Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Books Like "The Da Vinci Code"

As an avid reader, I am rarely without a book under my arm or under my nose. As a patron of the local public transit system, I am also keenly aware that such an existence invites certain things, dependant on the material under my nose at the time. A graphic novel will be read over my shoulder. A Harry Potter book begets stares and smiles from the young and their mothers. One constant, however, is the question: "Is that a good book?", "Have you read [insert random author or title here]?" These questions often inspire short and relatively pleasant conversations, often ending in the inevitable request for a recommendation.

It is here that I encounter the most common question. I can't seem to run fast enough from it. It finds me at social outings. In movie theatres. At dinners. The checkout at the grocery store. It's a simple question, but it has no small answer.

"I really liked that book, The Da Vinci Code. Do you know any other books like it?"

The largest problem with this question is that there are many books out there like this one. It is a great example of popular fiction, in that it has an interesting setting, doles out a creative angle on a familiar and potentially controversial subject, and nearly ever chapter could be capped off with a series of dramatic chords, inspiring the reader to continue on to the next. Popular fiction is, however, a huge market, with many authors writing just as effective page turners as Dan Brown. How on earth could one lowly reader even begin to recommend something like just one of them?

Well, to appease all those out there who crave the answer, I offer the following list of similar titles, choosing to match the themes and ideas behind The Da Vinci Code, rather than the genre.

Foucault's Pendulum By Umberto Eco
Known for knowing, well, pretty much everything, Italian professor and philosopher Umberto Eco gives us a thriller of similar theme, but a much appreciated density that I personally found The Da Vinci Code in lack of. Though this title may not be for the casual reader, there is so much here to enjoy, and not an easy ending to be found. A must read for those who enjoy their fiction with a side of philosophy.

The Eight By Katherine Neville
The Fibonacci sequence makes an appearance in this taut work which also makes use of chess, music notation and the French Revolution. In this surprisingly effective debut work, Neville shows a deft hand in the weaving of fact and fiction, and ultimately presents us with a ride that's every bit as engrossing as Dan Brown's work.

The Templar Legacy By Steve Berry
Any reader familiar with Berry's work knows that he's particularly skilled in the art of the Page Turner. Past works such as the Amber Room are proof positive that he's got the chops to keep you up at night, but what I think sets this work apart from his past ones is the scope of the inspiration. The first in a planned series of 4 works featuring a US Justice Department agent turned bookseller, many have dared to suggest that The Templar Legacy bests The Da Vinci Code in overall enjoyability.

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