...because home doesn't happen overnight.

bedside book

My kids are out of school next week. Spring break always sneaks up on me! Initally, we hadn’t planned on going anywhere, but at the last minute I booked an Airbnb rental. We’re excited to explore a new area and spend time together, but it looks like the weather is going to feel more like winter than spring. We’ll take what we can get! If nothing else, it will be a great excuse to cozy up with a pile of books.

I just finished When Breath Becomes Air and it was beautiful. I can’t stop thinking about it. Steve is reading it now, and I can’t wait for him to finish so we can discuss it.

If you’re interested, here are a few books I’ve read and/or reread over the past year and would highly recommend…

book recs

Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating

Room

Simple Matters

Cabin Porn

Big Magic

The Big Tiny

Euphoria

The Inner Game of Tennis

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Not shown, I borrowed it from a local library after my favorite librarian told me it changed her life.)

As you can see, my personal library tends to be heavy on the non-fiction. While I enjoy it, I think I need to spice things up with more fiction. We’re loading up on books before we leave, so here’s my question for you: Do you have any book recommendations? Have you read any books recently that have stuck with you? Feel free to share fiction and non-fiction suggestions. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

P.S. – Good reads for home lovers.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

131 Comments

31.March.2016

Liz Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things is a beautiful work of fiction. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid, Possession by A.S. Byatt, A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Enjoy your break!

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replied on March 31st, 2016

I second every one of these recommendations!

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replied on March 31st, 2016

I was totally going to say The Red Tent! Great book. Can’t wait to read The Signature of All Things when I have some time. =)

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replied on April 1st, 2016

The Red Tent is so good! I’ve read that book multiple times! Also, Mary called Magdalen is a great read too.

Dana,

Some other favs are Merle’s Door (about a man and his dog – so good), all of Jon Krakauer’s books!, In the heart of the sea, Wild, Cutting for stone, and the middle place. I could go on and on and on…

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31.March.2016

All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr – a common recommendation, but so good!).

State of Wonder (Ann Patchett).

A Homemade Life (Molly Wizenberg).

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31.March.2016

Two Hours by Ed Caesar is a great non-fiction running book. The best fiction book I’ve read in the past year is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It made such an impact that I still think about it a couple of times a week.

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replied on March 31st, 2016

I also loved Station Eleven! Not my usual genre, so I was pleasantly surprised. Memoir: North of Normal. Fiction: Three Wishes by Liane Moriatry(?), or any Kate Morton book.

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replied on March 31st, 2016

I third the recommendation for Station Eleven- I loved it.

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replied on April 1st, 2016

I was just coming here to suggest Station Eleven. It was my favorite book I read last year. I’ve been recommending it to everyone!

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31.March.2016

Jessica’s selections (above) are also some of my favorites. I’d also suggest The Lizard Cage by Karen Connelly.

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31.March.2016

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (I just got around to reading this and loved it so much.)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron (A favorite!)

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (This one has stayed with me. It’s an interesting look at one marriage from both husband and wife.)

The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon S. Wood (I really loved this one and learned a lot about someone I thought I knew about already.)

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31.March.2016

I just finished the first book of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, My Brilliant Friend. So, so, so good and I am running out tomorrow to get the next one. If you loved Beautiful Ruins, I think you might like this!

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replied on April 7th, 2016

Second the Elena Ferrante’s series – beautiful writing.
Second many of the above as well. Will have to order The Station Eleven- hadn’t heard of this one.

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31.March.2016

i just suggested when breath becomes air on your instagram post! i loved it, and need to process it. i am a single mama, and wish i had someone to talk to about it…12×12 was also highly inspiring to me.

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replied on March 31st, 2016

Let’s talk!

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31.March.2016

The best fiction book I’ve read this year is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, but if you’re looking for another good non-fiction option I would recommend Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

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replied on March 31st, 2016

The Nightingale was very good, but I’ve enjoyed most of Kristin Hannah that I’ve read. I also read To Kill a Mockingbird this last year, and there’s a reason it’s a classic! Enjoy your trip.

