc finally I had connected with a writer in our greater literary canon that could articulate the anxieties we inherit as Californians. I am very proud to call her one of our own; very protective, too! <3

    Elizabeth — White Girls by Hilton Als was by far one of the works that changed the way I think about form, and how form/syntax/etc can ultimately create entirely new, overwhelmingly temporal narrative spaces. Als turns form on its head and uses the English language as his own tool to achieve the above. It's insane. He allowed me to step into his pages in a way I had never with any other writer's work before. Agh!

    One of my top, I don't know, three or four books is Speedboat by Renata Adler. Some of the shortest, most cutting sentences you will ever read. Like, she gives Hemingway a run for his money — and then some. Each sentence is a little punch in the gut, but beyond just form I marvel at the way she thinks about things, how she can piece together a story odd, short bursts of information. THANK YOU RENATA I LOVE YOU
    (I also recommend that everyone listen to her interview on the Longform podcast; it made me cry.)

    • allie

      As a fellow Californian I totally get the sentiment of a fierce sense of belonging when reading Didion. Although I grew up in Los Angeles and spent my childhood trekking around the truly massive state, I’m rarely in our home state (currently in London by way of Chicago). Reading her feels like intellectual nostalgia, mainly due to her innate sense of setting. She also neatly proves the point that California is not just the land of kale and California girls are not dumb.

      • I! Wish! They! All! Could! Be!….
        (beach boys generally right)

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      I wish I had written my captions as beautiful as you just did.

      Also, I’ve been eyeing Speedboat for a while at McNally. I’m finally gonna pounce now that you’ve recommended it!

      • Speedboat will change your life! (but first it will make you feel like you’re trippin’)

  • nygirltrappedinfl

    Light and fun for the holidays –Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling (major girl crush)

    Too much running around to get into anything deep over the holidays!

  • Beatrice

    After graduating from college I realized that reading for fun can be a thing again. Some newer books by incredible women that I found to be enthralling. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (insanely incredible), All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (quite honestly the funniest and most beautiful sad book I have ever read), the Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.

    If you’re in a prose mood, short on time, and seeking enlightenment you have to read Bluets by Maggie Nelson.

    I also always recommend What is the What, by Dave Eggers and Valentino Deng, to any human being who will listen. It is the story of a refugee from South Sudan– important today to humanize and honor the stories of refugees, not just what we read in the news.

    • Adichie and Toews … mmmmm 🙂

    • Pippa

      Yes!! Americanah is one of my favourites (as are all of Adichie’s) and All My Puny Sorrows is so beautifully heart wrenching I wanted to hug it to my chest at all times.

  • Deborah

    In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe! Or, especially if you are living on your own for the first time/just graduated college/are in some kind of transitional moment, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.

  • Oh crap! Also, “Ongoingness” by Sarah Manguso!

  • Deborah

    Also, Leandra: I don’t mean to claim that I know how you’re feeling lately, but if you’ve got kindness, death, and birth on the mind, you might enjoy The World to Come.

  • AlexaJuno

    My boyfriend recently gave me, “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore and I haven’t put it down. A fantastically funny, poignant, and thought provoking biblical coming of age tale that I would recommend to all. Moore is a brilliantly hilarious writer and I plan on reading his entire canon. So, so great.

    • Beatrice

      I loooove Christopher Moore! My boyfriend gifted me Sacre Bleu last summer when I was in the south of France (where much of the story takes place). I highly recommend!

    • Beatrice

      I loooove Christopher Moore! My boyfriend gifted me Sacre Bleu last summer when I was in the south of France (where much of the story takes place)

  • Sam

    I highly recommend “Up, Simba” by DFW. Especially interesting and timely considering how popular Bernie Sanders has become as a candidate.

  • Rose L

    I Love Dick by Chris Krauss…an excellent piece of “confessional literature” and continues to be an interdisciplinary point of reference for writers, artists, art historians, and theoreticians alike.

    • Oh god yes. I Love Dick >>

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      I almost brought this in, but I read it too recently for it to be a full on FAVORITE.

      Also this book gets so many points for all of the funny looks you get on public transport.

  • Paula

    I think I’ll try and read all of these. Thanks MR.
    I’m on a career break at present, and devouring books. My husband jokes I’m going to read all the books at the library.
    I’ve just finished Paris by Edward Rutherford. A poignant read in light of the recent attacks, but a dense and wonderful historical novel.

  • You just perfectly described my struggle everyday at 4:30 when I’m itching to run home and pick up my book. I can’t wait to add these to my list on Goodreads.

