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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String Wrapped Jars

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I adore this string wrapped jar display. So pretty!

I don’t know if it is an age thing, but this article really resonated with me this week.

6 Kitchn editors tried Whole30 and share their results.

I loved reading this piece on limitations. I set a lot on myself and find comfort in the boundaries.

I just finished this fascinating read and have been thinking a lot about it this week.

You can make the most of a lunch hour with this list of websites to snag a new skill.

I love that this was your top purchase this month since I got one too! Definitely size down on that one.

I’m going to have to remember this steel oats trick for my crazy mornings.

We have a double desk and love it so I loved this Ikea hack studio desk tutorial.

Milk & Honey Soap

source: one good thing

I’ve been wanting to try a little soap-making and this milk & honey soap looks like a great start!

This unforgettable party is so incredibly inspiring.

10 fundamental truths that will change your life.

Imperfection Quote

source: my instagram feed

I am discovering that being vulnerable is a good thing.

The things nobody tells you about buying and renovating an old house. Looking forward to seeing this journey unfold!

These look like some creative ways to put yarn to work without knitting or crocheting.

This was your more visited tutorial this month. It must be salad season!

Considering blogging? This is a great article on finding your niche and getting paid for it.

I loved seeing how Courtney packed for her tiny wardrobe tour.

Comment of the Week: ❤❤❤ Finished this one today and loved it. I’d love to hear more about how she chose her own “champions”. Who are the champions in your life, Amy?- Kaytee

Loved to hear that you are enjoying next month’s book club pick! I’ve been getting lots of comments on this one so I’m excited to discuss it. As for my champions, I actually have two really amazing ones in my life.

My biggest cheerleader ever has always been my Dad. There are many things I have doubted that I could ever do and he has offered incredible pep talks to push me out of my tired boundaries. When I wanted to do this website, he would go from computer to computer clicking on advertisements to help support me because he believed in my work. When I had a particularly good day, I know he had been working really hard on clicking for me. As things grew, he has continued to be my champion and believed that I was capable of becoming successful in this funny field. He’s always the first person I call to share a life highlight with. 

The second is my husband. No one could talk me up more than he does even when it isn’t entirely deserved. He’s been my foundation for much of my life and I couldn’t ask for a better champion and partner. 

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

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure

March 28th, 2017

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure from MomAdvice.com

From our Parenting Contributor, Kristina Grum, from Thriving Parents.

Failure is a funny thing.  As adults, we hate to fail.  

Our mistakes look bigger than they really are.  

We think about our mistakes much longer than necessary.  

We replay situations and think about what we should have done instead.

When it comes to our children, however, we should approach failure in a completely different way.

We should want our kids to make as many mistakes as possible.  

I’ve always encouraged learning from mistakes.  Recently, our family began celebrating them.  Yes, you read correctly – we CELEBRATE mistakes.

It all started with a book.

We go to Barnes and Noble often.  We love to sit and read books and look at the games they have for sale.  I never walk out of there without buying a book for someone.  The girls in our house (me, included!) have an addiction to books – which is a good problem to have.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

A few weeks ago, we met our close friends there and their daughter pointed out the book, Rosie Revere, Engineer.  A few people had already mentioned it to me and said we would love it.  Our girls love to build and create and often use the most random things to do so.  Once, Caroline used a knitted afghan and had it suspended from her bedroom ceiling with paperclips, yarn, and packing tape.

We read the book in the store and loved it so much we bought it immediately.  I love how the story reinforces the importance of failure and how failure is the best way to get on the path to success.

This passage reinforced for me how important it is for kids to experience failure over and over again:

She turned round to leave, but then Great-Great-Aunt Rosie

grabbed hold of young Rosie and pulled her in close

and hugged her and kissed her and started to cry.

“You did it! Hooray! It’s the perfect first try!

This great flop is over.  It’s time for the next!”

Young Rosie was baffled, embarrassed, perplexed.

“I failed,” said dear Rosie.  “It’s just made of trash.

Didn’t you see it? The cheese-copter crashed.”

“Yes!” said her great aunt.  “It crashed.  That is true.

But first it did just what it needed to do.

Before it crashed, Rosie…

before that…

it flew!”

We celebrate failure every day.

Every day, sometime after school, I ask the girls what mistake they made during the day.  It can be as simple as not paying attention in class, saying something mean to their sisters, or throwing their backpacks in the middle of the living room floor.  Sometimes it’s more serious as not speaking up for someone, being disrespectful, or hitting a sibling.

The best thing we can do is to teach our child that everyone makes mistakes.  It’s important to own up to those mistakes and try to do better the next time.  

What this looks like:

Read the book Rosie, Revere, Engineer to your child.  Talk about the feelings Rosie has throughout the book.  In the beginning, she feels embarrassed by her failure because her uncle laughs.  Her great aunt embraces the failure and shows Rosie how it will lead to finding success with her inventions.

