10 Amazing Books I’ve Recently Read That You Will Love

reading kindle

Ever since I received my Kindle last year for Mother’s Day, I’ve doubled the number of books I read.

I never, ever thought I would find reading on a Kindle more enjoyable than holding a real book, but (gasp) I’m finding it to be true. It’s easier to hold, the type is easier to read, and I can access new books so quickly. I have been won over.

I feel a little guilty about it. Like I’m betraying books and the art of bookmaking and my life-long love affair with books. But it is what it is.

The good part of this guilty pleasure is that now I have more wonderful books to share with you. And I’ve read some really great ones over the last few months. So here’s my reading list. I hope find a few to gather up or order on your Kindle for summer reading.

City of Women: A Novel, by David R. Gillham

I loved this exquisitely-written piece of historical fiction with great character development. Here’s the Amazon description:

It is 1943—the height of the Second World War. With the men away at the front, Berlin has become a city of women.

On the surface, Sigrid Schröder is the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime.

But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman of passion who dreams of her former Jewish lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets—she soon finds herself caught between what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two.

Into the Forest: A Novel, by Jean Hegland

I couldn’t put this book down. It feels hauntingly real and is such a great study of relationships and survival. Here’s the description:

Set in the near-future, Into the Forest is a powerfully imagined novel that focuses on the relationship between two teenage sisters living alone in their Northern California forest home.

Over 30 miles from the nearest town, and several miles away from their nearest neighbor, Nell and Eva struggle to survive as society begins to decay and collapse around them. No single event precedes society’s fall. There is talk of a war overseas and upheaval in Congress, but it still comes as a shock when the electricity runs out and gas is nowhere to be found. The sisters consume the resources left in the house, waiting for the power to return. Their arrival into adulthood, however, forces them to reexamine their place in the world and their relationship to the land and each other.

Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, Into the Forest is a mesmerizing and thought-provoking novel of hope and despair set in a frighteningly plausible near-future America.

Life After Life: A Novel, Kate Atkinison

This book is a stroke of genius. How the author was able to create this ingenious construction of time, fate, and free will is beyond me. It is funny, smart, and simply brilliant. Here’s the description:

Every time Ursula Todd dies, she is born again. Each successive life is an iteration on the last, and we see how Ursula’s choices affect her, those around her, and–so boldly–the fate of the 20th-century world.

Most impressive is how Kate Atkinson keeps the complexity of her postmodern plotting so nimble. Life After Life approaches the universe in both the micro- and macro sense, balancing the interior lives of Ursula’s friends and family with the weight of two World Wars. (How many writers can make domestic drama as compelling as the London Blitz?)

Life After Life is an extraordinary feat of narrative ambition, an audacious genre-bender, and a work of literary genius

Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, by Gregg Michael Levoy

I discovered this book when I was doing research on life passion for my Path to Passion course. Gregg Levoy writes beautifully and from the heart. He integrates material from spiritual masters, psychology, and cultural experts to offer a beautiful resource for uncovering your calling. Here’s the description:

How do we know if we’re following our true callings? How do we sharpen our senses to cut through the distractions of everyday reality and hear the calls that are beckoning us?

This is the first book to examine the many kinds of calls we receive and the great variety of channels through which they come to us. A calling may be to do something (change careers, go back to school, have a child) or to be something (more creative, less judgmental, more loving). While honoring a calling’s essential mystery, this book also guides readers to ask and answer the fundamental questions that arise from any calling: How do we recognize it? How do we distinguish the true call from the siren song? How do we handle our resistance to a call? What happens when we say yes? What happens when we say no?

Nightwoods: A Novel, by Charles Frazier

I’ve loved everything Charles Frazier has written (Cold Mountain
was my favorite), and this book is no exception. His characters and descriptions are always immaculate. Here’s more info:

The extraordinary author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons returns with a dazzling new novel of suspense and love set in small-town North Carolina in the early 1960s.
 
Charles Frazier puts his remarkable gifts in the service of a lean, taut narrative while losing none of the transcendent prose, virtuosic storytelling, and insight into human nature that have made him one of the most beloved and celebrated authors in the world. Now, with his brilliant portrait of Luce, a young woman who inherits her murdered sister’s troubled twins, Frazier has created his most memorable heroine.
 
