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Ask a Book Buyer: Beyond Male Authors, Couple’s Book Club Picks, and More

Ask a Book BuyerAt Powell's, our book buyers select all the new books in our vast inventory. If we need a book recommendation, we turn to our team of resident experts. Need a gift idea for a fan of vampire novels? Looking for a guide that will best demonstrate how to knit argyle socks? Need a book for a vegetarian who loves Radiohead and Flight of the Conchords? Email your question to We'll be posting personalized recommendations regularly.

Q: It has been pointed out that most of my favorite authors are male: Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, Michael Chabon, Neal Stephenson, maybe Neil Gaiman, too. I think my favorite book from last year's reading was Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine, but I can't yet say he's a favorite author, as I haven't read any other books by him. Can you recommend any female authors who might appeal to a reader with my tastes? –Eve

A: For a blend of surrealism, philosophy, pop culture, and mystery reminiscent of Murakami and Mitchell, and the kind of quirky but endearing protagonist you'll find in Chabon's work, try British novelist Scarlett Thomas. Two of her most popular books are The End of Mr. Y and Our Tragic Universe. –Rhianna

Check out Karen Russell's books. Her newest is Vampires in the Lemon Grove. Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners is also strange and wonderful. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is a classic. –Kevin

Q: I am looking for books that my boyfriend and I can read together. We'd like to start our own book club and need a few titles to get started. We like graphic novels and literary fiction. He really enjoys nonfiction books about social and media commentary. I enjoy memoirs and books that make me search deep within my soul (like Tiny Beautiful Things). What I'd like is a good variation of books that we can have deep, meaningful conversations over, books that will help us explore our relationship, life, and friendship. –Neri

A: Try Truth and Beauty, the moving book about Ann Patchett's friendship with the late Lucy Grealy. Nicole Georges's graphic novel Calling Dr. Laura is great and funny and moving as well. The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire is sad but beautiful. –Kevin

Q: I love to have a book that ties into my travels — whether it's a travel memoir, fiction set in the same country, or a good history of the area. In a couple months I'll be traveling in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Any good recommendations? –Kate

A: There are perhaps no finer Turkish writers currently at work than Nobel Prize–winner Orhan Pamuk. The Istanbul-born author composes both fiction and nonfiction. Some of his more popular novels include Snow, My Name Is Red, and The New Life. Two of his most well-regarded nonfiction works are Istanbul: Memories and the City and Other Colors: Essays and a Story. Have a great trip! –Jeremy

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Istanbul: Memories and the City
    Used Trade Paper $9.00
  2. Vampires in the Lemon Grove: And... Sale Trade Paper $10.47
  3. The New Life Used Trade Paper $6.95
  4. Snow
    Used Trade Paper $1.95
  5. My Name is Red
    Used Trade Paper $6.95
  6. Magic for Beginners
    Sale Trade Paper $7.98
  7. The Handmaid's Tale
    Used Trade Paper $8.00
  8. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship
    Used Trade Paper $3.95
  9. Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir Used Trade Paper $8.50
  10. The Complete Essex County
    New Trade Paper $29.95
  11. The End of Mr. Y
    Used Trade Paper $8.50
  12. Our Tragic Universe
    Used Hardcover $6.95
  13. Other Colors: Essays and a Story... Used Trade Paper $9.00
  14. The Hakawati
    Used Trade Paper $9.00
  15. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on...
    Used Trade Paper $10.95

2 Responses to "Ask a Book Buyer: Beyond Male Authors, Couple’s Book Club Picks, and More"

    James Cappio March 19th, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Scarlett Thomas is probably the most ambitious--and the most undervalued--writer in the UK today. She hasn't quite reached the level of Angela Carter, Penelope Fitzgerald, or J.G. Ballard yet, but who has? However, you should add POPCO to your lost. what's not to like about a book that has a Polish pirate radio station featuring readings from NEUROMANCER?

    "'Take my camel, dear,' said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass."If you want to read a travelogue novel set in Turkey, choose Rose Macaulay's THE TOWERS OF TREBIZOND, of which I've just quoted the famous first sentence. Pamuk's book on Istanbul is fascinating but a little too self-consciously imitative of W.G. Sebald. Whether the right author won the Nobel Prize I'll leave to you to judge.

    G Young March 20th, 2014 at 10:50 am

    The best preparatory book I read before my trip to Turkey was Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey by Anastasia Ashman.
    Each story paints Turkey as the narrator experiences it, and, together, the stories construct a portrait of a people and their place.
    Pamuk's books are great too. You'll have a wonderful trip!

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