Read with Me!

I've moved my Currently Reading updates to the main page. But, I think the list below is a great resource if you need a book rec. 

Being a Reading/Book-Nerd, here is my reading list. 
I am by no means a book reviewer (just really LOVE to read); the thoughts below are short & sweet.   Also, I hate spoilers - so no spoilers here!

I am a part of Amazon's Associate Program -  affiliate links below. I have, however, read & purchased all the books listed - all opinions are my own.  

Please share some of your favorites - I am always looking for recommendations! #read! #booklist #books

Currently reading:

 Less, A Novel, Andrew Sean Greer

Clever, witty, funny (& a Pulitzer winner) - this book was a ray of light after reading a string of serious books.

Follow Arthur Less as he makes his way around the world to distract himself from...himself.

 The Expatriates, A Novel, Janice Y.K. Lee

The very short version: American families living abroad in Hong Kong.  

What does that look like, how does it feel, & how do you navigate it with your family?

 Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo", Zora Neale Hurston

This is a short but mighty book & as Alice Walker describes in the forward, "harrowing".  

This is the story of Oluale Kossula in his own words - his life as a young man in Africa, being captured & brought to Alabama on the Clotilda (which was quickly destroyed because it was already illegal in its mission), slavery, becoming a free man, & his life thereafter.  

It's an important book & because it's in Kossula's dialect, Hurston could not get it published at the time it was written.  She (wisely) would not change a thing & it's finally been published.  A good portion of the book is about the journey of the book & definitely worth the read - for both Kossula's story as well as Hurston's.

 The Practice House, A Novel, Laura McNeal

Another sad story (there's a theme happening this summer for some reason!) - 1932 Kansas, a farm, a school teacher from Scottland, a family, & a miserable drought.

Not much happiness here!

 A Marriage in Dog Years, A Memoir, Nancy Balbirer

Well written, but it's a heartbreaker! I had no idea - I finished it while on the beach & tears were running down my face (b/c that's what you want on the beach!).  

It caught my attention because it's about an 11-year-old beagle named Ira. I'll leave it there.

 All the Missing Girls, A Novel, Megan Miranda

Another really great page-turner!

Nic heads back home to her small mountain town in North Carolina after spending 10 years away to help her ailing father.  Right after she returns, a young woman, her neighbor, goes missing. This also echoes the past as her best friend went missing 10 years prior and was never found.  

Why are women disappearing from this small town and who's involved?  Old boyfriends, family, or friends?

 Crazy Rich Asians, A Novel, Kevin Kwan

Such a great page-turner and so much fun! Can't wait to see the movie and read the rest of the trilogy.

  Firefly Summer, Maeve Binchy

I thought I would never finish this book - it's a journey for sure, but if you are a Maeve Binchy fan it's worth it!

Patrick O'Neill and his children move from the US to reclaim their family's ruined (but grand) home in a small Irish village.  Everyone's lives change - some for the better, some not so much.  

 The Mutal Admiration Society, Lesley Kagan

Ugh! I didn't finish this one - I don't do this often, but I couldn't get into it as quickly as I hoped.  Might circle back later. 

It's written from a child's POV (which I always think is interesting & like reading YA lit too), but again, I could not find my stride with this one.

 Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions (A Kopp Sisters Novel), Amy Stewart

After being an avid reader for forever, I finally joined a book club & this was the pick.  Loved it & I now want to read more from this series.

Constance Kopp was an Under-Sheriff in New Jersey in 1916.  As you can imagine, this was not common in 1916! The US is preparing to go to war - men are optimistic to get to France (as well as many women) & it's not ideal to be a single young woman in America who has any aspirations beyond marriage & family.  This book is funny while exposing so many sexist, racist, & unfair laws & mores that existed in 1916 (& unfortunately exist for many today). It's a reminder to keep fighting for what is just.

 Halsey Street, Naima Coster

This was a sad read to me.  Penelope moves back to Brooklyn from Pittsburgh to help her ailing father after her mother leaves. She is also trying to figure out what her life should look like as a late-twenty-something artist.  This is a story of the complicated love (very complicated love) between a mother & daughter & how your family relationships weave into everything you do & who you become.

 All The Lasting Things, A Novel, David Hopson

This one took me a little while to get into - it's not the most uplifting book (it's got Virginia Woolf, family secrets, suicide, fame, Alzheimer's - to name a few things!), but it's well-written & you'll find yourself curious how it all ends.

 Digging In, A Novel, Loretta Hyhan

After suddenly losing her husband, Paige is still trying to steady & navigate her world without him while raising their teenage son.  She's also lost focus at work & may be on the verge of losing her longtime job.  She finds solace in her backyard battling weeds & it leads to so much more. 

Although the death of a spouse is not light material, this book seeks the humor in starting over - the humility in not knowing all the answers (at any age) & how healing comes if we surrender & let it move through our lives.

 Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover

Raised in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover received little to no formal education (she was briefly homeschooled by her mother) & entered BYU at the age of 17. From there, she also studied at Cambridge & Harvard. This is a fascinating memoir (often violent & hard to read) about family, religion, abuse, & love. 

To paraphrase - how do you properly balance responsibilities to your family when they so vastly conflict with the responsibilities of society, friends, & your own health and wellbeing? 

I was drawn to this book after hearing her interview on NPR's Fresh Air (it's worth checking out!).

 The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing: A Novel, Mira Jacob

Ah! This is a heartbreaker but incredibly dense and well written. What do you do when your father (a brilliant surgeon) starts taking to & seeing the dead?  Are you able to help & how do you help?

It's about loss and how loss shapes you and your family.  It's about identity. It's about love.

 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, A Novel, Jesse Andrews

Raw, funny, and heartbreaking.  

