Mid Week Inspiration No. 5

October 4, 2017

There's an old saying that your life will change (for better or worse) depending on two things: the people you meet and the books you read

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Although, if you happen to encounter a terribly kind grandma in 18A .. you get a twofer

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This summer, my library account registered nine paperbacks for sitting by the pool, stories of love and loss, growth and change, along with some really great historical fiction.  At times they'd stack in two riveling towers on the nightstand, miniature Pisas, ready to fall onto the carpet if a kitty brushed past

My husband's office is not much better.  There are books about history, art, business, religion, and social justice.  In the kitchen? Cookbooks.  Audiobooks for the car?  Memoirs, always memoirs.

A friend used to say that wherever I went, I'd leave a book or two in my wake.  And now, here I am.  Still unchanged.  Married to a man who is much the same

When I was just starting my career, I often traveled for work.  In my backpack were (at least) three paperbacks, along with a hardcover memoir stuffed into my weekender.  During one trip, as I settled into 18B, the grandmotherly woman next to me peered over her glasses at my tall stack of reading material

“A gift from my daughter” she pointed to her iPod “I never thought I'd love listening to books as much as I do now”

I'd thought of it

But I was sure I wouldn't like it

I wondered if I'd miss dog-earing the pages, the smell of the paper, the tossing of the dust cover, the cracking of the spine – the passing around of tattered copies.  The joy of an hour or two spent lost in the library's shelves.

I thought I'd miss it all

Photo Credit: Tumblr – Jiminyoon

The past couple of weeks found me on a road trip from Iowa to Colorado to Montana and back home again. The sun was shining,  the scenery beautiful.  For thirty+ hours, the driving was easy.  “Just one more chapter,”  I'd think “then I'll stop for gas or maybe a little something to eat”  

And so I did. I listened and listened and keep listening.

I've never missed the cracked spines like I thought I would.  After a while, the narrator's voice feels like an old friend.  A slew of recommendations at the ready for when I'm finished or in the mood for something lighter

The grandma in 18A would be so proud

And so, if you’re in need of a great book to listen to.  Or even some good old-fashioned nightstand clutter, might I recommend a few for your fall reading list?


When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

You want something that re-prioritizes your life.  That offers a jolt.  That tips the great imbalanced balance scale until what doesn't matter topples into what does

Favorite passage: “The main message of Jesus, I believed, is that mercy trumps justice every time.”


Red Notice:  A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder

Ever since listening to this episode of Planet Money, I've been fascinated with Bill Browder and the story behind the Magnitsky Act. My goodness, it's absolutely incredible (and just might shed some light into today's politics)

Favorite passage: “If I'm killed, you will know who did it. When my enemies read this book, they will know that you know.”


A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini

This one kept me company on my 14+ hour drive home.  Quite possibly the best book I've ever read.  The kind where you're a little afraid to start a new one because you're sure it won't compare

Favorite line:  “You see, some things I can teach you.  Some you learn from books.  But there are things that, well, you have to see and feel.”

Photo Credit: Instagram – @jooleeloren


Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

You want to make something (anything!)   A business or your breakfast, six figures or six wool sweaters, but you’re stuck somewhere between step one and step thirty-two

Favorite line:  “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.  What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.  We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.  We are terrified, and we are brave.  Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.  Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.  Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything”


The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

My love for novels set during World War II runs deep.  Despite the historical savagery of Nazi Germany, the author was able to convey kindness, giving, acceptance, and love by fostering a little girl and a Jew.  Death, as the narrator was a brilliant device.  If you start this one, be warned.  Clear your schedule.

Favorite line:  “A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY.  Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children”

Second Favorite line:  “The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.”


Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill

You want to laugh and smile at things that are both heavy and light, and you want to do it in the brief 7-minute window of opportunity between the time it takes your toddler to a) awake, and b) declare boredom.

Favorite line:  “A few nights later, I secretly hope that I might be a genius.  Why else can no amount of sleeping pills fell my brain?  But in the morning my daughter asks me what a cloud is and I cannot say.”


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

Loved the characters, the fun, and the lessons learned by Francie through her adolescence.  Why did it take me so many years to get around to reading it?

