This post needs very little introduction. Memorial Day weekend will be here before you know it — time to pack our beach bags full of books. But what books? I reached out to the voracious readers of Emmanuel and collected a treasure trove of recommendations! I promise you there is something on the list (listed “from the library of” alphabetically) to wet the literary appetite of virtually every kind of reader. Descriptions lifted directly from GoodReads.📚
From the Library of Pat Barbarowicz:📚
The Last Green Valley, by Mark Sullivan
Caught between two warring forces and overcoming horrific trials to pursue their hope of immigrating to the West, the Martels’ story is a brutal, complex, and ultimately triumphant tale that illuminates the extraordinary power of love, faith, and one family’s incredible will to survive and see their dreams realized.
The Authenticity Project, Claire Polley
The Authenticity Project’s cast of characters–including Hazard, the charming addict who makes a vow to get sober; Alice, the fabulous mommy Instagrammer whose real life is a lot less perfect than it looks online; and their other new friends–is by turns quirky and funny, heartbreakingly sad and painfully true-to-life. It’s a story about being brave and putting your real self forward–and finding out that it’s not as scary as it seems. In fact, it looks a lot like happiness.
From the Library of Beth Boland:📚
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
Considered to be one of Agatha Christie’s most controversial mysteries, The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd breaks the rules of traditional mystery. The peaceful English village of King’s Abbot is stunned. The widow Ferrars dies from an overdose of veronal. Not twenty-four hours later, Roger Ackroyd—the man she had planned to marry—is murdered. It is a baffling case involving blackmail and death, that taxes Hercule Poirot’s “grey cells” before he reaches one of the most startling conclusions of his career.
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a little private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. A famous nursery rhyme is framed and hung in every room of the mansion.
Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life, Laura Thompson
Who was the woman behind these mystifying, yet eternally pleasing, puzzlers? Thompson reveals the Edwardian world in which Christie grew up, explores her relationships, including those with her two husbands and daughter, and investigates the many mysteries still surrounding Christie’s life, most notably, her eleven-day disappearance in 1926.
Good Omens, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.
From the Library of Toni Buranen:📚
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Kim Michele Richardson
In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.
From the Library of Amelie Cagle:📚
Down the Hatch (Agatha Raisin #32), M.C. Beaton
Private detective Agatha Raisin, having recently taken up power-walking, is striding along a path in Mircester Park during her lunch break when she hears a cry for help. Rushing over, she finds an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Swinburn, in the middle of the green–with the body of an old man lying at their feet.
From the Library of Victoria Clibon:📚
Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with–of all things–her mind. True chemistry results.
The Golden Couple, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Wealthy Washington suburbanites Marissa and Matthew Bishop seem to have it all—until Marissa is unfaithful. Beneath their veneer of perfection is a relationship riven by work and a lack of intimacy. She wants to repair things for the sake of their eight-year-old son and because she loves her husband. Enter Avery Chambers.
The Fields, Erin Young
A breakneck procedural that is beautifully written and masterfully crafted, Erin Young’s The Fields is a dynamite debut—crime fiction at its very finest. Somethings don’t stay buried.
Beautiful Country: A Memoir, Qian Julie Wang
In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.
We Are the Brennans, Tracey Lange
When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all—and her high school sweetheart—five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions.
The Cave Dwellers, Christina McDowell
They are the families considered worthy of a listing in the exclusive Green Book—a discriminative diary created by the niece of Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary. Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington—generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege.
The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd
“I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus.” Raised in a wealthy family in Sepphoris with ties to the ruler of Galilee, Ana is rebellious and ambitious, a relentless seeker with a brilliant, curious mind and a daring spirit. She yearns for a pursuit worthy of her life, but finds no outlet for her considerable talents. Defying the expectations placed on women, she engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes secret narratives about neglected and silenced women. When she meets the eighteen-year-old Jesus, each is drawn to and enriched by the other’s spiritual and philosophical ideas. He becomes a floodgate for her intellect, but also the awakener of her heart.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue, Fiona Davis
In nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis’s latest historical novel, a series of book thefts roils the iconic New York Public Library, leaving two generations of strong-willed women to pick up the pieces.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years.
