So, remember when I asked you guys to submit your favorite books for a crowdsourced reading list? I got SO MANY amazing ones that I need to make those into a whole different post. 😂
However, I know that everyone is [quite literally] anxiously awaiting some new book recommendations now that we have all this time on our hands. So, stay tuned for a big crowdsourced list of reader favorites. But in the meantime, I thought I could get you started with MY favorite reads that you can start checking off your list during #quarantinelife.
If you’ve been following for a while, you’ll notice some of these are also in my giant 40+ Real Women Approved books to read right now post (which is why some have reader descriptions and some don’t) but many are new as well!! Originally I was planning to just add to that big list indefinitely, but it was getting so long that I thought it was easier to create this whole new post!
One tip before we jump into the list: if you’ve been considering getting a Kindle, now could be a good time?
People often ask if I think a Kindle is worth it. I say YES! Almost all the books I read are on my Kindle aside from ones I’ve been gifted from friends or purchased at my favorite second-hand bookstore. (Myopic Books on Milwaukee!! ❤️) I love my Kindle for a couple of reasons:
Of course, just my personal opinion (I still adore paper books too!!) but I LOVE my Kindle (I have the Paperwhite) because I get immediate access to any book I want, vs having to wait for them to ship.
Kindle books are also significantly cheaper than regular books. And many libraries let you check out e-books to read on your Kindle as well!! You can share them between people. (My mom finally bit the bullet and got a Kindle last week so we could share books between one another!) Just an idea to make getting access to books a little easier during a time where everything is up in the air. 😳
First, let’s start with light reads. If you want something easy and lighthearted, start with these!
I loved this book SOOOO much. When reading it, you basically get to live your dream through the author, Suzanne Loomis––from her journey becoming a chef and cookbook author, to her life living and cooking in Normandy while she and her husband restore an old house in the town of Louviers. Her writing is beautiful, conversational, and you really do feel like you took a trip to visit your good friend in the French countryside.
I picked up this book at my favorite used bookstore a month or so ago and had no idea I’d love it so much. It’s the exact escape I think we could all use right now! I think maybe I shall start re-reading it. 😬
Reader, Christina recommended this book: “A software programmer in San Francisco unexpectedly acquires a sourdough starter and teaches herself how to bake bread. After attempting to sell it at a Bay Area farmer’s market, she gets invited, instead, to sell it at a secret market fusing food and technology. It was a quirky and charming read!”
Well, she was right! It’s SO cute–quirky and charming are absolutely the two best ways to describe it. It’s just FUN–not to mention, incredibly interesting! I had known nothing about the interesting process of making sourdough before (or programming, now that you mention it, haha!)–and also it was really fun to momentarily step into her life. I absolutely loved it!
I started reading this book right before the Royal Wedding on the recommendation of my friends Grace and Becca on the Bad on Paper podcast. (If you haven’t listened to it before, you will LOVE it. They talk about books and just general adulting topics and it’s amazing–it feels like catching up with friends over drinks!)
Anyway, back to the Royal We–it’s an extremely easy, fun, and addicting guilty-pleasure read. It’s fiction, but inspired by William and Kate’s love story. It’s lighthearted, but definitely a page-turner. A fun escape!
For lovers of The Royal We, I give you American Royals––which I absolutely adored and thought it was such a fun read! The book imagines history rewritten––as if America had a monarchy, and how the story of an American royal family would play out!
If you’d like to continue on the royal train, Red, White and Royal Blue may be the cutest book of all time. A totally fictional storyline, as if the “First Son” of the United States has a rivalry (and then some) with Prince Harry. It will make you smile and laugh out loud. HIGHLY recommend!
“Red, White & Royal Blue is outrageously fun. It is romantic, sexy, witty, and thrilling. I loved every second.” – Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six
If you just need a smile (and you love Queer Eye) you will love this book! I am a HUGE Tan France fan. So as soon as his book came out, I got the audio version and finished it in a matter of days. I highly recommend the audio version so you can put it on in the background while cleaning, organizing, folding laundry, etc! It will make you adore him even more!
Okay, EVERYONE needs to read this book right now. 😂 Such a fresh departure from any other book I’ve ever read and it’s SO FUNNY. There were parts where I literally laughed out loud. It’s also tragic, emotional, triumphant, and feel-good all at the same time. I read it in like three days. You’ll love it!
Another book I chose because it was chosen as part of Reese’ book club. It’s kind of a complicated story to set up, so I’ll defer to Amazon’s description.
Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. A law school dropout, she impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.
Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.
As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s “moral police.” But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.
Reader Loisanne says, “I’m honestly a sucker for the Crazy Rich Asian series! It kind of reminded me of Gossip Girl in a sense, but grown-up and gone international. It’s got a few different story lines going on with different characters but it mainly revolves around Nick and Rachel and them going to Singapore for Nick’s best friend’s wedding.”
Personally, I INHALED these books (there are three!) because they were so much fun to read. Loisanne described them perfectly as “Gossip Girl” set in Singapore–but it’s much better and more complex than that. It took me a bit to get into the first book, but after it gets going, you won’t put it down. I read the whole trilogy very quickly!
A very popular suggestion, and one I’m glad I finally took! This was a fun, light mix-up and a cute read. If you want a quick-read love story, you’ll love this! It’s about two coworkers who loathe each other. (Or do they? 😜)
“Four siblings experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a summer when everything changed in New York Times best-selling author Elin Hilderbrand’s first historical novel.”
I read Summer of ’69 after hearing many of my friends say it was one of their favorite books they’d read in a long time, which I personally wouldn’t say is true for me, but everyone is different! I would call it a great, easy, “summer read” any time of the year. A coming of age story mixed with family drama during a tumultuous time in American history. I think everyone will love this book!
WWII Historical Fiction:
My favorite genre, as you likely know already. This section was hard to narrow down, but here are my most noteworthy favorites as well as a few I’ve read lately that have really stuck with me! If you’re having a particularly hard time right now and you are having trouble shifting your perspective, I highly recommend reading one of these books. It will make you quickly realize that simply being cooped up in your home for a few weeks is NOTHING. You will find yourself so grateful for everything you have!
GG reader Alex first recommended this book but many of you echo her love for it. “Set in WWII invaded France, it shows how two sisters helped the resistance, and risked their lives in the process in their own different ways. I didn’t want to put it down! The best I’ve read in a long time.”
This has since become my #1 favorite book of all time. I don’t know how to put into words how much I loved this book. It’s hands down the best book I’ve ever read (although, We Were The Lucky Ones and The Alice Network come close. More on them below!) Someone described it to me as, “a story that will haunt you forever–but not in a bad way.” It’s true. I’ve since read two other Kristin Hannah books and she’s quickly become one of my favorite authors. This is one of those few books that completely consumes you–you won’t be able to concentrate on anything else until it’s finished. I cried really hard when it ended. It will change you.
It follows two women in the years 1915 and 1947. In 1915, Eve Gardiner is a young British spy in Nazi occupied France, working as part of an all-female spy network during WWI. In 1947, Charlie St. Clair is a pregnant college student who runs away from her parents in Europe to search for her cousin who went missing in WWII. The two women meet in 1947, and go off on an adventure that weaves their stories together. It’s an extremely well written and an excellent mix of adventure, girl power, and romance! – as described by GG reader, Jillian.
The Alice Network rivals The Nightingale on my “favorite book” list I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about the story. It’s another one that you’ll be dying to get home to read. As reader, Jillian, says, “Adventure, girl power, romance–what more could you want in a book?”
I will say the storyline is less tragic, a happier ending, and more romance than The Nightingale–but it doesn’t “stay with you” like The Nightingale does.
Based on my immense love of The Alice Network–which is why I couldn’t contain myself when Kate Quinn’s new book, The Huntress, was released. Yes, another WWII Historical Fiction. But the characters are actually based loosely on a few different women, told in both past and present. You won’t be able to think about anything else when you read this book. I loved it so much. I would say it’s more…twisted–maybe is the word–than a lot of other historical fiction reads. You’ll see why. It’s a very unique story in a very crowded genre.
I LOVED and this book. It’s like a female heroine spy mystery in a WWII setting. If you liked The Alice Network, you’ll like this. (Not AS good, but still VERY good!)
“Fraught with danger, filled with mystery, and meticulously researched, The Lost Girls of Paris is a fascinating tale of the hidden women who helped to win the war.” —Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours
THIS BOOK. I bought it on my Kindle at 12pm when I got to the pool during our vacation to Mexico last year and by 3:30pm I had finished it. I don’t think I’ve ever devoured a book faster. It’s also based on a true story–the author’s family friends are the main characters in the book.
It’s exactly what it sounds like–the story of the man who became the tatooist of Auschwitz–the harrowing details of his life for his three years at the camp, and the love story between him and a woman he meets while he’s there. You won’t put it down.
I thought this review summed it up so well: “To many, this book will be most appreciated for its powerful evocation of the everyday horrors of life as a prisoner in a concentration camp, while others will be heartened by the novel’s message of how true love can transcend even the most hellishly inhuman environments. This is a perfect novel for book clubs and readers of historical fiction.” (Publishers Weekly)
A sequel to the Tattooist of Auschwitz (which I HIGHLY recommend if you haven’t read it yet!), this story gripped me even more than the first––it sticks with you like the Nightingale does, and what’s even more incredible is that it’s based on a true story.
It follows Cilka (you’ll remember her as one of the friends in The Tattooist of Auschwitz) who is liberated from the camps only to be undeservingly sent to a Siberian Gulag. (Talk about being thankful for a #selfquarantine). It follows her along the next phase of her life in the Gulag. It is an INSANE story of resilience and love.
Several people recommended this one to me after I had published this blog post and I finished this book in THREE days.
To be totally honest I thought it was REALLY good but not like, the best book I’ve ever read until I got maybe halfway through and then it was just one thing after the other and it just grips you. Neal came home when I was in one part (you’ll know what part it is when you get there) and my face was pale and he said, “I know you’re probably just into your book but…are you okay?!” I couldn’t even concentrate on Monday because I couldn’t stop thinking about this book and dying to know how it ended.
However, I didn’t fully appreciate it until the ending–because the ending you really, REALLY were not expecting. (Honestly, no WWII book you’ve ever read has ever ended like this.) Also, after all of that, I read the author’s notes and realized it was all completely true and was based on HER OWN FAMILY.
Okay yeah the more I’m mulling this over, the more I will put it on Nightingale level, but probably a slower read–I think maybe because it follows a family and many of the protagonists are male–and I just identified much more emotionally with the heroines in The Nightingale. Regardless, JUST READ IT. It’s absolutely incredible.
This one is for sure one of my favorite books I read in 2019. For sure up there with Cilka’s journey! I read this entire book start to finish on the flight home from Barcelona, it was SO good. The storyline connects modern-day Alice with her grandmother, Alina. When Alina takes ill and can’t speak, her dying wish that she communicates is for Alina to go to Poland to uncover a shocking family secret.
So, admittedly, I accidentally purchased this book because I meant to buy the Dressmaker’s Gift (also by the same author, Fiona Valpy) but I loved this one as well, it was a happy error! If you loved the Dressmaker’s Gift, definitely read this one! I also loved that the books are both intertwined. It’s part action, part love story–who doesn’t need one of those right now? 😉
Heartbroken and hoping for a new start, Abi Howes takes a summer job in rural France at the Château Bellevue. The old château echoes with voices from the past, and soon Abi finds herself drawn to one remarkable woman’s story, a story that could change the course of her summer—and her life.
In 1938, Eliane Martin tends beehives in the garden of the beautiful Château Bellevue. In its shadow she meets Mathieu Dubosq and falls in love for the first time, daring to hope that a happy future awaits. But France’s eastern border is darkening under the clouds of war, and history has other plans for Eliane…
I think I liked this one even more than the above, because I loved the camaraderie between women. And also, the switching between past and present with parallel storylines.
Paris, 1940. With the city occupied by the Nazis, three young seamstresses go about their normal lives as best they can. But all three are hiding secrets. War-scarred Mireille is fighting with the Resistance; Claire has been seduced by a German officer; and Vivienne’s involvement is something she can’t reveal to either of them.
Two generations later, Claire’s English granddaughter Harriet arrives in Paris, rootless and adrift, desperate to find a connection with her past. Living and working in the same building on the Rue Cardinale, she learns the truth about her grandmother – and herself – and unravels a family history that is darker and more painful than she ever imagined.
THIS BOOK. It was so incredibly good. This Amazon description sums it well:
A historical novel of love and survival inspired by real resistance workers during World War II Austria, and the mysterious love letter that connects generations of Jewish families. A heart-breaking, heart-warming read for fans of The Women in the Castle, Lilac Girls, and Sarah’s Key.
This book was so engaging and beautifully written! Anna is distraught when her mother, Ines, passes away. She inherits a box of old papers, handwritten in Italian, that hold the truth about her mother’s life during the war. She goes to Italy to try and uncover the secrets of her mother’s past. The storyline flips between Anna and Ines, and is one of triumph and love, set in the Italian countryside.
This one is a really cool “what if” story, written as if Hitler had had a child during the war, and was a very thrilling, gripping read! WWII historical fiction and a major page-turner! I loved how unique the storyline was, even though it’s completely fictional.
This definitely stands out to me as one of my favorite WWII reads this past year as well. It’s set in Normandy under the German Occupation. Leading up to D-Day, Emma, a 15-year-old baker, falls into the role most crucial for keeping her village alive through small, under the radar acts of resilience.
Favorites in the “other” category:
I LOVED City of Girls. Some people said they had a hard time getting into it, but I loved it from the very beginning. Glitz, glamour, showgirls, and a coming of age story all wrapped into one. A very unique story from a very unique perspective, and a really fun read.
A trashy romance novel in the best way. I would describe it as a “modern-day Mrs. Robinson” story. If you want something that is a page-turner guilty pleasure read, look no further.
“Each character is compelling but Daisy Jones is the star. She’s a blazing talent who is unapologetic in her sexuality and lives life on her own terms. . . . Like a poignant song with lyrics that speak to your soul, Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid will transport you to another place and time.”—Associated Press
Another Bad on Paper book recommendation that I’m so glad I read–this is probably the most unique book I’ve ever read in terms of the way the story is told and brought to life. It reads like a “Vh1 Behind the Music” special. It was great, real, raw, and really transports you to another era. The only thing that left me disappointed was the fact that it isn’t REAL. Although there are rumors that it’s based loosely on Fleetwood Mac, I really wish the band was real so I could listen to the music! I feel like some people are hot or cold about the ending, but I really liked it. I guess it’s all in how you interpret it!
Tip: This is also an AMAZING audiobook––it has a full cast!!
“From the author of Daisy Jones & The Six—an entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), in which a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.” – Amazon
The same author as Daisy Jones, I’m SO glad I read this book. Second, because I think I liked it even better? After reading this book, I have an immense appreciation for Taylor Jenkins Reid in how talented she is at creating complex characters and bringing their stories to life. Like Daisy Jones, the only thing that left me wanting was the fact that Evelyn isn’t a real person. Although I couldn’t help but wonder if she was based loosely on Elizabeth Taylor.
Tip: I also loved this audiobook! Highly recommend!!
THIS BOOK IS NUTS.
The story follows Lowen, a struggling writer who has just agreed to ghostwrite the rest of a series by the famous Verity Crawford, who is unable to finish her books due to an accident. She takes Verity’s husband up on his offer to come stay at their house so she can have full access to all of Verity’s notes in her home office, and stumbles upon Verity’s never before discovered autobiography, revealing horrifying admissions that would destroy her grieving husband–who Lowen is increasingly falling for. You won’t believe how the story unfolds.
Full disclosure, I’m not really one for twisted psychological thrillers. And I had ZERO clue what this book was about before I purchased it. Grace and Becca recommended it, so I downloaded it in preparation for my lake house trip. Then, dozens of you messaged me saying how good. But seriously twisted it was. No wonder it was rated the #1 psychological thriller and #1 Romantic Suspense on Amazon.
Did it live up to the hype?
YES. I finished it in less than 24 hours. If you liked Gone Girl–this is 100x more gripping. A faster read, and way more twisted (if you can imagine such a thing). Hands down the most f-ed up book I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t put it down! Do not start reading this on a weeknight. Because you will read it through the night and never go to sleep.
This thriller is one that came highly recommended by a lot of readers as well! It follows a reclusive writer named Leonora. Leonora is invited to a “hen” (aka bachelorette party) in the English countryside by a friend she hasn’t heard from in years. She reluctantly agrees to make the trip. Although a shattering secret about her old friend is revealed. Then its all downhill from there. Full of mystery, murder, and deception, you won’t be able to put down this thriller!
(Side note: I do NOT read murder mysteries and even Stranger Things gives me nightmares. But this was JUST the right amount of scary–not too much–if you don’t typically read this kind of stuff. I still would recommend it!)
A murder mystery/thriller about a journalist who is on a media trip (which really hit home for me 😂). She hears something weird in the cabin next to her, and decides to investigate. GG reader, Samantha said, “It sucked me in so much that I missed my train stop!”
This book was scary AF in the beginning. Nobody told me this! I had to stop reading it for a while because I was home alone and it was making it hard to fall asleep. But then you get past the scary part and it’s not scary at all. This is a REALLY good thriller!
Lisa See is one of my FAVORITE authors. My mom and I inhale all of her books, which are all Asian historical fiction set in various time periods and various countries, with beautiful and complicated female relationships at the core.
This book is no different–it follows two friends who live on a small coastal island off of Korea (what was then one country under Japanese rule) called Jeju. The women of Jeju are deep-sea divers called Haenyeo. They are the bread winners, while the men in the community keep house and focus on the children. I had NEVER heard of this before and it was absolutely fascinating to learn about. They would dive even in the dead of winter wearing just a thin layer of clothes! She has a page of her site dedicated to Haenyeo with some videos you can watch, too! Anyway, it is an INCREDIBLE book.
The Amazon description can sum it up better than I can:
This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down. One where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island. And the dramatic history that shaped their lives.
That’s all for now, stay tuned for part two with a big ole list of your crowdsourced reccos! Stay safe friends!