As the days turn colder and shorter, there is nothing more enticing to me than a great book by a warm fire, cuddled in a fuzzy blanket with some hot chocolate in hand. One of my most favorite things is finding a book that I can’t put down, getting lost in an author’s descriptions, characters, and view of the world. Great books allow you to go on an adventure without ever leaving home or meet wonderful people that you would never have the opportunity to encounter in actual life. Here are five of my favorite books that I love to soak up this time of year. Some are light and fun reads, some are a bit heavier in content and prose but they all are wonderful stories that fill my brain and heart with knowledge, love and hope.
- South of Broad – Pat Conroy
If I was forced to choose a favorite book and favorite author it would have to be South of Broad and Pat Conroy. This book was the first of his that I read and although I have now read pretty much all of them, this one remains my favorite. There is just something about the characters that I am so drawn to and find so lovely. It is set in South Carolina, like most of his writing, and details Charleston in a way that makes the city sound majestic. It centers around Leo, his family, and his group of friends from high school. The book is written in five parts, bouncing around from present day and different times in their past. There are family secrets, love affairs, religious undertones, life and death. It is so sweeping and beautiful. I could read it a million times and find new phrases and nuances every time. Seriously, it is amazing.
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Barrows
Where South of Broad is weighty and all encompassing, Guernsey is light and fun and full of life. This book is set in post WWII England and more specifically, on the island of Guernsey. The novel is written entirely in letter and telegram format, which I always love. The characters are a wide variety of people that are brought together under the alibi of a book club, so as to not be arrested by the Nazis. They are so vivid and through them you get a real sense of what life was like during the time after the Nazi occupation. This is a surprisingly optimistic and feel-good book that I could read again and again.
- The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle is a memoir written by Jeannette Walls about her unconventional childhood and parents. It is at times disturbing, at times inspiring and at times heart-wrenching. It seems that the most dramatic and unbelievable stories are, more often than not, absolutely true. Jeannette was raised by a father that was an incredibly unstable dreamer and a mother who was always trying to ground him. She describes her father to be captivating and brilliant but also continually challenged by demons. Her mother is then left to try to focus his energy and be the stable one for a family living in utter poverty. Their trials are unbelievable and heartbreaking, with the pinnacle being the moment later in her life when Jeannette, now successful, is riding in a taxi and sees her parents scrounging through dumpsters. Her shame and also understanding is impeccably described. I am a sucker for a true story of real pain and triumph and this is a great one.
- Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay
I have always devoured WWII era books and this one is no exception. The book follows Julia in the present and Sarah in the past. You learn about Sarah who was a girl during WWII and whose family was ultimately sent to Auschwitz leaving everything and everyone behind, while also learning about Julia, a reporter living in France who happens to have many connections to Sarah, including the apartment that she and her family used to live in. This book is full of mysteries and strong, fascinating women. Just like I like.
- The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton
Lastly, is this book by Kate Morton called The Secret Keeper. It may be the ultimate fireside book with its mysterious plot and wonderful women. The book centers around Laurel who, as a girl, witnessed an unspeakable crime at her home. It is never spoken of and she buries her confusion and knowledge for most of her life. Finally, years later as her mom is dying, she goes on a quest, with help from her sisters, to figure out what happened that day and why. In turn, she discovers so many truths about her mother’s past in war-torn England, and about her family as a whole. Now that I am writing about this book I want to read it again! That may just happen this weekend.
I hope you love these books as much as I do and that you get lost in the stories and the hot chocolate! MEB