Books I’m Afraid to Recommend

Books I'm Afraid to Recommend

You all know I read a lot, and recommend a lot of books here on Modern Mrs Darcy. What you may not know is that I’m really careful about what books I recommend here on the blog.

There are some books that I’ve loved that I wouldn’t dream of recommending to you without a gigantic flashing warning sign. It’s because I’m afraid you’ll absolutely hate them–usually because of the language, sometimes because of the content.

Today I’m taking you behind the scenes and sharing some of the books I’m afraid to recommend. Consider yourself warned.

The Grief Recovery Handbook

The Grief Recovery Handbook

This terrific guide is one of the best books I've never heard of. But what a downer. Unresolved grief may be a major issue in many people's lives, but that doesn't mean they want to read about it in a blog post. Or at least, that's what's kept me from recommending it to you. More info →
Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage

Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage


Leman is one of my favorite marriage and family authors: his Birth Order Book deserves to be in the next installment of The Books That Changed My Life. But I haven't recommended this one because:

1. It’s about sex.

2. I’m not 100% on board with all his advice.

3. Sometimes his tone makes me cringe.

More info →
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

I recently recommended this one to my mom after I’d read the first few chapters, because Tim Ferriss’s diet and exercise advice was surprisingly solid. But then, I got to the sex part. The subtitle should have clued me in: “An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman.” But since I borrowed this book from the library for my Kindle, I never saw the cover–or the subtitle–and was completely surprised by the sex part. When I got there I was super embarrassed I’d recommended this one to my mother. I’m praying she just forgot I ever said anything about this book. More info →
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)

Jen from Conversion Diary calls the Bloggess “The Blogger That I Cannot Link To,” and for these same reasons I’m afraid to recommend her to you:

I know. Bad etiquette. But I simply don’t have the vocabulary to craft a content warning that would be strong enough to give readers unfamiliar with her writing a proper idea of what they might find there. Ten f-bombs, to be sure. But also discussion of insane taxidermy experiments. Pictures of insane taxidermy experiments. Sexual references that would make Hugh Hefner blush. And that’s just in the first paragraph.

More info →

If you’d like to check out some books I’m not afraid to recommend, check out my reading guides.

If you ever have any questions about any book I mention here on Modern Mrs Darcy or over on Goodreads, don’t hesitate to ask! I’d be happy to help you figure out if a book I’ve mentioned sounds like it would be a good choice for you.

What books do you love, but hesitate to recommend?

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  1. I enjoy reading adventure type novels-like the Bourne series and Alex Hawke by Ted Bell. But as there is occasional language, a rare “scene” and some violence, I hate to recommend them. Also, the Harry Potter books and Twilight. I enjoyed both series. As a matter of fact, I have read HP multiple times. But they are both controversial in Christian circles. Supporting vampires and magic and all that. So, I rarely mention them. But I love reading them. I get worried about what people may think of my Christianity or testimony.I don’t think they are exclusive, but I also have had the “don’t cause your bro to stumble” drilled in to me.

    • sona says:

      As a Christian this also comes to mind…. Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

      Some verses jump out at me at the most “inconvenient” moments. 🙂 I have found it awkward when my teen grands say they are going to watch an “R” rated movie, then they all turn and look at me!!!

  2. michele says:

    Agreed – it’s hard to recommend somewhat objectionable books, even when I loved them (I have the audio version of Me Talk Pretty One Day and I re”read” the chapters on moving to France and learning the language on a regular basis, I find it so hilarious). But I think you’ve recommended well with a “reader beware” – thanks for giving me some new Slightly Inappropriate reading!

  3. So I’m anxiously awaiting my turn at Jenny Lawson’s book (the library holds list is very long), but it’s one I know I’ll be hesitant to recommend unless I know the person really really well.

    I love mysteries, but I find them hard to recommend, especially since the ones I like the best often have language or themes that many people won’t appreciate. Laura Lippman (her more recent books especially), John Baker, Peter Robinson, & another couple whose names I cannot remember before breakfast apparently. 🙂

    I also agree with Barefoot Hippie Girl above – I love Harry Potter but often don’t feel like going into a disclaimer, or having to deal with a potentially long discussion over why I feel like it’s acceptable for me as a Christian to read it. So I ignore it.