Talk about a time you and your child has failed at something.  Talk about something in which you failed as a child or an adult.  Then the next day ask your child, “What did you fail at today?” or “What mistakes did you make today?”  They may be perplexed and not remember what you are talking about at first.  Remind them.

“Remember when we read Rosie Revere, Engineer and she became excited about making mistakes because it meant she was learning? What mistakes did you make today?”

At first, they’re going to have a hard time thinking of one.  That’s okay.  Instead, you tell your child what mistakes you made during the day.  It’s really important for adults to participate in this activity too.  We need to be modeling that it’s okay to make mistakes.

The most important part of talking about failure is…

We talk about what we’ve learned from these mistakes and how we can work to change them for the next time.  It’s important to acknowledge there’s a high chance the same mistake will be made again.  That’s okay.  People are flawed and we make a lot of mistakes, some of them over and over again.  We hope each time the mistake is a little less so we can begin to learn from it.

We should want our kids to make as many mistakes as possible.  

During these formative years, we’re available to help guide them on how to pick up the pieces and repair their mistakes, if they need it.  When they’re old enough to go out into the world on their own, they’ll be better equipped to handle mistakes and uncomfortable situations.

Here are some great books that help reinforce the importance of making mistakes.  They go in age from youngest to oldest audience.  I hope you find them helpful.

xoxo

–k

Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere, Engineer

rosie-reveres-project-book-engineers

You can pre-order Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book For Bold Engineers, which will have projects your child can work on.  I know our kids are going to love it!

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure from MomAdvice.com

Other books to check out on teaching the importance of failure:

The Most Magnificent Thing

What Do You Do With a Problem?

What to do When Mistakes Make You Quake

Feats and Failures

How They Choked

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure

What are some ways you have taught your children the importance of failure? Please share!

Kristina Grum is a Certified Parent Educator who has over a decade of experience working with children, including being a classroom teacher. She took the (very) long route to loving motherhood. These days she strives for ways to connect with her kids, while using shortcuts to manage and organize her home. She is a postpartum mood disorder survivor who thrives on helping others find the joy in parenthood that is just lurking around the corner. She currently teaches positive discipline parenting classes in her local area and she believes that every parent can shift from barely surviving to thriving in Parenthood. Visit her on Thriving Parents today! 

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo

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DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft

March 27th, 2017

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

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

Today I’m partnering up with Dannon® Danimals® Smoothies and creating the cutest craft to celebrate spring! We are making diy pom pom bunnies from a few common items you have in your craft supplies and recycling those drink containers from our Danimals® Smoothies.

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

Dannon® Danimals® Smoothies are conveniently snack-sized, sealed and ready to drink, so I love to keep these on hand especially on busy days where we are running from school straight to activities. It’s also good to know that these fun drinks do not contain high fructose corn syrup, no artificial colors or flavorings, and are a good source of Calcium and Vitamin D.

This seems to be a busy season of the school year for us as we close in on the end of the school year. It isn’t uncommon to be running from one thing to the next so I try to keep items like these on hand for days when a healthy snack is required between activities and pair it with a handful of almonds or baby carrots for an easy snack to enjoy on-the-go.

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

danimals-smoothies-2

You can find these over in the dairy cooler at Walmart and right now their 12-pack is under $5!  To save even more, take advantage of this Ibotta offer for an additional dollar off. This coupon can be used on either the 12-pack or you can really stock up for your family and snag an 18-pack for these upcoming busy days.

You can try all the fun flavors from Rockin’ Raspberry® to Strawberry Explosion® to Wild Watermelon®!

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

These containers also happen to be the perfect size for upcyclying into fun crafts so today I wanted to use these containers to make adorable Pom Pom Bunnies for Spring! This would be so fun for a classroom for a quick snack and craft time to celebrate the Easter season.

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

1 Dannon® Danimals® Smoothies Container (make sure to rinse this out well)

White or Gray Cotton Yarn and a scrap of contrasting color for the bow tie

Wiggly eyes

Pink colored pom

1.5″ foam ball (over by the floral supplies)

Straight Pins

Glue

1 piece of white felt

Medium Pom-Pom Maker (or you can make a pom-pom with a few items around your house)

Scissors

How to Make a DIY Pom-Pom Bunny

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

1. Remove the packaging from your Dannon® Danimals® Smoothies Container carefully with scissors.

2. Place the styrofoam ball on top and push in to secure. Please note, if you don’t want the styrofoam to show, you can wrap the ball in yarn first and then place on top. Also  if you want it to stay in place you can add a little hot glue around this to make sure it is completely secure.

3. If you have never used a pom-pom maker before, you can see my pom-pom tutorial for full instructions. Using a straight pin, pin the pom-pom to the front of the styrofoam ball to make the bunny’s face.

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

4. Glue your pink nose and eyes to the front of your pom-pom.

5. Cut out your felt ears, pinch these at the bottom, and then use the pins again to pin these ears to the top of the head.

