Books are my favorite escape, but they have to be really, really good or I don’t bother to finish them. Over the years, I’ve read many books and participated in several book clubs. Most of the books aren’t memorable, but some of them are absolute standouts in that they teach something valuable, provide a needed laugh, or are just written so well I couldn’t put them down. These 12 books are fabulous reads, with mostly clean language and content that won’t put junk in your mind.
Some of these fabulous books were published recently. A few are classics. I also throw in a couple of holiday reads. Most of these books I’ve read with a group of ladies who have excellent taste. We hope you enjoy!
Do you know about the Packhorse Librarians in Appalachia during the Great Depression? Many avid readers don’t know about them, and their story is true grit. Even if you have read about them, this book has a new twist. Did you know about the Blue People of Kentucky???? Their skin is literally blue because of an inherited recessed gene that makes their blood a chocolate color due to less-than-normal oxygen levels. In this story, blues are treated as coloreds. Literacy and racism are prominent focal points in this poignant historical fiction read.
Until I read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, this one was by far my most favorite read of 2020. And it’s a close second now. The Giver of Stars is also about the Packhorse Librarians, which was a government-supported work effort started in WWI by Eleanor Roosevelt. Meant to educate the poor in the back woods of Appalachia and supply much-needed work for a few locals, the effort was a successful between 1935 and 1943. In this particular account, sexism and racism are addressed, homosexuality is alluded to, and other problems of the day not often discussed are brought up. Love and justice do finally abound, but you have to hang on as you read this one.
As of February 2020, Educated has been on the New York Times best-seller list for two years and has been translated into 45 languages. It’s labeled as a memoir, a story of childhood abuse and the author’s remarkable rise in education, eventually earning her PhD despite a lack of formal education in her home growing up and adequate parenting.
I have a hometown connection to this book, though I do not know the author or her family. Many readers have questioned whether it’s true. Read what I discovered as I researched both this memoir and one written by her mother. Click here.
Do you know about the Clubmobile Girls of WWII? I didn’t until I read The Beantown Girls, by Jane Healey. Of course, this is fiction mixed with facts from real events, which tends to be my favorite type of read. The Clubmobile Girls were operated by the Red Cross during the war to give the GIs a distraction from the war efforts, to boost their morale.⠀
To be a Clubmobile Girl, you had to apply. Good looking, charming, and energetic were some of the criteria. The girls had to wear makeup, apply fresh lipstick, and be upbeat at all times around the guys. It’s so different from how our country would offer support during a war now. But I thoroughly enjoyed learning how these ladies were trained to drive, work in a combat zone, and make coffee and doughnuts.⠀
There are a few fun romances, plenty of heartache, and an overall sense that, though seemingly unnecessary at first glance, their efforts did make a difference.
Child trafficking. In the mid-1900s the Tennessee Children’s Home got away with all kinds of horrific childcare. Supposedly an adoption home for truly orphaned children, there were many who had been stolen from their parents and sold to famous movie stars, politicians, and influencers who paid what was asked and, in return, asked few questions. Then many of those who adopted were later blackmailed. This fictional account is based on real kids and real situations.
This is an excellent book! Historical fiction is my favorite genre. This one is about Spain’s Civil War and the 40-year cruel reign of Franco, a ruthless dictator. Well into the late 80s, he ruled with terror. Spaniards lived in fear and could not question how their country was governed. Much like Hitler, Franco determined to cleanse the Spanish people of “Republican blood,” those who had questioned and opposed during the war. One cruel, common practice was to steal newborns from parents in the hospital, telling them their child had died, while secretly placing the child in an orphanage and charging exorbitant adoption fees to prospective parents, often foreigners who had no idea of Spain’s troubles. It’s estimated that over 300,000 children were stolen and adopted out.
This book was such a surprise to me! I wasn’t sure I would like it, and I ended up loving it.
A friend loaned it to me. I took one look at the cover and thought: Diary of a Wimpy Kid-esque. But I committed to giving it my 3-chapter try.
I was hooked by the first chapter. Through the eyes of the main character, who is a skilled potter, we learn so many great life lessons throughout the pages.
