8 books recommended by readers with great taste.

For the 2015 Reading Challenge, I’m blogging through one category per month, in order. (Don’t worry—you don’t have to read them in order.)

So far we’ve covered:

  1. a book you’ve been meaning to read
  2. a book published this year
  3. a book in a genre you don’t typically read
  4. a book from your childhood
  5. a book your mom loves
  6. a book that was originally written in a different language
  7. a book ‘everyone’ has read but you
  8. a book you chose because of the cover
  9. a book by a favorite author

The 2015 Reading Challenge. I'm starting now!

This month’s category is “a book recommended by someone with great taste.” I thought it would be fun to share some picks from a few of the readers I look to for help when I’m trying to decide what to read next. I asked them what book they’d recommend to me or to Modern Mrs Darcy readers. These are their answers:

Amy Clark blogs at Mom Advice about everything moms might be interested in. I love that her understanding of those categories includes lots of good books.  Amy reads piles of contemporary fiction, and I look to her when I’m weighing whether or not to read a hot new release.

Amy Clark recommends
Whistling Past the Graveyard

Whistling Past the Graveyard

I read this beautiful book in just a couple of short days and absolutely fell in love with it. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, I fear for you. It’s that endearing. In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla’s destination is Nashville, where her mother went to become a famous singer, abandoning Starla when she was three. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Now, on the road trip that will change her life forever, Starla sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be. This book is so beautiful your heart aches. A coming-of-age story about what it means to be family and how the most unlikely people can be a part of that despite all racial and societal barriers. More info →

Emily Freeman is the author of Simply Tuesday and blogger at Chatting at the Sky, which she calls “a space for your soul to breathe,” and where she regularly shares her recommended reads.

Emily Freeman recommends
Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence

"Because so much of my faith journey from high school through my early twenties was defined by rules, discipline, and perfectionism, I have been weary of anything that hints at that in books that I read. I discovered Ruth's writing a few years ago at a time in my life when I started to return to the idea of spiritual practices from a more healthy perspective, not as a rule but as a rhythmic way of life. This book was a lovely introduction for me into the importance of the practice of solitude and silence. Her voice is accessible and has helped to inform my own writing and life." More info →

Katie Gibson blogs about savoring the everyday at Cakes, Tea and Dreams. She posts regular updates on what she’s reading, a nice mix of old and new, kid lit and adult, fiction and memoir. She’s quite good at the one-paragraph summary. (When I did literary matchmaking for Katie I called it fiction recommendations for the anglophile.

Katie Gibson recommends
Essays of E. B. White

Essays of E. B. White

"I read and loved Charlotte's Web as a child, of course, but only discovered White's work for grown-ups a few years ago. He wrote regularly and prolifically for The New Yorker, and this essay collection contains about 30 of his meditations on (among other things) farm life, baseball, humor, technological progress, political turmoil, childhood memories and his deep affection for New York. He is wise, witty, often self-deprecating, quietly intelligent and a keen observer. I've read nearly everything he's written over the last several years and would recommend it all - but this sparkling, eclectic collection is a good place to start." More info →

Jessica Howard is a serious booklover and former bookstore worker who blogs at Quirky Bookworm. She reads way more YA and historical fiction picks than I do, and I rely on her to send the best ones my way.

Jessica Howard recommends


"I like to say that Georgette Heyer is like Jane Austen, but funnier. She wrote more than sixty books in a variety of genres, but my favorite are her Regency romances. They’re clever, wordy, vivid depictions of 19th century life in the British upper class. Frederica is one of Heyer’s best heroines - resourceful, funny, and intelligent. And the way she and her cast of hilariously demanding younger siblings take down the bored Marquis of Alverstoke? Priceless. Watching him transform from a top-lofty dilettante into someone who cares deeply about Frederica and her family is irresistible." More info →

Leigh Kramer is a self-described book nerd and shares frequent updates on the reading life and what she’s reading on her eponymous blog. Our tastes overlap but aren’t identical: she puts lots of good books on my radar, and can tell me truly if they’re worth my time.

