What The World’s Top Authors Say You Should Be Reading (Updated WEEKLY!)

June 30th, 2015

What You Should be Reading According to Today's Top Writers (Updated Weekly)

When I started the Sundays With Writers series, I had no idea how beautifully it would blossom and how happy it would make me.  I decided to have one question that I would always end with when interviewing our authors. It was this…

If you could tell anyone to read one book right now (other than your own) what would that book be?

Since I started asking that, I have discovered and read books that would have never found their way into my book pile. Of course, browsing through the entire series to find their answers can be a bit tedious so I am putting all of these responses into one post that I encourage you to bookmark, pin, and share with others as this will be updated weekly as we feature the gifted writers in our Sundays With Writers interview series.

If you wanted to read more about each of the authors that have shared their recommendations, a link is provided to our interview about their incredible books. There is a reason they have been featured and you will discover why when you open their books. It has been my honor to interview each of these incredible voices.  

What I have discovered is, if I really like a book that they recommend…chances are, that author is going to be a GREAT one to read since there is usually a reason why they are in love with a writer’s words.

Here are the books that the world’s top authors say you should be reading!

Please note, this file will now be updated after each Sundays With Writers. The list will start moving down from now on so the latest book will now be at the top. Keep this bookmarked for your library list!

Please also note, these are affiliate links.  A small portion of your sales goes to support the work we do at MomAdvice.com. Please follow me on GoodReads for more great book recommendations!  xo

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Read It: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Recommended by: Julia Claiborne Johnson

My favorite book in the world is Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett. It’s beautifully-written, wonderfully imagined, and completely heart-breaking. In it, terrorists seize the mansion of the vice-president of an unnamed South American country during a party that’s being thrown for a Japanese industrialist lured there with the promise of a performance by his favorite opera singer. The industrialist comes, the opera singer performs, guests from all over the world are in attendance; but the terrorist’s real target, the country’s president, skips the party to stay home and watch his favorite telenovela. As the standoff stretches from days into weeks, the hostages and captors for a community that you know can’t last. I’ve read this book so many times that I still have to keep a box of tissues at my elbow for the end game.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Read It: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Recommended by: Barbara Claypole White

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It has everything: a spunky heroine, a messed-up sexy hero, a mystery, a dysfunctional family, plus love and madness in the English countryside.  And Jane makes Rochester cry. I aim to make all my heroes cry.

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Read It: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Recommended by: Sharon Guskin

One book that really inspired me recently was Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, a novel about Cambodia. It is both dark and radiant at the same time. She finds meaning and beauty within the horror, which makes the book truly transformative.

Paula by Isabel Allende

Read It: Paula by Isabel Allende

Recommended by Gilly Macmillan

This is such a hard question!  There are so many books I could list, but I’m going to go with Paula by Isabel Allende.  The book tells the true-life story of the author’s daughter’s sudden and unexpected illness, which befalls her when she’s a young adult.  That story is interspersed with the history of their family and the story of Isabel Allende’s own extraordinary life.  It’s a powerful, heart-wrenching account of a mother’s love for her daughter, and one woman’s path through all of the big moments in life: love, motherhood, work, grief, joy and family.  It’s raw and honest, powerful and heart-wrenching, and beautifully told.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by MIchael Chabon

Read It: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Recommended By: Jordanna Max Brodsky

Glad to see another author already posted about The Song of Achilles, which is my favorite novelization of Greek myth.  I recommend it heartily to anyone who enjoys The Immortals!

As for non-myth books, I’d have to pick Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and ClayIt’s one of the few books I’ve read that I immediately told everyone in my life to pick up.  Set primarily in 1940s New York, it tells the story of two Jewish cousins (one of whom escapes from Nazi Europe) who create superheroes for the Golden Age of Comics. Add in a Harry Houdini subplot, love stories both gay and straight, a wealth of historical New York City detail, and the most sublime prose style I’ve ever encountered, and you get an irresistible work of brilliance.

Act One by Moss Hart

Read It: Act One by Moss Hart

Recommended by: Melanie Benjamin

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Read It: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Recommended by: Sejal Badani

It’s so hard to pick one! I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell and just finished his book David and Goliath so I’m going to go with that. It’s very insightful and made me think differently about the obstacles we face in life and how overcoming them often helps us develop our greatest strengths. I’m also a huge admirer of J.K. Rowling so I have to throw that in there.

 

Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger

Read It: Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger

Recommended by:  David Arnold

I have “Raise High the Roof Beam” tattooed on my forearm. I am unapologetic in my love of J.D. Salinger, specifically the Glass family novellas. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters really struck a chord in me, and of course, the original poem by Sappho is outstanding.

 

The Howling Man by Charles Beaumont

Read It: The Howling Man by Charlies Beaumont

Recommended by: Josh Malerman

The Howling Man(TOR 1988) Charles Beaumont. It’s got about 30 of his short stories and for those who don’t know him… hang on tight; you’re about to feel a tidal wave of wonder wash over you.

Scruples by Judith Krantz

Read It: Scruples by Judith Krantz

Recommended by: Jessica Morgan

One book! That is really a difficult choice to make. I have a degree in English lit, and I’m sure several of my professors will strongly disapprove of this — it’s very tempting to choose a classic, or at least something “literary” —  but I am going to recommend the classic Judith Krantz book, SCRUPLES (and also SCRUPLES II; the first book ends on a real cliffhanger, so be warned).  If you are interested in/enjoy popular woman’s fiction, Krantz is truly the master of the genre. Her books always feature strong women who excel at interesting jobs, and the plots are propulsive and highly readable and deliciously soapy. I personally never feel guilty about anything I read, but if you are into so-called “guilty pleasure reading” — or even if you are a person who only reads highly literary intellectual books but who longs to UNDERSTAND the idea of guilty pleasure reading — Scruples one of the most pleasurable, and, by this point, a classic of that genre. (Her autobiography, which is titled, brilliantly, SEX AND SHOPPING, is also a favorite.)

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Read It: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (check out her comments below for lots more great suggestions!)

Recommended by: Heather Cocks

HEATHER: Oh, wow, I can’t pick that either. I think it’s because I would never advise anyone to read only ONE book, and I don’t even know HOW to answer this without considering the context. If it’s someone who never reads, I’d say start with the Harry Potter series, because it will invite you into books and then keep you there. If it’s someone who likes stuff that’s tonally similar to The Royal We — funny, with heart — I would hand them Someday, Someday, Maybe, by Lauren Graham, which I promise is a recommendation I would have made before she ever even picked up our book. If you’re into literature and wordplay and quirk, I’d suggest The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (and then read the whole series; they get goofier but no less imaginative and punny). If you want striking prose, read anything by Kate Atkinson. And if you love wartime and friendship and romance, it’s a tie between The FitzOsbournes trilogy and Code Name: Verity, both of which are wonderful examples of books that are technically considered for teens, but offer so much to anyone of any age. How’s THAT for a wishy-washy answer?

 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Read It: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Recommended By: Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I stumbled upon it at the used bookstore attached my library and bought a copy of it for four dollars last December. I have since recommended it to everyone that will listen to me and have bought multiple copies. It is a retelling of the story of Achilles’s life leading up to and through the Trojan War. I can’t tell you what I love most about it because I love everything about it so much. It is stunningly romantic, a pleasure to read, incredibly thought-provoking, and epically tragic, with some of the most wonderful sentences I’ve read in some time. It manages to straddle both classic literature and soap opera in one story. It’s so good (and so juicy) that I would call it a guilty pleasure except that you have nothing to feel guilty about because it’s so very beautiful and keenly smart.

