Hi Reading Buddies– Moving my book lists over from a little black binder to a page right here. So here’s books read and authors that have filled my reading hours this year.
Circling the Sun — by Paula McLain
— Aviator expat in Africa (author of The Paris Wife)
Caleb’s Crossing –by Geraldine Brooks
— Mix of cultures as 1st native American attends Harvard
City of Tranquil Light –by Bo Caldwell
— Tumultuous life of missionary couple in China one hundred years ago
The Marriage of Opposites –by Alice Hoffman
— Historical novel of impressionist Camille Pissarro
For the Love — Jen Hatmaker
One warm smart funny woman’s look at living a life of faith. Loved it.
City of Thieves — by David Benioff
During the siege of Leningrad, two prisoners embark on a harrowing mission
The History of Love — by Nicole Krauss
Intertwined lives of an old Jewish author and a young girl
A Man Called Ove –by Fredrik Backman
Swedish curmudgeon deals with neighbors & his loss of his beloved wife
My Grandmother Told me to Tell You She’s Sorry –by Fredrick Backman
Young girl delivers a series of notes to colorful characters after her quirky grandmother passes.
Vanessa and her Sister — by Priya Parmar
Novelization of life of Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell
The Hare with Amber Eyes –by Edmund de Waal
Family history over a century from Russia to Paris to Vienna
The Girl on the Train –by Paul Hawkins
Murder, suspense, dismal characters (don’t recommend it)
The Nightingale — by Kristen Hannah
Two sisters take different paths in occupied France of WWII
All the Light we Cannot See — By Anthony Doerr (Pulitzer Prize)
Parallel stories of a blind Parisian girl and a young German radio expert in WWII
The Last Days of Dogtown — by Anita Diamond
Historical fiction of a small settlement in Massachusetts.
Belgravia — by Julian Fellowes
Historical Fiction, two families intetwined. (writer of Downtown Abbey)
Pursue the Intentional Life –by Jean Fleming
Fleming shares thoughts, quotes, ideas from list of things to remember when she’s an old lady.
Falling Free, Rescued from the Life I’d Always Wanted –by Shannan Martin
Personal story of God’s changes in her life, by my favorite blogger.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers –by Katherine Boo (Pultizer winner)
The struggles of a family’s life in an Indian slum–based on actual people, well researched
One Amazing Thing — ChitraDivakaruni
Characters trapped in the Indian consulate after an earthquake tell their stories.
The Kitchen House –KathleenGrissom
Historical novel set in the slave quarters of the deep south.
When Breath Becomes Air — by Paul Kalanithi
Memoir– 36 year old surgeon writes his story during his last year before he succumbs to cancer (epilogue by his wife) Amazing.
Vinegar Girl –by Anne Tyler (Pulitzer winner)
Professor wants his daughter to marry his foreign lab assistant to assure his green card (retelling of the Taming of the Shrew)
My Kitchen Year –by Ruth Reichl
Memoir of how Reichl reshaped her life through cooking after leaving Gourmet magazine.
The Light Between the Oceans –by M.L. Stedman
A couple living on a lighthouse island, claim a lost baby and later find the mother.
The Invisible Wall –by Harry Bernstein
Touching memoir of a poor Jewish family in early 1900’s England, written when Bernstein was 9 years old!
My Name is Lucy Barton –by Elizabeth Strout
A young woman comes to her mother’s bedside in a NY hospital to make right after a long separation.
American Wife –Curtis Sittenfeld
Novel of a young Wisconsin woman school librarian who marries a charismatic man from a large political family and eventually becomes First Lady– based on the life of Laura Bush.
The Curious Charms of Arthurs Pepper — by Phaedra Patrick
A recent widower finds his wife’s hidden charm bracelet and uses it to find out about her past life and about himself.
Death Comes to Pemberley — by P.D. James
Murder mystery written as a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, set around Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth and other remembered characters, by much loved British mystery writer P.D. James.
Commonwealth — Ann Patchett
Two families linked by divorce and remarriage, spend the next 50 years tied together through love and responsibility. When a novel written tells their story, memories are revisited. (love Ann Patchett’s work)
The Lilac Girls –by Martha Kelly
The stories of 3 women– a NY philanthropist, a German doctor and a young Polish resistance worker, whose lives eventually intertwine during WWII. Not great literature, but a moving plot pulls you along.
The Golden Son –by Philip Somaya Gowda
Ail Patel grows up in a farming family in rural India. The story centers around his eventual medical residency in Dallas and desperate marriage of his childhood friend, Leena, back in India. Tender, bittersweet story with characters you can admire.
The Summer Before the War — by Helen Simonson
In 1914 Beatrice Nash moves to the Village of Rye to become the latin teacher at the local school. She encounters the local committee ladies, 2 cousins who enlist in the war, and a stream of refugees. Colorful characters, a little romance and a grim slice of WWI. Worthwhile book!
Victoria — by Daisy Goodwin
A novelization of the life of Queen Victoria from the time she becomes the queen at 18 years of age, through her first years of her reign, until her engagement to Prince Albert. Goodwin also wrote the screenplay for the PBS series Victoria.