This also might be one of the very few times I liked the film more than the book (the movie is worth renting!). 

 I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot By the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai

Brave, smart, and so inspiring!

When I was almost finished reading this, I heard on the news that Malala was able to visit her home for this first time since she was shot - it gave me such hope for the world & felt like a such a positive (overall-good-vibes) sign.  Via her blog, she wrote, "I didn’t leave my country by choice, but I did return by choice.”

I think this book should be required reading for every school-aged child. 

 The Thyroid Connection: Why You Feel Tired, Brain-fogged, and Overweight - and How to Get Your Life Back, Amy Myers, MD

A great & educational resource if you are struggling with thyroid issues.  The diet prescribed is strict (paleo on steroids, IMHO!) but I like her overall approach to wellness (she's a functional doctor) & that she speaks from personal experience having suffered from hyperthyroidism.

 Between, Georgia, Joshilyn Jackson

I had no idea there was a town in GA called Between, but there is & it's found between Athens and Atlanta! 

The town name/title means so much here.  Nonny is wedged between two families that claim her, homes, towns, a marriage, & in between her deaf mother & the entire world.  

Where does she land & how does she balance everything?

 Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Sucess and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington

You know all those things you know you should be doing but never make time for, like exercise, meditation, vacations, creating for no reason other than the joy of it, sleep? They are not negotiable - they are you and they are life!

The Hopefuls, A Novel, Jennifer Close

Can a young married couple survive a move from NYC to DC to work in the hope-filled-air that is the Obama admin? Even better, can they survive a campaign trail in Texas? Find out as they navigate marriage, family, friends, career goals, & the ever maddening hope (obsession?) & despair that is politics. 

 Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult, and My Father, Warren Jeffs, Rachel Jeffs

Fascinating read - an insiders view into FLDS & want it means to be a part of the church & more importantly, what it means to be outside/leave the church. It's a difficult & uncomfortable read as well (Jeffs was horribly abused by her father as a child) but it's worth diving into & she very much tells it like it is (was in her case).

 Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Curtis Sittenfeld. 

Super smart & clever - Sittenfeld pays perfect respect to Austen. And if you've never read Prep - get on that!

 Wish You Happy Forever: What China's Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains, Jenny Bowen

Heartbreaking (when you read descriptions of orphanages in their early years you will want to cry/jump on a plane) and completely inspiring - how to do you change a country's child welfare system when you can't speak the language, do not live there, & don't many people who do? One woman did just that inspired by her adopted daughters from China & lots of help from her husband, friends (from the US, China, & all around the world), & the Chinese government. 

 The Curated Closet, Anuschka Rees

This book will help you shop smarter (think quality over quantity) with guides to help you create a closet that works for you & your lifestyle. 

 The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty

This story follows the intersecting journeys of three families & the secrets that live within each of them.  What happens when their pasts, secrets, & present lives catch up with each other? How well do we know our families?  How many burdens could be released or eased if we shared them? Read all of Liane Moriarty's books, please!

 Attachments: A Novel, Rainbow Rowell

I'd love to have pizza and hang out with Rainbow Rowell because I always love her books & therefore, I believe she would be awesome too.

This the story of Beth, Jennifer, & Lincoln & their company's email policy. It's a fun read, modern in its love, & a "meet-cute" if ever there was one.

Serena, Ron Rash

Serena's name and beauty are a great contrast to her environment (a timber clearing company/camp in 1929 - the Smoky Mountains) & her ambition. She has a passionate marriage & helps lead a successful business with her husband, but which is more important - success or love?  How far will she go to have both? 

PS: I also watched the movie on Netflix after I read the book. As almost always, the book is much better & Serena is a stronger character (as she should be) in the book.

 You'll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein

Funny, honest, raw, & real.

 Brooklyn, A Novel, Colm Toibin

This book just left me feeling...sad! 

It follows the journey of a young woman, Eilis, from Ireland to the US (you guessed it, Brooklyn!) post-WWII. It's about growing up, the choices we make, homesickness, adapting to a new culture, love, family, & being a Catholic mixed in with all the above.

 Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling

Funny, smart, inspiring (pretty much sums up Kaling, too!) - this is a happy read!

 The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, A Novel, Rebekah Crane

This a YA novel set at a summer camp for teens with various challenges (eating disorders, cutting, depression). It's a mystery though as to why the main character, Zander, is attending this camp. We slowly learn her story as she befriends other campers - one being a smart, sweet, funny guy (Grover Cleveland!). 

You'll fall for Grover too.

 Troublemaker, Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, Leah Remini

Could not put this one down & I think I knocked it out in about two days (would have in one sitting if I had more free time). It's fascinating, honest, & wow! Leah explains the tenants of Scientology, how her family got involved, what it means to be a celebrity Scientologist, & what led her to leave - it's an amazing story.

 Mrs. Saint and the Defectives, A Novel, Julie Lawson Timmer

I think this was one of my monthly Kindle First picks & it's a fun read. The contents are heavy (a divorce, a move to a new city, a fall from social grace) but it stays light. It's a reminder to let others help you even when you hate accepting help. People need people & sometimes (if you are lucky) a nosey neighbor can be the greatest gift of all.

 Magpie Murders: A Novel, Anthony Horowitz

I hope all of your cold or rainy days include a wonderful book like this one! If you like mysteries you will LOVE this one - it's a story within a story too, so you'll get double the trouble. You will not want to put it down & I hope Horowitz has many more of these books in the works.

 The Dream Manager, Matthew Kelly

What if the company you work for asked you about your dreams? I'm not talking professional goals, but life dreams and wishes. And what if they had a Dream Manager on staff to help you achieve these goals? 

