Books of 2022

My 2022 reading list contains sixty-six titles. I read fewer books than the past two years, but that’s a good thing. As the pandemic lessened its grip, I was able to venture out more, which resulted in less reading time. I’m grateful to have reading as a lifelong hobby. Books have enriched my life in many ways, and I look forward to the ones that have yet to be discovered and devoured. I hope 2023 provides you with the time to lose yourself in a good book or two or twenty. Here’s my list:

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American FamilyRobert Kolker
Milk FedMelissa Broder
Apples Never FallLiane Moriarity
The First HusbandLaura Dave
Know My NameChanel Miller
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoTaylor Jenkins Reid
Five Tuesdays in WinterLily King
Eight Hundred GrapesLaura Dave
Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent and Navigating The New MasculinityPeggy Orenstein
Writers and LoversLily King
Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New LandscapePeggy Orenstein
Super HostKate Russo
Crying In H Mart: A MemoirMichelle Zauner
Salt In My Soul: An Unfinished LifeMallory Smith
LuckyMarissa Stapley
The Confession ClubElizabeth Berg
Sarah’s KeyTatiana de Rosnay
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionBryan Stevenson
Oh William!Elizabeth Strout
Chasing Drew HastingsDrew Hastings
The Most Fun We Ever HadClaire Lombardo
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving, Loss, and HealingAmy Newmark
Death in Slow Motion: My Mother’s Descent into Alzheimer’sEleanor Cooney
Ask Me Why I Hurt: The Kids Nobody Wants and The Doctor Who Heals ThemRandy Christensen, MD with Rene Denfeld
All the White Friends I Couldn’t KeepAndre Henry
Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us WholeSusan Cain
The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly DepartingBronnie Ware
Real Change: Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the WorldSharon Salzberg
Emotional Inheritance: A Therapist, Her Patients, and the Legacy of TraumaGalit Atlas, PhD.
From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of LifeArthur C. Brooks
In The Dream HouseCarmen Maria Mcahado
LessAndrew Sean Greer
Love In The Time Of ContagionLaura Kipnis
Unmasked-My Life Solving America’s Cold CasesPaul Holes w/Robin Gaby Fisher
Happy-Go-LuckyDavid Sedaris
The Wishing Year: A House, A Man, My SoulNoelle Oxenhandler
The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing LifeJulia Cameron
Summer LoveNancy Thayer
Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s MemoirNatasha Trethewey
I Am MalalaMalala Yousafzai
The Next Thing You KnowJessica Strawser
The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His PeopleRick Bragg
How To Tell A Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling From The Moth5 Authors
I Was Told It Would Get EasierAbbi Waxman
Adult Assebly RequiredAbbi Waxman
Where I Come From: Stories from the Deep SouthRick Bragg
Love, Lies, and Lemon CakeSue Watson
The Girls Guide To Love And Supper ClubsDana Bate
The MeasureNikki Erlick
The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your LifeSimran Jeet Singh
A Course In Miracles Made Easy: Mastering the Journey From Fear to LoveAlan Cohen
Remarkably Bright CreaturesShelby Van Pelt
On AnimalsSusan Orlean
Longpath: Becoming the Great Ancestors Our Future NeedsAri Wallach
Here & Hereafter: How Wisdom from the Departed Can Transform Your Life NowTyler Henry
The Gratitude Diaries: How A Year Looking On The Bright Side Can Transform Your LifeJanice Kaplan
We Never Die: Secrets of the AfterlifeMatt Fraser
Seven Days In JuneTia Williams
Signal FiresDani Shapiro
For You When I Am Gone: Twelve Essential Questions to Tell a Life StorySteve Leder
The EditorSteven Rowley
Lessons in ChemistryBonnie Garmus
Lily and the OctopusSteven Rowley
The Camino: A Journey of the SpiritShirley MacLaine
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital AgeSherry Turkle
The Stories We TellJoanna Gaines

Books of 2020

2020 was a lemon of a year. Instead of whipping up pitchers of lemonade, I read. Lots and lots of books. The local library closed for about two months, so after plowing through the few loaned books I had, I began downloading books on my iPad via Hoopla, a free online media source. I also purchased a few books to add to my home collection. In June the library reopened, and I was once again able to borrow hard copies to help soak up time. By year’s end, my list grew to an all-time personal record—82 books! I highlighted my top five choices in red, which are split among the genres of biography, fiction, memoir, and self-help.

I wish you well as we begin a new year, and hope your days are filled with joy, good health, connection with others, and books.