  • muiringue

    These are definitely not good choices if you want something
    light for consumption in a holiday season mist/downpour of carbs and alcohol,
    but I would highly recommend ‘Only Ever Yours’ or ‘Asking For It’ by Louise O’Neill.
    They are YA fiction but light, fluffy reads they are not. The first is a
    dystopian novel where women’s’ rights have been eradicated, and the second
    examines rape culture. I would not say that these are books to enjoy (they are
    seriously unsettling) but the writing is clever and brave, and I think these
    are important books.

    On a lighter note, YESSSSSSS to seeing The Fran Lebowitz
    Reader on here. So, so good. A tip: It makes a worthy companion on public
    transport, as the inevitable shaking and uncontrollable laughter has the bonus
    effect of causing my fellow passengers to give me a wide berth. An excellent man (-spreading) repeller. I feel/hope with the hope of a thousand suns that Fran would approve.

  • Sage

    Mary Louise Parker’s new book! The format is very unique (letters) and it is such a great view into the complicated relationships one has in their life.

  • Thamsa

    When I graduated from university and couldn’t find a job right away, I joined a book club at my local library. I was the only person under 50. It was nice and I stayed a couple of months, but I thought it would be nice to do the same with a slightly younger group 😛

    I would recommend reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it’s a great book, especially comforting tale for immigrants to North America.

    I am planning on reading White Teeth, by Zadie Smith.

    Currently, I am reading Modern Romance: An Investigation, co-written by Aziz Ansari, very funny!
    Great list though, I know Ill be adding a few more this winter 😉

    Thanks Ladies!!

  • Autumn

    Because you wrote a post about Tom Wolfe a couple weeks back:
    I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe.
    It’s a simple story about a girl (Charlotte Simmons) from the Blue Ridge mountains (or somewhere around there) who goes to a big college and experiences life for the first time. He’s a genius at writing dialogue.

    • Autumn

      Also, Jonathan Safran Foer’s book “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is one of the few books I’ve highlighted passages in because the writing is that good.

  • Catalina

    Everything & anything Malcom Gladwell & David Sedaris, yes I put the two of them in the same sentence.

    Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice by Mark J. Plotkin – I’m not into light science non-fiction BUT!!! this book will make you re-think everything from western medicine to plants to the advance of civilization and technology. Fa realz.

    For some poetry or if you just need to update your “Quote” Pinterest board, I suggest Rumi.

    I just finished New York the Novel by Edward Rutherford. The novel follows a family over four centuries [starting with the Dutch & Indians] grounded in legitimate historical facts along the way. For those who want to learn more about the great history of New York but don’t want to follow a tour guide around the East Village in sub artic temps eating one sad, cold falafel, this is your book.

    Also for a more bidnezz book, I **really** loved Lean In by your girl, Sheryl. I read it two years ago when I was just starting my career and it definitely gave me the confidence I needed as a new employee navigating the waters of corporate America.

    <3

  • Olivia O

    The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Klay by Michael Chabon. It’s so much in such a good way.

  • Aydan

    For those in need of light and fun books for planes/traveling: “Crazy Rich Asians” and “China Rich Girlfriend”–companion books to one another and brilliant reads — you may even end up with some new mandarin/malay/other eastern languages to try out on your fam and friends!

  • cindy kazanjian

    I vote for The Secret History as well. One of my all time favorite books!

  • Sneakers and Silk

    Object of Beauty by Steve Martin is a fave of mine- I was especially moved by Martin’s incorporation of 9/11 and how that forever altered Lacey’s career.

    My favorite books:

    Me Before You- JoJo Moyes (no one can write about love and loss like Ms Moyes)

    Man at the Helm- Nina Stibble (both melancholy and hysterical)

    Flight Behavior- Barbara Kingslover (one of the most fascinating, well-written pieces of fiction I’ve encountered in a while)

    And, The Underground Girls of Kabul is a MUST read- nonfiction about women raised as men in Afghanistan- truly eye opening and surprising.

    Thanks for the recommendations– I’m going to read While Girls after finishing DVF’s memoir (which I’m also loving!)

  • tonikali

    Franny and Zoey is also my favorite! I would like to add one more contemporary book that I deem a classic and that is “One more thing” A collection of short stories by B.J Novak.

  • Sara

    I’m reading Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn” (again)

  • l:ly

    Currently reading Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg. So good. Also would recommend The Goldfinch (I know you’ve probably been told to read this by everyone but I’m serious it’s AMAZING)

  • Haley Haltom

    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers! I reread it every summer, but definitely applicable to all seasons.

  • Ana Tellez

    Wonderland by Joyce Carol Oates
    The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
    And Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” !!

