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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Favorite Realistic Contemporary Reads! | Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.

This week's prompt is our Top 10 favorite books in any given genre, and in a move that's surprising even to myself, I decide to talk about my favorite realistic contemporary books. I know, I know — this is a shocker. Every time I get a contemporary book, or wishlist a contemporary book, I talk about how I don't really read contemporary... Maybe it's actually a case of the lady doth protest too much, but for some reason, contemp book don't normally end up on my radar, or high on my wishlist, and I tend to think of them as all throwaway fluffy romances and books about Mean Girls being mean (which is absolutely not fair to the genre, which has some real stand-outs!). Because of that, I thought I'd talk about the ones I really, really do like, and remind myself how much I actually do (apparently) like contemporary, even if I don't always admit it...

10. The Summer I Turned Pretty and A Little Wanting Song
The first book in Jenny Han's Summer series was sent to me by Ksenia, who generally seems to share my antipathy towards fluffy romance; she assured me it would warm even the cockles of my blackened little heart, and she was right.
A Little Wanting Song just charmed me. It may have been the first realist contemp book I've truly liked, at least as an adult reader.

9. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
A deep soul-connection in a 24 hour span? To some people, that sounds dreamily perfect, but to me it sounds so saccharine I can barely stand it. Fortunately, there's something about Statistical that just works, and it skillfully avoids being saccharine and cheesy. (Okay, it's a little cheesy. It has an acceptable amount of cheese.)

8. Heist Society
Proving that not all realistic contemporary has to be serious or heartbreaking, the Heist Society series is charming good fun. Okay, maybe a little less on the "realistic" side, since it's a crime family caper, but still. 

7. Something Real
I've talked pretty recently this book, and how pitch-perfect, affecting, funny and spot-on it is. And it shows just how ridiculous "reality" can be.

6. Anna and the French Kiss...

...which has the deadly combo of a cheesy title AND cover,* so it's a miracle I ever read this. What's not a miracle is how much I loved it — I chalk that up to Perkins' damn good writing.
*Well, not now. I actually really love the cover redesigns (above), but the original... Oof.

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Sherman Alexie, man... Sherman Alexie. He is a master of the funny-sad.

4. The DUFF
This book did things to me. I thought I'd like it, but damn. (Also, one of the few contemporaries I've reread, and know I will reread again in the years to come.)

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This book holds a special place in my heart, and I like to share it with people. 
[Which is why it is BEYOND AWESOME that I'll be giving it away this year for World Book Night!!]

2. basically anything by AS King
Now, this may be stretching it a bit, because there's always a magical realist slant to her books. But because they are by and large realist books with these little twists (things like imagining dancing ants talking to you, or that you're sending your love to strangers in the planes that pass overhead) that can be interpreted as hallucinations rather than magical realism, I think it's fine to include on this list.
So there.

and #1, without a doubt, is...
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (or On the Jellicoe Road in countries that are not my own, so if you're not in the US, check under either title.)
And I can't even begin to tell you why, if you haven't read this book, you should. Soon. Now.

Okay, so that was technically more than 10. I also probably should have tried to work Looking for Alaska in there, somewhere... Now, since this is all realistic contemporary fiction, it doesn't include the other contemp-but-paranormalish books I love, like Before I Fall, or dystopia-tinged stories like How I Live Now, or the myriad magical realist books that I adore. And if I could have included Madapple, which seemed a little too odd a fit for this list, I absolutely would have. Love it.
Honorable mention to Austenland, which is a little too far-fetched for me to call realistic (are there people that obsessed with Jane Austen? Yes. *points to self* Do they really get a Darcy in the end? No. *sobs*)
But there you have it: a damn fine list.

What are your fave contemporary realist reads? And if you take part in Top Ten Tuesday, which genre did you pick, and what are some of your faves?


  1. I read 'The Summer I Turned Pretty', 'The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight', Anna and the French Kiss, The Perks and i loved them so much <3

    I'd like to read 'Jellicoe Road', I've heard really good things about it! :)

    1. "Good things" doesn't even begin to cover Jellicoe Road. It's a gut-puncher. It's amazing.

  2. I always ALMOST pick Jellicoe Road off my shelves but I always convince myself I don't have time... needs to change! Agree on AS King <3 I've officially read all of her books now and she is probably my favorite contemporary(ish) writer, though Andrew Smith may give her a run for her money as I read more of his work...

    1. I did that for the longest time, too. Really, I think I was avoiding it because I'd heard it would make me cry. I finally ended up reading as a trade-off - my friend Ashley picked a book for me to read, I picked one for her. Otherwise, it'd probably still be sitting on my shelves as a "one of these days..." Thank god she did, because it is worth the buckets and buckets of tears. It is confusing in a way that makes perfect sense, it's powerful, it's funny - it has so much going for it, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  3. OK, I value your opinion, so I'm gonna ask it: Which A.S. King novel should I read first??

    1. Hmm... I started with Dust of 100 Dogs, which is probably the strangest and least like the others, but I think it was a perfect place to start. It has her characteristic style of slowly revealing something until the realization just guts you, but it's also really funny and oddball, and REALLY dark at times. I loved it, and I think the other books build on its strengths, but in a more realistic way.

  4. I haven't read any on this list as I'm just dipping my toe into these waters, but I do have three of them on my wish list. I see a couple more I need to check out now. Thanks for sharing your list, Misty!

    1. Of course! Hope you like them!! If you end up reading any of them, definitely let me know what you thought. =)


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