Finding Chika: A little girl, an earthquake, and the making of a familyMitch Albom
Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and MeAdrienne Brodeur
The Time KeeperMitch Albom
The Deepest Well:Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood AdversityNadine Burke Harris, M.D.
Onederland: My Childhood with Type 1 DiabetesJamie Kurtzig
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone?Lori Gottlieb
Images of America: GreenhillsDebbie Mills and Margo Warminski with the Greenhills Historical Society
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative BattlesSteven Pressfield
BecomingMichelle Obama
The Unbreakable ChildKim Michele Richardson
Finding Your Way Home: A Soul Survival KitMelody Beattie
Brother & Sister: A MemoirDiane Keaton
Gay Like Me: A Father Writes to His SonRichie Jackson
The Two Lives of Lydia BirdJosie Silver
The Book of DelightsRoss Gay
Dear EdwardAnn Napolitano
Cincinnati Goetta: A Delectable HistoryDann Woellert
One Day in DecemberJosie Silver
Zen in the Art of WritingRay Bradbury
Signs: The Secret Language of the UniverseLaura Lynne Jackson
Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the DirtTodd Harra and Kenneth McKenzie
Beginner’s Guide to NumerologyJoy Woodward
An Abbreviated LifeAriel Leve
The Light Between Us: Stories from Heaven, Lessons for the LivingLaura Lynne Jackson
Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: An Introvert’s Year of Living DangerouslyJessica Pan
Everything is Horrible and WonderfulStephanie Wittels 
Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying “Yes” to LivingTim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle
This Could Change EverythingJill Mansell
Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic WorldBrook McAlary
Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults)Michael N. Marcus
A Different Kind of Same: A MemoirKelley Clink
The HideawayLauren K. Denton
Changed By Chance: My Journey of Triumph Over TragedyElizabeth Barker
Recipe For a Perfect WifeKarma Brown
Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped MemoirTre’ Miller Rodriguez
Fire Season: A MemoirHollye Dexter
Let’s Talk About Death Over DinnerMichael Hebb
Green Nails and Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After LossElaine Soloway
A Leg to Stand On: An Amputee’s Walk into MotherhoodColleen Haggerty
Four Funerals and a Wedding: Resilience in a Time of GriefJill Smolowe
Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and UnderlivingCeleste Headlee
The End of Your Life Book ClubWill Schwalbe
St. Francis Society for Wayward PetsAnnie England Noblin
Her Beautiful BrainAnn Hedreen
Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending WomenEdited by Nina Gaby
Flip-Flops After Fifty: And Other Thoughts on Aging I Remembered to Write DownCindy Eastman
The FallenDavid Baldacci
The Keeper of Lost ThingsRuth Hogan
Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their LivesBrian L. Weiss, MD
We Got This: Solo Mom Stories of Grit, Heart, and HumorMarika Lindholm and other authors
My Sister’s GraveRobert Dugoni
Bones Never LieKathy Reichs
Wild and Precious LifeDeborah Ziegler
Found: A MemoirJennifer Lauck
Secret Girl: A MemoirMolly Bruce Jacobs
Marrow: A Love StoryElizabeth Lesser
A Perfect ProposalKatie Fforde
Dead Guy’s StuffSharon Fiffer
RedemptionDavid Baldacci
Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous ManMary Trump
A Cold TrailRobert Dugoni
UntamedGlennon Doyle
Writers and LoversLily King
I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a WomanNora Ephron
Life After Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort, & Community After Unthinkable LossJennifer Ashton, M.D.
Your Voice in My HeadEmma Forrest
The House on Olive StreetRobyn Carr
Bunco: A Comedy About the Drama of FriendshipRobin Delnoce
Past Lives With Pets: Discover Your Timeless Connection to Your Beloved CompanionsShelley A. Kaehr, PhD
Anxious PeopleFredrik Backman
Walk The WireDavid Baldacci
You Ought To Do A Story About MeTed Jackson
And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And LongerFredrik Backman
The Friends We KeepJane Green
The Buddhist on Death RowDavid Sheff
The Lost and Found BookshopSusan Wiggs
The Spirit’s Way HomeNatalie Fowler
Finding Freedom: Writings From Death RowJarvis Jay Masters
Britt-Marie Was HereFredrik Backman
Prozac NationElizabeth Wurtzel
No Time Like The Future: An Optimist Considers MortalityMichael J. Fox
So You Want To Talk About RaceIjeoma Oluo

Reading Recap #7

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2019 was the Year of the Pig. For me, it was also the Year of the Book. I read sixty-one, a personal record, and found myself locked in a tie with my favorite bookworm, Nick B. I’m blessed and grateful to have the gift of time to pursue this lifelong passion. In addition to providing relaxation and escape, reading also influences my writing. I’m exposed to different styles and voices, and learn from writers who are more experienced, polished, and published. I posted my most recent titles below, but want to mention a question and answer found within one of the selections.

Robert “Robbie” de Villiers was just sixteen when he was diagnosed with leukemia. The year was 1944 and the survival rate was low. Robbie succumbed to the disease. In 1949, five years after Robbie’s passing, his family started a fundraising and education organization in their son’s name. This foundation, in existence for over seventy years, became the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In the book containing Robbie’s writing, he opens with a question, “Have you ever considered what the mere ability to read means?” His reply—”Our education, our success in life, may depend on the books we read.”

Here is my list:


  • The Uncoupling-Cauvery Madhavan I met the author on Twitter. Her book takes a peek inside an Indian arranged marriage.
  • the next person you meet in heaven-Mitch Albom This is the sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven
  • Where the Heart Is-Billie Letts After being abandoned in a Walmart parking lot, a pregnant teen takes up residence in the store. 
  • Sourdough-Robin Sloan This quirky, techie, story has a unique main character—a sourdough starter. (Thanks, Nan, for suggesting the last two titles.)


  • Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis This book could also fall under self-help.
  • Hello Nobody: Standing at the Door Alone—What To Do When Everything Changes – Janet Haney I met this local, self-published author at a book fair. Our journeys are eerily similar.
  • RAR. de Villiers- A Boy’s Philosophy: Writings of Robert A.R. de Villiers 1927-1944 A tribute addition from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Over The Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love – Jonathan Van Ness I’ve never watched the Netflix show, Queer Eye, so I was unfamiliar with the author. I always enjoy a glimpse into the life of another.
  • Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered -Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark This memoir tells the life story of the two authors, true crime fanatics and creators of the Podcast, My Favorite Murder. I highly recommend this selection to my favorite true crime fanatic, Laura Jean.


  • Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms: Who And What You See Before You Die – David Kessler This quick read (160 pages) is full of stories from hospice workers, doctors, nurses, and social workers and the deathbed visions they witness and hear about in their work with the dying. It reminded me of a longtime favorite book, Final Gifts.
  • Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief – David Kessler Mr. Kessler co-authored, On Grief and Grieving, with Elizabeth Kubler Ross, M.D., best known for her Five Stages of Grief theory.
  • The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter – Margareta Magnusson. I’m working on an essay about clutter, so this selection served as research for me.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope some of the titles resonate with you. If you have any suggestions for me, I’m always looking for my next read. Happy New Year. I hope it’s full of growth, joy, good health, and books!

Reading Recap #6

It’s been three months since I’ve posted a reading recap. I continue to devour books at a record pace, all thanks to the free time “retirement” provides. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to pursue this lifelong hobby. Reading is relaxing, cathartic, educational, enlightening, enriching, something you can do alone, and can be totally free thanks to libraries and book sharing with friends. My Goodreads tracking system says I’ve read fifty books this year, which is well above my modest goal of fifteen. Below is my list categorized by genre. If I feel a book is worthy of explanation or special recognition, it is noted. Books make a great holiday gift. Consider adding one or two to a stocking or tuck one under the tree—bow is optional.


1. I Liked My Life-Abby Fabiaschi This book has a spiritual slant, which I enjoyed. There’s a quote in the book by real-life poet and essayist, Adrienne Rich, that’s become a favorite:

“If we could learn to learn from pain, even as it grasps us.…”

2. Mornings on Main-Jodi Thomas

3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine-Gail Honeyman I loved this book! It’s funny, quirky, sad, tragic, but most of all, very well written.


4. Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and The Drug Company That Addicted America-Beth Macy

This book should be required reading for all Americans. An eye-opening account of our current opioid/heroin epidemic and its origin. SPOILER ALERT: Corporate power and greed are outed. Kudos to Ms. Macy for sharing this behind-the-scenes look at how this crisis began, who created it, who enabled it, and what’s being done to combat it.

5. Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever-Karen Kingston

I first read this book about fifteen years ago. I had to dig through old journals to locate the title. I reread it for research on an article I’ve started about clutter and its relation to EVERYTHING! If you are a New Year’s resolution type of person and think clutter is well, cluttering up your life, read this book between now and January 1 and get ready for a happier, more grounded you. Oh, and your home will be tidier, too.

6. The Last Ocean: A Journey Through Memory and Forgetting-Nicci Gerrard This book is about dementia and its impact on patients, caregivers, and family. Dementia, like cancer, will touch us all in some way.

7. Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives-Michael Newton, PhD. I would categorize this book as “spiritual/educational.” It was written a few decades ago, but its message remains relevant. An interesting read if you care to learn more about where we came from and where we’re going when we leave this planet.

8. Make Miracles in Forty Days– Melody Beattie

I finally read this gem recommended by a friend. The book is about gratitude and making time each day to jot down ten things you’re grateful for. You do this for forty days (or more) and watch as your miracle unfolds. I’ve reached the forty day mark, but found real change occurring just days into the practice. I plan to make it a daily habit, like brushing teeth. I highly recommend this book and its message.

