Holly's Most Recent Book Picks

I'm frequently asked what I'm reading so I thought I'd make some notes here.

(fiction) The Librarianist

By Patrick DeWitt

This astonishing novel tells the story of retired librarian Bob Comet, whose introverted, disappointing, and mundane life is eventually made richer by his courage, risk-taking, capacity to forgive, and ability to save himself. Author Patrick DeWitt delivers a cast of unforgettable and engaging characters. Don't miss this.

Listed here summer/fall 2023

(fiction) Hello Beautiful

By Ann Napolitano

Damaged by grief-stricken parents who cannot love him, William Waters makes his way in the world, discovers an unexpected career, and falls in love with Julia Padavano and her three sisters. Then there is darkness, tragedy, separation. After decades, in the end, time slowly heals and love wins. This profound, complex, enchanting novel will pull at your heartstrings.

Listed here summer/fall 2023

(memoir) A Life in Light: Meditations on Impermanence

By Mary Pipher

I got completely caught up in this new memoir by psychologist Mary Pipher, "cultural therapist" to generations of her clients and readers. She writes simply, forthrightly, yet graciously about her hardscrabble dysfunctional childhood and her fierce challenges as a young single parent scrambling for her Ph.D. As an elder in later life, held close by the love of family and friends, she encourages us to accept our lack of control and our impermanence: "I have learned to focus on every good thing that comes my way. I have lowered my expectations about what I can receive from the world and have stopped taking so much for granted. I have learned to surrender."

Listed here summer/fall 2023

(fiction) Tom Lake

By Ann Patchett

In 2020, Lara and her husband Joe get to experience their three daughters returning to work together in their family's cherry orchard during the Pandemic. Because the world has shut down, Lara and her daughters talk endlessly and pick cherries. As these three young women hear of their mother's career as an actress and of her love affair with heartthrob and leading man Peter Duke, they remain spellbound and amazed that she lived so fully before they were even born and wonder how they themselves may experience love and fulfillment.

Listed here summer/fall 2023

(memoir) Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind

By Barbara Becker

This author's beautifully written memoir encourages us to talk about death in order to live and love more fully. Interfaith minister and hospice visitor Barbara Becker shares haunting stories about her father's decades-long grief and the dying whom she visits.

Listed here summer/fall 2023

(memoir) The In-Between: Unforgettable Encounters During Life's Final Moments

By Hadley Vlahos, RN

Young hospice nurse Hadley Vlahos has written a charming memoir about her passion, devotion, and love for hospice nursing and all that her patients have taught her. For family members and caregivers, she normalizes the dying experience and assures us that love is present, miracles are all around us, and we don't have to be afraid. I'm delighted this young nurse's memoir has made the best seller list. She deserves this acclaim.

Listed here summer/fall 2023

(Fiction) The Dutch House

By Ann Patchett

Author Ann Patchett tells the story of two devoted siblings, elder sister Maeve and little brother Danny, who together outlast expulsion from the Dutch House, their beloved Pennsylvania home, an almost mythical 1922 mansion. Their steadfast love for one another through decades of loss and tragedy allow them to survive.

Listed here Summer 2020

(Fiction) The Dearly Beloved

By Cara Wall

This gorgeous book explores the lives of two couples who have little in common, James and Nan and Charles and Lily. The four of them are thrown together when the two men find themselves co-pastoring an historic urban church. Through terrible challenges and disappointments and tests of faith, each of the four becomes more resilient, more loving, more ready to forgive. They are saved through their gradual evolving trust in another and their surprising life-long friendship. If you are a fan of Wallace Stegner's "Crossing to Safety," you will cherish Cara Wall's "The Dearly Beloved."

Listed here Spring/Summer 2022

(Memoir) Inheritance

By Dani Shapiro

What happens when you're 54 years old and find out you are not what you always believed yourself to be? In her fifth decade, blonde, blue-eyed author Shapiro, raised in a strict Orthodox Jewish community, discovers her father is not her father at all. The fascinating, wrenching memoir gives us insight on what to retain, what to surrender, and what authentically makes each of us who we are.