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness-how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people — sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society — went undercover into asylums to test the legitimacy of psychiatry’s labels. Forced to remain inside until they’d “proven” themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses. Rosenhan’s study broke open the field of psychiatry. But, as Cahalan’s new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems.
Sourdough, Robin Sloan
Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, Mira Jacob
Spanning India in the 70s to New Mexico in the 80s to Seattle in the 90s, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is a winning, irreverent debut novel about a family wrestling with its future and its past.
Circling the Sun, Paula McLain
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl Markham is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance.
The Moor’s Account, Laila Lalmi
In 1527, the conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez sailed from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with a crew of six hundred men and nearly a hundred horses. But from the moment the Narváez expedition landed in Florida, it faced peril—navigational errors, disease, starvation, as well as resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year there were only four survivors: the expedition’s treasurer, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo Maldonado; a young explorer named Andrés Dorantes de Carranza; and Dorantes’s Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori, whom the three Spaniards called Estebanico. These four survivors would go on to make a journey across America that would transform them from proud conquistadores to humble servants, from fearful outcasts to faith healers.
To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
Clay Jannon steps into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay and friends investigate and discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.
From the Library of Nancy Dupree:📚
Winter in Paradise Trilogy, Elin Hilderbrand
Elin Hilderbrand’s Paradise novels–Winter in Paradise, What Happens in Paradise, and Troubles in Paradise–tell the story of a woman who must start anew after her idyllic life is shattered by her husband’s death in a helicopter crash in the Caribbean. When Irene Steele and her two sons arrive on St. John days after the tragedy, they make a shocking discovery: the man they knew as a loving husband and father was in fact living a double life. As the Steeles slowly untangle his web of lies, they face the truth about their family and their own futures. Rich with the lush beauty of the tropics, the Paradise trilogy transports us to an island paradise and unfolds a mesmerizing tale of drama, romance, and intrigue that only Elin Hilderbrand could deliver.
Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Ganache #1), Louise Penny
The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.
A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Armand #2), Louise Penny
Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.
The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Armand Ganache #3), Louise Penny
Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat. It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life.
Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, began her working life at the age of thirteen as a servant in a Belgravia mansion, only to be discovered reading in the library by her employer, Lady Rowan Compton. Fearing dismissal, Maisie is shocked when she discovers that her thirst for education is to be supported by Lady Rowan and a family friend, Dr. Maurice Blanche. But The Great War intervenes in Maisie’s plans, and soon after commencement of her studies at Girton College, Cambridge, Maisie enlists for nursing service overseas.
Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs), Jacqueline Winspear
An eventful year has passed for Maisie Dobbs. Since starting a one-woman private investigation agency in 1929 London, she now has a professional office in Fitzroy Square and an assistant, the happy-go-lucky Billy Beale. She has proven herself as a psychologist and investigator, and has even won over Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad—an admirable achievement for a woman who worked her way from servant to scholar to sleuth, and who also served as a battlefield nurse in the Great War.
From the Library of Pat Hadley:📚
Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.
From the Library of Jane Kolson:📚
The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal
The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who “burned like a comet” in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.
From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East, William Dalrymple
In 587 a.d., two monks set off on an extraordinary journey that would take them in an arc across the entire Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. On the way John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist stayed in caves, monasteries, and remote hermitages, collecting the wisdom of the stylites and the desert fathers before their fragile world finally shattered under the great eruption of Islam. More than a thousand years later, using Moschos’s writings as his guide, William Dalrymple sets off to retrace their footsteps and composes an evensong for a dying civilization.