9. The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith– Gabrielle Bernstein

In my book, Carried By a Feather, I briefly discuss the only two real emotions—love and fear. Fear is how many of us navigate life. If you can find a way to dismiss your ego and all of its negative self-talk, you’ll find your way to LOVE. Ms. Bernstein’s book reiterates this message.

MEMOIRS (My favorite and most populated category.)

10. Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives– Becky Aikman

This book is about six strangers, gathered by the author, who come together once a month to share their experiences as they navigate widowhood.

11. maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, And a Mother’s Will To Survive– Stephanie Land

Ms. Land recants her tale as a single mom who worked as a maid to support herself and her daughter all while harboring a dream of relocating to Montana to pursue a college degree. She shares what it’s like to be poor in America, and how she ultimately dug her way out. I read it in a day.

12. Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing– Jennifer Weiner

13. It’s Okay to Laugh– Nora McInerny Purmort “Funny” isn’t the only f-word in this tale of life and loss.

14. Hot Young Widow’s Club– Nora McInerny

15. Good Mourning- Elizabeth Meyer A New York fashionista turned funeral planner. This sentence pretty much sums up the gist of the book. She’s a little braggy about her designer clothes and shoes, which does nothing to move the story forward. If you get past that, it’s an interesting read.

16. Calypso- David Sedaris. I recently had the pleasure of attending an evening with Mr. Sedaris. He’s hilarious, quirky, and a gifted writer. His books never disappoint.

17. Born to Run– Bruce Springsteen. I finally tackled this wordy memoir—754 pages in the Large Print version. I’ve been a devoted fan since the mid-70’s. I enjoyed and appreciated this peek into his life.

18. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love-Dani Shapiro

19. devotion: a memoir– Dani Shapiro

20. Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage- Dani Shapiro

Of the three memoirs by Ms. Shapiro, I enjoyed Inheritance the most. It also happens to be her most recent body of work and one that’s relevant to our culture’s current fascination with researching our roots. Thank you,

Twenty titles this go-around. There are sixty-four days left in the year. I think I can knock off at least ten more books before the ball drops on 2019. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Reading!

Reading Recap #5

I set a goal to read fifteen books this year. At the time of this post, I’ve read twenty-eight. At this pace, I’m on track to add fifty books to my Goodreads tracking system when 2019 comes to a close. This would be an all-time record for me, and one that would put me hot on the heels of the king of bookworms, Nick B. Below is a list of the twenty-four books I’ve read since my last update. It includes fiction, memoirs, and a few “how-to” books. I’ve grouped the list by genre, and included a comment or two on a select few. Oh, and five stars (*****) indicates that I especially enjoyed it and therefore, highly recommend it.


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo– Stieg Larsson

The Story of Arthur Truluv-Elizabeth Berg

Night of Miracles– Elizabeth Berg

The Couple Next Door– Shari Lapena

A Stranger in the House– Shari Lapena

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year Old Like a Skank-Celia Rivenbark

What Alice Forgot-Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers-Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies-Liane Moriarty


Dying To Be Me-Anita Moorjani *****

Lucky-Alice Sebold *****

Born A Crime-Trevor Noah *****

After Life: Answers From the Other Side-John Edward

Once More We Saw Stars-Jayson Greene ***** (The premise of this book is both sad and tragic, but the story is worth sharing. A beautiful tribute.)

All Over but the Shoutin’-Rick Bragg ***** (This is my favorite book on the list. Mr. Bragg is an exceptional writer. Like books I’ve read by Pat Conroy, I felt somewhat sad when I finished this one. I wanted more.)

No Happy Endings-Nora McInerny

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There’s Life After Death-Annie Kagan ***** (I purchased this book when I couldn’t check it out at a local library. It now sits on a shelf with other spiritual books. It’s a keeper.)

The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After-Julie Yip-Williams ***** (Spoiler Alert. If you google this title, you’ll learn that it does not have a happy ending. Don’t let that keep you from reading about the life, experiences, wisdom, insights, and lessons the author gained as she successfully navigated her way through life legally blind, and then later as a young wife and mother diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.)


On Writing-Stephen King ***** (I own this book, and first read it about five years ago. I reread it while working on my forthcoming memoir. If you feel inclined to pen your own work of fiction or non-fiction, I encourage you to read Mr. King’s book. His advice is spot-on, and he’s actually funny, which is refreshing for me as his works of fiction are generally much too scary for me to read.)

Writing Down the Bones-Natalie Goldberg ***** (I’ve owned this book for years. This was the third time I read it. It contains valuable advice for any wannabe writers.)

Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything-Lucy Hone, PhD. (I’ve mostly shunned books about loss as I traverse my own journey of grief. In some ways, I feel like I could write my own grief guide. This book was given to me—a kind gesture from one grieving mother to another.)