Crazy, right?

Not really. 

"An organization can only become the-best-version-of-itself to the extent that the people who drive that organization are striving to become better-versions-of-themselves." 

This book gives an example of a janitorial company (with super-high turnover rates) & how they improved retention by investing in all of their employees' dreams. Not only did they save money, they increased & expanded business & boosted morale & productivity - in an industry not known for any of these things. 

This is a quick & inspiring read - what are your dreams?

 Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich

This book was written pre-recession & in response to welfare reform in that a low wage job was/is the answer. The author set out to see if she could survive (think the basics here: safe housing & food) on a low wage job or jobs in different cities - you probably can guess the answer.

It looks at class in America, challenges stereotypes & assumptions of low wage or "unskilled" workers, & for me, emphasizes just how important a safety net of community/family is.

 The Secret Lives of Dresses, A Novel, Erin McKean

How do you figure out what to be when you "grow up" & how do you do so when the person who raised you is ill & can't advise anymore? This book explores a non-traditional family in the South who own a vintage dress shop - all of the dresses have a story/background - how do those stories weave into the here & now? 

I loved the characters in this book - the dresses too!

 The Big Life, Ann Shoket

This book isn't geared to me as a Gen Xer, but it's written by a Gen Xer to Millenial women & I think any woman at any age will find it inspiring. It's about carving a path that works for you & how so many young women are doing just that & redefining the workplace every day. It's about letting go of fear & going for what makes you happy. It's also about working hard, hitting goals, & surrounding yourself with women that support & understand where you are going & helping you get there (& how you can help them too).

 North Haven, A Novel, Sarah Moriarty

I couldn't quite connect to this book; it didn't get interesting to me until Part 3 & that was about 70% through the book. I wanted to care more about the members of this family, but it never really happened.

It's about loss & finding your place in the world after the death of loved ones (& sometimes not so loved ones). I loved the location of the book & the descriptions of the old house they live in, but again, I wanted to connect more with the characters.

Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs, John Bowe & Marisa Bowe

This book is dense (it felt like it took me forever to finish it) & fascinating. It covers so many industries - service, retail, military, law, police, arts & entertainment, religious, crime, sex, drugs, & rock & roll (for reals) just to name a few. 

You will recognize some famous names (I was happy to see an Atlanta fave Monica Pearson interviewed), but it's mostly Average Joes. You'll also notice themes that run through many of the highlighted gigs.  In many cases, it will make you thankful for your current job & it's interesting to see that there are so many definitions of what makes a "good job." 

Again, a fascinating read!

 Crimes Against a Book Club: A Novel, Kathy Cooperman

I loved this & devoured it over one weekend (& I'm not even a very fast reader) - it centers on the posh neighborhood of La Jolla, California & its book club cast of wealthy characters. This book club rarely focuses on books (as is the case of many book clubs), but each chapter begins with a must-read selection (so smart!) & you will dive head first into each of these women's lives. A great summer read & full of inspiration if you need a suggestion for your next read or your book club's next read. And yes, there's a crime being committed amongst these readers (?? no spoilers!) too!

The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau

This is a fun & inspiring book about startups & in many cases, startups that began as a complete accident. Guillebeau surveyed tons of businesses that bring in over $50,000 per year & each gives insight into how they did it, why they did it, errors & successes, & how you can do it too. Like each person, each business is unique & even if you have no interest in starting a business, this book is full of valuable information. You don't need to be a millionaire to start a company (although it can't hurt :-) & "failure is overrated". You can also get more info on his site.

Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food, Megan Kimble

This book is enjoyable & easy to read. Kimble is not preachy & gives simple, affordable steps to up your food game.  If nothing else, read your labels. Are there hundreds of ingredients? Skip. It. 

Also, your money counts & is a vote for improving the quality of our food. It's a fun read on a topic you wouldn't think of as "fun."

Invincible Summer, Alice Adams

This story chronicles four friends as they graduate from college & live in & out of London. Benedict is the affluent scientist, Eva has a head for finance, Sophie is an artist, & Lucien is the wildcard. It's about friendship & the unexpected journeys life takes us on. We start feeling invincible - facing the world with so much confidence, but how long that feeling lasts varies & each of these four friends quickly learn how to navigate (for better & worse) the trials of adulthood.

It's a good summer read without being sappy or too light.

Hausfrau, A Novel, Jill Alexander Essbaum

The cover should tell you all you need to know. A bored housewife is a dangerous thing...

The Animators, A Novel, Kayla Rae Whitaker

This book is amazing! I rarely watch movies that are made from books I've read (it often ruins everything) but, I hope this one is made into a film because visually (& done right) it would blow everyone's minds! 

This is the story two friends, Mel & Sharon - they meet in art school, have similar not-so-stable backgrounds, & are smart, independent, flawed, brilliant animators.  They kick ass & bring you on a journey into their worlds & how they work. It's sad, complicated, lovely, & unflinchingly honest.

The Annie Year, A Novel, Stephanie Ash
This is dark & quirky read about a middle-aged married woman (Tandy Caide) living in a small, somewhat forgotten midwest town. She's the town's only accountant, her marriage has seen better days, there's an interesting new Vo-Ag teacher, homes are continuously blowing up due to meth cooking, & yep, the high school is putting on a production of Annie.  Curious? You should be! :-)

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, William Davis, MD 
I've had this book on my Kindle for quite awhile now, but started reading it after a migraine (I think the worst one I've ever had) knocked me out this past week. Migraines are a symptom of inflammation & I have a feeling I need to be more diligent about my diet, & often don't want to be because it's no fun.

