Category Archives: Book Club

7 Great Books to Read this Summer

iGnite Summer Reading List

Our leaders have come together again to create our annual iGnite Summer Reading List!  So without further ado, seven of our current favorite page-turners perfect for your summer vacation carry-on bag:

1. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat“It’s about my homeland Washington State!” –Betty

Online review: This is a stirring tale of nine Depression-era athletes beating the odds and their inner demons to compete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It is a thrilling, heart-thumping tale packed with plenty of suspense. It’s not only a great inspiring true story; it is a fascinating work of history.

also recommended by Amy Younkman

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

“I’m in the middle of reading this book. Beautiful and uniquely written, it’s set in Europe around WWII and is a Pulitzer Prize and national book award winner. I’m loving it!” –Sha

3. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places

“I loved her book Gone Girl, so I thought I’d give this one a try too because my sister recommended it. I (clearly) love suspenseful books that keep me on my toes, and so far because I’m only half way through, I’m finding it is a page turner. Every chapter switches from the stories leading up to ‘the event’ in 1985 to present day. We’ll see if this one is as twisted as Gone Girl!” –Molly

4. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman

The Confidence Code

“This book was fantastic! It was a recommendation from Success Magazine and because I love Success, I figured it had to be great. Plus, I was very curious to learn if the ‘confidence code’ was cracked. If you are interested in the mystery behind confidence and all that goes into having it (or not), you will love this book and find it fascinating! Truly, my book is marked with notes and highlighted. I couldn’t put it down!” –Neissa

5. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire

Amy Younkman loaned me this book and I thanked her and put it on my bedside table, thinking ‘oh, a hard story about a sweet gal with a troubling brain, um, I’ll think about it.’ Two days later, I had read it cover to cover. This writer/afflicted woman is your sister, your neighbor, your old roommate, your brother’s girlfriend. She is any of us, and she selflessly lays bare the struggles of a family battling a frightening illness, one whose name is only revealed eventually because she was in the right place at the right time. You’ll close the book with both a smile and concern, but most of all, with more compassion for those who walk the thread between mental and physical illness…and you’ll wonder if there is even a thread between those two at all.” –Cary

Online review: A powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity. This autobiography tells the tale of a young New York Post reporter who contracts a rare brain disorder, recovers against the odds, then puts her restored mind to use investigating the disease’s underpinnings. What is most impressive is that Cahalan has little recollection of her month of insanity. Thanks partially to her talent as a journalist and to the fact that her parents kept journals, she was able to recapture her month and it makes for an intriguing and heart-warming story.

6. A Bicycle Built for Two Billion by Jamie Bianchini

A Bicycle Built for Two BillionOnline review: Over 1,000 strangers accepted Jamie Bianchini’s invitation to ride on the world’s first open-invitation, intercultural expedition around the world. His epic 8-year, 80-country journey is shared in his book “A Bicycle Built for Two Billion.”  Jamie and his best friend Garryck Hampton saved money for over two years while securing over 40 corporate sponsors to help launch their dream expedition called Peace Pedalers. The tour got off to a great start in Japan but it was not long before they ran into their fair share of adversity. “We had a bike stolen in China, a near-death crash in Malaysia and I dodged gunfire in Mauritania just to name a few,” reports Bianchini. “But what amazed me was how total strangers in every part of the world came out of nowhere to help keep us safe, fed, housed, warm and supported us in fulfilling the vision and mission of Peace Pedalers. It was this endless display of kindness and compassion demonstrated by total strangers that inspired Jamie to take the expedition to a new level. Starting by delivering hundreds of rides and gifts to orphanages throughout Asia he continued his adventures of compassion and contribution through Africa, Europe and Latin America. A one-of-a-kind, truly inspiring story of trust, faith and compassion that breaks through all barriers.

recommended by Amy Younkman 

7. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's Secret

“I liked this book because it kept me guessing throughout the whole read. I never once guessed the answer to ‘the secret!'” –Molly

Enjoy!

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5 Books that will Improve Your Life

5BooksThatWillChangeYourLife-01

by Catherine Sanderson

by Catherine Sanderson

With February comes a lot of focus on showing others our love through Valentine’s Day…but what about loving ourselves well in February?   Really, if we don’t love ourselves well first, it’s impossible to give our best love and care to the others in our life. So on that note, we wanted to share 5 great books that will help you do just that — show some love to the one and only you by making sure you’re taken care of first.