Fraternity: An Inside look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men-Alexandra Robbins ***** (This book is a must-read for any parent of college-bound kids, male or female. I found the stories and research contained within its pages disturbing and even somewhat horrific.)

Caregiving Elderly Parents: Real Stories From Two Caregiving Baby Boomers-Marky Olson and Dauna Easley ***** (This book was co-written by my friend and mentor, Dauna Easley. She and her long-time friend, Marky, share their experiences caring for aging parents.)

Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide-Fauzia Burke ***** (If you are planning on self-publishing a book, this guide is for you. It’s easy to read and full of useful information on how to market your book.)

I will soon add another book, Carried By a Feather, to this list. I’ve actually read the manuscript countless times, and am anxious to read it one more time in its final version. This is my debut memoir, and it’s coming soon………..






2018: A Year in the Books (Reading Recap #4)

According to the Chinese calendar, 2018 was The Year of the Dog.  According to the Calendar of Joan, 2018 was The Year of the Bookworm.  Yep.  I read 20 books this past year, an all-time record for me, or at least I think it was.  I am proud of my achievement, but I know that there exists scores of Evelyn Wood speed readers who make my list look mediocre, pale, gaunt or even a tad bit pathetic.  I know of one such “reader extraordinaire,” Nick B., who recently published his 2018 reading list which contained an astonishing 61 titles!  That, my friends, is A LOT of books!!!  By the way, Nick’s surname is not Book, though I think it would be fitting.

It would seem rather obvious that in order to read a lot of books, one must also have the gift of time.  I did have the gift of time for the better part of 2018, and I chose to spend a fair amount of it alone, in quiet, save for the company of a book or magazine.  Below is a list of fifteen books I have read since my last update in September.  It contains four works of fiction, as well as memoirs, two anthologies, and a sampling of self-help type books.

If you are NOT a reader and therefore would be bored and uninterested in perusing this post, scroll down towards the end, just past the last title on the list.  I have included a little teaser about a book not yet published, but one that is in the works.  Here is the list of books that captivated my attention from late summer into winter:

1.  Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory–  by Caitlin Doughty

This book was an easy read for me.  Miss Doughty found her way into the business of death (and yes, it most certainly is a business) at a rather young age.  The book was enlightening and entertaining despite its somewhat macabre subject matter.

2.  Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions by Amy Newmark and Kelly Sullivan Walden

How can you go wrong with a Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology?  This one does not disappoint, and is chock full of mini stories about dreams and things to come.

3.  Confessions of a Funeral Director: How the Business of Death Saved My Life by Caleb Wilde

Caleb was born into a family where both sides, maternal and paternal, worked in the funeral industry.  Like Ms. Doughty’s book, Caleb also shares stories about the people and families he has served as a funeral director.

4.  Reaching to Heaven– by James Van Praagh

5.  Healing Grief-Reclaiming Life After Any Loss by James Van Praagh

These two James Van Praagh books were recommended to me.  I read Reaching To Heaven some time ago, and still owned a copy.  I reread it and then obtained a copy of Healing Grief from the local library.  If you are not familiar with James, he is a Medium and one of many who have gained notoriety via television.  These two books mostly reaffirmed things I already knew, but I am always up for a refresher.

6.  Almost Everything-Notes on Hope – by Anne Lamott

I am a longtime fan of Ms. Lamott.  I greatly enjoy her humor and admit that I am a tad bit envious of her writing skills.  As she traveled the country promoting her latest gift to the literary world, she made a stop in my hometown.  It was at this event that I picked up  my copy AND was treated to time spent in her company.  She shared a bit about what motivated her to pen this latest work, and then spent time reading portions of it to the mostly female audience.

7.  At Peace-Choosing A Good Death After A Long Life – by Samuel Harrington, M.D.

This book is relevant, important and timely.  We are all getting older, with many of us living well into our 80’s, 90’s and beyond.  This book speaks to our societal death phobia as well as our lack of planning when it comes to end-of-life care, funeral and estate planning and more.  If you are a caregiver to an elderly parent (or two) and/or are getting up there in age yourself, this book is a must read.

8.  The Book Thief – by Mark Zusak

I was a late bloomer to this work of historical fiction.  The book was published in 2005 and quickly rose to the top of the bestseller list.  The book has a unique narrator that is Death, which also happens to be a common theme in the books I listed above.  Mr. Zusak is a fabulous writer who “shows us” rather than “tells us” this heartfelt story.

9.  Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It an anthology inspired by the bestselling memoir.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray Love, became an instant hit among hordes of women (and a few men, too) when it hit the shelves in 2006.  Ms. Gilbert apparently inspired many to launch their own search of self, which in turn, created many similar stories of self-awakening.  A sampling of these quests are shared within the pages of this anthology.

