Personal "To Be Read" Shortlist

  • If you see a favorite of yours (or one you hated!) on this list, please do let me know, as a positive comment will most likely get the book bumped up my TBR.  I keep this page mostly for my own edification, as a place to keep titles and notes regarding books which I want to read "sooner rather than later" and those which should be read together or in a particular order.

  • ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner (own)
  • THE FLOOR OF HEAVEN by Howard Blum
  • HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
  • THE COLLECTOR by John Fowles (said to be a classic somewhat along the vein of Room)
  • MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS by Tracy Kidder (own)
  • THE ELEMENT by Ken Robinson
  • OUT OF OUR MINDS by Ken Robinson
  • MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • THE EIGHT by Katherine Nieville (own)
  • 22 BRITANNIA ROAD by Amanda Hodgkinson
  • HAVE A LITTLE FAITH by Mitch Albom
  • BLOOD RIVER by Tim Butcher
  • A THOUSAND SISTERS by Lisa Shannon (BooknBlues recommends reading this together with Blood River, as they cover two individuals in the same place and time, but having very different experiences/perceptions.)
  • Elizabeth Chadwick books in order: A PLACE BEYOND COURAGE, (next is The Greatest Knight, but I have already read it), THE SCARLET LION, THE TIME OF SINGING, and TO DEFY A KING
  • THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins (Audible)
  • THE QUIET AMERICAN  by Graham Greene
  • BARABBAS by Par Lagerkvist
  • RUNNING THE RIFT by Naomi Benaron
  • THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON by Adam Johnson
  • (Both of the above two books were suggested by Michael E. on PBT as good studies for answering the individual personal meanings to be made of the madness of war and trying to understand the question of atrocities committed against fellow human beings.)
ELLEN FOSTER, and CHARMS FOR AN EASY LIFE both by Kaye Gibbons (recommended by B.C. and Michelle G.)

(Read both of the above books in tandem, as they both deal with compromised espionage  operatives during World War II-both recommended by Isabella)

Ben MacIntyre books:  Read Double Cross first, then read Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat in any order.

The Black Count by Tom Reiss (good companion read with Madison Smartt Bell's Haiti trilogy) Book is about Alexandre Dumas's father. (own)

The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 by Ian Kershaw

Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East by Anthony Shadid

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship by Richard Aldous
The President, The Pope, and The Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World by John O'Sullivan

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

The Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead

HHhH by Laurent Binet

The World Without You by Joshua Henkin

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

America's Great Debate by Fergus M. Bordewich

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

Prairie Fever by Peter Pagnamenta

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is a good tandem read with The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys by Lilian Pizzichini

Read Sandcastle Girls and The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian as tandem reads

Mary's preferred reading order for Jane Austen's books: Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice.

The following are suggestion lists from friends.  Their original lists were longer than what you see here, as I delete titles after I read them.

BooknBlues Share-A-Shelf suggestions:
Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda
The Places in Between by rory Stewart
City of Light by Lauren Belfer
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
And the Ladies of the club by Helen Hooven Santmeyer
Too Deep for Tears Kathryn Lynn Davis
A thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
The orphan Master's son Adam Johnson
Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

Regina's Share-A-Shelf Suggestions:

The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh is one I highly recommend. It is the book that got me hooked on Burmese history. I will say that its strength is in its history. Some people don't like the plot or character development. I, however, adored it.
Cellist of Sarejvo by Steven Galloway - Since you have read The Bridge on the Drina I think you will find this a fascinating account of a specific time wihtin the country.
Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden - Bowden is clearly biased, but if you've ever wanted a good account of the days during the Iranian hostage crisis this is it.
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières - In my opinion this book has it all: great story, beautiful prose, wonderful characters, and great history.
The Forger's Spell by Edward Donlick - I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but since it is on your shelf, I encourage you to bump it up. It is a fascinating look into the Nazi's focus on acquiring work in occupied areas and one man's ability to take advantage of their greed.
For a Couple of Recommendations not on your shelf:
The Next Founders by by Joshua Muravchik. In addition to individual stories from the Middle East, the author provides some fascinating blogs and websites that you can follow.
Mary B.'s Share-A-Shelf Suggestions:


The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - Extremely Victorian drama by one of the people attributed to inventing the mystery novel complete with twists aimed at clearly making those wearing corsets faint. Kind of long but very much worth it.

