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.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The Dutch House is a prominent character in this story. It is a gift from Cyril to his wife. But she leaves the family when the children, Mauve and Danny are small and the following chapters move back and forth through their lives in the Dutch house and beyond. Loved this book– fascinating characters, a reliable narrator, twists and turns and the devotion between the two siblings as they grown through the years. Plus the overwrought historic house that ties all the characters together. I couldn’t stop reading.
Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman
From the author of Man Called Ove and Beartown, this book is a comic letter to his 2 year old son on all the ways he needs to grow and learn. Entertaining and a departure from his other books I’ve read. But not real advice you’d like to pass on to your children!!
Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout
This is Strout’s second book and my favorite. Set in a small New England town, a young minister, Tyler Casky and his wife arrive to a rickety parsonage and a post at the only church in town. There is trajedy and a congregation of people with problems and opinions. Like Strout’s other books, this is totally character driven and you plumb the depths of Casky’s faith and walk through a very difficult year. Also an interesting epilogue in which the author talks about her own faith and writing. Highly recommend.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
A story a young woman with a rare skin condition that becomes a rural librarian, delivering books to families and schools in the hills of Kentucky. Her blueish skin makes her an outcast in the town, but she finds deep satisfaction in the humble patrons she supplies with library books. It’s a morality tale that sometimes stretches beyond belief, but if you like happy endings (and I do) it’s an enjoyable read.
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
Evans tells her story (and represents so many her age who have left the church) of her frustrations and concerns about the Evangelical church. She grew up on a conservative Bible church in Texas and left as a young adult, only to find her self drawn back to faith, but with questions and a more progressive church life. Interesting to me and a chance to think a bit outside my own Evangelical box.
Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie KInsella
Fluffy fun to read at Christmas time when you have so much on your mind, you can’t really think too deep about a book. Becky Brandon is hosting Christmas for family & friends and quilelessly runs into a long string of hilarious problems.
Ribbons of Scarlet by Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, Sophie Perinot, Heather Webb and E. Knight.
Six separate stories by six authors all set in the French Revolution with intertwining characters. Each author wrote a factionalized version of a documented actual woman involved in the years of the revolution. I spent half my reading time on Wikipedia, pouring over the accounts of the lives of these women & surrounding characters. A fascinating look at France is the turbulent years of the the French Revolution. 500 pages. Highly recommend.
Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancy
Yancy talks all around the subject of related to a God we can no see or actually hear from. Big themes of faith and trust. And with all the quotations and stories that make a Yancy book so readable. I loved loved this book. Checked it out from the library, but a few pages in knew I had to have my own copy to mark and take notes in. So much to encourage faith and see the scope of God through so many people’s lives, no unlike my own. It affected me deeply. Recommend!
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
Another memoir-ish book by Nora Ephron. I loved her look at aging in I Feel Bad About My Neck. This book also was her life stories and opinions, but it fell a little flat. Not as relatable, but pleasant reading.
Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. Spence is a librarian who writes a series of letters to books– those she loves and those she wants to “break up” with. So clever and the ones I enjoyed the most were, of course, the books I had read and knew. But the raw language was a little too much for me and I guess I was hoping for more info about books new to me… She does add notes recommending and describing books at the end. Entertaining but no what I’d hoped for.
The War That Save My Life by Kimberly Bradley
A children’s book that I handed to Charlotte over Christmas break and she consumed in one sitting! I really enjoyed it too– Ten year old Ada lives a miserable existence with her cruel mother in London. But when she and her brother immigrate to the countryside to escape bombing in WWII, she finds a whole new life of freedom and achievement. The question is what will happen when she must return home to her mother. It’s heartwarming full of likable characters and plot turns. Recommend it for adults and kids!
Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
I’ve loved the Brook’s novels (Year of Wonder, Caleb’s Crossing), well researched smart historical fiction. This book is a memoir of her childhood in Australia where she yearns to know the wider world and takes of pen pals in Sydney, the U.S., Israel and France. She marries and becomes a Foreign War Correspondent for the Wall Street Journal– and later at her parent’s home finds the childhood pen pal letters. This takes her to track down and meet up with her former pen pals, know all in therir 40’s. Insightful and thought provoking, a good look at all of their lives…
Flowers in the Rain by Rosamunde PIlcher
Short stories centered on British/Scottish families by one of my favorite authors. Always charming, like eating a box of chocolates. Perfect light reading if you’v something heavy on your booklist too.
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Story of 3 generations of women–Sabitri, who marries for convenience and opens a bustling sweet shop in Calcutta, her daughter, Bela, who runs after her activist boyfriend to America and marries him, and the grand daughter, Tara, who rebels and comes around the find the wisdom of her grandmother. It’s an involved story with characters you care about. Also loved Sister of My Heart by the same author.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell is such a big deal, I wanted to like this book more. He uses extraordinary stories and also more mundane clinical studies to show how we are not as adept at reading the thoughts and character of strangers as we might think. Some stories were fascinating so it keeps you reading, but I’m not all convinced by his conclusions. Interesting.
The Real Thing by Ellen McCarthy
McCarthy, the Weddings Correspondent for the Washington Post, writes a series of short chapters on Dating, Breakups, Weddings and Long Term Happiness, drawn from here years of interviews with brides, grooms and older couples. Lively and fast paced and laced with wisdom about relationships. I didn’t agree with all her conclusions, this being a secular look at the subject. But loved her chapter on planning he ceremony for a wedding—how it is the most important, and often overlooked part of wedding planning. Bright enjoyable reading…
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
Four orphans escape a dismal situation at a children’s home in 1930’s Minnesota. They set out in a canoe for Saint Louis where they have an almost unknown aunt. They pass through several harrowing and heartwarming adventures as they go. I loved that the principal character, 14 year old Odie, encounters/questions God at different junctures along the way. Such a great coming of age story and also a look at the Great Depression across the mid-west. You are rooting for these 4 to finally find home. Highly recommend.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
Comer recognizes the world of hurry we all live in– distractions and demands keeping us from true love, peace and joy. He offers help through silence & solitude, Sabbath, simplicity and slowing. Engaging conversational style, well researched and fast paced, this book continues to be an enormous help to me and a call on my life to go deep with God and to be intentional on how I spend my days. I’d love to press a copy into the hands of everyone I know!!
The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri
A tiny book describing Lahiri’s experience with covers for her books.
