Three new favorite books

I’m always delighted when I find a new book that I truly love. Especially a book published within the last few years; it gives me hope for the world. Nonfiction books grow my understanding, inspirational books grow my habits, fiction books grow my joy. Here are three fiction titles I recommend.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, 2012

I’ve mentioned this title before, but it bears repeating. Ove is the crankiest, despairingest, funniest, crustaceous man you’ll ever meet. You will recognize him – a grouchy old man trying to understand a world that has changed around him. He wields meticulous habits and old school values to compensate for so many things he doesn’t understand, can’t change, and fails at miserably.

Fredrik Backman is a brilliant writer. I’ve also read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (which has elements of fantasy and took me two readings to understand and love), and Britt-Marie Was Here (which chronicles a woman’s search for life after leaving her unfaithful husband). My favorite thing about Mr. Backman is how he turns unlovely, unwieldy characters into heroes. He pulled the most annoying person out of My Grandmother and showcased her as the main character of Britt-Marie.

Language alert. I’ve heard that some of Mr. Backman’s later books take a steep dive into additional censorable elements, but I have not read them.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, 2009

Aibileen is a mild black maid in Mississippi in the 1960’s. Skeeter is a rich white gentlelady who can’t please her mother. Minnie is a phenomenal black cook too prone to speaking her mind. Mrs. Celia Foote is a sickly but spirited white lady who can’t make friends. Their lives intersect through a wild idea of Skeeter’s – to write a book interviewing black maids about what it’s like working for white women.

This book is probably heading for “classic” status. The themes connected deeply with me – about the lines between black and white people, the rivalries and friendships of women, and the social mores and family expectations we all face at some level.

I found The Help abandoned on a picnic table at a park. I thought I would read it and then return it to the world, but I find I cannot; I must keep it. So I will have to return another book to the world, if I can find one on my shelf that I’m willing to part with. Suggestions?

Language alert.

Crow Lake, by Mary Lawson, 2002

Crow Lake tells the story of four siblings who raised themselves in the boondocks of Ontario. One daughter (Kate) has become a college professor in the city; the others (Luke, Matt, and Bo) remain in their hometown. In a mixture of present-day scenes and flashbacks, Mary Lawson describes what happened to their family – how things were, and what fell apart, and why siblings change.

What ambitions should be followed at all costs? What personalities are best suited to sacrifice? What makes a life successful?

I love the characters in this book, and the lasting lessons.

Intimacy is hinted at but not detailed.

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I am working my way through several nonfiction reads, but I’m in search of another good fiction title. What are you enjoying?

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Mom Coblentz
5 years ago

I LOVE “The Help”!!!

Bethany Eicher
5 years ago

I had watched a movie based on “The Help” but it was when I listened to the audio book from my local library that I really fell in love! It was fantastically done by a group of readers who each narrated a different woman in the story. They did such an astounding job of impersonating their character, by the end of the book I really felt like I knew each one personally. Also by the end, my kiddos were sick of mom retreating into her room to listen with earphones every spare minute she had…. ?

5 years ago

Someday (month) when you have lots of time, read “Our Mutual Friend” by Charles Dickens. It’s huge and hilarious. Dickens illustrates human nature so well! I was intrigued by it after reading an excerpt from Katrina Hoover’s blog and ordered the book after receiving a Books-A-Million gift card. For non-fiction, I’ve been enjoying James Harriot – He’s such a great exaggerator and has had ever so many appalling adventures. My teacher used to read Pat Mcmanus to us and could hardly read for getting choked up with escaping guffaws. I had the same problem when I tried to read out loud to my husband about James Harriot’s meeting his newborn son for the first.

5 years ago
Reply to  Ruthie

I need to add another nonfiction – I was at the library with Mom last Saturday and she introduced it as a new favorite. It reads like a fiction, but is amazingly true! – “Mr Owita’s Guide to Gardening” by Carol Wall. I promise you’ll love Mr. Owita, along with everyone else in his neighborhood!

Regina S
5 years ago

The Help sounds like a really interesting book. I haven’t read any fiction in a long time. I think the last historical fiction book I read was ” Not Regina” by Christmas Carol Kauffman way back in 2008.

