Friday Reads: 10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

Dear Readers,

There’s a Facebook conversation making the rounds asking readers & writers to name 10 books that have stayed with them. Part of me cries, “Only 10?” while another part of me immediately blanks out, like when I used to go to the video store and stand in front of the racks trying to remember the must-see movie list I’d made before I’d left the house.

However, part of the 10 Books Round Robin is to list those books without getting too thinky about it, so here, off the top of my head, are mine:


Dear Readers,

Please join me in wishing HAPPY BOOKBIRTHDAY! to historical novelist Pam Jenoff’s THE WINTER GUEST. I had a sneak preview of Pam’s newest novel, about twin sisters in wartime Poland who take very different approaches to the Nazi occupation of their country, and found it authentic, atmospheric, and riveting–a must-read for any aficionado of WW2-era fiction. I hope you feel the same!


To purchase THE WINTER GUEST, please click here.

Happy reading!

~ Jenna.

Friday Reads: PIONEER GIRL, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dear Readers,

Today’s Friday Reads is a preview: of PIONEER GIRL, the annotated autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder that her famous children’s book series was based on. PIONEER GIRL, which will be published by the South Dakota State Historical Society in September 2014, shows the grittier side of the LITTLE HOUSE books that Laura’s original publishers deemed too dark to tell–or, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune put it, “This ain’t your mama’s LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.”


So You’ve Been Told, “You Should Write A Book!” What Now?

Dear Readers,

Have you ever been told, “You should write a book!”? Thought about accepting this challenge?

This morning I received an inquiry from a gentleman who has–& is finding it not so easy. He wrote:

I’ve been told by a number of people that I should write a book about my life experiences. I can write but have found there’s a huge difference in being able to write and being a writer! (Jenna’s comment: True, dat.) I have so many life experiences that I have a hard time putting them together so they “flow”. I know others who’ve had authors tell their story. I’ve written a synopsis but am overwhelmed with more. I need help! Thank you for any guidance you may have :-)

Friday Reads: THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS, by TaraShea Nesbit

Dear Readers,

Today’s #FridayReads brings me back to the stunning debut novel! This week’s is THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS, by TaraShea Nesbit.

I had the privilege of participating in a round table writing discussion last week with novelists Rebecca Rotert (more about her soon!) and TaraShea, and I was enthralled by TaraShea’s description of her novel, which went something like this:

Friday Reads: THE ARSONIST by Sue Miller

Dear Readers,

This Friday I’m switching from reading debut novels to reading the latest novel of an author whose work I’ve loved for decades: Sue Miller. Her most recent book: THE ARSONIST.

What I love about Sue Miller’s novels is the clarity and dispassion of her writing. She describes people, their actions, and their emotions with a kind of precision and detachment that sometimes makes me think of somebody landing here from another planet and reporting on our human condition. That clear-eyed reportage helps cast light back on ourselves–Richard Ford and Andre Dubus III do this, too.

Friday Reads: LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black

Dear Readers,

Today’s #FridayReads: novel LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black–a book so good I’m wishing for the first time in my life that I were a slower reader because I’d be able to savor it longer.

Robin Black's LIFE DRAWING

I am not surprised that I love LIFE DRAWING so much; in 2011 I read Robin’s collection of short stories, IF I LOVED YOU, I WOULD TELL YOU THIS, & I was so inspired by her absolutely beautiful writing that she made me want to write again.

That’s about my highest compliment.

Tornado Safety–anywhere

Dear Readers,

In the wake of the NWS-confirmed tornado in Revere, MA this morning–a rare but not unprecedented event–here’s a reprise of my 2011 article for the Boston Globe about tornado safety. Please stay weather-aware and be safe!

From The Boston Globe, June 2011

I’m a professional stormchaser. On Wednesday, I was in the surreal
position of issuing tornado warnings to friends back home in Massachusetts while sitting in a stormchase vehicle beneath a tornadic thunderstorm in rural Nebraska. Some of the questions and comments I received over Facebook and Twitter were deeply distressing. One said, “No way am I waiting anything out in a basement. I’ll take my chances.” Another, during a
tornado warning, asked, “Can I drive into Boston?” A third, married to a newsman, wrote: “My husband is stormchasing for tonight’s story!” When I asked whether her husband had any experience whatsoever with severe weather, I got no reply.

Friday Reads: CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki

Dear Readers,

Even though the TV has started showing back-to-school commercials, don’t leave your hammock yet! This summer week’s Friday Reads: CALIFORNIA by Edan Lepucki, a must-read debut novel for anyone who loves post-apocalyptic fiction, as I do. (You can thank Stephen King’s THE STAND, one of my top three favorite novels of all time, for this lifelong addiction.)

Edan Lupecki's CALIFORNIA

What’s interesting to me about CALIFORNIA–as with all novels set in the aftermath of life as we know it–is both the delicious dystopian details (I always want to know how things went catastrophically wrong) and the psychology of the survivors. Any good sci-fi story is a mirror of our psyche, and good post-apocalyptic fiction is no exception, leading you to wonder: how and what would I do in that situation? Would I survive?

Friday Reads: WE ARE CALLED TO RISE, by Laura McBride

Dear Readers,

This is the second week in a row I have read a staggering debut novel! Last week it was Courtney Maum’s I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU; this week it is Laura McBride’s stunning new novel WE ARE CALLED TO RISE.

promo for Laura McBride's WE ARE CALLED TO RISE

     I’m a big fan of novels that show seemingly disparate lives intersecting and influencing each other–think about the literary version of the movie “Crash.” This brave debut, set in Las Vegas, takes on a case worker advocate for children, a woman whose husband is leaving her for another woman, a soldier waking up in a hospital after searing trauma, a first-grader whose Albanian emigrant parents drive an ice cream truck. How these characters affect each other–you’ll never forget it. And despite the hardships depicted in this book, you’ll be uplifted by the lovely spirit that moves behind it all.