This INCREDIBLE list of 100 stocking stuffers offer the perfect gift ideas for everyone on your list. We have included men, women, teens, tweens, and toddlers!
Are you looking for the perfect small gift to tuck in your family member’s stocking? Today I’m sharing my Christmas stocking stuffers that everyone will love.
My family never did stockings, when I was growing up, and I was always so enchanted by the tradition at my boyfriend’s (now husband) house.
Each stocking was uniquely made and cut from felt with adorable details on each one. I loved watching them open their stocking and the fun things that their parents came up with to give to them.
In their house, they had scratch-off lottery tickets, car wash gift certificates, toll road gift cards, and their favorite candy.
As with ALL my holiday gift guides I want to give you a list of useful gifts to share with a loved one on Christmas morning.
100 Unique Stocking Stuffers For Everyone On Your List
We want to acknowledge that 2023 is expensive, and we have done our best to include families in ALL budgets for this year’s list.
If you are on a budget, I recommend that you sign up with Rakuten to do your shopping. We’re sharing some instructions below for ways to apply this to bigger ticket items in our list. This app gives you cash back on all your qualifying purchases.
These tote bags featuring U.S. landmarks have been a stocking stuffer bestseller over the years.
Made from 100% cotton canvas, these make such fun library tote bags.
Roll this up with a gift card to their favorite independent bookseller.We recommend two of our local indie bookstore options- Brain Lair Books or Fables Books to get your Midwest tote started. Please tell them that I sent you!
THE BEST STOCKING STUFFERS FOR TEEN GIRLS
You don't need to be a teen girl to love these stocking stuffer options, but Google likes us to have gender specific category titles for our gift guides. Why? We don't know!
This rainbow straw set includes four straight and four bent rainbow stainless steel straws that fit all tumbler sizes.
The set comes with a storage bag and two scrub brushes to keep your straws clean. This is perfect for your eco-conscious Gen Z kiddo. Pair it with fun drink mixes and vinyl stickers to decorate their water bottles.
Teens will love these shoe charms in their stockings for decorating their Crocs.
This package includes 35 different styles of shoe charms. These install instantly and can be switched out with their outfit. If this style doesn't work, shop for shoe charms that fit your teen's style and personality.
The Wearable Nail Polish Holder Ring is a convenient accessory for easy nail polish application.
Designed to stretch, this fits on your fingers, securing the nail polish bottle in place as you paint your nails, eliminating the need to move your hand. Pair this stocking stuffer with a few fun polishes from the drugstore.
If it is cold where you live, these fake translucent tights make the ULTIMATE winter stocking gift. Although they appear like sheer pantyhose, they are super thick and fleece on the interior of these tights.
My daughter discovered these for her winter formals and has worn them to all the festive fancy occasions. Pair these with a few fun hair accessories for a holiday gift.
For the guy that needs a few ZZZ's after gaming, this sleep mask features memory foam for comfort.
It also offers a fully adjustable buckle strap and an ideal for blocking out light. This is the go-to option we love for our family! Consider pairing this with other cozy gifts under the tree like a new robe, slippers, or cozy pillow.
This Reversible Octopus Plushie is the perfect gift for kiddos that love a cozy plushie. This offers a uniquely satisfying flipping feature, to help your child display their feelings through its reversible design.
TeeTurtle created the design and it has gone viral on TikTok! These snuggly stuffed animals have rave reviews and come in many different animals, but we have a soft spot for the octopus this year.
The original never-ending Pop It! bubble popping game is a great sensory toy that provides hours of entertainment and relaxation for kids of all ages. It also happens to be perfectly priced at just $5.99!
For busy toddlers, this can be a soothing way to keep them busy at doctor's appointments, errands, or when traveling.
Not only does this Octopus Kite have rave reviews for being easy to fly, but it takes just about ten seconds to set up.
If you live in an apartment or are short on space, this does not have kite sticks, so it only takes up a little space in your home. Users shared that they had hours of enjoyment out of this kite experience.
The Bluey Wackadoo watch features four entertaining games inspired by the show, promoting imaginative play with characters like Bluey and Bingo.
One smart mom shared in her review that she can start a timer on her child's watch that lets her know when they need to head home, reducing tantrums significantly. For that reason alone, we think this is a winner this year.
An advent calendar for teens and tweens can make the holidays special. Shop this curated guide for fun ways to countdown to Christmas this year.
One of my favorite gifts to give my teen is their advent calendar as a Christmas gift each year. This year, we wanted to offer this year’s best calendar ideas for your kiddos in this age category, as well as those college-age kiddos that deserve a fun way to celebrate the season.
We have you covered with a few of our favorite ways to countdown Christmas in 2023.
To keep it economical, be sure to read our suggestions for ways to reuse keepsake boxes or diy advent calendars for the season with our smart ideas for saving.
Do we ever outgrow LEGOS? I hope not! Our team loves this limited edition LEGO advent calendar because it can be reused year after year.
This year's LEGO kit includes 9 Star Wars characters like Emperor Palpatine, an Ewok and a Pit Droid in holiday outfits, a Gonk Droid dressed as a reindeer, Omega with a sled, a 212th Clone Trooper, B-1 Battle Droid, and Princess Leia.
It also contains ten mini vehicle building toys and five additional mini builds for 2023.
Searching for other 2023 LEGO advent calendar options? Here are a few others to discover this year:
These sell out so fast- we have missed the experience in the past- I recommend ordering right away if this is something you want.
For the last two years, we have gifted this experience to our daughter, and we have the best time doing our nails together for the holidays.
The Olive and June Christmas Advent Calendar offers 25 mini mani surprises. You'll find everything you need for beautiful nails, from polishes to nail art stickers, making it the perfect treat for the holiday season.
The company also offers a Hanukkah Calendar with eight nights of mini mani surprises!
The best books, tv, movies, podcasts and products I’ve purchased in 2022!
Hello, my friends! I hope that you’re having a wonderful summer! I thought it might be fun to talk about my favorite things (so far) this year.
Personally, I get bogged down with those end-of-year recaps so I thought a mid-year surprise might be a lovely escape for summer.
Please consider today’s list as INTERACTIVE! Please leave a comment and tell me what’s topped YOUR list this year! It can be anything- books, podcasts, apps, recipes, clothing, organizers- WHATEVER. I love and miss the interactions we share in these spaces.
My Favorite Things (So Far) This Year
Please keep in mind, these are new-to-me discoveries and may not have been released this year.
The Best Apps of the Year (So Far)
Two apps changed my mental health journey this year and I’m forever grateful.
Last summer I decided I wanted to reign in my evening drinking habit and I used this app to help reinforce my commitment to myself.
Can some people do it without an app?
Did I ever honor a commitment that I didn’t invest into and get spelled out to me in black-and-white?
No, I didn’t.
Each week I would make a commitment to the amount I would drink that week and it would coach me every evening to remind me of that commitment I made to myself. It sent me charts on saved money, sleep hours reclaimed, and calories saved.
Gradually, I went from two drinks in the evening (or more) to being a girl who has a glass of wine on special occasions.
Admittedly, the holidays were weird this year and I now notice how I used alcohol to brave social situations.
It was the hardest and best gift I could have ever given myself to feel so aware of my actions.
Alcohol no longer plays a role in my life really at all and it was because of this app.
The Best Podcasts of the Year (So Far)
You know I have to mention the launch of the Book Gang Podcast (subscribe wherever you get podcasts!). The challenge with podcasting has been making shows AND listening to other people’s shows. That said, these are two that I loved this year.
When people talk about podcast hosts feeling like friends, I never really got that. I have always been pretty grounded in the separation in these feelings…that is until this podcast came along.
Fun fact that might change how you feel about me- I deeply despise harmful wellness culture and dieting fads.
These hosts, it turns out, do too, and they debunk and explore the myths around these topics in their show. They tackle everything from fad diets that we perceive as healthy to the problematic Dr. Oz and don’t mind exposing a few wellness influencers and their dramatic demises.
I have belly-laughed through so many of these episodes and appreciate the extensive lengths to their research they go to on why this culture and how fat-shaming is so harmful.
Gabrielle Zevin is a tried-and-true storyteller, but no one could have prepared me for the epic and sweeping journey she crafted for these characters in her latest book Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.
For three decades, we follow two unlikely friends who find each other in a children’s hospital.
Sadie’s sister is receiving treatment for cancer, and Sam is recovering from a series of surgeries after a tragic car accident.
They bond over their shared love of video games in the gaming room of the hospital.
However, when Sam discovers that Sadie has been tallying her visits to fulfill her bat mitzvah service, he feels like her charity project instead of a friend.
It ends the fast friendship abruptly, but they find one another again in college when Sadie shares another computer game she has been developing.
The two decide to develop a game together, which follows their success in the gaming industry with their first game.
It also follows the consequences of virtual world-building when they build a world where all are welcome that ends in violence and the dissolution of their formed partnership.