Today Will Be Different, Maria Semple

I wanted to love this one as much as I loved Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette but it came up a bit short for me. The main character, Eleanor Flood, can be a little hard to relate to (or even like at times), but she's also self-deprecating & the love she has for her son (Timby, my favorite character) & her husband make her worth loving too. This is a day in her Seattle life & she's trying to become a better person each day - will today be different?

The Happiness Project (Revised Edition): Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, Gretchen Rubin

Rubin spent a year focusing on different aspects of happiness & how she could improve her life each month. She created a resolutions chart to keep herself accountable & gives lots of practical advice for harboring happiness. It's worth checking out if there are areas of your life you'd like to improve or to inspire new ways of thinking about what makes you happy. You can also get loads of info from her website.

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Based on her TED talk, this book spins a positive view of why we should all be feminists; "feminism" is not a negative word or a bad thing (if you happen to feel that way).  She describes herself as being "A Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss  Ans High Heels For Herself And Not For Men."

"The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are.  Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn't have the weight of gender expectations."

Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty

A backyard barbecue alters the lives of three couples & their families. What happened & how will they move forward?

This is another great read from Australian novelist, Moriarty, & like her other books, this one also takes place in Australia - I've loved everything she's written!

Dietland, A Novel, Sarai Walker

OMG! This book is everything & blew me away from start to finish!

Plum is contemplating weight loss surgery so she can begin her "real" life. Through a series of events, she is taken on a surprise journey while the rest of the world is being rocked by "Jennifer." Who is Jennifer & better yet, who is Plum?

Bottom line: Live Your Life. Live it now - don't wait for the thing you desperately want or need or the ideal situation - live now.

You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys For A More Fulfilling Life, Eleanor Roosevelt

Stay curious. An education never ends when formal schooling is finished. Seek information (I wonder how she would feel about the internet ;-).

"Courage is more exhilarating than fear, and in the long run, it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down."

Three Story House, A Novel, Courtney Miller Santo

A pretty quick & fun read.  Three cousins (all born in the same month - the "Triplins") find themselves restoring an old family home in Memphis. As they mend the house, they also unearth lots of skeletons in the closets, figure out where they want their lives to take them, & do a lot of growing up.

I wish some aspects of the book were more fleshed out, but overall, I enjoyed it - I think it would make a great summer read.

The Rosie Effect, A Novel, Graeme Simsion

A follow-up to the beloved The Rosie Project (check it out if you've never read it!) - Don & Rosie are now living in NYC, but the antics Don finds himself in haven't changed. With a baby on the way, the couple finds themselves navigating new waters (especially Don) - how do they adapt to "Bud" (baby under development) & how will they pull it off? 

Holidays on Ice, David Sedaris

If you've never read David Sedaris - read David Sedaris. Better yet, if he tours anywhere near you, go see him!

This book is a collection of essays he's written that have a Christmas theme running throughout. It includes part of the SantaLand Diaries (which is one of the funniest things you'll ever listen too - NPR plays it every year, & it's worth Googling to have a listen. It's funny in print, but so much better to hear.)

His sense of humor is not for everyone - he is brutally honest - but this is a quick read & if you need some post-holiday (unconventional) cheer, this is it!

 The Mothers, A Novel, Brit Bennett

I received this novel via a Quarterly literary subscription box (click the link to get more info - no affiliate link). The cool thing about this subscription service is you get a letter from the author & other books curated by the author. Even better? The book includes post-it notes from the author throughout the book - I loved this & the extra insight it added to the book.

This novel is about loss (I don't want to give too much away). It's sad & it's also about how we navigate loss & what mothering means - who are the Mothers in our lives? It's very well written & worth checking out.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

This book has been on my wishlist forever (I heard an interview with the author ages ago & was fascinated) & I am excited to finally be diving in!

This book IS fascinating - Skloot does a wonderful job making a very complicated & scientific topic (immortal cells/cancer/cell division) relatable & enjoyable to read. But of course it's not just about cells, it's about the life of Henrietta Lacks & her family. Without Lacks' cells, we would not have a vaccine for Polio or HPV to name a very few - the tests, advances, & medical procedures that have come via her cells are too numerous to list here (& in many respects beyond my comprehension). Although she died in the 50's, her family was unaware her cells were still alive until the 70's! 

Her family has never received monetary compensation & not many even know who Henrietta Lacks is (her cells are referred to as HeLa cells), yet her contribution to science is invaluable.

The Last Anniversary, Liane Moriarty

A newborn baby is found abandoned on a small island of Australia by two sisters. What happened to the parents? The sisters go on to raise the baby & that baby has her own family - how does the past affect the present? 

As always, Moriarity does a fantastic job weaving the lives of a family (& their friends) in a funny, creative way. Every time I read one of her books, I want to jump a plane to Australia & just start chatting away with anyone & everyone I might possibly meet.  Have fun with this one!

Yes Please, Amy Poehler

I knew I would love this book as the preface reads: "The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not." Love her immediate honesty & candor. 

This book is funny, honest, & doesn't sugar-coat anything. Poehler documents her lower-middle-class, Boston upbringing & how she landed at SNL (& lots of other places). Read this for laughs & inspiration.

 Crooked Little Lies, Barbara Taylor Sissel

This book is fun & has some twists. It's the story of Lauren & her road to recovery after a horrible accident & subsequent drug addiction. It's also the story of Annie & her missing brother, Bo. How are these two women connected & where does the truth live? Who can they trust?

Food Freedom Forever, Melissa Hartwig

Oh, how I need this book (post-Halloween)!

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, Molly Wizenberg

This is an honest, inside look at opening up a restaurant (with no experience & a small budget) & its tolls on marriage. It's honest but not dark & I loved getting a behind the scenes view of running a  new business. If nothing else, this book will make you want to eat pizza (really great pizza) &/or travel around finding it. It also includes some great recipes.

