Top Ten Tuesday: Five Books I’ve Enjoyed That Are Outside My Comfort Zone


Like most readers, I have a definite “comfort zone” of book types that I choose from. History and historical fiction, feel-good novels, family sagas, and some random books that just sound interesting are my standard reading fare.  Since the advent of reading challenges though, I’ve tried to read at least one book per year that is outside my comfort zone. That has resulted in a few pleasant surprises.

#1 Frankenstein


I don’t enjoy being frightened or anxious. I’ve never voluntarily watched a horror movie.  But, I really enjoyed Frankenstein. There was an actual plot! Not just the monster that has been so often shown in cartoons. The writing was excellent–I could sense or feel the atmosphere.  Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

#2 Cold Comfort Farm


I tried this one in my twenties, but I wasn’t “mature” enough in British culture to understand it. When I listened to it in 2017 I howled with laughter and absolutely loved it. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. My review is here.

#3 Perks of Being a Wallflower


I was in my 50s, the mom of two young adults, when I read this. I thought it would be stupid. Instead it was an epiphany. You can read about my experience here. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

#4 A Wrinkle in Time


Nothing could have made me read this one as a kid. As an adult it took quite a while, but I finally got over the “sci fi” label and read it. Wow! I loved it. It isn’t a sci fi story–it’s a family story. Had someone told me that in 5th grade…. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.

#5 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


I really wasn’t sure a book with so much science involved would hold my attention. Was I wrong! The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Here is my review from my old blog:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating biography and science story all rolled into one. I know almost zip about science, but found myself sitting in the car listening to “just a little more” each day. A cell culture taken from a low-income African American woman turned out to be the golden-egg-laying-goose for science. That’s the simple part. The more intriguing part is the story of how Mrs. Lacks family dealt with this. Mrs. Lacks grew up in an isolated, impoverished area of Virginia that was kept cut-off from mainstream society by first slavery, then reconstruction and finally Jim Crow. Even in her current-day descendents there is a surreal innocence about science so much so that listening to it brought to mind not contemporary conversation, but a journal of Margaret Mead written on some forgotten island. It’s the harsh reality of what was done (and is still done) to African Americans in this country that makes this story so riveting. The Lacks family has endured some of the worst treatment this country can dole out. Henrietta, her elder daughter and consequently her younger daughter have suffered in ways that no middle class white woman like myself can even comprehend. This story will continue to beckon to Book Clubs for generations. Every woman alive should read it and be grateful for the medical advances that came thru Henrietta and to atone for the ill-treatment this family has suffered.

This post was originally published on this blog as a Top 5 Wednesday post.



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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Read That I’d Like In My Personal Library


This week’s topic is just meant for a reader like me who prefers to “try it before you buy it:” Books I’ve Read That I’d Like In My Personal Library. I am aware that once my own manuscripts go out I will start wishing I bought every book I’ve ever read since I will want folks to buy MY books, but the sad truth is I’m a librarian and the pay is not fabulous. I was a single mother, too, so buying has not always been an option. Here are ten books (multi-book series counted as one) I hope to own someday. (These are not presented in any sort of ranked order).



Shelby Foote’s Civil War books–all of them.



Bruce Catton’s Civil War books–all of them, too.



Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples



Churchill’s World War II memoirs–though I’d prefer them to be hardbound.



I collect on Churchill, but somehow haven’t yet acquired this one.



I’d love to have ALL the books in this series, but they are sooooo expensive.



The book that represents my childhood dream and became my favorite Disney movie.



I collect on the British royal family. I want all three of this author’s Queen picture books.



I also collect on the Roosevelt family. This one is pretty far up my wish list.



I own most of this series, but would like to have them all finally.




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Top Ten Tuesday: Cover Redesigns I Loved/Hated


I’m a cover critic! I DO judge a book by its cover. That doesn’t mean a bad cover stops me from reading a book. No way! And, except for #2, all of these CAN be done well. Here are some not-so-good examples.

