The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer - I'm not overstating it by saying that this book changed my perspective on life and my frequent desire to orchestrate, plan, and control it. While I may not move to the middle of the woods (or start a multi-million dollar company, for that matter) I was deeply inspired by Singer's story of simply letting life unfold.
The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg - An uplifting story of love and second chances that elicits a "we're-all-in-this-together" kind of hopeful feeling and a cheering-on of characters one can't help but want to hug.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett - A plot as twisting and interesting as the vines in the jungle in which the story is set, I was fascinated by the dynamics of grief, choice, and loyalty in this beautiful book.
Southernmost by Silas House - House writes with such love and compassion and beauty that I'd read practically any sentence he writes, but this story of a husband, father, and brother who comes to terms with choices made and judgments expressed is at once hopeful and heartbreaking. A flood, a road trip, amends, opening, redemption, and revelation, all from Kentucky to Key West, and I was deeply disappointed to turn the last page. (Good news for Kentucky peeps, though, Silas House will be making an appearance at my favorite Louisville bookstore, Carmichael's, in June!)
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver - I love old houses, especially because of the wonderful tales they can tell, and this is a tale of just such a house and two different generations inhabiting it. Provocative and metaphorical, Kingsolver always makes me think deeply about life, while also weaving a story with characters both relatable and thoughtful, and this was no exception.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - Part love story, part murder-mystery, part stunning, sweeping praise for those untouched places in the South, this one stirred a longing in me for time spent outdoors and the beautiful simplicity of first loves, and a reverence for quiet human strength.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell - Clever and fun and sweet and laugh-out-loud heartwarming, I loved championing the main character all through her ups, downs, and relatable life-living.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin - Following the lives of the four Gold siblings, this engrossing and captivating read explores how learning the date of each of their deaths during a childhood visit to a nomadic psychic informs their choices and paths. (And had me questioning how I might live differently, too, with such knowledge.)
Yes Please by Amy Poehler - I knew her work from SNL and film, but listening to Amy Poehler on audiobook made me want her to be my new best friend. She is (obviously) hilarious, but equally aware in a "let's cut to the chase and get to what really matters in life" kind of way, open and honest about her shortcomings and challenges, and so passionate about her craft that it seems like she maybe could be my new best friend. Yes, please.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout - Every single character in this novel is so beautifully and intimately captured that their presence is felt beyond each page. None more so than the title character, Olive. She fumbles, she offends, she is sometimes unbearable, and sometimes so wonderfully loving and vulnerable that I couldn't help but to love her back. (No wonder this was a Pulitzer Prize winner. It's stunningly written.)
The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle - I think I read this in late September, early October when I was trying to hold on to summer and its carefree pleasures. What a joy to be transported to the south of France for breathtaking scenery, wine-filled sunny lunches on a terrace, and a bit of mystery for entertainment. A delight.
Calypso by David Sedaris - I heard one of the stories from this collection, read by Sedaris, on The Paris Review podcast and then had the incredible fortune of snagging a highly-in-demand copy of the book from my local library branch not long after to read the rest. With sardonic wit and self-deprecating humor, mixed with razor-sharp assessments and observations (often specific to family and its unique dynamics) the stories are at once laugh-out-loud hilarious and heartbreaking, walking a beautiful balance between the two and reminding me to just love people where they are. (But perhaps spare no detail in writing about them!)
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro - This story of a captivating young woman who unexpectedly heads to Paris in the 50s after a mysterious request appears in the mail for her had me interested from the start. Her experiences intertwine with those of a young woman in Paris in the 20s and 30s, and the historical richness, beautiful descriptions, and intriguing unfolding kept me hooked every step of the way.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman - I'll never look at lighthouses the same way again after this story of a lighthouse keeper off the coast of Australia and his young wife, who, in the mid-1920s, make a decision that changes everything in ways they never meant or anticipated. Grappling with overlapping and juxtaposed perceptions of right, wrong, duty, obligation, choice, and love, the characters and their interconnectedness are beautifully written and wholeheartedly compelling.
Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen - I've never read something by Quindlen that I didn't love or that wasn't incredibly insightful or wise, and this is no exception. I'm not sure what I enjoyed most: the New York City neighborhood setting, the main character's humor and strength, or the honest look at privilege that left me thinking long after I returned this one, reluctantly, to the library.
We've started the summer on our front porch with stacks of library books; if you ask us, the perfect way to spend a sunny day. A few favorites lately:
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman - I found myself cheering on the almost-8-year-old main character and laughing out loud at her clever, astute, and hilarious observations.
The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown - I'm a fan of anything with Paris in the title, and it only gets better if the heroine of the book finds her footing, courage, and herself along the way.
The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav - Full disclosure: I'm super interested in different spiritual paths and learning about the soul, so this was definitely my jam...but I listened on audiobook and it is not lively or exciting in presentation. At all. Nor always comprehensible, and it kind of hurt my brain to consider some of the ideas, but it was fascinating. You know, if you're into that kind of thing. And Oprah is (she reads an introduction,) so there's that.
The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein - Another one I listened to as an audiobook, and I adored the reader, transporting me to the alluring countrysides of Scotland with her beautiful accent. A murder mystery with jewelry AND a strong female lead meant I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.
This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell - a love story that is equal parts complex, real, funny, and warm-hearted.
And, my 7-year-old's (pictured above) tried-and-true favorite will always be: The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home, both by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones - observant and insightful; a stunning depth to the characters and their interconnected relationships
The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson - beautiful and compelling (and not just because it was inspired by an event that took place in my former home town)
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett - clever, laugh-out-loud funny, smart
The Party by Elizabeth Day - dark, fascinating, entertaining (it's a party, after all)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - endearing, hopeful, and compassionate
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - heartwarming, I couldn't help but adore the main character and wish he lived nextdoor
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas - though intended for a young adult audience, this seems like an important book for all of us to read; a powerful story of loss, racism, and police brutality