    • Anne says:

      Sheila, that’s a great point–if I know the person really well, and they know me, I feel a lot more confident about making recommendations. Otherwise, I feel the need to explain and equivocate way too much before recommending some books.

  4. Michelle says:

    Me Talk Pretty One Day was assigned reading for me in a college writing class…I read most of it during a 6-midnight shift at the library desk. Only thing was, the desk was in a big, open, echo-y study room. So…yeah. Tons of kids studying their brains out while I’m guffawing to myself behind a paperback with my snickers reverberating off the ceiling.

    But it really was homework. 😉

  5. “Sheet Music” was amazing, and did amazing things for us…. I also enjoyed Sheila Wray Gregoire’s “Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.” But my mother and my mom-in-law both read my blog. So does my dad. There’s NO WAY I’m talking about those books on there! 😉

    Also, this may sound weird, but “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” I just read it for the Well-Educated Mind reading list, and was amazed at the relevancy to today. No, maybe not with outright slavery, but perhaps with abortion, loving your neighbors, not being silent about immoralities. But I think, I’m scared to open up that can of political worms.

    And, I enjoy reading Dan Brown. I know “Da Vinci Code” is unbiblical, but isn’t fiction supposed to be “made up”? Also, his books are far better than the movies.

        • It’s essentially a sermon written by a woman. I meant to mention that to you over at “Anne with an E” when that discussion was going on, but it slipped my mind. HBS was not one to speak publicly, but she could certainly call down some serious hellfire and brimstone with her writing! My WEM friends and I all admitted to jotting dozens of “Amens” in the margins of the book.

  6. The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman. SO good. So much swearing, and there’s a rape scene…

    That’s why at the bottom of all my book reviews I put a “Should I recommend this to my grandma?” where I mention the most objectionable parts of books. Since I know my mom reads my blog. 🙂

  7. I love The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis. It’s an oldie, but that’s probably due to my reading nothing but classics for most of college. It’s one of the first Gothic novels, and it’s riveting—mostly because of evil monks and nuns and stuff. It’s not hyper sexual by modern standards, but it might be a little much for some people.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Love this post. I sometimes feel dishonest to my readers by how much I sanitize some of my posts. Two of these are on my “to be read” list. I appreciate you sticking out your neck and giving these reviews.

  9. HopefulLeigh says:

    I’ve been on the library wait list for the Bloggess’s book for awhile and I think it’s finally getting closer. David Sedaris cracks me up. I think you’d be surprised by how people would respond to a book about grief. This makes me think I should go back through my professional resources and maybe work up a post. Or not. I’m still highly enjoying my social work sabbatical.

    I love the Outlander series but talk about saucy! They are impeccably researched, making you want to shelve them under historical fiction. But then there’s a time travel element, so it’s a little fantasy/sci fi (normally I veer away from that genre but not in this case.) Then there’s the reason for a huge caveat: the sex scenes. Lots and lots of detailed sex scenes. I could never recommend them to my mom. Ever. But they are really good books!

    • Jamie says:

      Oh! I love the Outlander series, too! Those were the first books that came to mind as I read this post. All questionable content aside, they are great stories. Looking forward to the next one. 🙂

    • Carole says:

      I’m mid 70’s, don’t really read time travel, didn’t know it was about that when my daughter said her friends were all reading Outlander series I LOVE THEM so just tell your Mom someone said she would probably like them. 🙂
      P.S. Never written to a blog before.

      • HopefulLeigh says:

        Ha! I know plenty of intergenerational readers but my mom shall not be added to the list. She’d probably try to ground me if she knew about the saucy parts- and I’m in my 30s!

    • 'Becca says:

      Ha! I had never heard of Outlander until my mother-out-law gave me a copy! Talking cheerfully about its genre-bendingness, one of the things she cheerfully listed was, “explicit sex!” So, um, now we know more about each other’s reading interests….

      • 'Becca says:

        Oh, I guess it’s worth mentioning that both of us are in love with red-haired men. Maybe that’s how she knew I would be interested. 😀

  10. kalynbrooke says:

    I have Sheet Music, but haven’t read it yet. Leman’s books can sometimes feel demeaning, and I want to be encouraged, not discouraged.