I also loved & recommend Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table - so many great recipes here too - check it out if you love to cook!

The Long Song, A Novel, Andrea Levy

This is the story of Miss July - born, as a slave, on a Jamaican sugar plantation. Although so many parts of this book & are brutal & heartbreaking (& unfortunately accurate), it is also funny & so clever (as is July) & so honest that it's a work of art. It's masterful writing & a powerful story. 

From her now old age, Miss July weaves the story of her life as well as the story of her family.  Through her memory, her "long song," we see Jamaica in 1832, race & discrimination, the many fights for freedom & justice (the Baptist War), & the spirit & strength of a young girl navigating it all.

The Shelf Life of Happiness, David Machado

This is the story of three friends in Lisbon, Portugal who are all fighting various challenges. It's told via the point of view of Daniel who has lost a long-held job (this is a recession story too) & is trying to stick to a "life plan" that may or may not be valid anymore. 

In the midst of their intertwined lives, their personal happiness number (10 being happiest) becomes the focal point of discussions & the factors that lead to this number. Does such a number actually exist? And if so, how does it shift (for better or for worse) & what matters? 

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power, Brene Brown, PH.D., LMSW

I think another title for this book could be "How to Become a Better Person." Brown is a researcher on shame & how it shapes our lives & behaviors. It's such an important emotion to understand - not only for ourselves but others (especially others) as well. 

To (significantly) sum it up: Nothing good comes from shame & empathy negates shame.  

The Magnolia Story, Chip & Joanna Gaines, with Mark Dagostino

Because like a bazillion others, I love to watch Fixer Upper & this super-cute couple too.

This a pretty quick & fun read about two very nice/great people meeting, getting married, working hard, & succeeding (so well!). If you are a fan of the show, this book will make you love Joanna & Chip even more. There's a lot of inspiration, funny stories, & how Magnolia became a leader (& cheerleader) of Waco, Texas.

The Boston Girl, Anita Diamant

Since I just got back from the city with the same name :-) I figured this one would be great to dive into - so far, it is! 

A charming book about the life & times of a Jewish "Boston Girl" born in the early 1900's - it spans her life as well as the changing world (Boston & beyond) unfolding around her. This book is in line with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - so if you loved that book (me too!), you'd really enjoy this one as well.

This was a refreshing read during the current political climate/gender conversations (or in many cases non-conversations...attacks, I suppose) - it tracks women being able to vote, fighting to be educated, & children being freed from labor laws - times have changed for the better, but it also reinforced for me that we have a very long way to go. There is always good in the world, rights, & education to fight for & to continue the fight.

It also reminded me that even though women were "hidden" within society without voting rights or education (to name a few things), we've always had women throughout history who were smart, powerful, & had strong voices within families & communities.

 In the Company of Women, Grace Bonney

I did a post about this book back here & was thrilled to attend a panel discussion & book signing, here in Atlanta, this past Thursday night. It was incredible, to say the least, & I left feeling inspired, encouraged, & that the world is a better place because of this book & the women represented in this book.

I am only about 60 pages in, but I love it & if you need a boost of any kind in your life - grab it & soak up the wisdom, advice, realness, honesty, beauty, & love radiating from these pages.

Final verdict: Loved every single page & story of each woman represented. I also plan on gifting some copies to the inspirational women in my life. My only advice: Don't read this at night in bed. Why? Because it will make you want to jump up & start working, creating, doing something. The last thing you'll want to do is sleep. Enjoy this one!

 The Hypnotist's Love Story, Liane Moriarty

I am on a journey to read all of Moriarty's books because I have loved the three I've read so far, this one included! This book is (of course!), complicated relationships (aren't most?), grief & loss (how we deal & don't deal), definitions of family, & how often we are all so alike - & admitting that sometimes is so difficult.

You'll also learn more about hypnotism (with which I've always been fascinated) - so there's that too. :-)

 Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull  & Amy Wallace

I read this while I was on vacation & had no preconceived notions. It's a real insider's look into Pixar (Catmull is one of Pixar's creators) & how to be a smarter/better/more people-centric manager. You don't have to be a manager to enjoy & learn so much from this book - many of his insights apply to many facets of life. If you are a manager, it will inspire you to pay better attention to your workplace culture, listen, & look for ways in which you (or your company) may be stalled/blocking creativity & how to fix such issues.

You'll also get more insight into the personality of Steve Jobs, how Pixar became the success it has become, & a little bit of a lesson on how their "shows" are made - it was a fascinating read to me!

 The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, Jan-Philipp Sendker

This one took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I was hooked. How well do we know our family? How long would it take you to search out your father if he went missing? How much of the past works its way into our present?

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class of the Art of Organizing and Tidying up, Marie Kondo

First of all, if you haven't read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizingstart there - this a companion follow-up & will further inspire you to get your things/life in order.

This book has great illustrations on how to properly fold clothes (explained at length in the first book) & demonstrates some great tidying ideas. If you like the KonMari method, you will enjoy this book too.

Now get tidying! :-)

Pretty Baby: A Novel, Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica does such a great job writing from different characters' points of view. This book is a roller coaster of "what the hell is going on?" - & you'll keep turning pages to see what the hell is going on!  Your feelings too will change throughout the book - just when you think you've got a character down, you'll be questioning everything.

In the cold & rainy Chicago spring weather, a hungry, dirty, young girl with a baby appears on the train each day. Why & would you help them to find out why? Does the "why" matter or is it more about you & your "why"?

See below for my review of Kubica's The Good Girl - also highly recommended.

 Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari

First off, this book is Funny (capital "F" on purpose)! It has to be, it = Aziz Ansari!  You will laugh out loud - so if you pick this as an audiobook, keep that in mind if you're at the office...

