It is very rare that I buy a book without looking at a bunch of reviews beforehand, but everyone once in awhile a random book will catch my attention and I will buy it just based on the blurb/cover alone. I have found a lot of amazing and less talked about books this way. I have also found a few duds but that is a topic for another post! It is something that I want to start doing more often!
I thought it might be fun to share a few such books with you all! I would love to know if you ever do this, and if yes, what was the best book that you discovered this way?
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
I have talked about Swimming Lessons a few times now, but it is worth talking about again! I walked in to the bookstore with a gift card and I had a different book in mind, but I saw this cover and the title and I had to give it a chance. It is one of those books that did not have much of a plot but still had a large impact. Books were important to the story, which of course I appreciated!
In this spine-tingling tale Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but she never sends them. Instead she hides them within the thousands of books her husband has collected. After she writes her final letter, Ingrid disappears.
Twelve years later, her adult daughter, Flora comes home to look after her injured father. Secretly, Flora has never believed her mother is dead, and she starts asking questions, without realizing that the answers she’s looking for are hidden in the books that surround her.
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
If you have been following my blog for awhile you may know that I love WWII fiction. I saw this book and bought it simply because I saw WWII mentioned on the back. I am so glad that I did because it focused on an aspect of the war that I have never read about before. It also takes place over multiple generations which is something that I have come to enjoy reading about. It is set in Germany, Cuba, and America, and was a heartbreaking and harrowing read.
Before everything changed, young Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now, in 1939, the streets of Berlin are draped with red, white, and black flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places that once felt like home. Hannah and her best friend, Leo Martin, make a pact: whatever the future has in store for them, they’ll meet it together.
Hope appears in the form of the SS St. Louis, a transatlantic liner offering Jews safe passage out of Germany. After a frantic search to obtain visas, the Rosenthals and the Martins depart on the luxurious ship bound for Havana. Life on board the St. Louis is like a surreal holiday for the refugees, with masquerade balls, exquisite meals, and polite, respectful service. But soon ominous rumors from Cuba undermine the passengers’ fragile sense of safety. From one day to the next, impossible choices are offered, unthinkable sacrifices are made, and the ship that once was their salvation seems likely to become their doom.
Seven decades later in New York City, on her twelfth birthday, Anna Rosen receives a strange package from an unknown relative in Cuba, her great-aunt Hannah. Its contents will inspire Anna and her mother to travel to Havana to learn the truth about their family’s mysterious and tragic past, a quest that will help Anna understand her place and her purpose in the world.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Thirteenth Tale seems to be pretty popular, but when I bought it a few years ago, I had heard nothing about it. I think it is pretty obvious why I was drawn to it- look at that cover! It is truly a book that is made for book lovers. I have seen it describe as a love letter to reading, and that is so accurate. I loved the mystery element as well. It kept me reading all night long!
All children mythologize their birth…So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.
The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.
As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.
Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida’s storytelling but remains suspicious of the author’s sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
I read The Glass Castle a few years ago, and it really got me hooked on memoirs. I picked this book up because it was a memoir, had a gorgeous cover, and is about a Canadian. I had not heard about the horrifying ordeal that Amanda went through and it was very difficult to read about. She is such a strong, resilient woman, and I am so happy that she was able to share her story. It was a gripping read that has stayed with me for many years.
As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.
Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
This is definitely one of those books that I picked up based on the blurb alone. I am sure I was drawn to the cover but reading the back made me realize that I just had to read it. I have not read a lot of historical fiction set in France and I loved that art and culture were such a big part of the story. It is a really interesting look at society in France during the late 1800s.
Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work — and the love of a dangerous young man — as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.
Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.
Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.”
Have you read any of these books? I would love to know what you thought! There are so many other books that I picked up on a whim so I might make a part two of this in the future. I also want to talk about books I picked up in this way and did not end up enjoying as much. It definitely is risky so that is why I do not do it as often as I would like!
37 thoughts on “Books I Picked Up on a Whim and Loved”
Amazing selection of books! I received Swimming Lessons from The Book of the Month Club and enjoyed it. I recently bought The German Girl for precisely the same reason, I love WWII fiction. I have not read it yet, but it is on the list with serveral other WWII books. And I loved The Thirteenth Tale. I read it years ago and recommended it many people!
Thank you! I am excited to you to read The German Girl and go see what you think! I want to start recommending The Thirteenth Tale more often. It is amazing!
I read The Thirteenth Tale years ago before it was popular and really liked it. To be honest, it’s been so long that I don’t remember it too well. Perhaps it’s time for a revisit.
I almost always look up reviews before I buy books, but on occasion I’ll just take a shot in the dark and see how it goes. I did that with Sand by High Howey (read this a few months ago). I wasn’t familiar with the author or any of his other works, but the blurb on the back drew me in.