1. Removing a lovely, evocative, cover for bad black and white photos.


When I think of a British public school in the era of World War I and beyond think of I think of be-gowned masters and suited boys and cricket and rugby and rowing and Latin and silly hats and saying “Sir” every third word. I can hear Jerusalem just looking at it (even though it was just being birthed as a song at this time)! But slum boys playing dice (or whatever) ?? An urchin squatting on the ground in an old sweater? Pass the smelling salts, fast!


Horrible, what’s been done to this author’s lovely books and their beautiful covers. A car chopped off at the top over soldiers of a by-gone era. Was the artist joking?? The woman posed in front of American law books, with lips like a common tart?? Wt?? Dreadful. Another favorite author of mine, Herman Wouk, has had his books debased by this trend as well.

2. Author branding covers done blandly or badly


While this example is a trilogy, others are different stand-alone books done this way, to tie all of the works of one author together. These suck the life right out of the work! No clue what this could be about or why anyone would pick one up. Just awful.


Q must create a gadget to fix these dreadful Bond covers! The originals were hideous too, but these are their own circle of hell.


These just scream book rack at Wal-mart. What a disservice to such a talented author!

3. Movie or TV tie-in covers


Is there a more cringe-inducing way to ruin a book than to slap on a movie or tv-tie in cover? UGH.

4. Vintage-y, throw-back covers


These are also pretty much a type of branding given that the biggest Steinbeck titles have been reissued in these covers. There are much worse examples out there, believe me. It’s a hot trend in covers today.

5. Nothing at all like the story


This cover is an even better example of a terrible title added to a terrible cover. At first glance, you could easily mistake this for an Amish or prairie romance series. Unless you read it,  you’d not know it’s excellence historical fiction based on the life of John Bunyan and the reign of Oliver Cromwell!!  The Preacher’s Bride.


Who would guess, looking at this mess, that one of the all-time great American novels (yes, it is very racists, yes it is very demeaning –it is a product of it’s time. No I do not endorse the racism or of EVER writing anyone in a dialect that demeaning)??? He gown almost seems Elizabethan from that weird neckline. And it takes a while to realize it IS a woman’s gown.

6. Why bother with design, just throw colors at the canvas



7. Copycat covers




I dislike the whole trend of copying the cover of a best-seller for another book. This presumes the public is so dumb they’ll buy the “wrong” book.

I’ve done a few posts on  Copy Cat Covers: 

Green Dress Covers

After The Party (book) Copycat Covers

Tigers in Red Weather (book) Copycat Covers


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Top-Ten Tuesday: Auto-READ Authors




For July 30th’s TTT click HERE



This Week’s Topic

Well,  the topic really is Auto-Buy Authors, but I’m a librarian (albeit in a university library) and my budget allows for few purchases. I read almost exclusively from my public library (and our state’s regional system). So, I tweeked the topic to be “auto-read” authors.

My Authors


Alexander McCall Smith

Both of these series release dates are on my calendar!  I enjoy both of these series and have enjoyed a few of his other books as well. Start with Book One in each series or you’ll be lost. To The Land of Long Lost Friends and The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith.

Louise Penny


All the denizens of Three Pines are like old friends at this point. The end of August is when this one comes out and I’m counting the days. A Better Man by Louise Penny.

Vive Gamache!

Other Authors

Debuting this year on my Must Read list…

Elizabeth Acevedo

I fell in love with her almost on the first word of her first book, The Poet X and then went completely to head-over-heels listening to With the Fire On High. What a superb voice! No one, I repeat no one, can perform her books except her!

JoJo Moyes


I will be interested to read a British author’s take on Appalachia in the Great Depression–The Giver of Stars. I follow her Twitter and found her tweets during her research trip to the region interesting.

I did not get to finish The Peacock Emporium, her last book, as there were holds at the library on it. I need to get back to it before I read Giver of Stars. I am working through her backlist as well.

Barbara Kingsolver


I’ve loved her books, all except The Lacuna. I did give the audiobook of Unsheltered back to the library without finishing it. Some authors should not perform their own books. Sadly, Barbara is of them. I will read this in print. I still have a couple from her backlist to read, too.