Listed here Summer 2019

(Non-Fiction) Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others

By Barbara Brown Taylor

Master storyteller, professor, and Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor describes her life-changing journey teaching Religions of the World at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. Through her research, her field trips, and her relationship with other religious leaders, she and her students have come to view the world differently. Barbara Brown Taylor says, "[This] is a book about the teacher...and what she learned about the hight cost of seeing the divine mystery through other people's eyes. As the title suggests, it is a book about how my envy of other traditions turned into holy envy, offering me the chance to be born again within my own tradition."— Don't miss this book.

Listed here Spring/Summer 2022

(Memoir/Self-Help) Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

By Lori Gottlieb

In this elucidating memoir, psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb writes personally and vulnerably of her experiences being both a therapist and the client of a therapist. Tragic, funny, and instructive, this book helps us learn a great deal about struggle, healing, and what is means to accept our humanness.

Listed here Summer 2019

(Fiction) The Island of Sea Women

By Lisa See

This compelling novel, set on the Korean island of JeJu tells the story of two haenyeo (breath-hold divers) who become best friends. Mi-ja is the stigmatized daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and Young-sook is the respected daughter of a lead female diver. This is a heartbreaking story of colonialism, war, hunger, and violence, but also an epic tale of female fierceness, resilience, endurance, and courage. I could not put it down. (The haenyeo have now been added to UNESCO's cultural heritage list.)

Listed here Summer 2019

(Fiction) The Wife

By Meg Wolitzer

Wolitzer has written a scathing, perceptive, and brillantly funny book about the egotism of men and the keeping-the-peace compromises of women. A shocking secret is revealed at the end. (The recently released movie with Glenn Close is also very good.)

Listed here Fall/Winter 2018

(Non-Fiction) Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection

By Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie

Author Kate Bowler (author of "Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I've Loved") triumphs again with this devotional book about acceptance, imperfection, self-love, vulnerability, and union with God. I was delighted to read it for Lent this year. In a blessing for the body, the authors suggest, "And sometimes you just need to stand in front of the mirror and take off all your clothes, and remember that this body, your body, is God's home address." Wow.

Listed here Spring/Summer 2022

(Fiction) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman

Scottish writer Gail Honeyman brings us her first novel which has been a triumpant international success. A story of trauma, abuse, resilience, connection, and recovery, it astonishly manages to be funny too. I was completely seduced it.

Listed here Winter 2019

(Memoir) Educated

By Tara Westover

This is one of the best books I've read in the last twenty years! Tara Westover, raised in a violent, fundamentalist Mormon household in the outback of Idaho, first enters a classroom at the age of seventeen as a first year student at Brigham Young University. There she has to learn not only the building blocks of academics, but the fundamentals of personal hygiene, and how to properly clothe herself. Brilliant, determined, and driven, she ends up at Cambridge in England receiving a Ph.D in political history at the age of twenty-seven. In the process of being educated, her eyes have been opened to advanced education and world travel, but she has also had to grieve the loss of family members who will never accept what she has become. This Memoir is pure courage.

Listed here Summer 2018

(Fiction) The Love of My Life

By Rosie Walsh

This is a well constructed thriller that might keep you up all night — and you will be surprised at who "the love of my life" turns out to be. This book contains unexpected spiritual themes of guilt, forgiveness, grace, and wonder.

Listed here Spring/Summer 2022

(Memoir) Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I've Loved

By Kate Bowler

What happens when the foremost Prosperity Gospel researcher is diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer at age 35? This is Kate Bowler's striking Memoir of clashing philosophies, fear of death, and the deep realization that Love will not let her go. It is tragic, funny, and theologically profound.

Listed here Fall/Winter 2018

(Memoir) Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After

By Heather Harpham

Heather Harpham writes exquisitely of her family's journey with the life-changing illness of their child who is born with a rare blood disease. Their toddler Gracie is finally saved her baby brother's stem cells, the financial generosity of friends and strangers, and her parents' unwavering perseverance, deep love, and belief in her future.

Listed here Summer 2018

(Non-Fiction) Shifting Shorelines: Messages from a Wiser Self

By Terry Helwig

This book, spiritual and simple, is memorable for its connection to the sea, the tides, and the natural world — a good book to read at the seashore and somewhat reminiscent of "Gift from the Sea." I remember particularly the author's description of a hermit crab searching for a right-size shell home and her admonition: "Don't live a life too small for you."

Listed here Spring/Summer 2022

(Memoir) On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old

By Parker Palmer

This is a forthright and wondrous Let Your Life Speak for old people. Ripe with age and vulnerability, Parker Palmer writes of failure, authenticity, and purpose. He has finally reckoned with his whole flawed, fierce, and articulate self and lets us accompany him on this journey of self-acceptance.

Listed here Fall/Winter 2018

(Non-Fiction) Just This: Prompts and Practices for Contemplation

By Richard Rohr

This little gem has become a new Rohr favorite. "Just this" has evolved into a new mantra for me - not being bogged down the judgment or woundedness of the past or the fears and anxieties of the future. "Just this" is Rohr's invitation to live fully in the present and to accept that it is enough, right now.

Listed here Fall/Winter 2018

(Fiction) A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles

In 1922 Count Alexander Rostov is placed under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel the Bolsheviks. Through his confinement and reduced circumstances, the count discovers loving relationships and renewed purpose. Towles writes insightfully and with grand elegance.

Listed here Fall/Winter 2018

(Non-Fiction) Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

By Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

This book is part Memoir, part research book on resilience. After losing her beloved husband Dave, when they both were in their forties, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg writes very personally about loss and grief and what is useful in trying to survive and in creating Option B. I'm grateful someone like Sheryl Sandberg was willing to step up and be honest about the horrendous devastation of grief and the eventual possibility of recovery and even joy.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2018

(Fiction) A Single Thread

By Tracy Chevalier

Violet Speedwell is one of World War One's "surplus women," those leftover spinster women in the early 1930s, not likely to find a man after the high casualties of battle. Crafting her own liberated future by seeking community, purposefulness, and love, Violet defies the odds and discovers her own joy-filled and rightful place. This heroine is worth remembering.

Listed here Summer 2020

(Fiction) The Ninth Hour

By Alice McDermott

This acclaimed novel about an Irish Catholic community in Brooklyn at the beginning of the twentieth century is a gripping tale of the varieties of sacrificial love. Master storyteller Alice McDermott draws us in and holds us until the shocking and grace-filled end.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2018

(Non-Fiction) No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy Right Where You Are

By Jack Kornfield

Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield has produced another spiritual classic in this 2017 release. It is an enticing book about spiritual freedom and in-the-present living filled with memorable stories and highly useful practices.

Listed here Summer 2017

(Fiction) Grief Cottage

By Gail Godwin

Gail Godwin writes perceptively of fears and vulnerabilities, this time helping us to comprehend the complex grief of orphaned Marcus, an eleven-year-old boy who discovers strange comfort in his only living relative, boldly flawed Aunt Charlotte. I agree with author John Irving who says, "I've long thought of Gail Godwin as a present-day George Eliot-our keenest observer of lifelong, tragically unwitting decisions."

Listed here Summer 2017

(Non-Fiction) Blessed Relief: What Christians Can Learn from Buddhists about Suffering

By Gordon Peerman

This book is a must read for all ministers, therapists, and spiritual directors. It is one of the best books I've read in the last decade about non-attachment, healing, and living in the present moment. I wish I could have had access to it years and years ago as a young pastor! I would have possessed a lot more equanimity and a lot less judgment. Peerman brings to this fine book all of his accumulated wisdom as an Episcopal priest, a therapist, and as a Buddhist-Christian.

Listed here Summer 2017

(Fiction) Saints for All Occasions

By J. Courtney Sullivan

This is a gorgeous novel about the loneliness and lostness of being an immigrant, the unwavering and sometimes undeserved allegiance to the Roman Catholic church, and the enduring love of a large Irish Catholic family. I could not put it down.

Listed here Summer 2017

(Non-Fiction) Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert

In Big Magic, prolific and steadfast author Liz Gilbert articulates her creative process of writing: showing up at her desk each day, trusting her ability to write, giving thanks for the joy of writing, and remaining unaffected good or bad reviews. She is honest and forthright about the privilege, delight, vulnerabillity, and heartbreak of writing. This is an invaluable handbook for anyone who takes seriously their art or their creativity.

Listed here Summer 2017

(Fiction) The Excellent Lombards

By Jane Hamilton

This is a beautiful book about apples, orchards, reverence for the land, eccentric family members who love one another deeply - and a young girl who is trying to make sense of it all. Jane Hamilton writes with sensitivity, charm, and wicked humor.

Listed here Spring 2017

(Fiction) The Summer Before the War

By Helen Simonson

I picked up this novel because I had been crazy about Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand which I mentioned below in the summer of 2012. The Summer Before the War is a beautifully crafted, unhurried, and deliberate examination of innocence, denial, upheaval, and change in the era of the Great War. Helen Simonson is always splendid.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2017

(Non-Fiction) On Living

By Kerry Egan

This is an engaging and funny Memoirhospice chaplain Kerry Egan. Her chapter on accepting and cherishing one's physical body is truly memorable.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2017

(Non-Fiction) The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling

By Stephen Cope

This was my go-to Christmas present book for December of 2016. It is an exceptionally helpful book about dharma and callings. Author Stephen Cope examines well known historical and modern figures such as Jane Goodall, Robert Frost, Marion Woodman, and Harriet Tubman to teach us about particular gifts, obstacles, and perspectives which may guide us in clarifying our own vocations.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2017

(Non-Fiction) This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live

By Melody Warnick

This throughly researched and actively lived volume young writer Melody Warnick reminded me of why I have come to value Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a place I despaired of and wept over at first. This book explains clearly how we discover hidden gems in our community and how we come to invest effort, time, and money in a town's geography, natural resources, people, and local business. This is a heartening and informative read for those who have lived in one place a very long time and for those who have recently moved.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2017

(Non-Fiction) Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living

By Krista Tippett

This book is Krista Tippett at her best: vulnerable, self-revealing, and vastly perceptive. She also shares deep and lovely wisdom from brilliant conversation partners she has interviewed over the years on her On Being radio show. I have taken endless notes in the margins!

Listed here Summer 2016

(Non-Fiction) My Life on the Road

By Gloria Steinem

In this glorious collection of essays the renowned author, activist, and community organizer, Steinem demonstrates her passion and fidelity to those whom she serves. This world is much improved through her keen powers of observation and truth-telling. This book has meant a great deal to me after I saw Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker at Ghost Ranch in October of 2014.

Listed here Summer 2016

(Memoir) When Breath Becomes Air

By Paul Kalanithi

This exquisite Memoir will become a classic in the literature of death as did John Gunther's Death Be Not Proud over 65 years ago. Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon with a master's degree in English from Stanford, documents his own dying from the perspective of a doctor, a scientist, a poet, a parent, and a husband. The result is lucid, lyrical, and unimaginably heartbreaking. This book is not to be missed and is going to be on everyone's reading lists for decades. Paul died in March of 2015 before the book was finished, so his wife, Dr. Lucy Kalanithi has completed the volume with a magnificently eloquent and loving tribute in the epilogue. It was a natural progression for me to read this book after Dr. Atul Gawande's Being Mortal. See that review below.

Listed here Summer 2016

(Fiction) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

By Rachel Joyce

St. Augustine said "Solvitur ambulando." "It is solved walking." Harold Fry walks the length of England to lay eyes upon his dear friend Queenie Hennessy before she dies. And, as it turns out, his whole life is "solved walking." Harold's spellbinding journey is a pilgrimage to healing and reconciliation, with plenty of unexpected and grace-filled encounters experienced along the way. After you've finished absorbing Harold's amazing pilgrimage, don't forget to read the sequel which is Queenie's affecting version of events, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.

Listed here Summer 2016

(Non-Fiction) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

By Atul Gawande

This book, written a doctor who is a surgeon and a professor at Harvard, was my go-to Christmas gift this past holiday season. I gave it to everyone. This is the best book I've read about getting old, planning ahead, and making good quality of life choices. The impetus of our culture and the medical establishment tends to put all of its money and priorities on safety rather than purposefulness and connectedness. This groundbreaking volume talks about how we might be safe as we age and still have a reason to get out of bed in the morning using our gifts and thriving in community. You will love this book because Dr. Gawande is not only humble and wise, he is a grand and colorful storyteller as well. One writer has added, "Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death, but a good life - all the way to the very end."

Listed here Winter/Spring 2016

(Memoir) Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint

By Nadia Bolz-Weber

[This book is by] Nadia Bolz-Weber whom I have recently discovered - and I just love her! What a startlingly fresh voice from this densely tattooed Lutheran clergyperson who is the pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. She is an uncanny cross between Anne Lamott and Barbara Brown Taylor. She brings together Anne Lamott's hilarious irreverance as well as her "You know I'd be literally dead without Jesus" desperate, grateful conversion. She brings Barbara Brown Taylor's rich storytelling and expansive theology. Nadia Bolz-Weber is wicked, worldly, and devout. She's quick to tell us that if God can save her, God can save anyone.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2016

(Non-Fiction) Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong Places

By Nadia Bolz-Weber

[This book is by] Nadia Bolz-Weber whom I have recently discovered - and I just love her! What a startlingly fresh voice from this densely tattooed Lutheran clergyperson who is the pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. She is an uncanny cross between Anne Lamott and Barbara Brown Taylor. She brings together Anne Lamott's hilarious irreverance as well as her "You know I'd be literally dead without Jesus" desperate, grateful conversion. She brings Barbara Brown Taylor's rich storytelling and expansive theology. Nadia Bolz-Weber is wicked, worldly, and devout. She's quick to tell us that if God can save her, God can save anyone.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2016

(Non-Fiction) Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God

By Lauren F. Winner

This book, unlike any other, is academic and theological, earthy and sensual. The new metaphors for God are wild, deep, and visceral. This book will grab you.

Listed here Fall/Winter 2015

(Fiction) The Paris Wife

By Paula McLain

This is the story of Hadley Richardson Hemingway, the first of Ernest Hemingway's four wives. Author McLain captures beautifully the giftedness, the recklessness, the striving, of the Lost Generation of writers in Paris in the 1920s. You will come to know many of them including Hemingway's mentor, Gertrude Stein. This novel is insightful and devastating.

Listed here Fall/Winter 2015

(Fiction) Circling the Sun

By Paula McLain

You can taste and feel and smell the wildness of Kenya in the 1920s in this story of Beryl Markham. Courageous Beryl was the first licensed female racehorse trainer in Africa and the first woman to fly alone from east to west across the Atlantic. Tenacious, daring, and constantly thwarted the stuffy patriarchy of British Africa, Beryl still makes her mark. Author Paula McLain is brilliant.

Listed here Fall/Winter 2015

(Fiction) Our Souls at Night

By Kent Haruf

This new little book, the author of Plainsong and Eventide, is a gem. Grace-filled, elegant, and subtle, it is about loneliness, old age, and intimacy. Authors David Rhoades ("Driftless") and Kent Haruf possess a similar style.

Listed here Summer 2015

(Fiction) Euphoria

By Lily King

This enthralling historical Fiction is loosely based on a short period in the lives of anthropologists Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, and Reo Fortune. Most of the time, author Lily King creates her own tale. This novel is an exciting read which allows us to see how three gifted anthropologists of the 1930s relate to their work, their observations and note-taking, their tribes, and one another. It is a memorable peek into the science of anthropology. Euphoria will please readers of Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. - See review below.

Listed here Summer 2015

(Fiction) The Boston Girl

By Anita Diamant

This satisfying novel written in the spirit of Colm Toibin's Brooklyn (see below) is a fascinating account of Addie Baum's life as told to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter. Born in 1900 to immigrant parents, Addie shares her life's tale with all its losses, struggles, and triumphs. This novel, the author of The Red Tent, is Addie's compelling personal story as well as the revelatory and symbolic story of a woman's possibilities and limitations in the twentieth century.

Listed here Summer 2015

(Non-Fiction) The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

By Pico Iyer

This gem of a book is a fine contribution to sabbath literature in an upbeat, modern way. In our communication saturated culture, Iyer talks about the lifesaving qualities of stopping and Internet sabbath and unavailability. It is noteworthy that the well known travel writer Iyer writes here about adventures in going nowhere. You will remember the impact of this 74-page book for a long time.

Listed here Winter/Spring 2015

(Fiction) Lila

By Marilynne Robinson

In this marvelous prequel to Gilead, Pulitzer Prize winning author Robinson tells the story of Lila, Rev. John Ames' young second wife who becomes the mother of his only living child. Lila's survival and resilience are remarkable, as is her ability to love and trust the old pastor. Author Robinson proves well that she understands soul-withering poverty and abandonment.

Listed here Winter 2014

(Fiction) The Liar's Wife

By Mary Gordon

In this stunning collection of four novellas, Mary Gordon explores lives vastly different from her own. Gordon is an astute observer of behavior and touches on universal vulnerabilities which make us squirm. These wondrous stories are expertly crafted.

Listed here Winter 2014

(Fiction) Point of Direction

By Rachel Weaver

Anna and Kyle agree to be lighthouse keepers on a remote Alaskan island as they sort out their demons and their relationship. This book is a psychological thriller as well as a profound exploration of forgiveness of oneself and others.

Listed here Summer 2014

(Fiction) Burial Rites

By Hannah Kent

This astonishing and perceptive novel was published in 2013 an author born in 1985! Although a work of Fiction, this historical Fiction was painstakingly researched and based on the 1830 execution of a young farm worker, Agnes Magnusdottir, who was the last person to be put to death in Iceland. During the last months of her life, young Agnes was sent to live with an Icelandic family whose members were forced the law to take her in. The family's affection for Agnes and their grief at her execution changes them forever.

Listed here Summer 2014

(Fiction) The Invention of Wings

By Sue Monk Kidd

This will undoubtedly be Sue Monk Kidd's great epic novel. It is ambitious, fastidiously researched, and spellbinding. This story of slavery is told through alternating voices: the voice of Sarah, the plantation owner's daugher, and the voice of Hetty, Sarah's own slave. This book is brutal and inspiring, a tale of misery and degradation, but also a tale of courage, vast perseverance, and hope.

Listed here Spring 2014

(Memoir/Short Stories) The Story of a Happy Marriage

By Ann Patchett

This collection of short stories and essays will bring delight to fans of Ann Patchett who is also the author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder. This book insures that award-winning Ann Patchett will continue to be regarded as one of America's most elegant and insightful writers. I have given this book to numerous friends as a birthday gift.

Listed here Spring 2014

(Non-Fiction) The Paradox of Choice

By Barry Schwartz

This is a great read about the crippling power of too few choices and too many choices. How do we absorb enough information, but not too much, in order to choose wisely? Barry Schwartz teaches us how to navigate confidently and well in this information rich age.

Listed here Spring 2014

(Fiction) The Lowland

By Jhumpa Lahiri

Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri scores again with this memorable novel about two Calcutta-born brothers, one a Maoist revolutionary in India, the other a marine biologist who emigrates to America. It is a heartbreaking yet redeeming tale about courage, displacement, abandonment, and connection. There are few writers who articulate emotion as rawly and deeply as Lahiri.

Listed here Winter 2014

(Memoir) Unremarried Widow

By Artis Henderson

Thirty-three year old Artis Henderson creates a beautifully crafted, unflinching Memoir in memory of her husband Miles who died in a sandstorm in 2006 while piloting a helicopter in Iraq. She tells the story of her unlikely union with Miles, the deep love they shared, her circuitous path through loss and grief, and how she navigated a military life. This is an excellent first book a promising new writer.

Listed here Winter 2014

(Non-Fiction) The Power or Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life

By Robert Brooks, Ph.D. and Sam Goldstein, Ph.D

Authors Brooks and Goldstein have written a comprehensive guide to the building blocks of resilence. These include cultivating empathy, managing stress, accepting oneself and others, communicating effectively, learning from mistakes, developing self-control, and claiming areas of expertise. This book relies on solid research, compelling stories, and insightful case studies. My favorite part of the book was the section in "Dealing Effectively with Mistakes" on overcoming fear of failure. Extremely helpful!

Listed here Winter 2014

(Fiction) Jewelweed

By David Rhodes

David Rhodes triumphs with this new novel, which like Driftless, depicts the heart-rending struggles of small town folks in the driftless region of Wisconsin. He also takes on the supermax prisons in this book, reminding us of their persistent inhumanity and their huge commercial profits. I was so sad when this book was over because I wanted to read about these Jewelweed characters forever. I was delighted to have David Rhodes sign my copy of Jewelweed at Boswell Books in Milwaukee.

Listed here Summer 2013

(Non-Fiction) The Myths of Happiness

By Sonja Lyubomirsky

I draw on this book every week to become more resilient myself or to pass on some wisdom to one of those who come for spiritual guidance. Dr. Lyubomirsky, the world's foremost science of happiness researcher, teaches us to swim against established cultural currents and to find happiness and redemption in unanticipated circumstances and in unexpected places.

Listed here Summer 2013

(Non-Fiction) Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

By Anne Lamott

This is a glorious little book on prayer written the astonishingly religious, irreverent, and hilarious Anne Lamott. Lamott is credible because she shares her suffering unreservedly, and how mercy and grace, she survives. My favorite quote from the book is this: If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.

Listed here Spring 2013

(Fiction) The Chaperone

By Laura Moriarty

This haunting and beautifully written novel tells the story of Louise, age fifteen, and Cora, age thirty-six, her married chaperone, both of whom venture forth from Wichita, Kansas in 1922 and come of age on a trip to New York City. It is a novel chock-full of secrets and losses and undreamed of possibilities. This book also relates the saga of the orphan trains which took children West over a span of seventy years. The Chaperone is a startling and compelling read.

Listed here Spring 2013

(Non-Fiction) Daring Greatly

By Brene Brown

This life-changing book written shame researcher Brene Brown is off the charts amazing. In discussing the pervasiveness of shame, she also offers us tools to overcome that shame: worthiness, resilience, wholeheartedness, and hope. In the end, she says, it's all about being willing to be vulnerable. As we dare greatly, we model vulnerability and risk-taking for our children and grandchildren as well as for the companies and institutions we serve. Along with Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, I am going to be giving Daring Greatly to all new parents.

Listed here Winter 2012-2013

(Fiction) Tallgrass

By Sandra Dallas

I purchased Tallgrass in the bookstore at the Japanese Internment Camp (now a museum) in Manzanar, California. This outstanding novel is set in a small Colorado town where another Japanese Internment Camp was located. Tallgrass is a remarkable coming of age story reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. This time, however, the heroine is not Scout, but Rennie, who grows up fast during the intense and terrible years of World War II. Rennie matures quickly as she learns about violence and racism, but also of friendship, risk-taking, and the power of love.

Listed here Fall 2012

(Memoir) The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love

By Kristin Kimball

Harvard grad Kristin Kimball is a captivating writer who tells us what it takes to live off the land and to be an organic farmer producing a "whole diet" for hundreds of people. An urbanized New York City travel writer, she amazes herself falling in love with a farmer and with farming and writes passionately of her crops, her animals, and her land. Who knew that I wouldn't be able to put down a book about farming?

Listed here Fall 2012

(Memoir) In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

By Neil White

In 1993, thirty-two year-old Neil White is sent to federal prison for bank fraud. This federal prison is in Carville, Louisiana, the town founded Clinton aide James Carville's grandfather. In 1993, Carville is the site of a federal prison, an order of nuns, and the last remaining leper colony in the United States. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts is Neil White's story of gaining humility and wisdom from the lepers with whom he lives.

Listed here Fall 2012

(Memoir) Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cheryl Strayed

This astounding Memoir recounts Cheryl Strayed's 1100 mile solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. The author looks back on her twenty-six year-old self embarking upon and enduring this wild pilgrimage in order to overcome her fear, to heal her grief, and to exorcise the damaging memories which haunt her.

Listed here Summer 2012

(Non-Fiction) The Wisdom to Know the Difference

By Eileen Flanagan

This volume, based on the Serenity Prayer and written a Quaker, is the best book on discernment I've read. Her chapter on "Letting Go of Outcomes" is especially good.

Listed here Summer 2012

(Fiction) Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

By Helen Simonson

This delightful comedy of manners is both hilarious and heartbreaking. It is a sweet story of persevering love which overcomes cultural stereotypes and prejudice.

Listed here Summer 2012

(Memoir) Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

By Gabrielle Hamilton

Author Gabrielle Hamilton holds an MFA in Fiction and is the chef/owner of New York City's esteemed restaurant Prune. Her no holds barred Memoir is the story of her evolution into New York City's best chef. (James Beard Award 2011 This gritty Memoir also chronicles her abandonment as a young girl, the birth of her young sons, her adoration of her mother-in-law in Italy, and the demise of her marriage to an Italian doctor. Her intimacy with food is so intense and so lovely you may have to wipe drool off the page.

Listed here Winter 2011

(Non-Fiction) Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

By Richard Rohr

Rohr writes: "If you are on course at all, your world should grow much larger in the second half of life." He teaches us how to loosen our grip, to expand, to release. Most significantly he shows us how to make good use of suffering and failure. I will be re-reading this book for years.

Listed here Fall 2011

(Fiction) To Be Sung Underwater

By Tom McNeal

This exquisitely written novel is a tender coming of age story set in Nebraska. It is also an epic love story about hard choices and second chances. This book contains the most wondrous description of a first date I have ever read. Enthralled McNeal's characters, I stayed up way too late night after night.

Listed here Fall 2011

(Fiction) State of Wonder

By Ann Patchett

Just as she did in Bel Canto, Ann Patchett lures us into exotic and disturbing worlds we don't want to leave. The completely unexpected ending of this book will make you gasp and weep.

Listed here Fall 2011

(Fiction) The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

By Heidi Durrow

Heidi Durrow, who won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction for this novel, tells the story of Rachel, a biracial child who literally falls from the sky and survives a horrific family tragedy. The author, a daughter of a black parent and a white parent, is a particularly astute observer of race and culture.

Listed here Fall 2011

(Biography) Strength in What Remains

By Tracy Kidder

Tracy Kidder brings us the unforgettable story of Deo, a medical student in New York City who has survived genocide in Burundi. Kidder exposes us to the despair and slaughter of civil war, but also gives us an astonishingly resilient hero. This book is full of horror and grace.

Listed here Summer 2011

(Memoir) Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival

By Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper lets us see his vulnerable and broken heart in this intimate Memoir. He tries to come to grips with the tragedy he witnesses as well as the lingering despair of his young brother's suicide. This is such a touching Memoir that it makes me want to watch Cooper on CNN all the time.

Listed here Summer 2011

(Fiction/Short Stories) You Know When the Men Are Gone

By Siobhan Fallon

Siobhan Fallon, an insightful writer and army wife, has written a stunning collection of short stories about military families at Fort Hood. She writes astutely about the terrible stress war inflicts on spouses, partners, and children.

Listed here Summer 2011

(Fiction) Cutting for Stone

By Abraham Verghese

This is the best novel I've read in several years! This grand epic, set primarily in Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, tells the life story of twins born in a mission hospital. Their father is a British surgeon; their mother is an Indian nun. The medical details included in this book add to its credibility and richness. Author Abraham Verghese is a doctor and professor of medicine at Stanford.

Listed here Summer 2011

(Non-Fiction) Outliers: The Story of Success

By Malcolm Gladwell

I am going to give this to all moms and dads at their baby showers! I wish I had received it before I raised my children. -- A number of outrageously successful people have simply been born at the right time in history, but it mostly boils down to finding your voice and putting in your 10,000 hours of mastery. This book is fascinating reading and Gladwell's examples are intriguing.

Listed here Winter 2011

(Fiction) Brooklyn

By Colm Toibin

A jewel. I loved this novel set in the first half of the 20th century. It is the story of Eilis, a young girl who leaves her intimate and familiar community in Ireland to make a living herself in New York City. It is an immigrant's touching tale of deprivation, loneliness, exhilarating love, and excruciating choices.

Listed here Winter 2011

(Non-Fiction) A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough

By Wayne Muller

Wayne Muller delivers again in this satisfying, counter-cultural handbook of Enough. He is a magnificent storyteller and enthralls us -- most memorably with his personal tale of spiritual and physical sufficiency during a slow recovery from a damaged heart. He explores the question "What is enough?" in every conceivable way.

Listed here Fall 2010

(Fiction) Driftless

By David Rhoades

Glorious writing! Colorful, memorable characters in a small town in the driftless (where the glacier didn't go) area of Wisconsin.

Listed here Summer 2010

(Memoir) Deep Peace

By Mary Pipher

The author of Reviving Ophelia offers us a tender, honest, vulnerable Memoir describing what made her who she is and her breakdown in 2002. She vividly describes the stress of book tours, relentless travel, and the pressure to please the media. She inspires us with the story of her recovery and the reclaiming of her true values.

Listed here Summer 2010

(Memoir) The Bread of Angels

By Stephanie Saldana

This is the story of a young Fulbright scholar's year in Syria during the Iraqi War. She becomes fluent in Arabic, considers becoming a nun, and discovers an unexpected love. With a degree from Harvard Divinity School, she writes lucidly of war's deep pain and her struggle to answer God's call. A mystic and scholar's Eat, Pray, Love.

Listed here Summer 2010