City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert - Alluring, fun, and a celebration of independent, interesting, and charismatic women of all kinds, I loved feeling as though I was tagging along and learning about life (its ups and downs) on New York City adventures with wonderfully-written characters full of heart, laughter, gumption, and, ultimately, strength.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - This goes against my most-of-the-time policy of allowing only books/movies/shows that are "light and bright" into my "realm," but despite its heart-breaking unfolding, there is also so much beauty and deeply compelling insight in this memoir that I'll not soon forget.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer - I consider myself a feminist, but today that moniker means so many different things to so many different people. This coming-of-age story explores this idea, sharing the lives of its characters in unexpected ways and with varying consequences. Thoughtful, interesting, and maybe even a little hopeful.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - This one has been sitting on my list for some time, as friends continued to recommend it, and I'd hear the buzz (especially after the Pulitzer Prize win) but somehow it never made it to the top for check-out...until I longed for a good, long audiobook to enjoy during my crazy holiday season in the studio. A World War II story (yet so much more) told from perspectives I didn't anticipate: a young, blind French girl escaping Paris with her father during the Occupation and a young German boy who finds himself in France at the same time - and how their paths ultimately cross. (And a jewel is involved, so extra points, right?)
Hope for Today by Al-Anon Family Groups - Maybe not for everybody, but something I read on the daily before or after I meditate, this collection (with one reading for each day of the year) offers me perspective, options, a moment of calm, and helpful observations that allow me to enjoy my day more fully, with more serenity, and even a bit more kindness than I might otherwise.
The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock - I flagged this one on Instagram or Pinterest at some point and felt called to find it in my local library just a few weeks ago. Though I'm only halfway through, I'm astounded by the beauty this woman created with a pair of scissors and some paper - in the 1700s, no less - but also by the wonderful fullness of her life and the fact that she was in her 70s when she began this wonderfully creative pursuit. I've been working with cut paper for a few months now, and finding some fun parallels in my life, as did the author as she researched and wrote this book. Perhaps you will, too?
One Day in December by Josie Silver - Like those Hallmark Christmas movies we all secretly love (or love to hate) this time of year, but in novel form, this fun read hits all the highlights: love at first sight, a classic love triangle, a holiday party or two, and years of missed opportunities that keep the pages turning.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann - New York City in the 1970s, a man dazzles and delights for a brief moment in time as he walks on a wire strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, becoming the stunning center of strands of layered stories and characters throughout this beautiful book.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey - With snippets about writers like Jane Austen and Thomas Wolfe, visual artists such as Picasso or Warhol, and even musicians like Beethoven and the Gershwin brothers, we learn the unique (and sometimes absurd or scarily rigid) processes by which these creative individuals produced their work. I found it fun to skip around and read 3-4 each day for inspiration (or what NOT to do to generate an idea) and insight.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer - I couldn't help but be charmed by the main character - so human, so likable, so prone to the ways in which we sometimes see ourselves in distorted perspective when we're actually pretty wonderful - I was cheering for him all along.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles - Maybe my new favorite book ever, I am in love with Towles's writing, and this sweeping story had me hooked from the start. As an audiobook, I was delighted by the rich characters, wonderful dialogue, and doorway into Russian history that brought depth and beauty to the plot. I can't wait to read it (or listen to it!) again. It's that fantastic.
The Nix by Nathan Hill - Sometimes painful to absorb, other times incredibly funny, yet always deeply insightful and provocative, the various threads and storylines (including settings as varied as the 1968 Democratic Convention and a present-day video game chat room) show time and again how the events and experiences of the past play a rich and significant role in our present.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles - I started this one as an audiobook on a road trip with a friend and tried to be patient in listening again, waiting until my travel buddy and I were together, but I finally had to ask if I could proceed on my own because I couldn't wait to find out how Katherine Kontent makes her way through 1930s Manhattan with style, wit, intellect, fun, and integrity. (And...the writing is phenomenal - I relished nearly every line.)
Ask Again, Yes: A Novel by Mary Beth Keane - Another one through which I plowed quickly as I worked away in the studio, this is a story of young love that tests loyalty in one another and the families that surround the couple, bringing up challenging themes of forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and trust.
Invincible Summer by Alice Adams - Maybe because I graduated not long after this quartet of friends did and have experienced some of the same highs and lows along the way as post-college life unfolded in my 20s, and then the unexpected twists and turns in my 30s and now 40s, I wanted to know how it all played out for these four. Though it provided plenty of predictable love triangles and losses, I enjoyed the lack of saccharine happy endings and the emphasis on the idea that life rarely turns out the way we think or hope it will, but that there is beauty, still, in what shows up.
Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams - I snagged this from the library not knowing it was part of a larger series, though it stands alone and is a page-turning story-within-a-story that needs no background or introduction. Truly, I was in it from the start and happily along for the ride between 1930s Europe and 1960s South Florida and coastal Georgia, learning delightful and captivating details about the lives of two dazzling women brought together by a remarkable vintage Mercedes roadster.
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.