    Although I did love his birth order book as well!

  11. Marcy says:

    My very favorite books by a living author, the Night Angel trilogy, by Brent Weeks. (The Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge, and Beyond the Shadows.) Or rather, I recommend them (to some people), but with lots of explanation. They’re… very dark. Very very. The main character grows up in what we’d call a children’s street gang, if it weren’t a fantasy novel. There’s violence and abuse. And then he grows up to be an assassin. It generally isn’t explicitly described, but… a lot of it doesn’t need to be to be pretty horrifying, from the little girl attacked by one of the villains as an act of revenge, to the magical tyrant with a harem, later on…

    But the darkness makes the light all the brighter. The redemption in these books is simply amazing. Self-sacrificial love drips off the pages. There’s no in-between — either you make small rationalizations that lead to incredible evil, or you die to self and truly love. There’s a reason these books are my favorite. They’re horrible, but oh, so beautiful.

    Between the above themes and some obvious Biblical literacy (like a reference in one culture to the “Year of Joy” when all slaves are freed), I’m pretty sure Brent Weeks is a Christian, but I’ve never seen an interview asking him about it — most people wouldn’t think of these books as “religious!” And I have to be careful when recommending them to Christians.

  12. Meghan says:

    David Sedaris is such a good writer (I’ve read and loved “Me Talk Pretty One Day”), but I’m usually hesitant to recommend him as well. The book, “Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer also makes my list of amazing books that I’m afraid to recommend. It’s incredibly written, but content and language would offend most of my Christian friends. As a literary nerd, it can be hard to find a balance sometimes between wanting to read really good literature and wanting to keep certain things out of my mind. Good post!

  13. Jamie says:

    Some of the best books I’ve ever read are the ones I never recommend to others, unless I know them and their reading preferences extremely well. Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series and the Anita Blake books are both articulate, creative, intricate and full of well- developed characters. They’re also full of explicit violence, sex and (sometimes dark) magic.

    Thanks for being brave enough to post your hard-to-recommend books for us, and for broaching the subject at all!

  14. 'Becca says:

    I went ahead and recommended some books I was a bit afraid to recommend, and I haven’t suffered any repercussions. I try to mention at least the most obvious things that might bother sensitive readers, but skimming my list I see some I left out:
    Snow Crash features a vaginal self-defense device as a minor plot point with excessive foreshadowing. Also plenty of profanity and colorful threats.
    How Like a God gets pretty dark; at the nadir of the protagonist’s insanity, he almost rapes a young teen girl.
    Outlander, mentioned above, not only has explicit sex but includes (over the course of the series) a number of rapes and some very disturbing incest, plus witchcraft, voodoo, and extremely detailed descriptions of gruesome violence and medical conditions.
    Fun Home depicts the author masturbating, oral sex between two women, and a cut-open cadaver. In different scenes. All of them as meticulously drawn as the rest of the book.

    One book I’ve stopped recommending is The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons, about a mind-reader whose life takes several turns for the worse. It’s well-written, but it’s so, so dark and horrible. I began to realize that as various tough male friends to whom I’d loaned it kept telling me they couldn’t stand to finish it. Finally I read it again and decided it fell into the category “great art that’s bad for the soul.”

  15. Maggie S. says:

    Birth Order Book is truly a must read. And Leman can have a weird tone sometimes. I would assume sheet music is no different.

    I’m glad to know there are other bloggers who have some scruples about linking to other bloggers, while still enjoying them…

    I’m drawing a blank. I don’t do book lists on my blog enough. I let the list get too long and forget.

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  17. ed cyzewski says:

    Cold Comfort Farm is one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read, but I think it appeals more to English majors since it’s a parody of Wuthering Heights and other related books that rely on compounded misery and over the top drama. It was a healing experience to read it, and I can read it many times, but I can’t recommend it to everyone without some caveats.

