Book List


Six years ago, one of my Tai Chi students asked me to create a book list for her. She wanted a list of good books, fiction and non-fiction, so she could explore authors she wasn't familiar with. She specifically asked that the choices be more family oriented, rather than dark or profane. I've passed the list out to several others, so I thought I'd post it here, too. - I haven't updated this list because it's a good one; I hope you think so, too.

Book List

109 East Palace Jennet Conant
700 Sundays Billy Crystal
A Three Dog Life Abigail Thomas
A Useful Dog Donald McCaig
Alex & Me Irene Pepperberg
Augusta Locke William Haywood Henderson
Bastard Out of Carolina Dorothy Allison
Behind the Scenes at the Museum Kate Atkinson
Belong to Me Marisa de la Santos
Big Sid's Vincati Matthew Biberman
Blind Your Ponies Stanley Gordon West
Chronicler of the Winds Henning Mankell
Coal Run Tawni O'Dell
Dating Dead Men Harley Jane Kozak
Devil in the White City Erik Larson
Down Town Ferrol Sams
Dreams from my Father Barack Obama
Evidence of Things Unseen Marianne Wiggins
Forever Pete Hamill
Friday Night Lights H. G. Bissinger
Good Grief Lolly Winston
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Jamie Ford
In the Shadows of the Sun Alexander Parsons
Irreplaceable Stephen Lovely
Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
Little Bee Chris Cleave
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits Ayelet Waldman
Love Walked In Marisa de los Santos
Marley and Me John Grogan
My Antoinia Willa Cather
One Thousand White Women Jim Fergus
Outcast United Warren St. John
Peace Like a River Leif Enger
Same Sweet Girls Cassandra King
Sky Bridge Laura Pritchett
Sky Burial Xinran
Some Horses Thomas McGuane
Some of Tim's Stories S.E. Hinton
Stargirl Jerry Spinelli
The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein
The Color of Water James McBride
The Flying Troutmans Miriam Toews
The God of Animals Aryn Kyle
The Good Good Pig Sy Montgomery
The Guernsey Literary and Mary Ann Shaffer
Potato Peel Pie Society and Annie Barrows
The Longest Trip Home John Grogan
The Memory of Running Ron McLarty
The Mighty Queens of Freeville Amy Dickinson
The Opposite of Love Julie Buxbaum
The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd
The Tender Bar J.R. Moehringer
The Undomestic Goddess Sophie Kensella
The Well and the Mine Gin Phillips
The Whistling Season Ivan Doig
Three Cups of Tea Greg Mortenson
The Life and Time of the Bill Bryson
Thunderbolt Kid, A Memoir
Turtle Warrior Mary Relindes Ellis
Undiscovered Country Lin Enger
Water for Elephants Sara Gruen
We Bought a Zoo Benjamin Mee

What are you reading?

March 2014 Reads

18 The Flight of Gemma Hardy Margot Livesey
19 Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng
20 The Rise and Fall of Great Powers Tom Rachman
21 Where Nobody Knows Your Name John Feinstein
22 I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You Courtney Maum
23 The Last Summer of the Camperdowns Elizabeth Kelly
24 To Rise Again At A Decent Hour Joshua Ferris

I read Tom Rachman's debut novel The Imperfectionist, in 2010, and loved it.  He did not disappoint with his next novel, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers.  Truthfully, the format of this story, jumping back and forth thru time, 2011, 1999, 2011, 1988, 1999, 2011, 1988, and it just keeps going, isn't my favorite way to read a novel; I'm glad I stuck with it, when I read the last page I told Bob, this was such a wonderful story.  The main character, Tooly, the American owner of a small Welsh bookstore believes she'll never understand the true story of her life.  She lived most of her formative years traveling the world in the company of non-relatives!  Hurry, read this book, it's really great.

I don't think there's a better sport writer than John Feinstein.  I'd read his books even if I didn't like sports.  His latest, Where Nobody Knows Your Name, is outstanding.  I'm a huge baseball fan and I even go to our local single A baseball games.  This book is about the players, coaches and umpires who toil in Triple A baseball, trying to get to Major League Baseball.  Prior to reading this, I'd never really thought about the huge impact of going up, then going down, sometimes many times, has on players, coaches and umpires.   Where Nobody Knows Your Name gives readers an intimate look at a baseball world not normally seen by the fans. John Feinstein gets to the heart of the human stories in a uniquely compelling way, crafting a masterful book that stands alongside his very best works.
What are you reading?