Favorite line:  “Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”


What are you reading these days?  Any good ones we should know about?


ps:  For more Midweek Inspiration:  Ideas for summer tomatoes, Podcasts, and Instagram accounts you'll love to love


( Featured Image Photo Credit:  Instagram – @dogbookclub


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  • Reply Tomi C October 4, 2017 at 8:00 am

    I’m currently reading Jubilee by Margaret Walker and it’s a refreshing change for this book review blogger. Thanks for the recommendations, I may just have to add a couple of these to my Autumn reading list.

  • Reply Terri Beavers October 4, 2017 at 8:12 am

    I read daily and can’t imagine it to be any other way. I love listening to books, holding books and reading them on my kindle. I don’t have a preference. I do want to add a couple of these to my never-ending list.

  • Reply Sapphire October 4, 2017 at 8:45 am

    These are some great book recommendations. I haven’t read any of them. But I am interested too, as I love to read as well! Nothing beats relaxing with a great book!

  • Reply Kimberly October 4, 2017 at 9:26 am

    I’ve never tried audio books but have progressed to reading books on a Kindle. Thought I would miss the paperback/hardback copies but really haven’t. It’s nice not to have a stash of books taking up a lot of space. Maybe I should give audio books a try. You’ve listed some interesting options.

  • Reply Khushboo October 4, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I am still getting used to the idea of audio books but I am going to give it a shot once I get over the guilt of abandoning my paper backs. Loved the great book recommendations 🙂

  • Reply Stephanie Sherlock October 4, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Thanks for sharing this selection. I need to find a way to fit more reading into my life, as I love books. Books on tape sounds like the perfect solution for incorporating a good book into my daily routines. But I have to admit, I love the feel of paper in my hands. I worked at a newspaper for 22 years, its in my blood.

  • Reply Serena October 4, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    We all love reading books in our house, although I have been a bit lapse lately, I have often thought about listening but never really thought I would enjoy it. I have thought of it for my Daughter though as she is currently unable to read and used to be a real bookworm

  • Reply Ana De- Jesus October 4, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    I have a very well thumbed copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini on my bookshelf and it is such a beautiful book, I am also a fan of the Khaled’s other books. As for the ‘Big Magic’ I feel like I could learn how to be more business minded , so I will definitely be adding that to my reading list!

  • Reply Rebecca Smith October 4, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I just finished What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan. A must-read for thriller fans! Keep the book posts coming?

  • Reply Britni Newton Vigil October 4, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    I work at a library, which is literally the best book job in the world. More times than I can couldn’t people have wistfully said “How lucky you must be to get to read while you’re at work!” The truth is I wish I could read at work, but instead, like everyone else, have to do it in my free time. My secret? Keep books stashed in lots of different places so I can read a little bit when I have the chance. One in my desk drawer at work for my break, one in my car’s glovebox for when my daughter is at her piano lesson. One under the sofa, one on the nightstand. A few years ago I wanted to read 100 books in a year. The first time I tried, I only made it to 64. The next year I gave up Facebook and read 116. xx

  • Reply Cyn Gagen October 4, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    The Book Thief is sitting on my Kindle waiting for me to read it. I can’t wait. And A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? I keep hearing about this book as a classic I must read but I forget to add it to my wish list. Must correct that right now. We have a huge collection of books in my home. We’re all avid readers. I love to read “real” books – the feeling of the paper under my fingers and all that, but for convenience when out and about, I read Kindle books on my tablet. Lately though, I found I just wasn’t getting enough time for reading so I have been using audio books. Then I can multi-task and still get my reading in. Whatever works right?

  • Reply Leigh Anne Borders October 4, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Definitely add to your reading list: Half of a Yellow Sun. Even better, listen to it. I can’t remember who the narrator is, but I’m pretty sure she’s Nigerian. I kid you not, she’s got the most beautiful, soothing, lyrical voice you can imagine. It was assigned reading for a class, and listening to it was the only way I was going to come close to finishing. (I know that sounds horrible, but when you’re a grad English major, the pressure to get through a book in 2-3 days is real)

  • Reply Jhilmil October 4, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    The other day I was planning to tap on next lot of books I had to read and this list gave me one, The Book thief. Found it fascinating, shall look more into it and get myself a copy soon. Recently I have just finished reading a college time love story which was simple, sweet, fun and was relatable to my college time.

