Seeking book (novel) recommendations for an upcoming vacation

The last dozen or so books I’ve read have been biographies, but I’m going on a cruise soon and I’d like to bring along a novel or two. So I am looking for recommendations.

If you do offer up a suggestion, please kindly give a reason or two why you admire the work.

My main requirement is that the book should be well written. I love reading novels where I pause and re-read a sentence just to experience it again. I don’t have patience for clunky writing, puddle-deep characters, or anything that appears amateurish or cheesy in any way.

I am open to most any genre, although I am not a fan of fantasy (especially) or, to a lesser degree, sci-fi.

That said, here are some authors I admire:

John Irving
Mark Helprin
Richard Ford
Michael Chabon
Cormac McCarthy
Don DeLillo
Richard Russo

And some I greatly dislike:

Dan Brown
Suzanne Collins
Pat Conroy
Stephen King (anything after ‘Misery’)
Mitch Albom
Looking forward to hearing your suggestions.

Bonus points if you provide an Amazon link :slight_smile:


Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is a finely-wrought novel about an Australian criminal hiding in Bombay. I enjoyed it immensely.

You might like Alan Furst’s novels, which center on the lives of spies in WWII. These aren’t typical espionage novels – they’re more like “slice of life” novels involving spies. Many find him wordy and occasionally boring, but I think Alan Furst is a fine writer and the first novel is Night Soldiers.

Ursula K. Le Guin has some of the best prose in the fantasy/scifi arena. If you want to try the best of a genre you’ve not had much luck in, you could give something like The Dispossessed a shot.

Or, wanna go with modern horror, starring werewolves? The Last Werewolf has beautiful prose surrounding appalling violence.

Want a little more realism? LA Confidential, by James Ellroy, is everything it’s cracked up to be; or Mario Puzo’s lovely homage to his immigrant mother, The Fortunate Pilgrim.

Finally, go old-school: if you’ve not read The Count of Monte Cristo or Treasure Island, both are gorgeously-written adventure stories. The former remains my all-time favorite book and is unlikely to be dislodged; if you’ve seen movie versions of it, ignore them.

Take Stieg Larsson’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy. Very intelligently written, lots of action, gripping characters. Like any book, it’s a lot better if you haven’t seen the film.
Also, Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient”, another I’d highly recommend. They’re not just mindless page-turners, you have to think about what you’re reading.

The Fool’s Progress is my standard answer to that question. Edward Abbey’s somewhat autobiographical novel about a dying man returning to his home and reliving parts of his past. Beautifully written, parts of it are like poetry, loves lost, the majesty of nature,and parts are Abbey railing against the way modern society has changed America.

Gospel, A Novel by Wilton Barnhardt is a very interesting search for a missing first century gospel by a young student and her alcoholic mentor.

As a a plus they are both fairly big books.

Thanks for the replies.

I’ve read ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and was underwhelmed. I have read ‘The English Patient’ as well and enjoyed it.

I’ve seen the film version of ‘L.A. Confidential’ and thought it was great, have not read the book.

‘Night Soldiers’ looks interesting and is certainly in the race.

I am intrigued by ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and am seriously considering it.

As of this point, though, I am leaning toward ‘The Fool’s Progress’. Based on a few Amazon reviews I scanned, this may be just the ticket.

I’m currently enjoying James Rollins.

The best way I can describe him is a less douchey Dan Brown. He delves into history and conspiracy kind of things, but in a much better way. Plus he ends every book with the true things, his sources, and the things he flat makes up.

I very much liked Eye Of the Needle by Ken Follett.

About a German spy in England in WWII.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. It’s a concise and engrossing story of two kids in France (and Germany, but mostly France) in WWII, caught up in a war they don’t like and don’t understand.

It’s a very personal and character-driven story wrapped up in a solid narrative and can be viewed as a very early kind of technology race.

By concise, I do not mean breezy. This is seriously great literature. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. To me, it sounds just like what you are looking for.

All the Light We Cannot See

Thank you. This will get serious consideration.

I’m a big fan of The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. It reminded me of a much easier-to-read Cormac McCarthy book.

I’ve also advocated in other threads for Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, about a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors and musicians who put on shows in small towns after a flu has wiped out most of the population, because “survival is insufficient.” It’s beautifully written with great characters, and I think you’d like it given your appreciation for Michael Chabon and Cormac McCarthy.

Continuing the slightly depressing theme, Blindness by José Saramago (translated) is an amazing story about the collapse of social structures when a blindness epidemic results in people quarantined in a former mental hospital. It has many thematic similarities to Lord of the Flies.

ETA: oops, forgot you wanted Amazon links. I’ll never swap those out in the 5 minute edit window, but Goodreads has a link to Amazon on each page.

Genghis Khan making of the modern world. Yes he was a warlord, yes he made his place in history but I wasn’t prepared for how forward thinking he was. A real page turner.

My first thought was Richard Russo, but I see he’s already on your list.
Have you read Everybody’s Fool yet? If not, re-read Nobody’s Fool and then read Everybody’s Fool. Delicious.

I’ve read and loved ‘Nobody’s Fool’.

Was unaware of ‘Everybody’s Fool’.


Being on a boat I would perhaps suggest Aubrey-Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brien, but if you get hooked you might end up being accused of being unsociable or asking for lobscouse for dinner.

One series I’m hoping to revisit from the beginning is the Dalziel and Pascoe detective novels of Reginald Hill. It starts with A Clubbable Woman. I found them beautifully written police procedurals, some darkly funny, but mainly tracking the evolution of a friendship over a couple of decades, a bit like Aubrey-Maturin, come to think of it.