If I were single & navigating the dating world, this book would probably become Bible-like to me. I am happily married, but the content was fascinating to me.  Ansari & Eric Klinenberg (a sociologist) dive into the world of dating, online dating & how smartphones have become a game changer in the search for a soulmate (& the perfect dinner). He shares actual texts from couples (& in some cases, "couples" who never get to become couples), sexting (pros? cons?), social media, & the other seemingly infinite ways to find "the one."  

Is all this information helping or hurting?

He also travels & looks at different cultures: How is Japanese dating different from Argentine dating & why?  Do the US & France share similar views when it comes to modern romance?

Grab this one if you need a laugh & a smart, kind, thoughtful overview of the search for partners & happiness. As he shares, "we are all in this together." 

Also, bravo to Ansari for referencing Duran Duran's The Chauffeur (#80sLove #DuranieForever!).

Three Wishes: A Novel, Liane Moriarty

Also, highly recommended is Moriarty's Big Little Lies (so freakin' good!!!!).

This is a fun-wild-ride read!  It has to be; it takes place in Australia & spins the lives of sisters who are triplets. Moriarty does such a great job of weaving stories through stories & different points of view.  I have two more of her books on my Kindle & will be adding them to this list soon.

Families are funny, messy, loving, sometimes horrible, complicated, & different - & these three sisters are beautiful examples of all of the above. 

Wildflower, Drew Barrymore

I've always been a fan of Drew Barrymore.  She is a couple of years younger than me &...E.T.! If you are a child of the 70's...E.T.!  And, her life has always been fascinating to me - how can it not when she legally emancipated from her mother at the age of 14?!?

Also, if you've never seen the film My Date Drew (do! it's the cutest thing ever!) it will seal the deal she's a sweet soul of a person. She freely admits she's no angel but has worked hard for her happiness. It's a fun, quick read & it will inspire you to also work toward your own version of happiness...& give you a little insight into the world of Hollywood.

The Girls: A Novel, Emma Cline

Ah, this one is not for the faint of heart.  

It's so well done; the plot & mood of this book are as dark & feral as its characters, "The Girls." This book is about power  - do young women ever really have it? To me, it's also about loneliness, figuring out who we are, & how we find a family to cure that loneliness - our place in the world. But, in loneliness, the definition of "family" can get lost & distorted. The family we find is often not the one we should bind ourselves to & sometimes rejection & abandonment can be the best things ever.
It's not always ideal being a girl.

Miller's Valley: A Novel, Anna Quindlen

This is a great one (anything by Anna Quindlen is); it's about a family & it reminded me a little of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (one of my absolute favorites).

Mary Margaret (Mimi) is incredibly smart, hard-working, & her life is full of possibilities.  But can she fulfill those opportunities when her family's farm is under the constant threat of flooding & literally being drowned out by the government?  It's a reminder of how little control we often have over our lives, circumstances, & the actions of those we love the most. It also celebrates the human spirit through so many of its characters - we all have the choice to sink or swim.

Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier
For some reason, I've never read this one.  I've seen the film, but here we go... 

Loved this!  So happy I added it to my list (& so glad it was such a deal on Amazon - got it on sale!); my e-book version has an Afterword written by Sally Beauman in 2002 & it's worth reading too. Daphne du Maurier led a fascinating life & the female characters in Rebecca reflect the many facets of her personality. The book took me a little while to adapt to its style (it was published in 1938), but it quickly pulled me into its rather creepy, dark, & complex world.  

It's an absolute classic & if you've never read it - it's worth the time.  It's also worth a reread if it's been awhile; it layers in so many timeless issues: marriage & children, independence, feminism, identity, love, social conventions/norms/customs, sexuality, & gender roles.  

Also, Hitchcock was a huge fan.  He made Rebecca into a film (although he strays a bit from the plot it's worth watching) & also made The Birds into a movie.  I had no idea she wrote The Birds too!

The Bronte Plot, A Novel, Katherine Reay

This is a cute & fun read that will make you want to rediscover British literature - Woolf, Austen, Potter, of course, the Bronte sisters & more.  And, if you've never taken a journey through these authors  - do so!  Your life will be the better for it - promise. It will also make you want to visit London (& its surrounding areas) & take the many pilgrimages of these authors' lives.  

This book does take you on a trip to London, but it also takes you on the journey of a young woman trying to improve her life by reconciling the past & moving beyond who she thinks she's destined to be.  There is a handsome suitor too in the wings (there would have to be with a title like "The Bronte Plot"!).

Do our genes/family histories always predetermine our path & if so, how do we break ties & chains that really need to be cut

Who do you want to be like when you "grow up"?

Another Summer: A Beach House Novel, Georgia Bockoven

I read Georgia Bockoven's The Beach House (it's a series of stories that take place at the same beach house rental over many summers) a few years ago & it was the perfect vacation read.  This is also an excellent read to pack up & take to the beach (or pool or deck or air-conditioned sofa).  It revolves around the lives & love stories (oh, lots of love going in California!) of the latest summer renters.  A pretty quick read, fun, & fitting for days when the temp reaches close to 100.

Where We Belong, A Novel, Emily Griffin

Definitely entertaining, but I think her books often get wrapped up a bit too neatly - life is portrayed a bit too shiny/glossy - a great summer read, though.

What happens when the child you gave away 18 years ago comes & finds you?