The Street by Ann Petry

Read It: The Street by Ann Petry

Recommended by: Caroline Kepnes

The Street by Anne Petry is brilliant and searing. One of my all time favorites.

 

Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber

Read It: Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber

Recommended by: J. Ryan Stradal

Debbie Graber’s short story collection Kevin Kramer Starts On Monday isn’t out yet – it comes out next spring – but it’s the funniest thing I’ve read in a very long time. Debbie is just brilliant; her humor, which often sends up the contemporary American workplace, is infused with plenty of heart, pathos, and intelligence. I read it in manuscript form and I can’t wait for it to exist in the world. Please pre-order it the moment it becomes available.

Swimming by Nicola Keegan

Read It: Swimming by Nicola Keegan

Recommended by: Bill Clegg

By my lights one of the most brilliant, moving and devastatingly funny stories about growing up alongside, coping with and surviving the people who raise us.  The voice is so strong, so piercing and so authentic.  I’ve never read anything that conveyed more powerfully how families can be both curse and windfall.  I think about that book all the time.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

After I Do By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Recommended by:  Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Lisa says about Wild- She’s a phenomenal writer and this is a memoir you will think about for years after reading it.
Liz says about After I Do-  It’s an incredibly insightful and refreshing narrative on the challenges of marriage.

 

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Read It: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Recommended by: Elisabeth Egan

 

 

Trampoline by Robert Gipe

Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion

Render: An Apocalypse by Rebecca Gayle Howell

 

 

Read It: Trampoline by Robert Gipe, Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion, & Render: An Apocalypse by Rebecca Gayle Howell

Recommended by: David Joy

I’m going to stay true to my neck of the woods and give you three recommendations—a novel, a memoir, and a book of poetry—from Appalachia because I think a lot of what comes out of this region is tragically overlooked. As far as a novel, everyone needs to read Robert Gipe’s Trampoline. It’s bar none the best debut released this year and it’s arguably the best debut we’ve seen from this region in decades. With memoir, I was really impressed with Leigh Ann Henion’s book, Phenomenal. I think her storytelling is brave and her insight into our relationship with the natural world is matured and beautiful. Last but certainly not least, everyone needs to be reading Rebecca Gayle Howell, especially the poems in Render: An Apocalypse, which are just gritty and raw and lovely. She’s writing scripture. So there’re three for you to get your hands on!

 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Read It: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Recommended by: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

It is an incredibly intense book about racial inequality in our criminal justice system, but it is beautifully written and powerful, with just enough hopefulness to help you sit with the discomfort of the truth and think hard about how you can help contribute to a solution.  I recommend it to everyone I know.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Read It: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Recommended by: Jennifer Niven

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

Read It: The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

Recommended by: Vanessa Lafaye

It’s actually 3 books: The Regeneration Trilogy, by Pat Barker.  Is that allowed?  These books were among the first, along with Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, which opened my eyes to the history of WWI.  Before that, like most Americans, I was ignorant of this period, but it’s a huge deal here in England. I finally understood what the veterans had sacrificed in that awful, stupid war.

Geek Love By Katherine Dunn

Read It: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Recommended By: Erika Swyler

I suggest people read it because it may freak them out. It’s also what fearless narration looks like. It’s bold and bizarre in all the right ways and full of incredible visual writing. It’s a book that stays with you long after you’ve finished. It’s the book I dream about writing.

The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett

Read It: The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett

Recommended By: Greer Macallister

My favorite book is almost always the book I’ve read most recently, since it’s fresh in my mind. In this case, that’s The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett. It’s about an Arctic expedition in the 1850s, during a time where men died regularly exploring that area. The story weaves together what happens on a particular ship with the lives of those waiting back at home for the ship to return. Barrett writes so beautifully and precisely about both the emotional and physical dimensions of her characters’ lives. It’s gorgeous and brutal. I loved it.

One by Sarah Crossan

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

 

Read It: One by Sarah Crossan, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, & Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Recommended by: Sarah Bannan

I think that’s almost impossible for me as I read constantly, and I am forever discovering my newest favorite novel…So, I’m going to choose my novel of the moment, which is Sarah Crossan’s ONE, which will be published by Bloomsbury in August. It’s a verse novel for young adults, and it’s a beautiful story about conjoined twins.It’s completely consuming and unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

(I should also say that I reread, every summer, Meg Wolitzer’s THE INTERESTINGS and Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP. Two completely amazing feats of literary fiction and coming of age…I know this is cheating but it’s hard for me!)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Read It: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Recommended By: Celeste Ng

I’d go with The Bluest Eye, because Toni Morrison is one of my all-time favorite authors and that book says so much about race and culture and identity and love, and it’s beautifully written to boot.

 

Room by Emma Donoghue

Read It: Room by Emma Donoghue

Recommended By: Chris Bohjalian

What makes this novel so remarkable is not merely how authentically Donoghue captures the voice of a five-year-old boy, but the deft way she slowly conveys the horrific reality of a mother and son’s captivity. If you want a poignant, powerful novel about a mother’s desperate love for her child, it doesn’t get better than this.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 

Read It: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Recommended by: Rene Denfeld & Kristin Harmel

Rene says- Oh, that is a tough one, because there are so many wonderful books. I just read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was stunning.

Kristin says-  All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I realize that’s sort of a lame response, because the book is so popular right now, but it’s truly one of the most beautifully crafted and beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I recommend it all the time!

americanah-book-cover

Read It: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Recommended by: Maggie Shipstead

I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I loved. That’s the book I’m talking up to everyone right now.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Read It: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Recommended by: Suzanne Redfearn

black-and-blue

Read It: Black And Blue by Anna Quindlen

Recommended by: Jillian Cantor

That’s a tough question! I don’t know that I can pick just one book. But my favorite author is Anna Quindlen. I read Black and Blue years ago and it has always stayed with me. Every time she has a new book out, I buy it right away!

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Read It: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Recommended by: Torre DeRoche

I don’t think I can prescribe a cure-all because books are so personal to each individual, but I’ll share with you the most important book I ever read—a book that burst open my imagination and taught me that it’s possible to create an incredible alternate reality on the page.

When I was thirteen, my older sister told me I had to read this book, giving me only the title and a pinch of her fingers to demonstrate its approximate spine width. I went to my school library to look for the book and, having no idea where to start my search, I said to a friend, “I’m looking for a book that’s about this thick.” I extended my finger to poke the spine of a random book. It was Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel: the very book my sister told me I must read. It was a bizarre, serendipitous first encounter. That book rocked my world.

Long Man by Amy Greene

Read It: Long Man by Amy Greene

Recommended by Patry Francis

It’s hard to choose only one, but Amy Greene’s,  Long Man has everything I look for in a novel: a compelling protagonist named Annie Clyde who faces impossible odds with great courage and resilience, an engrossing plot, and a setting so vivid, you really feel as if you are there.

