My Favorite Reads from 2019
Wondering what to read next? Here are my 25 favorite books I’ve read in the last two years (along with a few honorable mentions).
In 2018 I set a goal to read 100 books and failed. I got to 75 by December and couldn’t squeeze the last 25 in 😉
This year I tried again and, with a few weeks left, I’ve finished my 95th book. I’ve tried reading a good mix of fiction, memoir, self help, and parenting books and these are my very favorites!
Every single one of these I have listened to in audiobook form while doing dishes, running on the treadmill, or sneaking in a kid-free grocery shopping trip. I love the way books have filled the silence over the years and made mundane tasks something to (almost) look forward to.
I’ve included links, my thoughts, and then a truncated audible description of each book to help you pick your next read.
If you just want the list of books with no description, you can check out the amazon list here.
Favorite Audiobooks of 2019
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
This is such a fun, eye-opening and engaging listen!
Comedian Trevor Noah tells his wild coming-of-age tale during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa. It’s a story that begins with his mother throwing him from a moving van to save him from a potentially fatal dispute with gangsters, then follows the budding comedian’s path to self-discovery through episodes both poignant and comical. This book is only available on audible in audiobook form and with Trevor Noah narrating his own stories, the production is fantastic. There’s a bit of language in this one and a lot of great stories.
The Great Alone by Kirstin Hannah
For the first 70% of this book I was horrified and wondered why anyone would recommend it. The graphic descriptions of abuse are horrifying but the powerful closure at the end had me in tears for pages and pages.
The story follows thirteen-year-old Leni to Alaska as she moves with her mother and former POW father. Caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, Leni is desperate to belong somewhere. As winter approaches in Alaska, the family is thrown into a dark, perilous reality, caught between the dangers outside and the fracturing family within. In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska – a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night audiobook about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Described as, “An epic spanning thousands of years that’s also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner.” This book brilliantly weaves together so much of Greek mythology through the eyes of one minor character I’ll bet you haven’t heard of before.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and pause-resisting suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, and love and loss as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.
A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country. This was such an interesting insight into social class issues in America.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
I’ve read a few books on habits in the last two years and this is my favorite. No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving – every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.
Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits – whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.
Peak Performance by Brad Stulber
Self help books begin to sound the same after awhile and this one was new and intriguing. My favorite takeaway was that the differentiator between greatness and excellence was the ability to rest well. I’ve been trying to get Ben to read this one since a friend recommended it to me last year.
The first book of its kind, Peak Performance combines the inspiring stories of top performers across a range of capabilities – from athletic, to intellectual, to artistic – with the latest scientific insights into the cognitive and neurochemical factors that drive performance in all domains. In doing so, Peak Performance uncovers new linkages that hold promise as performance enhancers but have been overlooked in our traditionally-siloed ways of thinking. The result is a life-changing book in which listeners will learn how to enhance their performance via myriad ways including: optimally alternating between periods of intense work and rest; developing and harnessing the power of a self-transcending purpose; and priming the body and mind for enhanced productivity.
In revealing the science of great performance and the stories of great performers across a wide range of capabilities, Peak Performance uncovers the secrets of success, and coaches listeners on how to use them. If you want to take your game to the next level, whatever “your game” may be, Peak Performance will teach you how.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
This powerful memoire left me feeling so grateful for my circumstances and recommitting to finding the good in everything.
At one time, Corrie ten Boom would have laughed at the idea that she had a story to tell. For the first 50 years of her life, nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to her. She was a spinster watchmaker living contentedly with her sister and their elderly father in the tiny house over their shop in Haarlem. Their uneventful days, as regulated as their own watches, revolved around their abiding love for one another.
But with the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, everything changed. Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch underground, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room and aiding their escape from the Nazis. For their pains, all but Corrie found death in a concentration camp.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
This book makes history fascinating (and is the kind of thing you wish you read back in high school). This one would be ideal to read with someone because you’ll want to talk about finds from each chapter.
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution – a number one international best seller – that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human”.
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one – Homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?
Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago, with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.
Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because, over the last few decades, humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Fact is more compelling than fiction and the most horrifying part of this book is that this beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov – an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for “tattooist”), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism – but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful recreation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle
This book made me feel uncomfortable at many points. It also had me committing to love myself and those around me more honestly and deeply. This is one I’ll re-read and highly recommend.
Just when Glennon Doyle Melton was beginning to feel she had it all figured out – three happy children, a doting spouse, and a writing career so successful that her first book catapulted to the top of the New York Times best seller list – her husband revealed his infidelity and she was forced to realize that nothing was as it seemed. A recovering alcoholic and bulimic, Glennon found that rock bottom was a familiar place. In the midst of crisis, she knew to hold on to what she discovered in recovery: that her deepest pain has always held within it an invitation to a richer life.
Love Warrior is the story of one marriage, but it is also the story of the healing that is possible for any of us when we refuse to settle for good enough and begin to face pain and love head-on. This astonishing memoir reveals how our ideals of masculinity and femininity can make it impossible for a man and a woman to truly know one another – and it captures the beauty that unfolds when one couple commits to unlearning everything they’ve been taught so that they can finally, after 13 years of marriage, commit to living true – true to themselves and to each other.