Carry on Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton

Cary's pick

Cary’s pick

“I love Carry on Warrior.  Not a book of inspirations or how to’s, but inspiring and real, I just love it.”

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

173

Catherine’s pick

“I first learned about The Four Agreements from Neissa, who raved about it — so I knew I had to read it.  The book is short & sweet– and the four simple principles it introduces really and truly change how you approach every single uncomfortable situation and difficult decision.   Once I started applying the 4 ideas to my daily mindset, I noticed a huge change in the stress and discomfort I felt in previously ‘difficult’ situations.  So, so worth the read!  I even found my bff and I talking about one of the ‘agreements’ at a happy hour last week — It’s stuff that sticks with you.” 

When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd

Amy's pick

Amy’s pick

“I love the book When the Heart Waits. It is really well-written. Grounded in personal experience and bolstered with classical spiritual disciplines, this book offers an alternative to fast-fix spirituality.” 

 The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino

Neissa's pick

Neissa’s pick

“One of my favorite self-love/self-improvement books is The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino. I read this book at a confusing time of my life when my self-esteem low and I was questioning my purpose and future. This book is a quick yet powerful read because it beautifully states how uniquely and purposefully created we are- full of nothing but potential. It was a game changer for me and it, along with The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz, are the two books I give every college graduate.” 

Spiritual Disciples Handbook: Practices that Transform Us  by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Alli's pick

Alli’s pick

“I was introduced to Spiritual Disciplines Handbook a few years ago when I served as an elder on the session at my church.  We, as a session, decided to study this book over the course of two years. Each month, one or two of us would choose one of the 50+ disciplines described in the book that seemed pertinent to us individually, then introduce it to the other members of the session at our monthly meeting. Then, all of us would work on that discipline and report back about the impact on our lives at the next meeting.  This book has since then been a fixture on my bedside table, and I still refer to it regularly. Truly, the practices are transformative.”   Try them out and let us know what you think!

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We Can CHOOSE to be Self-Confident

“Being healthy is a way of life. It’s not just about what you feed your body, it’s about what you feed your mind and the social environment you keep. Make healthy food choices, exercise your body and brain, and choose your friends wisely”
-Dr. Steve Maraboli

Point to Ponder:
Would you consider yourself self-confident?

Action Item:
Practice at least one of the 5 confidence-boosting exercises:
1. Meditate
2. Be grateful
3. Think small
4. Sleep, exercise & share
5. Practice power positions

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

To say that we are products of our past is certainly valid. There’s no doubt that many of our conscious and unconscious thoughts, behaviors and actions are a result of our upbringing and current social environments. Humans are easily influenced, and as children we had little control over the people we spent time with and who shaped our thinking, both positively and negatively. Now, as adults, we have all of the control and are either choosing to put ourselves in nurturing and healthy environments, or not. Either way, according to The Confidence Code, our environment and the power of habitual thinking have proven to play key roles in our confidence.

According to The Confidence Code, research proves that we are genetically born with more or less confidence. But the good new is that our confidence is malleable, and even as adults it can be altered despite our genetic wiring, pasts and memories. The best news is that we do not have to be products of our pasts, and just because our parents didn’t build us up, we had negative experiences in P.E., got dumped by our prom date or were told we couldn’t achieve a dream….these events do not have to define us or limit our level of confidence.

For adults, confidence really is a choice and like anything, finding it does not happen overnight. If we want it, we must practice using it everyday, and fortunately, there are scientifically proven confidence-building exercises that can create new confidence pathways in our brain. They are:

  1. Meditation: A calm brain is the ultimate confidence tool. MRI results show that the fear center of the brain (the amygdala) actually shrinks when meditation is routinely practiced. Meditation increases your ability to control your emotions and to be clear and calm. (Remember, meditation looks different for everyone. It can be prayer, quiet time alone, a walk/run around the neighborhood or lake, etc.)
  2. Be Grateful: New research shows that gratitude is one of the keys to happiness and an optimistic mindset. Believe and be grateful for the kind words said about you. Simply saying “thank you” will transform your mood and make the compliment-giver feel good.
  3. Think Small: Rather than focus on daunting challenges/daily tasks, break them down into tiny goals. Accomplishing them will give you a confidence boost.
  4. Sleep, Exercise & Share: A lack of sleep and exercise produces an extremely anxious brain, and anxious brains are less confident. Being close and sharing with friends boosts our oxytocin levels, which also increases confidence!
  5. Practice Power Positions: Abs in, chin up! Sitting up strait will give you a short-term confidence boost.