10.  Organized ENOUGH-the anti-perfectionist’s guide to getting and staying organized by Amanda Sullivan

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE books and stories about getting organized, downsizing and de-cluttering.  Even though I live an organized and de-cluttered life, it does not prevent me from wanting to read and learn more about this subject.  This book was written by a professional organizer, who just happens to be the cousin of a friend of mine.  If you are looking for something to motivate and inspire you to take control of your STUFF, then this book just might be for you.

11.  Where The Crawdads Sing – by Delia Owens

This murder mystery will capture and captivate you until the bitter end.  It is the beautifully written story of the “marsh girl,” set in South Carolina.  This book brought back fond memories of the writings of a favorite author from that region, the late and great Pat Conroy.

12.  Mr. Mercedes – by Stephen King

I was loaned this book by a family member and was admittedly reluctant to read it.  I have read only one book of fiction penned by Mr. King, The Shining, which scared the bejesus out of me.  Once I decided to give this murder mystery a chance, I ended up finishing it in about three days.

13.  The Lovely Bones – by Alice Sebold

The Universe sent me two very clear suggestions to read this book.  And. I. Did.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story told from the heavenly view of its narrator, a young girl who was brutally raped and murdered.  This first novel penned by Ms. Sebold, catapulted her into her own literary heaven, the one where your story resonates with scores of readers, landing it atop a bestsellers list.

14. Death-What Is It? – by Jane Halliwell Green

I picked up this little book at a Psychic Fair after attending a mini seminar Ms. Green      (a Medium) presented about death.  The message contained within the book is valid and worth sharing, however prior to self-publishing it, the author could have benefited from some professional editing and organizing of the material.

15.  The Book You Were Born To Write – by Kelly Notaras

This 15th and final title on this list is perhaps the most important one.  The book is a newer release, and one that I was meant to read.  Ms. Notaras shares a plethora of information regarding writing and publishing a book, knowledge she acquired after years spent working in the industry.   I picked up this gem from my local library just about the time I enlisted the services of a professional book coach.  It is here where this list ends and my announcement begins.

I have spent the better part of two months seated at my desk, typing away on my computer.  I am very close to completing the first draft of a memoir I have been wanting to write for some time.  Once the initial manuscript is complete, my book coach, Christine, has instructed me to step away from it for at least two weeks.  When I return to this project after the suggested respite, I will be reading and re-writing it through the eyes of an editor.  First comes my own self-editing, and then I will most likely enlist the help and guidance of a professional.

I plan to share my progress as I navigate my way through the unfamiliar territory of self-publishing.  This is both an exciting and somewhat intimidating time for me as I will learn rather quickly whether or not my writing can move beyond the safe and small confines of this blog (and my very private journal) out into the real, competitive and somewhat saturated market that is the book world.  I intend to share more about my book writing journey on this blog, via emails as well as social media.  In addition to publishing, I will also be responsible for marketing my work as well.

As 2018 came to its natural end just weeks ago, a new year began.  I believe that 2019 will be for me, The Year of The Book.  (No worm.)  And this time, it will be mine.












Reading Recap #3

In 2017, I vowed to publish my reading list on a quarterly basis.  By all estimates, I should have about six posts.  As noted by the title, this is post #3.  Oops!  As is often the case, my non-conventional life interrupts my free time, which in turn results in a reduction in leisure activities such as reading.  After spending about four months attending to “business, ” I have been consciously carving out time to spend with books, the best friend and distraction a girl can have.  The list is all non-fiction (think memoirs and self-help books) with the exception of one novel, a bestseller that was published about four years ago.  Happy reading!

  1. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls-David Sedaris
  2. When You Are Engulfed in Flames-David Sedaris

***I had the pleasure of attending an evening with David Sedaris later last year thanks to an invitation from fellow “bookie.”  (If a person who loves food and cooking is a Foodie, is someone who loves books and reading a Bookie?)  Anyway, it was a fantastic evening of laughter and stories.  I had read a few of Mr. Sedaris’ books prior to the event and then got caught up on a few more afterwards.

3.  Running With Scissors-Augesten Burroughs

4. Dry-Augesten Burroughs

***Both books by Augesten are memoirs.  I admit I had a bit of an issue getting through Running With Scissors.  I found his childhood story difficult to read.  The story is disturbing and actually somewhat unbelievable.  It did however, reinforce my belief that we really never know the horrors and dysfunction that are the norm for so many children.  I am grateful that some are able to go back in time, remember and then write about their experiences and share them publicly.

5. Happiness-Heather Harpham:  This memoir is about a seriously ill child born out-of-wedlock (is that an outdated term in 2018?) to the author and her boyfriend, who chooses, at least initially, to exclude himself from the life of his daughter and her mother.

6.  The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)-Gretchen Rubin: This self-help book asks the question, “How do I respond to expectations?” and then divides people into four personality groups.  Learn which group you fall into and how your personality profile influences your home, work and community life.