Julie Murphy

Any author who writes a book where the fat girl gets the hot guy has my vote. It gives hope and a better idea of how good boys CAN be. I love her books! I have not seen the Dumplin’ movie yet, but would like to Ramona Blue Dumplin’, and Puddin’ by Julie Murphy. I have not started reading her backlist yet.

Jessica Brockmole

I did find parts of Letters From Skye to be far fetched (how to keep getting all those letters in a small place, but no gossip??) but I still love her books. I have one or two more of hers to read yet. I love, too, that she writes in…wait for it!….INDIANA and not NYC. Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole and Fall of Poppies with story by Jessica Brockmole.

Amy Belding Brown

Amy’s historical fiction is brilliant! I have not read her early novels, just the two pictured above. I would gladly re-read them annually–they are that good. Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown.

Review of Mr. Emerson’s Wife from my old blog:
My only question about Amy Belding Brown’s Mr. Emerson’s Wife is WHY did I leave it on my to-read list so long! This was superb! It’s one of those books I wish I had written–it’s that “real” and that moving. These are not cardboard cutouts of famous men and women. These are REAL people and they come alive on Ms. Brown’s pages. The passion, grief, longing, heartache, joy, lust, ennui, fickleness, commitment, and endurance of a deeply-felt marriage is all right here in one book. These are not mere “pages” of a story but a canvas ripe in emotional detail–another of those “inner” books I love. Ms. Brown writes possibly the most amazing line ever penned to describe an act of physical love:

“And how, when he was finished, he displayed such astounding gratitude, as if what I had given him was not my body, but a miracle.” (p. 69)

Another line that lept off the page and straight into my heart was this, written about a passionate friendship that may or may not have become physical:
“…she’d given him his most profound experience of the divine…” (p. 304)
This book is so amazing! Three words: Just Read It!
There are others, but my list changes with my mood!



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Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books of the Second Half of 2019


This week’s topic is supposed to be “Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019,” but I tend to read some of this and some of that, so no promises I’ll only be reading new releases.

I’m always reluctant to do this type of post because I’m a reader who doesn’t care if I finish a book or not. DNF is fine with me. I either like it or I don’t finish it. I’ve already thrown back a few new titles this season, which is typical for me. I usually have a few books going at the same time and generally its a mix of old and new, fiction and non-fiction, fluff and missed classics. It’s good for the mind, I believe, to do this. I’m done trying fantasy or sci-fi and as I’ve said before, I’ve given up on Dickens. I’ve been enjoying Hemingway and even though East of Eden gave me real-world nightmares, Steinbeck has been holding my attention, too, so either of those two could make the eventual summer list when it’s all done.

I also don’t plan my reading very seriously. I do request everything from the library since I need audiobooks constantly for my commute. Walking in and grabbing something, either on CDs or e-audio, just doesn’t work. Periodically, I also pick up something on my shelves that I haven’t read or that Mom says I must read or that’s been languishing unread on my Kindle. That makes the variety even greater. If I were to say “These are THE books I’m reading this summer,” they would become homework and I’d avoid them like the plague. When I do reading challenges (which I like) I do them after a lot of reading–match it all up when I’m done for a season or a year. I also use them to fill in gaps or when I can’t get into anything or if nothing I want at the library is in yet. Very hand tool.

How about you? Do you pick books and stick to the list? Do you prefer to browse bookstore or library shelves? Have you ever picked up a book at a local Little Free Library? Leave me a comment.


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Top Ten [five]Tuesday: Royal Books That I all but Refuse to Let Anyone Touch



I have a confession to make: I do not loan print books except to my college best friend and my Mom. That’s it. Sorry. I was burned too many times when young. I will loan Kindle books that are able to be loaned. There. Got that off my chest.

Do Not Touch

I own a few books that I’d rather no one touch. Oh, I will let you. But if you drag page corners to turn pages or something horrible like that, I’ll throw myself on the book to save it.

Once again, I’ve failed to come up with ten. This week I’ve got only the Top Five. But, today’s release of the Downton Abbey movie trailer will make a few people take an interest in these–The Duke of Windsor and his sister and brothers are contemporaries of Ladies Mary, Edith, and Sybil Crawley. Queen Mary and George V are of Robert and Cora’s generation, and their grandchildren Sybie, George and Marigold are the agemates of Queen Elizabeth! In the movie, George V and Queen Mary are visiting Downton Abbey.