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
Third book in the Crazy Rich Asian series, it tells the story of the family rushing to the bedside of their grandmother, Su Yi, as she is about to pass on and leave an enormous fortune and her Singaporean historic mansion, Tyersall Park. Colorful characters, no expense spared antics and people you can root for along the way. A fun beach read kind of book.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
On a dark winter’s night 150 years ago, an unknown man comes into a pub on the Thames with a small girl dead in his arms. When the girl comes back to life, the tale spreads far and wide and people come to claim the child. The mystery is who she belongs to and how she came to be her now. Rita, who grew up an orphan in a convent and learned nursing from the nuns, is at the center of the story. There’s dark nights, floods, a wonderful farm family & an aristocratic one, plus a little romance and lots of questions… Enjoyable and fast paced.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
Morton weaves several interconnecting story lines over a century and a half, part mystery, part family saga, part romance. It centers around a group of artists who go off to an ancient house together one summer and events take a dramatic turn. The people who come to the house in the years following, add to the mystery and leave clues as to what really happened. I wish I had made a time line to map out out the people/clues that surfaced as I read!! A fascinating twisted story with characters you truly care about. Highly recommend.
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
Elfrida and Oscar come to settle in a small Scottish town and are joined by her beautiful niece and grand-niece and a young man at a crossroads in his life. The week they spend together is full of warming fires, tea in the kitchen, revealing talks and new love for each other. Gentle, heartwarming, a comfort to read.
Domestic Monastery by Ronald Rolheiser
Rolheiser is a Catholic priest who has deep insights on things such as devotion to God in our small domestic lives, the depth of friendship and how to die well. It’s short and extremely quotable. A book that I’ll reread.
The War I Finally Won byKimberly Brubaker Bradley
Engaging children’s book set during WWII, Ada lives in a small British town with her adopted mother, a Jewish girl escaped from Germany and the formidable Lady Thornton… The depravations and loss of war are ever present and themes of family, loyalty, understanding, courage are all part of the story. Loved the heroine Ada, with her conflicts and fears that are hammered out through the loved and support of people around her. Washington Post, Kirkus, Horn Book – all book of the year. Passed it on to the grand-girls.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Rereading this classic of a family stranded indoors during a winter of Blizzards in the 1880’s Dakota territory. They lack food, fuel and communication with the world, but have bravery, good cheer and real affection that carries them through. An encouragement now that we are staying at home with the Corona virus at large– and have our minor inconvienences. Sending it along to the grand-girls to read as well…
Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
Shot chapters of Shauna’s personal stories– warm and wise– like hearing from a friend. And most chapters end with a corresponding recipe. I have several dog eared to try! This is the kind of book I wish I had written. Easy, enjoyable.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Stories of two young people in the Sudan– Nya who daily walks all morning to pond to fetch water for her family and Salva who escapes from his war torn village on foot to spend years in refugee camps. It’s a study in perseverance and hope. Taken from the true life story Salva Dut, there’s a lo of satisfaction in the end. Children’s Book. Short by so worthwhile
The Unknown Errors of Our Lives by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Short stories of the lives of Indian immigrants to the U.S. and some still living in India. Touches of obligations of family, loss, grief, delight and love. Unforgettable characters and fast pace. Loved her novels, especially Sister of My Heart.
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Ephron (who wrote Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail…) talks about the trails of growing older along with her life, reading and the joys of being a New Yorker. Funny, warm and thoughtful. And in the end she gives an interesting secular look at approaching death. I’ve read a few of her works and this one is te most personal, the best. Recommend!
Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
The history of a Vermeer painting and its owners– starting with a post war German professor and back through the centuries, each chapter telling the usually dramatic story of someone who owned the painting. The stories and characters are domestic and charming as Vermeer’s at works. Touches on matters of beauty, faith, humanity and home. Highly recommend.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
When older brother Davy escapes the city jail and flees, his family– devout father, asthmatic 12 year old brother, a precocious 8 year sister take to the road to find him. There is tender love, minor miracles, wild west poems, a kindly woman to take them in and an intrepid FBI agent on the prowl. It’s a page turner. I stayed up til after midnight to come to the luminous finish. It’s a book you should read.
7 Men and 7 Women by Eric Metaxas
First read Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer biography and learned from that godly man. So when this set of 14 biographies of people who influenced the world by following their principles was offered to me, I snatched it up. Fourteen short (30 page each more or less) biographies of the likes of Eric Liddell, Jackie Robinson, Joan of Arc and Corrie Ten Boom. A comfortable look at extraordinary lives.
Voices in Summer by Rosamunde PIlcher
Laura Haverstock recovers from a surgery with her husband’s family in Cornwall while he is away. Complications center around a charming handful of characters and some unexpected turns of events. There are misunderstandings and quiet conversations and the beautiful Cornish coast. Good light summer read.
Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther
This book is a collection of articles from The Times (London) written just before WWII, giving vignettes in the daily life of Mrs. Miniver– from picking up fall flowers to vacationing in their country home, from dinner party conversations to a walk through her old neighborhood. Always referred to as Mrs. Miniver, she is whimsical, thoughtful and sees the joys in the world around her. No a page turner, but a totally charming book. I wish I could be her friend.
Americanah by Ngozi Adichie
This is the story of a college dating couple in Nigeria, who separate when she immigrates to the U.S. where she studies and produces a well received blog on race, ending up with a fellowship at Princeton and being in two very different romantic relationships over a number of years. He immigrates to England, but is deported and returns to Nigeria to become a wealthy real estate developer. The book contains their parallel stories and eventual reunion. I was fascinated by her views of Americans and her blog posts on race in the U.S. An interesting contrast of 2 cultures.
The Lake House by Kate Morton
In 1933 a young child of a well to do family disappears in the night from his home in Cornwall, leaving his parents and three sisters distraught. In 2003 a young police detective, Sadie Sparrow, wanders in to learn of the case and takes up the search for the truth about the missing boy. The interwoven life stories of the family and Sadie’s family make for a long unwinding of the tale. Likable, complicated characters and plot twists keep the story engaging. Intrigue across generations- classic Kate Morton.
The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
A man makes a deal with a woman representing death–to save the life of a young girl and doing so must confront the choices of his life. Short, grim, a little confusing, but interesting…
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Nina Hill likes her solitary life working in a bookstore and reading at home with her cat. When a father she never met dies and leaves her an inheritance along with a large new family and at the same time she is pursued by a pub trivia rival, she has to decide the life she wants. Not as interesting as I thought it would/could be and some unnecessary rated R conversations. Don’t recommend.
