The Sweet By and By: A Novel by Todd Johnson


This lovely and affecting novel weaves together the stories of five very different women who meet in a nursing home and forge friendships that span decades.  Told in alternating chapters the reader is fully immersed in each of the characters lives and one cannot help caring for each of them.

For more southern tales of female friendship, check out these titles:

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

The Cider House Rules by John Irving


Homer Wells has spent his entire life at St. Cloud’s–an orphanage in rural Maine run by the obstetrician Dr. Larch–the mainstay in Homer’s life and a man that Homer will later learn saves not only babies, but mothers, too.  A beautifully written, character-driven story about the lives of these two men and the effect they have on each other, St. Cloud’s, and the wider world.

For more expansive and lyrical bildungsroman check out these titles:

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

Now is the Hour by Tom Spanbauer

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

10% Happier by Dan Harris


A well-known ABC newsperson, Dan Harris went on a journey to discover “self-help that actually works” after having an on-air panic attack that threw the dysfunction of his overactive mind into sharp focus. A fascinating memoir that will sway even the most adamant non-believer to the merits of meditation.

For more materials exploring the practice of mindfulness, check these out:

Practicing Mindfulness an Introduction to Meditation (Great Courses)

The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being (Great Courses)

Guided Mindfulness Meditation (CD Audiobook)

Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh


Set amidst the 2002 abuse scandal that rocked the Boston archdiocese, Faith tells the story of how one devout family experiences the fallout.  Three grown siblings, the McGanns, find themselves caught in the whirlwind when brother and priest, Art, is drawn into the allegations.  His sister Sheila rushes home to support him, while their younger brother Mike has already convinced himself Art is guilty.

For other novels that explore the themes of faith and family, check these out:

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

Run by Ann Patchett

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

american gods

Shadow has just been released from prison and since the death of his wife he has nowhere to go and no one to turn to, so when the mysterious Mr. Wednesday hires him to accompany him on a dark and twisted road trip, Shadow accepts. A mythic, exhilarating story about humans and gods and the power they derive from each other. American Gods is a one-of-a-kind reading experience.

For more powerhouses of speculative fiction, look for these 3 titles:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde


Thursday Next is a renowned literary detective in a 1985 version of London where there is time travel, black holes, and characters from literature come to life.  Thursday Next is currently attempting to save heroine Jane Eyre from an act of literary homicide. Imaginative, outlandish, and lots of fun. Check out this first book in a great series.

For more hilarious and whimsical offerings, check out books by:

Douglas Adams

Christopher Moore

Terry Pratchett

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides


“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.”

So begins the story of Cal, an audacious and lyrical narrator who tells the story of his own transformation by taking the reader through the story of his grandparents, Greek immigrants who settle in Prohibition-era Detroit, his upwardly mobile parents and the family’s resettlement in Grosse Pointe, and his own fascinating journey from Calliope to Cal.

For more sprawling, family sagas check these out:

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby


A collection of ten years worth of Nick Hornby’s monthly column–“Stuff I’ve Been Reading”–for the McSweeney’s publication: Believer.  Each column begins simply with lists of “books bought” and “books read” but the essays themselves are vintage Nick Hornby–playful, incisive, and witty; Hornby makes reading about what someone else is reading interesting and fun.

For more books about books, check out these titles:

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch 

Big Girl Small: A Novel by Rachel DeWoskin


Sixteen-year-old Judy Lohden attends a performing arts high school where her big, beautiful voice should make her a star, but instead she’s hiding out from the national news media in a motel on the edge of town having been marked by a school controversy that has something (but not everything) to do with her 3 foot 9 nine inch frame.  A fabulous heroine, painfully accurate depiction of high school, and engaging story make this a book you don’t want to miss.

Looking for more hopeful but heartbreaking books featuring teen protagonists?  Here are 3 of my favorites:

Tell the Wolves I’m Home: A Novel by Carol Rifka Brunt

The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Heft: A Novel by Liz Moore

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain


Portland detective, Archie Sheridan, spent years chasing the notorious serial killer Gretchen Lowell until the day she caught him.  For reasons still not clear to Archie, Gretchen let him go and then turned herself in–in an effort to find out why, Archie visits his former captor on a weekly basis in prison.  Now she may be the key to solving a new series of murders rocking the city.

Looking for more dark and thrilling reads from women authors?  You might want to check out these terrific/terrifying writers:

Karin Slaughter

Tana French

Lauren Beukes