Furiously Happy, A Funny Book About Horrible Things, Jenny Lawson

This book is a whirlwindI finished it last night & am still processing it all the next day & will probably continue to do so.  It unexpectedly hit very close to home in a perfect way.  I read her first book Let's Pretend This Never Happened years ago & loved it - it's crazy, super-funny - read it, people.  Trust me on this one.  But this one is a lot more personal.  It's also funny (so damn funny!) but also sad, real, complicated & honest.  Best of all, it's full of hope & celebrates the parts of life most of us want to hide.  It's a beautiful reminder that regardless of what you are thinking/feeling/living, no matter how strange or bizarre all of that might be, you are not alone. Be #furiouslyhappy!

Intrusion, A Novel, Mary McCluskey

This was a pretty good thriller (& one of my monthly Kindle First picks) - a little predictable, but a great read for Summer. Two school friends from the UK reunite in CaliforniaTheir past & present begin to intertwine again, but maybe it shouldn't?

Life's A Beach, Clair Cook

This was a cute read - I now want to try & make some beach glass or at least get to a beach (soon!) & find some.  This is about finding your way in life at 41 & having no idea what that way means.

Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freedom, & the Challenges of Bad Hair, C.C. Payne

This book is beyond adorable.  My 44-year-old-self enjoyed it & I would have loved it as a kid.  

Ten-year-old Lula Bell dishes out lots of practical advice while trying to better navigate her 5th-grade class.   You'll fall in love with her polite-cute-smart-self & her family as well.

A House for Happy Mothers, A Novel, Amulya Malladi

What would it feel like to be a surrogate living in poverty in India for an Indian-American couple residing in California?  How are both families affected?  What sacrifices are we willing to make for our families & are they always the best decisions?

This book addresses these questions & more, but it's not a dull read - it gives you perspectives from both sides - from a woman who can carry a pregnancy full term to one who cannot. Despite their very different circumstances, both women are incredibly rich & extremely poor at the same time (aren't we all to an extent?).

 How to Eat a Cupcake, A Novel, Meg Donahue - & so the Summer Reading begins! :-)

Will this book change your outlook on life & the world?  No, but it's a quick, fun read - perfect for the beach, your backyard, or hiding indoors from the heat.  It's about friendship, family, & yes, cupcakes.

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train: A Novel, William Kuhn

What would happen if the Queen of England "escaped" her daily life & responsibilities & took a little day trip by herself? Would you recognize her among everyday people & treat her any differently?  Would she be able to fend for herself?

This is a fun, smart read.  No spoilers but, you'll get to ponder: cheddar (yes, that famous cheese), aging, loss, Princess Di, horses, war, homosexuality, Shakespeare, love, depression, racism, & of


It does all of this & more & is not heavy (again, it's fun too). Grab this one & enjoy!

 A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book: 95 Inspiring Ideas for Photographing Your Friends, Your World, and Yourself, Elsie Larson & Emma 

I follow this blog (one of my favorites for inspiration) - this is a fun book with lots of great ideas & will get you motivated to get out your camera (any camera).

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King.

My Husband:  "You never highlight books."  

Me:  "You're right...this is about writing.  How can I not highlight?!? I need it all & now I need to re-write everything I've ever written!"

Loved this one - it's entertaining & so readable - not what you would expect for a book on writing...I wish this had been required reading for me in college.  Bottom line:  to write well, you need to read a lot & write a lot.  There are no shortcuts or magic tricks.  And, everyone has permission to write - it's not reserved for an elite class or just for English majors (but as he points out, being an English major doesn't hurt either).  

A couple of my favorites:

"Writing is not life, but I think sometimes it can be a way back to life."

"What are you going to write about?  And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at long as you tell the truth."

And, I now need to pick up a copy of The Elements of Style - I've never read it & probably really need to...but, it's June & in the 90's here so I will be posting lots of lighter fare over the next couple of months.  The word "beach" may come up a lot in the titles.  I love Summer reading.

  A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood.

I read this via Audible & think I might have been better off if I'd read it in print.  I loved the film (Colin Firth is amazing in it), but the audio was difficult for me & seemed to take forever.  I think it was supposed to be like that - it's a book about love, loss, grief, aging, death, & defining home & family - defining life after loss.  It's worth a read, but it's also a heartbreaker.

Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir, Various

From everything I read, it seems there are two camps.  One who loves Elizabeth Gilbert & Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia; &, of course, another who does not.  Maybe it's too chick-lit/flick?  I don't know. I am in camp EPL!  I loved the book & it had such a positive influence on my life, but I was not crazy about the movie. I so wished they had picked an unknown actress to play Liz. Sorry, Julia Roberts - I didn't buy it.

Anyway, this book is a fun read if you enjoyed EPL.  It's very cool to read stories of how it changed so many lives & if anything, it made me want to read Eat, Pray, Love all over again. Not a bad thing in my opinion!  

Also, if you like stories of transformation, please also check out My Paris Story: Living, Loving, and Leaping Without a Net in the City of Light (full disclosure this is my dear cousin's book along with The Paris Women of Success) - I've wanted to give her & the book a shout out on this page for awhile now (not on my list b/c I read it in 2014, pre-blog) & these books compliment each other so well.

 In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Michael PollanIf you need some inspiration/kick-in-the-butt to make better food choices, this is a great read to pick up.  The book breaks it all down into three parts (as noted right on the cover):

Eat FoodNot too much.  Mostly Plants.  

Simple rules.  But often, as Pollan explains, a tough thing to do within a Western diet. It's a pretty quick read, not preachy, & full of practical advice to make eating (food, real food!) more joyful & healthful.

A few years ago, I read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals also by Pollan - highly recommend too!

Delicacy: A Novel, David Foenkinos.  

Translated from French, it follows a young woman named Natalie.  Her life takes a tragic turn, but the author does a fantastic job of keeping the story light (so clever - many chapters are just one page or one line) and quirky.  

Orphan Train, A Novel, Christina Baker Kline.  