Snow in April by Rosamunde PIlcher
A week before her wedding Caroline and her young brother drive from London to Scotland to locate a long lost brother, Angus. A snowstorm leaves them stranded in a country home and changes everything. Low key and lovable– Rosamunde Pilcher books are my comfort food.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
A Magical young girl, a grandmotherly witch, a valiant hero, a tiny dragon and a couple of real villains people this book. It has a wandering plot and some truly magical scenes, a real fairy tale with a satisfying ending. Newberrry winner 2017. I read it before I sent it off to the grand-girls so we could tak it over…
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Captain Kidd is an older man who lives traveling to Texas towns and reading newspapers to crowds of patrons for 10 cents each. When he is entrusted with a 10 year old girl who abducted by Indians as a small child, he promises to transport her the length of Texas to an aunt and uncle near San Antonio. Bandits, ruffians and the task of bringing a young girl into a world of shoes, forks and speaking English make the trek even more complicated. There is a hair raising attack by scoundrels, where young Johanna proves her metal. A tender, yet adventurous book with a satisfying wrap up at the end. Highly recommend.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
An Alcapulco bookstore owner and her young son go into hiding to escape a drug cartel. They make their way north hoping to cross the U.S. border through harrowing days, riding atop speeding trains with other migrants, finding danger and also the kindness of strangers. It’s a gripping story and you can stop reading, rooting for them all the way north. So worthwhile.
The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper
A fictionalized account of the life of May Alcott, youngest sister of Louisa May Alcott, it details the relationship of the two sisters, May’s art studies and eventual success in Europe and May’s marriage to a young Swiss man, Ernest NIeriker. Her story is much different than the character Amy of little women. Enjoyable if you’re a fan of Louisa May Alcott’s works.
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Two stories intertwined by an exotic marigold covered scarf — Clara survives the NYC Shirtwaist Fire in 19ll and retreats to become a nurse on Ellis Island. Taryn witnesses the fall of the towers on 9/11 and also has to come to a reckoning with her experience. There’s likable characters, a predictable plot and interesting history of the medical facilities on Ellis Island. Enjoyable.
My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss
This engaging memoir has all my favorite elements– a well told life story, travel log-esque descriptions of her times in NYC, Berlin, Paris and rural Italy and also cooking– and recipes! Plus a heart warming love story. Luisa spent her childhood in Berlin with her Italian mother and her American father. When they divorced, her world expanded and she thrived in her split family, split location growing up. She meets a instant friend while studying in Paris and finds him again 10 years later for their romance… One of my favorite books this year.
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
Intrigued by this book, for its setting in the Spanish Civil War. A young pregnant widow and an army doctor marry and eventually become refugees to Chile, where their complicated relationship finds a new home. Strong characters, issues of freedom and loyalty. intense and worthwhile.
The Moment of Tenderness by Madeleine L’Engle
This is a compilation of short stories collected posthumously by the grand-daughter of Madeleine L’Engle. I have loved other adult memoirs and of there’s A Wrinkle in Time! But these stories were mostly too melancholy for me– not good pandemic reading in these already sad enough days.
The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare
Adunni is a 14 year old girl in Nigeria, who is sold by her father into marriage as the 3rd wife of an older man. All Adunni wants is to go to school and get an education. A trajedy in the family propels Adunni into a rich house as an ill treated servant. But Adunni’s fortitude and determination bring her to a better place with the help of a troubled neighbor that she befriends. Loved Adunni, her strength and her bright open manner. It’s a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time… Highly recommend.
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Billie Breslin lands her first big job at “Delicious!” magazine in NYC. She comes to love the colorful staff there and meets a fellow cook Mitch over time. When she discovers a series of letters from a young girl named Lulu, written to James Beard at the magazine during WWII and then stored in the magazines archieves, she resolves to track Lulu down and finds Lulu’s secrets and confronts her own. Pleasant plot line, likable characters.
Too Much, Never Enough by Mary Trump
Larry’s dad bought this book and passed it on to us to read– a tell all about Donald Trump and his family of origin. Lots of stories of dysfunction, shady business deals and weird family dynamics. The author did have a separation from the family that colored her point of view, but many of the disclosures ring true with the Trump we see today. Slow at times and distressing in the end.
The End of Summer by Rosamunde Pilcher
Another Pilcher comfort book – lovely in the time of Covid. Jane Marsh returns to her grandmother’s house in Scotland and finds her cousin Sinclair– and her complicated relationship with him. Also there’s the country lawyer who sees her through the crisis. Heart warming characters, beautiful setting.
What You Wish For by Katherine Center
I don’t read a lot of rom-com, but this one was worth picking up. Samantha is a school librarian in a close knit creative faculty. When a new principal, that Sam worked with at a previous school, arrives and tries to squash all the joy and beauty on campus, there are sparks. Likable characters, interesting plot twists and a joyful ending.
The Story of Harriet Tubman by Christine Platt
Part of a Series of Biographies for children. I read it before mailing it off to the grand-girls. So well done, great graphics, enough detail to keep older kids interested. I’d like to find more in the series.
The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn
Memoir of a journalist who hits rock bottom after a long term boyfriend break up and the suicide of her brother. Nunn takes off to visit friends and some family and through meals together and cooking for people she loves, she comes to peace with her dysfunctional family and her past. I had high hopes for this one and found it a little flat– think I missed any spiritual element of a struggling person trying to find meaning in life.
The Operator by Gretchen Berg
Vivian Dalton is a 1950’s telephone switchboard operator who listens in on a call that reveals her family secret and changes her life. Set in small town Ohio, there is the shifty mayor, his snobbish daughter, sibling feuds, and a clever bank heist. The plot takes so many twists and turns, but the satisfying ending sees your unfavorite characters get their comeupence. Reminded me of the character interaction in The Help. Quick fun read.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
A stand alone book from the author of Anne of Green Gables, this is the story of Valancy Stirling, who lives a drab life with her strict mother and cousin. At age 29, a letter sh receives makes her determine to change and she takes off to become a housekeeper and companion for an ailing young woman and this leads to a whole new life of love and promise. Old fashioned, heart warming story.
The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
Two stories intertwined, Hannie, a former slave is separated from her family and in a harrowing search across Texas tracks them down. Benny Silva, is a young woman come to teach in a low income school in a Louisiana town with untold stories. She encourages her students to trace their family histories and the story weaves back to Hannie and her family. Based on actual “Lost Friends” advertisements in southern newspapers after the Civil War. Enjoyable, if not totally believable.