Leigh Kramer recommends
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

"I read this earlier this year and if I could make the entire world read it, I would. It's eye opening and important and powerful. Stevenson has done incredible work through the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal practice he started, dedicated to serving the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden. The book is part memoir, part treatise on the state of the legal system. We follow the story of Walter, a man on Alabama's Death Row who proclaims his innocence, and meet Stevenson's other clients as he built his practice in the 1980s and the subsequent areas of injustice they've battled to this day, including death penalty sentences for children and the treatment of the mentally ill. There's also a surprising appearance by To Kill A Mockingbird—the irony and ignorance will knock you flat." More info →

Crystal Paine blogs about intentional finance, intentional family, and intentional business at Money Saving Mom. Crystal reads widely, including lots of nonfiction that wouldn’t otherwise be on my radar.

Crystal Paine recommends
Daring Greatly

Daring Greatly

Probably the most life-changing book for me to read in recent years. I know it's not some obscure book, but it's the one I'm constantly recommending. This book impacted me deeply and my life will never be the same as a result. In fact, I was so challenged by it that I had a necklace made that I wear almost all the time as a reminder. More info →

Marybeth Whalen is a published author and co-founder of the excellent online book club site She Reads, which shares excellent fiction recommendations aimed at women:

Marybeth Whalen recommends
A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove

"Apart from any surprises the audio version, narrated by George Newbern, is holding out as my favorite read this year. The way Newbern portrays Ove—I literally laughed and cried in the span of two pages. I'm listening to Every Fifteen Minutes narrated by him now. It is possible I've given myself a reading challenge of bingeing on a large number of books he's narrated. #narratorcrush" More info →

Michelle runs the instagram account Book Musings (it’s one of my favorites), where she regularly inspires envy among book-lovers with photographs of her beautiful classics collection.

Michelle recommends
Someone at a Distance

Someone at a Distance

Someone at a Distance is a quiet novel as far as plot goes but Whipple is an expert at fleshing out her characters and her psychological insight into the human mind and heart is unmatched. Whipple is a natural storyteller and her books make for compulsive reading; you can't help but turn the page. It starts off as a simple story of a middle class happy family living in England after WWII. Ellen and Avery have been married for twenty years and have two children. They are happily living their lives, to the envy of some of the people who know them, when Avery's mother advertises for a companion. The French young woman who arrives sets her sights on Avery and threatens the happy marriage. As Whipple states, "Things go wrong, even in exceptionally happy families." Whipple writes the kind of stories that linger in your mind long after you finish them. I'm hoping more people discover and read them because they're just so good! More info →

8 books recommended by readers with great taste.


Leave A Comment
  1. Sara K. says:

    Well my reading list just got longer…again! 🙂 No complaints. Just wish I could read the books as fast as I put them on the list!

    For my book recommended by someone with great taste I read The Strange Case of Dr Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde. My 14-year-old niece put her copy into my hands and insisted that I MUST read it! This is the same sweet teenager that is obsessed with Shakespeare and always has a book recommendation ready for her Aunt Sara 🙂 I think her sophistication goes well beyond her years! She reads plenty of YA fiction, but she is learning to love and appreciate the classics at a much younger age that I did.

  2. I love E.B. White’s essays. We read several of them for a creative nonfiction writing class I took years ago. I may have to dust off the book and enjoy them again. And, Someone from a Distance looks great! I’m adding it to my “List of Books I Want to Read” on my library’s website (um, that may make the list over 100….). 🙂

  3. Jenny says:

    Great recommendations. I just started reading A Man Called Ove and I am loving it. As I was reading, I realized it was originally written in Swedish, so it works for the “written in a different language” Reading Challenge category as well.

  4. liz n. says:

    True story:

    I was at Half Price Books, looking for “A Man Called Ove,” but couldn’t remember the whole title, much less the author or translator. Also could not find an employee who wasn’t busy with another customer, so I was wandering around, muttering to myself: “A man called…a man called…arrggghh…a man called….” And from an aisle over somewhere, some lady I can’t see says, “Oh, just call him back!”


  5. Jesssica says:

    I found one of my all-time favorite books here in a comment left by a fellow reader. It’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. (The sequel, A Well-Tempered Heart, is also indescribably lovely.) Unfortunately, I can’t remember who recommended it but I’m eternally grateful!!

  6. Dana says:

    I loved A Man Called Ove and Whistling Past the Graveyard.
    Frederik Bachman and Susan Crandall both have new books out that I have my eye on.

