Wednesday, March 18, 2020

My Top 17 All-Time Favorite Books






I'm always thrown when people asked for my absolute top recommendations. I read so many books that sometimes I can't remember my absolute favorites at the drop of a hat. Anyway, I went through my book shelves and compiled a list of my all time favorite books in hopes that it gives you something to read while you social distance yourself from the outside world! (All books are available via e-book as well!)


Personal Development




The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (available in e-book)

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.
In this lively and compelling account—now updated with new material by the author—Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.


Memoir




Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle (available in e-book)

A memoir of betrayal and self-discovery by bestselling author Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior is a gorgeous and inspiring account of how we are all 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.







Untamed by Glennon Doyle (available in e-book)

There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.

For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.



Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (available in e-book)

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

Angela’s Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.



What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman (available in e-book)

Kristin Newman spent much of her twenties and thirties buying dresses to wear to her friends' weddings and baby showers. Not ready to settle down and in need of an escape from her fast-paced job as a sitcom writer, Kristin instead traveled the world, often alone, for several weeks each year. In addition to falling madly in love with the planet, Kristin fell for many attractive locals, men who could provide the emotional connection she wanted without costing her the freedom she desperately needed. 
Kristin introduces readers to the Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players, sexy Bedouins, and Argentinean priests who helped her transform into "Kristin-Adjacent" on the road–a slower, softer, and, yes, sluttier version of herself at home. Equal parts laugh-out-loud storytelling, candid reflection, and wanderlust-inspiring travel tales, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is a compelling debut that will have readers rushing to renew their passports.



Etched in Sand by Regina Calceterra (available in e-book)

Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, former New York State official, and foster youth activist. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with the challenges of the foster-care system and intermittent homelessness in the shadows of Manhattan and the Hamptons.
 
A true-life rags-to-riches story, Etched in Sand chronicles Regina’s rising above her past, while fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together through it all.
 
Beautifully written, with heartbreaking honesty, Etched in Sand is an unforgettable reminder that regardless of social status, the American Dream is still within reach for those who have the desire and the determination to succeed.



Mystery/Thriller


Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough (available in e-book, also - soon to be a Netflix mini-series!)

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.
When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.
And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.
David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?
As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

The Chamber by John Grisham (available in e-book)

In the corridors of Chicago's top law firm:

Twenty-six-year-old Adam Hall stands on the brink  of a brilliant legal career. Now he is risking it  all for a death-row killer and an impossible case.  

Maximum Security Unit, Mississippi State  Prison:

Sam Cayhall is a former Klansman  and unrepentant racist now facing the death penalty  for a fatal bombing in 1967. He has run out of  chances -- except for one: the young, liberal Chicago  lawyer who just happens to be his grandson. While  the executioners prepare the gas chamber, while  the protesters gather and the TV  cameras wait, Adam has only days, hours, minutes  to save his client. For between the two men is a  chasm of shame, family lies, and secrets --  including the one secret that could save Sam Cayhall's  life...or cost Adam his.



The Never List by Koethi Zan (available in e-book)

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”:  a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs.  But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

Historical Fiction



Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (available in e-book)

Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by pure luck. Would they be adopted by a kind and loving family, or would they face a childhood and adolescence of hard labor and servitude?
As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine, the memories of her upbringing rendered a hazy blur. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.


Young Adult/Middle Grade


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (available in e-book)

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Bloomability by Sharon Creech (available in e-book)

Kidnapped!
The kidnappers are actually her Aunt Sandy and Uncle Max, but that doesn't matter to Domenica Santolina Doone, better known as Dinnie. She feels as if she's being taken out of the country against her will. Certainly no one asked her opinion. Dinnie is used to change-with her family constantly moving from state to state while her father searches for one new "opportunity" after another. But when her aunt and uncle whisk her away to an international school in Lugano, Switzerland, Dinnie feels that this might be one "opportunity"that isn't right for her.
Suddenly Dinnie's surrounded by kids from many different cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. Home, and her first life, seem so far away. Can she adapt to a new country, a new home, and new friends? Or will it just be easier to close herself off-just survive-and never realize all the "bloomabilities" that are possible?






All American Girl by Meg Cabot (available in e-book)

Samantha Madison is just your average sophomore gal living in DC when, in an inadvertent moment sandwiched between cookie-buying and CD-perusing, she puts a stop to an attempt on the life of the president. Before she can say “MTV2” she’s appointed Teen Ambassador to the UN and has caught the eye of the very cute First Son.
Featuring Meg Cabot’s delightful sense of humor and signature romance that made The Princess Diaries such a hit, this New York Times bestselling standalone novel is sure to please fans and new readers alike.







Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (available in e-book)

In her strongest work to date, Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.








I Was Here by Gayle Forman (available in e-book)

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.



Looking for Alaska by John Green (available in e-book, also has a Hulu series)

First drink. First prank. First friend. First love.

Last words.

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words—and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Fran├žois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young, who will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.







Identical by Ellen Hopkins (available in e-book, anything by her is fabulous!)

Kaeleigh and Raeanne are 16-year-old identical twins, the daughters of a district court judge father and politician mother running for US Congress. Everything on the surface seems fine, but underneath run very deep and damaging secrets. What really happened when the girls were 7 years old in that car accident that Daddy caused? And why is Mom never home, always running far away to pursue some new dream? Raeanne goes after painkillers, drugs, alcohol, and sex to dull her pain and anger. Kaeleigh always tries so hard to be the good girl -- her father's perfect little flower. But when the girls were 9, Daddy started to turn to his beloved Kaeleigh in ways a father never should and has been sexually abusing her for years. For Raeanne, she needs to numb the pain of not being Daddy's favorite; for Kaeleigh, she wants to do everything she can to feel something normal, even if it means cutting herself and vomiting after every binge.

How Kaeleigh and Raeanne figure out just what it means to be whole again when their entire world has been torn to shreads is the guts and heart of this powerful, disturbing, and utterly remarkable book.


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