    • Anne says:

      Gah! Now I have to admit I’ve never read Wuthering Heights. {sheepish}

      I’ve had people recommend Cold Comfort Farm to me before but I never realized it was a parody. Thanks for enlightening me. 🙂

      • ed cyzewski says:

        I can sum up Wuthering Heights for you…
        Catherine: “Oh Heathcliffe! Heathcliffe! I’m so miserable without you!” Oops, now I’m dead.
        Heathcliffe: “Oh Catherine! Catherine! I’m so miserable without you! I’m so miserable I’m going to make everyone else miserable.”

        There. Now you know all you need to know. Go forth and read Cold Comfort Farm. You don’t need to be an English major to get the humor, but it helps. All that said, the story is just off the wall silly and enjoyable.

  18. Rachel says:

    I had so much fun reading Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend this Never Happened…but even as I was laughing along to her stories, I kept thinking, “This is one I won’t be recommending to my mother.”

  19. Jennifer says:

    Time Travelers Wife. I loved the story but finally decided I’d read it enough times and should get it out of the house before any small eyes stumbled across it.

  20. Gillian says:

    The Bloody Jack series are my afraid-to-recommend books. I love the writing, characters, action, and plots….but…there’s definitely language and a few too many ‘scenes’ for some tastes. I only recommend them to people I know well, and who probably won’t object, or people I know who read similar stuff already. 🙂

    • I love, love, LOVE the “Bloody Jack” series. And it was my daughter, then in 6th grade, who introduced me to them. Then she’d get annoyed with me for reading the rest of the series before she did.

  21. Stacy says:

    I’ve read and eagerly await every David Sedaris book. I took a friend to a mental health clinic while reading one and laughed out loud……a lot! Needless to say I got strange looks and even had someone comment “Ummm that must be really funny ??????”. Also love Chelsea Handler.

  22. Kayla H says:

    I am currently reading Sheet Music, and enjoying it. Dr. Leman put on a marriage and parenting conference at our church several years ago, and so it is kinda awkward thinking about him as I read the book ;), especially since he is old enough to be my dad. I do love the way he write though because he writes just like he talks, and I can almost hear his voice as I read the book.

  23. Laurie says:

    Two books that I enjoyed but couldn’t keep on my Christian “lending library” shelves are “Water for Elephants” and “Cutting for Stone” … The story lines I liked but….

    Also I have to be careful when I’m recommending books I read quite a while ago. One friend was appalled at the language in one of the books I like best! I’d never even thought of it! I tend to skim read and skip over the bad parts I guess… And forget the bad language…

    • Anne says:

      Interesting. I have Cutting for Stone on my bookshelf (picked up a used copy for a dollar at the library book sale…) but haven’t read it yet.

      And I do the same thing with books I haven’t read in a while.

  24. Melissa Daly says:

    I’ve read all those books. And while they are shocking, I enjoy them because they are so real and FUNNY. I read and enjoy the books, “Little Bee” and “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky”. Both are shockingly real. As a mom, I really feel for women who deal with struggles in their life. I recommended these books to my mom but had a huge WARNING, WARNING before handing them over. I don’t know if I could recommend them to other people because others might think of me as being troubled. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your secret.

  25. Joe Joe says:

    You linked back to this post, so this is the first time I’ve seen it. I completely agree about Sheet Music. It’s so helpful, but as a woman I really didn’t appreciate the tone. I don’t know if that was what you meant about the tone, but that was my biggest hang-up. Plenty of people I know love the book and don’t see it, so I feel ok about recommending to people, you know, if that sort of thing comes up in conversation.

  26. Angela says:

    I feel this way about lots of books. One that comes immediately to mind is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini–so incredibly moving and like having your face held up to a burning fire and being unable to look away; but so disturbing and graphic that I don’t recommend it to anyone that I am not 100% sure could handle it without disowning me. But just because you can’t share a book you love with everyone, doesn’t mean it can’t have it’s full impact on you.
    “Be careful what books you read, for as water tastes of the soil it runs through, so does the soul taste of the authors that a man reads.” — John Trapp

    • Anne says:

      I resonate with this. I started The Kite Runner years ago knowing next to nothing and was deeply disturbed by how things unfolded. I still haven’t picked it back up; not sure if I ever will.