February 2014 Reads

8 Fangirl Rainbow Rowell
9 Never Come Back David Bell
10 Lies You Wanted to Hear James Whitfield Thomson
11 Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy Karen Foxlee
12 Fourth Day Zoe Sharp
13 Fifth Victim Zoe Sharp
14 The Counterfeit Agent Alex Berenson
15 Ruby Cynthia Bond
16 The Scar Boys Len Vlahos
17 Try the Morgue Eva Maria Staal

Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson is an excellent debut novel.  One of my favorite authors reviewed it and I'm going to quote his review, because I can't say it better.  "The searing tale of a wife and mother, a husband and father, both of whom are - like the rest of us - flawed, their animosity for one another only outweighed by their deep and abiding love for their children. No spouse or parent who picks up this book will be able to put it down. Nor will anyone else." - Andre Dubus III, NYT bestselling author of Townie and House of Sand and Fog.  Read the book!

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee is a grade school book for 8-12 year olds.  It will be read and loved by youngsters who've grown up on fairy tales, and appreciate gorgeous writing and complex storytelling. In this story of friendship and bravery, Ophelia shines as one of the first true heroines of  fabulous middle-grade novels."

This month I read the 4th and 5th installments of the great Charlie Fox books by Zoë Sharp.  This is a great series I recommend starting with the first book, First Drop.

The Counterfeit Agent is Berenson's ninth John Wells story.  I've read all of them.  John Wells is who you want to know when everything around you goes upside down.  He's my favorite hero.  Berenson apparently does a lot of meticulous research regarding both locations and spycraft; all this, plus his great story adds up to a well-crafted spy novel.

Scar Boys by Len Vlahos, is a debut novel for high schoolers. It's a coming-of-age, rock-and-roll novel mashup written in the form of a college admissions essay (one that blows past the 250-word limit).  Set in the early 1980s, the narrative flows easily and rings true.  Scar Boys is not just for high schoolers!

Try the Morgue by Eva Maria Staal, is an unusual debut.  Again, I'm going to quote someone else, "Staal, a former arms dealer, fictionalizes the dilemma of a young woman caught between the thrill of international gunrunning and the security of family and home.  Try the Morgue deftly marries an edgy thriller to a sensitive literary story.” ~ Bruce Jacobs - Shelf Awareness
What are you reading?

January 2014 Reads

1 The Raven's Gift Don Rearden
2 Saturday Night Widows Becky Aikman
3 The Redeemer Jo Nesbo
4 A Well-Tempered Heart Jan-Phillipp Sendker
5 Deep Winter Samuel W. Gailey
6 The Judge Steve Martini
7 Counting by 7s Holly Goldberg Sloan

The Raven's Gift by Don Rearden was a very good read.  It really had everything, a great plot, a deadly epidemic, the windswept Alaskan tundra, relationships, danger, adventure and mysticism.  Something for everyone; this debut novel is well worth the read.

I almost didn't read Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman.  It's a memoir and I was thinking, wrongly it turned out, that I didn't want to indulge in anything maudlin.  Aikman was widowed young and when she turned to a support group she was actually picked on for being desirable!  She went on to form her own support group of young widows.  This memoir is engaging and entertaining but not maudlin, Aikman shows a side of life that many readers probably don't think about. A compassionate narrative about how one group of friends helped each other thrive after the deaths of their spouses.  I learned a lot and highly recommend Saturday Night Widows.

Deep Winter by Samuel W. Gailey is a debut novel, and if you know me you know I love reading an author's first book.  Gailey did not disappoint with his beautifully written mystery.

A friend gave me an old copy of The Judge by Steve Martini.  I haven't read Martini previously, but I knew he was popular from how many of his books I'd shelved when I worked at Barnes and Noble.  The Judge is courtroom drama, at it's best.  If you love John Grisham's writing, you'll also really enjoy Martini.

Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a YA or middle school read.  Unlike many books in this category it doesn't deal with wizards or other fantasy.  When I finished, I immediately messaged one of my librarian friends to be sure she'd ordered it, and she had.   Willow is a quirky young genius who is suddenly orphaned.  County by 7's deals with her gaining a new family and what family really means.  I loved this book.

What are you reading?

December 2013 Reads


97 Monument Road Charlie Quimby
98 Dead Eye Mark Greaney
99 After I'm Gone Laura Lippman
100 Rules for Becoming a Legend Timothy S. Lane
101 On Target Mark Greaney
102 Ballistic Mark Greaney
103 Third Strike Zoë Sharp

December was a slow reading month for me.  I'm actually reading less, since I stopped working at Barnes and Noble, go figure, but I'm sewing more quilts.  Sewing is one activity that I can't double dip with a book!

This year I tuned into The Gray Man in a series by Mark Greaney.  This month I read three of his books, and they're all very good.  Court Gentry is the main character, he's an ex-CIA assassin, and being hunted by his former employers.  He's been called the Bourne for the new century, and I concur.  All the installments in this series are heart-stopping good.  I've read them in order but it's probably not necessary.

