Did you know reading is scientifically proven to be one of the best ways to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, prevent cognitive decline and enhance our overall well-being? If you haven’t picked up a book in a while for lack of good choices, I compiled a list of my favorite books just for you.
MY FAVORITE BOOKS
Where the Crawdads Sing
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.
But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens. -via Goodreads
Vianne Mauriac doesn’t believe the Nazis will invade France… but they do. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old, searching for purpose with reckless passion. She meets and falls in love with Gaëtan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance, risking her life time and again to save others.
This is a story of two sisters, separated by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own path toward survival, love, and freedom. -A heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. -via Goodreads
All the Light We Cannot See
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. -via Goodreads
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Smart, warm, uplifting, it’s the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconcious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart. -via Goodreads
MY FAVORITE BOOKS – MEMOIRS AND AUTOBIOGRAPHIES
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her, from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it, in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations, and whose story inspires us to do the same. -via Goodreads
A Promised Land
Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency as the first Black President of the United States.
A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective, the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible. -via Goodreads
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education.
Tara taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, learning for the first time about world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her to Harvard and Cambridge.
Educated is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. It’s a coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it. -via Goodreads
Women strive to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees and friends. All this striving leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent, even from ourselves.
For years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. The discontent she buried beneath decades of addictions, cultural conditioning and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free.
Untamed is an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It’s the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak. -via Goodreads
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and our nation’s fate.
Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations. Using riveting stories, she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day.
She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics.
Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity. -via Goodreads
MY FAVORITE BOOKS – SELF-HELP
The Body Keeps the Score
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Such experiences inevitably leave traces on minds, emotions, and even on biology. Sadly, trauma sufferers frequently pass on their stress to their partners and children.
Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy—and a way to reclaim lives. –via Goodreads
Studies show it’s important for our well-being to block at least thirty minutes a day to escape into a good book. But, sometimes life happens and reading loses rank.
My friend, Kim, who happens to read ten times more books than the average hustling Mom and whose sixth sense seems to know when I’m being literarily lax, is the best book giver ever. When Kim ships a book my way, my psyche gently whispers, “G’head, drop everything and read a while. Kim insists.“
So, in honor of my generous book-loving friend, Kim, I hope you take some time to read today. And I hope you make it one of my favorite books. -xo