Top Books Picked Out on a Whim

Today’s topic specifies that we’re discussing books picked up without recommendation and without knowing much about the book beforehand. I have a tendency to pick up a lot of books based purely on the cover or mini-description that comes through my library’s Wowbrary feed, but many of those end up going back to the library unread. After thinking back through my many years of reading, I came up with a dozen books I’d consider both “picked up on a whim” and fantastic choices. In no particular order:

Girl of Fire and Thorns, The 21. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson: This was the first book that came to mind. I grabbed it at random off a library shelf and figured I’d end up returning it unread. I loved it so very much.

2. Mrs. Craddock by William Somerset Maugham: In 2001, when I decided to read a classic every week, I randomly chose this one to begin the year because the cover looked interesting and it was fairly short. Maugham turned into one of my favorite authors.

3. Possession by AS Byatt: Everyone in the book world knows Byatt, but when Jason and I first saw this book in the early 2000s, on a used bookshelf at Barnes & Noble in Madison, WI, we decided that the $3 price tag was worth the risk. It looked like it might be good or terrible, and it became one of my favorite books of all time.

number_the_stars4. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: I knew the author from elementary school and thought I’d disliked her books back then. In 2008, I picked this one up at random to “give her a second chance,” but it turned out I’d never read anything by her before, and this book was lovely.

5. Elena Vanishing by Elena and Clare Dunkle: I rarely read nonfiction picked on a whim, but instead choose for specific subject matter. This popped up in my Wowbrary feed last fall and it ended up being a brilliant choice.

6. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud: I have no idea why or where I picked up the audio version of this book. I don’t remember ever hearing about it before, and one day I started listening to it and fell completely in love with the series.

dick_jane_vampires7. Dick and Jane and Vampires by Laura Marchesani: So we all know Dick and Jane, but when I saw the “and Vampires” version back in 2010, I had to get it based on the concept and cover alone. It could have been terrible. Easily. It wasn’t. It was hysterical and wonderful and I wish I still had my copy…even my mom loved it, and she normally hates any kind of satire!

8. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau: When my boys were younger, they participated in Barnes & Noble’s summer reading program. This book was listed as a possible award book they could chose for finishing. The cover looked interesting, but none of the boys chose it as their award, so I got it from the library and devoured it.

9. Doll Bones by Holly Black: Early in blogging, I read several books by Black and didn’t enjoy them. I figured she was just not the kind of writer I liked. The cover and back-of-book description sounded interesting, however, so I figured, why not? Glad I got it!

magonia10. Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley: When we were prepping to move back to Texas a year ago, I started grabbing lots of random books from the library shelves to read. Many of them didn’t work out. This one, however, was brilliant, and I can’t wait for the sequel!

11. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: Random library grab during a slumpy summer of reading. Started off kinda not great for me, and then ended up shredding me into a massive sobbing pile of Mandaness.

12. Firstborn by Lorie Ann Grover: In early 2015, I was actively seeking out more gender-diverse fiction, and in my random searches, I came across this title. It came to me from the library with a pile of others, and ended up one of the only ones I actually read. Great look at transgender issues in a fantasy setting!

Have you read any of these? Have I interested you in any of them? (heehee)


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

About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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12 Responses to Top Books Picked Out on a Whim

  1. You picked up some awesome books on a whim. I have been meaning to read Magonia for so long but keep putting it off and I don’t know why. I think it is because I’d seen a few mixed reviews, so I am happy to hear you really liked it. Great list 🙂 You can check out my post here.


  2. STILL haven’t read “Magonia”, though a friend of mine loved it and the cover IS gorgeous. I own “The Screaming Staircase”. That one actually was a whim pick up… totally forgot about it until just now! I’ll have to give it a read soon!

    My TTT


  3. I was working in a bookstore for the Christmas vacation when Possession came out, and it seemed like absolutely everyone was buying it. I must have gift-wrapped a hundred copies. I’m so glad you found it and it became one of your favorites!


    • Amanda says:

      Neither of us had even heard of Byatt when we saw that book. We had to have been 21 or 22, and didn’t know much of modern fiction. It was a treat to come along and find something that awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Trisha says:

    This is a fantastic list of books Amanda. Of course I say this based on them being on my TBR not on having actually read them. 🙂


  5. Kailana says:

    Oh, yay. New books to check out. lol Thankfully not all of them… It’s funny that I had the exact same expectations for Rae Carson and surprisingly really enjoyed her in the end!


  6. Kristilyn says:

    The Girl of Fire and Thorns is awesome! I did the same thing and totally fell in love. I reread it just recently and it was just as good the second time around!


    • Amanda says:

      Those books really needed more press and blog time! I’d never heard of it before that random grab, and all the books were long out by then!


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