11 Books to Read

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
No matter how many books I read about the Holocaust, the horror never grows any dimmer. A writer that can take on this giant of a subject matter and write about it well is worth reading. I don’t think we can ever have too many reminders about this most awful portion of history, as tough as it is to read. Kristin Hannah paints a beautiful story of heroism and I found myself in tears at times, and had to force myself to stop reading it at night because it was so tough. Having a child makes the horror of Nazis ripping babies out of mothers arms never to see them again far worse than it ever has before. We all have a responsibility to read this stuff and ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

The Widow by Fiona Barton
I chose this one for the first book club I hosted in my new neighborhood. I missed my old club so much I had to start one myself. So far so good! It was reminiscent of Gone Girl, though a great deal more sad because it deals with a missing toddler. The entire book keeps you guessing who did it, what really happened and includes lots of little details that make you question your own assumptions. Great read to keep you on your toes and turning until the last page.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
I had seen this one the shelves of Barnes and Noble for months. Finally heard someone raving about it so decided to go ahead and try it out. I wasn’t disappointed. I love a story that takes place in two different time periods — when characters are very young and very old. This book does that beautifully, carrying us through the decades — the story of a young man, a remote Italian village and a mysterious woman he came to love.

Her: A Memoir by Christa Parravani
It seems like there could be nothing more personally, physically heartbreaking (outside of losing a child) than to lose your own identical twin sister. Christa is the identical twin of Cara who loses her life to a drug overdose. It’s a fascinating look into the — what seems — odd relationship that twins have. So intimate, so close in a way that non-twins could never understand. The writing here is haunting but an indulgence to read, not something you speed through, but something to appreciate. Of course it’s terribly sad but as with such situations, you walk away carrying the many lessons and life revelations the author found in her journey through this messiness. As a fan of memoirs, I liked this one.

The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
Not sure how I ended up reading two twin books in a row but I did. This one is fiction, though, and ultra creepy. It’s no comforting read — but certainly keeps you on your toes, similar to the Widow. The twins in this book are identical blondes and one day, one of them falls out of a third story window to her death. It gets really interesting when their mother realizes she isn’t sure if she identified the right twin or not. You are soon propelled into the whirlwind of confusion — which twin REALLY died? It goes far further than that, as questions about her death in general arise…leading you to a very creepy ending.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
I had heard about about this one but not much so I bought it on a whim. It kind of reminded me a bit of the depressing writing of Jonathan Franzen (I refuse to read any more of his books because I find them SO depressing!) You read the book of this couple’s life from high school through the decades after and are just left feeling sad for them. Dreams unfulfilled, contendness never truly found. It’s good, I guess, in that it’s reflective of so many American lives. But sad because that’s true as well. Writing that makes you feel emotion, rather than critique the writing, is awesome but you won’t walk away feeling happy.

Come Away with Me by Karma Brown
Okay so I must be obsessed with sad books because this is another really sad one. Here’s the problem — Amazon recommends similar titles and then I buy them. Sucker! Anyway, this one is a story of sadness but also healing and much more uplifting than the previous. After a miscarriage, a woman goes on a journey to overcome that tragedy — and another — and it turns out MUCH different than you expect, or even realize, as you are reading. But it’s a page turner and you’ll be intrigued when you figure it out.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
I FINALLY read some Brene Brown! At first, I thought it was a little cliche but the more I got into it, I recognized how it was distinguished from other “feel good” books. Yes, there’s a lot of personal exploration and thinking deeply about why we feel certain ways. Brown deals particularly with shame, something I’ve never quite understood. It was interesting to look at the difference between shame and embarrassment — and yes, they are quite different. I recognized some issues of shame in my own life and it was actually a relief to put a name to it. I’m still trying to understand where the shame really came from but this provided a great starting point for me. I’m definitely reading another book of her soon, I’ve heard good things about “The Gifts of Imperfection.”

The Art of the Memoir by Mary Karr
Most of you probably don’t know I’ve been working on writing a biography/memoir of my husband’s life for several years. It’s a slow, S-L-O-W process because I keep starting and stopping. I’ll spend a week working hard then give up for months at a time. I decided to start reading about how to write a good memoir and who better than the expert Mary Karr? I’ve read all three of her memoirs, loved them all. This was extremely helpful and I found myself nodding in agreement, thinking of places I could really improve the book thus far. I won’t lie — it seems like a MOUNTAIN of work to go. I’m not sure how or when I will finish it but 100 single-spaced pages in, I will keep working it. This book great for anyone who wants to write a book, memoir or not.

Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields
I was intrigued by this one because it was about Brooke Shields infertility problems and her severe post-partum depression — yet another memoir. I read this after having Jacob and did not personally experience PPD but am truly sympathetic to those who do. I wanted to learn more about it and I think it’s great Shields has been so open. It was fascinating to read about and I felt so sad for her experience. However, it’s a great story of hope to see her come out of it on the other side and have another baby afterwards. I had recently read Brooke Shields other memoir, about her mother, and have enjoyed getting to know more about her life. She seems like a pretty cool person, rather normal for a celebrity.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
I went on a streak of reading books by comedians — this one, two Mindy Kalings, Tina Fey and another. I enjoyed reading this pretty in depth account of Amy’s rise to stardom. She makes it pretty clear that it was a lot of hard work and years of toughing it out to become the SNL start that she became. It’s the story of so many celebrities, who put in the years it took to get to where they are. She goes in detail about what it felt like to get divorced from the father of her two sons and gives us a behind the scenes look at some of the biggest comedians we know a love. A good, quick read with some cool insight.

Need more book ideas? Here are some of my previous lists.

FREE: Simple Faith Practices for Busy MomsYes, please!