When I tell people I’ve been in the same book club for 12 years, their next question is, “What are some of your favorites?” My fleeting memory in this sleep-deprived stage of motherhood causes me to draw a big white blank in response.
My high school friends and I started this book club when we were all 20-somethings with new careers and little responsibility. It actually began as co-ed, but when the guys failed to show at the first scheduled meeting, we unanimously ruled to invite women only.
We’ve lived life together through many seasons of love, heartache, birth and health, and we’ve seen founding members move away and new ones join in. We have a list of all 144 books read through our tenure, and we’ve shared slightly more than 144 bottles of wine…
So, I asked my fellow book clubbers to help a mom brain out with their favorite book recommendations. Consider these for the next time you get a long, child-free flight, a quiet nap time, or a late night on the couch after everyone else is in bed. And please join us in cozying up with your favorite beverage as you settle in for a good read.
A non-fiction book for fiction aficionados
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
Skloot tells the story of the immortal line of HeLa cells that are at the heart of many medical breakthroughs. But she goes beyond the science into the social controversy surrounding this discovery, unfolding Henrietta’s life along the way. Skloot’s story reads like fiction, and you get to feel smarter at the end!
Recommended by: Jenn, marketing guru and dog mom of many
The well-deserved and inspiring bestseller
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
This is Walls’ memoir of a turbulent upbringing with parents who show love to the best of their abilities but are ultimately limited by addiction. Her dysfunctional family members seek various paths to stability and happiness but are often met with disappointment. Relying on her relationships with her siblings, Walls attempts to break the cycle and pursue a better life ahead. This book is inspirational to those who had a complicated start in life and a reminder to others that you never really know how far someone has come to attain their goals.
Recommended by: Kristen, physical therapist and mom of three
If you want to laugh out loud
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson
In this collection of stories from Lawson’s life, “The Bloggess” takes readers on a hilarious journey that includes teenage embarrassments, taxidermy, cow shenanigans, and meeting her husband. She endures tragedy and dark times – but she never lets the laughter fade for her readers. You will laugh along with Lawson as she shares the weird, quirky, sad, and everyday moments of life through her uniquely entertaining view of the world.
Recommended by: Stephanie, teacher and dog mom of one
For the WWII-era enthusiast
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This book follows a writer drawn to the obscure island of Guernsey when a stranger finds her name written in one of his books. Their correspondence brings Juliet into the eccentric world of the “Society,” which was born as a spontaneous alibi during the German occupation. Its members are a charming, funny and odd mix of characters whose stories captivate Juliet and provide insight into their lives during the occupation. This was a quick read and one of my favorite types of fiction: highly-entertaining while still loosely based on historical events.
Recommended by: Beth, teacher, mom of three and dog mom of one
If you’re looking for an eye-opening memoir
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah
This is the true story of Beah’s childhood and how he was forced into becoming a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. It’s not a light vacation read, but it was enlightening, yet heartbreaking, to learn what some children endure across the globe. I’m typically an adventure and mystery type of girl and probably hadn’t read a memoir since high school. This book made me appreciate memoirs in a new way, and I have since read many others.
Recommended by: Terra, designer, expectant mom and dog mom of two
A relaxing read for the beach or your back patio
The Summer House, by Hannah McKinnon
The story follows a family of adult siblings returning to their beloved childhood summer home to celebrate their father’s birthday. Their mother yearns to recreate the joyful times they spent there for so many years, but things don’t go as planned. Each of her children returns with experiences that shaped their lives and pulled them away from the summer house, from adoption and marriage to heartache and tragedy. This heartwarming story reminds us that after all that life throws our way, family is everything, and sometimes going home is exactly what we need.
Recommended by: Bonnie, teacher and dog mom of one
Jane Austen classic meets modern-day Cincinnati
Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
This book is a modern-day Pride and Prejudice, set in Cincinnati, and written by a born-and-raised local. The storyline is rooted in the Jane Austen classic – including a mother angling to marry off her “aging” daughters – but it’s spun into the present day with “Liz” as a magazine writer, Darcy as a doctor, and mentions of CrossFit, dating shows and text messages. I have read several by Sittenfeld, and love her honest and witty prose. She writes about human nature in such a relatable way. This one, in particular, is just a fun read, especially with all the Cincinnati landmarks and references.
Recommended by: Jennifer, writer and stay-at-home mom of two