      • Angela says:

        It’s definitely on my list of “I’m so glad I read it, it affected me deeply, but I doubt I’ll ever read it again” books. None of his others has had the same visceral effect on me.

      • Lisa says:

        I haven’t read The Kite Runner but it is on the reading list for many high school english classes. To have adults say it bothers them makes me question why it needs to be on a teenager’s reading list. But I feel the same way about Night — it was depressing and left you without hope.

        • Laura Bourdo says:

          The Kite Runner, for me, was a profoundly hope-filled and healing experience. A significant factor in the storyline, however, is a male on male rape and the ramifications of that event. To me, this aspect of the story fed more into the religious and political implications of the plot – even moreso than the emotional/psychological. It was not, by any means, a gratuitous addition by the author. For me, that’s what makes sexual violence hard for me to read about – when I feel that it’s been written in for the shock value, and doesn’t legitimately drive the story line. The Kite Runner is primarily a story of redemption.

          • Lisa says:

            Ah. Thank you for this reply. I would have to agree with you as to the inclusion of this part of the story, since it seems to be a key part of the narrative. I will have to read this — it has been on my list for a long time and it sounds like it is worth the time.

          • Paige says:

            Having finally read Kite Runner, I could not agree more with what you have written.
            I couldn’t put that into words- so thank you for that observation.
            Absolutely one of the best books I have ever read.
            So glad I finally did.
            So much to think about there.
            Phenomenal storytelling.

  27. Pam says:

    A Little Life is the best book I’ve read in years, but I’m afraid there’s not a single person I would recommend it to.
    Middlesex is another favorite that I pretty much keep to myself, but when I find someone that I know will appreciate it, I recommend it highly!

    • Jennifer says:

      I completely agree with you about A Little Life. One of my favorite books of all time, but I can’t think of a single person I could recommend it to.

    • Linda Martin-Desy says:

      I agree with your assessment…..I have read both of those books and A Little Life is on my short list of best books I have ever read; however, I am reluctant to recommend to just anybody. I also loved Middlesex.

      • Melanie says:

        Adored A Little Life and recommend it often with the caveat that while it’s content makes it a difficult read, it is also quite moving and beautifully written.

  28. Megan W says:

    I love Jenny Lawson’s books! I’ve gifted Let’s Pretend This Never Happened to do many people!! My mother, grandmother, and father all loved it! Her second book is also very powerful and moving and helpful for anyone who struggles with mental illness or anyone who knows someone who does.

  29. A very late comment, but I totally understand the feeling. At least two of my 5 star books this year I haven’t recommended to many people…both because they’re slower, character-driven novels with somewhat dislikable narrators that I assume will turn lots of people off.
    I’ve also noticed over time that I’m more likely to put a book I might have rated 4 or 4.5 stars and recommended to everyone I know on my Best Books of the Year List over a 5 star book that I don’t recommend that often. It’s funny how “times recommended” can change my opinion of a book.

  30. Paige says:

    I just read this link ..
    I felt that way after I recommended John Irvings
    Hotel New Hampshire to my sister.
    To me this was relatively tame , but my sister , not knowing anything about him or or novels (and more of a chick-lit type)
    was a bit shocked .
    Such a great story !

  31. Laura Bourdo says:

    This is an old one, but I haven’t been able to recommend Angela’s Ashes to anyone. Way too painful, if beautifully written, and I seriously worry that it might be a major trigger for someone. (It was for me.) As a matter of fact, this book was given to me by my sister (!) the Christmas (!) after I had recovered from a period of deep depression. Maybe she should have had access to this blogpost!

  32. Julie says:

    I read racy romance books and a lot of chick lit when I need a break from heavy reading. I’m sure a lot of us do have books that we wouldn’t admit to reading, and would be embarrassed to recommend to anyone. I for one like racy regentcy romance, and I admit it only to my book friends in the book club

  33. Amanda Hensley says:

    Thank you for considering people like me! I’m one who doesn’t like a lot of language, violence, really any graphic content at all. I’m a very PG, maybe 13 rated reader , which is why I tend to gravitate to the YA novels (although some of those can be a little questionable). So I very much appreciate the filtered reading lists.

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