    EB White’s Essays sound good. I have started reading more essays. I will check out some of the other titles you mentioned as well.
    For my book in this category I have picked up The Tiger’s Wife. It was recommended by my brother who is the most well read person I know. I have not started it yet, but I’m looking forward to it. He and I traded recommendations. He got The Name of The Wind after I raved about it. We spent a delightful couple of hours together at a bookstore last week.

  7. Ha, well this list just caused me to spend way too much time on Goodreads, but it has me super excited to start working on some of these reads!
    I enjoyed hearing the recommendations from your friends; is this how you come across most of your book recommendations or do you get them somewhere else?

    • Anne says:

      Word of mouth is a big one; I also hear them in the media and from my local bookstore, and now that I’ve been blogging a few years I get a lot of info from publishers and publicists. I don’t trust the latter as much as word of mouth, valuable as it sometimes is. 🙂

  8. English Carrie says:

    I would urge anyone to read Someone at a Distance. Dorothy Whipple is a remarkable, unjustifiaby neglected writer. Her characters really live,and the consequences of their actions seem true. She is a genius at what I would call ‘domestic feminism’. I’ve read all of her works; this and High Wages are my favourite (the only one I have reservations about recommending is They Were Sisters which deals with an abusive marriage). Incidentally, Whipple’s novel The Priory is recommended to another character by the heroine of E.M Delafield’ s Provincial Lady in Wartime as the book which has given her tremendous joy AND has a happy ending. Persephone is a fabulous independent publisher and bookseller; I would recommend your readers checking out their website.

  9. Lee Ann says:

    Frederica? Oh, my goodness, yes! It’s one of my very favorite Heyer novels. One of the things Heyer did so well is writing supporting characters who have some depth and are interesting on their own; they aren’t just there to move the plot along. This novel is full of them.

  10. Tory says:

    My “person with great taste” was you, Anne (as I’m sure was the case for many of your readers!) Of course I read a lot of books you recommend, but for this category I wanted something I never would have heard of or thought to read otherwise. There were actually two – I Capture the Castle, and Crossing to Safety. Both were really outstanding, and I feel like my life is a little richer for having read them. Both are so understated and subtle, without perfect resolutions, with well developed characters that really stuck with me.

  11. Raela says:

    Two thumbs up for the Heyer rec! I’m really not a re-reader, but I do re-read Heyer’s books–they make me laugh every single time. Love her dry wittiness! Plus, she knows how to make you wait until almost the last page for the resolution and rarely drags the story on longer than it needs to be.

  12. Guest says:

    After a trip to the library this weekend, I found myself very taken with Candice Bergen’s new memoir, A Fine Romance. I finished it yesterday and am quite annoyed that I keep thinking about it.

    I suppose that’s a good and bad thing about interesting books. I’m not even a big fan of memoirs but found hers captivating. Check one for genre I don’t normally read. 🙂

  13. Jessica has been telling me to read Frederica forever. 🙂 And I loved Susan Crandall’s new novel, The Flying Circus, but haven’t read Whistling Past the Graveyard. Also intrigued by Michelle’s rec!

  14. Kelli says:

    I’ve heard such good things about Just Mercy – I can’t wait to read it… and now most of these others are on my Goodreads list as well 🙂 . For this category, my pick was Still Life by Louise Penny, since you’ve recommended it so highly. I loved it and now can’t wait to read her other books!

      • Tory says:

        I also read Still Life on Anne’s recommendation, and didn’t really like it. But in the subsequent months I find myself thinking about it, musing about the characters and wondering what happens next. I think I actually DID like the story, I just really disliked the narrator for the audio book! I may have to pick up the next book in the series on paper.

  15. Michelle says:

    I loved reading all the recommendations and being able to participate in this by recommending Someone at a Distance. ? Can’t wait to look all these other ones up on Goodreads.

  16. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    Once a teacher in self development told us we had to read Tuesdays with Morris, I and one of my best friends (doctorate in psychology) thought it was nothing. I would suggest Stephen Cowey’s The 7 habits of highly intelligent people. I studied it together with a friend who became my coach in this. It was a great experience. But it also made me realize that the win/win situation in life is among the best.

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