The Stand by Stephen King

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Read It: The Stand by Stephen King, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, & Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Recommended by: Susan Crandall

When I’m asked this question, I always reach way back, looking for a book that has stuck with me so vividly that I can remember the details of the characters very clearly even after a long time. I try to pick something that isn’t a classic, those already stand out and find audiences. I’m a character writer. Suspenseful plots are enjoyable, but it’s the beauty of the character and his/her journey that touches me. So after all that rambling, I always come back to two books, very different genres: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander (the first book in the series is my favorite).

father-of-the-rain

Read It: Father of the Rain by Lily King

Recommended by: Michelle Gable

I recommend Father of the Rain by Lily King to everyone. It is the perfect book.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Read It: My Antonia

Recommended by: Heather Gudenkauf

My favorite book of all time is My Antonia by Willa Cather. My parents always had hundreds of books on shelves and in neat stacks around the house and for a long time I passed right over the thick novel with the illustration of a woman standing in a field of tall yellow grass and holding freshly picked wildflowers. I finally pulled it from the shelf when I was eighteen and immediately fell in love with Cather’s beautiful description of turn-of-the-century Nebraska and the lifelong friendship between a farm boy and a young Czech immigrant. I reread My Antonia every single year, each time with new eyes, always finding something new within the pages. Whenever I visit a bookstore I’m always on the search for a different edition of My Antonia to add to my collection.

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Read It: The Shadow of the Torturer

Recommended by: M.R. Carey

So many possible answers to that!  You could ask me a couple of dozen times and get a different answer each time.  Today I’m going to say The Shadow Of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe.  It’s the first volume in a tetralogy, so if you read it and liked it you’d have to read the other three.  But they’re so worth it. It’s a story of a far future Earth where the sun is dying.  Humanity has spread to the stars but that was long ago.  Now there are other galactic empires, other non-human civilisations that call the shots.  What’s left of humankind is back on an old, old planet that hasn’t got much time left to it.  But there’s a Messianic religion that preaches that the New Sun, sometimes known as the Conciliator, will be born on Earth as a man and rekindle all our hopes.  Reborn, rather, since he’s been here once before.  And Severian of the Torturers’ Guild believes this to be true since he’s found a holy relic, the Claw of the Conciliator, that heals all wounds.

It’s a very hard book to describe, and there’s no denying that it goes to some very dark places.  But Wolfe’s imagination is vast.  He creates a world and peoples it.  And he has a very serious purpose which takes in faith, physics and the importance of storytelling.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Read It: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien & Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Recommended by: Mary Kubica

My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This is one that I tell everyone to read. It’s a Vietnam War memoir, but is much more than that. You don’t need to be a history guru to fall in love with this book. When it comes to my own genre though, psychological suspense, Before I Go To Sleep is one I often recommend. I just loved this S.J. Watson novel.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

The Bees by Laline Paull

 

Read It: Room by Emma Donaghue, Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and The Bees by Laline Paull

Recommended by: Carla Buckley

Emma Donaghue’s Room, Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. Just a few days ago, I finished Laline Paull’s fabulous debut, The Bees; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Awareness by Anthony DeMello

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Read It: Awareness by Anthony de Mello & The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Recommended by: Rebecca Rotert

IMPOSSIBLE. I NEED TWO AT LEAST, AMY! However, a book I have to read over and over is Anthony de Mello’s Awareness.  It’s not fiction.  It might even be called self-help (choke).  It reminds me of the troublesome human pitfalls that can really muck up our short  little jaunt on earth.  I also return to Duras’ The Lover over and over because it reminds me of longing and waking up to life. These are a few of my favorite things, as the song says.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Read It: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Recommended by: Caroline Leavitt

The Great Gatsby. I hated it in high school, but then years later, I had to teach it in a high school, and I began to realize what a perfectly structured novel it is, how moving, how sad, and how beautiful a book it really is.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Read It: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Recommended by: Anthony Doerr

Oh, gosh, my answer to this question changes all the time, but a novel I’m absolutely in love with right now is Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It’s about family, siblinghood, memory, storytelling, and particularly about our society’s treatment of animals. It’s also structured in this beautiful, organic, perfect way—I hope a few of your readers will give it a look!

I, Robot by Iasaac Asimov

Read It: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Recommended by: Andy Weir

I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest sci-fi books of all time.

The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Read It: The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Recommended by: Kathryn Craft

Ah, the dreaded one book question, asked of a multiple-book lover! Since I know nothing about the reader, including why he or she reads—and given my answers to the question about critical subjectivity—I’ll assume your real question is “What book could someone read that would reveal the most about you?” You said “book,” not “novel,” for which I am grateful, since novels are such delicious slices of life it would be like asking if you could only taste one food what would it be. So I am going to go the nonfiction route and say The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. A brilliant life guide that I’ve read many times, my sensibilities are all over its pages.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Read It: Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Recommended by: Karen Joy Fowler

I’m not sure I can answer this question.  It would depend on the anyone – I don’t think books are a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.   But a current enthusiasm is Kelly Link’s new short story collection, Get In Trouble.  I will be so happy if you all buy and read it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Read It: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Recommended by: William Kent Krueger

My all-time favorite novel is To Kill A Mockingbird. Anyone who hasn’t yet read this American classic absolutely must.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Read It: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Recommended by: Cristina Henríquez

That’s so hard. But this one has been very much on my mind lately so I’m going to say Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Read It: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, & The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Recommended by:  Frances Whiting

Oh My! What a hard question! I love books so much, choosing just one is almost impossible. But I’ll bite the bullet and say…no I just can’t do it! So instead I’ll say The Shadow of the Wind, The Great Gatsby, anything by P.J. Wodehouse, The Last Anniversary, anything by Mary Wesley, Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons and Clive James.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Read It: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Recommended by: M.O. Walsh

This answer would likely be different on any day you asked me. There are so many great books out there!  Right now, however, I will say Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I’ve found myself missing that book lately, sort of yearning to go back and re-read it for maybe the 12th time.  Who knows why?  This is the great mystery of beautiful fiction; it speaks to us in fundamental ways that we ourselves don’t always understand. It’s a glorious thing.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Read It: Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Recommended by: Mary Louise Kelly

I would tell my brother to read Birdsong, the 1993 novel by Sebastian Faulks. It’s about a British soldier in France during World War I, and it is the most gorgeous epic of love and war and regrets. I’ve been telling my brother to read it for twenty years now, and he keeps refusing, at this point out of sheer orneriness. C.J., consider yourself publicly challenged.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Read It: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Recommended by Annabel Smith

My all-time favourite novel is Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, the incredible story of a prolonged embassy siege and the relationships which form between the hostages and their captors. Patchett has the most incredible insight into human behaviour and her prose is simply gorgeous. I have read this book at least half a dozen times and I get something new from it every time.

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Read It: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Recommended By: Amanda Eyre Ward

My favorite book last year was Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. It’s dark, riveting, gorgeous, important.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Read It: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez & To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Recommended by: Jandy Nelson

Two books: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. My all time favorite novels.

Light Years by James Salter

 

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

Read It: Light Years by James Salter & Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

Recommended by: Molly Ringwald

Light Years by James Salter. It’s just one of those books that I keep picking up again and again. There is not a lot of fiction that I read while writing because I don’t want to be overly influenced. His writing is somebody, of course I write differently, but I just feel like he is a master. I also love, and we were recently talking about Desperate Characters by Paula Fox is a really wonderful book and Jonathan Franzen wrote the forward on it!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Read It: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Recommended by: Jessica Knoll

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve been tweeting about this book a ton, and I am probably starting to scare the author a little. But it’s a stunning book—gorgeous prose, and an epic and powerful tale about friendship.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Read It: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Recommended by Tamara Ireland Stone

That’s easy. Jandy Nelson’s “I’ll Give You the Sun.”

If you like Every Last Word’s message about the healing power of writing, you’ll love the way this novel celebrates the healing power of art. It’s so brilliantly crafted, told in alternating viewpoints by brother and sister twins—his story tells the past while hers tells the present. I’m simply in awe of Nelson’s ability to weave together different timelines and points of view into a beautifully written, emotionally gripping story.

