Readers to this blog are aware of my favorite author Elizabeth Gaskell. Jane Austen is a close second. (I know it is a cliche for girls to like Jane Austen but what can I say? I love her books!). I love the characters (particularly the female), the plots, and the romance in all of their books. They are the kind of books that I can read over and over again and get continual pleasure. In fact, sometimes I finish rereading one, just to start repeating another. (I think I read North and South four times last year. I’m not kidding and its a big book.).
The problem I have is Austen only wrote 6 books (Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park) and Elizabeth Gaskell only wrote 5 (North and South, Cranford, Mary Barton, Wives and Daughters, and Ruth) This leaves me yearning for a new book but having depleted all 11 books multiple times. I am consequently left adrift without any books? What’s a reader to do?
That’s where I turn to you my fabulous online community. What are some other author’s similar in characters, plots and tone to Elizabeth Gaskell and Jane Austen?
Let me give you an idea of other books I enjoy-
I LOVE Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Adam Bede and Middlemarch by George Eliot, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
I also like modern books but it is difficult to find author’s that are at least moderately clean and that don’t have sullen weepy characters. (I don’t mind a tragedy but there has to be something redeeming in them or at least in the story).
An author from the 20th century I liked is Willa Cather. Her books have a poetry and a depth I find moving. By the end of her books you really love her characters and want them to be happy.
Cry the Beloved Country by Allan Patton is another book I love. It paints a beautiful setting while sparing nothing of the horrors of apartheid. The two main characters maintain a purity and love for their sons that is gorgeous.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is another great book. Is there a more noble man in all of literature then Atticus Finch? I certainly can’t think of a better father.
Finally, I enjoy a well-written memoir about an interesting person facing challenges or experiencing new lands. Red China Blues by Jan Wong is a long-time favorite. I also like Yak Butter and Black Tea: A Journey into Tibet by Wade Brackenbury (crazy book about this man who travels to China with a tour and on a whim decides to traverse forbidden Tibet with an unknown french man he met in a cafe. Crazy!). On a more somber note I just finished the Hiding Place by Corie ten Boom for the third time- what a remarkable book about an amazing lady. Another of my favorites on that vein is Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs- the most stirring memoir on slavery I’ve read.
So that should give you an idea for the type of books I like to read. I don’t mind something long so don’t be afraid to recommend them! I’m not a huge fan of fantasy but it can have some fantastic elements. I also like some chick-lit but it has to be relatively clean and well-written (I liked the first two shopaholic books and the Devil Wears Prada). Another tip- if it is an Oprah book I probably won’t like it. Her books are so pointlessly depressing.
Some books that I hated are the Scarlet Letter, the Awakening, A Separate Peace, A Fine Balance, Julie and Julia, The Jungle, Brave New World, the Princess Bride, Catch 22, the Invisible Man, Catcher in the Rye, and Netherland. All were about crass unfeeling people that I hated and didn’t care a lick about their story. They are all very annoying in their styles, tones and plots. I also hate books that are preachy and manipulative in forcing their world-view upon the reader (ie David Sedaris, David Foster Wallace- overrated, condescending, foul-mouthed, and preachy). Such books drive me crazy even if I agree with the world-view presented.
So, friends give me your suggestions. Help me find my new Elizabeth Gaskell, my new Jane Austen. Many of the author’s I mentioned above only wrote one or two books, so I’ve already tapped them out. It’d be great if I could find an author with a number of must reads that I haven’t read yet! I can already envision the many happy days of reading ahead of me!
To see what some of my favorite books are look at this post.