Life, the news, the media, and even books can get us down. But being selective about what we see, hear, and think about can put us in a better mental state.
Here is a selection of books I’ve read recently from various time periods and genres, non-fiction and fiction, ranging from suspenseful to educational to romantic to hilarious.
What they all have in common is EXCELLENT writing, and they are NOT depressing. Have a look, maybe you’ll find a new author or title!
When you look like your Passport Photo, it’s time to go Home by Erma Bombeck – a collection of humorous travel anecdotes. I found this the perfect book for bedtime reading!
The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People With Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine – a welcome book, helping to understand a frustrating tendency that moi can relate to! (For fun, to see if you are a Renaissance soul, you can take the quiz here.)
Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop Talking by Susan Cain – very interesting and encouraging if you’re an introvert, with plenty of data from studies and statistics.
Carousel by Rosamunde Pilcher – a lovely, warm book, I couldn’t stand that it ended. A woman goes to help her aunt who broke her arm, and ends up becoming part of her aunt’s community. The neighbor’s little granddaughter connects them with a local artist who takes an interest in the newcomer.
Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray – owners of flower shops take a liking to each other, but their families’ vicious rivalries go back many generations. Warm, funny, sweet, and an unexpected ending.
My One and Only by Kristan Higgins – fantastic! This was recommended by a volunteer at a book sale when I told her I was looking for a well-written romantic comedy. A woman’s step sister marries her ex-husband’s brother, and the woman and her ex-husband have no choice but to go on a road trip from New York to Montana and back.
Marcia Schuyler by Grace Livingston Hill – an original plot and conflicts, expert revelation of deep emotions, and the vivid contrast between characters made it suspenseful and satisfying. You can read or download this book here for free.
Many Sparrows by Lori Benton, Christy Award-winning author – in this Christian historical novel set in 1774, an American Indian woman and a woman settler bring about cultural changes as they struggle over the boy they both consider their son.
Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy – four tourists vacation in the tiny seaside town of Aghia Anna, Greece, and develop friendships among themselves and the locals. Each has something they are grappling with, or running away from, in their lives. After several weeks in the warm, quiet, simple, technology-free environment, they have made some decisions and found peace. A lovely setting and story; gentle thoughts and conversations, reconciliations, revelations, new strength and hope.
The Best short stories of O. Henry – O. Henry is William Sydney Porter, an amazingly prolific writer of gentle stories with brilliant scenarios. When he died in 1910 he left over 600 complete stories behind—can you imagine? My favorites were: A Retrieved Reformation, A Municipal report, The Gift of the Magi, Mammon and the Archer, The Cop and the Anthem, and The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein. Thanks to the American Literature website, these stories and many more are here , if you’d like to read them!
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – I’d been meaning to read this for a long time. What finally brought it about is that I found the DVD of the movie with Spencer Tracy, but didn’t want to watch it before reading the novel. I read this little book about Santiago (the old man, the fisherman) in about 3 hours. What a man, such courage and determination; such exhaustion! I hope you’ll find time this year to treat yourself to the unique experience of reading this Pulitzer Prize-winning book. It is a classic, and available to read for free online.
Now we are Six by A.A. Milne – such sweet, quiet poetry with fun words and rhythm. My favorites are “The old Sailor” who can’t decide what to do first, and “Forgiven” in which the nanny accidentally lets the beetle out of the matchbox. You can read or download this book for free here.
To See the Moon Again by Jamie Langston Turner – A literary novel, two women, one older, one younger, nudge each other to have healthier attitudes toward life and themselves. Excellent writing, plot, character development, the book is current, relevant, gripping, realistic, satisfying and inspiring. I actually contacted the author about this book and she sent a signed copy to me!
Show me God by Fred Hereen – the author interviews many well-known scientists who, through the latest scientific tools and knowledge, find it hard not to believe in creation. It’s fascinating how much the studies of astronomy and astrophysics have developed over the recent years, to the point of being able to measure or closely estimate the realities of our universe.