The Books


This book isn’t “rare” it’s merely rare–as in it was mass produced but not in enormous quantities.  It is Hugo Vicker’s most beautiful book and shows the completely over-the-top homelife of the ex-King Edward VIII and “the woman he loved,” Wallis Simpson, at their Paris home which was later taken over by Dodi Fayad’s father.  The Private World of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.


I hope I live long enough that Queen Mary’s diaries will be available online. She is perhaps the most fascinating of royals. Fiance of two heirs to the throne, wife of a King, mother of two other sovereigns, she saw it for what it was: the best career going for a woman of her time and class. She saw all sorts of changes in the royal world in addition to the world at large. She was an odd bird, but interesting. These are all pages from her personal photo albums. Family photos are the most interesting and tell so much of the story. These were taken by her or by others in the family or the “suite” (ladies in waiting, equerries, etc.). All are annotated in her own hand. Queen Mary’s Photo Albums.


Louisa served the first royal Gan-gan, Queen Victoria, and then served her daughter-in-law Queen Alexandra–who was mother-in-law to Queen Mary. This is a fascinating book with pages of photos, scrapbook memories and other images.  Louisa, lady in waiting : the personal diaries and albums of Louisa, Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra.

While his mother, Queen Mary, was one of the most interesting royals, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was one of the most boring. He did collect sporting prints and antique sporrans, but that’s about as exciting as it gets. The treasure is finding out that the used copy of his equally dull authorized biography I bought online was signed by his widow. The now later Dowager Duchess of Gloucester is the only wife officially allowed to call herself Princess. In widowhood she was known as Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. Prince Henry by Nobel Frankland.

Alice lived so long she produced two memoirs. Both are enjoyable, but the Ninety Years volume has a scrapbook feel and features her watercolors and photographs–one of which won a major award back in the day. Her brother was a big shot in Colonial Kenya–of the Happy Valley set and she, like her future royal husband, spent a lot of time in that beautiful country (or colony as it was then). She and her “Harry,” were both keen horse people–they hunted (fox hunting) throughout the season. They sadly lost their eldest son, Prince William, in an air crash–he was a daredevil and raced planes.  Memories of Princess Alices, Duchess of Gloucester.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Page to Screen Freebie


I just learned that Kristen Scott Thomas is to star as the dreaded Mrs. Danvers in a remake of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca! I think she’ll be awesome in the part, even though I am very partial to the original movie version staring Laurence Olivier as Maxim De Winter.

I don’t know about you, but I love to “cast” the movie as I read the book. Here are a few examples of my chocices from past blog post. Once again I have failed to come up with the full ten.


Books to Movie Casting Choices



My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

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This stand-alone first novel in a new series from multi-series write McCall Smith is a perfect set-up for an older audience rom-com to star Huge Bonneville and his Downtown Abbey “wife,” Elizabeth McGovern. You can read my review of the book here.



News of The World by Paulette Jiles

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This story just demands Sam Elliott as the Colonel! That voice, the face, the emotions–Sam! You can read my review of the book here.



Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pierce

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Jessica Brown Findlay would shine in the role of Emmeline Lake. You can read my review of the book here.



The Heirs: A Novel by Susan Reiger

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Wealthy Manhattan attorney Rupert Falkes dies and leaves a mess of secrets for his family to discover. As I listened to this novel, Nigel Havers face came to mind every time Rupert was “on.” I’ve loved this guy since he was Lindsay in Chariots of Fire. You can read my review of the book here.




The Music Shop: A Novel by Rachel Joyce

Us: A Novel by David Nichols


The Music Shop: I pick Bill for Frank, Julie as Maude and Lily as the stranger. You can read my review of the book hereUs: I pick two of them again! I just think Bill and Julie play such diverent types that they’d make a great ‘opposites attract‘ couple.



