My reading preferences are memoir, narrative non-fiction, and realistic/YA fiction. I am on GoodReads and love sharing my latest reads there. Here are a few of my favorites. (Some include an Amazon affiliate link). I talk about a few of these on Josephine Elia's podcast if you are a bookworm + podcast listener, as well.

NON-FICTION

The Byline Bible: Get Published in Five Weeks is a supremely helpful resource for anyone trying to drum up the courage to pitch/submit their writing work. Shapiro shows her readers how to do it *well* and includes many examples of work both she and her students have successfully placed with major publications. I found her sample pitches worth buying the book alone. The book is as tactical as it is entertaining. I highly recommend this as a must have accompaniment who is looking to freelance part-time or even as a full-time hustle.

I reviewed The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions in-depth here: https://www.kendrastantonlee.com/blog/2019/5/13/review-the-next-right-thing-by-emily-p-freeman

I recommend Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed, especially for women who are navigating a season of life in which they are planting seeds but not yet seeing much fruit. Sara Hagerty is a gifted writer and her exposition of the story of Mary of Bethany was powerful.

       

Men Explain Things to Me is a powerful little compendium of essays on current issues in feminism as well as their historical underpinnings. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in looking at women's fight for equal treatment with male counterparts through some different lenses than may have been offered by other literature and media on this topic.

       

Bringing Up Bebe is wonderfully informative and a great companion read to all hyper American parenting guides. Sometimes the chapters run a little redundant, e.g. We get it. French kids don't snack. The voice is relatable and good-humored for the most part which made this an enjoyable book on the whole. It revolutionized how I parent, especially leaning more into Montessori methods than hovering like a nervous helicopter parent.

     

RIP Anthony Bourdain. Kitchen Confidential gave us such a revelation of the restaurant kitchen, an NYC chef's life, and you wrote with memorable, unapologetic prose. No wonder this book launched your career since we were hungry for more of that guileless description.        

I was surprised how much I liked Produced by Faith. The larger metaphor of filmmaking mirroring the fidelity-to-dreams pursuit might sound hokey, but this book really pulls it off. I love Franklin's testimony about being a Seventh-day Adventist and how that has shaped his career and life decisions. I really do endorse this book as a good self-help for anyone, especially a recent high school/college graduate.

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MEMOIR

I don't know how The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying could be better or more beautiful. It was so lyrical without being sentimental, so honest and humorous a voice. I am around the age Nina was when she wrote this, the mother of two, married to a college sweetheart, living on the campus she once called home. Her story was unique but there were so many threads that are woven into my own life. I especially loved the Montaigne and Emerson as muses, as well as the voices of her sons and husband throughout.

I'm not sure if my specific interests in Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays are enough to make these essays as appealing to others, but the writing is very, very good. As a writer (essayist) and the mother of half-Korean kids, Chee's insights were especially intriguing for me, as he has had success as a writer and teacher and is half-Korean. Some or perhaps most of the essays are about fairly banal topics like gardening and being a cater waiter. But those ended up being my favorites because of the elegant writing and thoughtful ways Chee can appreciate the larger metaphors at work in his life.

Detroit: An American Autopsy
is about the rise and fall of a great American city with the narrator's own life narrative transposed over it. Charlie LeDuff is such an entertaining, thoughtful writer. I just loved this book. If you have an interest in U.S. cities are native to a Great Lakes City (Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Rochester, etc.), you will appreciate LeDuff's memoir/journalism blend.

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir
- This is how a memoir should be: deftly written, holding nothing back. Super devastating at times, but funny and smart, too.

Between the World and Me
is an elegy and an American history lesson all wrapped up within the memoir category. It's a relatively short book but it took me several days to absorb it. The writing is so elegant and the message so potent, namely that race is an invention of people who plundered the black body to achieve abundance. I'm just beginning to exhale.

I don't know if there is anyone who reaches for Christian memoir who has not yet read Kate Bowler's memoir, but for the last person on earth who hasn't, please please pick this up and pick up a second copy. You're going to need to give it to someone who is weathering the hardest struggle for which there are no clear answers or clever advice. Love Bowler's pithy voice, the scholarship about the prosperity Gospel, and the sweetness of the relationships she describes.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.: Essays is so stinking funny. Naughty. Sometimes poignant. I want to write like Sam Irby. I don't understand why we can't meet in real life, though.

FICTION

The Last Runaway: A Novel - I loved this book. Great momentum that is the mark of other Chevalier books. Excellent character development. Fascinating historical fiction that showed excellent research about the Underground Railroad and mid-1800s Ohio towns. I was most pleased that Chevalier truly avoided depicting the black characters as Magical Negroes, but rather as three-dimensional characters with complexity and lives at stake. The main character, Honor, was somewhat flat at times and I can't decide if it was intentional in order to move the story along. Highly recommend.

I don't think you can ever forget Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It's futuristic, somewhat dystopian, a commentary on everything we hold sacred, a story of survival -- it's just brilliantly written.

Americanah is such an interesting and powerful read. The plot isn't linear but is captivating enough that each strand of the story is one you'll want to follow. The romance has just enough magic to inspire but is rooted in the reality of how people are, no matter their country of origin or culture. Sometimes the discussion on race--either with Ifemelu's blog or other characters pontificating--were heavy-handed and didn't play very organically into the story, like Adichie was trying to unpack all of her thoughts ever on race, discrimination. But on the whole, an enlightening, memorable read and core curriculum for anyone who voted for Obama in 2008.

 

Eleanor & Park
is such a sweet note in the YA genre. Complex within a very straightforward framework. Oscillating between just two voices, but so much more happening between the layers: young, desperate love; intercultural/interclass dynamics; an exploration of retro 80s punk scene. And of course, I'm fond of the characters - gal of western European descent falls for half-Korean fellow. Sometimes the writing is pitch perfect, sometimes it's a bit of a stretch, but such a worthwhile read.      

Peace Like a River
is a beauty of a book. Enough suspense to keep you interested but the author is not economical with words; page after page of beautiful prose. Such innocent but lovely characters.          

This is another sweet work of fiction even though it's called Sourdough ;) This is one I recommend for anyone looking to read something lighthearted but in which the writing isn't too bubblegummy and it still requires a modicum of brain power to follow some of the larger metaphors.