  • Reply Censie Sawyer October 4, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    I always wish I made more time for reading. I really need to devote some of my time to sitting with a book. I have a stack of books on my bedside table that I want to read that I have not gotten too. I love getting recommendations from my friends for great books.

  • Reply Kallia October 4, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    I am a bookworm, but I mostly enjoy autobiographies and novels. Yes, that grandma would have been proud with you listening to those books! Thank you for the suggestions!

  • Reply Anosa October 4, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray and Love book. I have also an audio of this and even watch the movie. I often have Paulo Coelho’s book in my bag whenever I am travelling too.

  • Reply Aziel Morte October 5, 2017 at 12:09 am

    It really sounds a great book so Interesting for me, I love this suggestion I love reading books when I’m alone

  • Reply Victoria Moore October 5, 2017 at 1:08 am

    Too cute, a twofer! I love this post. I felt the same way for so long! I resisted reading ebooks (or even listening to audiobooks!) until my Aunt gifted me her old Kindle. Once I was in her book club, she realized and couldn’t believe I didn’t have one! I love it of course, but I still can’t resist going to the library and checking out books. So I suppose you can have the best of both worlds sometimes.

  • Reply Blair October 5, 2017 at 3:42 am

    Lincoln in the Bardo is wonderful and even better on audiobook! It features Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, and 164 other (mostly famous) narrators. They’re looking to file for a Guinness’ World Record for most narrators ever. It’s truly a lot of fun!

  • Reply Monica Y October 5, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Finding a good book is like finding a treasure, Love reading and I can easily seat by the pool or the porch and read a whole book in one seating. I am still old fashion and like paper books, Have not been able to read on a tablet or reading device. This weekend I want to find a good book and start enjoying fall by starting the fireplace and read with a cup of tea.

  • Reply Ana Ojha October 5, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Great reading list Alison! A Thousand Splendid Suns sound quite intriguing and I’ll add to my reading list. I have been reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin and it has been almost a year but haven’t completed the entire series yet! Hope to complete it before the coming Game of Thrones season ends next year…lol!

  • Reply Eloise October 5, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    I love sitting in a comfy nook with a hot drink and a good book, there’s nothing really better than that. I just started My Name is Lucy Barton and I’m trying, unsuccessfully, to slow down so it’s not over. It is so beautiful! x

  • Reply Catalina October 5, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    I love your inspiration post, really dreamy.

    I am currently reading Me after you by Jojo Moyes. The next one on my list is The Countess by Eva Ibbotson which I hope to start on Monday.

  • Reply Zwitsal October 5, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Great inspiration! Compiled in one post! I really like the one from Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. It left a huge impact to me!

  • Reply Suchi October 5, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    This is so true!! your life will change depending on two things: the people you meet and the books you read!:)
    When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi is one of all-time my favorite books!

  • Reply Ellie October 5, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how good A Thousand Splendid Suns is but I’ve not read it myself yet. I have to admit that I tend to reach for non-fiction memoirs lol, oh the memoirs! But One of my favourite books I ever read (aside from The Harry Potter franchise because let’s be real… those are amazing!) is one called Falling Leaves Return To Their Roots by Adeline Yen Mah. It was so beautifully written ,heartbreaking and hopful and so poignant. A great read for sure.

  • Reply Ellie October 5, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how good A Thousand Splendid Suns is but I’ve not read it myself yet. I have to admit that I tend to reach for non-fiction memoirs lol, oh the memoirs! But One of my favourite books I ever read (aside from The Harry Potter franchise because let’s be real… those are amazing!) is one called Falling Leaves Return To Their Roots by Adeline Yen Mah. It was so beautifully written ,heartbreaking and hopeful and so poignant. A great read for sure.

  • Reply Melissa Vera October 5, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    I do both. I have stack of books sprawled in the kitchen/bedroom/living room, always a beat up paperback in the car to have something while I’m waiting for the kids, and usually something light on my phone for stolen moments (I can check out library books for my Kindle app, it’s the bomb!) x

  • Reply Kailash Joshi October 6, 2017 at 2:57 am

    One of my favorite books has to be the Manual for Living by Epictetus.

