Whether you need last-minute Christmas gifts or some fantastic books to curl up with on rainy (or snowy, depending on where you are – you lucky, lucky person) winter days, here are my latest favorite books. To check out my past recommendations, click here.
Current Favorite Author: Kate Milford.
She has written 8 (or 9, if you count the one you can only get in .pdf format) books for middle grade, but in my opinion, her books should be adult books – mostly because of their complexity. Her novels aren’t all meant to read in a specific order, and happen in different places, times, and with differing levels of supernatural – but they all tie together in stunningly brilliant ways. I’ve read them through four times, have read them in a different order every time, and have been wowed in a different way each time by catching new methods with which she ties her stories together. And they’re fun reads – her characters, her world-building, and her narrative style is exquisite. She does have an intimidating habit of introducing a whole slew of characters at once, and she sometimes just tosses you into a situation with terms that she does not explain – but if you can keep up and give her a chance, she’s one of the best writers out there. Her biggest stroke of brilliance is that her books get even better with every reread. Start with Greenglass House – it’s the perfect cozy winter book. Her most brilliant book is The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book, but you need to at least read the two Greenglass books first, (and while you’re at it, Bluecrowne and The Left-Handed Fate, oh and maybe also The Thief Knot) to fully appreciate its beauty.
Favorite Newly Discovered Author: Georgette Heyer.
She’s SO MUCH FUN! She lived in the 1940’s and wrote about the Regency period (and sometimes earlier.) Her books are witty, engaging, and fun, light, guaranteed-happy reads. My favorites so far are The Grand Sophy, Cotillion, These Old Shades, Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle, and Frederica.
p.s. – Since she’s been around a while (plus or minus 80 years), Georgette Heyer books are fantastic books to find on Thriftbooks – I do almost all of my book shopping there, because it’s a cheap used bookstore with cheap or free shipping, and they have a fantastic rewards program, so I’m getting free book credits continuously just from buying books from them. If you haven’t checked out Thriftbooks (and signed up for their rewards program), I highly recommend it!
Favorite Shared books with Chris:
Chris doesn’t get nearly the amount of reading time that I do, so when he wants a book, I’m ready with a choice of my top five out of the last 100 books I’ve read, so he only has to read the cream of the cream.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – I know I’ve mentioned this book before, but it deserves a second mention in the context of sharing it as a married couple. This is an incredible novel that has deep meaning behind it, and is especially meaningful to read if you’ve been married for ten or more years. It asks the question “what would your ten-years-ago-self think about the person you are now?” It’s a lovely book to connect over and discuss how your life / yourselves have changed. I read it years ago, then Chris and I listened to it together over our anniversary trip in 2020, then we both reread it in 2021 after going through some deaths in our family, both desperately not wanting to be changed for the worse by our circumstances. It helps give perspective and thankfulness, but not in a trite way – it sneaks into your soul as you’re enjoying an incredibly well-written novel.
How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich – This book is another magnificent book for marriages. For me, it was as groundbreaking as when I read The Five Love Languages 20+ years ago. It gives framework, science, and logic to why we have the same communication cycles with our spouse (and others) over and over, and how to break those cycles. It applies attachment science adults and to marriage, and it helped me clearly understand myself, Chris, my kids, my friends. (Yes, I am so diagnosing everybody I know.) It also has a wonderful section on how to feel and deal with your emotions through comfort, which has been helpful for Chris and I, as well as for Ali and Noah.
Other books that Chris has enjoyed:
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – a sweeping read when you’re in the mood for an epic story about an entire lifetime. It’s especially poignant now, with all that is going on between Russia and Ukraine.
Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman – Don’t buy this one for your husband if you don’t want him interrupting you every 30 seconds with his laughter and absolutely NEED to read you a passage. It’s a delightful book that shows off Fredrik Backman’s ability to write nonfiction as well as fiction. (Anxious People, A Man Called Ove, and My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry are his best novels, in my opinion.) To be honest, I even swoon a bit at Backman’s instagram captions. The man can write. Anywhere, anyway, about anything. And this book is a jewel that’s easy to pick up and read a page or two, laugh out loud, then put down for three months before picking it up again and laughing just as hard.
Favorite Kid’s Books – Noah’s Sixth Grade Favorites:
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus and Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling – Noah and I adored these books. Highly recommend for your middle schooler or high schooler who is going through stuff and needs a character that can understand them.
Nevermoor Series by Jessica Townsend – I know I talked about the first of these books when it came out, but we still think it’s the best children’s series in progress out there. It has incredible world-building and characters, and the scenes she paints are fantastic.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper – Noah loved this book so much. It’s a fabulous book to help foster compassion and understanding for other kids (and adults) with special needs.
Favorite Teenage Books – Ali’s Tenth Grade Favorites:
Ali also enjoys Georgette Heyer – she absolutely loved The Grand Sophy.
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith – it’s hard to find sweet, innocent YA lit – especially romances – but this is a book that Ali and I both enjoyed immensely. It’s a sweet story with a fun premise.
Books that Speak to my Enneagram Two Soul:
I’ve wanted to do a blog post about books that speak to the soul of each enneagram type, but I can only do Enneagram Two since I’m only familiar with what speaks to my soul. If you can report in with books that specifically speak to your enneagram number, please do.
I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Aliferenko – what a heartwarming, beautiful story. It’s how the world should work.
My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman – this was a story of unfolding stories that open up a complicated character and make you fall in love with her.
(Apparently Enneagram Twos require long book titles.)
Books I otherwise Highly Enjoyed:
All Creatures Great and Small and all following books by James Herriott – my dad read me James Herriott short stories when I was a kid, but it took the show coming out (PBS Masterpiece – the series is truly a masterpiece if you haven’t watched it) for me to realize that Herriott actually wrote novel-length books that told his story in a biographical order. The show is the most heartwarming, redeeming show on television right now, and the books are even more so. They will make you giggle and cry and gag, and you will be truly sad when you finish all of them. Then you’ll want to start them over.
The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell – but before you reread James Herriott, Gerald Durrell is a wonderful stand-in. (Also a PBS Masterpiece show, by the way.) Gerald tells the story about his childhood on the island of Corfu before the Second World War. He has a kooky, bizarre family that he interweaves with his tales of running wild on the island and becoming a boy naturalist. He will definitely keep you laughing – most of the time at his sibling’s expense.
Haven Point by Virginia Hume – I read this one in preparation to go back to Maine, and it was an enjoyable read. Although I enjoyed the entire book, what really shocked me was the similarities to Millie, Chris’ Grandmother’s story with one of the storylines in the book. Millie and one of the characters in the book were both from a farm in Minnesota, moved to Washington DC on their own, attended nursing school during the war, and visited many of the same places in DC. After finishing the book, I reached out to the author and shared the similarities, and she also enjoyed finding out about Millie’s parallels with her book.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – This book is an odd one, as are all of Neil Gaiman’s books, but what I found beautiful about it was the saving of the stories of those departed. One of the more tragic things I had to come to grips about after my Dad’s death were all of the stories that were lost. He had so many experiences that would now be gone from the world. This book treated the stories of the dead with such reverence and beauty.
Attached to God by Krispin Mayfield – This was a refreshing, encouraging read that is also based on attachment science with regards to our relationship with God. I don’t agree with 100% of the content of the book, but overall I found it helpful and interesting.
Deep and Enjoyable:
Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri – I have tremendously enjoyed getting to know the lyrical and beautiful poetic nature of Persian Literature in the past couple of years, and also have read many refugee stories. This book weaves both into one of the most gorgeous books I have ever read. It is heart-wrenching and heartwarming, crushing and redeeming, and will leave you understanding much more about what it really means to be a refugee. This book also has an extra dimension that can be added to it – the author’s sister, Dina Nayeri, also wrote two books about the same childhood. I am fascinated by how two siblings can come out of the same family with completely differing views on said family and experiences, and this brother/sister pair’s views are quite different. I prefer Dina’s semi-fiction book, Refuge, which borrows from her life but weaves it into a fictional story. She also wrote a nonfiction book about her story as well, and includes many other refugee’s stories as well – it is called The Ungrateful Refugee.
The Bird King – This is a lyrical fantasy novel that has many deep and thought-provoking passages in it.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell – This is a novel about a girl shut up in a British sanitorium without cause for decades, and what happens when a niece (that had no idea she had an Aunt) is asked to take custody of her as the sanatorium is shuttered. The idea of this book is fascinating (since this absolutely did happen to women in the early 1900’s), and the author does a beautiful job telling the story with many unexpected twists. Except for the ending. If you don’t mind an unsatisfying ending, this is a mesmerizing book. Or at least I found it unsatisfying – if you love it, do let me know.
West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge – This was a fun fictional story about a true event in the Great Depression, when two giraffes were shipped over the Atlantic, survived a hurricane, then were taken by truck across the United States to become the San Diego Zoo’s first giraffes. The book’s affirmation that everyone has a story worth saving and sharing resonated with me.
What books have you loved lately?