Frederica by Georgette Heyer – a humorous Regency romance. I got a kick out of how the very arrogant, take-charge hero broke character and actually acquiesced to the pleadings of Frederica’s very young brothers, taking them on “field trips” regarding mechanical engineering & horse handling, and assisted them with the many crises their oversized sheepdog created. The ending was a twist for this type of novel.
A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder by Gary Greenberg – gorgeous photos and studies of sand from various parts of the world using 3D microphotography, showing tiny bits of sea urchins, shells, coral, within the sand grains. Amazing.
A Bride in the Bargain by Deanne Gist – an excellent Christian historical novel. Anna in Massachusetts signs a contract to be a cook for a logging company in Washington state. When she arrives she finds out her boss, Joe, had signed a contract for her to be his wife (so he wouldn’t lose his property and logging business). Enjoyed everything about it: plot, characters, and history.
Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson – what fun! These are a collection of columns he wrote for a magazine about the American way of life, humorously self-effacing, often criticizing, but in a way that is usually good-hearted and hilarious. I seriously laughed ’til I cried.
Romance Rustlers and Thunderbird Thieves: a Ruby Taylor Mystery by Sharon Dunn – an amusing page-turner. Ruby is a self-appointed investigator with a dry, deadpan sense of humor (I saw and heard the actress Janeane Garofalo as I was reading). She has no interest in her mother’s new-found Christianity, and nurses wounds from a childhood and youth ruined by her criminal parents and foster homes. Ruby gets thrown into a mess of an adventure, including a kidnapping, a gorgeous cop, and a harrowing event with a helicopter.
The Forever Feast by Dr. Paul Brand – the author contributed extensively to the medical fields of hand surgery and hand therapy for leprosy patients. Interesting reading about his intricate knowledge of the human body, so much more miraculous than we’ve ever dreamed. You can read this online here.
Howards End by E.M. Forster – the classic novel about a middle-class intellectual, artistic family connecting with a staid family of wealth who own a rural home called Howards End. Aside from more philosophizing than I care for, I especially loved the story of how two patient, quiet characters–each from opposite “sides” of the family–were able to redeem a seemingly hopeless legacy of embattled, incompatible and discordant relationships.
My Lady Quixote by Phyllis Ann Karr – twists and turns and comedy. Aunt Cassandra–in an effort to help her niece Deirdre make a “match” with Rev. George Oakton, and avoid the arranged marriage with a rake–decides that the solution is to have Deirdre abducted. The idea is that when Sir Roderick, Auntie’s friend who is secretly a highwayman, abducts young Deirdre, Rev. Oakton will rescue her, realize he loves her, and marry her before the rake can interfere. But alas, most of her strategies fail thoroughly, catastrophically and hilariously.
Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake. Set in 1890 New York, Lady Sydney Hathwell of England is pledged to the overly-chauvinistic (even for that time) Rexall Hume. She escapes life with him by dressing up as a man and heading west to stay with Uncle Fuller, who she led to believe is his “nephew”. Original believable plotline, and wholesome!
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson – a thrilling adventure set in medieval England with young Richard Shelton, fellow orphan Joanna Sedley, and a mysterious outlaw/ally identified by his black arrows. I am stunned that I couldn’t put this book down, since most of it consisted of one escapade after another of the inexperienced hero and his ragged band fighting, fleeing or stalking myriads of others (in a little too much gory detail for me!). But throughout the tale, he never stops his quest of freeing his one true love, who is the complete opposite of the helpless female so common in novels written in 1883. He is such a decent, incredibly courageous, intelligent young man, and humble, making reparation as best he can when he makes mistakes that bring harm to others. So suspenseful. Happy ending.
So there you go. I hope you find some reading materials–here, or elsewhere–that genuinely elevate your mind and spirit.
If you particularly enjoyed reading one of these I hope you’ll share the experience with us in the comments!