Sam’s chronic pain from his foot injury are written so beautifully and help us understand the daily challenges of chronic pain and learning to find peace with our disabilities when we face them.
This experience is unlike any other that a reader could imagine because Zevin writes each of the games for this company in beautiful and intricate ways that each feels fully fleshed from idea to execution.
I shared these scenes with my software developer husband, who was equally astounded by this remarkable execution.
One world she built, in particular, left me in a puddle on the ground.
It is a journey within a journey within a journey.
Publishers Weekly put it best when they said this book is a “one-of-a-kind achievement.”
Again, I assure you that this will be your favorite book too.
This book hits store on shelves on July 5th. Thank you to the publishing house for this sneak peek.
Best Movies of the Year (So Far)
I try to see a movie every week (both in theatre and/or streaming).
I can’t recall the last time that a movie has transported me MORE than Everything Everywhere All At Once. We went into this one knowing very little and I am really glad we did.
This is the official blurb for the film- “An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led.”
It pretty much tells you NOTHING.
Keep it that way.
This is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve seen on the challenges of mothering our daughters. It made me laugh and cry- sometimes at the same time.
The film was astonishing and visually spectacular.
It was so visually stunning, in fact, that we felt guilty that we didn’t pay for a live theater ticket to see it.
It also is spectacularly strange as she goes through the different universes.
I loved every minute of it and the statements it made about what it means to be family and to fight for those you love.
I’ve been obsessed with true crime this year, and this series was one of the best I’ve seen.
Honestly, I’ve been surprised that I haven’t heard more people talk about it.
This documentary follows the life of Steven Stayner and his family, diving into the family’s 50-year journey to unravel the tale of two brothers, one deemed a villain and the other a hero.
Don’t Google anything if you are unfamiliar with the case- allow yourself to be immersed in this family’s story (told by their mother).
What made this one so compelling isn’t just the true crime case itself but the unique use of narration they used to tell this story.
The documentarians brought back the made-for-tv cast to read the scenes from the movie that was made about this case.
It sounds cheesy, but these readings were phenomenal, and they also reminisced on their own experience acting in these roles in a really beautiful reflective exercise about how they felt for their own characters.
If you are highly sensitive, the storytelling is compassionate and beautifully told.
The Best TV of the Year (So Far)
I am REALLY having a hard time today with this category because television has been so exceptional this year.
I’m narrowing it down to the best in ensemble casts and outstanding women’s lead performances today.
For the record, I’ve never owned an air purifier, but since I bought this I cannot imagine a day without it.
This gadget came highly rated by NYT and has done a phenomenal job not only reducing the odors in our home, but it also has reduced our difficulties with allergies.
The biggest glow-up from this device is when I am cooking. It has an eco-friendly setting that kicks on to clean out detected odors quickly. While I’m cooking, it efficiently cleans up smells before we have even sat down to dinner.
It also does a stellar job with pets, teenagers, sweaty workout smells, and trash.
The hue (Glowing G) adds a natural flush that lasts all day. Although it is a little bit pricier than my usual drugstore options, the tiniest bit goes a long way without any need for a second application.
It’s all about communication-free communication at our house. This magnetic dishwasher sign lets everyone know if things are clean or dirty, reducing the stacked dishes with people claiming they couldn’t figure it out.
If you need one more communication-free communication strategy, here’s my final hot tip.
Learn my tricks to maximize your experience with the Scribd app. Get unlimited access to books and audiobooks at one flat rate and how this reading app works.
In 2013, I got the opportunity to work with a new eBook and audiobook membership service called Scribd.
What I didn’t expect was that I would convert into one of their most loyal customers who has been a paid member ever since.
A Scribd subscription is BY FAR one of the best book and audiobook subscriptions for your money and is my most used subscription. However, there is a reason I continue to stay with them, and it isn’t just because they have great books (even though that is the most significant part).
Today I want to talk about why I think this is TRULY the best audiobook service for readers and how I make the most of my membership EVERY MONTH.
I want to explore your biggest burning questions like if authors get paid, what the significant differences are between this kind of access versus Kindle Unlimited membership and some particular things that *I* use this membership for (that might be helpful to you too).
Even if you have been a subscriber for years, today’s tutorial will also offer some hidden benefits to membership.
Let’s get every dollar out of your experience with today’s tutorial.
How to Use Scribd for Your Reading Life
Scribd (it sounds like RIBBED) is, basically, the Netflix membership for book lovers.
For one monthly fee (currently $11.99 per month), you can have access to their entire catalog of eBooks, audiobooks, sheet music, and uploaded documents.
I want to clarify that this is a digital lending library, much like our experience with online tv streaming services.
You do not own the materials.
You own membership to stream the books you want to read or listen to in their membership catalog.
As long as you are a member, you can stream these materials.
At this time, Scribd offers these notable items (plus rotating perks)-
Over TWO MILLION audiobooks and ebooks in one app (they work with 5 of the biggest publishing houses).
Unlimited sheet music and documents (They have over 70,000+ pieces of sheet music available. This catalog includes the classics and contemporary artists).
Unlimited access to podcasts, magazines, and news (including Time Magazine, The Atlantic, Cook’s Illustrated, & Newsweek).
Rotating Membership Perks (more details below on some of my past favorite bonuses).
The monthly subscription includes fiction, nonfiction books (like cookbooks), young adult books, and children’s books.
So your entire family can benefit from this service, all with the cost of just one membership.
How to Find and Add Books to Your Library
Well, the BEST place to check would be the Book Gang Podcast (stream wherever you get podcasts) since it celebrates under-the-radar books, debuts, and backlist selections.
Scribd makes it easier too by offering recommendations based on other books you are reading or have on your library list, much like your experience with other online book purchases.
You can add books by searching the specific title or browse the incredibly curated selections from Scribd’s editors.
These editors’ picks are where I start when I need a little guidance on book selection.
Bookmark the books that you want to save in your library.
Once you decide what you might like to add to your library, you open up the book and read or listen to it.
Now let’s talk about those hidden features on the app and some of those faqs.
The Best Hidden Scribd Features and Frequently Asked Questions
What Device Can I Read My Scribd Books Through?
These books are available across many ebook reading devices, including iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire tablet, Android & the Barnes & Noble Nook tablet.
At this time, the Kindle Paperwhite is not a supported device.
Is it Unlimited? Sort of!
Regarding reading, there’s no limit on the number of books or audiobooks you can read or listen to each month.
You may sometimes notice that a title you have saved indicates it will be “Available Soon.”
Once your subscription renews for the next month, your library will refresh, and you’ll be able to select from the entire library.
The reason for this is because they can “adjust availability” of books based on contracts with these publishing houses.
In their defense, they claim it is to pay authors fairlybased on the contract distribution terms.
It can be frustrating so if there is a book you are, particularly excited to read that month, prioritize it just in case it becomes unavailable until the next month.
I would say that this is my only issue with this platform.
How Do I Download Content When I’m Traveling?
To store content on your device for offline reading, tap on the cover of the book you wish to save, and you’ll be dropped into the book’s summary page.
To download the book, tap the “Download” button on the summary page.
Again, it is up to each publisher what they want to make available to its users. Some publishers disable downloading for specific titles, and the ‘Download’ option won’t be shown for those titles.
You’ll still be able to enjoy them on Scribd, but they won’t be directly downloadable.
Do Authors Get Paid When You Read on Scribd?
As I hinted earilier, Scribd does pay authors for their work.
I am quoting them directly when I share this statement, “Scribd has deals with our authors and publishing partners concerning payment for all membership content.
Basically, every time you read a premium title or listen to an audiobook, we pay the author the full price of their work!
Revenue that Scribd earns from monthly membership fees is paid to the original publishers or authors every time you read their work on Scribd.”
What is the Difference Between Scribd and Kindle Unlimited?
Scribd is a better value and they offer a completely different catalog.
Kindle Unlimited is a library of (primarily) self-published authors.
On the other hand, Scribd works with five big publishing houses- Simon and Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, & Macmillan.
The catalog is updated so well that I can often secure my new release books the week they come out.
I find with Scribd that their audiobook selection is more robust though than their book selection.
What is the Difference Between Scribd and Audible?
The most significant difference between these two is the pricing.
Scribd is an unlimited service, while Audible offers a single credit for $14.95 a month.
Audible may offer a more extensive selection but comes at a higher price.
Another fun feature is that Scribd offers a sleep timer on audiobooks. So if you want to listen to a book to fall asleep, try using this feature!
Just click the icon in the upper left-hand corner, and you can select any chapter immediately!
Select the moon icon on the lower right side of the audio page to use the Sleep Timer. The menu will appear, and select the length of time you wish for the book to play. The playback will automatically turn off once the timer counts down to zero.
Try Scribd for FREE for 60 Days with my Referral Code
This referral code doesn’t give you a 30-day trial- it provides you SIXTY days of reading to try the platform. Activate it HERE.
