by Marcus Sakey
I used to go book shopping by wandering into a store, running my hands along the shelves, inhaling deeply, and grabbing books at random. This was fun, sensual even, but the results were scattershot. Sometimes I stumbled on gems. Sometimes I bought losers. The truth is that it's pretty easy for a publishing company to make a jacket look enticing. And though you can read the first pages, I've grabbed plenty of books with dynamite initial chapters and lousy everything else.
In the last years, the Internet has changed the way I read. Oftentimes I'm getting titles from blogs or columns, people whose taste I trust. Before I buy a book, I can scan reviews from both readers and the media. I can still read the first few pages, but I can also check out the author's website. As a result, I've been fortunate to have consistently good books for the past few years.
This is a wonderful thing. But it spoils you, too. Because when the standard is generally high, you're always searching for the exceptional.
Which is where y'all come in. I've read a lot of excellent books recently. But it's been a while since one truly startled me. I'm not talking about being a heck of a read, or fun, or smart. I'm talking about absolutely blowing the doors off. A book that is a serious and sudden contender for the prized Number One slot.
I'm hoping you can suggest more.
I'll give you an example to kick it off. CLOUD ATLAS, by David Mitchell. I picked it up on a friend's rec, and didn't get to it for more than a year. Then, once I did, I walked around in a daze throughout reading it. Sheer and pulsing genius on every damn page. A story--a series of stories, really, but all connected--that wouldn't let go. Virtuosic command of the language. Lines and images that haunt me still. If you haven't read it, I urge you to pick up a copy.
So, the rules: No rules. I'll take recs in any category. I read litfic and fantasy and science fiction and crime and graphic novels and the sides of cereal boxes. They can be old or new, acclaimed or unheard of, native English or translations.
They just have to have really shaken you to your core.
How about it? What blew you away?