The Trophy Child: A Novel by Paula Daly

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Laura Carmichael would be the best choice for obsessive mother Karen. And, could Robert Bathurst have a cameo as the Headmaster, please? You all know I love these two! You can read my review of the book here.



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Top SIX Tuesday: Characters that remind me of myself, etc.



This week’s theme is: Characters That Remind Me of Myself. There aren’t many of those so, I’ve added “etc” to cover “or otherwise resonated with me, made me wish I could have X part of their life or whatever.”


Characters That Remind Me of Myself of That I Related To:

1. Katherine McConnell in The Confederate General Rides North by Amanda C. Gable.


I was a child Civil War freak like Katherine. To read the full story, scroll down to “When a Book Validates Your Experience,” a post from my old blog that is part memoir, part review of the book.  The Confederate General Rides North: A Novel by Amanda C. Gable [is that last name a coincidence? Clark G-A-B-L-E aka Rhett Butler?]


2. Marjorie Morningstar in Herman Wouk’s book of the same name


Marjorie was so appealing to me! As a teen I thought I’d live in New York or London-hahahah. I liked the whole city life idea. Add in writing and theater–I was hooked.  Herman Wouk is still on on of my favorite authors. Sad to think, today his books would all be published as series. No more 600–1000 page books. This is also where I came across the beautiful name “Marjorie”.


3. Diary of a Frantic Kid Sister by Hilda Colman


My memories of reading this book can be found here.


4. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky


You can read my experience with this book for the first time at age 54 here.


Books showing how I HOPE I’d react in the circumstances:





The Confederate General Rides North:

When a book validates your own experience


Growing up in the late 60s and 70s, in a home dominated by my father’s crippling depression I realized quickly that I was never going to “fit in” at school. Like in the musical “Chorus Line”–I was “different” which is “nice” but it “sure isn’t pretty–and pretty is what it’s about.” [And, I too “never met anyone who was different who couldn’t figure it out!”] I couldn’t care less about much of what other kids found exciting or fun. Don’t get me wrong–I loved to play baseball [we did this in an empty lot–there were no sports leagues] and watch reruns after school, but most of my life was lived in Walter Mitty-ish style inside my own imagination. I had a whole world–my doll house [built by my Grandfather] with it’s very odd little family, my Breyer horses and horse books, my basketball goal in the driveway, my clarinet and my 10 speed bike that took me so far from home that were it happening today the police would be summoned.

In her amazing debut novel, The Confederate General Rides North, Amanda Gable has recreated a part of my lost world–a girl in love with the Civil War! For several years I was a Gone With the Wind fanatic. I read nearly every word Bruce Catton ever wrote and was ecstatic to receive a subscription to a Civil War history magazine. I treasured [and still have] and fading and worn copy of the Ford Times [the company magazine of Ford Motor Company] that featured my great-uncle’s commissioned art work of a map of ALL the battles of the Civil War. I treasured the letters from my Uncle telling me about that project. Had there been re-enactments in East-Central Indiana at that time, I’d have been there! This book touched me in such a deep and validating way. Here is one passage that just leaped out at me–I totally share Katherine McConnell’s joy in this discovery:

In the next few rows of shoe boxes are football cards, which don’t interest me, but at the end of a sideboard, the boxes contain Civil War trading cards. I look at each one carefully. I have never seen this kind of card before, and for the first time I think that maybe there are other kids as interested in Civil War history as I am. (p. 65)

Had I ever discovered such a thing I might have needed sedation! The cards alone would have been overwhelming, but to make the connection that I wasn’t “the freak” or “the only one” who cared more about the long-ago Army of Northern Virginia than what high school boy would be Indiana’s Mr. Basketball would have given me lasting comfort and a much better sense of self-worth. The Confederate Flag hanging in my bedroom [to the acute embarrasment of my very liberal parents] would be something other kids could actually ENVY and not mock.