6. Finish with a bow tie around the neck.

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

DIY Pom Pom Bunnies Craft from MomAdvice.com

How cute is that? This would be such a fun preschool craft for Spring! I hope this tutorial inspires you to snag some Danimals® Smoothies from your local Walmart to keep on hand for these busy days with our kids and don’t forget to print that coupon for some additional savings!

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

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Small-Budget Crushes 03.27.17

March 27th, 2017

Reed Garden Top

reed garden top (use code CYBER50 for 50% off & free shipping today only!)

Should I Wash My Hair Today Print

should I wash my hair today print

Blush Tote

blush tote

Unicorn Knitting Kit

unicorn knitting kit

Tassel Earrings

tassel earrings (I got these and they are SO CUTE! Not too big!)

Mock Neck Lace Swing Blouse

mock neck lace swing blouse (I have it and it is SO CUTE! True to size!)

Antique Glass Drying Rack

antique glass drying rack

Gracelin Ballet Flats

gracelin ballet flats (just ordered these for spring- love that they come in wide!)

Printable Gift Card Box

printable gift card box

Block Heels

strappy block heels (use coupon code SPRING17 for 30% off)

Ruffle Front Tee

ruffle front tee

I Love Chicago Art Print

I love chicago art print

How to Tell Time

how to tell time rack

eyelet gingham apron eyelet gingham apron

treat-yo-self-gift-wrap

treat yo self gift wrap

Wooden Clothing Rack

wooden clothing rack

Chambray Poncho

chambray poncho

Clutch Bag

handmade vegan clutch bag

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 

 

Amy’s Notebook 03.22.17

March 22nd, 2017

Honey Lime Salmon Tacos

source: two peas and their pod

These honey lime salmon tacos look like a Friday night winner!

What a beautiful gift to share- I definitely want to participate in this #feedingabrokenheart challenge!

Have your kids caught the slime bug too? Here are 14 slime recipes you can mix up!

I’ve been listening to this book on audiobook and it’s SO GOOD. Kind of reminds me of Flowers in the Attic.

This looks like a great simple garden plan for my green thumb friends!

A reviewer puts 5 top-rated sleep-tracking apps to the test. I might give a couple of these a spin!

Buy these! You will not regret it. It’s helping make cute ballet flats a lot warmer and the weight on these is perfection. I can’t believe how much comfort they add for flats!

I had no idea that a bird-based system was the inspiration for Pantone. So fascinating!

I’ve had great success braising meat in milk so this braised pork roast in almond milk would be a lovely Sunday night feast.

This also looks like a healthy nacho switch-up for a gathering with friends.

Pantry Organization source: apt. 34

This pantry design is ah-mazing!! Loving that cookbook display!

I want to try this 1-bowl vegan gluten-free cracker recipe. These actually look pretty easy to make!

This piece on self-care is everything. Also, language on this, but worth the read.

I’ve been thinking about seeing this film so this was an interesting read. Have you seen it?

I haven’t listened to this podcast yet, but this read gave me a lot to chew on this week, especially as a blogger.

This looks like a fun and healthy way to do pizza. I’m going to add these to our menu planner!

These steak salads with miso dressing are a summer date night winner!

10 ways to work on being happier this year! I couldn’t agree more.

These self-tanner tips are awesome. I’m lazy, I prefer to do this for my faux glow, but maybe someday I’ll get some motivation in me!

Jenny's Print Shop

source: little green notebook

If you need me, I’m ordering all these prints for my walls! GORGEOUS and affordable!

I loved touring Caroline’s closet and seeing how she makes it work with her capsule wardrobe.

I’m picky about sweatshirts, but I got this one and it is the softest, butteriest, cutest sweatshirt ever. I’m normally an XS, but got a S in this. Size up! I’m ordering the other colors now!

This bunny butt cake is perfect for Easter!

The idea of crying every week voluntarily is baffling to me, but here you goThis is Us fans.

Some language, but look what happened when these coworkers switched identities on emails. Crazy!

Comments of the Week: Wow, I got so many sweet comments this week on my 6 happiness strategies for a more creative life. Many messages were very personal so I will only share the public ones, but it seems that this is a struggle for many of us as we find our new place in the world.

“This is a great look at how to live our lives. There are so many “stages” in life and we are different people as we go through, and ultimately come out the other side, that we barely recognize the person we were before that point.”

I really loved this post as I feel it’s really hard to find anything blog related for parents with older kids. I was just telling my friend how bored I have been. I was embarrassed to say it since for years I was always thinking, “I will do that when he is older and I have time”! I have one child who is in 8th grade and I don’t have a job outside the home so I definitely have a lot of time. Now I just need to find some motivation and figure out how to figure out what I want to do first (which for me is the hardest part).”