After finishing reading The Confidence Code, I am convinced that our confidence is part of our overall health and wellness. Why? Because our daily habits like what we eat, our exercise, the people we surround ourselves with, and the positive or negative information we choose to listen to and/or read all affect our happiness and confidence, ultimately influencing how we treat others and live our life.

 

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Our Summer Reading List

 Gone_Girl_(Flynn_novel) Heaven is Here

Amy

Amy

I LOVED The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd because it is a well-written, captivating book that grabs your interest from start to finish. Based in Charleston in the early 19th century, this book weaves together many women’s lives in their quest for hope, freedom and connection.

 

Heaven is Here is an beautiful memoir demonstrating the power of faith, hope, family, and love.  Stephanie Nielson and her husband, Christian, have the happiest of lives until a tragic airplane crash leaves them burned, with Stephanie severely burned, in the hospital for months and fighting for her life.  The book chronicles Stephanie’s amazing and heroic recovery, her transparent physical and emotional struggle with life after the accident, but most importantly it showcases what all the human spirit is capable of enduring and overcoming.

 

 

 

Molly

Molly

I love Gone Girl!  Gone Girl is a suspenseful and twisted page turner that you won’t want to put down. I felt it was completely unpredictable the whole way through — I love being shocked at the end of a book!

 

 

 

Mile Markers The 10 Essential Hugs of Life The Closer

 

Alli

Alli

Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run by Kristin Armstrong
In this book, which is actually a compilation of articles written for Runner’s World, Kristin beautifully and hilariously describes life lessons she’s learned by running, specifically by running with a group of girl friends she affectionately refers to as her “sweat sisters.” Further, she describes how running (and/or physical exercise of any sort), in community with other women, helps her better to connect with herself, her loved ones, and her God. Sound familiar? Kristin’s experiences with her sweat-sisters-community are virtually identical to the iGnite experience.

 

Jill

Jill

The 10 Essential Hugs of Life by Roy Spence
The author spoke about his book at my church on Father’s Day and I immediately bought it. I’m just starting to read it, but I know it will be great from what he spoke about. It’s all about embracing life, whatever comes at you!

 

 

Catherine

Catherine

I added The Closer by Mariano Rivera to my reading list for the summer after hearing an interview with him and being so inspired by his incredible story, upstanding character and passion for life. In his memoir, Rivera shares his journey from poor boy in Panama to the greatest relief pitcher of all time, and the adventures and struggles he encountered along the way.

In the Garden of Beasts

Sha Klatt

Sha

I’m currently reading In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson.  It’s a historical biography/memoir that takes place in Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power.   In it, the American ambassador to Berlin takes his wife, son and flamboyant daughter to Berlin where she is enamored with the “New Germany” and loves to party with the handsome members of the Third Reich.  The family slowly realizes the terrible history that is unfolding before them.

 

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Practice Confidence Everyday

“Confidence comes not from always being right, but not fearing to be wrong.”
(Anonymous)

Point to Ponder:
Do you often…
Over-think things? People-please? Hold on to defeats? Strive for perfection?
Undersell yourself? Play it safe? Doubt yourself?

Action Item:
This week, avoid people pleasing, over-thinking, perfectionism and self-doubt.
Practice letting go of your mistakes, speaking up, and taking risks.

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Having grown up in a very small town, I had the fortunate experience of playing every sport available to me. I’d like to think I was pretty good, but because I was 1 out of 140 students in my entire high school (9th through 12th grades), the competition was limited.

I loved sports — especially basketball. And while I was very confident in my ability, there were times when I would get into a shooting slump and my dad (a basketball coach) would tell me, “You are shooting to keep from missing rather than shooting to score,” or “You are playing to keep from losing instead of playing to win!”  He was right, I was playing timid and without confidence.  As soon as I would get my head straight, I’d get out of my slump, play aggressive, be a team leader and have fun.

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to compete in team sports because I really do think athletics taught me some of my most valuable life skills — confidence and teamwork being two of them. However, I’d be lying if I said that I am confident all of the time.  In fact, I get a nervous stomach when I speak in public, teach an iGnite class, or hold an iGnite team meeting because…I fear saying the wrong thing, I fear not being liked and I fear not being perfect! Okay, there. I said it… and now I want to go throw up.