Set in the small town of Niederbipp, PA (yes, it’s a real place), we learn about a young potter fresh from college who has temporarily committed to taking the potter position in Niederbipp after the last beloved potter died.
It turns out the old potter and his shop were more than meets the eye. He was a mentor to many and his shop a frequent place to visit and temporarily escape life’s troubles.
Each page shares a wise life lesson.
The author is also a professional potter (see image below), and if he ever reprints the book again, I’d love to give it a quick edit. Most pages contain typos, extra words, or missing words. I had to re-read many a sentence to get the full meaning because of the errors. Normally I would toss a book with this many errors, but the book is THAT good. First book in a series of three. I’ve finished the second book and can’t wait to get the third! UPDATE: The author has reached out to say that later print versions of the first book have been edited.
Looking for a good holiday read? I really liked this one, and so did my book club ladies. It’s based on a true story about a family’s profound loss and struggle to subsequently celebrate the holiday season. This is an excellent read, especially for those who have lost loved ones and can’t seem to find the joy in Christmas. I also recommend this one for anyone wanting a deeper look at the true meaning of Christmas.
It contains a bit of swearing initially, but it’s kind of funny because the daughter gets after her mom for the bad habit. Eventually, Mom tones it down, and the book is a beautiful read.
This little gem was a keeper for our book club. It’s the first of three in a delightful series about an antique shop, a mother and daughter, and travel back in time. It reminded me a tiny bit of the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time, which I adored. Daughter Xanthe and Mom Flora leave London for a fresh start in the historic town of Marlborough. They breathe new life into an antique shop through hard work and lots of talent. But the real story lies with an antique find–a silver chatelaine that transports her back to the 17th Century–and a resident ghost who insists she go back to save her daughter. There’s also a romance with Xanthe and architect Samuel Appleby, who resides in the past. You won’t be able to put this one down! It’s an excellent gift too.
“’Classic’–-a book which people praise and don’t read.” – Mark Twain⠀
I’d always wanted to read The Count of Monte Cristo. The abridged version is a pretty thick book–531 pages (but half the size of the original). So I put it off for years. Then the quarantine hit. Since I suddenly had a bunch of time at home, I set a few goals for myself, which included a few reading goals. And I finally bought a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo.
I can’t believe I waited all these years! Dumas is a brilliant writer, and his character development is phenomenal. Young Dantes is already a brilliant sailor and has a beautiful fiance awaiting him. Life couldn’t be any brighter. And then . . . he’s framed. Self-absorbed Villefort is a sneak and a liar, and others lie too. Dantes pays the ultimate price–years in a deplorable prison for being falsely accused of treason. His years in prison aren’t all bad though. A fellow prisoner and chaplain befriends him; they learn from each other. And, in the process, Dantes acquires a treasure map.⠀
No spoiler alerts here, but I was so intrigued by the clever Dantes/Count of Monte Cristo. For those who betrayed him, Dantes arranges the ultimate revenges, allowing his betrayers to show their true colors.⠀
If you’ve never read The Count of Monte Cristo, and I’ve piqued your interest, be sure to pick up a copy. I’m so glad I did.⠀
A 1943 semi-autobiographical novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of those “rise up against the odds” type of books. Young Francie Nolan, who lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919, realizes her mother’s tremendous sacrifices to provide for their family, while her father drinks away their meager earnings and occasionally plays a few piano gigs.
Francie often finds solace at the local library, reading anything and everything she can. In the process, she does well at school and learns there are better ways and better opportunities through education.
Just like the stubborn tree trying to grow through the cracked asphalt behind her apartment building, Francie doesn’t give up. She digs her roots in deep, growing and flourishing–despite all odds.
I read this one with my neighborhood book club for Thanksgiving. It’s a novel about Early America and provides great insight as to how colonists may have felt toward the Native Americans.
In this story, some of the colonist women and children are kidnapped by the Native Americans. At first, their new lives are rough, but then something strange happens. The women begin to experience a new freedom they’ve never had before. The children roam in nature and learn the ways of the land.
In striking contrast to some puritanical beliefs, the Native American way of life shows a better way. Read this one to discover unique cultural and religious perspectives from traditional tellings of Early-American life.
You might also be interested in reading one of my most popular posts: 65 Clean Books to Read
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