Sound off: What has been your experience with Scribd? Do you have any other questions about this platform?
Looking for more great reading resources? Don’t miss these posts!
First, I would love to meet you! We can hang out every single month!
This blog is run by a real person who genuinely would love nothing more than to share books with you.
Second, the goal of my book club is to sample a wide variety of books that I feel will offer dynamic discussions, give us a new viewpoint on the world (and the people in it), and introduce you to your new favorite author (that you may have never heard of before).
This year’s stack offers a diverse selection of family drama, crime fiction, thriller, dystopian, historical fiction, and horror (just to name a few!). There is something for everyone this year.
Where Do Book Club Chats Happen?
Hosting this book club for free since 2014 has been a joy. Unfortunately, as a small business owner, I can no longer offer this for free due to my increasing overhead costs.
Although I don’t have to justify this, hundreds of hours go into every book club year and dollars to edit materials and host each month.
We are doing everything possible to keep the website going through increasingly challenging times in the tech world.
Funds that are collected cover all hosting services related to running a club of this size and payment for our special guests who will join us to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Join my Book Gang
We are offering two tier levels for this year on Patreon.
For full details on each month’s benefits, you can view each month’s “Book Club Experience” outlined with each of the books below.
Please note that if you are a current subscriber, you are a Book Club Explorer- NO PRESSURE to do anything else!
Book Club Explorer
Full Access to the Book Club Benefits includes a recorded fireside chat with the author (or book adjacent guest), a monthly Zoom to discuss the book with me, and a music playlist based on the book’s themes.
Annual printable Book Club organizer for keeping track of meet-ups, reviews, and notes for our meetings
The FULLY BOOKED podcast book review show offering book reviews on the new buzzy books hosted with Larry Hoffer of @getbookedwithlarry
The FULLY BOOKED newsletter that includes book adaptation news and what is coming to store shelves each month (25-35 pages)
Spoiler-filled episodes where authors discuss the ending of their books with you after our shows and why they made the choices they did
Printable Sumer Reading Guide & Fall Reading Guide
All Book Club Explorer benefits
TOP SECRET FILES- A two-page secret mission to take with each book club book created and collaborated with each guest. This file will offer immersive experiences beyond the books, like book pairings, movies, and insider scoops to share at your next dinner party. The file shown here is just the top page. I told you that it’s top secret- haha!
Fireside chats are recorded in high-definition video AND audio format so you can access whichever format is best for your reading month.
We are lucky to be joined by the authors of these books, authors discussing parallel themes between their books, and incredible people with real-life experiences on these book’s themes.
Even if you have read these books before, you will love our fresh take on these themes and the unique experiences offered.
Listen to Today’s Announcement on the Book Gang Podcast
You can listen to today’s Book Gang episode below to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on what I’m offering for your stack this year.
If you are planning to join in on the fun, these episodes are essential to understand how our club works and why I have chosen these books, in particular, for you.
Listen to Part 1:
Listen to Part 2:
Now meet our 2024 book club line-up!
2024 MomAdvice Book Club Books
Discover the MomAdvice Book Club selections, curated in honor of my 20th year as a content creator.
These twelve carefully curated selections of backlist books feature a diverse genre lineup to expand your reading life this year. I hope you'll join me on this literary adventure!
Please support our indie bookshop partner, Fables Books, for an incredible new and used book selection.
In this gripping story, the enchanting world of magic collides with the high-stakes world of poker, creating a twisty tale of suspense that will leave you reeling.
Readers meet Natalie, a 27-year-old prodigy in the art of close-up magic.
Despite her extraordinary talents, she is now down on her luck financially and finds herself doing corporate magic shows.
While performing at one of these gigs, an altercation with an attendee ends in a potential lawsuit that could bring even more financial devastation.
When she takes a freelance writing gig to begin the cobbled path toward paying down the debt, her path crosses with Ellen, a seasoned professional card cheat.
The savvy Ellen extends an irresistible proposition to Natalie that could yield millions and change her life forever. Forged into an improbable alliance, the duo plunges themselves into the perilous depths of a high-stakes poker game.
Cue the Rocky montage music and prepare to learn a lot about card tricks and illusions, complete with gasp-worthy plot twists and hold-your-breath suspense.
Published in 2018, this backlist gem stands out as one of the best con artist books I've read this year. It is cinematic in scope and twists.
JANUARY BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE:Michael Kardos joins the book club for an hour-long recorded interview, discussing his book from start to finish as we went through the plot twist choices and some unusual research he had to do to prepare the sleight of hand he offered his readers.
You can watch that on video or listen to the interview as part of your book club benefits.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: AUDIOBOOK MOOD: ADVENTUROUS, MYSTERIOUS, TENSE PACE: FAST
In February, we will celebrate the love and bonds between sisters with this 2017 Irish Catholic family drama.
I recommend the audiobook format for an immersive experience with a captivating Irish accent!
Spanning decades, the novel unveils the lives of two sisters, Nora and Teresa, as they navigate the challenges and joys of immigrating from Ireland to America in the late 1950s.
As secrets and revelations surface for the reader in a modern timeline, the narrative quickly shifts to 1957, unraveling the sisters' lives during their early years in America.
Nora is a sister who embraces practicality and responsibility, accepting an arranged marriage to secure a stable future in the States.
Meanwhile, spirited and adventurous, Teresa grapples with the consequences of her carefree choices, leading to an unexpected pregnancy.
Teresa's journey takes an unexpected turn when faced with the challenges of unwed motherhood that yield the kind of experience you desperately want to talk about with another reader.
I promise, this story takes emotionally charged twists you won't expect.
FEBRUARY BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE:Meagan Church, who has a stunning historical fiction novel coming out on March 5th of this year called The Girls We Sent Away, will be joining us to discuss her overlapping research on The Baby Scoop Era that she had done for her novel.
If you haven't heard of The Baby Scoop Era, this period, roughly from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, is when many unmarried pregnant women were often coerced, pressured, or forced to relinquish their babies for adoption.
As widespread social stigma was attached to unwed mothers, many saw adoption as a more socially acceptable outcome than single motherhood.
Both Church and Sullivan deeply humanize this experience with a raw and unfiltered lens through the eyes of teenage girls with few choices.
Both novels are five-star reads, and I can't wait to share this conversation around these historical fiction novels.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: AUDIOBOOK MOOD: EMOTIONAL, REFLECTIVE PACE: MEDIUM
I must admit that in 2016, a book about AI didn't intrigue me, but fast forward to 2024, and I can think of no better book to discuss than this slow-burn mystery.
Set in 1980s-era Boston, Ada grows up under the care of David, her brilliant yet socially awkward single father. As the head of a prestigious computer science lab, he brings Ada to work each day, providing her with an unconventional homeschooling environment.
When an unexpected twist of fate leaves Ada on the brink of becoming an orphan, a loyal colleague offers her a place to stay, forging an unexpectedly found family.
What, ultimately, helps her find refuge, though, is her father's meticulously crafted AI system.
Ada discovers hidden messages within the chatbot's code, and as their bond weakens, it leads her on a poignant journey through fragmented memories and decoding the intricacies of David's life.
Spanning 451 pages, this character-driven narrative unfolds the evolving landscapes of technology and the enduring connection between a father and daughter.
The audiobook performance by Lisa Flanagan was exceptional on this one.
I would pair an audio version with the paper copy because excerpts from the code and chat messages run throughout, making it easier to follow without those visual elements.
As a book club, it will be incredible to contrast her 2016 world to our greatest fears and most rewarding interactions now with AI technology. I encourage you to start this book now because it is meant to be slowly savored.
MARCH BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: The Mindful Librarian will be our special guest for a recorded conversation to discuss our complicated feelings around AI technology and this incredible novel. As an educator, she offers a unique lens on the impact in the classroom environment.
Katy is a curator, reader, educator, librarian, and writer. She writes about books on her Substack, The Mindful Librarian, which I highly recommend subscribing to!
I will also share how this has impacted creators like me, who now compete against AI-driven websites that have led to unexpected business challenges.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: AUDIOBOOK WITH PRINT (if you can) MOOD: MYSTERIOUS, EMOTIONAL, REFLECTIVE PACE: SLOW
This dark academia novel is made for readers who crave a blockbuster movie experience in a book.
The story opens with this quote from Joseph Brodsky.
"Life- the way it really is - is a battle not between bad and good but between bad and worse." It is the perfect setup because this story doesn't deal with the tired trope of good versus evil but bad and worse, which doesn't always give the reader the ideal hero to root for.
Victor and Eli are roommates enrolled in a Comprehensive Science course where they must declare a thesis for their year.
While Victor claims adrenaline is his focus, Eli chooses EOs, shocking the entire classroom.
What are EOs?
In this fantasy world, this stands for the ExtraOrdinary- people who seemingly have inexplicable superhuman powers that seem to be all around them in mysterious ways.