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insulated party tote

insulated party tote

Bounce Upstate Sweats

bounce upstate sweatpants

 

Barcelona Vases

barcelona vases

Little Women iPhone Caes

little women iphone case

Fringed Swimsuit Coverup

fringed swimsuit coverup

Welcome Mat welcome mat

Emma Sunglasses

emma sunglasses

lush knit maxi dress

lush knit maxi dress

beachcomber portable chair beachcomber portable chair

westin ankle booties

westin ankle booties

rio beach cart holds four chairs

rio beach cart (holds four chairs!)

custom book step decals

custom book step decals

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

It’s the 3 Little Things: Abstract, Warm Feet, & Good Reads

February 17th, 2017

rob-bell

Last year I had a rather frank talk with my physician about ways that I could improve my health. So much of my own self-esteem and self-worth, honestly, have stemmed from my ability to fill my calendar so it was disappointing to hear that one of the greatest ways I could improve my health would be to slow down. I preach on simple living, but not necessarily slowed down living. How could I ever adjust to that?

Although I believe many of the books and our culture are now trying to teach us to slow down, it has been a really hard year for me.

This past week I have been down sick with a horrible bug and it has given me some quiet time to reflect on what it is about slowing down that has been so challenging for me. I  don’t know if this is a challenge for you or not, but this is where I am at with it.

My ultimate challenge:

I must slow down.

Yet, no one else must.

It is like suddenly being gifted unlimited time for your friends and family, but their lives continue to be full of activity.  It’s learning that this isn’t personal AT ALL , but they might not have availability for many weeks. It means I’m almost always available, but they aren’t. It is really recognizing that busy has been my drug choice for a long time and feeling a lot of withdrawal this year from it. 

I read a lot of thoughtful pieces on slowing down and letting go of busy, but less on the challenges of finding the balance in relationships when you have slowed down, but everyone around you hasn’t. I read less on the withdrawal experience and more on the joy in doing less. Do people honestly just swing into this and don’t have any growing pains with a slowed down life? I guess I’m not weathering it well.

I wonder how I will feel about this slowed down life a year from now. Will I have a new sense of contentment? Will I find a slowed down circle? Will the relationships with my immediate family blossom because there will be less to focus on?

I guess only time will tell! Have there been any growing pains with embracing a slowed down life in your own life? I’d love to hear from someone a little further down the road than me.

Here are a few things that have brought me joy this week…

abstract-logo

Binging on the Abstract Series

As soon as I saw the trailer for Abstract, I knew that I was going to love it. In four short days, we blew the eight episode series and I feel like I have a completely new appreciation for artists and their work.

In each hour a different type of designer is profiled and it’s quite the mix. They profile a photographer, car designer, shoe designer, graphic designer, architect, set designer and so many other cool design jobs that I knew very little about.

For example, Beyonce’s Grammy performance took on a whole new level after watching a set designer at work to create these visual elements for concerts. I also have a new appreciation for Time Magazine covers after one of their top photographer’s was profiled.  An innovative architect has given me a new appreciation for well-designed buildings.

If you are thinking about watching this one with your kids, there are a few bad words, but for the most part this series is squeaky clean! If you have a kid interested in art, design, or engineering, they won’t want to miss it with you! These stories are inspiring for all ages.

Add this to your Netflix agenda STAT and find a new appreciation for good design.

keysocks

Keysocks Are My New Jam

Once in awhile I will accept a product to review in this segment for you and Keysocks reached out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing their socks. I have Raynaud’s disease so my feet are constantly freezing and even turn blue a lot. Poor circulation means my feet really need to be warm all the time, but I struggle in the warmer months when slip-on flats and heels need a no-show sock.

keysocks

I really hate those little ones because they constantly slip off instead of staying in place. Great in theory, annoying in practice. Keysocks are designed to be no-show, but they stay in place and keep your legs warm too. They sent me two pairs and I am going to be ordering more. They come in both winter and spring weighted fabric and even cute designs.

If you like to wear socks with your flats, these socks are an awesome option especially in our chillier Midwest weather. You can order them on Amazon or directly through their site. If you do it through their site, be sure to sign up for their email list to score a 20% off coupon on your order!

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Consuming a Book in a Day

Are you looking to escape with a good book this weekend? I have one for you. Although I normally reserve book reviewing until our monthly must-reads list, I would love for you to snag This is How it Always Is for your stack right away! I have already reached out to Laurie to secure her for our Sundays With Writers series so read this in preparation for her story behind the story.

This fictional story is about a little boy named Claude who knows that, more than anything, he wants to grow up to be a girl.

Lucky for Claude, he has two parents who deeply desire for him to be happy and it is with his happiness in mind that they work together to help Claude be who he is. When they feel Claude’s happiness is at stake, they decide to move to a town who will be more open to who he is and Claude becomes Poppy.

Their new friends and neighbors do not know about Claude and it is a secret that they keep to protect her. The question becomes, what happens when people find out and what’s next for Poppy?

Frankel shares that she is the mother of a little boy who is now a girl, but reassures readers this is not their story, but a fictional story to discuss more of a broader social issue that roads are not always clearly defined for each child when it comes to gender.

If you are looking for a book club book that will lead to a good discussion, you will find a lot to talk about in this beautiful story.

Instant Pot Salsa Chicken

source: skinnytaste

Eating: I made this salsa chicken in my beloved Instant Pot this week and we loved it. I tried it with chicken breasts the first time and didn’t love it. Boneless skinless chicken thighs though made a huge difference in flavor and we devoured these in record time.

Reading: I just started this thriller for a quick escape and I’m really enjoying it. I understand the ending may make or break this one for me though. I’ll keep you posted!

Belly Laughing: I became a big fan of Wendy’s after I heard what their social media team has been up to in 2017. How fun would that job me?

LOVING:  My swimsuit arrived and it is perfection. If you are looking for a modest one piece with all the fun, this is it!

Have a lovely week, friends!! xoxo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Amy’s Notebook 02.15.17

February 15th, 2017

Closet Makeover

source: hi sugarplum

This closet makeover transformation is gorgeous.

Now this is a new way to look at packing your lunch- bahaha!

Being lonely is okay.  Doing something about it is better.  I feel so much of this in the stage we are in right now. Have you struggled to find your tribe?

I have devoured this book in about 24 hours flat! You must add it to your book stacks.

I love a good one pan dish and this One Pan Tuscan Garlic Chicken Tortellini looks like something you would enjoy at a high-end Italian restaurant. YUM!

Please feel free to soak my gummy bears in rosé. Wouldn’t that be a fun summer party treat?

Hulu does it again! Don’t forget to order a shirt to wear while you binge on this.

Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil from Damn Delicious

source: damn delicious

I love the idea of doing your shrimp boil on a sheet pan! This is going on our planner this week.

Sunday night habits of successful people.

For my crocheting friends, these crocheted arm warmers are too cute!

15 dirty spots you’re probably missing when you are cleaning. Noted!

I’m piecing together my spring capsule and got this top in ivory. It is PERFECTION and will be a perfect layering piece for my spring layers!

I also stocked up on my basic t-shirts. At this price- I could afford a couple! Love the high reviews on these.

I’m going to have to try this plant fake-out technique since our house doesn’t get a lot of light. Just don’t look too closely so you can be impressed.

Comment of the Week (from Two Twenty-One)- I COULD KISS YOU!!! I ordered a pair of Sienna Ugg rainboots because I thought my calves may be too big for the Shayes. The Siennas are almost too big! This never happens!!! Thank you!!! Also, if you haven’t yet, check out Bella Vita– LOVE their stuff!!

