Thursday Book Recs

It seems mildly cruel to recommend books that are out of print, but I’m about to do just that. One of the favorite books of my teens was Anne-Marie Selinko’s Desiree, the tale of Napoleon’s first love, whom he ditched for Josephine. Fear not! Desiree found a far less egomanaical (not to mention taller) chevalier in another revolutionary luminary, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte.

That the Pink series is what it is owes a great deal to this book and the hold it exercised over my imagination back in those formative Middle School days.

There was one problem. Desiree was out of print. On a trip to Paris, I managed to get my hands on a French copy. I felt extremely smug about it until I sat down to read it and made the shocking discovery that the French copy was, well, in French. It might have been more accurate, but it just wasn’t the same. I wanted my Desiree back, the one with the ratty dark blue covers and the inauthentically English-speaking heroine.

It finally dawned on me, this past month, that this is what online used booksellers are for. I am now the proud owner of a second-hand copy of Desiree (in English!) that looks just like the one in the school library.

And, yes, it IS just as wonderful as I remember it being.

Which beloved old books would you recommend?


  1. Katie on March 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Yay! I think I’m first! Well I absolutly love “No Greater Love” by Baroness Orczy! This book happens to be about one or Sir Andrew’s decendents, Nowell, and it is a lot like “Pimpernel and Rosemary” except way better. The mian chick isn’t an annoying idiot!!! Yay! I wasn’t able to find it any where for years until my cousin tracked it down for me and gave it to me for my birthday, and that is why she rocks:)

  2. Stephanie on March 19, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Well, I don’t think of it as being old but when I was 13(I’m now *cough* 31 *cough*) my grade 8 teacher introduced me to The Princess Bride and I fell in love with it. I read it whenever I’m between books. I even pick it up and just start it from wherever the bookmark happens to be even though it’s been months since I started it last.

  3. Suzanne on March 19, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I would like to recommend “The India Fan”, which is my absolute favorite book by Victoria Holt. My mom introduced me to Victoria Holt when I was stuck home with the chicken pox in the 8th grade and I’ve been a fan ever since.

  4. Robyn on March 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    My recommendation would be The Queen’s Fool by Phillippa Gregory. It is also historical fiction. I read Phillippa when I am in between Lauren’s books. She keeps me pretty occupied.

  5. Lauren on March 19, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Suzanne, I loved “The India Fan”, too! Although my favorite was “Secret for a Nightingale”– that was where I got the idea for the Hellfire Club in “Night Jasmine”.

  6. Korri on March 19, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I love anything my Madeleine Brent. The Moonrakers Bride is one of my favorites. Victoria Holt has some keepers too!

  7. Korri on March 19, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Ooooh! I forgot the Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. That is a must.

  8. Lauren on March 19, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    “Blue Sword” is such a keeper. So many lines from that still resonate for me– especially the bit where Harry admits what it would have cost her to return only as a King’s Rider. Doesn’t it just give you chills?

  9. Camille la Flamme on March 20, 2009 at 2:42 am

    “Le Fantome de l’Opera,” i.e. “The Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux. I own copies in both the orignal French and in English (because I am a French nerd), and while it is written in the somewhat…je ne sais pas quoi…of, say, Les Miserables, it’s really amazing to go back and read the raw material behind the famous musical (can you tell it’s my great love? haha), especially as, last year, the Smithsonian published an article in which they spoke of possible evidence of such an incident!

  10. Kristen on March 20, 2009 at 8:41 am

    I love “The Blue Sword”. Robin McKinley is just wonderful; I won’t admit how many of hers I own…

    My all-time favorite book is an old one, but a classic so it’s easy to find. I just adore the way Tolstoy describes human nature and human wants and desires in “Anna Karenina”. It is so beautiful, but it’s Russian and not what most of us are used to.

    My comfort reads are my fantasy books & Jane Austen. Robin McKinley & Sharon Shinn are my favorite fantasy writters.

  11. Ivy on March 20, 2009 at 11:26 am

    “In A Mirror” by Mary Stoltz, “The Seagulls Woke Me” by Mary Stoltz and the Best Friends series by Mary Bard.

  12. Stacie Andrews on March 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    My top three favorites are: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and any play by William Shakespeare. The Blue Window by Temple Bailey is a very good read too.

  13. Liz on March 20, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I totally love any old school Judith McNaught and Wuthering Heights is always a great.

  14. Sheila on March 20, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    REading these reccomendations has brought back so many memories…I loved Desiree also. Thank goodness for second-hand dealers , e bay and Amazon. One time I was looking to re-read a Patricia Veryan series (an absolute joy, all Pink fans will love her) and most of the books were gone from my local library !! The librarian told me that “a library is not a storehouse for books” !!!! Oh dear, oh dear….If you find them, it is best (but not necessary) to read Veryan in order, but this may be somewhat frustrating today…Roland Fairleigh Mathieson…I read The Dedicated Villain 3 times, cried each time…

  15. Sheila on March 20, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    PS–I named my son after the Duke of Avon in These Old Shades by Heyer…sighing wistfully….

  16. Teje on March 21, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Desirée is my favorite as well. Shogun ranks up there too. They did re-issue Desirée a few years back, actually. I also was searching for it when it was out of print. My family was moving to a new house, and when we moved in, I found a book of on the floor of my empty closet. It turned out to be Desirée. That’s how I got my copy of the out of print book. Figured I was destined to have it.

  17. Stephanie Stoddard on March 22, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    Wonderful old book, mysterious and fun. I picked it up from the collection my great grandmother started. It was wonderful and i love that you never know the main characters name but its all from her point of view. She falls in love and marries this guy but finds out he was married before and his wife died under mysterious conditions. Its amazing how the book shifts at the end i totally did not expect that. It was wonderful and one of my older favs.

    I am only 23 so the old favorites tend to be young adult. but i adore tamora pierce who writes a lot of books about young women who are not the normal quite and sweet girls. but the ones who dress as a boy and become a knight or can talk to animals, they are wonderful books you should suggest to any girl that is a tomboy or even if they are not and just have a good imagination they are truly some i still read at least once a year

  18. Ashley on March 23, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I am almost 19 so my “old” favorites don’t really count, although they were mostly any version of Robin Hood I could get my hands on 🙂 I still go back and read them when I am brain-dead from college work. The favorites I read in high school are like The Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier, Jane Austen books, obviously the Pink Carnation series, various historical romances like the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, books by Michael Chrichton and Clive Cussler… But, as I said before, any variance on Robin Hood I have probably read and enjoyed. Several times over 🙂 I’m really not obsessed…

  19. Desiree on March 29, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    I am going to have to track down this Desiree book. I have only read one book that actually had Napoleons Desiree in it and of course I can not remember the title or the author.

  20. Marilyn Jones on March 30, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Its really fun to read all the readers recs here and in the series comments. Its so great to have all these new books to look for, but, I have been waiting for someone to mention my all time fav The Helmet of Navarre by Bertha Runkle pub in 1901 by the Century Co with beautiful illustrations and a funny romantic story. My copy is my grandmother’s which I read first when I was plowing through Zane Gray at age 9, and it totally captured my imagination. I had to rebind it because I reread it often. Hope some one else will enjoy it too.

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