Could the two tie together their planned thesis projects- Victor's on adrenaline and Eli's on EO and unlock a different version of their world?
The two began experimentations that involved bringing them to death or near-death experiences and seeing if they could come back.
Reminiscent of Flatliners, you will find that many of the themes overlap, but you will be so impressed by Schwab's interpretation of what it means to be a superhero in this imagined world.
I held my breath through many scenes!
APRIL BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: For this recorded fireside chat, I'm bringing on one of my oldest and dearest blogging friends, Amiyrah Martin, to help lead this discussion.
Amiyrah hosts the first official Disney Parks podcast, the planDisney Podcast, and offers a unique insider perspective into worlds like these.
As part of her duties, she interviews Disney Parks guests doing extraordinary things and Disney executives and Cast Members.
A frequent attendee at the blockbuster movie premieres, I can't wait to discuss this delicious villain origin story with her and get more film recommendations to expand our Villain Era!
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: AUDIOBOOK WITH PRINT (IF YOU CAN) MOOD: DARK, TENSE, ADVENTUROUS PACE: FAST
In a concise 299 pages, Cha delivers a tautly woven story that unapologetically and unabashedly examines enduring racial tensions between the African-American and Korean-American communities during and after the LA riots.
Set against the backdrop of the early 1990s, in the aftermath of the Rodney King beatings, this novel weaves a narrative inspired by real-life events.
At its heart is the tragic story of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African-American girl fatally shot by Soon Ja Du, a 49-year-old Korean-American convenience store owner.
Readers are given two fictional perspectives through the brother of the victim and the eyes of the convenience store clerk's daughter.
Immersing oneself in a narrative that doesn't strictly align with one's cultural heritage poses a unique challenge for an author. I read this quite hesitantly.
What won me over was that Cha wielded a critical lens, and, as acknowledged best by the Los Angeles Review of Books, this yields an experience that feels compelling and risk-taking.
I had never heard of this tragic murder until reading a crime fiction novel. I'm so grateful to writers who see the gross injustice in cases and are unafraid to immerse themselves in both viewpoints to capture a story that evokes empathy and outrage for what has happened.
MAY BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: Renowned Korean-American novelist Steph Cha, was honored with the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for this exceptional work and will participate in a recorded interview.
I'm eager to delve into Cha's research methods and creative process, and I hope you will be, too.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: PRINT MOOD: EMOTIONAL, CHALLENGING, TENSE PACE: MEDIUM
At times, this literary fiction novel might feel like reading a memoir. In past interviews, Amna shared that she did an exchange student program in high school that took her from urban Pakistan to the rural Pacific Northwest when she was growing up.
This compelling debut navigates the complexities of being an exchange student, divulging the challenges faced by Hira, a 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student thrust into the midst of a rural Oregon high school. Of course, Hira is a bit tired when the story begins; she has been diagnosed with tuberculosis, leading to months of forced quarantine that further isolates her from her host family and the entire town.
However, her coming-of-age story reveals a captivating understanding that while home stays with you, visiting other countries can inevitably alter your brain chemistry forever.
It is quite beautiful when the characters in this novel find ways to seek common ground together.
Prepare for darkly fun observations and a less-than-romantic view of the American Dream!
I'm grateful for the Pakistani women who have been a cherished part of my life since my college years, and I find myself drawn to stories that deepen my understanding of their experiences.
From my college roommate who stood next to me at my wedding to my best friend who is now part of my found family- I hope they feel seen in Hira's story.
JUNE BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: Dur e Aziz Amna will join us to discuss her writing process for this novel and more about the courage required to immerse oneself in a foreign land as a teenager!
Not only will we hear about crafting Hira, but we will also discover what elements of her own experience were important to capture on the page.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: PRINT OR AUDIO MOOD: REFLECTIVE, EMOTIONAL, FUNNY PACE: MEDIUM
Seanan McGuire describes her Mira Grant pen name as being committed to three things in her storyline- good science, good story, and diversity representative of reality.
Grant's portrayal of mermaids goes beyond the usual alluring siren clichés. Instead, these creatures are cannibalistic horrors best to read about when daylight still lingers.
Seven years ago, a mockumentary film crew vanished at sea while covering the story of mermaids in a film exploration of mythological sea creatures.
Since their return, terrifying film footage has leaked suggesting a horrifying encounter with mermaids, but the world dismisses it as yet another mockumentary stunt.
Now, Theodore Blackwell, a representative of Imagine Entertainment, seeks redemption by organizing a second expedition. His mission is to prove mermaids' existence and capture a live specimen as proof.
Among the crew are scientists, reporters, and Theodore's estranged wife, who add layers of personal drama to their difficult journey.
Many of these characters aboard the ship have deeply personal reasons to uncover the truth. Still, none could be more personal than Victoria Stewart, whose sister disappeared that fateful night. JULY BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE:Shaun Hamill was the first horror novelist I'd ever spoken to, and I was so impressed at his plethora of knowledge on the topic that I had to find a way to bring him back for our backlist book club year. I'm so excited to dissect this book together in a recorded fireside chat.
Stephen King praised the author for his mythical creature captured in his debut,A Cosmology of Monsters. We will explore the parallels in their storytelling, from mythical creature deniers to those who invite them in, and what it takes to craft a great horror novel.
We also will get an early scoop on his second novel,The Dissonance, which is coming to store shelves on July 23rd. Described as an epic contemporary fantasy with a mixture of The Magicians and It, I can't wait to hear more about his next release.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: PRINT MOOD: DARK, TENSE, ADVENTUROUS PACE: MEDIUM
Each year, we offer a poll for our Reader's Choice selections, and the most voted-upon classic gracing this year's book stack is one of my favorite time travel books.
Kindred is not just a propulsive page-turner; it's a journey. This classic offers a powerful exploration of race, identity, and the interconnectedness of our shared history in a way few classics have achieved.
The novel pulls the reader in with this jarring opening sentence. "I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm."
Dana is a black woman in the late seventies married to a white man. A modern African-American writer, she begins to find herself mysteriously pulled back in time when experiencing dizzy spells.
As this happens, Dana finds herself being pulled repeatedly to the South in 1815 after she arrives and discovers a little boy named Rufus is drowning in a river.
After saving him, it initiates the first of many visits where Rufus risks his life, and Dana returns to repeat this heroic act. The catch is that her role as a black woman is not free in this era.
When pulled in, she must work as an enslaved person at the house and witness the true brutalities of an unkind enslaver.
What Butler does so well is offer a captivating dimension for readers by giving Dana a white husband in the modern timeline.
When they are transported through time together, he must act as her enslaver to keep her safe.
The dynamics in these roles cause stress and doubts between the two, unlocking unbelievable tension to see if their relationship can weather these changes in dynamics.
Octavia Butler was a trailblazer and the first Black woman to be honored with both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
She crafts classics that resonate as though they could have been written in our modern moments.
AUGUST BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: Please join me in discussing this classic, and we will dive deep into her legendary career together.
Don't be limited by this selection; I encourage you to try more of Octavia Butler's books to discuss and recommend for this month's conversation.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: PRINT FOR HIGHLIGHTING MOOD: DARK, EMOTIONAL, TENSE PACE: MEDIUM
Envelope yourself in the pitch-perfect narration of Mark Bramhall, whose audiobook roster includes Charlotte's Web and a 48-hour narration of Robert Chenow's Grant).
Ultimately, I count it among the most captivating audiobook experiences I've ever listened to and among my favorite books of 2023.
The book opens with an author's note thanking the local historians who shared the good gossip about Ernest Harold Baynes, born in 1868 and who died in 1925, the real-life Dr. Doolittle of New Hampshire and "alleged total ladies man."
In this laugh-out-loud literary fiction novel set in small-town New Hampshire, the collective narrator of the town's deceased inhabitants provides an omniscient and humorous viewpoint of small-town happenings.
Emma is a remarkable and magical child born to Clive and Ingrid Starling..or so the local headline news shares. Her gift of healing is so distinct that she insists the hands of the newborn baby had cured her sciatica while delivering the child.
Emma, now a dejected dropout medical student, comes home to care for her father, who is suffering from hallucinations and tremors. He has been let go from his position at the University and is plagued by visions of Ernest Baynes.
Our narrators say, Ernest is a real-life ghost, not a hallucination.
Compounding his confusion, her father has become fixated on Emma's best friend from childhood, who has gone missing.
But, in a town riddled by the opioid crisis, it is hard to say where she has gone though.
While the setup sounds heavy, this is a hopeful and surprisingly lighthearted selection. As the ghost of Ernest enters his powers, this story takes hilarious turns that make you laugh until you cry.
I want to add a small content warning that some elements might be challenging for anyone close to someone with dementia. There are poignant scenes of anticipatory grief when you know what is to come with losing a parent.
And honestly, I had anticipatory grief while reading this story because I knew once I finished it, I would never get to read it for the first time again.