Before the children, Luce was content with the reimbursements of the rich Appalachian landscape, choosing to live apart from the small community around her. But the coming of the children changes everything, cracking open her solitary life in difficult, hopeful, dangerous ways.
 
Charles Frazier is known for his historical literary odysseys, and for making figures in the past come vividly to life. Set in the twentieth century, Nightwoods resonates with the timelessness of a great work of art.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, Eben Alexander

Whether or not you are a believer in any kind of afterlife or near-death experiences, this is a fascinating book written about the personal experience of an agnostic neurosurgeon who has a profound experience during a coma. Here’s more . . .

Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists. A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then, Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human—shut down completely. For seven days he lay in a coma. Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

Alexander’s story is not a fantasy. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.

This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to. That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary. No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it. Reading it will change your life.

The Last Runaway, by Tracy Chevalier

I loved this amazing book by the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring. The main character, Honor Bright, drives the story and is such a compelling and passionate woman in the midst of tragedy and her Quaker faith. This is a great book club book. Here’s the description:

In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.

Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.

However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.

A powerful journey brimming with color and drama, The Last Runaway is Tracy Chevalier’s vivid engagement with an iconic part of American history.

The Twelve (Book Two of The Passage Trilogy), by Justin Cronin

This is the second book in Justin Cronin’s compelling trilogy (beginning with The Passage). If you haven’t read The Passage, read it first. If you have, this one is even better. I couldn’t put either down. The New York Times calls it a “super thriller,” and I absolutely agree. A great summer read! Here’s more . . .

In his internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic story surges forward with The Twelve.

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.
 
One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.
 
A heart-stopping thriller rendered with masterful literary skill, The Twelve is a grand and gripping tale of sacrifice and survival.

Transformed!: The Science of Spectacular Living, Dr. Judith Wright

Dr. Wright was recently a guest expert speaking at my Path to Passion course. She and her husband, Dr. Bob Wright, have integrated their own research on their students who have successfully transformed their lives with cutting edge findings in science and psychology to show us how to live passionately. This is truly a transformational book with specific actions to show you the way. Here’s more . . .

In the radical new book Transformed!, bestselling author Dr. Judith Wright and acclaimed speaker Dr. Bob Wright explore how individuals can achieve lifelong transformation—in their careers, their relationships, and their lives.

Transformed! integrates cutting-edge findings across many fields with groundbreaking research about the highest performing students at the Wright’s
internationally recognized leadership training institute, who didn’t just make exceptional improvements in their lives but took remarkable leaps forward. This study, combined with over 30 years of feedback and program development, is crafted into an effective and compelling six-phase process for growth and transformation, the heart of which is a person’s deepest yearning and the pathway to finding it.

Providing a powerful breakthrough to understanding why most self-help and personal development programs don’t work, Transformed! profiles individuals who have attained deep fulfillment in every aspect of life and illustrates how anyone, by following this proven process, can achieve lasting, revolutionary transformation.

The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult

I have read a lot of Jodi Picoult novels, and I think this is her best book yet. As with all of her novels, it is thought-provoking, dealing with issues of good and evil, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness. But this has an amazingly well-researched and detailed plot that will leave you wanting more when you turn the last page. Here’s the description:

Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t, and they become companions.

Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret—one that nobody else in town would ever suspect—and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With her own identity suddenly challenged, and the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family. When does a moral choice become a moral imperative? And where does one draw the line between punishment and justice, forgiveness and mercy?

In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths we will go in order to protect our families and to keep the past from dictating the future.


What books have you read recently that you enjoyed? Please share them in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this list, Barrie, mostly authors and books unknown to me and all intriguing. Here are some of my favorites from recent months:

    A Life of One’s Own by Marion Milner is a record of self-discovery through the author’s exploration of her own thought processes, which she begins by asking questions about what would make her happy. Throughout she works with the notion of “blind thinking,” efforts to pay attention and train one’s thoughts, and extension of understanding to appreciation and personal relationships. Body awareness through breathing exercises and relaxation informs the journey. One reviewer described it as “detective story,” one I didn’t want to end.