Another good series is the Charley Fox books by Zoë Sharp.  Fox is ex British military, she left the service under a cloud, after she was brutally attacked by four of her fellow soldiers.  She was blamed, rather than the perpetrators.  I'm three books into this series and lovin' it.

Most likely Monument Road by Charlie Quimby is my favorite book on this list.  Even though I'm a West Coast gal, I'm a Westerner, too.  This debut novel is part modern western and part mystery.  The characters are true and the writing is heart-breaking.  Can you tell, I loved it.  Quimby has been compared to Kent Haruf, one of my favorite authors, and I agree.

Laura Lippman, is a best-selling author, but this is the first time I've read her.  After I'm Gone was a great read, and a great mystery.  The plot had a lot of twist and turns and kept me interested for the entire 350+ pages.  I'll read Lippman again.

The first book I finished this month was Monument Road by Charley Quimby.  Right after I finished it a fellow ex-bookseller contacted me for a book rec, she wanted good solid fiction, no mystery and no sci-fi.  This book was on the short list I gave her and I told her it was my favorite on the list.  Monument Road is a fantastic debut novel, it's full of rich characters and exquisite language.  I loved the entire book and held it to my chest and hugged it when it ended.  It was perfect.

What are you reading?

November 2013 Reads

Just lounging

87 Visitation Street Ivy Pochoda
88 The Free Willy Vlantin
89 The Alligator Man James Sheehan
90 The Widow Waltz Sally Koslow
91 Lost Lake Sarah Addison Allen
92 Countdown City Ben H. Winters
93 Sea of Hooks Lindsay Hill
94 The Boy Detective Roger Rosenblatt
95 The Dark Road to Mercy Wiley Cash
96 The Weight of Blood Laura McHugh

November was a very good month for reading.  Visitation Street is not a typical thriller or who-done-it; it's an urban opera, with grit, magic, poetry and pain.  An all together satisfying read.

The Widow Waltz is not my normal cup of tea.  I'm glad I cracked this novel open and followed the mystery of the Waltz family and their disappearing fortune.  Kaslow has written an absorbing look at trust and illusion in a marriage.

Lost Lake is a great read.  It right up there with Allen's first book, Garden Spells.  Its a beautifully written haunting story full of secret longings and everyday magic.

Countdown City is the second installation of The Last Policeman series by Winters.  America and the rest of the world's off kilter, morally and ethically, because an asteroid is set to strike and change our world as we know it.  This installment takes place 3 months before the strike is to happen.  I highly recommend this series and can't wait for the third installment.

The Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash is outstanding.  His first novel A Land More Kind Than Home, left me a true fan, I'm pretty sure I will read every book he every writes.  The Dark Road to Mercy did not disappoint.  Two young girls are suddenly orphaned in rural North Carolina, and this is their story.  Read it you'll love it.

The Weight of Blood is a fantastic debut novel.  McHugh is now on my list of must read authors.  I'm going to quote a better writer that I, regarding this novel.  “Laura McHugh’s vivid and enthralling The Weight of Blood centers on a mother and daughter in a seemingly benign yet deeply horrifying small town. It kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page to the last.”—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers

What are you reading?

October 2013 Reads

Because she'll do such irrational things as name her children after her favorite characters and quote book lines all over the place in any situation.

81 Close My Eyes Sophie McKenzie
82 Under The Wide and Starry Sky Nancy Horan
83 How To Love Katie Cotugno
84 Foreign Gods Inc. Okey Ndibe
85 Jewelweed David Rhodes
86 Ghostman Roger Hobbs

I don't know where the time went in October, certainly not much went to reading.

I hadn't read Nancy Horan, previously, fictionalized biographies are not my thing.  I decided to give Under the Wide and Starry Sky a try, and I loved it.  It's well written and very worth reading.  The story is very complex about two strong willed and very different people who fall in love.  It'll be published in January, 2014, put it on your to read list.

How To Love by debut author Katie Cotugno, was a wonderful read.  It's geared for YA, but an intelligent YA.  If you love John Green, you'll love this book, too.

Sometimes a book comes into the house, and I hug it,and say, "This is gonna be a great book."  That's what I did with Jewelweed, and I was right!  I loved Rhodes previous book Driftless, and I couldn't wait to dive into Jewelweed.  I wasn't disappointed. It's about challenge, change and redemption involving a great cast of characters.  The story takes place in the same area as Driftless, the south western part of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, one of my favorite parts of our country.

Ghostman by Roger Hobbs was a fun read.  Sometimes you have to have some fun, and this cops and robbers tale was great.  It's not really cops and robbers as much as robbers and a fixer, trying to make things right.

What are you reading?
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