Love Warrior is a gorgeous and inspiring account of how we are born to be warriors: strong, powerful, and brave; able to confront the pain and claim the love that exists for us all. This chronicle of a beautiful, brutal journey speaks to anyone who yearns for deeper, truer relationships and a more abundant, authentic life.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
A nonfiction page turner I could not put down! This was hard to read for me, as a girl born in Tokyo with a love for the Japanese people and their culture. But in case you ever think the horrors of WWII were only in the concentration camps, this powerful true account is a story of survival and salvation.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
In her long-awaited book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
It was Malcolm Gladwell’s favorite book back in 2013 and my only issue with it was I kept thinking it was a true story when, in fact, it is the author’s debut fictional piece.
Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces – behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe – detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.
Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every word, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.
Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
This has been the most powerful book of 2019 for me! I read it simultaneously with “Girl Stop Apologizing” and “Present Over Perfect” spoke to my soul so much more. It seems to be a mix between a self help and a memoire, or maybe just a woman sharing the truths she’s learned over the years and letting us take from it what we will.
In this book, New York Times best-selling author Shauna Niequist invites you to consider the landscape of your own life, and what it might look like to leave behind the pressure to be perfect and begin the life-changing practice of simply being present, in the middle of the mess and the ordinariness of life.
As she puts it: “A few years ago, I found myself exhausted and isolated, my soul and body sick. I was tired of being tired, burned out on busy. And, it seemed almost everyone I talked with was in the same boat: longing for connection, meaning, depth, but settling for busy. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, writer, and I know all too well that settling feeling. But over the course of the last few years, I’ve learned a way to live, marked by grace, love, rest, and play. And it’s changing everything. Present Over Perfect is an invitation to this journey that changed my life. I’ll walk this path with you, a path away from frantic pushing and proving, and toward your essential self, the one you were created to be before you began proving and earning for your worth.”
In Shauna’s warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours, too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection.
Shauna offers an honest account of what led her to begin this journey, and a compelling vision for an entirely new way to live: soaked in grace, rest, silence, simplicity, prayer, and connection with the people that matter most to us.
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
I loved “Present over Perfect” so much I started this one right after I finished. It is a beautifully written book about friendship, connection, and food bringing people together. It has me recommitting to prioritizing family dinner, inviting people into our home, and really learning how to cook.
Bread & Wine is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together Bread & Wine is a celebration of food shared, reminding listeners of the joy found in a life around the table. It’s about the ways God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two.
With wonderful recipes included, from Bacon-Wrapped Dates to Mango Chicken Curry to Blueberry Crisp, listeners will be able to recreate the comforting and satisfying meals that come to life in Bread & Wine. With the audiobook, they don’t read the recipes to you (thank goodness) but you can have them in a PDF.
How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids
I loved this one so much I wrote a full summary of the takeaways here.
How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids is a witty and practical non-fiction account of the struggles of Jancee Dunn and her husband after their first child was born.
Being a couple that had never fought before, Dunn wrote off the friends that cautioned her about the post-baby bickering she should prepare for.
Two years in and she thought they were headed for divorce when she decided to delve into the research, consult therapists, and spend one year learning everything she can to save their marriage.
The book humorously accounts their struggles in the early years of parenting and is packed full of practical advice for parents (along with a bit of vulgarity- you’ve been warned).
I found that, even while Ben and I don’t raise our voices to fling names or insults across the kitchen, Dunn’s points were just as applicable.
You don’t have to hate your husband to love this book. And I probably should revisit all the principles each quarter and see how we’re doing with them.
Part memoir, part self-help book with actionable and achievable advice, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids is an eye-opening look at how the man who got you into this position in this first place is the ally you didn’t know you had.
Read Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie
This is such a good read on the importance of reading aloud to your children. Above why you should read to them, this book gives you great ideas on how to talk to your kids about what you read to teach more than vocabulary.
Connecting deeply with our kids can be difficult in our busy, technology-driven lives. Reading aloud offers us a chance to be fully present with our children. It also increases our kids’ academic success, inspires compassion, and fortifies them with the inner strength they need to face life’s challenges. As Sarah Mackenzie has found with her own six children, reading aloud long after kids are able to read to themselves can deepen relationships in a powerful way.
Founder of the immensely popular Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah knows first-hand how reading can change a child’s life. In The Read-Aloud Family, she offers the inspiration and age-appropriate book lists you need to start a read-aloud movement in your own home. From a toddler’s wonder to a teenager’s resistance, Sarah details practical strategies to make reading aloud a meaningful family ritual. Reading aloud not only has the power to change a family – it has the power to change the world.
The Read-Aloud Family audiobook contains bonus material not found in the print edition. Included at the end of The Read-Aloud Family is bonus audio from author Sarah MacKenzie’s How to Choose Books for Your Kids series.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years – a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung and the unchallenged rise to power of his son, Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.