The Sinai Sisters: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels, Janet Martin Soskice
In 1892, two sisters, identical twins from Scotland, made one of one of most important scriptural discoveries of modern times. Combing the library of St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, they found a neglected palimpsest: beneath an unpreposessing life of female saints, they detected what remains to this day among the earliest known copies of the Gospels, a version in ancient Syriac , the language spoken by Jesus. The Sisters of Sinai is the enthralling account of how two ladies in middle age and without university degrees uncovered and translated this text, bringing a great biblical treasure to world attention.
From the Library of Nancy Kuhn:📚
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
The Midnight Library, Matt Haig
Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?
People We Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, Ibram X. Kendi & Keisha N. Blain (Editors)
An epoch-defining history of African America, the first to appear in a generation, Four Hundred Souls is a chronological account of four hundred years of Black America as told by ninety of America’s leading Black writers.
Fifty Words for Rain, Asha Lemmie
Kyoto, Japan, 1948. “If a woman knows nothing else, she should know how to be silent. . . . Do not question. Do not fight. Do not resist.” Such is eight-year-old Noriko “Nori” Kamiza’s first lesson. She will not question why her mother abandoned her with only these final words. She will not fight her confinement to the attic of her grandparents’ imperial estate. And she will not resist the scalding chemical baths she receives daily to lighten her shameful skin.
From the Library of Pete Nunnally:📚
Beautiful Swimmers, William W. Warner & John Barth
For decades, William Warner’s exploration of the Atlantic blue crab and the Chesapeake Bay has delighted thousands of readers and become a modern American classic. Nature enthusiasts and fans of fine literature alike will find Beautiful Swimmers a timeless and enchanting study in the tradition of Rachel Carson and Annie Dillard.
From the Library of Joani Peacock:📚
The ‘Mermaid of Morwenstow’ excommunicated a cat for mousing on a Sunday. When he was late for a service, Bishop Lancelot Fleming commandeered a Navy helicopter. ‘Mad Jack’ swapped his surplice for leopard skin and insisted on being carried around in a coffin. And then there was the man who, like Noah’s evil twin, tried to eat one of each of God’s creatures… In spite of all this they saw the church as their true calling. These portraits reveal the Anglican church in all its colorful madness.
From the Library of Janie Piemonte:📚
The Prayer Box, Lisa Wingate
When Iola Anne Poole, an old-timer on Hatteras Island, passes away in her bed at ninety-one, the struggling young mother in her rental cottage, Tandi Jo Reese, finds herself charged with the task of cleaning out Iola’s rambling Victorian house.Running from a messy, dangerous past, Tandi never expects to find more than a temporary hiding place within Iola’s walls, but everything changes with the discovery of eighty-one carefully decorated prayer boxes, one for each year.
Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.
A Thousand Voices, Lisa Wingate
Adopted at thirteen, Dell Jordan was loved, mentored, and encouraged to pursue her passion for music. Now, at twenty, after a year abroad with a traveling symphony, a scholarship to Julliard is within reach. But underneath Dell’s smoothly polished surface lurk mysteries from the past. Determined to find answers, Dell sets off on a secret journey into Oklahoma’s Kiamichi Mountains, drawn by the only remaining link to her origins- a father’s Native American name on her birth certificate.
From the Library of Joanie Rodano:📚
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.
Golden Girl, Elin Hilderbrand
On a perfect June day, Vivian Howe, author of thirteen beach novels and mother of three nearly grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while jogging near her home on Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she’s assigned to a Person named Martha, who allows Vivi to watch what happens below for one last summer.
The Wedding Dress, Rachel Hauckabout
Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history-and its new bride-begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.
From the Library of Winnie Smith:📚
Lila, Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder. Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church – the only available shelter from the rain – and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life.
Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie
Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.
Uncategorized Beth Boland Books Clergy Dr. Joanie Rodano Guests Jane Kolson Janie Piemonte Nancy Dupree Nancy Kuhn Parishioners Pat Barbarowicz Pat Hadley Seminarians Staff The Rev. Joan L. Peacock The Rev. Pete Nunnally The Rev. Winnie Smith Toni Buranen Victoria Clibon
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog