Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Quiet Genre Books

Lately I've been thinking about quiet genre books.  The vast majority of SFF, mystery, horror I read is fast-paced, action-packed, and momentous.  But occasionally you run across a genre book where big things are happening, but the focus of the book isn't directly on those big things, not exactly.  Sometimes, these books are kind of dreamy and unfocused and those don't often work for me.  Much of the magical realism I've read fits in this category.  The other kind of quiet genre book I've run into are those that shift the lens onto the mundane everyday even when the big picture is BONKERS. They are often more focused on the characters and the big things that are happening around them are secondary. It's a unique approach, at least in my experience and there are some really excellent books that do this.  Below are some of my favorites!


1) Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

Fantasy. A young woman appears back home, 20 years after she disappeared without a trace, looking no different than when she went missing and claiming to have been living in the land of Fairy.  The book focuses on the aftermath and the struggles of her family to know what to think.

2) The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Science Fiction, YA. Something has gone wrong with the Earth's rotation causing the world to slowly start dying.  The book takes place at the very start of this happening and 11 year old Julia's coming of age during this time.

3) We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Horror.  Sisters Merricat and Constance live secluded in their house for years after the majority of the rest of their family was killed by arsenic in the sugar bowl.

Science Fiction.  (This one is a little borderline as it does have some actiony parts.:) The small crew of a tunneling ship spends a year traveling across space in order to blow a hole in space and create an intergalactic highway.  The book focuses on the everyday lives of the crew and their relationships.

5) Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Mystery (Hitsorical).  (This one may also be a little borderline).  After a fender bender, the Kopp sisters run afoul of a local criminal but stand up to him when he terrorizes their farm.

6) Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Mystery (Historical). A murder in small town Minnesota in 1961 causes 13 year old Frank to face some things about the world and  grow up more than he was perhaps ready for.

7) The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Fantasy. The immigrant story told through the lens of a golem and Jinni who find themselves in turn of the century New York where they each deal with the challenges they face in very different ways.

8) A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Fantasy, YA. Madeliene lives in Cambridge England while Elliot lives in a parallel and much more magical world but they can somehow pass notes to one another ordinary objects in each of their worlds like a parking meter.  Their letters back in forth help them both deal with the trials of being a teenager.

9) Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

Science Fiction, YA.  Set against the backdrop of all the adventure and drama of Star Wars, this tie-in novel focuses on two young adults, friends and lovers, who end up on opposite sides of the conflict.

10) The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Fantasy, YA.  As the famous and dangerous Scorpio Races approach, Puck and Sean train and struggle with life on an island that offers little opportunity and which is beset by man-eating horses that come from the sea.

11) The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Science Fiction.  A first contact story that is much more interested in the lives and relationships of the the unusual group of Earthlings that embark upon the mission.

12) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Fantasy.  A love story between two magicians caught in a life or death battle centered around a whimsical and unearthly traveling circus.

13) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Science Fiction.  A group of teenagers bond at an exclusive boarding school.  Revealing why this is science fiction, reveals too much but the book is mostly about these kids coming of age and friendships.

14) Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Mystery.  Part investigator, part psychologist, Maisie Dobbs is a young woman who after World War I opens up her own private investigation business in London.  The rest of the books in the series don't fit this mold but in this first book the focus is definitely on Maisie and her life, the mystery is secondary.

15) In the Woods by Tana French

Mystery. Dublin police officer Peter, along with his partner and best friend, must investigate a brutal murder in his childhood neighborhood where he himself disappeared briefly with two of his friends and only he ever returned.


Do you have any favorite books that fit this description? I'd love to hear about them!

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