“I’m in this phase of life too. It’s the first year in a decade that all of my kids are in school all day. I wasn’t expecting the mental and emotional struggle that I’ve been going through. Thanks for writing this, Amy!”

“These are great tips! As MY nest starts to prepare to be empty, I find the exact opposite things are filling my cup. I think that the high school years in particular have been so wonderfully full of DOING – I am enjoying the fact that I can sit in a chair with a good cup of coffee and a great book and just BE, guilt free! Maybe there will be a time when I want to add to my schedule, but it is also wonderful to realize that the nest is pretty darn comfortable, even if it isn’t as full as it once was.”

“Just read your post and as always SO much good information!! Really enjoyed your tips on living a happier life.  PS: giving theSkimm a try too! Thank you!!!!”

“Great post. It’s a bit bittersweet to see your kids grow, but it’s lovely when they get to the point where you can refocus on the side of you that has been living in the shadows all these years.”

There are many other comments like that coming in my inbox and I just wanted to say that I’m so glad to share that you are, most certainly, not alone in finding your new identity. The first couple of years were hard and this year has also been difficult as they are both in middle school now and require different things from me. Cue the identity crisis! 

That said, last night I went to my first Rising Tide Society (locals, over here!) meeting and it was SO GOOD for my soul.  I’m working on finding my people at this stage and surrounding myself with creatives is just what I needed as I find my new groove. I had the impression this was a group just for photographers, but I was dead wrong. It’s for anyone who does creative work. As someone with a bit of social anxiety, I felt brave going and proud doing it. I need to step out of my comfort zone more often. 

Just know, mamas, you are not alone and I am figuring it out too alongside of you. Thank YOU for your encouragement, especially those of you that are further along in your journey than me. xoxo

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 03.20.17

March 20th, 2017

ALDI Quarter Holder

aldi quarter holder (GENIUS!)

bardot-midi-dress

bardot midi dress

Knitting Bag

knitting bag

Golden Girls Forever Book

golden girls forever book

gilded-garden-top

gilded garden top

reversible seat cushions

reversible seat cushions (just got these and they are AMAZING!! SO CUSHY!)

co-sleeping art print

co-sleeping art print

Vinyl Separators

vinyl separators

a-line utility skirt

a-line utility skirt (use coupon code SPRING for 40% off)

thanks a flocking lot card set

thanks a flocking lot card set

memory foam slip-on sneakers

memory foam slip-on sneakers

Greer Plans Her Next Adventure Art Print

greer plans her next adventure print

wooden cake stand

wooden cake stand

Deuces Phone Case

deuces phone case

pom-pom lace-up sandals

pom-pom lace-up sandals

sloth running team shirt

sloth running team shirt- who’s ready for a nap?

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: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

March 19th, 2017

Sundays With Writers

I’m so excited to be sharing my Sunday with E.K. Johnston today to discuss her incredible book, Exit, Pursued by a Bear.  The MomAdvice Book Club will be tackling this in our April discussion so I am hoping today’s interview will encourage you to pick it up and join us for a great discussion about this beautiful book in April.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued By a Bear, packs a coming-of-age punch as it examines the story of a rape and the aftermath for its victim.

Hermione is a flyer on her cheer squad and proud to be their captain. While away at cheer camp, she attends a party where someone  puts something in her drink and she is brutally raped and assaulted. When she awakes, she has no recollection of what has happened to her, but must deal with the devastating consequences of this assault.

I love that this book focuses less on being a victim and more about continuing to fight through the pain, not allowing this horrible situation to continue to define your life. Hermione is a true hero as she picks up the pieces of her life and is determined to carry on.

Heavier than a typical YA read and filled with a supportive cast of characters, Johnston deserves all the accolades she has received for this one including being listed as a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize.

Brave and unflinching, it’s a beautiful, beautiful read!

Grab your coffee and let’s chat about this brave book from E.K. Johnston.

E.K. Johnston

Readers might not know that this book was inspired by Shakespeare’s, The Winter’s Tale. What was it about this work that made you want to retell it? What elements were the most important to you in Shakespeare’s work that you wanted to keep as elements in your own story?

Most scholars will tell you that The Winter’s Tale is the story of two boys-grown-to-men who find that friendship is a fragile construct and disillusionment is the price of adulthood. I respectfully disagree. For me, from my very early days of reading Shakespeare (the Charles and Mary Lamb prose edition), the play was about the friendship between two women: Hermione and Paulina, who loved one another more than they loved their husbands (with good reason). I loved Paulina’s steadfastness and her cleverness, faking Hermione’s death and concealing her in the king’s own castle for more than a decade and half, and I loved Hermione’s resilience and ability to survive utter betrayal from someone she trusted.

Furthermore, Hermione is persecuted by her husband for (falsely) perceived infidelity. He manipulates her actions and his own mind until he can blame her for something she is absolutely innocent of. I chose to update this as garden-variety slut-shaming in Exit, because we tend to back girls into corners and then treat them terribly for existing in the first place.