I think a reread of The Thirteenth Tale would be great. It’s something I want to do myself!
I am going to have to check out Sand! I love finding out about books I have never heard of before!
I need to start picking books up on a whim, I never do it! I’m the kind of person that reads a million reviews before reading a book, but I like to be surprised by books and I think picking books up on a whim would help with that.
Also, I had never heard about Swimming Lessons, but now I’m really intrigued.
I rarely do it anymore either! I miss the feeling of picking up a book and being so surprised by it! Swimming Lessons is really great! I highly recommend it!
I agree with Swimming Lessons! It wasn’t much to read, but I still think about it!
It’s brilliant in that way. Such a quiet book but leaves an impression.
Obviously these are beautiful books inside and out. 🙂 I don’t remember anymore the last time I picked up a book on a whim and read it… haha.. They usually stayed unread on my shelf.
Haha I totally get that! It’s more tempting to read a book you have heard a lot about and think you will like versus a book that you know nothing about!
Exactly… But since i’m on a book buying ban, i might settle on those books for now..hehe
This is a really fun idea for a post! Might have to nick it!
I’ve bought a few Kindle novels that I didn’t even read the synopsis for before buying and they turned out to be great! 🙂
I would love to see the books you picked up on a whim!
That is awesome. I never read on my ereader but I feel like I would buy more books on impulse if I did!
The Painted Girls sounds really interesting! I am definitely going to add that to my list of books I want to read!
Sometimes it’s nice to just book up a book from the cover or the blurb alone! Sometimes they surprise you and become some of your favorite books!
Yay that’s awesome. I want more people to read The Painted Girls!
That’s what I enjoy about this as well. It is a little way to be spontaneous!
I am the opposite! I never read reviews before deciding on a book. I choose based on the cover, the blurb, and what I know about the author. If I’ve read an author before and loved how they wrote, I’ll pick up another book by them. If I’ve read an author before and it wasn’t the best, I am less inclined to pick up a new book by them. I do try to give second chances and I’ll pick up a book by an author I wasn’t over the moon about.
I wish I was more like that! I am trying not to give in the hype as much this year and just pick up books based on my gut and books written by authors I’ve loved in the past.
SORRY I SAW “I LOVE WW2 FICTION NAD I HAD TI COmMENT. OMG SAMEEEEE. (SALT TO THE SEA????)
I NEED TO READ THE GERMAN GIRL THEN. SOUNDS LIKE THE TYPE OF ShOULD DESTROYING BOOK I’D LIKE.
I’ve found that books I pick up on a whim are actually the ones that I enjoy most because 1) no spoilers everywhere and 2) I have fewer expectations from them?? For example, I read Turtles all eh way down on a whim and I LOVED it when I really didn’t think that I would from what I’d heard!
I own Salt to the Sea but I haven’t read it yet. Can you believe that??? You will definitely enjoy The German Girl!
That is such a good point. I think it helps that I go in to these books with low expectations so there is chance that they will surprise me. If a book is hyped I am expecting to love it!
OMG READ IT NOW YOU BAD HUMAN.
Hahaha hopefully I will get to it is soon!
I hope you like it!
I haven’t read any of the books you included in your list but I am quite intrigued by The Thirteenth Tale – It looks wonderful!!!
It’s fantastic!! I think you will love it!
I have never heard of any of these books, but The Thirteenth Tale really does have a beautiful cover!!
What exactly does it mean to pick up a book on a whim? Just that you didn’t plan it out ahead of time? So pretty much every time I go to a book store all my purchases are on a whim! (when I want a particular book I order it online)
The Thirteenth Tale! In my head picking it up on a whim means you buy a book you know nothing about it or never heard of!
I love it when you pick up a book on a whim and love it. The best feeling!
It really is!
A House In The Sky looks GORGEOUs, that cover! I also like memoirs so I’ll be sure to check it out. 🙂
It’s really great and beautiful!!
Lovely post! The German Girl is a book I’ve never heard of, but it looks absolutely interesting and very mysterious… 🙂
Thank you! It is really good!
I love coming to your blog to receive unique book recommendations, because these are all books that I haven’t seen in other book rec lists! 😋 I was about to pick up The Painted Girls recently, but didn’t end up reading it because I felt like I didn’t know enough about the historical period of 19th century France. I’ve recently finished extensively learning about that era, though, in my history classes, so I feel like I can dive into that book with more confidence now 😄 Great list of books!
Aw thanks so much. I love hearing that! You should read The Painted Girls! You will learn even more about that time. It is really interesting. Can’t wait to see what you think!
i haven’t read any of these 🙈
Shameful! Haha just kidding! These books aren’t talked about a lot so I’m not surprised!