Noted! I’ve never heard of Bella Vita, but I’m all over it now! So fun- love your comments, friends!! xo

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

 

 

 

Small-Budget Crushes 02.13.17

February 13th, 2017

Flamingo Skirt

flamingo skirt (use code VAL20 for 20% off)

Blush Driving Loafers

blush driving loafers

Striped Tee

perfect stripes

gardenia bandana

gardenia scarf

Entry Storage

entry storage bench

Alexander Hamilton Socks

alexander hamilton socks

library pillows

library pillows

Joggers

joggers

Striped Swimsuit

swimsuit (ordered this one for myself!!)

Squad Goals

squad goals

 

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

 

 

 

Sundays With Writers: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

February 12th, 2017

Sundays With Writers

When I picked up I Liked My LifeI thought it would be a light escape between my heavy historical fiction picks last month. What I never expected though was how much this book would move me and make me consider my own interactions in my life. I saw so much of myself and my life reflected in these well-woven characters. Then I learned more of Abby Fabiaschi and her activism as a human rights advocate and commitment to use proceeds from her incredible book to support the causes she cares about and it became important to me to share her journey with you.

I knew Abby had so much she could teach me (and maybe you!) about writing her first book and more about her passion for human rights. In this difficult political climate, I’m so moved by stories of good people. Living our family motto this year of finding the good, I am thrilled to share more about the good that Abby is doing in the world and how we have the power to be the good too.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Honestly, if I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most last month (check out last month’s stack of must-reads!!),  I Liked My Life would be it! The idea for this story sounded horribly depressing. A mother commits suicide and her family is left to pick up the pieces… but it is so much more than that!

Fabiaschi writes this story in a way where the mother, Maddy, is still there and able to manipulate her family members into doing what she needs them to do by speaking to them through their thought streams. From helping them find better solutions to deal with her death, to guiding friendships, and even finding her replacement. Her presence and voice is one of the alternating chapters in this novel, along with the voices of her husband and teenage daughter.

Each character reflects back on the good and the bad that has happened in their lives in real moments that mimic your own. The petty fights, the difficulty as a mom to make every day special for your family (while no one makes the effort for you), and the struggles of mother and daughter relationships. I could see so many of of my own struggles in this character, making Maddy real and relatable.

Heartbreaking at times, laugh out loud funny at others, I doubt you would pick this one up and not get something out of it. I am committed to no spoilers, but want you to know the ending is quite satisfying as a reader!

Grab your coffee and let’s learn more about Abby and her fantastic debut!

Abby Fabiaschi

Congratulations on publishing your first book! What an incredible accomplishment for you and your family. Why did you decide to leave the corporate world and pursue writing and how long was the process of getting published?

When I started writing I Liked My Life I was working 60/70 hour weeks in high tech and pounding away at my keyboard nights and weekends. At the time, I could balance my hobby, my work, and my marriage. Then I got a third and fourth job named Page and Parker, 11 months apart, and something had to give. Writing time was replaced with diapers and cuddles and ear infections.

When my kids turned three and four in what felt like one season, I resigned from the corporate scene. It was time. Most of the alpha males I worked with found it insane to ditch a lucrative post for something with a .2% success rate, but it wasn’t about getting published for me. I needed a lifestyle change, and I was fortunate: with spending changes, my husband’s career could support our family.

The book sold about two years after becoming a fulltime writer.

Her Future Coalition

Before we dive into the plot, I’d love to share about your mission to donate a portion of the proceeds to survivors of human trafficking and your volunteerism as a human rights advocate. Can you tell us more about this important cause and why this is of importance to you?

After resigning from the corporate world, my family right-sized our lifestyle to accommodate the loss of income. When we were off and running on our new salary, I realized that nothing of substance had changed. As “they” say: The most important things in life aren’t things. My husband and I agreed that if anything were to come of my writing we would donate a fifth of it systematically. Now, twenty percent of my after-tax proceeds, including foreign and film rights, are donated to charities benefiting women and children.

I’m passionate about economic solutions to severe social and cultural problems such as human trafficking, domestic abuse, and child marriage. As board chair for Her Future Coalition, I get to see the success of this approach firsthand. Fiscal independence is a powerful tool—providing training, education, and employment is an effective way to help victims remain forever free. If you’re interested in donating or learning more, visit www.herfuturecoalition.org.

In the same vein, I think you are also such a great example of someone who has found a way to prioritize charity by adjusting your lifestyle to put money towards those in need. Do you have any tips for putting money or time towards the causes we truly care about while doing the mom juggle?

I recommend adopting a cause. After reading Half the Sky, I felt a tremendous call to action to fight human trafficking. There were practically trumpets playing in the background as I started researching the different ways to get involved.

When you find an organization that supports your passion, think of how your skill set and connections can be leveraged to their benefit. If you offer up what you’re already proficient at, it’s easier to efficiently add value.

From a donation perspective, there’s a tradition I love: every year for holidays and birthdays give your children a check to donate to the charity of their choice. This turns giving time into family time, and plants the seed of altruism.

I understand it was your own experience with death, at the age of 15, which gave you the idea to explore the mourning process through this coming-of-age story. Do you then see yourself in both Eve, from your teenage years, and in her mother, Maddy, now as an adult? Has it been therapeutic to reflect on this?

I Liked My Life was written as a way to unburden my loss onto unsuspecting characters, so yes, therapeutic is the right word.

The first draft was completed when I was twenty-four. I had no children; I’d been married all of five months at its inception. I wrote from three intertwining perspectives—mother, daughter, and father—but given the extent of my life experience, only the daughter’s section was relatable.

Years after that first draft, my father died of a heart attack at fifty-three. When I revisited the manuscript, I was a mother two times over who’d grieved as an adult, side by side my husband of eight years. It was then that the mother and father’s section came to life.

Age, gender roles, personality types, financial obligations, these all change the way tragedy is digested.  I Liked My Life isn’t about mourning generally, it’s about the reality that we must grieve around others who are also grieving, and the loss can at times feel competitive.

You write about marriage in such a relatable way. Those silly petty fights and frustrations make for a real and true portrait of marriage. Do you think illustrating this helped shape Brady’s story more and his own emotional hurdles of forgiving himself?

I’m now thirteen years into my marriage and I see the layers of it with more clarity. There’s the daily grind—the back and forth where I know I’m loved but sometimes don’t feel appreciated. There’s tests—darker times where I question if I’m understood at all. And there’s nuggets—moments where the value of my role in the family is revealed and validated.

The more interesting thing to realize is that the same ebb and flow holds true for my husband. I don’t think either of us fully fathoms what the other accomplishes and carries in a day, and I no longer think we have to in order to be happy.

In I Liked My Life Brady arrives at this same conclusion in stages. Each revelation is accompanied by a different emotion: anger, guilt, sadness, and, ultimately, acceptance.

Why was it important to have Maddy’s voice be such a big part of your story and how much fun was it, as the writer, to have her manipulating plot points in the book?

With Maddy, I looked to put words to the connection I still feel with loved ones I’ve lost after their physical time with me is over. As I wrote, at times I felt the people I miss so much cheering me on, so the joy in creating Maddy’s voice was personally meaningful to me.

As a reader, I found myself walking away with a heightened sense of consciousness about my interactions with my loved ones and how important they are, even when you sometimes feel unnoticed as a mom. What feelings do you hope your readers come away with from reading this story?

I’ve been in book clubs for over a decade and have learned that a reader’s takeaway is unique to their experience, past and present. For me, I take comfort in the knowledge that if you can rise above the fog and haze of grief, there are slivers of beauty in life’s most agonizing moments. The challenge is that anything gleaned is at the expense of your loss—and it will never be worth it—so you have to accept the injustice of that.