W. Somerset Maugham - I recommend the Razor's Edge. It's my favorite Maugham. I would describe it as the English response to the Great Gatsby. There are definite parallels. If you haven't read Maugham, watch the female characters. So much ink has been spilled about how he writes women and it's apparent in all of his plays and books. Some people love it and some people hate it. Either way, give it a go.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford - I don't know that many people under 70 love the Mitfords as much as I do but I'm doing my best to bring them back. They were the daughters of an English nobleman who grew up being quietly homeschooled in the countryside. Then they came out and became the Kardashians of their day. They made the tabloids for their romances but it was their hobbies that were more interesting as they were more interested in extreme politics than being socialites. Unity stalked and possibly dated Hitler. Diana married the leading fascist in England. Decca eloped to Spain to fight with the Communists in the Spanish Civil War. Nancy was already famous as the novelist who immortalized their childhood games and Mitford slang. This is her finest novel and you can clearly pick out which of her sisters she inserted in it. What comes through mostly is Nancy herself as the book is 100% wit and charm.

L.M. Montgomery - No?

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Historical fiction:

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber - Not entirely historical fiction; it's a little more in the literary category. Someone described it as the Victorian novel Dickens would write were he alive today and I've always loved that description. I recommend it highly but it is quite long and I think someone just started Les Mis.

The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham - I am extremely critical of historical fiction and I really loved this book. It helps that she did fantastic research and chose a time period and historical figures I really love.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - I suspect you've already read this one, but, if you haven't, it's definitely worth looking into. I think you'd really love this one.


The Greatest Traitor by Ian Mortimer - Mortimer is my current favorite in the history category. This was his first historical biography. His non-biographies are definitely faster reads and not as detailed. His biographies are not the fastest reads and non-lovers of history may find them professorial. I love them and wish he'd go back to them, even if the other books are more lucrative. This one focuses primarily on the reign of Edward II. The others sort of follow sequentially.

Public Enemies by Brian Burrough - I didn't think I was interested in crime or criminals. All of those old public enemies sounded boring and I think I picked it up to prove that. I like admitting when I'm wrong. Anytime anyone called me for weeks afterwards, I turned into that kid from Jerry Maguire. "Did you know...?"

Regina's Nonfiction Top Ten (and then some):
1. Desert Queen - Wallach
2. Crescent and Star - Kinzer
4. Black Count - Reiss
5. Boys in the Boat - Brown
6. Half the Sky - Kristof
7. A Life in Secrets - Helm
8. Unbroken - Hillenbrand
9. The Last Gunfight - Guinn
10. The Girls of Atomic City - Kiernan
Other notable reads. These are still readable, in my opinion, but they may not have broad appeal, don't have enough name recognition to have any chance of making the final list, or deal with very emotionally and physically distressing events:
• On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam CJ Walker by A'lelia Perry Bundles - an amazing story of a daughter of a slave who, by the time she died in 1919, built a business empire of beauty products for African-American women. It is a great inspirational story of perseverance
• The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian - the best book I've ever read on the Armenian Genocide
• Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow - Very long biography, but incredibly well done, on the father of our banking system
• Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley - Great overview of the battle of Iwo Jima, the iconic flag raising photo, and the tragic aftermath for the men who raised the flag.
• All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer - Kinzer is one of my favorite historical writers. This is an excellent overview for the foundation of why the US and Iran have such contentious relations today
• Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden
• John Adams by David McCullough
• Machete Season: The Killers of Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld - I really wanted to add this to the top 10. But, if you are one of those people who emotionally cannot handle graphic events this is definitely not for you. You cannot write about Rwanda without address the atrocities therein, but this is such an important book
• The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang
• Theodore Roosevelt by Kathleen Dalton - I loved this one because it was a psychological study of Roosevelt, and what personality to do a psychological study on than Teddy?!
• Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie - The ending of imperial Russia with the Bolshevik Revolution. The absolute best book on the subject
• The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan - A great view of life in Israel from a Palestinian point of view. I recommend reading it in tandem with O, Jeruslaem to get both sides, however.
• The Forgotten 500 by Gregory Freeman - Incredible story of approximately 500 airmen who, over time, parachuted into occupied Yuogslavia and the coordinated attempts by locals to ensure their safe return.
• The Forger's Spell by Eward Dolnick - Fun story of a forger who took advantage of Goering's obsession with art collection during WWII
• Hunting Eickman by Neal Bascomb
• The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East by Joshua Muravchik
• IN the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
• A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead
• The Beasts of Buchenwald by Flint Whitlock
• Agent Garbo by Stephan Talty - Similar to Agent ZigZag for anyone who's already read Macintyre's other work
• Edith Cavell by Diana Souhami - a British nurse living and working in Belgium during WWI who was arrested and executed for espionage.
Dive Deep: Heists, Cons, and Outright Thievery! 