The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
This story, based on experiences of the author’s family, tells of a grandmother, Dieu Lan and her grand daughter, Huoung as they live together through the close of the Viet Nam War in worn ton Hanoi. The narrative weaves back and forth between the 1970’s war conditions and
the grandmother’s remembrances of her own childhood in WWII and the terrors of the Land reforms that displaced her family afterward. I liked the tender relationship of the two main characters and the eventual reuniting of family after the Viet Nam War. So many sad circumstances, but enlightening to people’s lives and struggles there.
The Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
Two sisters are evacuated from London during WWII and then separated. The effects of the war take them in two different directions and they live separate sometimes dramatic lives though the war. The telling of this story comes from one of the sisters on her 93rd birthday. A story that quickly pulls you in and keeps you engaged as the secrets unravel…
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
This book dips into the life of Willa Drake– once every twenty years – as an eleven year old with an unstable mother, a college girl who accepts a marriage proposal, a mother of two who loses her husband in a auto accident and finally as an older remarried woman who comes to the aide of a stranger and changes her life once again. An ordinary life evolving and finding herself. A quiet, tender story.
The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen
Memoir of Amanda Owen’s growing up dreaming of becoming a sheep farmer and realizing her dream with her husband Clive and their 7 children at Ravenseat farm in an isolated area of Yorkshire.. Sprinkled with stories of colorful local characters, lively children and beloved animals, the book gives the story of a life very different than my suburban experience.
A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe
Jessie Lesage arrives in Indochine from France in the 1930’s with her husband who works for his family Michelin rubber plantation. She meet Marcelle de Fabry and a mysterious friendship develops. Set in Colonial Viet Nam, in the luxurious French community and contrasted with the grim life on the plantation, rife with communist upheaval. A little gritty for some readers, but interesting plot twists.
The Defining Decade by Meg Jay
Clinical psychologist, Meg Jay, writes about how the 20’s are the decade of life where 80% of major life decisions are made. She uses interactions with clients and illuminating studies to make a case for people in their 20’s stepping up and being intentional about their life decisions. Excellent book, engaging and so full of helpful ideas of how to navigate this decade well. I’d like to hand a copy to every friend I have in their 20’s!
Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah
When Ann’s husband, a diplomat, is assigned to the embassy in Paris, their dreams have come true. Ann takes us on a culinary tour of different regions of France and also shares the ups and downs of her Paris life. Charming, inviting, makes me want to fly off to Paris!
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Twin sisters grow up in a black rural Louisiana community and at 16 run away. One returns to raise her black daughter there. The other passes as white and marries into wealth, living a life of secrets. Years later their two daughters connect and all the questions of identity and belonging come to light. Excellent story telling, one of NY Times 10 best books of the year.
Paris My Sweet by Amy Thomas
Memoir of a 36 year old who leaves Manhattan to become a copywriter for Louis Vuitton in Paris. It’s a perfect pandemic read- takes you to New York & Paris while we’re not traveling and details bakeries and sweet treats in both cities. Fun, light read.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Have read several of his books, but this is the best. A failed bank robber escapes into an apartment where a realtor is showing a place for sale to a group of prospective buyers. The hapless bank robber accidentally takes them all hostage and their time together reveals themes of love, worth, friendship, forgiveness and hope. In a series of quirky, unexpected events the characters are intertwined and you can’t stop reading to see the next surprise. Spoiler alert – happy ending, my favorite kind.
This Time Next Year We’ll be Laughing by Jacqueline Winspear
Picked this book up for the title during these Covid lockdown days. It’s a childhood memoir of Winspear, who grew up with eccentric parents in rural England in the 50’s & 60’s. She is the author of the Maisy Dobbs series, about a woman detective in 1930’s England. This memoir tells of her colorful mother, her artistic father and their simple existence, doing farm work to keep them solvent. Themes of family, WWII, friendship and loyalty make it a cozy read.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
Laksmi Shastri escapes a violent arranged marriage in 1950’s India. She makes her way to the city of Jaipur and becomes a Henna artist. When her husband and younger sister find her, things get complicated and she loses her livelihood and must make some difficult decisions about her future. Wonderful sense of place, characters you care about and a lovely ending. Recommend to lovers of historical fiction.
The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Calyton
Two intertwining stories set in the years just before WII. First, Truss Wijsmuller is a strong Dutch woman who by wit and bravery is part of the Kindertransport system to eventually rescued 10,000 (mostly Jewish) children out of eastern Europe to be taken in by families in England. The second story is of Stephen Neuman from a wealthy Jewish family and his friend Zofie-Helene who’s mother publishes an incendiary Anti-Nazi newspaper, and their struggles and eventual escape from Vienna. In the glut of WWII books, this one stands out with true characters and an engaging story line.
Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson
Tina Hopgood, a British farmer’s wife begins a long correspondence with Anders Larsen, a Danish museum currator and inquiry about a museum piece turns into deep friendship as topics of loss, loyalty, and how to live a life are explored over many months. A sweet, tender story about two thoughtful people.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Nadia Turner loses her mother to a suicide and her life takes a turn. She meets Luke, the pastor’s son and befriends Aubrey, who also had a grueling loss with her mother. Events and cover ups of their high school years, have consequences as they are grown. Set amid a black church congregation that oversees it all. Loved these characters and the story of ambition, love, community and friendship.
As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
The story of a family of three daughters, set in the years of WWI and the Spanish Flu in Philadelphia. The family takes in an orphaned baby boy and lives through tragedy and hope. Each daughter has her own story line as they grow and blossom into adults. Likable characters, easy pace, great for people who love historical fiction.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
When their mother drives her car into a lake and drowns, Ruth and Lucille live with their grandmother, then with two hapless aunties and finally with their mother’s unstable sister, Sylvia. Beautifully crafted, full of exquisite images and imaginings. You keep reading for the characters, but the story is sad and I wished you could rewrite the ending. Robinson won a Pulitzer for her beautiful novel, Gilead.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
In the small English village of Chawton in the 1940’s, an unlikely group forms – a farmer, teacher, village doctor, a Sotheby’s auctioneer, a Hollywood actress, a lawyer, an heiress and her house girl. Jane Austen lived and wrote the last of her novels in the village and they are intent on forming a museum in her home to honor her. The purely fictional account centers on their life stories with plenty of Jane Austen references thrown in. Great fun if you’re a Jane Austen fan!
