holiday book list

by jenna on November 24, 2010

It’s the day before Thanksgiving…and I’m not going to give you another recipe.

I’m not even going to talk about food.

Instead…let’s talk about books.

Y’all probably know by now what a big reader I am. One of my absolute favorite things to do is to just completely lose myself in a great novel for hours on end. It’s like taking a mini-vacation and never leaving your house! I usually set aside an hour every day to just read (books, not the internet!), but when the holidays roll around I find that I read a lot more.

As passionate as I am about food, I’m just as passionate about books. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll open up a bakery bookstore. That would be fun!

So, I made a list of the best books I’ve read this Fall. Print it out, take it to the library or bookstore and treat yourself.

1. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Fabulous book based loosely on the life of Laura Bush. This book drew me in and I finished the entire thing in two days…I couldn’t put it down!

2. The Heart of the Matter by Emily Griffin

The perfect book for a super long flight; this book is light, easy to read and has a convincing plot. Warning: once you start reading, it’s hard to put down!

3. Through Painted Desserts by Donald Miller

I loved this travelogue memoir about personal growth and spirituality. Donald Miller is, in my opinion, one of the best writers out there and his prose is so real and eloquent it’s like he’s standing right there talking to just you.

4. Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers

Francine Rivers is one of my favorite authors and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her new book, a historical fiction piece about a mother and daughter at the turn of the century. If you liked Redeeming Love, you’ll love this.

5. A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White

A sweet story about two sisters growing up while grappling the loss of their parents. My mom gave me this after she read it and I loved it!

6. All The Living by C.E. Morgan

Kath sent me this after she finishing reading it and I just finished it myself the other day. The voice in the novel is what “makes” the book. It’s so unique and heartfelt…you really feel like you get to know the characters. And, like Kath said, it’s very “Laura Ingalls-like”.

7. Oceans Apart by Karen Kingsbury

When a girl in my bible study brought a bucket of Karen Kingsbury books in one night and claimed they were the most “addicting books she’s ever read”, I had my doubts. But, I still borrowed this one and read the whole thing in one sitting…before requesting ten more from the library. I’m almost embarrassed to admit to you that I’ve now read almost every single one of Kingsbury’s books in the past month and a half, and have my mom hooked on them as well.  I figure if my “dirty little secret” is addicting Christian romance novels, it’s gonna be alright. But seriously….read this book.

8. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

Okay…so this isn’t a novel but it’s my newest cookbook and the type that you’ll be up all night reading. Judy winds in nostalgic stories into her recipes and I can’t wait to make her famous roast chicken.

9. House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Another really emotional and heart-wrenching book by Jodi Picoult. Great for a snuggling up under a blanket with a cup of tea.

10. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Okay fine, I’ll admit it. I’m a complete hopeless romantic that pretty much cries during every single Nicholas Sparks book. I’ll admit, sometimes they can be very predictable and cliche, but I really feel like this one is a step above the rest. It’s my favorite book by him in awhile and I highly recommend it!

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{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica @ How Sweet It Is November 24, 2010 at 7:19 am

There really is nothing more I love to do either then get lost in a book for hours. I loved American Wife so much that I wish I could read it all over again for the first time.

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Natalia - a side of simple November 24, 2010 at 7:20 am

I just did a quick post about some books, too! Give me B&N or any book store any day over just about anything and I’m happy :)

Thanks for your list! Unfortunately I probably won’t get to any before college Christmas break but then you’ll only be able to find me on the couch, tea/hot chocolate in hand, carefully balancing a book on my lap.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, Jenna!

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Cathy B. @ Bright Bakes November 24, 2010 at 7:25 am

I had to smile at your “karen kingsbury confession” … sometimes it’s just great to read something “light” :)
I’m with you on the holiday reading thing…I’ve got to get back on track with my reading…summer took us by a whirlwiind and books just didn’t get read as much and I really really miss it.
love,
cathy b. @ brightbakes

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Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin November 24, 2010 at 7:33 am

I have not read any of the books on your list! I just started reading The Help yesterday and am loving it so far though!