Also, I just really wanted to use the title: Exit, Pursued By A Bear.

Your fury over a Canadian Member of Parliament who was trying to recriminalize abortion also moved you to write this book. What do you hope the reader will walk away with after reading Hermione’s story?

I have two hopes for all readers of Exit, Pursued By A Bear.

  1. That they will believe women. Women. and,
  2. That they will trust women to make their own choices, particularly when it comes to bodily autonomy.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear has garnered so many awards and accolades including an NPR Best Book of 2016, Booklist Best Book of 2016, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016, and so many more. Were you surprised by the response to this book especially since you were tackling such brave topics, particularly for the YA genre? What has been your favorite accolade so far?

YA has an extensive legacy of tackling amazing and brave topics, so I am both thrilled and honoured to see Exit join those ranks. If I may be indulgent, I was most pleased by Exit’s nomination to the Ontario White Pine list, which is a reading award program in Ontario high schools. I get to meet so many amazing students, many of them from places mentioned in the book itself, and that’s incredible.

You have shared that in your book, you imagined a world where a girl is believed and supported; a world where adults do their jobs and children are gracious; a world where a bear of a girl can heal, and then save herself. And it’s the most unbelievable thing you had ever done, even as a writer of fantasy. Why did you decide to tell your story in this way?

When I was at university for my MSc, I went to a conference and at the end of two days of people talking about bombings and logistics and mass excavations, a woman from the London Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory got up to talk to us about digital evidence collection. She was describing transmitting a fingerprint via a cell phone, and said the words “like on CSI”. There was general sighs and groans in the audience, and then she straightened and said “No, it’s a good example. Those shows tell us what we’re capable of. Where we should be trying to go.”

I was used to thinking like that about Star Trek, but it had never occurred to me that CSI might be similar. It’s an approach I tried to take when I was still studying forensics myself: this is how it should be, and that’s the approach I wanted to take with Exit.

This is how it should be.

In the author’s note, you encourage teens to find a champion in their life, as Hermione has found Polly. Who was a champion to you, in your life, and how do you think having that impacted you?

I am lucky enough to have two: Colleen, who I met in high school thanks to the seating arrangement and a pair lightsaber pens, and Emma, who I met in 2008 thanks to livejournal, Avatar: the Last Airbender, and the Naboo Handmaidens.

 Since you typically write fantasy, has writing this book given you encouragement to write more YA contemporary?

I write YA all the time. The great thing about YA is that you can write almost anything, and as long as it’s about a teenager, you’re set. So I’ve done contemporary fantasy, fairy-tale re-imaginings, sci-fi, and epic fantasy, as well as several combinations thereof. I don’t know if I’ll go back to YA contemporary, but I never say never in publishing.

Can you tell us a little about That Inevitable Victorian Thing that you have coming out in October and what else you are working on?

That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a YA near-future sci-fi. It’s a stubbornly utopi-ish vision of an alternate universe where the sun never set on the British Empire, and where a princess in disguise, a lumberjack with money problems, and a reluctant debutante are about to step onto the world stage.

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!

 

6 Happiness Strategies for a More Creative and Interesting Life

March 17th, 2017

happiness-techniques-for-creative-interesting-life
I invited my parents over for dinner one evening and my mom asked what our family had been up to that week. I shared a bit about a show that we caught at the local theater, how we attended an art gallery event for a friend, the adventure of taking our kids out (with success) to try a new cuisine they hadn’t before, and a documentary on design that we caught together.

My mom said something that really struck me.

She said, “Your family has such an interesting life. You know that?”

This is not a brag session at all because there are many, many moments in our life that are very uninteresting and basic. I have moments where I rant about having to run my children everywhere, where I find my focus is far too centered on my my health situation, I’ve often thought too much about what other people think of me, there are times where I fixate too much on keeping the perfect home, I’ve had periods where I have invested too much time on Facebook, there are moments where I am unkind and judgy to others, and MANY times where I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other like everyone else.

Those moments don’t necessarily make for an interesting conversation, but they do make us human.

At times, I had thought the only thing that made me interesting was blogging. Blogging is certainly interesting when you are doing it as a profession and has brought interesting people and moments in my life, but I don’t think that makes me very interesting anymore. It’s just an interesting way to make money.

The thing is, as my kids get older I feel like they need me in different ways, but not in necessarily those needy toddler ways that gave me purpose. As they transitioned to middle school, I found that I needed interesting things in my life to fill my cup so that I could survive these days at home alone without boredom.  I began to seek a more interesting life than the one I had before and it has been through this that I am finding happiness and my people.

I hesitated to write these words to you today because I am far from anyone’s life coach.

I’m often a mess.

That said, I also wished for a mentor mom as I transitioned into this new role that can, at times, feel a little lonely. Building a new creative life for yourself really enables you to attract others to you because you bring something new to the table.