    Better by Atul Gawande, about medical practice and health care, applies to all sorts of pursuits in life, the theme being diligence, especially in a field such as medicine with so many possible points of error. The author’s humility throughout is remarkable, especially recounting his visits to Indian hospitals and how the doctors there rarely specialize but perform a multiplicity of functions, making do with startlingly little. Every chapter is an eye-opener and the afterword, five suggestions for medical students is a perfect capstone and worthwhile suggestions for work of many kinds

    The Gift of An Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison ,which moved me especially for the author’s expression of gratitude, naked storytelling, with no holding back about difficulties, frustrations, mistakes, her own foibles as a mother of teenage boys and desire to control – and learning to let go. Midway through her life, the writer opts to uproot her family to entirely new surroundings. Eventually they tear down and rebuild the antique house they find, but the book is really about another kind of reconstruction. Some of my takeaways include, accepting children as they are while encouraging them to become who they will, finding friends in unexpected places, an appreciation of natural beauty and through practice, learning to live with uncertainty and impermanence.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Garrett,
      Thank you SOOO much for sharing those books. I have heard of the first one, but I haven’t read any of them. They are going on my reading list! Great reviews of each of them.

  2. Yeah, the Kindle is awesome. I love how you can just move the cursor to whatever word you don’t understand and the dictionary immediately helps out. Very handy for confused Swedish people :)

    Anyway, I just wanted to quickly recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg which is insanely helpful in understanding how our habits work and how we can change them.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Patrik
      I have read The Power of Habit — fantastic! I teach a course (www.thehabitcourse.com) with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits helping people create life-long habits. This book is spot on and really delves into the science of how to make habits stick. Thank you for sharing this one!

  3. Julia M. Murphy says:

    Barrie, thank you so much. I am really enjoying your blog post as well as the comments. You are all growing my reading list as you write!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hello dear Julia! So nice to see you here. Let me know what you decide to read first. Hope all is well with you!

  4. Picoult is wonderful; so glad to see this on the list.

  5. I love J. Picoult. I was happy to see her on your list. My favorite author is Debbie Macomber. I’m presently reading her inspirational book. Her series (Blossem Street & Cedar Cover were awesome.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Andrea,
      I haven’t read anything by Debbie Macomber, but now I will check her out! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Hi Barrie. Thanks for the Jodi Picoult recommendation. I just ordered “The Storyteller” for my Kindle.

    I wonder if you’ve read “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World” by Martha Beck. The subtitle is “Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want.” From the book jacket: “There are certain people who sense that they are called to do something fulfilling and significant, but who often get caught in self-destructive, unproductive cycles. This is the book that will lead you to unleash your incredible creative energy — and fulfill your life’s purpose.”

    The more time I spend here at your blog, the more I sense that you and I have much in common. So I thought you might enjoy this compassionate, inspirational book of self-discovery.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Linda,
      I haven’t read that book, but I love Martha Beck. I will definitely get it. Thank you so much for sharing it and for your warm words! Glad to meet a kindred spirit. :)

  7. Wow… you just love reading that is great. :) I’ve been trying to read more lately but sometimes it is not that easy to catch a break. Modern life… But once I do I have my books to relax a little bit.
    I will take a look at your list and see if I can find a book that fits my style. Now I am reading a novel, kind of a medieval fiction. It is really cool.
    Thanks for the tips.
    Take care.

  8. I happened to read Life After Life recently as well. Atkinson is such a gifted writer who pushes herself to do new things with story structure. It’s amazing. Do you read her Jackson Brodie series too, Barrie? If not, I highly recommend them.

  9. Jason Maxwell says:

    Thank you for these recommendations. I have added a couple to my book list for the month. My highest recommendation of the year is Journey (If Where You’re Going Isn’t Home) from Max Zimmer. It’s a marvelous coming of age fiction story that follows the teenage years of Shake Tauffler in his journey through adolecence as he pursues his passion for jazz music against the demands of his faith and family. http://maxzimmer.com/the-trilogy/

  10. Deborah S says:

    I want to recommend an amazing biography I read recently about a young teacher, Jhumki Basu, who developed a revolutionary teaching idea – including students in curriculum development. She taught tough teenage immigrants and minorities, the troubled and unguided, often from violent environments. She also had a seven year battle with breast cancer that she lost in her thirties. Her father, Dipak Basu, wrote the book “Mission to Teach” (http://missiontoteach.org/) to commemorate his daughter’s amazing advances in the school system and to inspire and motivate his readers to help change the world we live in. This book is truly life-changing and I recommend it to anyone looking for a little inspiration :)

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