Did you or do you have anything special planned in celebration of your first book being out on bookshelves? Will you be taking some time off or are you on to the next book?

I have more of a what’s next? personality. Right now I am all in on promoting I LIKED MY LIFE. I worked hard to get this opportunity and I want to do everything I can to help get it in the hands of readers.

My second novel, tentatively titled WHATEVER HAPPENED TO LUCY BISCARO?, should be out with St. Martin’s Press in the winter of 2018. It explores the polarizing hold that memories can have on us, and how every decision we make is layered with our past experiences.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

It’s the 3 Little Things: The Boxed Wine Win, Tiny Tables, and All the Hygge

February 10th, 2017

high-school

Thirteen years ago, I started this site as I tried to navigate my own rough waters of parenthood online. The site was a journal experience, for me,  as I figured out how to make baby food for my son, how to keep him entertained (without losing my mind), and how to run a household…

E. has been a big part of this weird career journey from its virtual beginning.

That’s why it is so strange that yesterday I signed that sweet baby boy up for his high school classes.

I held it together until I got in the car and then I had a good cry.

Mostly, I was just crying because I am so proud.

It feels very braggy to share,  but THIS IS MY SITE so I’m going to tell you why I’m beaming today.

He’s one incredibly gifted kid. Flagged for all honors courses and even an AP class, I couldn’t be prouder of his academic success. I wasn’t that kind of student and I don’t necessarily expect it from my kids so I’m awfully proud that this is where he is.

What makes me prouder than that though is that he is GOOD PEOPLE.

He is incredibly kind. It’s been an honor to observe his interactions with others and how he genuinely loves people.

Not just some people.

ALL the people.

No matter what.

Although this is bittersweet, I’m awfully happy and proud to say that this is the kind of person we are sharing with the world.

Don’t blink, mama. I’m learning how quickly time flies.

Here’s what else is making me happy this week!

winking-owl

wine glasses

Winking Owl Boxed Wine

The local grocery store had lured me away from my weekly ALDI run with the whole online ordering and personal shopper bit, but I’m back. Nothing like New Year’s resolutions to do better with your money to get your spending back on track. Seriously, you just can’t beat the prices. My kids eat me out of house and home so every dollar counts these days!

As you know, I’m a big fan of boxed wine and ALDI unleashed their inexpensive (like, less than $3 a bottle, yo!) wine in a box. I purchased the Red Blend at my store for a little over $10 for FOUR BOTTLES in the box.

At that price, I had low expectations of how good it could be.

You guys. It is GOOD. It’s not too dry, not too sweet with a smooth finish.

It is better than Trader Joe’s two buck chuck by a mile and it comes in this convenient box for all your weeknight needs.

Seriously, this boxed wine did not disappoint!

If you have ever been curious about ALDI, check out my behind-the-scenes piece on visiting their headquarters! It is still my #1 fave forever. Amen.

plant-stands

follow me on IG

Tiny Tables for My Coffee

Our home has come with challenging small spaces and one of those challenges is our bathrooms. I have learned that thinking outside the box is key with our small space. When I discovered this incredible vanity, for example, I knew that we could fit it in our wee bathroom and create the perfect spot for getting ready.  The other challenge was finding a spot for cup propping (a necessity for this coffee addict) in our bathroom.

While walking around Marshalls, I saw a plant stand and knew I had my answer for our wee space. They had this tiny table for just $10 and it has become my new favorite spot for soaking in the tub (note to self: reorder giant bag of Epsom salts since I’m soaking all the time!)  with coffee and a good book on my bath tray.

It also happens to be perfectly portable to move it to other areas in our home when a coffee stand is needed.

Plants might die here, but coffee never will! Might as well shop for a table for it.

hygge

yoga pants (that hold your belly in)- cha cha cha!

A Whole Lotta Hygge Going On

Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, hygge is the Danish concept of living cozily and I’m all about it right now. Indiana winters are hard especially on these old lady joints and I’m pretty sure my attitude isn’t great about it. Hygge embraces those winter days and adds cozy comfort while embracing all those simple pleasures that life has to offer.

Hmm…embrace winter instead of complaining about it? What a novel concept!

I am making one day a week (minimum) an official hygge day that’s focused on all the cozy comforts life has to offer. One day this week  I hit an incredible yoga class, heated up my cozy throw, filled my coffeepot to the brim, and curled up with a good book for the entire day.

As we went around the dinner table to discuss the Roses and Thorns of the week, when it was my turn I REALLY had some Roses.

“Well, it was a treat yo’self day. I read a book, I drank coffee all day, I finally finished a season of a show, I went to yoga, I took a nap. It was heaven..”

Everyone was so happy for me since they all had Thorny days so they were like, GOOD FOR YOU!!!

Perhaps, we all might need a hygge day!

Homemade Lunchables

Eating: I’m addicted to snacking these days so I made myself some grown-up Lunchables for the week.  Black Forest Ham, cheddar cubes, tomatoes, carrots, roasted almonds- it’s all protein-filled yumminess and gluten-free. I don’t like my stuff touching or getting soggy so I used cupcake liners to keep everything fresh.

Reading: I’m listening to this book this week and loving how there are three narrators with this one. This one definitely feels YA, but it has some important lessons in it. I’m enjoying it!

Thankful: Can’t tell you how much I am enjoying my daily newsletter from theSkimm. Even when the news isn’t so great, I love the snarky non-partisan 5-minute informative read over my morning coffee!

LOVING:  My rain boots came and they are better than I ever dreamed. The footbed is so cozy you don’t need boot socks and the width is perfection for this lady with bricks for feet. If you have a wide foot, your feet will be REALLY happy!

I hope you all have an incredible week filled with all the HYGGE! Don’t know how to cultivate it? Check out this Facebook group for some tips.

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of It’s the 3 Little Things!

Amy’s Notebook 02.08.17

February 8th, 2017

Smashed Potatoes With Garlic Pesto

source: minimalist baker

These smashed potatoes with garlic pesto look like a perfect winter side dish.

Easy and affordable ways to add more hygge in your life. I’m trying to add more of this in my life!

I’ll have to remember to use my blow dryer on stickers next time!

6 helpful travel apps to take with you on your next trip!

I always love a good boat-neck tee and these look like winners for my next capsule.

A quick tip to get your stainless steel pots and pans looking like new again- must try this!

video game controller organizer 4_zps0voajr9a

source: she’s crafty

I love this organizing strategy for game controllers.

OMG! How cute is this?!? I loved this movie!

Speaking of movies, I am reading this book and it is CRAZY good. I can’t wait until the film comes out!

Check out this 100 postcards journey- impressive and moving!

Busy is a refusal to sit with yourself. I needed to read this today.

 

Burger Bites

source: skinny taste

I’m going to make these burger bites for our next board game night. Such a fun spin on finger food.

The sweaty girl embarrassment cure company sent me a coupon to share with you- here’s 20% off your purchase. It’s the best gift I gave myself this year!

14 fabulous shops for affordable art- bookmarking for our home!

Add these 17 things to your car and you will be set for any emergency!

Projector Screen

source: a beautiful mess

I love this idea to trade in the television for a projector. What a great use of space!

Ohhhh….this is sounding promising!

Here’s who will match your ACLU donations right now.

Do you work from home? I’m dying laughing over this emergency call for help.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

Who is the CFO in Your Household?

