Book clubs are fabulous. If you’re a stay-at-home mama, it not only gives you a chance to be around ADULTS and have big girl conversations, but it also gives you the opportunity to experience something outside of the home. You can explore concepts, worlds, and the relationships within the pages of the chosen book; walking away with a new perspective or insight from others that you may not have thought of on your own.
The thing I hear the most though is the horrible phrase, “I don’t have time.”
Look, I get it, really I do.
When you are waist high in dishes, children, homeschooling, work, or whatever else you have going on in your home, books can take a permanent backseat.
Which is why, in times of overload, I turn off the TV, curl up in my bed, and listen to audio books. I used to reserve them at the library, running off of old school cd’s (I know, I have a hard time switching technology over sometimes). The problem with that though is the wait period, combined with the gamble that once you get them, most of the time they are scratched. This makes a less than enjoyable experience, to put it mildly.
And then (que hallelujah chorus), it happened. I FINALLY downloaded Audible. ♫ “HALL-EL-U-JAH!!!”♫
It was like *magic*. I seriously cannot even begin to tell you the beautiful transformation that has occurred since getting this delightful app. I don’t even want to watch television at night anymore- just give me a soft pillow, a good book, and I will lay in the dark for hours just listening. It makes me feel like I’m 9 years old again, only this time I don’t have to turn over my cassette tape to listen to side B.
If you are tired of cd’s, or desperately want to get back to book land, you can sign up through me for an Audible 30-day Free Trial [Digital Membership] here and get TWO FREE BOOKS upon sign up (this is seriously amazing- when I signed up for my free trial, I only got one freebie). What’s great about Audible is that you can listen to a preview before you buy, it bookmarks your spot, you can set a sleep timer, AND since it’s on your phone you can take it anywhere. Solid gold people.
Once you get back on the saddle of reading, seriously mama, join a book club! It is so rewarding and worth the time. If you start your own club and you have no clue what you guys should read, here are 10 of my favorites that really deliver story and are great conversation starters.
Top 10 Books Every Book Club Should Read
Below are my top picks- you can download them through Audible or grab the paperback copy. Don’t worry, NO SPOILERS!
1. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
I’ve been a long time Dresden Dolls fan, ever since I saw them open for Nine Inch Nails mid 2000’s. So naturally, I was excited to read Amanda’s biography. What I wasn’t expecting though, is the firestorm of press that would surround this book, based on her TED talk she did in 2013. You don’t have to be a Dresden Dolls fan to enjoy this story. In fact, what it’s really about, at the core, is vulnerability. Amanda takes us on a bohemian adventure and reminds us that, YES, it’s OKAY to ask for support and/or help. We don’t have to place barriers that prevent us from connection with other human beings. I bought this hard back copy for my birthday in 2015, and then shortly afterwards downloaded her book as my first audible freebie (see above for those details!). Her voice is like freaking velvet- I loved listening to her at night. Definitely worth the read and listen.
2. Silver Linings Playbook by Mathew Quick
I feel in love with SLP very quickly. The main character, Pat Peoples, has just returned home from “the bad place”, and he’s not really sure how he got there. All he knows is that he wants “apart time” to be over with his estranged wife, Niki. You may have heard about (or seen) the movie SLP, starring Bradley Cooper (aka McDreamy) and Jennifer Lawrence (Mrs Dreamy). While no doubt it’s fabulous to stare at Cooper for that long, I didn’t really like that they essentially placed the book inside a movie blender and screwed it all up (my personal opinion, take it or leave it). What I will say though, is that seriously this book touched my heart in so many ways. It deals with mental illness in an abstract way, and as somewhat of a romance novel, it is a refreshing new take on what love means. The narrator for the audible version does a stand up job too.
3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This book felt like listening to a really old fairy tale- beautifully written, and powerfully inspirational, this message really made me feel good. Driven by a dream, the main character (known simply as “the boy” throughout the majority of the book) travels across the desert in search of his personal legend. It’s very short, and if you have nothing else to do, and are a fast reader, you could easily devour this in a day. I literally felt like I was whisked away to a magical land; the author delicately leaving little gems of universal truths along the way. I love stories that leave YOU feeling uplifted and ready to take on the world. This definitely delivers. While I read the book before I had audible, I listened to the preview and Jeremy Irons sounds like he does a fabulous job!
4. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
For years I was strictly a non-fiction kinda gal. WFE gave fiction life for me again!! I read this years ago, at the peak of its hype and previous to the lovely movie starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. If you’ve never read it, OMG you must! I love how Sara Gruen creates this real world feeling, highlighting the pleasures of a traveling circus while at the same time bringing some much needed light to the abuse that elephants (and all animals used for entertainment) are subjected to in this industry. You can easily melt into Jacob’s story as a traveling circus veterinarian who falls in love with the headmaster’s wife. It will always be one of my absolute FAVORITE fiction books ever written.
