From Patrick Bateman of AMERICAN PSYCHO to Nick and Amy Dunne in GONE GIRL, we have seen many unlikable, manipulative, and even downright evil literary characters capture the public’s imagination. At Off the Shelf, we’re not immune to the charms of some of these bad seeds, either. Here are several of our favorite novels featuring despicable, unpleasant, and just plain terrible characters.
THE BEAN TREES begins with a tire exploding and a woman leaving home in a battered car and changing her name. From this description, it may sound as if I’m speaking of a high-octane thriller, but THE BEAN TREES is a beautiful literary novel, Barbara Kingsolver’s first (before she was famous for THE POISONWOOD BIBLE). Missy-turned-Taylor Greer is neither running from a killer nor from the law. She’s a part Cherokee, twentysomething, down-home Kentucky girl who never could quite sit still.
For anyone who thinks that fairy tales only appeal to young people, the following novels prove that we never truly grow out of our fascination with the creatures from myths, legends, and fairy and folk tales. From dragons to changelings, here are 9 of our favorite novels featuring mythical creatures.
Every few years, there’s one book I latch onto that I keep recommending to people, over and over. And for the last year, that book has been DESCENT by Tim Johnston. I love character-driven thrillers, and this book was geared perfectly for me. But—more than the type of book—there’s something more, something that lingers, that keeps me coming back to it.
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You know the feeling—the screen fades to black, credits start rolling, the theme music crescendos, and you immediately experience that sinking feeling of knowing you don’t have one more episode left. If you were sucked into HBO’s recent sci-fi thriller “Westworld,” set in a high-tech amusement park that promises to satisfy guests’ wildest dreams in a Wild West landscape filled with human androids, you may find yourself missing the cowboy shootouts, the tinkering with artificial intelligence, and the story’s multiple timeline jumps. What you need now is something to binge-read while waiting for season 2, and we have the perfect TBR list.
Wally Lamb’s SHE’S COME UNDONE can be presented with many classifiers. It’s a debut, a coming-of-age story, a novel about mothers and daughters, an exploration into contemporary American anxieties, and a 1996 Oprah’s Book Club pick.
I was feeling adrift. It had been forever since a book had gripped me viscerally and not let me go until the final page. THE NORTH WATER by Ian McGuire was the cure for my every literary ennui. Beyond being a book I couldn’t put down, it was one I didn’t want to finish, realizing on the very first page how rare a reading experience this would be.
In 2016, we lost many of film and music’s greatest, ending with the deaths of two of Hollywood’s most beloved stars, mother-and-daughter duo Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Not only were they show-stopping performers, but they were celebrated writers as well. I grew up watching “Singin’ in the Rain” with my mother, and always waited impatiently for “Halloweentown” to come on television each October.Recently I fell in love with the Star Wars franchise (better late than never, right?) and developed great respect for Carrie Fisher because of her work as a mental illness awareness, female rights, and addiction rehab advocate. As such, I thought it only right to commemorate the lives of these great women with a list of their significant contributions to literature.
There is this silly word that only exists in book reviews and was probably invented by a book reviewer. It’s “unputdownable.” Spell check will always underline it in red, auto-correct will always suggest confusing replacements, and I’ll always picture a book with some sticky, glue-like substance on it preventing you from releasing it. The word might be silly, but the concept isn’t.
I happen to judge books by their “stickiness,” or how long the story, resolution, or characters stick with me after I finish the last page. The stickiest book that I’ve read in a long while was Mindy Mejia’s EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE.
Shortly before President Obama left office, Powell’s—the great independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon—sent him a going-away present: 10 books, thoughtfully selected by Powell’s customers and curated by their booksellers. We love this informative, entertaining, and inspirational reading list so much that we are sharing with it you. Now that President Obama has a little more time on his hands, perhaps he can start a book club so we can read them all together!