Books Recommending Books, Vol. 2

From time to time, fellow bluestockings ask us, “I really liked this book. Do you carry something similar?” So as we prepare to roll out Bas Bleu’s 2019 Book a Month picks (they are so good, y’all), we compiled a list of “books recommending books.” The titles in these pairings aren’t exactly alike: Yes, some have similar plots or subject matter, but others are kindred spirits in terms of character, theme, or mood. We hope you’ll find something new you’ll enjoy! (All of the suggested “try this” titles are available for purchase on our website. Just click on the book cover.)

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Nancy Mitford’s 1949 novel Love in a Cold Climate offers a glimpse into the lives (and scandals) of the minor English aristocracy between the two World Wars, as experienced by a pair of young female cousins. In Jessica Fellowes’s novel, The Mitford Murders, a young woman takes a job as the Mitfords’ nursery maids and finds herself investigating a murder—amidst the lives (and scandals) of the minor English aristocracy—alongside a teenage Nancy Mitford. Mystery aficionados will enjoy the whodunit, while Mitford watchers will be intrigued by this (fictionalized) portrait of the unconventional family.

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If you’re not in the mood to read (or reread) Henry Fielding’s hefty 1749 bildungsroman about the good-hearted, mischievous orphan Tom Jones, Francis Spufford’s 2016 novel, Golden Hill, about the affable yet mysterious Mr. Smith’s adventures and near-misses in 1746 New York will keep you similarly entertained…in considerably fewer pages!

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Readers accustomed to Louise Penny’s fictional Quebec hamlet Three Pines should have an easy time traveling west to the “Sunshine Coast,” where L. R. Wright’s novels unfold. Like Penny’s Inspector Gamache, Wright’s protagonist Karl Alberg is a big-city cop uncovering dark secrets in small-town Canada, where a variety of unique, occasionally quirky supporting characters test his deductive mettle.

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Fans of the Honorable Phryne Fisher and her trusty sidekick, Dot, will thrill to meet Lola Woodby and her trusty sidekick, Berta, in Come Hell or Highball. Lola may not have Phryne’s fortune, but she does have her nose for trouble…and her taste for the finer things in life. As lady detectives go, what Lola lacks in caché she makes up for in humor and pluck. And what she lacks in common sense, Berta makes up for in spades!

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Elizabeth von Arnim’s gently comic classic (published in 1922) follows four cash-strapped British women from rainy London to the Italian villa they share during a month-long holiday. Lynn Freed’s contemporary novel stars three women instead of four, friends pooling their resources to rent a sun-drenched house in Greece. While The Last Laugh factors in a tad more sex and murder, the humorous portrait of female friends grappling with one another’s quirks and eccentricities feels wonderfully familiar. 

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If you were riveted by Jeannette Walls’s memoir of her dysfunctional, peripatetic childhood—headed by irresponsible, mostly loving parents—you’ll devour Educated, Tara Westover’s intense and astonishing tale of growing up in a rural scrapyard with fundamentalist survivalists. Like Walls, Westover faced enormous obstacles, the least of which was not a rudimentary education and unreliable parents, yet she managed to achieve amazing success thanks to her sheer determination and fierce intellect.

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It’s unrealistic to expect history textbooks to cover the contributions of every important and interesting American in our nation’s history, but influential women in history too often get short shrift. If you liked The Woman Who Smashed Codes, the detailed biography of farm girl turned English-lit major turned master U. S. codebreaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman, you’ll appreciate Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, the true story of a nineteenth-century woman who rejected societal expectations and became a lawyer, detective, and the first female U.S. district attorney.

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Recovering drug addict James Bowen’s memoir about Bob, the ragged tomcat who helped recharge his life, is one of Bas Bleu’s bestselling books. When Strays landed on our bookshelf, with its tale of a homeless man who adopted an injured cat, we knew our readers would find Mike and Tabor’s story just as compelling. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re a cat person, a dog person, a horse person, even a hamster person: Pets can bring purpose to our lives when it feels like nothing else does.

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