The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay
Told from the the view point of three women, Madeline who inherits a bookshop from her marvelous Aunt, Janet the artist and long time shop employee and Claire who manages the accounts and is raising a family. There are bumps in the road, a tragic loss, a little romance and lots of friendship and loyalty. An easy feel good book.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Elsa Martinelli marries a charming son of a farm family. When the dustbowl hits Texas, he leaves, but his parents and and Elsa’s two children struggle on. Finally when the health of her son is at risk, Elsa sets off in the family truck for California to find a better life for her and her children. What she encounters is more poverty, brutal work and eventual tragedy. Sounds like a hopeless book! But Elsa’s deep love for her family, her fortitude and discovered bravery have you hoping with her all along the way. A wonderful moving story.
Alone in the kitchen with an Eggplant edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler
A series of essays on eating along, food in general by smart colorful authors and food writers, including some of my favorites Nora Ephron, M.F.K. Fisher, Anne Patchet… Entertaining and clever, makes me want to head to the kitchen for some eggplant or mac’n’cheese!
Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft
On New Years Eve, 1913, Madeline Bright meets Luke Devereaux at a British gathering in Bombay. They court, marry and the in WWI Luke is reported dead in the fields of France. Madeline eventually marries a doctor, not knowing that Luke is actually alive and suffering from amnesia. It’s rather a soap opera romance, but the exotic setting is lush and inviting and complicated back stories keep you reading. Good for those who like historic romances.
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
Another historical romance/life story, set first in Tehran and then in the U.S. Seventeen year old Roya meets the charismatic Bahman in a stationery shop. They have a tender spring romance and plan to marry in the fall, against the wishes of his mother. Set in the years of revolution in Iran, the couple is separated. She continues to college in California, marries and in their 70’s the two meet again and unravel the details of their parting. Sweet, tender story of loss and reconciliation. Loved the setting, the Persian food descriptions, the inner thoughts of Roya, a lovely story.
The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan
Four women, a Lady of the Manor, a kitchen maid, a war widow and a trained chef enter a cooking competition to gain a place speaking on a WWII radio program, The Home Front, that speaks to women in Britain trying to feed their families on short rations during the war. The book examines all their backstories and eventually pulls them together through circumstances that make each of their lives better. A feel good book with heart and lots of cooks in the kitchen. Very enjoyable.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Reread this old favorite with Anne’s sage and funny advice on becoming a writer– or really taking on any creative project that can seem daunting. Held together with a long string of stories about her life and writing, it is chock full of nuggets that I want to remember for seeing my way through writing or creating or just life. Highly recommend.
Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson
A Retelling of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Daisy Richardson, her mother Cricket and younger sister, Wallis find life changes abruptly when her Senator father dies a scandalous death. They lose their stately home, their reputation and their circle of friends. The story tells how the 3 women rebuild their lives with bright dialogue and dashes of romance. Fun reading.
The Carousel by Rosamunde PIlcher
When Prue travels down to Cornwall from London to care for an beloved aunt with a broken arm, she meets a lost young girl, and a intriguing artist. Circumstances result in disappointment, loyalty, a turn of heart and love. It’s a charming PIlcher story. I love that most of her books feature a warm, wise, welcoming older woman and Aunt Phoebe fills that role to a T. Good comfort read.
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
Novelization of the marriage of Clementine and Winston Churchill – starting with their courtship. It’s told in a series of vignettes from actual occurrences in their personal and political lives. From this version, Clementine was a force behind the career of Churchill, editing his speeches, suggesting political moves, wooing people who would their ambitions. A fascinating look, especially behind the events of WWII. Highly recommend.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Nora Seed has made plenty of decisions she regrets and is now living in a dumpy apartment, just lost her job and her cat even died! She tries to do herself in, but emerges into The Midnight Library, which contains an infinite number of books, each with the story of her life as it would have been if she had changed once decision. There’s a librarian who guides her into trying out many of these alternate lives to find the best possible fit. Interesting premise, a bit slow in spots and I wished the ending had been different! But it is worthwhile reading.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Gifty is a PhD student in neuroscience at Stanford. Her life has changed from her upbringing in Alabama, raised by a single mother and scarred by the overdose death of her gifted brother. The text shifts from her current lab work to the stories of of growing up in a strict evangelical setting and a troubled childhood. The novel treats the themes of faith, science, religion and family with depth and intensity. A worthwhile book.
Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb
A creative memoir of he author and her now deceased Jewish grandmother. The stories are told from the point of view of the grandmother, now gone, and include transcribed conversations, narratives and messages left on Kalb’s phone. It’s heartwarming, funny and a fascinating look at 4 generations of women from the pogroms of Russia to the glamour of Hollywood. A good light summer read.
Eternal by Lisa Scottoline
Set in Rome of WWII, a love triangle of 3 young friends unfurls in the backdrop of Mussolini’s years and the arrival of the Nazis. Elizabetta, from a unstable family, works in a restaurant. The two who love her, Marco is an emotive yong man on the staff of the Mussolini regime and Sandro, a serious Jewish math prodigy. So many dramatic events, loss and eventual happy-ish ending. The characters seemed too modern and the story took too long (460 pages), but it was a heartwarming story in the end of bravery and acceptance.
Dusk Night Dawn by Anne LaMott
I’ve read all of Lamott’s non-fiction and this seemed even more rambling than most. So many of her stories, endlessly entertaining, but also hard to define just what she was trying to say. I kept reading for several nuggets of wisdom that jumped from the page. I recommend Traveling Mercies or Bird by Bird as her best books.
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
I was totally charmed by this 1912 story of a young woman plucked out of an orphanage and sent to college by an anonymous benefactor. The only condition is that she should write him a letter ever month of her progress. She writes with humor and happiness and there’s a thread of mystery running through it. Lovable characters, happy ending. Loved it. Also a movie with Fred Astaire.
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
Eva Traube is a young Jewish woman with an artistic bent who develops the skill of producing forged documents starting when she and her must flee Paris to a small mountain near the Swiss border. She joins a group of the resistance and produces documents for children fleeing to Switzerland. Characters include a wise priest, her fellow forger, a ruthless resistance worker. It’s so well paced and you care deeply for and admire the people who pass through the story. It has twists and an unexpected end. Highly recommend.
Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
Daphne Berg is a plus size Instagram influencer. When an ex-friend, Drue shows up and begs her to be a bridesmaid at her extravagant wedding, Daphne agrees. What follows turns into a murder mystery full of twists and turns. At times comic, then tragic. Questions of friendship, loyalty and character.