Had I been taken on Katherine McConnell’s “Ride North” I would happily have died and gone to heaven–or even have tried to learn math! Katherine finds some kindred spirits (all adults) on her ride, who validate HER experience:

I walk out of the relic shop [where the owner has shown her a Civil War soldier’s diary and an album of Civil War sketches] toward the gate to the Gettysburg cemetery. I like the way Darrell [shop owner] talked to me and showed me things, not because I could buy them but because I would appreciate them. It was the way Miss Jameson [an antique dealer who also shared Civil War treasures with her] acted toward me, as though we shared something significant—a love of stories about our families and the Civil War. (p. 243)

I remember reading with JOY about my Great Uncle’s collection of first day covers of Civil War related postage stamps. I remember my Mother introducing me to “real” history with a book on Lincoln’s funeral published soon after the event. Like Katherine, I was seeped in family history by older realtives who expected to hold sway at family dinners. Captain McKinney and Great-Great Grandfather Watson made the Union Army very real to me as my Mom’s Grandfather made the Spanish American War real and her cousin brought Vietnam home. My own Grandfather’s “Ike” jacket with the various campaign ribbon and Sergent’s stripes was one of my most treasured possessions–as is the picture of 6 year old me receiving it as a gift. History was, and is, very real to me.

This book is also a testament to children who grow up with mentally ill parents. My Dad’s depression, which was finally “managed” with Valium rocked our family. My mother, who had married to spite her parents at 18, had to cope with her husband’s illness, me a sickly kid who barely survived a very premature birth and the challenges of raising my brother who was pretty much a normal 60s kid. She clung to her sanity like Katherine McConnell’s mother–by painting and also by sewing us beautiful, perfectly fitting clothes. As life began to spin out of control she tried to keep sane through the other love she shared with Katherine’s mom–swimming. Like Katherine, I swam like a rock. My brother brought home the swim meet ribbons in our family. He inherited her artistic talent. Sadly, we both received the family tendency toward depression and bi-polar illness.

Thank you, Amanda C. Gable, for such a theraputic book!


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Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book



The Top Ten Things That Make Me Pick Up a Book

If I have NOT read a review:

1. Believable jacket blurb or the story

2. Enticing cover that doesn’t mimic the cover of a current or recent bestseller.

3. Written by an author I like/love.

4. Historical fiction is from an era or about a person I enjoy/admire/want to know more about.

5. Just sounds fun/worth it/interesting.

6. I like a bookstagram of it–I MAY try it.


If I HAVE read a review:

7. I trust the reviewer/blogger.

8. I trust the source–Guardian, NPR or other publication.

9. If non-fiction, adds to what is known or breaks new ground.

10. A friend I trust says, “I know this isn’t your usual, but….” I MAY try it.



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Top Ten Tuesday: Audio Freebie: Dream Narrators, Men Only Version


Sorry, I fell short of the full ten this week. Better luck next time.

Some of these performers have recorded audio books, but not ones I have listened. Others are just my dream narrators.

Jeremy Irons

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Jeremy Irons–my all-time favorite male voice! He has recorded Brideshead Revisited and, of course, Lolita. I know Brideshead too well to bother listening to it and Lolita is not interesting to me. Maybe though he’ll do a new audiobook before too long, but given his reputation for playing sickos, I imagine any book would be disturbing. What a waste of a superb voice! He should be the lord of the manor–and not an evil one.

Sam Elliott

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Perfect for westerns, or cowboy romances.

Sean Connery

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Sadly, it’s too late in the day I imagine, to expect a new audiobook from Sean Connery. But, oh that voice! Perfect for kilted romances.

David Cameron

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A man can be disliked and still have an interesting voice. A chinless wonder of the highest order to read a high society book or a tale of wrong-doing in Parliament or a slippery adviser to a Monarch would all be great audio stories for him.


Paul McCartney

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Paul would be wonderful narrating any number of fun books. A family vacation story, a hapless love affair book with a good ending–anything fun.

Bruce Springsteen

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The Boss would have been perfect for Shot Gun Love Songs, but any down-on-your luck, guy books or road trip away from bad luck book would be his thing.

Hugh Grant

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I’d love Hugh to read the male lead in a multi-performer romcom or chicklit.

Robbie Coltrane


Robbie, in his Hagrid voice, would be perfect to read a children’s fantasy series–not HP but some other new adventure.


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