I recently began reading the book The Confidence Code, which I am suggesting for our summer read. I am only on page 22 and it already looks like a marked-up text book, filled with notes, underlines and highlights. It’s written by two female journalists and specifically covers women’s confidence, self-assurance — why we lack them more than men, and why that lacking keep us from speaking up, fully believing in ourselves and striving for everything we desire.

Because I am only on page 22, I have no idea what the solution is; however, what I can share with you are a few mind-blowing findings I’ve stumbled across thus far:

  1. Regardless of power, prestige, or position, every woman is guilty of: over-thinking, people pleasing, and an inability to let go of defeats
  2. Perfectionism: We assume somehow that we don’t have the level of expertise or knowledge needed and therefore we over-prepare, hesitate or simply don’t try. And women are only confident when we feel perfect.
  3. We Undersell Ourselves: We often keep our thoughts (which we decide can’t be that impressive) to ourselves.
  4. ‘Safe’ Syndrome: Rather than take a risk to experience victory, we stay in the safe zone to avoid defeat.
  5. Self Doubt and Setbacks: Men do experience self-doubt, but they shrug it off, have the ability to get restarted more quickly and don’t let setbacks linger as long. Women tend to dwell and examine those doubts in excruciating detail, which is paralyzing.

I can with confidence, say that I experience ALL of these myself to some extent!

Let’s face it, we women are emotional and complicated creatures as a result of many things — estrogen, how we were raised, life experiences, society, etc. I am certainly not suggesting that we should take the place of men, because I do think we are designed to play necessary key roles, but we must be aware of when our self-doubting, self-limiting and self-defeating tendencies arise so we can call them out and press on!

Confidence — what a loaded word. It’s complicated, but it’s ours to have and keep if we want it. By practicing confidence everyday, we will crack “the confidence code” and unlock our potential and ability to experience the many prizes that await us in life.  What do we have to lose?!

 

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The Most Powerful Tools We Have (The ‘Antidote for Exhaustion’ Challenge III)

“Your word is the power that you have to create. Your word is the gift that comes directly from God. Your word is a force, it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think and thereby to create the events in your life. Your word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic. Depending upon how it is used, your word can set free,
or it can enslave you more than you know.  All of the magic you possess is based on your words.”
– Don Miguel Ruiz

Points to Ponder:
Are you careless with your words?
What things in your life do you do half-heartedly?

Action Item:
Focus this week on being impeccable with your words and always doing your best.
And, if you haven’t already, order your copy of The Four Agreements to read over spring break.

 

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Throughout last week I found myself relying on the advice of Don Miguel Ruiz’s two ‘agreements:’ don’t make assumptions and don’t take things personally. It really is amazing how often I need to apply these rules to my life and how much energy they conserve. I was doing a good job until Friday morning, when my father accused me of something that created an exorcist-like reaction in my body. The scenario was this: Tuesday night after putting the kids to sleep, I got a second wind and stayed up too late.  As I was about to go to bed, my three-year-old son Durant woke up and didn’t go back to sleep for another three-ish hours. Needless to say, I got about two hours of sleep. Then the next night, while I did go to bed at a decent hour, Durant and Malaine (my ten-month-old daughter) woke up again in the middle of the night…when it rains it pours, right?! Thankfully, after a diaper change and bottle, Malaine was back to sleep, but not Durant. As you might expect, I was in a sleep deficit and my body was beginning to shut down. By Thursday I had a scratchy throat with mild body aches and by the evening I was feeling pretty rough, but nothing I felt a good night’s rest couldn’t cure.

It just so happened that Thursday night my dad and step-mom spent the night with us. Typically my energy is pretty high, but that night it was low and they were aware of the past two days’ events. So, Friday morning, after a healing night’s rest, my father, whom I adore, put his arm around me and said,  “You know, for someone who has a health and fitness business, you sure don’t do a good job of taking care of yourself.”  He also suggested that my Achilles heels are lack of sleep and stress. It was at that exact moment my head spun around and my eyes bugged out of their sockets. For a minute I was speechless, but not too long afterwards I respectfully disagreed and told him all of the reasons why he was absolutely wrong. I also told him I knew he was coming from a loving place, but that he needed to retract his words. I also suggested that if he were to survey 100 moms with a three-year old and ten month old, who also have a busy traveling husband, they would be stressed too! And, ON TOP OF THAT I AM RUNNING MY OWN BUSINESS!!! Whew. I think you get the picture. Inside I was offended and fuming, which led me to call both my mom and my husband, Russell.