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
The novelization of the life of Hedy Lamarr, an new successful actress in Vienna, the wife of a ruthless arms manufacturer leading up to WII, and after her escape to Los Angeles, a well known film star. She also worked on an invention to assist torpedo function in the war and adopted a young Jewish child brought from Europe during WWII. An interesting life and I would have enjoyed continuing on to her later years. (Also read and loved Lady Clementine, the story of the wife of Winston Churchill by the same author)
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
Her first books written in Italian and translated into English (by her), it is a compilation of short vignettes from her life if Italy, totally charming little pieces that mostly stand alone, but give the picture of a charming well ordered life. Each bit has emotional twists and rich characters. You wish you could drop in and share a day or two with the author. A departure from her normal (popular) Indian immigrant novels.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
In the early 1050’s Margery Benson, along with her quirky assistant, Enid Pretty, set off for New Caledonia to find the elusive Golden Beetle. The two women, who at first fail to connect, but through a series of dramatic adventures learn and grow together. Charming characters, fast paced, mysterious twists and turns. Loved loved it. And as a bonus the author writes an added imaginary interview with her two primary characters that is funny and endearing.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
As a child Esme, stayed with her father working with the team that produced the first Oxford English Dictionary, perched under the work table as the editors worked away. She grew to become one of those workers herself, came of age with a few major twists and turns and left her own Women’s Dictionary of Words. An interesting picture of the production of that first major dictionary.
Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
Sitara Zamani is the 10 year old daughter of a high government official in Afghanistan, when the 1978 coup occures. Soldiers storm the Presidents palace and her family is killed along with the family of the president. A soldier who had guarded the family earlier takes her to an American diplomat and Sitara eventually grows up in New York and becomes a cancer surgeon. When she meets an unexpected person from her past, she knows she has to return to Afghanistan and find what happened to her family. Good deep exploration of the life and thoughts of the protagonist, interesting look at the history of Afghanistan apart from all we hear now in the news. Great book.
Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst
Teen Alegra, her mother Francesca and grandmother, Sophia are struggling in their relationships together. Sophia initiates a month in Italy and they see each other and themselves in new ways. A lovely travelog for people wishing they were in Italy (me!) and a little romance in the mix. Overall heartwarming and a good light summer read.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Dannie Kohan opens the story by nailing her dream job interview at a NYC law firm and then becoming engaged to her long time boyfriend on the same day. But she has a dream that 5 years from now she is engaged to a man named Aaron. What plays out is her relationship with her fiance, her best friend and the mysterious Aaron who turns up early in the book as a real person. Very readable with some unexpected twists and turns. Short, engaging, likable characters.
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Three strange old maiden sisters live in crumbling Milderhurst Castle. When Edie discovers that her mother was taken in there as a child evacuee during WWII, she investigates to learn her distant mother’s story. She discovers secrets of the castle family, the famous author father of the three women and the lives and loves of the women themselves, culminating in a gothic style dark and stormy night that reveals the family secrets. Intense characters, twisting plot line and riveting ending. 560 pages, could have been more concise.
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
One of my top 10 books ever. I just reread this book about how to handle life as you age and confront medical needs in an aging body. I wanted to take notes on his super helpful advice about balancing medical care with the non-medical things that make life worthwhile. Full of interesting stories and medical studies that make it easy to read. So good.
China by Edward Rutherfurd
An epic historical fiction account of the lives of several diverse characters from the 1839’s Opium Wars until the demise of the lat empress of China in 1908. Notable were a British merchant, who dealt in opium and finally tea and the long tumultuous life he lead, Mandarin scholar who was involved in the rise of western powers in China, a beautiful peasant woman trying to preserve her family from ruin, an English missionary who faithfully worked over years with small returns. And other main characters were the Opium Wars, the Taiping revolt, the Boxer Rebellion and the rise of Cixi, last empress of China– all actual events. Fascinating and quickly paced, even in a book that lasted 764 pages!
The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
The two narrators are twin sisters Fern and Rose. Fern is a librarian and endures sensory stimulation issues that narrow her life. Rose is an interior designer who has spent her life smoothing the path for Fern. The story shifts between Fern describing their present relationship and Rose recounting their tumultuous childhoods. When Rose cannot conceive a child, Fern decides to step in and provide her sister with a baby with a man she meets by chance at the library. Twists and turns follow and your perception of the sisters changes as you come to the climax of the book. Engaging page turner with a satisfying ending.
Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams
Twin sisters torn apart when one marries an American turned spy for Russia and the other lives her sophisticated life in New York. Set in the years of WWII and the cold war following. After Iris and her husband defect to live in Moscow, her twin, Ruth, receives a letter asking for help. There are side characters on both sides of the divide and it’s a mystery who is really the spy and how this could possibly resolve. A real page turner with characters you can truly root for!
Golden Girl by Elin HIlderbrand
End of summer beach read– Vivian Howe, acclaimed author and mother of three grown children is killed by a hit and run driver while running near her Nantucket home. She finds herself in the Beyond and is allowed one last summer to watch her family from afar with 3 “nudges” she can use to change events back down on earth. Her three children plus other family members have complicated lives and the unsolved hit and run case weighs heavy in the story. Light reading– at times heartwarming, at times to much drama.
A Place Like Home by Rosamunde Pilcher
A collection of short stories by a favorite author. Sweet, simple stories of women set in England and Scotland. Romance, family stories with a sense of place and time. Real comfort food reading.
Under the Magnolias by T. I. Lowe
Austin Foster spends her teenage years managing her 6 siblings and her unstable father after the death
of her mother out on their tobacco farm. As well as farming, her father pastors a small congregation of quirky small town people. And when the mayor’s son takes an interest in Austin and her family, she is torn between returning his interest and hiding her family secrets. Lovable characters, happy ending, a real Hallmark movie between two covers. Enjoyed it.
Becoming Jan Eyre by Sheila Kohler
Historical novel, set in the mid 1880’s, when the 3 Bronte sisters were writing their novels in a Yorkshire village living with their gruff parson Father. Extensive research and some imagination of those days make a fascinating look at the stories behind Jane Eyre and also Wuthering Heights. Crisp clear characters, a real sense of the times and depth of emotion make this a worhtwhile book. Recommend!
Eden Mine by S.M.Hulse
Jo Faber lives in a small Montana town with her brother following a life of trajedies, losing both parents and leaving Jo in a wheelchair. When her brother Sam, explodes a protest bomb at the court house, people are seriously injured and he goes into hiding. There’s a big hearted sheriff and a pastor, father of a severely injured girl. So you read this book for the depth of the characters and their interactions. Intense, but worthwhile. .