2009 The Art Detective: Fakes, Frauds, and Finds in the Search for Lost Treasures by Philip Mould (own)
2015 Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World by Anthony M. Amore (library)
2008 The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace (library)
2003 Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason (library)
2010 Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby (library)
2008 The Forger’s Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick (library)
2014 The Map Thief by Michael Blanding (library)
2009 The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel (Kindle)
2006 Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft by Simon Houpt (library)
1998 The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief by Ben MacIntyre (library)
2009 Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury (library)
1994 The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by Lynn H. Nicholas (library)

Dive Deep—Contemporary Travels in Cool Places: 

2004 Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald (library)
2006 My Life in France by Julia Child (paperback)
2004 The Places in Between by Rory Stewart (paperback)
1991 Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle (paperback)
2006 Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron (library)
2010 Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier (library)
2010 The Lost Girls: Three Friends, Four Continents, one Unconventional Detour around the World by Jennifer Baggett (library)
1981 Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey by V. S. Naipaul (library)
1999 An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot (library)
1998 The Shadow of Kilimanjaro by Rick Ridgeway (paperback)
2007 In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars by Kevin Sites (library)
1997 Zero to Sixty: The Motorcycle Journey of a Lifetime by Gary Paulsen (library)
2013 Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places by Bill Streever (hardback)
2014 The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun (library)
2011 The Ragged Edge of the World: Encounters at the Frontier Where Modernity, Wildlands, and Indigenous Peoples Meet by Eugene Linden (library)
1973 One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure by Sam Keith (paperback)
2009 The Magnetic North: Notes from the Arctic Circle by Sara Wheeler (library)
2005 I’m Not Eating Any of That Foreign Muck: Travels with Me Dad by Brian Thacker (library)
2007 Brothers on the Bashkaus: A Siberian Paddling Adventure by Eugene Buchanan (Overdrive)
2010 In the Empire of Ice: Encounters in a Changing Landscape by Gretel Ehrlich (Overdrive)
2003 The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley (library)
1998 North to the Night by Alvah Simon (paperback)
2010 Walking Home by Lynn Schooler (hardback)
2010 Following My Thumb by Gabriel Morris (Kindle)
2014 Walking Home from Mongolia: Ten Million Steps through China, from the Gobi Desert to the South China Sea by Rob Lilwall (library)


  1. "Have a Little Faith" is one of my all time favorite books in that genre. I taught this in my New Testament class and it inspired great discussion. Hopefully you can find others that have read the book and discuss some of the thoughts brought out in the book. I will be looking for your thoughts when you complete the book.

    1. I hope to read "Have a Little Faith" when I really have some time to slow down and savor it a bit. Sounds to me like a great book for reading beside an Alaskan river under the Midnight Sun...hmmm....I might just buy a copy and tuck it in a drawer in the RV for this summer. Last summer I had some wonderfully contemplative reading nights in beautiful spots that seemed to breathe space into my mind. Yup, I think I'll buy that copy! :-) After I read it I will stop by your blog and let you know my thoughts.