It makes conversations fun, it can make you feel young, and it makes you feel valued by others because you have your own things.

I don’t need to tell you it, but one day these incredible kids are hopefully going to be out there carving their own life paths. If our entire identities are just caring for them, what will we do with ourselves when they are gone? What will be our new identity?

Cue the foundation of interesting life moments you have been working on and the transition to the next chapter might feel a tad less bumpy.

Here are six happiness strategies I’m doing to live a more creative and interesting life…

food-pantry

Find an Interesting Volunteer Opportunity

Volunteering can be an incredible way to add interesting moments to your life. I started by volunteering in our school system and connected my love of reading with reading to kids who struggle with this skill. This year, I have found my place working at our church food pantry weekly, doing the behind-the-scenes work of getting the food sorted and organized for people to shop. I also am putting in my application to mentor refugee youth because I love welcoming people to our town and know they would have so much to teach me.

Volunteer Match is a great site to visit to find unique volunteering opportunities that you may not have even known existed. I never even knew about the mentor program for refugees until I went on their website. For example, some of the listings in our town include crafting with hospice patients, being a museum tour guide, working the gardens of a local museum,  becoming a crisis counselor, being a small business mentor, or caring for animals at the shelter.

Can you imagine how different your life might look if you invested in one of these things?

Not only are you helping a local cause, but you also just might be putting your foot in the door for a potential job opportunity someday.

around-the-house-2

Read Interesting Books

What a boring life I would be leading if I didn’t have such a variety of books in my book stack. Since most of you are regulars here, I know that most of you are also embracing a good stack of books in your life too. If you need a fresh one, check out the books section for ideas!

For many years, I got stuck in one or two genres of books and I wouldn’t branch outside of my comfort zone. My reading and life felt a lot more interesting though when I began to read books that were outside of my comfort zone, particularly nonfiction reading. Reading helped me understand and show compassion for people and parts of the world that I would have never known about.

Three good starter books that really helped challenge and shape me are Just Mercy, Hillbilly Elegyand Evicted

Interesting books have certainly lead to interesting conversations and created empathy in me for things I don’t always understand. If you are looking to branch out your reading this year, consider taking our MomAdvice Reading Challenge or joining our online book club!

Online Weaving Class take an  online weaving class!

Find an Interesting Class to Take

Some of the most interesting people I know take classes and embrace new hobbies in their life regularly. Your interesting class may only be interesting to you, but that does not matter one bit. This is a great time to do the things you have always talked about especially since online coursework, in particular, can be done on your own schedule.

This year I got myself a loom and found a great course on Etsy to start teaching myself to weave. I’m also taking a food photography course through Craftsy to help me to expand my food photography skills. I regularly ask for things like this for Christmas so I have a gift that can keep on giving.

I don’t always take just creative courses though, I’m trying to branch out into other terrains. Next week I’m starting a free course through our local library and college to learn about civics so that I can understand the way our government works and understand the world of politics better. I don’t want to be a person who sits and watches the news, I want to be the person that goes out and learns WHY things are happening and what my particular role could be to change them.

Now I realize that these things may be only interesting to me, but I couldn’t be more excited to learn more.

For free learning, check your library and see what they have to offer and to connect quickly with locals. This month, for example, our library is offering a papercrafting class, a brunch & book discussion, a gardening class, a genealogy course, and a musical concert. They also have a great center where people can learn technology skills to benefit their business.

If you prefer learning online, YouTube is a great free resource where you can start learning a new skill and it won’t even cost you a penny. Granted, many are teaser courses to get you to sign up for more, but even teaser courses can teach you a lot.

Rising Tide Society

Join an Interesting Organization

My early days of motherhood survival were often spent seated in a circle as we shared a cup of coffee with a side of whine. For a couple of years after, I floundered and didn’t know where I fit in. I still went to playgroups, clinging to coffee, but feeling a bit of place. I didn’t want to start over again and have to find a new group, but I’m finding that this girl thrives in clubs and organizations. I am meant to be in organized activities and it feeds that social part of me.

I discovered we have a local chapter of Rising Tide Society and I’m hopping into my first meeting next week. I love and am inspired by other creatives so I’m excited to see if this will fill that mom’s group void I’ve been missing.

Some people enjoy finding ways to assist charity through group formats like Junior League. Others can find their people in business and networking groups through their city. Churches can also offer great opportunities to become involved in helping the community and it’s members. Interesting groups, of course, bring interesting people into your life and often build new skillsets.

Embrace Something Interesting That Fosters Conversations

I love to have fun things to bring to conversations and some of my favorite parts of the day are good conversations I’ve had just with my own little family. My best conversations are when I read or listen to something interesting that I can share with others.

theSkimm

I subscribe to theSkimm and love it so much that I am a Skimmbassador which gives me access to a community of Skimm-loving folks that can talk politics and life in respectful ways. This 5-minute nonpartisan newsletter is something that I read daily so I have a clear idea of what is happening in the world each day. I read it over the morning coffee and I start the day feeling informed.