  • Fabulous book ideas! ♥

    HAVE A GREAT DAY!
    xoxo Suzy ( ˘ ³˘)♥

    THE KAWAII PLANET

  • Alison

    _The Moor’s Tale_ by Laila Lalami (especially good if you are interested in theories of telling and retelling, post/colonial literature, or have read Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative from 1555. No, seriously! It’s fantastic. The story of shipwrecked Spaniards and an enslaved man from Morocco who make their way through Florida-Texas-Mexico, learning medical practices from indigenous communities and becoming healers in their own right.)

    _Native Guard_ by Natasha Trethaway (*anything* by Natasha Trethaway. Her poetry changes the way I breathe. It’s fantastic.)

  • Andy

    “Why Not Me?” by Mindy Kaling and also “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion

  • I just finished ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara which was beautiful, sad, disgusting and so, so moving. It will stay with me forever. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Next, I’m going to read Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Attachments’, then Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’. I also want to devour Angela Flournoy’s ‘The Turner House’. I need something light and short and quick following ALL!

  • Pippa

    More please! I worked in a bookshop while I studied and so talking to people about books and matching a book to a person is my favourite thing in the world. Everyone should find The Interestings by Meg Woltizer and The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman.

    http://thefinancialdiet.com/10-cold-weather-reads-for-when-you-need-to-stay-in-and-save-money/#more-13032

  • Darah

    I absolutely love that MR is recommending books. It’s so refreshing that so many women are also just geeks wearing Loubs. YES.

  • Courtney

    Don’t know about you, but I know about me and what I know is I always go for the kid lit when I’m home in my old bedroom – Harriet the Spy, my spirit animal, guide me back to who I once was!

    When I feel grown-up again, it’s The Virgin Suicides, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Cosmicomics, and Secret History even though you said it first.

  • chouette

    I suddenly want to order my childhood re-reading favorites of Little Women and anything by Laura Ingalls Wilder, especially Farmer Boy! Adult me wants everyone to read the Xenogenesis trilogy by Octavia Butler and have a college humanities class discussion on it.

  • RattlesnakeKate

    Surfacing by Margret Atwood (I read it for the first time at 15 and have re-read it every couple of years since then. I am really into Atwood’s primal and deeply creepy portrayal of womanhood.)
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Such a sweet and hopeful book, I read it whenever I feel bummed out.)
    Vineland by Thomas Pynchon (Read it in high school and it had a huge impact on my personal aesthetic/how I imagine myself to exist in the world. Plus, it’s just a really FUN book!)

  • Laura

    “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tart. Is definitely the best book I read this year. It is overwhelming at the end and unbearable most of the time besäuseln of the protagonist’s Constitution.

    • Laura

      *) because

  • kforkarli

    A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey. It used to be a mandatory read in Australian schools but is seen as a little ‘honky now’. I find it beautiful to hear about the experience of boy growing up in Australia in the 1900s. I just finished Drew Barrymore’s Wildflower and am also in the middle of Mindy Kaling’s new book.

  • donna w.

    Great picks! This has been the year of reading for me.

    Here are my favourites:

    1. Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight (I read this mystery in 2 days!)
    2. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (also read this one in 2 days!)
    3. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (everyone needs to read this one!)
    4. Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin (a hilarious, spot-on portrayal of life in Tinseltown)
    5. Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce (an incredible debut!)
    6. Room by Emma Donoghue (Drop everything and pick this one up! This was a re-read for me in anticipation of the movie:)
    7. The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams (a story of ambition, love and secrets!)
    8. The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

    Currently reading: A Fairy Tale by Jonas T. Bengtsson (so good!)

    Happy reading!

  • Norma

    Girlfriend in a Coma by Coupland Douglas. Feels like you back to the teen time

  • Sophie

    My FAVORITE book that I recently finished is “A Little Life” written by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s a downer, but beautifully written. I really could not put it down. That’s the best feeling with a book!

  • Mariel Vela

    Anything by Zadie Smith! Also I think the Holidays are the best time to indulge in some 500 page best-seller that’s full of romance, history, intrigue. Currently about to start the 1960s “Exodus” by Leon Uris. It appears on an episode of Mad Men (still getting over the fact the series is over)

  • I would definitely join a man repeller book club. It should be held at McNally Jackson. I’d choose another Donna Tartt novel- The Goldfinch.

  • Merrie Ellis

    I actually found out about this site by reading “#Girlboss” 🙂

  • Blanca Barragan

    “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon

    Also, sign me up for the hypothetical Man Repeller Book Club!