Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander (2012)

Dr. Eben Alexander was close to death for a week. The memories from that week have changed his life and the way he thinks about life after death. In Proof of Heaven, Alexander pulls the reader into his drama and can cause a life changing shift in perspective. Listening to Alexander’s own voice recount his experiences made it all the more powerful a message.

When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards (2016)

This is my first Emilie Richards book, but it won’t be my last! It’s a captivating and emotional story about two women, Cecilia and Robin, who met as children in foster care and became “forever sisters.” Cecilia is a superstar singer-songwriter who agrees to do a documentary film on the foster care system. She asks Robin to join this project as a photographer, and to share their experiences together. Throughout this endeavor, we learn about the foster care system through the eyes and experiences of these two women. More importantly, we learn about the strength of the human spirit to overcome past traumas and develop into loving, successful adults.

Anyone who enjoys complex characterizations and explorations of social issues will enjoy When We Were Sisters.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

Colson Whitehead’s newest novel seeks to answer one question: what if the Underground Railroad were an actual railroad? This is, unfortunately, where the fantasy ends and the cruel truth of our country’s past sets in. Cora is a young woman who grew up in slavery on a Georgia plantation. When she was a child, her mother escaped, leaving Cora bitter and orphaned and later an outcast. When another slave, Caesar, approaches her with a plan to escape, at first she refuses, but eventually the two set out for freedom together, taking an underground steam train to northern states. Though the planation is behind them, other horrors await as each state is like its own world, not to mention a famous slave catcher is hot on their trail.

The Underground Railroad is by no means an easy read, but it is a rewarding one. Whitehead makes the journey personal through Cora and the people she meets along the way, and his narrative style is unmatched. Additionally, Bahni Turpin’s excellent narration really brings everything into focus. By the end, it will be clear to see why this book has won so many awards and distinctions, including the National Book Award.

See Me by Nicholas Sparks (2015)

As with all of Nicholas Sparks’ novels, a developing romance is central to the story. In See Me, an unlikely pair meet and are shepherded together by the sister and friends. The reader wonders how a traumatized and tattooed cage fighter (Colin) with a criminal past could hit it off with a young woman lawyer (Maria) fresh from the county prosecutor’s office. And also fresh is the senior partner in Maria’s new firm where she hopes to advance, maybe to partner. More amazing are the changes in Colin’s life: he is now studying hard with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. Yet persons from Maria’s past bring trauma and thirst for revenge to the story so the reader has an exciting ride as danger enfolds and challenges the characters.

The Old Man by Thomas Perry (2017)

For thirty-five years, Dan Chase has lived quietly in Vermont, raising a daughter and happily married until his wife died ten years ago. Chase has kept himself mentally and physically sharp waiting for the day when someone discovers who he really is and comes to kill him. That day is now. All those years ago, Chase delivered $20 million for the CIA to a man named Faris Hamzah, who was supposed to give the money to Libyan insurgents. Instead, Hamzah kept the money for himself. Chase stole it back, and when he tried to get in touch with his superiors, they cut him off completely. Chase had no choice but to disappear. Now on the run, trying to outwit and overpower those who are coming after him, it’s a cat and mouse game to see who comes out on top. Thomas Perry’s The Old Man is an extremely satisfying fast-paced thriller perfect for a cold winter’s day.

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker (2016)

For the inquisitive cat admirer, and cat disdainer alike, this book offers an entertaining look at the house cat’s story: from practically self-domesticating, to multiplying into staggering numbers worldwide, and winning our affection (true for most of us, that is). Abigail Tucker, the book’s author, is squarely in the cat lover camp, yet she’s forced to admit that cats don’t really have any practical use (this is the part cat haters will like).

Read The Lion in the Living Room to find out why cats may develop floppy ears and curly tails in the future; to discover the identity of the man who believes cats are “a tsunami of violence and death;” to learn why cat memes are considered by at least one meme researcher–that’s right, I said meme researcher—to be immortal; and to learn many more curious facts about our adorable pets.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015)

nightingaleThis is one of my recent favorite books. I could not stop reading this compelling story of two sisters during the Nazi occupation of France, and how the war impacts each in very different ways. These strong women are inspiring and unforgettable, as they endure the unimaginable. All of the characters in The Nightingale really brought the story of the French Resistance to life. I felt as if I were reading a true story. There are twists and turns that kept me engaged until the bitter end.

I highly recommend Kristin Hannah’s latest novel for anyone who enjoys reading about WWII history, or about strong women in extraordinary circumstances. It would also be a great book for book clubs.

 

The Crossing by Michael Connelly (2015)

crossingMichael Connelly lets his two popular characters – Detective Harry Bosch and his half-brother Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) – cross paths and work together in The Crossing. Thus the reader is treated to the tactics and viewpoints of both defense and police as the investigation proceeds. But Harry is not at all comfortable working with the defense even though he has been forced into retirement by the police. He can’t help feeling like a traitor crossing over to the enemy and can only justify helping a defense lawyer by saying he is searching for the true killer. Other baffling crossings occur among the killers, victims, and the police who cross to the dark side.