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Hannah has a strained relationship with her 15 year old step daughter, Bailey, until one day when her husband disappears and the two of them must determine what has happened now and in the past. A real page turner, very likable characters who I was rooting for 100%. Plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepety
Daniel Matheson travels to Madrid for summer 1957 with his parents who have business there. He’s 18 years old and practicing his photography, hopeful it will lead to a career. At the hotel he meets an employee Ana and become involved with her family and with the diplomatic circle of his parents. The real protagonist of the story is the Franco years of dictatorship and the effects this all had on the people of Spain. Loved the Spain connection after the years we lived there–especially the parts set at the Sorolla Museum (my favorite museum in the whole world!). Extremely well documented and true to the spirit of Spain. Highly recommend.
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson
June Jones is 28 and lives alone since her mother past away. And she works as a library assistant in the same library that her mother loved and worked for. When the local council threatens to shut down her small village library, June and an eccentric group of library patrons, fight to keep the library. There’s a hint of romance, true friendships and evolving characters. A pleasant read.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doer (Pulitzer Prize winner)
Five stories that are told not in chronological order are all tied together by the presence of a mythological Greek story of a fool who travels the world. There is a young girl on a space trek in the future (fantasy, science fiction), a young boy who suffers from autism trying to find meaning through nature and finally committing a grave crime of that pursuit (disfunctional modern story), an orphaned boy who comes to translate the myth (life long biography) , a young girl in a convent in 1400’s Constantinople and a teenager conscripted by muslims in an attack on that same city (both historical fiction). Each story is compelling and inspite of the 1128 pages (large print edition) that book moves along quickly and inticingly. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend!!
Under Gemini by Rosamunde Pilcher
Set in a small Scottish village, a story of family and how deception has a price. Flora agrees to pose as her twin sister Rose and to go meet the grandmother of Rose’s former fiance. Flora falls in love with the family and also a certain gruff town doctor. It’s complicated, with brightly drawn characters, especially Tuppy, the grandmother she goes to meet. Seems like the plot of an old fashioned movie. Loved it.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
18 year old Emmett Watson is released from a juvenile work camp and comes home to claim his 8 year old brother Billy years after his mother left the family and whose father recently died. The two plan to head to California to make a new life, but are sidetracked by two other work camp escapees, Duchess and Wooley. They all end up in New York through various means and with plenty of amazing adventures. There are so many side stories and incredible quirky characters and it all comes down to a startling ending. Long, but fast paced. A rollicking tale that leaves you thinking…
Sooley by John Grisham
A 17 year old basket ball player in South Sudan is recruited for a show team in the U.S. It’s his chance to be noticed by a college recruiter and find a better life, than the one of poverty and civil war of his country. While he is away, his village is raided, father killed, sister missing and his mother and 2 younger brothers walk days to a refugee camp in Uganda. The story is split between the family’s hardships and Sooley’s new life in America. There are twists and turns and a sad/happy ending. Learned a lot about college basketball and the lives of the Sudanese people. So worthwhile.
The Guest Book by Sarah Blake
The story of three generations of a family living in New York, but spending their summers on the island they own in a rambling old house. There are tensions and secrets that are held in this very proper family that play out over time. So interesting and I could understand/identify with the gentile formal grandmother, the carefree daughter and the grand daughter, an NYU professor, who was working out who she was against the backdrop of her family. Themes of family, racism, loyalty and class. Fascinating and a real page turner.
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
A collection of warm wonderful and personal essays by one of my favorite authors. The topics range from her relationship with her three fathers to how knitting saved her life (twice) and how she invited an unexpected friend to live with her through cancer treatment. I loved the relationship she shares with her husband Karl and her fascinating take on the book covers of her books. Highly recommend.
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
Story of a divorced couple, an author and a scientist, navigating their relationship and also that with their daugthers, new spouses… She goes with him to investigate a long lost half sister that he has discovered, but the journey is more about their own reckoning with themselves and their pasts. With it’s conversational style, it feels very much like a memoir, not a novel. Insightful and meandering at the same time. Probably my favorite of Strout’s books.
Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella
Matt and Ava meet at a writer’s retreat in Italy and fall into an instant romance. But when the both return to London, they find how little they have in common. The follow up is a funny working out their differences amid a quirky set of friends. Enjoyable. Classic Sophie Kinsella.
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Two parallel 1940 stories that come together in the end. Iris James is the postmistress in the small town of Franklin, Massachusetts. She watches the doctor and his new wife, Harry Vale who searches for sea shore fo u boats… And Frankie Bard who broadcasts from London about the bombings and war stories there. Great well drawn characters, two women who have a passion for the work they do. A picture of a window in time. Loved it.
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
Historical novel set in Bletchley Park, the secret gathering place of code breakers during WWII. The story centers on three women, Olsa- the socialite translator, Mab – a poor girl from the East End who works the code machines and Beth, a brilliant, but mousey spinster who breaks the codes. Brilliant characters that I truly cared about, friendship & loyalty, mystery and suspense, and a sweet amount of romance. One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time.
Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb
Two sisters travel to Paris, Venice and Vienna to deliver letters on behalf of their dying grandmother to people she held dear there. The sisters are at odds as the story begins, but come to appreciate each other and find secrets of their grandmother’s past. Fun 1030’s travel log and enjoyable, but predictable storyline.
Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey
Recent memoir by Yancey, focusing on his growing up years in a southern, extreme fundamentalist church with his brilliant brother Marshall and his rigid mother. The result is his skeptical youth, pulling away from family and faith through high school and college, only to question and find his faith to be true and real, but his family damaged as he tries to care for them over the years. A profound story for me, a true look at pain and struggle and the persistence of God’s grace. So moving and a book I will think on for a long time…
How (Not) to Save the World by Hosanna Wong
Hosanna Wong encourages believers to love the people around them, knowing God uses the life experiences, our capabilities, our losses, even our pastimes to connect with people and to know and love them and show them God’s love. Such a thoughtful, easily readable, encouraging book. So helpful.