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Estela @ Weekly Bite November 24, 2010 at 7:38 am

Curling up with a good book is one of my favorite things to do. I helps quite my mind.
Thanks for all these suggestions :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Michele @ Healthy Cultivations November 24, 2010 at 7:41 am

I love reading too. Right now, I’m reading Jan Karon’s “At Home in Mitford.” Just a pleasant story.

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kim @ girlevolving November 24, 2010 at 7:43 am

Jenna, have you read any Ruth Reichl? I think you’d LOVE her. She was a food critic for the NY Times and I think Gourmet’s editor. Her memoirs are hilarious and interspersed with recipes. I really liked Tender to the Bone and Garlic and Sapphires. Comfort me with Apples was about her affair, so that one turned me off. But I think you’ll love the other two!

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jenna November 24, 2010 at 7:45 am

i love her!!!

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kim @ girlevolving November 24, 2010 at 7:48 am

I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks recently – really good book and really fascinating. Another good one to try!

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Bridget November 24, 2010 at 7:44 am

I have the same taste in books as you! Here’s a recommendation if you haven’t read it: Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. It’s emotional but it’s the best book I’ve read this year! And it’s not very long.

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jenna November 24, 2010 at 7:45 am

great book!

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Food & Other Things November 24, 2010 at 7:45 am

Thanks for the book list…I’m always on the look out for good books I can read when I have time off from school for the holidays! Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite authors!

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Alli November 24, 2010 at 7:46 am

I loved the store American Wife, but sometimes wanted to reach into the pages and smack some sense into the main character – she was so passive! (The author must love those types of women, because I had the same trouble when reading Prep).

I just finished “Two for the Road” by Jane and Michael Stern – SO good, especially if you’re into learning about all sorts of regional food around the U.S. And have you read Jodi Picoult’s “Salem Falls”? That’s probably my favorite of hers.

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Alli November 24, 2010 at 7:50 am

“I loved the *story* of American Wife…”

Wow, guess the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet….

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brandi November 24, 2010 at 7:46 am

LOVE Donald Miller, Francine Rivers, and Karen Kingsbury. The summer I worked as a pool attendant? I read every Kingsbury book my mom had on her bookshelf at home.

Redeeming Love is a book I’ve read 100 times, and I love it more each time I read it.

Have you read “Searching for God Knows What” by Donald Miller? I love that one, but Blue Like Jazz is still my favorite of his.

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Olympe November 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

Going to the US on Friday. I will go directly to Barnes &Noble (love this place) and I think I am going to get the American Wife and Safe Haven,
Thanks for the list and I hope you will have a great Thanksgiving.

P.S: I always forget to tell you but you do speak french really well (i am french that’s why I guess I am allowed to make a comment) and you have the greatest and cutest accent.)

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Alina @ Duty Free Foodie November 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

I looked up the plot of Heart of the Matter and I am pretty intrigued, although I find the subject of infidelity difficult to read about (I like rainbows and unicorns to go with my puppies and kittens, thankyouverymuch).

Do you like Jane Austen? I noticed she is not on any of your recommendations, but some similar-ish authors are, so I was wondering.

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jenna November 24, 2010 at 7:48 am

I love Jane Austen :) Mr. Darcy is the love of my life.

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alina @ Duty Free Foodie November 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

Me too. I’ve re-read the book a few times, and every time I am done, I can’t read anything else for a week. Love him!

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Alexia @ DimpleSnatcher November 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

Mr. Darcy is the love of MY life!

I’ve memorized the link from the Kiera Knightly movie: “You’ve bewitched me body and soul.”

Siggggghhhh.

And I love love love Donald Miller.

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat November 24, 2010 at 7:54 am

I’ve been wanting to read The Heart of the Matter for a long time now – would you recommend starting at the beginning of her book series, or jump straight into that one?