SEPTEMBER BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: At this time, I have reached out to Annie for a recorded author interview, and I'm still awaiting her reply.
If we can't land Annie, I promise to host a memorable Zoom and pull in a fun voice for your monthly benefit.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: AUDIOBOOK MOOD: FUNNY, EMOTIONAL, HOPEFUL PACE: MEDIUM
This literary fiction novel topped my best books of the year list and will deeply resonate with fans of Station Eleven.
Written in 2018, a year that stands out as it predates the pandemic, the story envisions a world plagued by the Shen Fever virus, which induces peculiar symptoms.
Afflicted individuals fall into a zombie-like loop, reenacting their past routines as the world crumbles around them—whether reading, cooking or even succumbing to past addictive behaviors, their bodies remember whatever consumed their time the most.
As the virus sweeps through society, we follow Candace Chen's journey as she navigates her pre-pandemic role at a publishing house.
Promised a substantial bonus if she perseveres through the health crisis, Candace pushes herself to the limit, even as she questions whether this is the best use of her time in a world on the brink of collapse.
What endures throughout is the relentless consumerism and corporate culture, which readers may find particularly pertinent in a post-pandemic world.
One element that captivated me the most was Candace's role in publishing, as she is charged with supervising the unique printing of a Bible.
Readers will peek behind the scenes at those uniquely thin pages and their particularly laborious printing processes. It offers a fascinating look at the internal workings of a publishing house and the production of this historic book process, particularly overseas.
Quotation marks are absent in this novel, and the ending remains somewhat open-ended after the many turmoils that Candace has endured. Neither element took away my enjoyment of this novel, but it is important to mention that.
OCTOBER BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: Debut novelist Thao Thai will join the podcast to discuss this literary fiction novel with me.
Of all the guests I shared time with on Book Gang, she was one of my favorites for her interpretation of other people's writing- a skill refined by her storytelling chops.
One might think there is no overlap between this story and Banyan Moon, the July Read with Jenna book club selection, but I would beg to differ.
These books offer overlapping themes of adapting to adversities and the importance of familial legacy.
It is critical in both stories to be a good daughter, to make the sacrifice of your ancestors worth their struggles, and to build a legacy for future generations.
In both cases, digging into childhood memories excavates wild determination in these characters.
I can't wait to discuss with one of my favorite new storytellers on a recorded fireside chat.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: PRINT MOOD: DARK, REFLECTIVE, TENSE PACE: MEDIUM
Our next Reader's Choice selection has been celebrated on our site before, but I'm excited to explore this novel again with you in 2024.
This eye-opening family drama is about parenting a child who struggles with gender identity and how the family navigates the world to help their child live in a place of joy and acceptance.
Rosie and Penn are parents to four boys and are betting on the arrival of their first daughter when their fifth child, Claude, defies their initial expectations.
It will be a few more years before they make the connection that these initial predictions were more accurate than expected.
To protect their child, they move to a more liberal city, discovering that their secrecy will persist along with them instead.
Throughout the pages, this novel beautifully captures the complexities of gender identity and the enduring power of love within a family.
In my past interview with the author, Frankel described her experience as very different from that of her characters. Her child's transition didn't necessitate much struggle or strife.
She said her family never faced these struggles with friends, at school, or in her community. These elements are mainly fictionalized from her family story.
Her goal with this book was to explore how we all navigate expectations with our children- exemplified in her title: this is how it always is.
She said, "Most kids aren't transgender, but most kids are gender nonconforming — sometimes, in some ways — and all kids are sometimes nonconforming, sometimes don't fit in, and sometimes face challenges.
And all parents want to love and help their kids, and no parents always know the best way to go about doing so. We make the best decisions we can and amend as necessary."
It's a bold, honest, heartbreaking story, but told in gentle prose for the reader.
NOVEMBER BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: In honor of this selection, I'm bringing my dear friend Kelly, into the fold.
She offers a personal parenting experience as they navigated parenting a transgender child, and she has done this with remarkable compassion and care.
I look forward to recording this fireside chat and I know she will have incredible advice on how to love better and support these families, whether parenting our children or just how we show up in this world.
I'm so grateful to host a community where YOU most wanted to discuss this beloved book.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: PRINT MOOD: EMOTIONAL, HOPEFUL, INSPIRING PACE: MEDIUM
We are revisiting one of my favorite winter magical realism reads for this final book club selection.
Jack and Mabel found love later in life than was typical for the 1920s and decided to embark on a journey to Alaska to help them heal from the grief of a pregnancy loss.
Fueled by loss, their decision to homestead will allow them to escape from these daily reminders and give them a new start.
One evening, after a perfect snowfall filled with the same joy and bewilderment of playing in the snow from their youth, the couple shape a child made of snow on their property.
The two wish the night would never end, but by the following day, their carefully formed child has vanished—along with the mittens and hat they decorated her with.
Yet, a peculiar sight emerges as they catch glimpses of a girl frolicking through their snowy woods with a red fox as her companion.
The couple are astonished when the little girl arrives at their doorstep bearing gifts. She never stays long and disappears as mysteriously as she comes, but the lessons she imparts linger throughout their lives in beautiful and magical ways.
This debut was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, and the author hails from Alaska, which you will find beautifully crafted in the details.
DECEMBER BOOK CLUB EXPERIENCE: I contacted Eowyn Ivey for an interview, but I fully admit that she only does a few interviews.
For our Zoom, we will make a book list of comforting winter reads for the holiday season and discuss this beautiful adult fairytale together.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: PRINT MOOD: EMOTIONAL, MYSTERIOUS, REFLECTIVE PACE: MEDIUM
TELL ME: What book are YOU most excited to read together this year? Are there any surprises on this year’s list?
Be sure to scroll down to see the best books available now.
The items in the catalog are available to Prime members to borrow and read various titles at no additional cost.
The concept is just like your digital lending from your local library.
Just like acquiring the books through your Libby app, you can download these items for free directly from the Prime library.
Is Prime Reading Free?
If the book is in the Prime Reading catalog you should see “Read For Free.” It should state that this is included with your membership. If you are not seeing this prompt, make sure you are signed into your account.
You can now choose ten items to borrow for free through the Prime library if you have a Prime membership.
Basically, once you hit your limit of ten borrowed items, you will receive a prompt that looks like this that will alert you.
To borrow another book, you must return a book.
How Do I Return a Prime Library Book?
To return Prime Reading books on Amazon, follow these steps:
Go to Amazon Website: Visit the Amazon website and make sure you are logged in to your Amazon account.
Access Your Content and Devices: Hover over the “Account & Lists” option at the top right corner of the page. From the drop-down menu, click on “Content & Devices.”
Select Your Books: In the “Content & Devices” section, click on the “Content” tab if it’s not already selected. This will display a list of all the books and content you have purchased or borrowed.
Find the Book: Scroll through the list to find the Prime Reading book you want to return.
Actions Menu: On the right side of the book title, you’ll see a button with three dots (ellipsis). Click on it to open the actions menu for that book.
Return This Book: Select “Return this book from the actions menu.” A confirmation pop-up might appear asking if you are sure you want to return the book.
Confirm Return: Confirm that you want to return the book.
Once confirmed, the book will be removed from your device and returned to the Prime Reading catalog.
Remember, once you return it you may not have access to it again. This catalog rotates often.
If you have hit your limit with borrowing, you will receive a prompt to return an item, and Amazon will pull up all the items for you on one page.
Select the item you want to trade out; it will automatically return and check out your new selection.
What is the Due Date on Prime Books?
Unlike your local library, there is no due date for Prime books. You can keep that book as long as you want and return it whenever you finish.
I have held books on my account for years! They do not expire.
For most users, the limit of ten books is what leads to returning their books before they finish them.
As all the books made available are only available for a limited time, you do want to cash in if you find a book in the catalog you do want to read.
It might not be there when you return!
Can I Share Prime Reading With My Family?
You can share Prime benefits at no extra cost through their Amazon Household feature.
This feature allows members of the same family or household to share certain Amazon Prime benefits and digital content while maintaining separate Amazon accounts.
Here are some shared bookish benefits:
Shared Prime Benefits: Prime members within the same household can share benefits like free two-day shipping, Prime Video streaming, Prime Reading, and more.
Family Library: Family members can share ebooks, audiobooks, apps, and games purchased from the Amazon Appstore and Kindle Store.
It’s important to note that Amazon Household has specific eligibility criteria, and not all Prime benefits are shareable.
For example, benefits such as your Kindle Owners’ Lending Library are unavailable for sharing.
Additionally, there are limitations on the number of adults and children that can be included in an Amazon Household.
The current criteria are two adults and up to four teens, and four child profiles may link in a Household.
What is the Difference Between Prime Reading vs Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited is a separate subscription service that offers a much more extensive selection of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more.
Does Your Amazon Prime First Reads Book Count Against Your Borrowed Titles?