February 6th, 2017

household-cfo

This post was created in partnership with Chase. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

The entrance of a new year often comes with a renewed focus towards financial goals and a quiet respite after all the holiday spending. Perhaps, you are dreaming of the same thing as me, to be a wiser spender and tracker of funds.

I am curious, as a busy mom, who holds the CFO reigns in your household and if you have found this role has evolved for your family over the years?

My husband and I have been married for sixteen years and I have always had the CFO duties in our house.

There are times where I am nailing it as a diligent tracker, an oh-no-you-didn’t-charge-me-that-much customer service caller, and a fierce barterer on rates.

As our life has gotten busier though, I am ashamed at how poorly I have been keeping up this role on top of every other hat I’m wearing.

I find myself, a negligent CFO who needs to get her ducks back in a row.

It’s not that I lack confidence with money; it is that I often feel like I lack time.

Chase Mastery recently ran a study called the, “Chase Generational Money Talks Study,” to see how this evolution of CFO has shifted through the generations. Much like me, they discovered that 78% of Millennial women agree they are able to make good financial decisions, even if they are new to them, compared to 71% of Gen X and 67% of the Boomer generation.

My Millennial confidence is great, but how can I implement better follow through for my family this year?

365-4

This year, as our Household CFO, I would like to focus on four goals with our finances!

Track My Money Better

I can admit that my first instinct is to grab my phone and do a little scrolling. If that instinct is already there, wouldn’t it be great to replace my social media time with a quick analysis of our family finances?

I’m a big fan of Mint as it does a really great job of tracking and helping you visualizes where your money is going, but I had fallen off the bandwagon with my daily tracking.

I am a nerd when it comes to pie charts and graphs so why not geek out a little bit over my morning coffee again? I am hoping this tool can help me to be a better monitor of our funds.

Removing Those Slow Leaks

It is so easy to get caught up in monthly memberships to things from our music to our television watching to our digital consumption to the gym memberships.

I really want to revisit where these slow leaks are happening and be serious about canceling the memberships to things we are not using. We can ALWAYS come back to these subscriptions, should we find we really miss them, but I’m wondering how many of these things we would truly miss.

Embracing No-Spend Weekends

I don’t have a lot of down time during the week, but I do on the weekends. What inevitably happens is that those periods of laziness often gets filled with online shopping, dining out, and boredom busting activities.

I want to start replacing those impulses with commitments to not spend on the weekend.  Making dinners together, playing board games, watching documentaries, and really enjoying my kids without spending money needs to be my new jam.

Talking About Our Financial Goals

The “Chase Generational Money Talks Study,” shared that couples often have conflicts regarding their household finances. Three-quarters of Millennials and GenXers have conflicts with their spouses over money, compared to 62% of Baby Boomers, the study found.

Although I believe the CFO roles have changed, I feel like conflict about money is something that has carried on for generations.

I’ve been lucky that we don’t have conflicts about money, but I can remember the difficulties and struggles when we were sinking in $13,000 of debt and how awful it felt to feel our financial future slipping away.

I want to always have an open dialogue with my spouse and I think we need to start talking about our retirement goals and figuring out what we can do now to prepare for our future.

To learn more about the Generational Money Talks series, you can watch it here:

A huge thank you to Chase for sponsoring this conversation today and spurring a much-needed conversation in our own home about our financial future!

Tell me, who holds the CFO reigns in your household and has this role evolved at all for your family? I’d love to hear!

This post was created in partnership with Chase. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

 

Small-Budget Crushes 02.06.17

February 6th, 2017

Ruffle Sweater

ruffle sweater (I got this and LOVE IT! Perfect weight and detail!)

5-year memory journal

5-year memory journal

Shaye Rain Boots

shaye rain boots (just got these and they are perfection!!)

a mystery lady

a mystery lady

High Waisted Swim Bottoms

high waisted swim bottoms

 

binney striped top binney striped top

Lace Slip Skirt/Dress Extender

lace slip skirt/dress extender

Perforated Booties

perforated booties

Rashguard Shirt for Women

rashguard shirt for women

Velvet Cushion Covers

velvet cushion covers (tons of colors!)

saw-came-made-it-awkward

made it awkward tee

 

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

Sundays With Writers: Mischling by Affinity Konar

February 5th, 2017

sundays-with-writers-1

It is such an incredible honor to share an interview with Affinity Konar, the gifted and talented author of, Mischling.” I doubt that you could read her haunting book and not be completely moved, both by the story of these incredible children and the poetic words that Konar writes in this finely crafted novel. I could not wait to reach out to her and share more about her own story behind the story on the site.

It is a book that I can’t stop thinking about and the story of Mengle and his experiments, truly, shook me to my very core.

Don’t worry, if you haven’t gotten to this one yet, there are no spoilers in this interview. I would love for you to learn more about this and Affinity’s own journey to Poland to connect with her Jewish heritage and think this interview offers so many important lessons, especially so shortly after Holocaust Remembrance Day.

 

Mischling by Affinity Konar

As you know, I have read so many books about the Holocaust over the years, but I never feel like I am informed enough about the horrors and struggles that were faced during this time in history. Once again, I find myself oblivious to those who suffered as Konar unfolds the story of twins, Sasha & Pearl, who became a part of the experimental population of twins that were known as Mengle’s Zoo, based in Auschwitz.

Many begged and falsely claimed that their children were twins to be part of Mengle’s Zoo because they believed they had been saved from certain death. Unfortunately, these children were far from safe and became a part of tests to separate the twins from one another, both physically and psychologically. Konar explores this through these sisters, told from alternating perspectives, as they are brutally experimented upon.

How something so horrible could be written so beautifully is a true tribute to Konar’s writing.  Her writing style reminded me a lot of Eowyn Ivey’s writing in her beautiful book, The Snow Child, an almost magical quality even to the harshest of moments. It’s impossible to read Konar’s words and not feel deeply moved and surprised by her well-crafted language.  Beautifully told and based upon the stories of real victims of these crimes, Konar’s debut is strong and promising!

Please grab your coffee and settle in for more about Affinity’s story!

Affinity Konar

Your book is absolutely incredible, heartbreaking, and important. I have read many books on the Holocaust, but I have never read these stories told with the storybook or fable-like quality when writing about these unspeakable horrors. Why did you choose this approach to your prose?

I’ve always loved Jewish legends and fables, stories that approach transformation, hardship, and dignity, often with a lilt of humor and a sense of the unknowable. I hoped that the book might carry an echo of that texture, that it could inform the voices of girls with these transformative perspectives, and carry them through a world of unimaginable pain and loss. Auschwitz-Birkenau was anti-meaning–I wanted the girls to defiantly find their own world of symbols and objects and living things within it, to cling to any meaning they could create for themselves while in the midst of such dehumanization.

When Stasha sees violence and reconfigures it into something pretty, she does so not in the interest of merely finding prettiness, but to self-protect. It’s a child’s rebellion, a reaction to a life lived in constant peril. I didn’t want to claim that life is beautiful even in the face of suffering, but to explore how trauma might compel one to dwell on what may remain beautiful, in order to endure. I thought that by enlarging the private worlds of the girls, the horror of what they were escaping might be underlined. I often thought of the approach as masking and unmasking. The mask might be fanciful, but the need for it indicts the terror it conceals.

Josef Mengele

How did you run across the story of Mengele’s “Zoo,” and which real-life accounts influenced your body of work the most?