Today Will be Different — by Maria Semple
Eleanor’s life is a mess, so she determines to make this day ahead different. But the day takes so many quirky twists and turns she is spinning by the unexpected ending. Loved the scattered, oh so funny protagonist.
America’s First Daughter — by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Novelization of the life of Patsy Jefferson, daughter of Thomas Jefferson. After her mother died young, Patsy was by her father’s side through the revolution, his posting as the ambassador to France, through the years at Monticello and the presidency. It also recounts her stormy marriage and 12 children. Fascinating account from her point of view.
A Gentleman in Moscow — by Amor Towles
In 1922 the cultured and erudite Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the elegant Hotel Metropol across from the Kremlin. The ensuing years are filled with colorful characters, golden coins, hidden rooms and a secret key. Great ending! I was charmed.
Hillybilly Elegy — by J.D. Vance
The author tells the story of his tumultuous troubled family and how, with help, he was able to leave the rust belt of Ohio to graduate from Yale Law School.
Secret Daughter — by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (author of The Golden Son)
A village woman in India takes her 3 day old daughter to an orphanage from which she is adopted by an American couple. The story is set between Mumbi and Palo Alto, CA and the characters struggle to learn the depth and meaning of family.
The Years of Living Danishly — Helen Russell
When Russell and her husband move from London to rural Denmark, she determines to investigate the claim that Denmark, with their pastries, long dark winters, high taxes, free universities and cozy stylish homes, is the happiest place on earth. Bright & engaging!
At Home in the World — Tsh Oxenreider
Tsh and her husband travel around the world for 9 months with 3 children 10 & under. They snorkel through the Great Barrier Reef, spend a night in a Safari Camp, chase through the canals of Venice and stop and stay with old friends in several spots along the way… all the while expanding and defining their definition of “home”.
The Sympathizer — by Viet Thane Nguyen
The protagonist is a communist double agent, captain in the south Vietnamese army, who escapes to California at the end of the war and continues to report back to his communist superiors. Too much violence, cruelty, too grim for me to recommend, but I read it for our Lit Group, learned a lot about the Viet Nam War.– Pulitzer Prize 2016.
The More of Less — by Joshua Becker
Becker gives motivation and ideas for being a practical minimalist– like getting rid of 29 things in each room of your house for a warm up!! — or doing some experimental decluttering, stick things away in a box and if you don’t need them after some months, then throw/give them away. Helpful and a quick read.
To Capture What We Cannot Keep— by Beatrice Colin
Historical fiction. In the late 1800’s, Cait Wallace (widow, chaperone), meets Emile Nouguier, designer of the Eiffel Tower. A slow going romance ensues, peppered with the building of the tower. The twist at the end was less than satisfying.
In the Company of Women — by Grace Bonney
Short 2 to 4 pages Q&A with women entrepreneurs about creativity, struggles and dreams realized. Loaded with photos of their life & work. Makes me want to install more art and inventiveness into my life!
Gone, A Girl, A Violin, A life Unstrung — by Min Kym
Memoir of Min Kym, child prodigy and concert violinist, describing her rarified childhood and her struggles when at 31, her Stradivarius is stolen. A unique view of the lives of musicians.
The Leavers — by Lisa Ko
In NYC, Deming Guo’s mother, a Chinese immigrant disappears. At 11 years old, he is adopted by a pair of professors in upstate NY. In the years that follow, he tries to find his mother and his place in the world.
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared — by Jonas Jonasson
The day Alan Karlsson turns 100, he flees his nursing home and surprisingly gets involved with criminals, a suitcase full of money, a pet elephant and a hot dog salesman for some unlikely adventures. Alternate chapters chronicle Alan’s long life meeting Chairman Mao, Stalin, Harry Truman, trekking across the Himalayas by camel and submitting the secret answer to the Manhattan Project. It’s a far-fetched rollicking story– good summer fun.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane— Lisa See
Li-yan from a remote Chinese tea growing village grows up surrounded by ritual and prescribed customs. When she has a baby while unmarried, her baby is left at an orphanage and adopted by American parents. Li-yan goes on to an education and builds a tea empire, hoping to find her daughter one day. One of Lisa See’s best–loved it.
The Little Paris Bookshop— by Nina George
Monsieur Perdue, unable to recover from a 20 year old love affair, takes his bookshop on a barge down the canals of France, along with a young writer and an Italian chef. Slow moving, too sappy for me. (But finished it because we’re talking it through in Lit Group). It was a NYT best seller!??
September— by Rosemunde Pilcher
Story centers around 3 families in a small town in Scotland. When a celebratory dance is planned for September, family members return, including Pandora, who has been away for 20 years– and all the complications of relationships over the years unravel. Love this book. Read it 20 years ago and grabbed it to reread on our summer trip.
Organic Mentoring— by Edwards & Neumann
Analysis and suggestions for women mentoring each other within the church. Helpful, but repetitive. Could have been much shorter!
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir— by Jennifer Ryan
When the vicar in a small southern English town disbands the choir, when the men leave for WWII, the women of Chilbury band together to revive the choir. Written through a series of journal, diary, letters, the stories of various women unfold. There’s deception, romance, bravery and family ties stretched. Very enjoyable.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake— by Aimee Bender
As a 9 year old, Rose Edelstein discovers she has a magical gift of tasting people’s emotions through the food they prepare. Sh struggles with her mother’s neediness, the distance of her father and her brother’s strange behavior. A strange plot, not for everyone, but the vivid characters do pull you into the story.