You might be surprised to know that many blog writers aren’t actually blog readers. It’s a challenge to keep up with fresh content and read blogs, but I try to keep up with what everyone is creating as best that I can and share the nuggets with you each week. These are often posts that help to fuel great conversations with others.

We try to watch a documentary each week that gives us a chance to learn about a topic or a part of the world that we know little about. Many of these are watched together as a family and we have great discussions about them after. Many evenings though are spent after the kids are gone to bed with a glass of wine in hand and a documentary ready to go for our evening.

When my eyes are feeling too tired to read, I find  I get so much out of these instead.

Source: Grant Beachy Photography

Seek Interesting People

I’m not saying to give up on your old friends, but we all evolve as human beings and, as I have aged, I am looking for different things in my friendships. Broadening your circle can sometimes bring new and interesting experiences to your life.

For example, we started a record collection and spend many weekends shuffling through stacks at antique stores or sharing a stack of our music with friends on their record players. A bit hipster, perhaps, but music has always been such a big part of my life, and I find sharing that hobby with others is a fun one.

Board games are also a fun thing to collect and share with people. Perfectly portable and pairs well with wine, it’s a party in a box. We love discovering new games through Tabletop (and figuring out these crazy complex ones we purchased!). A few that we have found to be easy to share are Ticket to Ride, Really Bad Art, Pandemic, and our friends recently taught us Settlers of Catan and we loved it!

We try to seek out our town’s local events, gallery showings, festivals, theater performances, concerts, and town celebrations because they add variation to our week and give us the chance to connect with really interesting people. Living in a smaller town, you would think we wouldn’t have much, but I’m finding that it is RICH with stuff to do and it is rare that we can’t find a local event happening to make our days in Indiana a bit more interesting.

Amy Clark-web-23

I hope you find something new to connect with today and that it brings a bit of happiness in your life too.

This stage has been a tricky one to figure out, but what a privilege it is to grow older and find that you are still learning and growing!

What do you find feeds your happiness at this stage in your life?

*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 03.15.17

March 15th, 2017

craft-room

source: sugar bee crafts

Tour this colorful craft room. Love these craft storage ideas!

Ack! This made me cry. I am finding this stage to be a hard one to navigate in my life. I hope it helps to know you aren’t alone.

Speaking of FEELINGS, I am on my second week with these supplements and I feel like a completely different person in a really good way. It seems to be the right herbal combo for me to reduce anxiety without a prescription. Did I mention it also has improved my concentration a lot for work tasks? Yup!

This is a great read on buying groceries on a budget. Thrilled to see we are meeting the thrifty government standards for our little family of 4.

Hospitality when you’re an introvert. Honestly, introverts are so quiet I always think they love hearing me talk and listening- ha! Eye-opening for an extroverted introvert!

Oh, love this little tip for making creamier scrambled eggs without adding a thing. Must try!

This instant pot roast is going on my agenda.

I’m reading this book for the first time and absolutely loving it. Glad I have it on digital format so I can highlight all the beautiful passages. Have you read it?

I’m adding this lentil soup recipe to my menu planner for my lunches. I’m on a lentil kick these days.

“The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades, combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965.” Read this and if you haven’t caught it on Netflix yet, add this to your weekend agenda.

Roasted Chicken With Fennel and Lemon

source: the kitchn

These roasted chicken thighs with fennel and lemon look like another sheet pan dinner winner.

Sheet pan garlic butter shrimp is also on my dinner planner next week. I love giving my sheet pans a workout!

Planning to sell your home? These are some excellent ideas for staging your home.

This home remodel is my jam. Bookmarking!

Can’t wait to see this documentary. I have mad love for this band! You can catch them on my new playlist I made for you!

Please know that pictures can be deceiving.

Guinness Beef Stew

source: gimme some oven

Bring on the Guinness Beef Stew- yum!

I can’t stop looking at these book covers! Unreal awesome!

Magnolia Homes farmhouse style on a small budget. YES!

Locals, I’m going to the Civic Leadership Academy. This looks like such a fascinating and well-timed series for understanding today’s politics. I’d love you to join me!

Ordering this for my capsule wardrobe- big reveal soon! It goes so well with this necklace with a cute closure I snagged with my birthday money.

These are fantastic ideas for making a decorative and functional entryway even when you have a smaller space.

I’ve been curious about microblading so this was a great read although I’m not sure I could justify the expense!

26 pressure cooker recipes for quicker & easier dinners.

Comment of the Week: Well, we got a lot of comments on our Disney article and I will just leave the post here.

I just want you to know that I have appreciated the respectful commentary even when we don’t agree with one another. I have read lots of posts and comments that were absolutely awful on other sites and I told my husband how proud I was that our readers may not always agree with our articles, but we have always had a respectful discussion.

