There's so much crammed into the pages of Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch. In short, the story is about a young boy growing up in New York City, but the more than 700-page novel is also about beauty, loss, fate and the power of art. It sprawls across decades, following Theodore "Theo" Decker after a terrorist bomb explodes in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, killing his beloved mother. Theo becomes enraptured by his mom's favorite painting, Carel Fabritius' "The Goldfinch," and takes it with him when he escapes in the rubble, thinking it's what he's supposed to do.
Tartt's novel has been called "Dickensian" in its approach to themes of poverty and its close ties to atmosphere and sense of place. It's flooded with sensory detail about New York City and the places Theo visits. But it's not just that. It's hard to pin down The Goldfinch into a genre. It's Dickensian, yes, but it's also a thriller, full of mysteries and survival stories. There's also bad behavior, drug use, con artists, and obsessions. And, in ways, the novel is speaks to the enduring beauty of art.
Because of this, readers flock to The Goldfinch for different reasons. It's difficult to suggest just one list of books to read if you loved The Goldfinch, because those who love the story are compelled by all of the book's different elements. So, this list of novels to read — both adult and YA — is divided into four categories. Take a second, figure out what you loved most about Tartt's tome, and find your recommendations are below:
IF YOU LOVED THE GOLDFINCH FOR THE SENSE OF PLACE, TRY:
1. Dodger by Terry Pratchett
If you got that Dickensian vibe from The Goldfinch, one of the best places to land in the young adult world is with Dodger, about the 17-year-old Charles Dickens character trying to find his place in an increasingly complex world.
2. Search of the Moon King's Daughter by Linda Holeman
Linda Holeman brings readers back to Victorian England in her novel about a young girl who loses everything when her father dies of cholera. Her family must move from the gorgeous, lush countryside into a mill town, where things only get worse. Emmaline becomes addicted to laudanum, even selling her little brother into servitude as a chimney sweep to enable her addiction. But when she comes to her senses, she goes on a journey to find him.
3. Metropolis: A Novel by Elizabeth Gaffney
After a fire in P.T. Barnum's stable, a young American immigrant finds that he must clear his name of arson. He constantly changes his identity, and like the hero of The Goldfinch, he has to contend with fate amid a journey through the American experience.
4. Water Street by Patricia Reilly Giff
It's 1975 in Brooklyn, and Irish immigrant Bird Mallon has hopes and dreams, but he also has troubles. His new neighbor, Thomas, has troubles of his own. Against the backdrop of building the Brooklyn Bridge, Patricia Reilly Giff has completely captured the atmosphere of the time.
IF YOU LOVED THE GOLDFINCH FOR THE POWER OF ART, TRY:
5. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
When Soviet officers invade 15-year-old Lina's home in Lithuania, separating her family and sending them on a journey north across the Arctic Circle to work in a camp in Siberia, it's her art that gives her comfort. She draws the events as they happen to her, risking her life by doing so.
6. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
While in The Goldfinch a painting is the focus, in Bel Canto, music is what showcases the powerful role art can play, even in the most difficult situations. It's something that can tie even terrorists and their captives together.
7. Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
Cambodian advocate Arn Chorn-Pond survived the Cambodian genocide and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge, and National Book Award-nominee Patricia McCormick's story is based on his real-life experiences. While working in the labor camps, Arn volunteers to play an instrument for the soldiers, a decision that changes the course of his life.
IF YOU LOVED THE GOLDFINCH FOR THE FAMILY MYSTERIES, TRY:
8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
After his father in killed in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, 9-year-old Oskar Schell sets out to figure out the mystery behind a key he finds in his father's closet. It's a journey all through the past of New York City, which eventually may bring him some form of peace with the tragedy.
9. Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
Mila has keen powers of observation, able to read a room like no one else. So when her father's best friend, Matthew, disappears from his home in New York, she sets out to piece together the mystery and find him. Picture Me Gone was a National Book Award finalist for its depictions of love and loss, and the relationships between parents and children, much like The Goldfinch.
8. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
You can't get more Dickensian than Charles himself. And the classic Great Expectations, like The Goldfinch, tells a story of fate and a young man's attempts to find a place in the world with the family he creates. Plus, it has a good dose of mystery and strange relationships.
9. The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
When orphans Prosper and Boniface are threatened with separation, they run away from Hamburg to Venice in this fantasy, adventure, mystery story. The two meet up with a group of other orphans and their ringleader The Thief Lord, who has a dark secret.
10. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Like Theo, Sara Crewe is confronted with discrepancies in wealth at a young age. While Theo goes from poverty to live with one of the wealthiest families, Sara, thinking she is destined for a lavish life, falls into poverty and servitude when her captain father passes away. Both stories talk about fate and changing destinies with hints of mystery.
IF YOU LOVED THE GOLDFINCH FOR ITS SPRAWLING NATURE, TRY:
11. Three Junes by Julia Glass
As the title says, Julia Glass' debut book, National Book Award-winner Three Junes, tells the story of three Junes in the lives of a prominent Scottish family across a decade. The family's story is told in several places — Greece, Scotland, Greenwich Village, and Long Island — and family members fall in love and fall out of it, and learn about how love can redeem.
12. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Though it wouldn't be the first book you'd think of when talking about The Goldfinch, Michael Chabon's classic book has all the adventure, art, magic, and history to please fans of the novel. Plus, both books have won the Pulitzer Prize.
13. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Cutting for Stone is a sweeping epic centered on family, set across Africa and America, and focusing on the power that emerges from healing others. It follows twin brothers from childhood on the cusp of the Ethiopian revolution, finding refuge in New York City, and up to when their past starts to catch up with them.