A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle
Story of a small boy in Dublin at the turn of the last century, who at 5 years old takes to the streets with a yet younger brother. Eventually he becomes involved with the independence fighters, training, fighting, killing. There is a large cast of bigger than life characters and brief moments of joy amid all the sadness. An enlightening picture of a very historic slice of time. Glad I read it.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict & Victoria Murray
Novelization of the life of Belle de Costa Greene, the librarian assistant to J.P. Morgan at the turn in the early 1900’s. Belle was a light skinned black woman who passed as white to spend her life’s work collecting and curating significant books and manuscripts for the Pierpoint Morgan Library. She becomes famous for her negotiating skills, her style and charm, but struggles with the weight of carryig her secret and with the long term relationship she has with an art historian. Interesting, a picture of the times.
The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
Sohpie Whalen is an Irish mail order bride who arrives in San Francisco and is married and becomes a mother to her step daughter the day she steps off the ferry. When a mysterious woman arrives on her doorstep and another is found in Arizona, her understanding of who her husband is, changes. That very day the 1906 SF earthquake rocks the city and all is further unsettled. It’s a mystery, a story of motherhood and deep friendship. Satisfying historical fiction.
People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry
Alex and Poppy become best friends in college– and when they go their separate ways, meet up once a year for a vacation together. Away from each other they go on with their very different lives. But when a mishap stops the vacations, and they lose each other, Poppy decides they must try one last perfect trip. The inevitable love occurs and with a few more rocky fits and starts they finally get together. super lovable character, truly funny, clever dialogue, travel to all the places! If you want to read a rom-com, this is the one.
The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
Mr. Ali sets up a match making bureau in a small Indian City in his retirement. His wife and his new assistant, Aruna, are the principal characters along with a revolving door of people coming in to find a husband or wife for their children. From a poor family, without a dowry, Aruna has few expectations for a marriage, but then befriends a handsome client. And interesting look at a disappearing part of Indian culture. Likable characters who carry the gentle story forward.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Stan and Joy Delaney raise their 4 competitive children to be tennis stars, while running a tennis academy. One night a stranger, a young woman arrives at their door and they take her in. After she leaves, Joy disappears. The grown children are suspicious. Is their father responsible? Are there other circumstances? Is their mother still alive after more than 20 days missing? Great character development, mild mystery, satisfying ending.
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Three unlikely people team up to dispose of a dead body– A neurotic NYU professor, a colorful woman from Chile who also teaches at NYU and a timid Guatemalan immigrant young woman – in the midst of winter. The real story here is their 3 back stories of immigrant experiences, lives in Central/South America and the power of people to see each other through extraordinary times. Filled with drama and family and thoughtful conversation. As all her books, easy to recommend.
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Another Benedict historical fiction based on the life of a strong woman. Agatha Christie was herself a bit of a mystery in 1926 when she went missing for 11 days. The chapters switch between her history with her handsome, self centered husband and the 11 days days she could not be found. The mystery of the book is how & why this all took place. Entertaining, and actually is motivation to read through a few Agatha Christie mysteries!
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson
This Swedish author, aged “between eighty and one hundred,” has written a charming wise book of the Swedish custom of cleaning out ones possessions to simplify life before it ends, with the goal of leaving less mess for your family to deal with. It is full of sweet stories of her life and possessions and is really just a gentle nudge to consider divesting yourself of things you don’t actually need or want. It feels most life a chat with someone’s grandma. NY Times bestseller, short and uplifting.
Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
Shy quirky Mary is a botanist at a small town university. When she receives a month of vacation, she decides to visit for old friends and renew her friendships. Her reflections on friendship and botanical insights make this a quiet, but interesting story. It does not have a strong story arc, but the thoughtful protagonist carries you along. Enjoyable reading.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
When Benny and her brother Byron are reunited to hear their mother’s taped messages to them after her death, secrets are spilled and a dozen backstories are explored! If you like This Is Us, you’ll love this format. Complicated characters, intriguing story and a satisfying ending. Recommend this engaging, enjoyable book.
Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
Gripping memoir of Qian’s early life as an immigrant from China to Brooklyn with her turbulent mother and father. She describes working in a sweat shop with her mother, navigating poverty and how it laps into her school years, finding escape in books and adventures of a small girl alone on the subway. She presses forward in a world not filled with hope and finally reaches success. A grim story but a true look at her immigrant life. Informative.
Good Apple, Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York by Elizabeth Passarella
Elizabeth Passarella writes her story of leaving Memphis and taking on New York City as a young women with wit and humor and a warmth that makes you want to be her NY neighbor. She chronicles marrying her husband, raising 3 kids in a small NY home, changing her politics and her lifestyle but not her faith. Favorite book in quite a while!!
The Day of the Storm by Rosamunde Pilcher
Rebecca Bayliss grows up with a madcap single mother moving from city to city. But her mother unexpectedly passes away as Rebecca is settling in to her own life in London. Before she dies her mother reveals she has an artist grandfather in Cornwall so Rebecca travels to meet him and finds a complicated family mystery. Classic Rosamunde Pilcher– family saga, admirable (and not so admirable) characters, happy ending. Satisfying reading for me!
Violetta by Isabel Allende
In a letter written to her grandson, Violetta Del Valle, recounts the 100 years of her life story from her early days in a huge rambling house in the capitol of Chile, through the days of exile in the countryside, and as she lives through relationships with 4 very different men over the years. Major trajedies, great beauty, extended family and joy in her later years… A hard look at the politics and history of Chile and the people who lived those years. Allende is always great at pulling you completely in to the lives of her characters.
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons
The protagonist, Eudora Honeysett is 85, lives alone with no family in a London neighborhood. She has decided to end her life in a clinic in Switzerland, when a rambunctious 10 year Rose and an elderly neighbor Stanley come into her life. Unlike no nonsense Eudora, they are both emotive and full of fun. She is pulled into friendship by their unrelenting enthusiasm and must decide if she wants to follow her plan after all. A gem of a book with lovable characters an a lot of hope for a book about death.
The Empty House by Rosamunde Pilcher
Victoria Keile stays with a friend in Cornwall after her husbands death in a car accident. When she leases a cottage by the sea and brings her 2 children down to stay she meets up with an old friend, a farmer nearby. Past stories are examined and she must decide to stay or return to her home in Scotland. Classic PIlcher, heartwarming with a real sense of time and place. Real comfort reading.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Nora Steffens is an ambitious NYC literary agent. Her sister Libby plans a month in small town North Carolina at the sight of a novel Nora has just brought to life and when they arrive, Nora encounters Charlie Lastra, a book editor from NY that she has had run ins with before. Instead for their idyllic country month, Nora ends up working on a book project with Charlie and sparks fly. Witty, biting dialogue, romantic tension and likable characters. There’s a reason everyone is calling Emily Henry the new Nora Ephron!