Book List 2013

1. Alice Waters & Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee
As a novice foodie, I enjoyed this book even though it is a bit tedious at times. The story is told by McNamee through the voices of those closet to Alice Waters--former employees, friends and Waters, herself. If you're unfamiliar with Alice Waters, you should know that she is one of the first to push buying and eating locally. So much so that when she opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in the 1970s, this was a requirement for foods in her restaurant. There are recipes scattered throughout, and the description of foods in the book is delightful to this novice foodie.

2. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
I was directed to Rachel Held Evans' blog a little over a year ago. From the first entry I read, I was hooked. Though I don't always agree with her--or anyone, she is a fabulous writer who offers well-researched and thought-out points to often controversial topics. This book is quite controversial in some circles. As an evangelical woman with a sprinkling of Episcopalian, it was liberating. I'll definitely re-read it in the next few months.

3. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Last year, I read The Devil in the White City by this same author. Although it was creepy, I enjoyed it so much. I knew that I'd have to read In the Garden of Beasts when I saw it in an airport bookstore. I was shocked and saddened and a little outraged by this story of pre-World War II. It's narrative non-fiction, so it's a pretty easy read.

4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
This is a funny, funny book. I really like Mindy Kaling--and her character, "Mindy Lahiri," in The Mindy Project. I actually read this book because I feel like I'd be best friends with either Mindy Kaling or Lahiri. Most likely it'd be Lahiri; she seems a bit more awkward.

5. Crowded Skies: Letters to Manhattan by Tara-Leigh Cobble
6. Orange Jumpsuit: Letters to the God of Freedom by Tara-Leigh Cobble (TLC)
(Back story: I read TLC's first book, Here's to Hindsight: Letters to my Former Self, years ago. And I loved it. She is super good friends with one of my friends, Christine, so that's how I came to know about and meet TLC.) I loved these books. Loved them. Only I read them back-to-back in three days, so I don't remember which one is which. But her love for the Lord and honesty with her relationship with Him is good. Really good. I'll re-read these, for sure.

7. Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
I started reading Melanie Shankle's blog, Big Mama, a few of years ago. She is a funny writer who sprinkles truth into her writing. I really, really enjoyed this book. It had the funny stories I expect from her, as well as honesty about motherhood--which I hope to experience someday.

8. A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
So far, this book is my favorite for the year. I love, love her style of writing. It's inclusive and straight-forward. A Homemade Life is a compilation of essays about early adulthood and recipes important to stages of her life. Molly writes the blog Orangette

9. Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
I absolutely love everything Shauna writes. Her previous books, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, remain some of my favorites. Written as a series of essays with recipes scattered throughout, she openly shares her life. This book will be a mainstay in my kitchen.

10. Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
This book made me want to travel to France, specifically Paris. As the author falls in love and is consumed by French cuisine, she learns how to master the Parisian markets and dishes. Like the previous entries, this book has many great recipes.

11. Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons
I love the honesty of this book. Rebekah openly shares her struggle with anxiety and depression. Then shares what happens when she calls for God to rescue her. A good read.

12. The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore
This was my first fiction read of the year, and I liked it so much that I read it in three days. The story about a girl, Bezellia, from a prominent Nashville family is set in the 1960s and is full of the complicated relationships between races. Though her parents are in the home, she and her sister are raised by their housekeeper, Maizelle, and handyman/jack-of-all-trades, Nathanial. They are her family. Bezellia dreams big with hopes and expectation that the status quo of relationships between black and white will change.

13. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
This book is such a fun read. The style is different from a typical novel; it's written as emails, faxes, letters and flashbacks, all in an effort to find Bernadatte. I chuckled and laughed throughout the book, though there were disappointments and real life playing throughout.

14. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore
I enjoyed The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove so much that I wanted to read Gilmore's first book. If you like for stories to have nice, happy endings, these books might not be for you. Personally, I don't mind a melancholy story or ending. In this book, Catherine Grace Cline is desperate to leave her small, southern town. So much so, that she begins saving every dollar she makes from an early age. But once she leaves Ringgold to make a new start in Atlanta, tragedy brings her back and alters her perspective on small-town life. After a couple of twists in the story, Catherine Grace decides that she can, perhaps, be the change that Ringgold needs.

15. The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore
Oh, dear. This book was so sad and sweet and full of despair and hope. I obviously love this author. Emmalee Bullard is the main character. She grew up in a very poor area of Tennessee. Her mother died when she was a young child, and she is raised by her alcoholic father who is violent when drunk. Emmalee gets pregnant and is left alone with her child and father. Just as she is to be rescued from these dire circumstances by Leona, a former coworker and friend, Leona and her husband are killed in a terrible accident. Emmalee is devasted and decides to make a burial dress for the only person who has shown her love since the death of her mother. This is a terrific read, full of redemption at the end.

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