I asked Mary to step out bravely and share her opinions because I believe she is an incredible Christian writer and I’m a bit of a wild liberal who might not grab your ear in the same way. Her voice was important for this piece and I’m glad she shared it with you.

Over here, we will be seeing the movie and have a love and acceptance for all people. If we disagree, I want you to know that you are still loved by our family! 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

 

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake

March 14th, 2017

Tracking Pixel Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

Gluten-free baking has always been very intimidating to me and I did my best for a long time to avoid it all costs. Unfortunately, with three people in our house advised to eating gluten-free, I was pushed into the gluten-free baking trenches for our family. I’m not ambitious enough to spend time mixing up my own mixes and that is why I’m excited to share with you about Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-1 Baking Flour.  Today I’m sharing this easy recipe for a Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake with all the flavor minus the gluten.

Did I mention no tricky mixing of flours or trying to perfect recipes that are already in your recipe box? Yup, Bob’s Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour is perfectly formulated for baked goods with terrific taste and texture with no additional modifications on your part.

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com

In our family, it is a tradition to make the birthday boy or girl a homemade cake to celebrate their day. My husband’s birthday was the perfect excuse to mix up a yummy cake with Bob’s Gluten-Free Flour. This rich batter is filled not only with a healthy dose of cocoa powder, but it gets a double chocolate whammy from the crushed gluten-free cookies and cream cookies that are folded right into it.

My secret weapon in any chocolate dessert is a little bit of coffee to enhance those rich chocolate flavors. I had my daughter taste the batter before the addition of coffee and after and we both agreed that it makes a really big difference in the smoothness of the flavor.

I know I don’t have to tell busy moms this, but coffee is certainly magic.

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com

I’ve played around with a lot of gluten-free flour mixes in our kitchen, since our family’s diagnosis, and I can confidently say that this is the first blend that I’ve tried that I can taste no difference between the all-purpose flour and this gluten-free mix. There is no mealy texture or that sense that something is just off about the mix. The cake baked up as light and puffy as any cake prepared with all-purpose flour would.

For someone who lacks gluten-free baking confidence, this blend has given me the urge to bake again and I’m already dreaming of how else I can put this blend to work for our special treats. Have no doubts that you will see many of them on the site in the upcoming months!

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com

Can we talk about the frosting for just one minute? MORE cookies are folded into this whipped cream cheese frosting and adds the jazz hands to this chocolate cake. Ths homemade frosting elevates and lightens the cake with it’s tangy flavor. Also, because there are not enough cookies in this, I added more cookies on top for decorating so you can have a snack in between bites.

We toted this cake to the restaurant to celebrate my husband’s birthday this year, in all her shining glory.

As we sat there eating, he leaned into me to say, “I keep thinking people are looking at me because it’s my birthday. I just realized that they are looking at your cake.”

Yup, it’s a showstopper.

A rousing song of happy birthday and slices shared with all at our table (and a few not at our table because CAKE), and we still had half a cake left once it had all been distributed. We offered the other half to the kitchen staff and it made me so happy to see it being sliced and enjoyed by everyone.

For several years, I worked as a waitress and I remember those long days worked for tips. It’s why we always try to go the extra mile when we dine out and this was just one more way we could show our appreciation for those who care for us.

Homemade cakes really do bring people together and I couldn’t stop the goofy grin on my face from seeing everyone enjoy this sweet treat, as I carried my empty cake stand home. My husband also left with the same grin, after a great meal shared with family and our new friends. He really felt celebrated this year.

Please add this cake and Bob’s Gluten Free 1-1 Baking Flour to your menu planner and grocery list. I promise, you won’t ever miss the gluten in this rich and delicious cookies and cream cake. This is a cake that’s meant to be shared so find a way to make that happen too. I bet you’ll gain a few new friends in the process!

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A gluten-free cookies and cream cake perfect for celebrating all of life's occasions!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
  • 1½ cups finely crumbled gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3¾ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1½ cups finely crumbled gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two (9-inch) cake pans with cooking spray and dust with gluten-free flour.
  2. In a large bowl, using a hand-held mixer combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs and egg yolk, 1 at a time, and beat until well mixed, then add in the melted butter. Mix well to combine. Next, add the buttermilk and coffee and beat until smooth. Fold in the crumbled cookies with a wooden spoon.
  3. Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, approximately 30-33 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool, on a rack, in the pans for 5 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto a rack and let cool completely.
  4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the salt and vanilla. Add in the confectioners' sugar, ½ cup at a time, until smooth. Beat in the crumbled cookies.
  5. Once the cake has fully cooled, add a layer of frosting on the top of one cake layer and then stack the second one on top. Finish with more frosting on top. This recipe yields enough to also frost the sides of the cake, if you desire. Finish with more cookies (whole or crushed) to add decoration to the top of your cake.

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Cake from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

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