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replied on March 31st, 2016

Another vote for The Nightingale. I also enjoyed The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

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replied on March 31st, 2016

I LOVED The Nightingale. :)

replied on April 1st, 2016

The Nightingale was amazing! I passed it on to my mom and both my sisters and they couldn’t put it down either. Really a wonderful read.

replied on April 1st, 2016

Here to chime in for The Nightingale!

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replied on April 2nd, 2016

Chiming in for The Nightingale. So, so good.

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31.March.2016

I second The Signature of All Things, All the Light We Cannot See, and State of Wonder. I also highly recommend A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara).

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31.March.2016

You by Caroline Kempnes

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31.March.2016

These aren’t new so you may have already read them, but I liked The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and my all time fave book is Tiny, Beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed. Love, love, love it and can’t recommend it enough.

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31.March.2016

I’ve read recently and would recommend Inferno by D. Brown, Go Set a Watchman by H. Lee, Food: A Love Story by J. Gaffigan, The Painted Girls by C. Buchanan, One Click by R. Brandt. I read Brooklyn (dont remember the author but same as the new movie) and would not recommend.

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31.March.2016

The Martian
Cutting for Stone
Me Before You (JoJo Moyes books)
State of Wonder
Non fiction:
Unbroken
Trapped Under the Sea … (swidey)

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replied on April 1st, 2016

I agree with Cutting for Stone, Me Before You and Unbroken. Also loved The Goldfinch and Where’d You Go Bernadette.

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replied on April 2nd, 2016

Unbroken by far is amazing and inspiring!!

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31.March.2016

I highly suggest you check out ModernMrsDarcy.com and/or her podcast What Should I Read Next? Both are my go-to source for book recommendations (my TBR list usually gets another 5+ books added to it every time I listen to the podcast)
Being Mortal – Atul Gawande (I’ve heard many compare this with When Breath Becomes Air)
The Marie Kondo books, if you haven’t already read them.
Dark Places – Gillian Flynn (gritty, realistic fiction)
Dead Wake – Erik Larson
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth – Warsan Shire (not really a full length book but excellent modern poetry!)
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (historical fiction, one of the best books I’ve ever read)
:)

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replied on April 1st, 2016

ModernMrsDarcy.com is what I was going to recommend too. She has book list after book list available on her website and I look forward to her podcast every week.

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replied on April 12th, 2016

I see we follow the same blogs. ModerMrsDarcy is great. So I’m curious to know about other blogs. Maybe you should do a “what blogs do you follow” post?

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replied on April 13th, 2016

Awesome idea!!

31.March.2016

A few faves that are a mix of light and heavy (I tend to bounce back and forth depending on my mood and even the weather):
Age of Miracles
Station Eleven
The Corrections
Anything by Liane Moriarty – my fave is What Alice Forgot
Also almost all of JoJo Moyes books are great, especially Before You
Among the Ten Thousand Things
This is Where I Leave You
Prep

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replied on April 1st, 2016

I loved What Alice Forgot too!

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31.March.2016

I’m glad to see “When Breath Becomes Air” on your list–it was my first thought when I read the post title. I read it a couple of months ago and loved it. Like you, I read some fiction, but my reading lists are heavy on non-fiction. All of my favorite books are non-fiction. Looking at your list, I think we probably have similar taste in books.

Some others I’ve read in the last few months and loved:

“Voices in the Night” by Steven Millhauser. This is short stories, but the first several stories were breath-taking. I will admit I didn’t care for many of the stories/retellings at the end of the book, but I still whole-heartedly recommend this one for the first half.

“The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring” by Richard Preston. Older non-fiction about the Coast Redwoods in California and the people who are most passionate about exploring them. This was just fascinating–the facts about the trees themselves were astounding and the people were interesting and inspiring.

“The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery. Perhaps best for animal lovers because it’s a little light on hard science, but I loved it. It turns out octopuses are unbelievably intelligent and full of personality.

“Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick. I’ve read a lot of books about North Korea in the last year. All are interesting, but this one was my favorite. While providing plenty of detail about how the Kim Regime operates in the country, the story was tightly focused on ordinary people (hence the title) and the trials that led them to eventually defect to South Korea. The stories are inspiring and the details about North Korean history were so informative.