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Kristiana November 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

I read The Heart of the Matter First then went and read Emily Giffin’s other books (in order) It was fabulous and didn’t really reference characters in the other book !

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Sam November 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I think that Heart of the Matter, Baby Proof & Love the One You’re With are all books about different characters. The only books you need to read in order are Something Borrowed & then Something Blue. Those are the same story told by two different people. They are really REALLY good though.

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Sara November 24, 2010 at 7:55 am

Have you read The Time Traveler’s Wife?? If you have (or haven’t), you should read Her Fearful Symmetry! It is seriously one of the best books I have ever read – it’s kind of eerie, but it’s SO good! If you decide to read it, you should listen to Stars – they’re a really great band and I’m convinced that their newest CD should be the soundtrack of Her Fearful Symmetry.

I just babbles a lot.

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Louise November 24, 2010 at 7:59 am

Currently reading The Hunger Games series. They are pretty dark, but a thrilling read. The underlying message of the books is that our reality show-obsessed culture is making us as a whole, less sympathetic and more withdrawn.

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Lena November 24, 2010 at 8:00 am

A bakery bookstore’s totally cool idea! you ought to! :P
I am thinking of reading “the particular sadness of Lemon cake” saw it on Oprah.com, have you read it? i wonder if it’s any good… sounds really interesting.

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Erin (Travel, Eat, Repeat) November 24, 2010 at 8:03 am

If you ever come to DC, the best cafe here is half-cafe, half-bookstore (and part bar!). It’s called Kramberooks and just the greatest place EVER.

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Meghan November 24, 2010 at 9:54 am

I’ve been there!! Their pie is delicious. :)

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tina November 24, 2010 at 8:04 am

oh yay! love the book recs! i LOVED american wife- so good!!!!

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Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) November 24, 2010 at 8:08 am

I’m so glad to hear that you liked American Wife! I just bought it and have yet to read it, but now I’m excited. It’s going to make a great holiday weekend read. :D

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mindy @ just a one girl revolution. November 24, 2010 at 8:10 am

I’ve read quite a few of those. House Rules was good, but the ending was a bit predictable, I thought. Don Miller…LOVE him. I liked Safe Haven a lot. I think Sparks is trying to break away from his usual formulaic novels. The Last Song was good as well. I’m reading The Girl who Played with Fire right now (sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). EXCELLENT.

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megan @ whatmegansmaking November 24, 2010 at 8:10 am

Hey Jenna, I think the name of the author of the Heart of the Matter is Emily Giffin. I only know this because awhile ago when I was reading her books I searched the library under Griffin and almost went away sad because I thought they didn’t have them. I’ve read all of hers, and I love them. Also I’m excited to read the new Francine Rivers! I LOVED redeeming love, and The Shofar Blew. And really all of hers, but those are my favorites. Oh and I can’t forget the mark of the lion series!

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Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun November 24, 2010 at 8:11 am

We have VERY similar book tastes it looks like. I can’t wait to add some of those to my list of books to read. Especially those Karen Kingsbury ones. Have you ever read Summer Sisters by Judy Blume? I’ve reread it at least 5 or 6 times because I love it so much.

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Moni'sMeals November 24, 2010 at 8:13 am

Such a great list. Thanks Jenna!
Bakery Bookstore~ Brilliant. :)

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Kailey (SnackFace) November 24, 2010 at 8:13 am

Um, PLEASE open up a bakery/book shop. That would be so dreamy! We’d all be hanging out there.

What a lovely list for holiday reading. You’re right– I definitely seem to read more around this time of the year. Thanks for the recs!

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Katie November 24, 2010 at 8:18 am

Borrowed American Wife from my best friend on Sunday, I’m almost done and this is with going to work everyday. There are so many places I wanted to stop and underline and write down the quotes. I cried on page 166… his reply “I can feel you smiling.” I die!

My family knows when I’m close to finishing a book to not interrupt me and that I won’t accomplish anything until it’s done. And I can never NOT finish a book I start.