7.  The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives by Theresa Brown, RN: I have had many encounters with nurses, both personally and professionally.  As with any profession, there are some for which this is a true calling and for others what I consider a mistaken career choice.  Ms. Brown was called to nursing, and her account of “a day in the life of” was an easy and interesting read for me.

8.  Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.:  This book is a series of insightful stories designed to teach the reader about healing, loving and living. It reinforces my belief that “we all are one,” and that with kindness and empathy we can all learn to aid in the healing of another’s emotional wounds simply by listening and sharing. First published over 20 years ago, the message is still completely relevant today.  Important advice for living in our current environment that seems to be full of selfishness and a lack of kindness and empathy for others.

9.  The Gifts of Imperfection-A Guide to a Wholehearted Life (Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are) by Brene Brown:  This book and author were recommended to me.  Categorized as self-help, Ms. Brown outlines 10 guideposts to living a life that accepts that none of us are perfect though society tries to tell us that we must be perfect.

10. Quiet-The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  As an extrovert and one-time wife and mother of introverts, I found this book interesting and insightful and one that I probably should have read some time ago.  As I often struggled to understand my introverted son and how best to parent him, I ALWAYS knew and believed that the world needs introverts.  They are generally kind, sensitive and great listeners and observers.  Most of us do talk too much and listen too little.  One of the greatest things that I took away from this book is that our society often forces introverts to act and behave like extroverts, and that this is occurring daily in schools and the workplace.  Who decided that extroverts possess the better personality?  Another reason to also read numbers 8 and 9 on this list as well as this selection.

11. Saving Simon-How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion by Jon Katz.  This is another animal-themed memoir by Mr. Katz.  I enjoyed the book and its reinforcement of living a compassion-filled life.  That includes compassion for ALL living things, including animals both domestic and wild.

12. Educated by Tara Westover: If you have read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, you will love this newer release and first book by Ms. Westover.  The book chronicles the unconventional lifestyle of the Westover family.  It is a book about religious fanaticism, mental illness, abuse and more.  Just like the two afore-mentioned memoirs, I found parts of her story disturbing and frankly unimaginable but cheered for her as she managed to break free and find her way to an education and world outside the confines of her warped Idaho home.

13.  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: I am thrilled that I finally found my way to this cute, funny, heartwarming work of fiction that the world discovered long before me.  Ove reminds me of several people who I have crossed paths with- crusty, hard and seemingly uncaring on the outside, yet soft, warm and compassionate on the inside.  I think Ove is LOVE without the L.

I saved the following book for last, as I intend to incorporate some of its teachings into a post about living with less “stuff.”  It ties into my year (2017) of diminished spending, which included differentiating between needs and wants, that was in part due to a period of unemployment.  More about that to come…..

14.  goodbye, things, The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki:  This is a rather short, easy read that introduces the reader to living a life without stuff.  The concept is pretty radical in my opinion, but there is substance and good advice in learning about living a life where we are not held captive by our things.  It is food for thought.

Thanks for reading my post.  If you have any books that you think I might be interested in, please send me their titles in an email, text message or via Facebook.  As one of my son’s elementary teachers used to tell her students, “Read, read, read.

Reading Recap #2

It has been many months since I last shared my reading list.  A new job and kids home from college resulted in a change in my unemployed, semi-empty nest routine. My reading time is mostly relegated to bedtime where after turning a few pages, my eyes begin to close and I nod off.  Below is a list of nine books I managed to remain awake long enough to complete.  There are two works of fiction, six memoirs and one WWII era history lesson.

“Glitter and Glue,” by Kelly Corrigan (Memoir)-This book was recommended to me.  The author, a college student at the time, travels to Australia where she runs low on funds and becomes a nanny to a family that has just lost their mother.  While caring for this grieving family, Kelly begins to understand more about her own family and upbringing.

“Home is Burning,” by Dan Marshall (Memoir) – A humorous, and at times raw read about a family dealing with the serious illnesses of BOTH parents.  The mother was diagnosed with cancer when the author was 10 years old and then later, the father is diagnosed with ALS.  The family unites in caring for their parents, coming together once again under the same roof.

“The Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown (Non-fiction/History)-The true story about nine Americans and their quest for a gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  This one got off to a slow start for me, but quickly picked up.  Not only a WWII history lesson, but also a lesson in the sport of collegiate rowing.

“The Last Mile,” by David Baldacci (Fiction)-I am not usually a fan of the murder mystery novel, but I enjoy the lead character.  I was first introduced to Amos Decker in another Baldacci work, “Memory Man.”  The storyline kept my interest, and I knocked this one off in about a week.

“Love Warrior,” by Glenn Doyle Melton (Memoir)-Ms. Doyle is a recovering alcoholic and bulimic, now married and a mother of three children.  After her husband’s confession of infidelity, she shares how she was able to save her marriage and learn more about her strength, or “warrior status” along the way.