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31.March.2016

My favorites from the past year:

All the Light You Cannot See
Circling the Sun – same author at The Paris Wife
The Nightingale

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31.March.2016

These are good thriller books!
The Girl on The Train – Paula Hawkings and Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica

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replied on April 1st, 2016

I couldn’t get into Pretty Baby for some reason…but I LOVED The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.

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31.March.2016

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte

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31.March.2016

Cutting for Stone, Kitchens of the Great Midwest

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31.March.2016

Here’s my list of latest reads that I would recommend: Factor Man by Beth Macy. Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall. Both Gold and Little Bee by Chris Cleave (his novel Incendiary is next on my list). Small Blessings by Martha Woodruff. Pastrix and Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber.

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31.March.2016

I’m a big fan of Canadian lit, being Canadian and all, but some that come to mind are:

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill just won the CBC’s “Canada Reads” competition (where famous Canadians recommend books on a theme that they believe every Canadian should read. There’s a website for Canada Reads where you can find lots of great books.) Confession: I haven’t read this one yet. It’s on my list as I really admire his writing. Lawrence Hill also wrote “The Book Of Negroes” which is an amazing book. In the US, the title was changed to “Someone Knows My Name”

The Outlander by Gil Adamson (Set in the far north of Canada)

Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay (again, set in the far north)

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (An interesting, yet hard read on loving a family member with mental illness. It reflects some of the author’s personal experience.)

The Birth House by Ami McKay (About a midwife in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. I found very interesting as my great-grandmother was a midwife in Nova Scotia in the early 1900s.)

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replied on April 1st, 2016

Hello fellow Canadian! You should check out Station Eleven!

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replied on April 2nd, 2016

Speaking of Canadian authors, Margaret Atwood’s most recent, The Heart Goes Last is great!

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31.March.2016

If you want non fiction/history, In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson is very interesting. Bound Feet and Western Dress is a great memoir too.

For fiction, anything by Barbara Kingsolver is amazing. I especially love The Poisonwood Bible or Prodigal Summer.

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31.March.2016

My best fiction recommendation is L.M. Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame)’s The Blue Castle. It’s a short, quick read, but you can’t help but fall in love with the protagonist and feel for the situation she finds herself in. I sometimes describe it as a grown-up fairy tale. It’s a perfect curled-up-on-the-couch afternoon read. ^_^

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Jessica
replied on April 1st, 2016

I love The Blue Castle!!! I agree, it is definately on my list of favorite books. When I read it I felt like I had found a treasure.

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31.March.2016

My husband and I both were utterly swept by Paul Kalanithi.

If you can handle a BIG book (I always have to really think about the number of pages before I commit), then I highly recommend A Little Life – I’m halfway through after bringing it on our own spring break and am so glad I am reading it!

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31.March.2016

Ahhhh! I just finished When Breath Becomes Air as well (love Joanna Goddard) and have no one to discuss it with. I’m making my husband read it now:) Some recent great fiction reads:
Fates & Furies
At the Waters Edge
Where’d you go, Bernadette

Enjoy!

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31.March.2016

I second (third?) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Such beautiful writing, and I’m a sucker for WWII fiction. In that same vein, I enjoyed Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, and the follow-on book (but it would also stand alone), A God in Ruins. I’m waiting patiently for my turn at the library copy of Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome, which received rave reviews and chronicles the year he, his wife, and newborn twins lived in Rome while he was supposed to be writing All the Light we Cannot See. Enjoy your trip!!

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31.March.2016

Ooooh…and if you’re looking for a book (thriller but not too freaky) that sticks with you…
The Paying Guests
SO good. Like…so, so, good.

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31.March.2016

For a vacation, I love a short story collection. Easy to dip in and out of when you have time, without getting totally lost in a really meaty, good novel. The best that I’ve read recently is This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz. Magical realism done really, really well.

I have lost touch with this blog recently, but Pancakes and French Fries used to host The Phenomenally Indecisive Book Club and it was a great series. I got quite a few excellent recommendations over there.

I recommended The Casual Vacancy, by JK Rowling, to someone the other day. It’s not light reading and the ending is very heavy, but it was so SO good.

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31.March.2016

The Nightingale is the best fiction I’ve read in a long time. Also, More Love (Less Panic). A true story about a family who adopted a boy from another country.

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31.March.2016

Yay for impromptu getaways! Some of our family’s best adventures have been found this way. IF you happen to be into mid-century design and IF you happen to interested in Northwest design/architecture then you should check out Roland Terry: Northwest Master Architect, available from amazon. He was a personal friend and has done some incredible work like the Canlis restaurant in Seattle. He was and is such an inspiration!
“Though no photographs can do justice to this magical dwelling tucked among the pines and rocks on a windswept cliff overlooking Puget Sound, these images do make evident the fact that this is one of those buildings so appropriately sited and scaled that it feels organic, as if it grew out of the site rather than having been imposed upon it.” – Justin Hendersen, author, describing Roland Terry’s San Juan home in Washington.

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31.March.2016

Two of my all-time favorite nonfiction books: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and True Love: A Practice for Awakening Your Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh.
For nonfiction that reads like fiction: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer. Both are fascinating.
For fiction: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Ivan is middle grade fiction, but it tugged on my heart like Charlotte’s Web did as a kid.
On my to-be-read list–Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande.
Happy reading :)

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31.March.2016

I just finished The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende and The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. Both were great!

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31.March.2016

A window opens by Elisabeth Egan. I gravitate to nonfiction these days too, but this was a fast, thought-provoking read.

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31.March.2016

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes struck a deep chord with me. Definitely one of those books you can’t stop thinking about and need to debrief with someone after finishing! The Nightingale was probably one of my favorite works of historical fiction. I also recommend The Night Circus – such a fun, mysterious read! I couldn’t put it down.

Happy reading!!!

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31.March.2016

The Round House or The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse By Louise Erdrich

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31.March.2016

I know you’re looking for fiction, but I’m still going to name a few nonfiction books that are excellent and that you might want to read at some other time.

Nonfiction:
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown (very inspiring)
WILD by Cheryl Strayed (if you haven’t already read it, it’s super inspiring)
TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS by Cheryl Strayed
UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand
THE INVISIBLE LINE: A SECRET HISTORY OF RACE IN AMERICA by Daniel J. Sharfstein (this is about black families that over time crossed the racial line to pass for white, absolutely fascinating)

Now for what you asked for, fiction!
THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah – this is totally worth reading
A DICTIONARY OF MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING by Jackie Copleton (disclosure, I’m the editor on this book, but it is deeply moving and if you like historical fiction it’s set in Japan around the time of the bombing of Nagasaki, really fascinating stuff)
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA by Arthur Golden (to continue the Japanese theme)
STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett (beautiful writing, intriguing story)
ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes (if you want a tearjerker)
OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon (if you want pure escapist vacation reading)

I have more!

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31.March.2016

Anything by C.S. Lewis- Mere Christianity, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bronze Bow, Seabiscuit or Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand were both really good.

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31.March.2016

I’m so surprised no one recommended Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner. I preferred it over The Nightingale.
I’d also recommend The Invention of Wings.
My all-time favorite book ever is Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi

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31.March.2016

I just finished Love Minus Eighty last night, and it was so intriguing. The plot sounds strange (it’s sci-fi), but I so enjoyed it and read it in 2 days.

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31.March.2016

book talk – one of my favourite things :)
I second Modern Mrs Darcy for book recommendations – her summer reading recs would be perfect for a short vacation.
Just finished Nightingale and really enjoyed it.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles was a book that I was instantly captivated by and had me thinking about it for weeks afterwards.

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31.March.2016

The Queen of the Tearling
The Invasion of the Tearling
The Cuckoo’s Calling
The Silkworm
Fates and Furies
Brooklyn
The Girls Guide to Hunting & Fishing
A Darker Shade of Magic

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31.March.2016

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I didn’t realize until i went to look up the author that this book has been made into a movie. It’s about a professor who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s her dealing with the disease and what it does to her and her mind, told thru her eyes. So good!

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replied on March 31st, 2016

I second this suggestion! Such a good book!

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31.March.2016

On the books you’ve mentioned:
When Breath Becomes Air: JUST incredible. So, SO beautifully written by both Paul and Lucy. I couldn’t quite imagine being in their shoes going through something so incredibly life altering and yet at the same time, I felt like he really let us in on that journey.
Simple Matters: Loved this. I keep it on my nightstand as a reminder to live more simply. Your blog and Erin’s happen to be my two favorites so…your book is next :P
Born to Run: Helped motivate me through my Boston Marathon training last year. I found it fascinating.