No, your Amazon First Reads is an additional reading benefit you can access monthly. Typically, you are offered one book per month, but there are exceptions where they offer TWO!
That means every month, as a Prime member benefit, you have one book for your permanent library and ten books to borrow from the Prime library.
You never have to return your Amazon Prime First Reads book. It is yours forever.
What Subscriptions and Services Do You Recommend for Reading?
I ALWAYS cash in on my Kindle First Reads and always have ten books checked out from the Prime library.
I do not use Kindle Unlimited because the Scribd app offers more reading benefits at an affordable price. That link should also take you to an incredible tutorial on how to use the platform and get every dollar out of the experience.
Here are the BEST Prime Reading Books for this month!
November Prime Reads
Discover a handpicked selection of captivating stories in our November Prime Reads collection. From thrilling mysteries to heartwarming romances, there's something for every reader.
Choose up to ten books with your Prime membership. Remember, these change frequently, so cash in today.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
In the vibrant streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, Nahri, a skilled con woman, accidentally unleashes Dara, a mysterious djinn warrior, and their fates become entwined in a dangerous journey across mythical landscapes.
From hot, windswept deserts to the legendary city of brass, Daevabad, where magic and blood hold equal power, Nahri sparks ancient resentments and threatens to ignite a centuries-old war.
In 'Magpie Murders,' editor Susan Ryeland is handed bestselling crime writer Alan Conway's latest manuscript, expecting another traditional mystery featuring detective Atticus Pünd.
However, as Susan delves into the murder investigation within the novel, she uncovers a parallel tale of real-life jealousy, greed, and ruthless ambition.
A masterful homage to classic British crime, this relentlessly suspenseful narrative by Anthony Horowitz transforms the reader into a detective, navigating the intricacies of both fiction and reality in a clever and deviously dark exploration of the genre.
Readers craving a British cozy will love this option for the month.
Gregory Maguire's groundbreaking backlist novel, 'Wicked,' is the foundation for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.
Maguire invites readers to view the land of Oz, its Wizard, and the Emerald City through a darker and greener lens in this breathtaking New York Times bestseller.
Brilliantly inventive, 'Wicked' radically reevaluates the much-feared Wicked Witch of the West, challenging preconceived notions and revealing a character far more complex and human than previously imagined.
Young Rhea is a miller’s daughter of low birth, so she is understandably surprised when a mysterious nobleman, Lord Crevan, shows up on her doorstep and proposes marriage.
Lord Crevan demands that Rhea visit his remote manor before their wedding. Upon arrival, she discovers that not only was her betrothed married six times before, but his previous wives were imprisoned in his enchanted castle.
Determined not to share their same fate, Rhea asserts her desire for freedom. To be free, Lord Crevan gives Rhea a series of magical tasks to complete.
With time running out and each task more dangerous and bizarre than the last, Rhea must use her resourcefulness to rally the other wives and defeat the sorcerer.
Filmmaker Sidney Ryan takes on the task of clearing Grace Sebold, a woman convicted of murder, in the most-watched documentary in television history.
In "The Girl of Sugar Beach," the riveting and record-breaking television documentary takes center stage, posing a captivating question: Did Grace Sebold commit murder on a Spring Break vacation, or is she a victim of a flawed justice system?
This highly-rated thriller is recommended for fans of Alice Feeney and delivers a great final twist.
In this captivating, cozy mystery, readers will uncover an enchanting world of post-WWII Paris as they follow Tabitha Knight, Julia Child's neighbor and confidante, on a culinary adventure turned murder investigation.
With the City of Light as the backdrop, this novel promises history, romance, and delectable cuisine.
When sixty-five-year-old Bindu Desai unexpectedly inherits a million dollars, her impulsive decision to buy a Florida condo sends shockwaves through her family.
As three generations later work together on an unconventional project to save a dating app business, they must confront their secrets, desires, and ambitions in this heartwarming tale of intergenerational connection and self-discovery.
This coming-of-age story was a staff pick at a bookshop that was a memorable debut the year I read it.
Mayhew takes readers on a poignant journey through the hot summer of 1954 as young Jubie and her family encounter the harsh realities of racism and prejudice during their vacation.
Mayhew's compelling storytelling vividly explores the transformative power of tragedy and the enduring love between a young girl and her beloved African-American maid, Mary, against the backdrop of a changing South.
Clara Kelley, a poor farmer's daughter, assumes the identity of an experienced Irish maid in one of Pittsburgh's grandest households.
As she navigates this double life and captures the trust and heart of Andrew Carnegie, she uncovers a story of resilience, ambition, and a connection that might have transformed a ruthless industrialist into a philanthropic giant.
I can't recommend this historical fiction book enough.
Brought to our Book Gang podcast by our guest Molly Fader (stream The Magic of Old Hollywood Books), the author brings her nursing background to this gripping story.
Experience the gripping true story portrayal of the forgotten history of America's sole leper colony, Carville.
Set against the Roaring '20s and the challenges of the 20th century, Mirielle's transformation from a glamorous socialite to an isolated patient illuminates the struggles and resilience of those quarantined.
This cozy reading guide offers surprising tips for the best reading chair, book light, and pillows for reading in bed. Get ready for the winter reading season!
In this week’s Book Gang podcast, Osteopath Alexandra Orfanides shared surprising tips for creating a cozy winter reading space despite chronic pain challenges. She does this as a practice, runs the Hypermobility HQ on the TikTok account, and hosts the Help! I’m Hypermobile Podcast.
We encourage you to listen to hear more details on what we are getting wrong about reading posture, her towel hack for full-body support, and other tips for chronic pain management.
Get ready for a bonus treat! I’ve made a Cozy Reading Guide with the best tips and essential items from today’s talk with Alex.
If you love this guide, you can support my work through a one-time donation on Buy Me a Coffee or join our Patreon community for book fun all year long. The financial support helps us keep the lights on in our online space.
More than anything, we hope this improves your reading life this year!
The Best Tools for Cozy Reading With Chronic Pain
Discover helpful tips to make your reading experience enjoyable, even on challenging days with chronic pain.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
COMFORTABLE READING CHAIR
Sink into the most comfortable reading chair with these unique ideas and ways to build the best cozy reading experience at home.
A heated mattress pad is the perfect cozy reading solution when reading in bed in winter.
The mattress pad offers two controllers for each side of your bed and acts as a whole-body heating pad when needed.
Alex shared a tool like this is terrific for people who have dysautonomia as they have a heightened sensitivity to cold, often resulting in pain. The heated mattress pad promotes coziness AND helps improve your blood flow in the process.
While I'm obsessed with this particular cushion design, ANY office cushion with a rubber bottom is excellent for helping you stay comfortably upright and supported when reading in bed.
A base helps support a more comfortable posture during my extended reading sessions and helps reduce strain on my back. You will have to listen to today's Book Gang podcast to make some surprising discoveries about good posture!
To keep things economical, if you already own an office chair cushion, see if it helps when reading in bed.
Finger splints can offer joint support when reading and come in beautiful designs. These little splints help with trigger finger pain and stabilize joints for individuals with hypermobility or laxity in their finger joints.
While we agree there should be no stigma around bracing, some ring splints look like elegant jewelry and offer discreet bracing if you don't opt for the plastic version. Many Etsy sellers offer metal ring splints (gold or silver) if you prefer something more fashionable.
For the practical reader, you can also purchase oval eight splints that can be bought in bulk with various sizing options.
What’s your go-to gadget for reading with chronic pain? Share your favorite tools and devices that make your reading experience more comfortable.
With her wealth of experience in the medical and creator spaces, Alex shares insights on the best ways to give your body TRUE rest when reading.
As a bonus, Alex shares a touching personal connection to literature and discusses her recent challenges with connecting to books. To kick start her reading life up again, I’m providing three book recommendations to reignite her passion for literature.
Check out our bonus Cozy Reading Guide featuring all the products recommended by Alex and essential items that have personally helped me navigate health challenges while reading.
Whether seeking advice, inspiration, or a book review, this episode is your guide to the best winter reading set-up.
Alexandra Orfanides brings her expertise as an osteopath with a Master’s degree in Osteopathy and a Bachelor’s degree in English language and literature. This unique combination couldn’t have been more perfect for today’s show.
Alexandra offers in-person and virtual consultations to patients. She hosts the new podcast Help! I’m Hypermobile, and uses her various platforms to raise awareness about hypermobility to help her community navigate daily challenges.
The Best Reading Hacks for Chronic Pain
Listen to the Book Gang Podcast:
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Mentioned in this episode:
Joining the Patreon community is an affordable way to support the show and gain access to a wealth of resources, including our monthly FULLY BOOKED buzzy new release show, exclusive author interviews, music playlists, and more!
In this gripping psychological thriller, an eight-year-old held captive for a year escapes and returns to her family.
Traumatized by the experience, she no longer speaks. As a child therapist uses play therapy to help her deal with her memories, the playtime turns dark, with disturbing scenes enacted within a Victorian dollhouse.