“Shockaholic,” by Carrie Fisher (Memoir)-I have read several of the late Carrie Fisher’s works.  I was not familiar with her experience with electro-shock therapy, though I was familiar with her troubled life.  Always funny and brutally honest, this book did not disappoint.

“Gratitude,” by Oliver Sacks (Memoir)-Just four essays written in 45 pages about the author’s coming to terms with his own impending death.  Just short enough for me to read in one sitting and BEFORE I drifted off.

“The Art of Baking Blind,” by Sarah Vaughan (Fiction)-An entertaining story about contestants in a baking contest.  While the contest is the focus, the reader is entertained by the back story of each of the competitors.

“It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too),” by Nora McInerny Purmort (Memoir)-Nora’s story reads like too many today.  A young wife and mother, who becomes a widow and single parent at the hands of cancer.  Funny, honest, blunt and easy to read.

Reading Recap

My sister recently mentioned that a former high school classmate maintains a list of the books he reads during the course of a year and then shares said list with friends. What a great concept!  I am stealing his idea, but with a Joan twist.  I will publish my recommended reads on a quarterly basis.  Here is a compilation of books I have read January through March 2017:

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance-This is my first memoir of the year, and one with local ties. Mr. Vance chronicles his life in Middletown, Ohio where he was raised mostly by his Kentucky native grandparents.  The book covers alcoholism, drug abuse, poverty and much more.  It is a rag to riches kind of story, with the “riches” being his ability to graduate from both The Ohio State University AND Yale Law School.  I devoured this book in a matter of hours, and highly recommend it.

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller-Continuing with the memoir theme, I stumbled upon this book on a Google search.  Ms. Miller is an only child raised by her hoarder father and shopping addicted mother, who has hoarding issues of her own.  Her home definitely qualifies for an episode of Hoarders with its endless stacks of paper, trash, rat infestation and more.  This was another easy read and one that held my attention as the depths of her parents issues became worse with time.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay-This a book of fiction, though one that reads like a memoir or an anthology on the trying and traumatic lives of women.  This book is not for the faint of heart as it contains graphic depictions of sexual violence, adultery and more.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi-This memoir was recommended to me from two separate sources.  The book is the story of a 36-year old Neuro surgery resident who learns that he has a terminal form of lung cancer.  He chronicles the details of his diagnosis and treatment as a physician who has now become the patient.  The book reminded me of Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Album and The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch Read all three if you are so inclined, but be sure to have a box of Kleenex nearby.

Memory Man by David Baldacci-This is my second book of fiction this year and a murder mystery.  While not my typical read these days, it is a page turner.  The story revolves around a former detective whose life becomes unraveled with the murder of his family.  A school shooting sucks him back into police work as he and his former colleagues work to solve two mysteries in their small town.

In addition to books, I also gobble up my monthly issue of The Sun, a magazine overflowing with great stories-both true and fiction-poetry, and photography.  It contains zero advertising.  I have subscribed to this little gem for many years and highly recommend it.  However, reader beware.  The magazine leans to the left, so may not be suitable for those who lean to the right.  I also flip through the monthly issues of the Costco magazine and the AARP Bulletin.  The latter is addressed to Mr. Joan.  AARP tracked him down as he turned 50, but I remain off of their radar.  Perhaps that is due to the fact that I was granted a do-over of my 40’s and therefore am a mere 46 years of age.

A big thank you to Mr. F., my former high school English teacher, who shared a must-read book list with me.  I intend to seek out several of the titles for my future reading pleasure.  Also, a thank you to family members who loaned me a few books from their own collections.  My neighborhood public library has been a great source of reading material as well.  If you know of any good reads, especially memoirs, shoot me a text, email or a message on Facebook with your suggestions.

Happy Reading!

Memoir Mania

It has come to my attention that my reading focus of late has been the memoir.  Just this year alone, I have read four or five books by Jen Lancaster, two by Jennifer Lauck and another pair by Anne Lamott. (Apparently, I have a preference for memoirs written by women whose last name begins with “L.”)  The memoir has become my preferred genre.  In my younger days and into my thirties, I mostly devoured books of fiction.  It was escapism in its purest form.  In my mid-thirties, I switched to non-fiction, a move that thrilled my non-fiction-fanatic late husband. (I landed in the New Age/Spiritual section, and gobbled up countless books as I became awakened to my spirit. ) The memoir is appropriate for my grown-up taste in books that are true. As I continue to take teeny-tiny baby steps with my writing, the memoir, one written by and about me, seems like a possible long-term goal.  Everyone has a story worth telling. The trick will be to find the time, words, confidence, patience, humor, humility and freedom to dare to write it all down.