5 years ago

The help is one of my all time favorites!❤️

Audrey P
5 years ago

I love The Help as well! A similar book that I enjoyed almost as much is Dollbaby.

5 years ago

The Janitors Boy by Andrew Clements. I appreciated the lessons of learning to understand our fathers because we are like them.

Jana N
5 years ago

A fiction book I’d reccomend is Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Beth Russo
5 years ago

Two great ones that are fiction but took bits of things that actually happened are Necessary Lies and Before We Were Yours. For fun and light, What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty!

Bethany Flokstra
5 years ago

I’m enjoying Crossing to Safety. It’s a story following the lives and friendship of two couples through career frustration and success, children, illness, debt, and separation.

5 years ago

I’ve read that! Stegner, right? I need to get my hands on it again. I liked it very much.

Ruth Weaver's 19 year old son Anthony
5 years ago

Les Miserables has been a terrific read although I am currently only around 20% of the way through the book’s 1,700 pages

5 years ago

🙂 Your name made me laugh. And the title – I’ve never had the muscle to work my way though. Perhaps it should be next on my list!

Ruth Weaver
5 years ago
Reply to  Shari

Yes well. My son is good at a lot of things, including shocking me slightly on a regular basis.
I have not read Les Miserables myself yet–not sure about my brain muscles either. However, Anthony said he’s been enjoying it as much as Micheal O’Brien, so I should perhaps give it a try.

5 years ago

Don’t you hate it when we do this- Give you what didn’t ask for? Nonfiction again, but my son and I both recently devoured Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken.

5 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl

Not a problem! Like God, you give great gifts even when they’re not what I asked for. I just have to trust that you know what you’re doing. (If you knew how my heart is shrieking with laughter here, you’d appreciate it more.)

I’ll take any suggestions you have. The comments on this post are creating a lovely to-read list for me!

Jeanie M
5 years ago

To Kill A Mockingbird

5 years ago

I just finished reading “Hattie Big Sky”. This is historical fiction about a sixteen year old girl who attempts to prove a claim in Montana. There is some language in it, but I laughed and cried my way through. One of the best fiction books I’ve read in a while!

Ruth Anna
5 years ago

Definitely “The Help”! I read the book, watched the movie, and also found an audio version at the thrift store! Love it!

5 years ago

Have you ever read Jamie Langston Turner? Fiction, yes but so real to life! If you haven’t you must begin with her first…Suncatchers. It is chockfull of delightful Southern Charm. After you read this one you won’t want to stop….and there’s seven in all so they should supply you for a while.

5 years ago
Reply to  K

I have enjoyed Turner very much! Suncatchers was my favorite. I haven’t read them all, though, and should revisit her – thanks!

5 years ago

Thanks for this list. The comments are helpful as well. Over vacation, I listened to Jane Eyre (worth the free trial of Audible). Jane and other characters wrestle with the tension of passion versus “doing the right thing”.

5 years ago

Your comment about worthwhile fiction giving you hope for the world… Yes!
My favorites are quite old, but if someone hasn’t read them, they are worth searching for.
The Robe by Lloyd Douglas
Ishmael & Self-Raised by E.D.E.N. Southworth
St. Elmo by Augusta J. Evans
And for nonfiction, Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening is completely heartwarming and Unbroken is gripping.

I’m off to the library! Thanks!

Deborah Heatwole
5 years ago

I can’t wait to read “The Help”! And I just reread “The Scarlet Pimpernel”. It’s a good one.

Karen Bean de la Rosa
5 years ago

Your description of The Help piqued my interest and the positive comments about the book made me think I should hunt it down. I didn’t think there was much hope of me finding the actual book here in Guatemala, so I looked for the audio book on YouTube….and found it! It’s read very well and I’m really enjoying it. Thanks for the recommendation!

Linda Stoltzfus
5 years ago

It eats me up that I’m certain I recently saw the book “A Man Called Ove” at some used book venue/yard sale and because I hadn’t read your recommendation I left it lay. I won’t do that again.

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