I just finished The Fever — which was a captivating, fast read. And now, I am reading The Nightingale which I am really, really enjoying. Also, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace was fantastic.

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31.March.2016

I slammed through When Breath Becomes Air in an hour and a half late one night. I could. Not. Put. It. Down. What an amazing essay on civility, humility, grace and love. I’m so glad you recommend it.

Non-fiction: I’ve been reading Marion Coutts’ The Iceberg, an account of her husband’s (Tom Lubbock, the art critic for The Independent) illness and death. Like When Breath Becomes Air, it’s luminous in its matter-of-fact-ness. Also: Stacy Schiff’s The Witches, a new examination of the Salem trials. Her writing is just amazing. And the story is a pretty cautionary tale given some of the things we’re seeing in the political arena today.

Fiction: I just read Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family. It’s much more than you might expect from the press it’s been getting. I thought the plot was really terrific. Would love to read Lauren Groff’s Facts and Furies, since I heard her on Studio 360, and am so glad to see others recommend it. Have you read The Goldfinch? It’s older (well, las year) but really, truly amazing…plot AND prose. If you haven’t read either of Hilary Mantel’s ictionalized accounts of politics in Henry VIII’s England (Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies), I’d highly recommend those too. In mysteries, Louise Penny’s books are amazing examinations of character, and anything by Katherine Hall Page is a marvelous cozy with great writing (and recipes) to boot. And I recently discovered the laugh-out-loud mysteries of Ben Aaronovitch, who wrote for Doctor Who and who here introduces London’s first amateur wizard detective.

My favorite book is Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night. I reread it every year. It’s part of the Lord Peter Wimsey series but really, it’s much less a mystery than an examination of the really complicated state of male-female relations in England in the 1920s…and most of the lessons are applicable to today (Sayers was a somewhat unacknowledged feminist).

LOVE book talk…thank you so much, Dana!

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31.March.2016

I second most of the recommendations already suggested, but do have one more to add.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It’s from a few years ago, but it’s a great story, multi-layered that spans several years.
It really stuck with me and is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
It’s quite long, but stick with it and you won’t regret it….the last chapter is just….illuminating.

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31.March.2016

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle! It’s long, but you can’t put it down once you start. Best book I’ve read in a long time!

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replied on March 31st, 2016

Agreed…loved this book. I bought it at a garage sale to use on bookshelf as decor and I decided a couple of years later to read it!

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replied on March 31st, 2016

oops!

*Also, I have always been curious when I read your blog if the IKEA sheepskin I see in this picture is the faux or real version? I want to get the real one but it seems so yellow. Just wondering:)

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replied on April 1st, 2016

It is real. There is a HUGE variance in the white/yellow tones between them! I had to search through piles to find the ones I wanted. I like the real ones because they are virtually indestructible. Ours has seen food, vomit, spilled drinks, etc. and I just use some OxiClean then take it outside and hose it off like nothing ever happened, air dry. If I knew the faux versions would hold up as well, I’d give them a try.

31.March.2016

Oh, you should read Marilynne Robinson’s books. Gilead is probably my favorite novel ever, and I read about 50 novels a year. Gilead is followed by Home and Lilah, the latter of which will break your heart open.

Also, any of Wendell Berry’s fiction. I always recommend Hannah Coulter as the first book people should read by him.

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31.March.2016

So many incredible recommendations, thanks for opening up your comment section for this — I’m jotting so many of these down. My go-to recommendation is Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. It has stuck with me after more than a year of finishing!
My friend and I are doing a little blogger book club for April and we’re reading Her Fearful Symmetry (by Audrey Niffenegger), which I think is going to be a little bit ghost-y and I can’t wait to get into it! If you or any of your readers want to join us you can click through to my blog for more info.

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31.March.2016

House:Diane Keaton !
When breath becomes air is unforgettable. The forward is so compelling and poignant. What a life changer.
Precious Marisa de los Santos , excellent. She is a wordsmith!!!!!!
and lastly Elizabeth is Missing

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