Clearly I took everything my dad said very personally, which led me down a rabbit hole of assumptions… Do I come across like a crazy stressed person and even worse, am I not being impeccable with my words? Do I not walk my talk, as Don Miguel Ruiz suggests is so important? Are my words meaningless? Am I a horrible leader? I’m a horrible mom!, etc. etc. etc.

While replaying by dad’s words and trying to remember that he was only trying to help, it dawned on me that while it might not always look pretty or even appear the healthiest, I can say with confidence that I always do my best, which is one of the four agreements. And, as long as I am doing my best then I can appreciate his concern, but it doesn’t go beyond that. I must also have personal confidence and discernment so I can honestly critique my best, without needing the approval of others, which is what I was shopping for from my mom and Russell.

Don Miguel Ruiz suggests that being Impeccable with your words is the most important of all four agreements, because it is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself and others. If you make an agreement with yourself to be impeccable with your words, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all of the emotional poison that exists within us. But making this agreement is difficult because we have learned to do precisely the opposite. We have learned to lie and gossip for example, as a habit of communication with others. And more importantly, we have learned to lie to to ourselves, as in telling ourselves we aren’t good enough, thin enough, smart enough, pretty enough or qualified enough, which negatively effects our relationship with ourselves and with others: how we communicate with ourselves is a reflection of how we love ourselves, which gives others permission to treat us exactly the same. It’s the law of attraction.

Finally, by always doing our best, Don Miguel says that it allows the other three agreements (‘don’t take things personally,’ ‘don’t make assumptions,’ and ‘be impeccable with your words’) to become deeply ingrained habits. He also suggests to “keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next, as everything is alive and changing all of the time. Therefore, your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good. But, regardless of of the quality, keep doing your best because doing your best will allow you to be productive and to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community and everything. Doing your best is taking action because you love it, not because you are expecting a reward.”

All in all, life is too short and too precious to not living amazingly. And, by applying the common-sense wisdom and powerful tools from The Four Agreements we optimize our ability to live our best blow-out life. If you haven’t ordered or read the book yet, it’s not too late. The iGnite team is reading it over Spring Break, and it can easily be ordered here on Amazon for less than $8.00. It will be at your doorstep within two days of ordering. The Kindle Edition is available too. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

 

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24 Great Summer Reads

by Catherine Hearn

by Catherine Hearn

Summer has arrived, and we are having visions of lying in a hammock with a great book. So, we asked some of our bookaholic iGnite members (thank you Leslie McConnico, Jane Flieller and Kathy Huffaker!) what they recommend curling up with this summer. So here you have it — straight from our Monarchs themselves — our Great Summer Reads:

 292408    

And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner | New novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. This one is hard to put down!

Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner | “These are modern classics in my opinion.  Though very different, both are wonderful, insightful novels that have lots of personal insights.”  -Kathy H.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin (Historic Fiction) | In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, acclaimed novelist Melanie Benjamin pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Beyond the Sky and Earth: a Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa | “The author shows great courage in taking a job for 2 years teaching English in a remote Himalayan village and her eyes  were opened (as well as mine) to a very different culture, mindset and spiritualty.  It is much more than just a travel book.” -Kathy H.

Charlotte’s Web (Audio Book) by E. B. White | “Although this is a children’s classic, when E. B. White reads it everyone will love it.” -Kathy H.

Citizens of London by Lynne Olson  | This is a behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London.  “If you like history, this book gives great detail of WWII.” -Jane F.

  myantonia     

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother by James McBride | “Very powerful!” -Kathy H.     Amazon Summary: The biracial son of a Jewish mother tells the story of how she raised her 12 children” in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. “Mommy,” a fiercely protective woman with “dark eyes full of pep and fire,” herded her brood to Manhattan’s free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect.

Julia Child: My Life in France (Audio Book) by Julia Child“The story in her own words (read by Flo Salant Greenberg). Julia tells about her years in France where she learned to cook and found her true calling.” -Kathy H.

My Antonia by Willa Cather | “Published in 1918 it is the last in her “prairie trilogy”.  I consider it a classic.  It is beautifully written and is a book you can relax into.  It is the story of several immigrant families who move to rural Nebraska.  Anything by Willa Cather is a step back in time  but a look into that time that will engross you.” -Kathy H.

