Nonfiction, Magical Realism, and More Roman Mysteries

Today's Ask the Editors recommendations find us leaving the shores of multi-generational epics and historical fiction for the weirder worlds of magical realism and non-fiction that's almost too incredible to believe. We've got a lot more recommendations to get through, and we'll continue answering until Friday, May 6th -- so leave your reader profiles in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

Margaret J. asked: My mom reads a lot from a combo of mysteries and non-fiction books. She enjoys reading about Central Asia -- historic and modern, the Great Game, China, the Silk Road. Some of her favorite mysteries are the Mrs. Pollifax series, Ian Rutledge series, China Bayles series, Donna Leon books, Margaret Fraser's medieval mysteries, Steven Saylor's Roman mysteries. She loves discovering new authors so I'd appreciate your suggestions.

We recommend:


  • Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination by Paul Freedman, a great look at the spice trade in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It doesn't just trace the traders and merchants who bought and sold spices: it also tracks how the spice trade helped shape Europeans' perceptions of their food in particular, and south and east Asia in general. And the few recipes that Freedman has been able to reconstruct might surprise you: in 16th-century Italy, for example, you might find a wealthy merchant eating food that looks a lot more like something out of India than the Italian food we know and love today.

  • On the more modern side of things, there's Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe by Frank Dikotter. In 1958, Mao Zedong launched a program -- the Great Leap Forward -- to boost China's agricultural and economic production that was overambitious. It resulted in massive changes to Chinese farming communities, the introduction of forced labor, and ultimately, the deaths of as many as 45 million people. Frank Dikotter is the first historian to look into the Chinese Communist Party's secret archives, and through them, he looks at every aspect of the Great Leap Forward, from the politicians who lacked the courage to challenge Chairman Mao, to the farmers who suffered from his fatally flawed plan.

  • And to continue our ancient Roman mysteries recommendations from before: Nemesis by Lindsey Davis, the newest of her Marcus Didius Falco mysteries, The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe, and SPQR XII: The Year of Confusion by John Maddox Roberts. Each of these is a customer favorite and part of a series, so hopefully that will give your mom plenty of Roman mystery to read for a while.

Judy wrote: My Mother loves to read - all kinds of things and different things. Likes Haruki Murakami. Reads all the way from Mao to Undress me in the Temple of Doom. Has read many Indian novels as she traveled to India. Loves traveling, gardening, collecting, sea otters, and photography. Reads Hemingway, Maya Angelou, If On a Winter's Night, Rohinton Minstry, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and on she goes! She likes unique books that have some depth to them. She buys most of her bookls through Amazon unless they are gifts. Thank you for your help!!


Keep those questions for us (and recommendations for your fellow Omni readers) coming!

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Comments (2)

the closest thing american has to murakami is jonathan carroll (try the land of laughs or the ghost in love).

as for mitchell, i would start with ghostwritten or number9dream first if you are looking for a murakami feel.

Posted by: joel | Thursday April 28, 2011 at 7:29 AM

My mom likes the Blossom Street series of Debbie Macomber, the Sisterhood series of Fern Michaels, mysteries of Diane Mott Davidson and Mary Higgins Clark. She knits a lot for charity and likes the knitting mysteries of Maggie Sefton and Kate Jacobs Friday Night Knitting Club series.

So what's out there that you would recommend for this relationship and mystery loving knitter?


Posted by: Barbara Chapman | Saturday April 30, 2011 at 6:55 AM

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