Taking us into a landscape never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be an average Korean citizen, living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today – an Orwellian world in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, a country that is by choice not connected to the Internet, a society in which outward displays of affection are punished, and a police state that rewards informants and where an offhanded remark can send a citizen to the gulag for life. Demick’s subjects – a middle-aged party loyalist and her rebellious daughter, an idealistic female doctor, an orphan, and two young lovers – all hail from the same provincial city in the farthest-flung northern reaches of the country. One by one, we witness the moments of revelation, when each realizes that they have been betrayed by the Fatherland and that their suffering is not a global condition but is uniquely theirs.
Nothing to Envy is the first book about North Korea to go deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and penetrate the mind-set of the average citizen. It is a groundbreaking and essential addition to the literature of totalitarianism.
Small Animals by Kim Brooks
This one brings up a lot of questions about the price we pay for “safety” with our kids and has me yearning for a simpler time when neighbors don’t report you to CPS and you can let you kid walk to the park by themselves.
One morning, Kim Brooks made a split-second decision to leave her four-year old son in the car while she ran into a store. What happened would consume the next several years of her life and spur her to investigate the broader role America’s culture of fear plays in parenthood. In Small Animals, Brooks asks: Of all the emotions inherent in parenting, is there any more universal or profound than fear? Why have our notions of what it means to be a good parent changed so radically? In what ways do these changes impact the lives of parents, children, and the structure of society at large? And what, in the end, does the rise of fearful parenting tell us about ourselves?
Fueled by urgency and the emotional intensity of Brooks’s own story, Small Animals is a riveting examination of the ways our culture of competitive, anxious, and judgmental parenting has profoundly altered the experiences of parents and children. In her signature style – by turns funny, penetrating, and always illuminating – which has dazzled millions of fans and been called “striking” by the New York Times Book Review and “beautiful” by the National Book Critics Circle, Brooks offers a provocative, compelling portrait of parenthood in America and calls us to examine what we most value in our relationships with our children and one another.
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick
My dad recommended this interesting look into the American Revolution and it had me wishing we read this kind of thing in my American History class.
There were a few parts that felt a little dry but mostly it is a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.
In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons, and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.
Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
This book helps me judge less and is a profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, and the power of forgiveness.
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two NYPD rookies assigned to the same Bronx precinct in 1973. They aren’t close friends on the job, but end up living next door to each other outside the city. What goes on behind closed doors in both houses – the loneliness of Francis’ wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the stunning events to come.
Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’ youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year, a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact.
But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
I love that this story is inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine and her incredible story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades. It follows the very different lives of three women during WWII including one of a german woman working in the concentration camps. If you’ve ever wondered HOW good people let the haulocaust happen, this is a good perspective.
New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939 – and then sets its sights on France.
An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
For an ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems like her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens, and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents – from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland – as they strive and sacrifice to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.
In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quests for love, happiness, and second chances. It is a story that will keep listeners bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final moments.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight:
Such an interesting read about the early years of Nike and what it takes to start a business.
In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.
In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and created a company with a simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost athletic shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his lime-green Plymouth Valiant, Knight grossed $8,000 his first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In an age of start-ups, Nike is the ne plus ultra of all start-ups, and the swoosh has become a revolutionary, globe-spanning icon, one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable symbols in the world today.
But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always remained a mystery. Now, for the first time, in a memoir that is candid, humble, gutsy, and wry, he tells his story, beginning with his crossroads moment. At 24, after backpacking around the world, he decided to take the unconventional path to start his own business – a business that would be dynamic, different.
Knight details the many risks and daunting setbacks that stood between him and his dream – along with his early triumphs. Above all, he recalls the formative relationships with his first partners and employees, a ragtag group of misfits and seekers who became a tight-knit band of brothers. Together, harnessing the transcendent power of a shared mission and a deep belief in the spirit of sport, they built a brand that changed everything.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I’ve read 8 or 9 Liane Moriarty books in the last two years but this one is my favorite. I shared these marriage resolutions I made after reading it.
Alice Love is 29, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital, where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over – she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old.
Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over….
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.
But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable.
Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows.
Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The best thing I’ve ever read by Jodi Picoult! Based on a true event, this novel is a thought-provoking examination of racism in America today, both overt and subtle.
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
Paris by Edward Rutherford: I listened to this before our girls trip to Paris last year and loved the historical fiction account that take you through the whole history of the city of light. If you have a trip to Paris planned or just love that city as much as I do, this is a great listen.
Nightengale by Kristin Hannah: I read this one years ago but really loved it. Highly recommend it for WWII historical fiction (like a lot of the books on this list).
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: I listened to this on triple speed on a flight to a conference where she was keynoting (and I was leading a roundtable!). I really liked her book on leadership as well as “The Gifts of Imperfection”
Waking Up White by Debby Irving: If you’re looking for somewhere to start with white privilege, this is a great one.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: A compelling new look at biblical women’s lives and a thought provoking work on what it means to be female.
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin: I’m a big Gretchen Rubin fan and I really liked this one on self improvement.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: I’m still horrified by this account of the love affair between Ernest Hemmingway and his wife, Hadley.