The One Thing by Gary Keller (self help book)  | The ONE Thing is about getting extraordinary results in every situation.   What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?  Gary Keller has identified that behind every successful person is their ONE Thing.  “I wanted to read this book since Gary Keller is the cofounder and chairman of the board of Keller Williams Realty International, which is the largest real estate franchising company in the U.S.  He built this company from a single office in Austin, TX by using his skills as a teacher, trainer, and coach. Gary defines leadership as ‘teaching people how to think the way they need to think so they can do what they need to do when they need to do it, so they can get what they want when they want it.’ Gary’s ONE Thing is teaching.” -Jane F.

The Palace Walk by Naquib Mahfouz | This is the first in The Cairo Trilogy.  This trilogy starts in the 1920s in Cairo. These books give me a look into a culture that I knew nothing about.  This trilogy could keep you engrossed all summer!” -Kathy H.   Amazon summary:   The novels of The Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch Al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence.

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain | “I loved this book and didn’t want it to end.  It is the story of the love affair and betrayal of the famous couple Ernest Hemmingway and his first wife Hadley.  Set in Paris in the 1920s during the time of Gertrude Stein and her famous Salons.  So interesting!”  -Kathy H.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett | “Published in 1989 it is set in the 12th century and tells the story of the architects, builders and the peoples around the building of gothic architecture, most specifically, the cathedrals.  It is a long, exciting, gripping read. It was also an Oprah Book Club choice.” -Kathy H.
      

Promised Lands by Elizabeth Crook | “This historical fiction novel chronicles the Texas Rebellion and the scene about the Battle for Goliad stayed with me for a long time.  It is my favorite Texas historical novel so far!” -Kathy H.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles | Amazon Summary: This sophisticated and entertaining first novel presents the story of a young woman whose life is on the brink of transformation. On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani | Amazon Summary: Beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani returns with the most epic and ambitious novel of her career—a breathtaking multigenerational love story that spans two continents, two World Wars, and the quest of two star-crossed lovers to find each other again. The Shoemaker’s Wife is replete with the all the page-turning adventure, sumptuous detail, and heart-stopping romance that has made Adriana Trigiani, “one of the reigning queens of women’s fiction” (USA Today). Fans of Trigiani’s sweeping family dramas like Big Stone Gap and Lucia, Lucia will love her latest masterpiece, a book Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, calls “totally new and completely wonderful: a rich, sweeping epic which tells the story of the women and men who built America dream by dream.”

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See | “This is a wonderful story of friendship set in 19th century China in the time of bound feet and almost total seclusion of the wives and daughters.  The story is told by the 80 year old Snow Flower looking back at her life.” -Kathy H.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy | “Makes you want to travel to  Charleston.” -Leslie M.    Amazon Summary:  Leopold Bloom King has been raised in a family shattered—and shadowed—by tragedy. Lonely and adrift, he searches for something to sustain him and finds it among a tightly knit group of high school outsiders. Surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, as well as Charleston, South Carolina’s dark legacy of racism and class divisions, these friends will endure until a final test forces them to face something none of them are prepared for.  Spanning two turbulent decades, South of Broad is Pat Conroy at his finest: a masterpiece from a great American writer whose passion for life and language knows no bounds.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Audio Book) by Betty Smith | “This audio book is so engrossing, an American Classic.  You will laugh and cry and wish it wouldn’t end.” -Kathy H.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand  Amazon Summary: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini | In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. Sidenote: the author’s story is really interesting too! 

  

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson | “This is such a fun read, as are all Bill Bryson’s books about his travels!  He sets out to walk the Appalachian trail with an overweight, smoking, donut eating high school friend.  Very funny.  His books are also great as audio books, as he reads them himself.” -Kathy H. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed | “This is a ‘wild’ story of a young woman rocked by the death of her mother and divorce who takes off totally unprepared to walk the Pacific Crest Trail.  Some people have a hard time getting into this story as the beginning is a bit disturbing but if you stick with it you will be alternately entertained, horrified and enlightened.  I loved this story.” -Kathy H.

Wild Swans: the Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang | “This is one of my favorite reads. It is not a short read, but worth every page.”  -Kathy H.   Amazon description: The story of three generations in twentieth-century China, it is an engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love.