5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
This book took Barbara Kingsolver over 10 years to write, simply known as “the Africa book” during it’s creation. The story of a family who travels on a mission trip to Africa is compelling; she gives us multiple points of view to deliver a well-rounded vision of the events that occur over time for this family. For me, it was a great conversation piece, as it really made you think about the cultural difference of religion and belief systems. I have not listened to it on audible, but it is something I would definitely dive into!
6. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The way Jeannette Walls writes about her childhood, growing up with her siblings and two irresponsible parents in the mid-west, is admirable. Her writing style makes you feel like you are just listening to a good friend talk over coffee. Despite the fact that she went through some terrible times, she presents it in a light-hearted way, while at the same time diving into the darkness. It’s a great balance. There was so many times when I laughed and cried, feeling totally submersed in her tale of tragedy and recovery. It’s easily one of my top favorites for autobiography and “rags to riches” stories. Jeannette proves that it doesn’t matter where you come from, when you are determined to succeed, nothing can stop you.
7. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz
So, this book is pretty much AMAZING. It’s like the little black book of self-help publications. I slurped up this knowledge with a spoon, enjoying its new spin on positive thinking. Everything can be broken down into agreements, all stemming from our domestication we went through as a child. If we can break the negative agreements that we have been carrying around our whole lives, and instead opt for these four, we can drastically change how we feel about ourselves and how we interact with those around us. While I originally hopped on board with “The Secret,” this book, to me, surpasses the “law-of-attraction” and brings a healthy mindset back down to earth. It’s practical and easy to apply right away. I really enjoyed the audible version of this book too, running at only 4 hours, it was quick and left me feeling replenished. This is five star dining!
8. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg
Long before the tragic Lindberg baby, Anne Morrow wrote this charming book while vacationing alone at her beach house. Each chapter is an in-depth look at a stage of a woman’s life; from maiden to mother to crone. Having brought handfuls of shells inside to examine, Lindberg relates each one to a phase of womanhood, creating beautiful imagery for the reader. I found myself nodding along while reading this book, since I could completely relate to many of the early chapters. I have recommended this book to so many women that I’ve lost count lol. Very profound, short, and a great conversation starter for any ladies book club!
9. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Sure, most of us by now have binge watched episodes of the drama OITNB on Netlix. However, aside from the exaggerations and made for TV plot twists, the original account from Piper Kerman is really a valuable piece of work. It’s interesting to get the REAL scoop on what happened to her when she spent over a year in an all-woman’s prison, as this is nothing like the show. In fact, the book far outweighs it in comparison. What Piper gives us is a real and raw look at our prison system, and how we need to get hold on how we treat prisoners and “criminals” in this country. When we have as many people as we do behind bars, it is VITAL that we start to examine the judicial system. This book makes us think beyond her story, focusing on real life issues that society needs to face. How should we treat prisoners? Do we provide them with the tools to lead better lives beyond bars? Should prisoners lose all rights upon entry, making them susceptible to abuse from guards and authority? Is this system really serving anyone but itself? Powerfully written and brutally honest, OITNB is scary good.
10. Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra
I read EIS in three days. When I wasn’t reading it, all I could think about was how it was going to end…would Regina get her happy ending? EIS is like one step further from “The Glass Castle.” It’s heavy and gritty, and the whole time you are wondering why anyone would have to go through what Regina did. Growing up on Long Island, a young Calcaterra spent her days traveling from place to place with her siblings and deadbeat mother, whom she refers to as “Cookie” in the book. Cookie is verbally and physically abusive, leaving her kids at the drop of a hat and not returning for weeks or months at a time (in one instance, for a whole winter season). Meanwhile, her kids have to figure out how to stay warm and feed themselves. While this is tragic in so many ways, what Regina does for us is bring attention to the ever-growing foster care system, something that many of us know little about. It raises questions that our country desperately needs to face, and provides insight into a world that no child should have to endure. While I haven’t listened to the audible version, it is read by the author, which I’m sure makes it that much more powerful.
My favorite types of books are those that make us think beyond a story- they seep their way into our lives and help make us better people. Likewise, having a book club creates an anchor that many stay-at-home moms NEED, serving as both adult interaction and mind stimulation. I hope you get your hands on one of these great reads, and reach out to women in your circle!
And don’t forget about Aubible! To get your TWO FREE BOOKS, click here!
What are some of your favorite books? Share in the comments below!