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Get lit! (with these fiction books)

10 January 2020

When kids say something is "lit", it means it gives them satisfaction in the same way reading good literature gives them satisfaction. Right?!? Right???!!

Anyway. At the request of several readers and friends, in this article I'm sharing some books I adore. 

This is a small sample of books that I've read and enjoyed in recent years. One of the big filters I've applied is that I've tried to focus on books you might not have heard of. 

I hope there are some gems for you!

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

This book has been described as "Groundhog Day on Red Bull". It tells the story of Harry August, who lives the same life over and over. I loved this book and have gifted it to several people.

Dark Matter and Recursion by Blake Crouch

These two books, both by Blake Crouch, use different time travel/multiverse conceits. The one similarity between them is that they are thought-provoking, emotional, page turners.

The "Villains" novels by V E Schwab: Vicious and Vengeful

These books are a different take on the superhero genre. We follow the antagonists. (Although, frankly, I'm not sure there are any good guys to be seen in these books.) These books are well-written, and I hope Schwab writes more in this series.

The Bone Clocks and Slade House by David Mitchell

David Mitchell is probably best known as the author of Cloud Atlas, which was turned into the weirdest movie of Tom Hanks' acting career (with the possible exception of Bonfire of the Vanities?).

But, man, The Bone Clocks is an impressive book. It has big ideas, and an expansive alternate universe. Each chapter is written through the eyes of a different character. It's as though Mitchell explicitly tried to turn the difficulty level up to maximum. And in my view, he pulls it off!

Slade House is more simple and contained, but it's essentially a spin-off from the world of The Bone Clocks. I really hope Mitchell returns to this world and these characters again. 

John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series, especially Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades

Great sci-fi, with lots of action and twists and turns. I enjoyed the entire "Old Man's War" series, but I thought the first two books were the standouts.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

This book is decades' old but it fizzes, crackles, and pops.

Tom Wolfe, at the height of his powers, could make anything interesting.

(If you're astute, you'll note that this is actually a book of non-fiction. But I include it with fiction novels because it feels more like a non-fiction book. It has a distinct narrative force.)

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

When I finished this book, I felt like I'd lost a friend. 

When people ask me whether I'm religious, I sometimes reply that I'm a Bokonist. Bokonism is a religion in this book, with the central tenet that we should "Live by the foma [harmless untruths] that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy".

11.22.63 by Stephen King

This is the first and only Stephen King novel I've read to date. (I've read his novella, A Good Marriage, and it haunted me for months.) I can see why he's so popular.

This is an interesting take on the time travel genre: time itself is almost a character. 

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong (aka Jason Pargin)

David Wong/Jason Pargin is a long-term contributor to the comedy website Cracked. (The website and its podcast haven't been the same since Jack O'Brien left, but that has nothing to do with Wong.) Wong is a great writer who consistently explains insightful ideas in colourful ways. 

This book is bonkers. In the best possible way. I look forward to the sequel, which has the working title "Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick". If that's too irreverent for you, then this probably isn't the book for you.

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

David Nicholls is best known for writing the novel One Day, which was subsequently made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway and an unforunate attempt at an English accent. 

Sweet Sorrow isn't the sort of book I'd normally read. But sometimes an author earns your trust, and repays you for giving them that trust. That's the case here: it was a touching story which coloured my perspective on life, and made me appreciate the unique experiences of others just a little bit more.


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About the author 

Sonnie Bailey

In his spare time, Sonnie likes telling people that he’s a former Olympic power walker, a lion tamer, or that he is an orthodontist. He is none of those things. In reality, Sonnie is a financial planner based in Christchurch. Through his business, Fairhaven Wealth (www.fairhavenwealth.co.nz), he provides independent, advice-only, fixed-fee financial planning services. Sonnie is a “recovering lawyer”: he has specialised in trusts and personal client work. He has also worked as a financial services lawyer for many years.

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