A tear jerker to say the least.  

Based on the actual fact of orphan trains that shipped children around the US during the mid-late 19th century to find homes (read: often to work for said homes).  It shifts from the past to present-day paralleling the lives of two orphans and the search for/real meaning of home.

Out of Sorts, Aurelie Valognes. 

This was a fun read!  And "free" as I downloaded it as one of my Kindle First picks - bonus!  

Grumpy, 80-something-Frenchman, Ferdinand finds his life taking him by surprise more & more every day. If you are a Francophile or need a reminder to love - you will really enjoy this one.

Go Set A Watchman: A Novel, Harper Lee. ( Harper Lee passed away on February 19, 2016, & I thought it very fitting to start reading this that night.  I have a feeling I will be re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird next...).  

This was a hard read (as in emotionally hard to read & the language/words used are often very brutal) as it's a candid look at the south during the beginnings of the NAACP & its (the South's) path getting through the very lasting effects of the Civil War.  That being said, it's incredibly well written (it is Harper Lee!) & thought-provoking"Scout" is all grown-up & in many ways has left her hometown far behind while living in NYC.    Atticus (her father) still plays a huge role in her life - but things have changed - everyone has changed.  How can there not be change?  How well do we actually know each other & the places we call home?

The Good Girl, A Novel, Mary Kubica.  

Devoured this thriller - if you like thrillers, check this one out! A young woman from an affluent family is abducted out of Chicago to a remote cabin in the dead of winter.  No spoilers here!

The Big Tiny:  A-Built-It-Myself Memoir, Dee Williams. 

Dee decides to dive into building a tiny house & takes you right along with her.  It's about friendship, real definitions of family, health, love, & of course, tiny house living.
Landline: A Novel, Rainbow Rowell. 

This story is about family (balancing work, marriage, children), prioritizing what's important, second chances, & ...magic. 

The Simple Living Guide: A Source Book for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living, Janet Luhrs.

This book has lots of great resources for simplifying your life but needs an update (at least the edition I read does).  A lot of the info is timeless (live below your means!) but it references an economy that no longer exists (written pre-recession) & will make you a bit nostalgic as she often advises "check your phone book for listings" :-).

Purity: A Novel, Jonathan Franzen.  

This is an around-the-world journey about family & finding out who you are (good & bad).  It's complicated, interesting, political, intelligent, & grabs you right away.  Cannot recommend enough - many thanks to one of my friends who suggested it.

Wife 22: A Novel, Melanie Gideon.  

This is a fun, smart, & cute read.  It's about marriage & all the day-to-day things that can make it or break it.

On Gold Mountain: The 100-Year Odyssey of a Chinese-American Family, Lisa See.  

The author, Lisa See, documents the journey of her family from China to the US (& back again many times) - it's a story of the population explosion of California, discrimination, hard work, & the many cultural definitions of success.  It's a fascinating read!

The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel, Brady Udall.  

I loved this book!  It's funny, sad, complicated (it provides a family tree in the front of the book, which is needed) & gives an honest & non-judgmental view of the complex inter-workings of a polygamist family. 

Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Book 1, Jeff Kinney.  

Because I'd never read it before & why not?  I am sure a lot of kids can relate to Jeff's way of thinking & middle school escapades. A charming read.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie.  

I read this via Audible (it was a Daily Deal!) & am so happy I did; the author (who is so inspiring!) narrates & it made it feel even more personal & endearing than if I had read it via text.  This story is so honest with lots of laughter & tears.  It's told perfectly through a teenage boy's eyes & demonstrates how a kind, loving human spirit always wins.

Fates and Furies: A Novel, Lauren Groff.  

So amazing!  A story of a marriage told first from the point of view of the husband & then from the wife.  How well do we know each other & our pasts? Which parts of ourselves do we share? A must read!
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo.  

A small but profound book.  Get your house in order & life falls into order.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert.  

Creativity & having a creative life is always available to everyone.

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell.  

I heard an interview with Rainbow Rowell earlier this year & decided to check out her books - I've become a huge fan! This book is sweet, real, smart & fun.

Fangirl: A Novel, Rainbow Rowell.  

I really do want to read all of her books.  This one is so brilliant.  I had no idea "fan-fiction" was a thing!

The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd. 

Heartbreaking & beautiful.

No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories, Miranda July.  

I love her films & this set of short stories is endearing, quirky, sad, & funny.

The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins.

Crazy good thriller; if you love mysteries or loved Gone Girl - grab this one!

The Farm, Tom Rob Smith.  

I loved this more than I thought I would, a great mystery-esque read - devoured it!

Unexpectedly Milo, Matthew Dicks.  

Quirky & endearing; an underdog (Milo) begins to figure out his world. Hurrah for the quirky ones of this world!

Sugar: A Novel, Deidre Riordan Hall.  

Sad & I sometimes thought a bit unrealistic but overall a good read.  

The Next Best Thing: A Novel, Jennifer Weiner.  

I read this over the summer, and Jennifer Weiner is always a great summer read.

Middlesex, A Novel, Jeffrey Eugenides.  

Amazing! Beautiful, complicated, heartbreaking, & it soars through life & family history.

It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways, Dallas Hartwig & Melissa Hartwig.  

I am a huge Whole30 fan (even though I don't follow it every day or more often as I should) - cut sugar, grains, dairy, legumes = health.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel. 

Beautiful, sad, creative; be thankful for this world, time, & place even with all its flaws.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain. 

Started this book in 2014 & put it down for some reason - finally finished!  How introverts & extroverts work together & their respective strengths - why "introvert" is not a bad word.

Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom, Melissa Hartwig & Dallas Hartwig.  

Outlines the program along with recipes.

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