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Diana @ frontyardfoodie November 24, 2010 at 8:19 am

I’m a book lover too and I always ask for books at Christmas time! There is absolutely nothing like getting lost in a good story with a cup of tea.

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Missy November 24, 2010 at 8:22 am

I’m further convinced we’d be friends in real life ;o) I’ve read over half of those books and would put them on the top of my list as well. I’m riding with the folks to Nashville from Minneapolis this afternoon and have “The Heart of the Matter” packed in my suitcase!

Have you read anything by Jennifer Weiner? Some of hers are better than others, but considering how closely our book tastes are I’m guessing you’d love “Good in Bed” (great book, bad title) and “Little Earthquakes.”

Have a FANTASTIC Thanksgiving!

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CathyK November 24, 2010 at 10:56 am

i agree, she’s hit and miss – “good in bed” was her best one, in my opinion. and yes, terrible title!

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Kendel @ Eating Abroad November 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

Great list… and there’s no shame in sharing the Christian romance love. I wish more people would read books with a heartfelt meaning.

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Barbara November 24, 2010 at 8:34 am

I just read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I can’t believe what an incredible book it was and that nobody ever told me to read it before. If you haven’t read it yet, I definitely recommend it!! I’m going to try to find a few of her other books too.

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TC November 24, 2010 at 8:34 am

Love the bookstore/bakery idea! Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Camille November 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

Great list!
I haven’t had any time to read lately because of school, but one of my big goals during winter break is to pick up a new book :)

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laurab @foodsnobstl November 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

I love curling up with a cup of tea and getting lost in a book. Thank you so much for the list. I am always looking for a new read!

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Meaghen November 24, 2010 at 8:40 am

I just noticed that you have “Somone Knows My Name” by Lawrence Hill on your Amazon bookshelf. Interesting fact about the novel. It’s written by a Canadian author and here in Canada was published with the title “The Book of Negroes”. The United States wouldn’t publish it as that and chose “Someone Knows My Name”. My boss tried buying it for her dad when she was in Florida and the people in the bookstores she went to got really offended when she asked them if they had “The Boof of Negores”. My poor boss had no idea why people responded to her like that!

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anne November 24, 2010 at 8:46 am

Thanks for the great list. Loved “Her Mother’s Hope.” Cannot wait to read the sequel!!

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kimmy November 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

I read Save Haven in one sitting, at Starbucks, with a Salted Carmel Hot Chocolate. :)

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Rachel @ The Avid Appetite November 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

I am a bookworm too! I am in the middle of World Without End by Ken Follett – the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth (one of my favorite books ever). Thanks for sharing your list since I’m always on the lookout for more books.

Oh, I read Heart of the Matter too and wanted to kill myself by the end. Just sayin’! But give me Something Borrowed & Something Blue any day!

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Andrea@The Skinny Chronicles November 24, 2010 at 8:52 am

Thanks for the great list of books. I can’t wait to try some. I have been reading Star Island by Carl Hiaasen. Also have you read The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais? It’s new and about gourmet cooking! A very good read.

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Christine (The Raw Project) November 24, 2010 at 8:57 am

Wonderful list, thanks. I’m a fan of reading, but am lucky if I can get 15-30 minutes a day to do it lately.

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Alaina November 24, 2010 at 9:08 am

Love all Emily Giffin books; she’s amazing! I’ll take the rest of these into consideration :]

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Dani November 24, 2010 at 9:09 am

A bakery bookstore would be perfect for you! Except you’d have to live there too because you’d never want to leave! Have a great holiday.

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Krystina (Basil & Wine) November 24, 2010 at 9:12 am

The idea of a trashy Christian romance novel makes me giggle.