I grew up reading a lot of Shoah literature, particularly Primo Levi. And I remember reading Paul Celan for the first time as a teenager and feeling utterly changed. So this history and literature was always a presence in my life, especially since my family had been among so few who escaped Poland before the war. But everything culminated when I was sixteen and dropped out of school for a period of time. At the encouragement of my education-obsessed parents, I undertook a kind of autodidactic study and that’s when I found Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado, which chronicles the experiences of the twins of Auschwitz. Through that unforgettable book, I found so many others.

For a long time, I focused on Jewish prisoners with medical expertise who were forced to answer to Mengele, like Dr. Gisella Perl and Sara Nomberg-Przytyk. I read a great deal about Jewish resistance within the camps, and the operations of the underground. I became interested in the role of music within Auschwitz, and read Playing for Time, by Fania Fenelon, who was a member of the orchestra.

Twins

(Eva & Miriam)

And later, I’d find the story of Eva Mozes Kor, who survived Mengele along with her sister, Miriam Mozes Zeiger.

The Diary of Anne Frank was, of course, never far from my thoughts. I studied many books about Mengele and chose to include very little of them in the end. And I was constantly returning to Levi.

Why did you chose the word, “Mischling,” as the title for your book?

It was always tied to the story in my head, as it held a lot of dualities that felt important to the novel. When I first heard it, as a very young person, I was drawn to its lilting, diminutive quality, and then I found its meaning and shuddered, because it’s a term the Nazis used to classify Jews of mixed heritage. If you were mischling, you were afforded certain privileges that assisted survival, but of course, being privileged in the midst of such torment is not without its own psychological burdens. Stasha pummels the word throughout; she uses it to disguise herself, and fantasizes about thwarting Mengele beneath its cover. I hoped to anchor the book with the gravity of this term.

I am sure it would have been easier to have kept the focus your story on Mengele, but you choose to keep the focus on the children instead. Why was it important to tell your story this way?

One of the greatest challenges of the book was measuring how much of a role to give Mengele within the story. I didn’t want to brush past the man and his crimes, but I also feared rendering him in a way that might risk humanizing him. I fell short in trying to comprehend Mengele’s brutality, which was so elaborate and calculated and monstrous that the accounts of it read with a certain surreality that is very dangerous to handle on the page. I worried about lending him a glimmer of charisma, and yet, I couldn’t avoid the fact that Mengele was known to be charming and handsome; he courted the children with attention and candy and gave them rides on his shoulders. This treatment of the children that preceded his vicious experiments–the sickness of it is unspeakable.

After so much time trying to understand something so bottomless, I limited his role severely. I occasionally wondered if I lacked ambition or wisdom for not exploring him more, but ultimately, I couldn’t let him be more than shadow. I wanted the strength of the twins to overwhelm Mengele, to diminish and lessen his presence. Their innocence and love and longing for survival were far more worthy of articulation. He was not to have a voice.

Stasha and Pearl, as twins, have similar but very different voices. What was the writing process like writing these two voices? Did you write these chapters in the order we are reading them or in sections? Did you find one twin’s voice easier to write than the other?

I always envisioned the book as a conversation between a pair of twins, but Pearl’s was the real challenge for me, and I nearly abandoned it after the first half, because I was so daunted by the responsibility of rendering a narrator who bore witness in a very reliable, calculated fashion. That’s unbelievable to me now, because the book would be nothing without her, but it was a real temptation for a bit, and it took me some time to find my footing within her perspective. Stasha’s voice was far easier for me, as it’s pure emotion and image. She’s longing and lament and intensity. That was incredibly satisfying to write, particularly after spending so much time within the research.

The chapters were written very much out of order, partly because I spent many years not knowing what the book needed to be, and partly because of my terribly disorganized nature. I wanted the voices to be similar, but to also bounce off each other in contrast. So I’d spend months writing in one voice, and then return to the other, hoping to make them meet. Properly setting up the links between Stasha and Pearl was one of the biggest technical challenges for me, and it took a great deal of traveling between chapters to smooth the transitions between them.

As a reader, it was often difficult to read of the tortures that were inflicted upon these children. How hard was it to immerse yourself in this work and what scene did you find the most difficult to write?

I understand how hard it must be to read, and at the same time, I feel that it can never be hard enough. I only felt the enormity of the immersion after it abated somewhat, and I have to say that I gained immense respect for individuals who investigate crimes against children, genocide, and trauma, because the repeated exposure does appear to change a person. It can hollow you out, or heighten your sensitivities. It can make the prospect of a normal conversation feel impossible. I found myself addressing this grief by reading poets like Paul Celan or Dan Pagis or Edmund Jabez, looking at the paintings of Charlotte Saloman, finding accounts of Jewish resistance, or listening to Yiddish songs from the ghettos and camps. And I tried to be aware of the extreme distance of my pain, of how I was constantly measuring my own sensitivity against horrors I haven’t experienced. I didn’t want to write with a sort of performative empathy, in which sinking yourself into someone else’s torment is the ultimate goal. I simply wanted to write two girls whose love for each other could be touched by horror, but not broken by it.

So many scenes were hard to undertake. The very beginning, where they are parted from their mother and grandfather, under the illusion that Mengele will care for them–even now, I have trouble reading that. The description of the children in the laboratory. The details of Pearl’s imprisonment. And the chapter where Stasha is given an injection by Mengele, and she reconfigures this assault in her mind, to provide herself with an illusion of control–I edited that repeatedly, because it was hard to calibrate what I could personally handle against what needed to happen.

I understand that you recently visited Poland to reconnect with your own Jewish heritage. What did you discover, about yourself,  through these travels?

 

I never imagined I’d go to Poland. I’ve dealt with agoraphobia for many years, often leaving my apartment only for work. So for one of my first real ventures outside of my routine to be in Poland, and then, in Auschwitz-Birkenau–it was a shock to me, and the experience of visiting the camp exposed me to my limitations as both a writer and a person. There was no sense of tidy confrontation and resolution–things opened for me instead, and felt more endless. I felt very small, partly because of overwhelming nature of the experience, and partly because I was with my parents. My father is a well-traveled man, but he’d always avoided Poland. To be there with him, and my mother, who I couldn’t possibly comfort–I’d thought myself emotionally prepared, but I wasn’t. From an early age, I’ve had an irrational fear of separation from my parents, brother, and sister. So to be on grounds where innumerable severances had taken place–it was very fearful, and I felt a bit disassociated from myself while walking through the camp. The very fact that my mind would need to impose this distance on a simple visit, when my life was entirely unthreatened, was illuminating and humbling and it made me question myself a lot. I’d just written a book that claimed that beauty is a reason to live, a form of revenge against the Nazis, a way towards meaning. I still believe this, but when I left Auschwitz, I felt that beauty in its highest form must surely a disruption of cruelty. I’d edged towards that notion before, but I knew then, that I could never go back to thinking of beauty in any other way.

If we are interested in reading more about the real-life heroes that inspired your story, what books or documentaries should we check out?

All of Primo Levi’s books were heavy influences early on, but especially The Truce and  The Periodic Table. Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado was a vital introduction for me.  I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz by Dr. Gisella Perl, a harrowing account that partially informed the character of Dr. Miri. Auschwitz: True Tales of a Grotesque Land by Sara Nomberg-Przytyk, which I discovered late and can’t recommend enough for its unexpected tone and vibrancy.

Eva Mozes Kor’s work is indispensable. She and her twin sister, Miriam Mozes Zeiger, survived Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz. They founded CANDLES, and a museum in Indiana dedicated to preserving the history of the twins. She has a searing book, Echoes from Auschwitz: Dr. Mengele’s Twins:  The Story of Eva and Miriam Mozes, and a documentary “Forgiving Mengele”.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads, through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

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