The Aviator’s Wife — by Melanie Benjamin
A novelization of the complicated marriage of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her famous husband Charles– through their courtship flying in open cockpit planes, the horrific kidnapping/murder of their young first born, through all his notoriety and her coming into her own. Fascinating and makes you wonder how close to the truth it all is.
Anything is Possible — by Elizabeth Strout
Set in small towns of the midwest, each chapter tells the story of a different, but somehow related, character. Compelling, sometimes tender, sometimes gritty and disturbing, these stories weave together and make a cohesive book.
We were the Lucky Ones — Georgia Hunter
During WWII the large Kurc family of Radom, Poland find themselves scattered–Paris, ports in North Africa, a labor camp in Siberia, the front of Italy, Rio de Janeiro and Warsaw. The narrative follows their amazing story– and the afterward reveals the basics of the story are actually true, written by a grand daughter of Addy Kurc.
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores — Jen Campbell
A compilation of funny things book shop workers/owners have heard from customers– “Do you have a copy of Tequila Mockingbird?” or “Fiddler on a Hot Tim Roof?” Passed to me by Jenni, our Lit Group hero. Good for some chuckles!
The Well-Tempered Heart — by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Sequel to the Art of Hearing Heartbeats (which I loved), Julia Win returns to Burma, to meet with her half brother and learn the story of the woman Nu Nu and her family. A little too magical for me, but a fascinating look at a life in that part of the world.
Where the Past Begins — Amy Tan
Subtitled “A Writer’s Memoir,” this books contains Tan’s musings on writing and linguistics, letters to and from her editor and a memories from her turbulent family history (by far, the most interesting part of the book). Love all of her other books, but this one had some skimmable parts.
Lilli De Jong — by Janet Benton
When Lili De Jong gives birth in an 1883 Philadelphia home for unwed mothers, she’s advised to leave her baby. Instead she keeps baby Charlotte and faces incredible hardship and shame of the times. A story of perseverance and the depth of a mother’s love.
Pachinko — by Min Jin Lee
Set from 1911 to the 1980’s, this is the story of a young woman, pregnant & abandoned, who marries a virtuous Korean pastor and immigrates to Japan. What follows is their story and the stories of their children, being a persecuted minority during WWII and beyond. A Poignant saga of people torn by circumstance.
Gift From the Sea — by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Written by Lindbergh as she spent a quiet vacation alone by the sea. She analyzes the business of modern life, solitude, marriage, aging… Written in the 1950’s, it seems surprisingly current.
Chemistry — by Week Wang
A young scientist, working toward her PhD at Boston University, hits a roadblock– fueled by highest expectations from her Chinese parents, unanswered proposals from her devoted scientist boyfriend and her doubts about what’s ahead for her. Bright nimble writing and such an engaging character. I didn’t want it to end. (Tracked it down after reading Anne Patchett write– “I loved this novel”).
Lab Girl — by Hope Jahren
Fascinating memoir of a botany professor/researcher–interspersed with short vignettes of amazing plant info. Jahren and her partner Bill work together for years in Berkeley, Atlanta, Baltimore, Norway and Hawaii– with all the foibles of government funding and experiments gone awry, with a couple of harrowing car crashes thrown in. Makes you love trees!
Sourdough — by Robin Sloan
Sloan (author of Mr. Pennumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore), weaves a tale of a San Francisco tech worker turned baker, when she is gifted a crock of mysterious sourdough starter. She joins a new SF market and crazy things start to happen and she has a mystery to unravel. Fast moving and just fun.
Before We Were Yours — by Lisa Wingate
Riss Foss and her 4 younger siblings are snatched from their families shanty boat and sold as orphans in 1939 Tennessee. In present day South Carolina, Avery Stafford discovers the truth of her grandmother’s history related to these children. The story is based on the the real life scandal of a Memphis adoption agency.
Of Mess and Moxie — by Jen Hatmaker
Jen rambles on about what it takes to be a woman now with deft humor and style. Plus she gives hilarious “How To” tips between chapters. The chapter on forgiveness and loving people about all were truly helpful. NY Times best seller and a worthwhile read.
The Joy Luck Club — by Amy Tan
Just reread this wonderful telling of the stories 4 Chinese woman, who have immigrated to San Francisco and are united by their “Joy Luck Club” — layered with the stories of their 4 American born daughters who see the world in a much different way. One of my favorites. (The movie is also great).
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice — by Laurie King
A semi-retired Sherlock Holmes meets Mary Russel, a precocious bright 15 year on the Sussex Downs. Through a series of events she becomes his protegee and they solve a series of crimes involving costumes, stealth and grand deduction.
On Rue Tatin — by Susan Loomis
Loomis and her family move to a charming town in Normandy, France, where they renovate an ancient convent to make a home and she cooks her way through a series of French dishes that she shares in the form of recipes at the end of each chapter. If you love food & travel (and I do) , you probably will love this book!