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Nicole November 24, 2010 at 9:22 am

Great list! I’m on a plane all day tomorrow and will see if I can get a hold of one of these at the library this afternoon to take with me:)

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Elizabeth November 24, 2010 at 9:25 am

opening a bakery bookshop is my life’s dream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

people keep advising me against the bookshop part, though, with all these damn newfangled devices like the kindle being introduced!!! why oh why won’t people pick up an actual book anymore? am i the only one who uses the library?! haha, ok my rant is over..

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Suzanne de Cornelia November 24, 2010 at 9:27 am

Thanks for the list! The Camel-by-the-Sea Library is my favorite place to stop off after beach walk & before bakery for coffee. If you had a bakery w/books (& frpl near the sea…Sausalito?) wd need to call it ‘Sticky Buns’ as no one wd ever want to leave. ;)

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Ali November 24, 2010 at 9:30 am

I love this list! And I feel the exact same way about reading, it is the best escape you can have without actually going anywhere. I’ve been trying to find some books to get for Christmas and this will definitely help me out.

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Hilray November 24, 2010 at 9:38 am

Have you read Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult? One of my favorites of hers!

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jenna November 24, 2010 at 9:47 am

yes! it’s great—I’ve read all of her books and love them

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Hilray November 26, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I’ve read all but one! I’m not sure how that happened! I LOVE her books.

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Amber K November 24, 2010 at 9:51 am

I read for at least an hour each day too. Although my tastes are more like : intense suspense thrillers, memoirs, and books about health/food/nutrition.

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Amy at TheSceneFromMe November 24, 2010 at 10:01 am

I wish I had more time for reading books. But I spend some of my time reading magazines.
But I did enjoy reading “Friendships for grown-ups” by Lisa Whelchel. Yes, she was Blair on The Facts of Life. And she’s a great inspirational christian speaker too!

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Anne November 24, 2010 at 10:23 am

If you ever open that bakery/bookshop I only HOPE it will be somewhere near me! Where ever I’ll be…:-)

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Jen November 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

Do you buy all your books or get them from the library?

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Danielle November 24, 2010 at 10:27 am

These will most definitely keep me warm and cozy this holiday season. Thanks Jenna!

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Susan November 24, 2010 at 10:30 am

YES! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a foodie, but I live for book rec posts!

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R @ Learning As I Chop November 24, 2010 at 10:51 am

Definitely second American Wife. A little slow at first, but then it picks up

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Kristin November 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

I haven’t read most of the ones you suggested, but did read and love Heart of the Matter. Great, great book. Oh, but the author’s name is Giffin, not Griffin. Just thought you’d want to change that. :)

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Jennifer November 24, 2010 at 11:06 am

I’m making your pumpkin roll recipe for Thanksgiving. It’s cooling as I type!
Oh and I love books. Two small children make reading a challenge some days but I too am a “book nerd”. My favorite books of all time are A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Sula by Toni Morrison and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson… just in case you needed any recommendations.

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Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef November 24, 2010 at 11:35 am

Karen Kingsbury is great! I’ve read all her books, but over a period of yrs not months. BUT i can read them over and over. :) i live in bloomington, IN which is the setting for the baxer family books… so fun :) i agree and disagree with her portrayal of bloomington but it’s pretty fun to live in the place where the books are set. last summer there was even a baxter fam reunion in town!

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Tracy November 24, 2010 at 11:41 am

Yay!! I’ve been wondering when you’d do another reading post, I always love to see what you’ve been reading b/c we read a lot of the same books. I just put A Soft Place to Land on my amazon wish list!

Happy T-giving!

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J. November 24, 2010 at 12:49 pm

You mentioned you read An American Wife this fall, but I thought you mentioned that one a long time ago. TIme is flying regardless.

I have to get my books from the library. I miss buying them…a lot. The library selection is not the best…but I make due. I can wait-list for books…for example I #70 for one book alone…so , it takes a long long time to get something “good” or ‘new-er”. But, it is what it is.

I did read “Heart of the Matter” by Griffin a month or two ago. It was good.
I also read Jennifer Weiner’s “Fly Away Home” and actually really enjoyed it.