It turns out these might be reenactments of real unsolved murders!
Readers should note that this novel is set around the pandemic which some readers have found troubling.
Feedback on this has been mixed with one and five-star reviews. Many have shared that this book was a commitment at 379 pages and highlighted its slow-burn suspense.
With a dual-timeline World War II narrative, this novel offers readers an Italian twist.
Elise, the granddaughter of Hollywood legend Vivian Snow, embarks on a documentary project that unravels her grandmother's history in the 1940s when Vivian was a performer at an Italian POW camp in Edinburgh, Indiana.
Family secrets from the past emerge, while in the contemporary era, Elise discovers the clarity to make bold, life-changing decisions.
Bleeker is a well-seasoned author with fifteen other novels under her belt; almost all of these are over four stars. As someone who has read her novels, this novel will likely be another hit.
One reader described this as illuminating as it highlights the treatment of Italian POWs during this time, which many readers may not be aware of.
In this explosive thriller, a retired spy is reluctantly pulled back into espionage and danger.
An aerospace engineer designs a groundbreaking aircraft, but when it's destroyed during its launch, all the plans vanish, and chaos ensues.
Trasker, who initially attended the event as a mere guest, is unexpectedly pulled into the heart of the conspiracy. With data wiped, an engineer missing, a seed investor's suspicious death, and a cold-blooded murder, the stakes are high.
Longtime readers of Mayne's work have loved this as much as his earlier work and recommend it for readers craving an action thriller—readers offered comparisons to other spy heroes like James Bond or Jason Bourne.
This is the first book in the new Trasker Thriller Series.
This novel is the second selection that offers a twist on a classic book.
Carmen's novel is described as "great fun for readers" by Kirkus Reviews and recommended for readers that love "the creepy, psychological suspense of Simone St. James" by Booklist.
Britta, searching for her birth mother, arrives on Block Island and becomes convinced she's living in a gothic novel as strange occurrences unfold.
When she mysteriously dies in a claw-foot tub, murder accusations fly against the owner of the mansion, White Hall.
Summoned by a letter from her late sister, Thalia returns to the island to uncover the truth about Blake's death, revealing more and more dark secrets on the island.
This novel offers nods to the Brontës, adding a unique touch of psychological suspense. Readers describe this as a slow-burn mystery reminiscent of last month's book club selection, The London Seance Society.
Are you looking for a book about sisters? This women's fiction selection might be for you.
Booklist describes this as a "moving, at times funny, story of sisterhood with a hint of romance."
When the Butler sisters inherit their grandmother Betty's beach house in South Carolina, they each grapple with mixed emotions.
To secure their inheritance, the Butler sisters must reunite and renovate their family beach house.
During a transformative month on the shore, they uncover family secrets, repair their broken bond, and strive to keep their family legacy alive.
This novel's themes offer these sisters a chance to start rebuilding not only the beach house but also connections to each other.
A.C. Arthur also writes under the pen names Artist Author Sapphire Blue, and Lacey Baker. She is a seasoned romance author who has even written a novelization for the Original Hallmark Channel Movie, A Gingerbread Romance!
While this novel doesn't have early feedback, all her books have received high praise on GoodReads.
Readers seeking more BIPOC Authors for their stacks should snag this women's fiction selection.
VERDICT: WHAT I PICKED
I’m very intrigued by The Last Caretaker as I screen selections for potential book club book features for the Book Gang podcast. I love helping you find the best book club books, so I’ll go with that this month.
Keep in mind this exploration does involve women fleeing domestic abuse and may be unsuitable for some readers.
If you are craving a lighter escape, I recommend Leave It to Us or The Daughters of Block Island for readers craving a Gothic mystery.
Let’s celebrate the feel-good moments and literary achievements of the Second Chance Book Club for inmates and their tireless leader, Jennifer Williams.
Join us for a heartwarming Book Gang podcast episode as we meet Jennifer, the “book lady” of Danville, VA, changing incarcerated women’s lives through the Second Chance Book Club.
Today, we explore the logistics and challenges of running an incarcerated book club and the incredible rewards that Jennifer has witnessed in their participants.
Plus, Jennifer shares three of her favorite backlist book club books to discuss with a book club of your own.
If you would love to be a part of her literary legacy, head to her holiday gift registry to donate books for their prison book club. The inmates get to keep the books they read, and Jennifer highlights the incredible ways reading helps as they move on to their next chapter in life.
It was such a fantastic list of recommendations that we have updated this book list with Jennifer’s book club books she highly recommends for impactful conversations.
Meet Jennifer Williams
Jennifer Williams, the “book lady” of Danville, Virginia, is on a mission to donate 1 million books to local children. A dedicated teacher, she is working two jobs to fund her initiative.
Jennifer’s commitment extends to running a women’s book club at the Danville Jail, where members have become avid readers.
Her work has garnered community support and recognition for its positive influence in her town. We are proud to support this literary hero on the podcast today.
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Mentioned in this episode:
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Looking for the best book club books for your book group? Don’t miss these 13 discussion-worthy books in literary fiction, historical fiction, and nonfiction.
In today’s Book Gang episode, Meagan Church brought her favorite selections for the best conversation starters and discussed her magnificent debut, The Last Carolina Girl. Don’t miss this compelling episode as we discuss the best book club books to spark conversation.
You can learn more about this fantastic historical fiction book below. After all, we can’t discuss book club reading without including Meagan’s moving selection.
This bonus book club list of book club recommendations from Meagan Church, today’s author, will spark conversations and appeal to various book lovers.
What Makes a Good Book Club Book?
What makes a good book club pick? For me, it’s one that sparks conversation and gets the book club talking beyond our scheduled time.
Or, well beyond our time, as my pre-teen pointed out after my last book club meeting.
The best books for book clubs start a dialog that sometimes transports us beyond the pages of the books and deep within ourselves.
In other words, I love a book that has characters, plot, and themes that get us talking and, before we know it, we are opening up about our own experiences. Sometimes our conversations lead to tears. A lot of times there is laughter. And my favorite is when we discover commonality, shared experiences and me-too moments.
The Best Book Club Books to Discuss Now
The following is a list of book club recommendations that historical fiction author Meagan Church, believes will spark conversations and appeal to various book lovers.
This book club list includes selections across genres, old and new books, fiction and nonfiction alike.
BEST NONFICTION BOOK CLUB BOOKS
These are best nonfiction books for book clubs! To expand this category more, visit this book list of memoirs for Nonfiction November.
This book, a non-fiction read, documents the glowing girls of the 1920s—women who worked in radium-dial factories.
Tasked with painting the faces of watch dials with the glow-in-the-dark radium paint, the women worked hard and fast to prove what good employees they were.
And, since it was at first believed that radium held health benefits, they had no qualms with licking the tips of the paintbrushes so they could be even quicker and more precise in completing their work.
The girls became so coated with the radium dust that when they would leave work at night, they would glow in the dark streets.
But what they didn’t know was the health risk they were being exposed to.
Soon enough, the girls started becoming ill in very horrible and painful ways.
And some died.
When doctors began to suspect that their jobs had something to do with it, the factories ignored concerns and continued to put more of these women at risk.
A page-turner of a read, this story shows the extraordinary strength of these women as they had to fight for their voices to be heard and the truth of their unsafe work practices to be brought to light.
Heartbreaking and illuminating, this story has stuck with me years beyond when I first read it, and it is one that I continually want to discuss.
Conversational in tone with unbelievable historical elements, Miller explores the life of David Starr Jordan, a taxonomist who was obsessed with cataloging fish and is credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish we know today.
During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, his life’s work, preserved away in glass jars, was demolished. In the midst of chaos, Jordan regrouped and returned to work, developing a system to prevent a similar catastrophe.
Experiencing her own personal turmoil, Miller begins to research Jordan’s life, admiring his tenacity to keep going despite life’s pull toward entropy.
But the more she learns about his life, the more complex and complicated: he becomes the first president of Stanford University, a pioneer of the eugenics movement, and possibly a murder suspect.
Henrietta Lacks has been dead for more than sixty years. But her immortal HeLa cells live in on science labs around the world.
Her cells have helped in the development of the polio vaccine, cancer and virus discoveries, in vitro fertilization, cloning and more.
Yet, Henrietta had no idea that doctors were using her cells and her family didn’t learn about HeLa cells until twenty years after she died.
Though a multi-billion-dollar industry sold and profited off her cells, her family received no compensation.
Engaging, riveting and frustrating, this non-fiction New York Times bestseller focuses on the HeLa cells, as well as the Lacks family.
First gaining the family’s trust, it took Skloot over a decade for the story to come together. She then created a page-turner of a scientific story, one of bioethics, poverty, discovery, privacy and ownership.
I first read this book years ago, but I constantly talk about it, still confounded by the story, while also seeing modern-day parallels to questions of ownership of our data and genetic material.