Beneath a Scarlet Sky — by Mark Sullivan
A novel based on the life of Pino Lella, a young man in Milan when WWII reaches Italy. He first lives in a monastery, guiding Jews over the mountains to safety in Switzerland. Through a complicated set of circumstances, he later becomes the driver of German General Hans Leyers and becomes an informant to the allies. The story continues through the end of the war with many twists and turns. Engaging, if not totally believable.
Being Mortal — by Atul Gawande
Gawande, a surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School, writes about considering our choices as we age– end of life, care and medical decisions that deeply affect the quality of our life. Filled with studies and stories of his patients and family, it is an extremely engaging book and gives so much to think about!!
Beartown — by Frederik Backman
In a small Swedish town hockey is everything. The junior team is on their way to the national finals when a tragic incident throws it all aside. Deep, rich characters from coaches, to players an their families make this a compelling story. Dark (not usually my favorite) but imminently engaging.
Love Does — by Bob Goff
Read this book after several hearty recommendations. Goff tells fantastical stories from his life and walk with God. Sometimes hard for me to relate to– beyond my realm of real life. But other friends have loved it!
The Magnolia Story — by Chip and Joanna Gaines
Being a real Chip and Joanna fan (thanks to my HGTV addiction), I enjoyed the background stories that led them to their success as a designer/builder team. Their faith in God is evident in all the ups and downs they’ve been through. Will be interesting to see where they go from here…
Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say — by Kelly Corrigan
Part memoir, part chat with a friend, Corrigan camps around 12 phrases and how they play out in a life. Great humor and warmth, as well as some “language.” Very much enjoyed her insights about related to and caring for people.
Seven Days of Us — by Francesca Hornak
When Olivia Birch returns at Christmas from treating an epidemic abroad, the whole Birch family is quarantined for a week in their country house. So many twists an turns as an unknown family member arrives, a mother guards her secret, sisters clash and a father sees things in a new light. Couldn’t put it down– sad and endearing and heart warming all the way to the end.
How To Stop Time — by Matt Haig
Tom Hazard looks like an ordinary 41 year old, but actually he was born in the 1500’s. He’s known, Shakespeare, Captain Cook, F. Scott Fitzgerald… And he’s been recruited by the Albatross Society, made of people with his same rare condition–and whose motto is “Never Fall in Love.” The book skips between the 1500’s and current London, amid his struggles to find the “normal” life he wants while stuck in fears from the past. Interesting concept and characters.
Lift — by Kelly Corrigan
This brief book is Corrigan’s letter to her two school age daughters, Georgia and Claire. She tells life stories to describe the near misses and great joys of being a mother. An encouraging sourcebook for those trying to navigate the perils of motherhood. She had me laughing and full on crying before I reached the last page. Worthwhile and so engaging.
Uncommon Type — by Tom Hanks
Reserved this book at the library because, well, Tom Hanks! It’s a collection of short stories each of which features a typewriter to some degree. They were varied and had clever plot lines, but I somehow how failed to connect much with the characters. A pleasant book, good summer read.
A Higher Call: an incredible true story of combat and chivalry — by Adam Makos
The true story of an American pilot in WWII who was flying a battered bomber out of Germany, when a German fighter pilot, Franz Stigler flew along beside him and escorted him out of danger. The book gives the two men’s backgrounds and stories through the war and their meeting finally many years after the war. Interesting to have an anti-Nazi German pilot’s point of view.
The Middle Place — by Kelly Corrigan
A memoir of Kelly’s growing up in her close knit family, alternating with chapters about her cancer treatments as a young mom and her father’s battle with cancer at the same time. Sounds grim, but Kelly’s honesty, humor and love of family make it a book you won’t want to put down. Love all her relatable books.
The Language of Flowers — by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Victoria Jones has spent her life in unhappy foster care situations until she was 18, save the time she lived with Elizabeth, who taught her the meanings of flowers and loved her fully. As an adult she meets a young man who came from that time in her past and she must settle all the difficulties and heartbreak of her childhood. Engaging and hopeful.
Dirt Life, On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristen Kimball
Memoir of the author’s falling in love with her husband Mark and falling in love with organic farming. It follows the first year they spend developing their farm in upstate New York–so many informative stories about crops and cooking, about animals and how to care for them.
Devour by Sophie Egan
Egan goes in to detail about how and why American’s eat the way they do. Topics: How work affects our eating, Diets, the rise of wine consumption, how Italian food became so mainstream, fast food marketing, the popularity of brunch, organic, gluten free, non-fat options, family meals… Fascinating and sometimes surprising. Loved it.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Riveting from the first page, the story of the bright and prosperous Richardson family and their renters, artist Mia and her smart daughter. Their lives intertwine to the breaking point and divisions over the adoption of a baby, personal choices provide all the plot twists and turns.
The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons
The story alternates between 3 brothers returning to their dilapidated manner house after WWII and an enchanting young singer who helps bring it back to life– and then the story of one of those brothers 50 years later, training his grandson, the piano prodigy and reliving the turmoil of his life. British family drama wrapped in music.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
A small girl is found alone on a ship arriving from England to Australia in 1910. She is taken in by the harbor master and his wife. But her story is a mystery. It takes 500 pages and 3 generations of women to tell the true story. Sort of a mix of Charles Dickens meets Downton Abbey. Very readable and graced with likable characters and an involving plot line.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
A reread after many years and I loved it just as much as the first time. Tells to true story of a family of watchmakers in Harlem, Netherlands who hide Jewish friends away in a secret hiding place in their home and help them find safe houses beyond. You will love every one of them. And it continues on to there eventual imprisonment as they are discovered. Their trust and faith in God through it all is so meaningful.