I’m currently waitlisted for The Hunger Games books and stuff…might be 80 years old by the time I get them though…!

I’m funny with reading though. I’m a bit bipolar. I sometimes fall into a very unattentive, unable to focused, down state…and I have no ability to think or function…that happens more than I would like…but I guess I have to roll with the punches!!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) November 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I love this list. And your honest prose and thoughts about each book and why you like them and what drew you in. Thanks for sharing those little tidbits.

I admit, I work full time, have a child and husband, take care of my house, my blog, workout, and try to sleep here and there, too :) My pleasure reading time is next to nothing. I really really really need/want to start reading more BOOKS! Less blog reading, and more book reading for me in 2011 I hope!

THank you for inspiring me to get busy on that new year’s intention. And for this great go-to list! :)

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Samantha November 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Reading is one of my favorite holiday activites–its a nice way to unwind from all the food and drink :) I haven’t read any on your list and I am really interested in reading the American Wife. I had no idea it was based on Laura Bush.

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Karen November 24, 2010 at 2:50 pm

For those of you craving a more serious book, I just finished one of the very best memoirs I’ve ever read: Half a Life, by Darrin Strauss. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

(Jenna – this memoir’s subject matter might hit too close to home for you; or, the author’s insights from the other side of an accidental death might be useful/healing for you – you know best.)

Happy Thanksgiving, Jenna and all!

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Dee November 24, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Yay! Love this post!

BTW – if you do open a bakery bookstore, I would totally visit! :)

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Emily November 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Donald Miller is my favorite writer!!! I actually haven’t read that book yet though. Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years are great. I’ll have to check out American Wife!

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Sarah @ goingongoals November 24, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I am reading American wife now and loove it! I don’t think I will be done as quickly as you were, but I can’t put it down!!!

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey November 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I love Karen Kingsbury novels – they are some of my favorite. I am also a big Beverly Lewis fan… amish? Why not?

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Stacia November 24, 2010 at 6:31 pm

You are a girl after my own heart. A bakery bookstore? Hell’s yeah!

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AnneW November 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm

This inspired me, big time. I went to the library this morning and am now 100 pages into Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Highly recommend!!

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Dana November 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Similar to your story, someone gave me a book by Kristin Hannah, and once I read it in one sitting, I raced to the library to grab as many as I could find. All are extremely addicting and so heart-wrenching. Each book is about sisterhood, friendship, mother-daughter relationships, etc. and since I am so close to my mom and 2 sisters, I loved each one. I recommend ‘Winter Garden’ (which is similar-ish to ‘Those Who Save Us’) and ‘True Colors’ if I had to pick two that I absolutely couldn’t put down.

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Jodi November 24, 2010 at 8:31 pm

oh my gosh Jenna, i have ALWAYS wanted to open a bakery/bookstore. I have the “book” part down but the “baking” part is a whole other story. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Jessica @ The Process of Healing November 24, 2010 at 8:43 pm

The Heart of the Matter is AMAZING. I seriously love Emily Giffin.
And Christian romances?! OH yes.

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Jessica November 25, 2010 at 6:14 am

Thanks for the great recommendations! I need some new books to read and I can’t wait to read some of your suggestions!

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Seglare November 25, 2010 at 7:50 am

I love reading your book posts – and all the comments and book recommendations that follow. :)

A bakery bookstore sounds great! There’s a place in Copenhagen that’s half bookstore (selling both new and second hand books), half café/bakery. It’s almost always full, so the concept is obviously good. ;)

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Corey November 25, 2010 at 8:00 am

I LOVE Heart of the Matter! Have you read her other books? They’re all very true to life with convincing plots . . .my absolute fave is “Something Blue”, Darcy’s book! I sob at the end every time I read it!

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Natalie November 26, 2010 at 6:51 am

I just read American Wife a couple of weeks ago. It was very good! Thanks for doing a book post. Nerds like myself look forward to those :)

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