Books are bread and water for me. You may think that’s metaphor, but I mean it quite literally. I feel the need for reading like I do a sudden drop in blood sugar. My introverted, sensitive self falls apart regularly. Time spent with a book puts me back together.

It won’t surprise you to know that my bookshelves are crammed. Two whole rooms in this house are practically devoted to them. There is also my desk. That’s where the stacks of library books live.

Recently, I’ve had so many friends ask for book recommendations that I knew I needed to do something. Of course, the easiest and best way to share books would be to sit with you on my old green sofa and talk our way through a stack of them.

Here’s my plan for “next best.” Every Saturday I’ll give you a glimpse of my bookshelves. I’ll share old favorites. I’ll share the latest thing on my bedside table. I won’t write long reviews (because these days I’d rather be reading than reviewing), but I’ll try to nudge you towards books I’ve enjoyed, no matter the category.

I read widely. You can expect anything from cookbooks to poetry to theology to children’s picture books. And maybe you’ll comment with some recommendations of your own? I would love that.

I have my nine-year-old daughter to thank for this first book. She found Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai at her school library, and she’s been reading it aloud to me. Years of having to listen to Junie B. Jones and Wimpy Kid exploits are now redeemed. This book is exquisite. Written as narrative poetry, this story of a young Vietnamese war refugee making a new life in Alabama is accessible for a child but still powerful for an adult. It will break your heart. In a good way.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty reads like a fluffy, fun beach read. Don’t be fooled. There is a lot more going on here. In this novel Alice bumps her head and forgets the previous ten years of her life. She wakes up believing she is pregnant with her firstborn and madly in love with her new husband. In reality, she is an angry mother-of-three in the midst of a divorce. Observing Alice negotiate the chasm between the life she has and the one she remembers is not only fun (I loved every character in this book), it is eye-opening. Fluffy on the outside, yes, but this book offers real wisdom on the subjects of marriage and motherhood.

My husband gave me three cookbooks and a pasta maker for Christmas. He knows me well. One of those books is Vintage Cakes: Timeless Recipes for Cupcakes, Flips, Rolls, Layer, Angel, Bundt, Chiffon, and Icebox Cakes for Today’s Sweet Tooth (yes, that’s a mouthful) by Julie Richardson. I can’t stop reading her descriptions of desserts I’ve mostly never heard of. Pink Champagne Cake, anyone? As of the new year, I am back on my no-added-sugar diet. Surprisingly, this book is actually helping. I’m finding it easier to say no to chocolate today because I’ve promised myself a little cake over the weekend. I’ll let you know which recipe I choose.

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