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
Not my usual genre– a group of new mothers meet weekly in the park and then plan a girls night out. On that evening, one of the babies is abducted. Then marriages, friendships and loyalties are tested as the case of the missing baby twists and turns. Gripping and has a varied cast of characters. You can’t wait to see how it ends.
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
An outgoing sassy New York writer orders a book from a very traditional English bookshop in 1949 and a long distance, long term friendship begins. The short book is in the form of warm, infomative sometimes funny letters back and forth across the Atlantic. A heartwarming book you can read in an afternoon (Also a movie with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins).
Things Happen For a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler
Kate Bowler is a professor at Duke Divinity School, a wife and mom of a young boy, when she discovers she had stage 4 colon cancer. She has to rethink things she’s believed and walk through this journey with family and friends at her side and her faith in God realigned. Great appendix detailing what your should and should not do while caring for a friend through cancer. Recommend it.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman an awkward genetics professor decides to create The Wife project, a scientifically based survey to filter out wife candidates. Then he meets Rosie, who meets few of his criterion. She is on her own life search. Lots of crazy mishaps and misunderstandings along the way for these two and they grow more lovable as the books goes on…
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Absorbing read about a young girl growing up in an extremist, survivalist family in the hills of Idaho. She never goes to school or sees a doctor– and spends her days helping her herbalist mother or working in her father’s junkyard. It’s an isolated life, with a stoic mother, a mentally ill father and an abusive older brother. But she finds a way to educate herself enough to attend BYU and eventually make her way to a PhD at Cambridge. Her memories are harrowing, her rise courageous and her eventual outcome mostly satisfying. Really recommend this book.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
This novel tells the stories of two women– Charlie, young pregnant American woman who is searching for her lost cousin in France after WWII and the woman she asks for help– British Eve who was a spy in France during WWI. They set out on their own searches together. It seemed to move too slowly for me and the characters seemed to extreme to be real. But it is an exciting story in parts.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor is a socially awkward office worker who has no friends and lives alone. As the story progresses, you learn bits of her horrible past with a terrible mother and time in he foster system. When she meets Raymond, the IT guy from her office, he offers her a casual friendship that saves her in the end. Heartwarming and tender, tol from Eleanor’s damaged point of view. Engaging and worthwhile.
The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin
Shannan Martin is an amazing blogger/Instagramer who has written this new book about How to really love the people around you– digging in deep and caring for people in the way they need it, sticking around for the long haul. She tells honest stories of strangers who became friends in her neighborhood and gives so many ideas for how to care for your people. Loved every dog eared page.
A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
The heart rending story of an Indian immigrant family with a conservative Muslim faith. Told in cyclical stories of the various family members. It’s an intense look at the joys and heartbreaks of family life and of the second generation children who walk the line between two cultures. Characters you truly care about, a tender view of an American family. Recommend it!
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Translated from one of Japan’s best selling authors, this is the quirky story of a young woman who has never felt at home, until she find her job at Smile Mart, one of Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores. Her family and few friends try to get her to move on with life, find a career a husband. So after 18 years, she must decide if she wants a change. Interesting look at a unique life, but not a compelling story.
Prayer, Our Deepest Longing by Ronald Rohheiser
Heard this book heavily referred to lately and got a copy just when I’ve been needing it. Rolheiser is a Catholic priest with realistic view of the challenges and blessings of prayer. He uses scripture, ancient and modern writers to help us develop a better understanding and practice of prayer. I underlined about 1/3 of the book, with notes in the margins. So helpful. Loved it!
Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
This story istold by Jojo, a 13 year old boy in southern Mississippi and also drug using mother, Leoni. It centers around a trip they take up state to pick up an absent father who is being released from prison. Complications come and the themes of family, loyalties, race and death are addressed. The redeeming character was Jojo’s grandfather. Pop, the upright steady presence in the boy’s life. National Book Award winner.
Whiskey in a Tea Cup by Reese Witherspoon
I mostly picked this book up for the gorgeous photos! Reese Witherspoon gives her ideas of all that’s entailed in being a southern woman– from Sweet Tea to big hair, from the family table to her grandmother’s garden. A fun quick beautiful book.
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
Historical fiction telling the story of Martha Gellhon, third (of four!) wife of Ernest Hemingway. Their stormy relationship spanned the years they were both fiction writers and war correspondents in the Spanish Civil War and WWII. They built a writer’s haven as their home in Cuba and traveled around the world. Well documented and a fascinating look at both of their lives.
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Grace Bradley, 99, looks back on her years of service as a ladies maid in the House at Riverton, during WWI and the 1920’s. The story centers on the two daughters Hanna and Emmeline, as they come of age in a house of secrets. It feels like Downton Abbey, but was written much earlier than the tv show. Enjoyed it!
I’d Rather Be Reading, the Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life
by Anne Bogel
If you’re a reader, be ready to be completely charmed by this short book. Chapters include: Confess your literary sins, Hooked on the Story, Book Bossy (my favorite!), Bookworm Problems (so funny!), Bookseller for a Day and Book Twins. She is warm and funny and if you’re a reader, you’ll see yourself on these pages. Anne Bogel also does a worthwhile book blog at Modern Mrs. Darcy.
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
This book reminded me of one of those old 1940’s Katherine Hepburn movies. At night Emmy Lake is a volunteer for The Auxiliary Fire Services in wartime London. And by day works at a women’ magazine helping crusty old Mrs. Bird with her advice column. When Emmy goes rogue, answering letters that Mrs. Bird refuses to acknowledge, problems develop. There is courage and loyalty and heartbreak in the lives of Emmy and her friends. A winsome book.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
This is the story of Joy Davidman who eventually became Mrs. C.S. Lewis. It starts with her correspondence about life and faith with Lewis and tells of their relationship through her death in 1960. I liked this book less than I hoped I would. Joy was at times a disappointing character and I wondered how close to the truth the story came. Prefer the movie of the same theme, Shadowlands.
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
In a tiny Quebec village an artist is murdered in the back garden of a celebration party. Chief Inspector Gamache and his crew arrive to meet with with a range of artists and village folk to find the murderer. Colorful characters, plot twists and the always cool and kin Chief Inspector. Not normally a mystery book reader, but enjoyed guessing my way through this one!
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger
A midwest tale built around a group of lively characters– The protagonist, Virgil, who opens the story by sailing off a bridge in stormy weather to land in Lake Superior and miraculously survives. And his Norwegian kite flying friend, come to town to find his lost son. There’s a small boy after a big fish and a young man finding his way to a father. There’s a bit of unexpected romance and a whole lot of community in this small hard luck town. A gentle, enjoyable read.
The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
In 1951, eleven year old Donal Cameron is sent by Greyhound bus to spend the summer with his great aunt, not a friendly match! Along the way he meets an amazing variety of unlikely characters. And after a few weeks with his Aunt, he ends up on a wild ride of a bus trip out west with his great uncle Herman. Funny and loaded with intriguing characters. Enjoyed al the 1950’s references straight out of my childhood!
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
At the end of WWII, Marianne von LIngenfels, gathers two other women and their children to find refuge in the abandoned family castle. The book circles back and forward to tell the complicated and fascinating stories of these women before and after the war. Interesting to see the war through the eyes of German women who had differing rolls to play in the war.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield
Rosaria writes about opening their home daily to neighbors and friends, for meals, for singing of Psalms, for prayer… It’s really a string of stories of the people who’ve passed through their home. I cried reading the chapter about her difficult relationship with her mother. The prologue is a wealth of ideas about basic Christian hospitality. Worthwhile.
The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood
The tender story of a young boy who befriends a 104 year old woman, Ona, as a Boy Scout project and determines how to get her into the Guiness Book of World Records (oldest driver??) When the boy unexpectedly dies, his estranged father picks up the reigns with Ona, who becomes a true friends to him. I loved the characters in this book, was rooting for each of them. A story about loyalty, friendship and doing the right thing. I think you’d like it too.
Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt
Jen is a blogger and mother of 5. She grew up with and continues an open door policy in her home, that has brought in a wide range of guests, from football teams of teen age boys to neighbors to older missionaries traveling through. She talks about the “how to’s” of caring for people and gives plenty of stories of lessons learned and hospitality that warmed people’s hearts.
My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray &Laura Kamoie
Written from the point of view of Alexander Hamilton’s wife, the story details the courtship, the days of the Revolution, Hamilton’s stint as secretary of the treasury, his political writings and the home they made with a house full of children. He was a difficult emotive man and she the faithful wife. As the story unfolds, his shortcomings and failures become more evident. The authors did a great deal of research using Hamilton’s extensive letters and writings. Fun to read for the historical events and meet ups with Washington, Jefferson, Lafayette… Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers.
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Amal is a teenage girl who dreams of becoming a teacher, but when she has a run in with the son of the village’s corrupt landlord, she must go be a servant in his mansion to pay off her family’s debts. Sh proves to be both bright ad brave– and in spite of dire circumstances comes round to a happy ending. Written for middle school readers, quick and enjoyable.
Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
This is Lewis’ memoir of his early life and the circumstances that changed him from a childhood believer to atheist– and then the twisted path back to theism. It was a reread for me and at times enlightening and at times a bit of a slog– through unfamiliar literary references. Did enjoy Lewis’ direct to the reader style– like a long conversation.
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Thoroughly enjoyed this coming of age memoir, written by Steve Jobs oldest daughter, born to a girlfriend before he was rich & famous. Lisa grew up in the two very different households of her artist mother and legendary father. The story is told in short vignettes that meld to give a dismal picture of her struggles to be loved by a dispassionate. sometimes mean-spirited father. It’s at times sweet, but often painful. And you are rooting fo her all the way. One of NY Times 10 best books of 2018.
Almost Everything, Notes on Hope by Anne LaMott
Pure Anne LaMott– humor, warmth, snarkiness and a lot of wisdom. It’s full of stories that come down to practical living. Her chapter on dieting had me laughing out loud. I only wish she were just a bit more orthodox in in faith– she draws the heart to God, but a little too far outside my box. Short and worthwhile, a good weekend read.
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Does
Pulitzer Prize winner for All The Light We cannot See, this book is a memoir of the year he packed up his wife & 6 month old twins for a year studying and working at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in Rome. It’s his story of his family’s cultural adjustments, his life as a writer, but mostly the magic and history of Rome. I loved it. I think because it was so near our experience of packing up two small boys and moving to Spain years ago. And it made me want to search of cheap tickets to Rome!! Loved his narrative, yet philosophical style. Best book so far this year.
Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson
Clarkson is an American, married to a Dutch man, living in Oxford. She grew up in a family of readers and has so much to say about the reading life. The book is laced with 25 separate and helpful reading lists! Each one with its own slant– books that influenced her view of women, childhood favorites, books to open your heart to God. Enjoyable and I was taking notes of books to track down at the library!
Another View by Rosamunde Pilcher
An old favorite author- and a reread on this book for a bit of comfort reading! Story of Emma and her stormy relationship with her artist father centered in London and Cornwall. A little coming of age, a little romance, and an endearing list of characters.
Hannah Coulter by Wendall Berry
Sort of a Laura Ingalls Wilder story for grown ups. The main character, Hannah, is now toward the end of her life and she remembers back her childhood with her sainted grandmother, her two husbands, children and woking the farm. Plus she draws in a warm and wonderful cast of characters from the world around her. Gentle, insightful. I earmarked so many pages.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Keueger
A man recounts the summer of his 13th year in small town Minnesota. The season brings a number of deaths and the book is his coming of age in a home with his devoted ministerial father and his cynical church member of a mother. There’s mystery and intrigue and characters you care about.
Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken
McCracken starts describing his perfect church– and then reveals the church that he attends is nothing like it. It’s a book of settling into a sometimes uncomfortable church– making a commitment rather than shopping for a church with a consumer mentality. He talks about grappling wit uncomfortable truths of our faith, uncomfortable holiness, loving uncomfortable people. Through provoking, engaging reading and so worthwhile.
Amy Snow by Tracy Rees
Amy Snow is an orphan found and taken in by a wealthy girl’s family. When her benefactor dies at a young age, she leaves Amy a series of letters and a small fortune that takes her all over England gathering clues about the truth of all that occurred in their years together. Set in the mid 1800’s, it is a story of manners and a rigid society Amy must traverse. Fun plot, likable characters.
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Second book in the Crazy Rick Asians series, billionaire Nick and his girlfriend Rachel Chu are back along with a long list of characters from the first book. Great if you want a fluffy escape from reality book, with truly crazy anecdotes of billionaires creativity spending fortunes. So many intertwining story lines and unique characters. Pure fun.
The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee
The actual account of the author’s childhood in North Korea, her escape across the border to China at 17 and the long complicated road that led her and eventually her mother and brother out of the oppressive society of he north to become South Korean citizens. The look at life in North Korea was fascinating and brutal. And the author paints all her mistakes and failures along the way to make her a sympathetic and courageous protagonist. A real page turner!!
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Kya Clark raises herself in a shack along the North Carolina coast after being abandoned by her family. Beautiful descriptions of her life in nature all around her. People in town call her The March Girl. And when a prominent young man in town is killed, she becomes a suspect. There is beauty, intrigue and a tender love story woven through the tale. Was an enjoyable read as we traveled though North Carolina on our road trip!
The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
Warren is a young mother, Anglican priest, writer… She sets out this book over a day with chapters like Waking, Brushing Teeth, Losing Keys, Fighting With My Husband. And uses each of these topics to launch into a way to make the ordinary events of every days, markers for communion with God. I found it moving and insightful. And very readable. She’s well read and articulate and touches me right where I spend my time. So helpful.
The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal
Translated from the original French, it is the story of a young man’s tragic death and the subsequent process of his heart being transplanted into a woman in need. The book tells of all the people involved, doctor’s, nurses, parents, his girlfriend, surgeon’s and finally the woman who receives the heart– using incidents from their lives to give them depth. Fascinating and a bit philosophical at points. Worthwhile.
Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist
After her husbands death, Zoe goes to see an old friend in France and ends of walking the Camino de Santiago over 3 months to find some truths about herself. On the way she meets an international set of other walkers including a British engineer who tests her determination. I’d give it 3 stars out of five– Maybe because there was very little about faith involved in a pilgrimage for the faithful. But it was a fast fun read.
Crossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner
Powerful story of two couples who meet early in their marriages and the friendship that endures between them over the years. It’s a picture of strong personalities and how they weather the joys and tragedies of their lives. Loved the chapters set at the family compound in the Vermont woods. Highly recommended to me and I pass on that recommendation.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Obama writes her story– from her childhood memories with a no nonsense Mom and a sacrificing Dad in the south side of Chicago, through her education at Princeton and years as a young working wife and mom. And finally the years in the White House as the FLOTUS. Liked hearing her perspective, especially the strictures and perks of residing in the White House. It’s long and at times repetitive, but enjoyed following along her journey with los of admiration for the woman she is becoming.
Unmarriagable by Soniya Kamal
This book is a fun summer read – a Pakistani version of Pride and Prejudice. Alys Binat and her 4 sisters live with their parents in diminished means. Their mother is determined to see her girls all marry well. When Alys meets Valentine Darsee, the sparks fly and the sisters follow the paths taken by Austen’s Bennet sisters.
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
Each chapter of this book centers around one of the many fascinating interconnected characters, jumping in time and place. Daniel Sullivan marries a film star who has become a recluse near the sea in Ireland. The drama in their marriage intersects with children and siblings winding it’s way to a hopeful ending. Anne Bogel recommended it, one of her favorite re-reads.
The Gown by Jennifer Robson
British Ann Hughs and French Miriam Dassin are two young women who embroider the gown worn by Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth) for her 1947 wedding. When Ann’s grand daughter inherits her grandmother’s embroidery samples in 2016, she goes to London to investigate her grandmother’s past. Contains a fascinating look at a major fashion house in the 40’s, life in England after the war and a tender romance between Miriam and her husband of many years. Enjoyed it.
Save Me with Plums by Ruth Reichl
The newest of her many memoirs, this book details the 10 years Reichl spent as editor of Gourmet Magazine. Love her breezy gossipy style of writing, her funny fabulous stories and intriguing name dropping. I’ve read all her books and loved each one. If you like food and travel and would like a warm endearing look at an amazing life as the editor of a iconic magazine, this would be the book for you!
The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
This book is the story of Pauline and Michael. They meet in the midst of WWII and marry. And go on to navigate the tricky business of marriage pitting Pauline’s impulsiveness against Michael’s plodding dependability. There are fights and a wayward daughter, an unexpected grandson to raise and relationships with their other two children. You’re rooting for them despite the odds. A sometimes sad story of two amateurs trying to make a marriage.
The Library Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick
Martha Storm cared fo her parents until they died and now works in the town library and takes care of the people around her. One day a book inscribed to her from a grandmother she thought was long gone. A new bookshop acquaintance, a distant sister, a host of quirky friends see her through the adventure that ensues. Fun summer read, likable characters.
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
Engaging story of a Chinese immigrant family in NYC. The oldest super successful daughter travels to The Netherlands to say good-by to her dying grandmother, but then disappears. So younger sister Amy travels to the village of her family there to find Sylvie. The story unfolds with 3 narrators, Amy, Sylvie and their mother – all characters that pull you in to their point of view. What starts as a family saga, becomes a mystery and has you reading furiously right up to the end. Recommend it.
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalalluddin
Ayesha is an outspoken young woman, trying to find her way in the world. She is surrounded by a tight knit Muslim family living in Toronto. When she meets and clashes with Khalid MIrza, a Pride and Prejudice sort of plot ensues. Fun fast reading with thoughtful characters. I liked the wise and helpful grandma!
Ask Again, Yes! by Mary Beth Keane
This is the story of two families from early marriage to their grandparent years. Francis and Brian both are New York City policemen their wives, one steady and dependable and the other mentally ill live next door to each other. A terrible tragedy tears at the families and later two of the children, Kate and Peter come together and look back. It’s a griping story, but not always easy to read.
The Second Worst Restaurant in France by Alexander McCall Smith
Smith, author of the #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book, tells the story of Scottish food writer,Paul Stuart, who is a guest of his great-cousin Chloe at her village home in France. He goes fo the peace and quiet to write his latest book, but runs into quirky village characters and ends up helping save the local restaurant and learns the truth about Chloe! I was charmed by the conversations between Paul and Chloe– a quick colorful read.
The Blue Bedroom by Rosamunde PIlcher
One of my very favorite author’s book of short stories, centered on families and their ups and downs together, a small boy braves a foggy mountain to find help for a new baby on the way, a husband learns how much his wife does when he takes a work from home day, a crotchety uncle helps a young family with their new house… Generally heartwarming.
The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
The story centers around two young men who take the pastorate of a NYC church along with their wives. They have all come to faith (or lack of faith) in different ways and their interactions through hopeful times and horrible crisis show the depths of the 4 characters. I would call it a secular books that deals well with matters of faith with an even hand –well reviewed and one of my top 3 books this year!
The Savage Feast by Bois Fishman
A memoir of a family’s immigration and settling from Belarus to Brooklyn. The writer was 9 years old when he moved, along with his parents and colorful grandparents. There’s lots of cooking and eating and family recipes and also Fishman’s relationship with his Old World family. I liked the part where he traveled to the Ukraine as an adult with his grandfather’s Ukranian caregiver, since we were in Ukraine this summer.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
Nuri, a beekeeper, and his wife Afra, an artist, lived in Aleppo with their 7 year old son until the war drove them to become refugees through Turkey, Greece and eventually on to England. The fictional story felt moving and sad and profound without being deeply disturbing. After hearing news stories, it was good to imagine the lives of real people and the real suffering they endured through this novel. I truly cared about the characters and wanted to hear more of their lives as they resettled.
L’appart by David Lebowitz
Have enjoyed his food blog and a previous book, The Sweet Life in Paris. Lebowitz has lived in Paris (from San Francisco) for 10 years and here tells the complicated story of buying an apartment and renovating it top to bottom. Funny stories of cultural differences, lovely food descriptions and recipes and just enough French thrown in so you can puzzle out the meanings. Since I love a good HGTV makeover and also cooking/eating, it was a fun read.