Serious Popcorn: 10 Classy Page-Turners


        Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a lifelong book junkie. All my life, I wanted to write books because reading is my favorite way to spend my time. I’m a frequent reviewer on, and because I had done so many reviews that people said helped them, Amazon asked me to become a Vine voice. As a result, I get to choose from a free list of books that publishers are promoting, and add those to the books I discover through word of mouth; my beloved subscription to Publishers Weekly; the wonderful librarians at the Princeton Public Library and my addiction to the Sunday NY Times book review. This has worked out well: because I don’t just love to read, I’m excited about sharing my “finds” with other passionate readers. 

Recently, I was asked to contribute something to the annual church auction, and I decided to put together a basket of 10 books that I found compelling but substantial. Most were published in the last couple of years, and all are in paperback. I packed the basket with movie candy and microwave popcorn too, and called my auction item “Serious Popcorn.” I share the list with all my friends who are also always questing for the next awesome novel. Enjoy! 

Please, feel free to add a comment below recommending your latest must-read novel, or adding your 2 cents about any of these. 

(Warning: Some are breezy, some are deep, but don’t count on a happy ending.)

The Martian by Andy Weir     An astronaut left alone on Mars must figure out how to survive. A geeky novel in which a cheeky character keeps you on sofa’s edge.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson   A young Arab hacker is on the run from a brutal regime. Ripped from the headlines, but with genies.

Fledgling by Octavia Butler     What if there was a race of black vampires? This gripping, unusual 2005 novel turns the genre upside down, and if you haven’t read anything by the late great Octavia Butler, it’s about time. 

The Circle by Dave Eggers   A naïve young woman starts work at a Google-like tech giant and Eggers tells a chilling tale about where all our “connectedness” leads.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson   Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, this chilling tale gives you an epic protagonist and a glimpse inside North Korea.

A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam     Harrowing story told from both the viewpoints of humans and chimpanzees, this book really makes you think.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker   Let a Harvard grad who edits a magazine for lawyers write fantasy, and you get a book so clever, it’s like Harry Potter for grownups.

Submergence by J.M. Ledgard   Jihadist fighters in Africa, a tryst between an undercover spy and a microbiologist — this book was named one of the best of 2013 by NPR, the NY Times, Library Journal and a whole lot of smart readers.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes     Because there has to be at least one genuine tear-jerker in the group. Can 5,000 5-star reviews on Amazon be wrong?

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer   The first book in a trilogy about a spooky region called Area X and the four women sent to explore. One critic called it “a novel about weird science that’s genuinely weird.” BTW, my 20-year-old son loved it.