Forty-year-old May Attaway sets out on an odyssey of sorts to reconnect with four best friends who she met over the course of her life and who she hasn’t seen in decades.
As she reaches life’s midpoint, this socially awkward loner examines the meaning of friendship and community in a digitally-dominated world.
Her profession as a university gardener is the perfect juxtaposition to the online world that allows us to cultivate appearances and aesthetics.
Quiet, witty, and poignant, I had to remind myself on multiple occasions that I was reading a work of fiction, not a memoir.
May’s voice is so natural and conversational that I believed her to be real. This book is subtle, patient, and slow in the best possible ways. I felt as if I was listening to an old friend, relating to her experiences, and asking similar life questions as her.
This book is sure to spark plenty of conversation about modern friendship and the importance of IRL bonds.
A Case Worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, Linus Baker is a good, devoted, rule-following employee who lives alone with his cat.
And he’s quite alright with his life as it is.
But, when Extremely Upper Management sends him on a highly-classified assignment to the Marsyas Island Orphanage, the supposed dangerous children he encounters there, along with the secrets he uncovers, challenge his perception of work, life, and relationships.
A combination of YA and fantasy, this is not the typical book I would read, but after a very persistent friend continued to insist I read it, I gave in.
And I’m so glad I did.
I chose to listen to the book, and the audio version was delightful. I’m sure my neighbors wondered what was wrong with me as I walked through the neighborhood, reacting and laughing out loud.
Both the author and the narrator brought this vivid cast of misfit characters to life, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with them, even the supposed Antichrist.
Plus, it has a cat, and I’m always a sucker for a book with a cat.
A story about kindness even in the darkest places, it explores identity, friendship, acceptance, and found family and is sure to pull at your heartstrings.
In 1908, Dorothy Draper is living the aristocratic life, in search of love as she forges her future, but she wants more than the planned-out life her parents desire for her.
She always chafes against the traditions of high society. All except for the summers she spends at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
Thirty-eight years later, Dorothy has divorced and established America’s first interior design firm, when she returns to the Greenbrier, not as a guest but as the interior designer hired to restore the aging resort to its former beauty.
But what people don’t know is that her business is on the cusp of closing. She undertakes the massive design job because of her love for the Greenbriar, her memories there, and as a last-chance effort to save her business and her reputation.
Callaway captivates the reader through description and details that transport us into the story, and bring the Greenbriar and Dorothy to life.
I truly felt as if I was walking through the Greenbriar alongside Dorothy, seeing the interior design, fashion and characters in what felt like three-dimension.
Callaway’s extensive research is obvious and yet is relayed in subtle, natural ways, so the reader is immersed, feeling transported in time.
This is a must-read for lovers of interior design, historical fiction, and high society.
In 1936, the last of the rare Blue People live in Eastern Kentucky.
Cussy Mary Carter, a.k.a. Bluet, is not only different because of her blue-tinged skin, but also because she is a pack horse librarian who traverses the treacherous mountains by mule to deliver books to impoverished people living tucked away in the hills.
Despite poverty, prejudice and danger, Bluet has a feisty, indelible drive to keep going.
With this book, Richardson uncovered two fascinating historical nuggets: the Pack Horse Library Project started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Blue People who had congenital methemoglobinemia that gave their skin a blue tinge.
Readers who love learning about historical tidbits such as these will be fascinated by this book, as will those who like strong, female lead characters and stories of hope against the odds.
Identical twins, the Vignes sisters grew up in a small town.
At the age of sixteen, they ran away from their Southern, black community, hoping to find opportunity and a future. But their lives took very different paths in that pursuit.
One sister eventually moves back to her hometown with her daughter. She returns, in part to escape an abusive relationship, but also in hopes of finding answers to where her sister disappeared to.
Separated by hundreds of miles, her sister is passing for white, married to a man who knows nothing of her past.
Told through the perspectives of multiple characters and over the span of decades, this New York Times bestseller beautifully weaves together the threads of the family’s complex relationships, even when they are physically and emotionally separated.
It explores identity, found family, race, belonging, and the generational impacts of people’s decisions and desires.
But perhaps what struck me most was the exploration of passing, not only in the case of race. It offers an empathetic view of the decisions people make in regards to identity and the consequences that result.
Amy's addition for today- we MUST include Meagan's book today!
Meagan Church bursts onto the historical fiction scene with a captivating coming-of-age story page-turner that will be difficult to put down and that any Diane Chamberlain fan will devour.
In 1935 beachy North Carolina, readers discover Leah, a character who delivers Ramona Quimby's mischievous energy. She lives in a cozy coastal shack where money is tight, but love from her father is abundant.
Her life takes an unfortunate twist when her father tragically dies in a logging-related accident that leaves her both orphaned and penniless.
With nowhere to turn, she is sent to the wealthy Griffin family, who live in a beautiful home and have agreed to take in Leah.
She barely has time to settle before discovering that her room and board come with a new set of duties, working full-time as the family helpmate instead of attending school and the freedoms she had before.
As the other children in the home live their everyday wealthy lives, Leah is constantly corrected and thrown into situations meant to humiliate her and remind her of her poverty by the lady of the house, Mrs. Griffin.
At that time, girls deemed "feebleminded" could be forcibly sterilized without consent for the "betterment of society."
While this is a big part of the inspiration for her story, there are other surprising fictionalized mysteries that many readers will appreciate that are just as beautifully done as this element.
As Church often foreshadows what Leah's fate might hold, readers will be waiting for this scene to take place, but there are many well-crafted elements that any historical fiction reader will appreciate.
In the Author's Note at the end, we truly grasp how close to home this story was for Church as she uncovered her great-aunt's story and then began researching North Carolina's sordid past.
It is guaranteed to deliver thoughtful discussion.
ADDITIONAL BOOK CLUB BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FROM GUESTS
Jennifer Williams from the Second Chance Book Club shared her top book club recommendations with her book club for inmates.
Leah Weiss wrote this debut novel at seventy, and it became a massive success. Unfortunately, no If the Creek Don't Rise sequel is in the works, but readers can discover cameos in her upcoming novel.
Sadie Blue had only been a wife for a mere fifteen days, a span that swiftly revealed the regret of her union with Roy Tupkin, even more so with a baby on the way. Amid remote Appalachia, Sadie yearned to etch her legacy upon the world.
Yet, escape from her town was a rare luxury, and optimism often got crushed under the weight of reality.
The entrance of a stranger into Baines Creek disrupted the balance, offering Sadie an unforeseen chance at survival, provided she could decipher its potential.
The book explores resilience and will inspire meaningful conversations with book clubs. In Jennifer's book club, it has become one of the most requested novels.
Torey Hayden faces a test of her unwavering determination as a therapist when she meets fifteen-year-old Kevin, who has not spoken a word in eight years.
Despite the odds, Torey refuses to give up on this seemingly hopeless case, unearthing a shocking history and a buried secret.
Her powerful and moving story reveals the transformative impact of love and compassion on a troubled child, shedding light on the forgotten lives of those let down by the system.
Jennifer Williams shared that this story resonated with her because of her background in teaching.
The novel emphasizes the sense of responsibility and enduring attachment that teachers feel, even after their students have moved on, and counts this among her book club favorites.
Meet today’s contributor:
Meagan Church writes to explore the truths and nuances of who we are. But mostly she writes because she’s compelled to unearth overlooked stories. Her historical fiction chronicles the plight and fight of unheard voices of the past. After receiving a B.A. in English from Indiana University, Meagan built a career as a storyteller and freelance writer for brands, blogs and organizations. A Midwesterner by birth, she now lives in North Carolina with her high school sweetheart, three children and a plethora of pets. The Last Carolina Girl is her first novel, available on store shelves now.
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Love this post? Check out these book lists!
What book sparked the best conversation for you or your club? We would love to expand this list!
Follow the remarkable journey of 64-year-old postman Albert Entwistle, who has quietly delivered mail for decades while harboring a secret past.
Forced into retirement and facing a lonely future, Albert takes a courageous step to rediscover his lost love.
This heartwarming and life-affirming love story takes readers on an unforgettable adventure, proving that it’s never too late to find love in the most unlikely and unexpected places.
Meet Matt Cain
Matt Cain is a notable figure in writing and broadcasting, celebrated for his contributions to LGBT+ issues.
With a remarkable career serving as Channel 4’s first Culture Editor and Editor-In-Chief of Attitude magazine, he has significantly impacted media and journalism.
As an accomplished author, Matt has penned several novels, notably The Madonna Of Bolton, that became Unbound’s fastest crowdfunded novel.
Today, we celebrate Matt’s publishing revolution and celebrate The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, a 2023 MomAdvice Book Club selection.
Matt Cain’s Publishing Journey: The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle
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Joining the Patreon community is an affordable way to support the show and gain access to a wealth of resources, including our monthly FULLY BOOKED buzzy new release show, exclusive author interviews, music playlists, and more!