    A few of the best lessons?
    1. Some things are in your power and some aren’t. Don’t confuse the two and don’t wish for the things that aren’t within your control.
    2. It’s our opinion of things that determines how we feel about a particular event, not the event itself. And .. 3. Think carefully about how you spend your life because it’s easy to spend it chasing things that are neither as desirable nor as important as they seem.

  • Reply Lindsey October 6, 2017 at 4:48 am

    I am a big book reader, it is always nice to meet someone else who is too. Honestly I love books, I am not down for these EBooks, I feel somewhat robbed, I like the feel of the paperback and the smell, I know I am such a weirdo.

  • Reply Aileen Adalid October 6, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Oh my goodness, you just reminded me about how I haven’t managed to finish a book for a while now. But wow, I love your list here! I really loved the Book Thief too (and I managed to learn some German words too haha). Much like what you said, books can have a certain influence and they sure have that effect on me!

  • Reply Tania Potter October 6, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Oh my, I have never listened to a book for all the reasons you mentioned! I’m sure I’d hate it. I recently drove by myself on a 2000 km road trip. I wish I’d seen this before I went, I’d have given it a try and maybe joined the converted list!

  • Reply Neha kulshrestha October 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    They say books are your best friends. So true. I have read Thousand splendid suns and other books by Khaleed Hosseini and just love the books. Currently i am reading ‘Men are from mars , women are from Venus’. Hoping to understand them a bit better. 🙂

  • Reply David Elliott October 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    The Book Thief is great. I loved the book. That line with a boy that loves you being worse than a boy that hates you is such a good one. I really do need to go and read a Thousand Splended Suns. I have heard such great things about it. I am sure it will be an interesting read. Although I cannot really do the audio books. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t work for me.

  • Reply Laura October 7, 2017 at 6:36 am

    What a great reading list. Reading is everything to me, it’s that tiny piece of ME time which helps me to relax and also inspires me to write. Nothing beats a new book.

  • Reply DASH ☀️ October 7, 2017 at 10:29 am

    I just finished The Rules Do Not Apply in one night. I listened to it on Audible and it was fantastic! One of those books that I’ll likely buy just to read, dogear, and highlight all of my favorite parts. Thank-you Ali. I so love your book lists. (and your stories too!)

    “I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.” ~ Ariel Levy, The Rules Do Not Apply

  • Reply Cassandra October 7, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    I just finished I Found You by Lisa Jewell and it is excellent. Definitely, a great summer read, although be warned, it is a bit dark at times.

  • Reply Jenn October 7, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Twenty years after her Booker prize-winning book, The God of Small Things, Indian author Arundhati Roy’s new novel came out this summer – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. It was well worth the wait! x

  • Reply Candy October 7, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    We all love to read in my family. Lately I have started listening to books while driving. Totally enjoying this new type of reading

  • Reply Vera October 7, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    It really IS the happiest moment in life when you find someone who’s into the same books as you! You suddenly have an entire world to talk about!

  • Reply June October 8, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Long road trips provide an excellent opportunity to listen to something meaningful. While driving you can’t read a book but you can listen to it! However, I don’t think I could ever replace real books with audio books. I’m a writing in the margins and highlighting kind of gal.

  • Reply Kristen October 8, 2017 at 10:12 am

    I just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and would definitely recommend it. Other suggestions: Evicted, The Hidden Life of Trees, and The Vegetarian.

    Also, I recently made a local friend with similar book taste and have been enjoying exchanging books and recommendations with her. It’s the closest thing to a book club I’ve participated in 🙂

  • Reply Val October 8, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    I just finished Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Suama. It’s gorgeously written, atmospheric, haunting and moving. I absolutely loved it! x

  • Reply Josephine October 8, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    These sound like some great book suggestions. I do love a good book. One recent book I’ve been listening to on audiobook is “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F”. It’s about not sweating the small stuff and enjoying the present moment. It’s good stuff.

  • Reply Marysa October 8, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    I used to read all the time! Then after my kids were a few years old, I had no time for it at all. In my free time I either veg out watching a little bit of of TV or working on my blog. I really miss reading and I do keep track of some books that I want to read on Goodreads.

  • Reply Dr. K. Lee Banks October 8, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    I was so busy for 7 1/2 years with my doctoral program, the only books I had time to read were related to my studies. Most of my favorite books, when I do have time, are devotional or inspirational books. Those, and my quilting and crafting books and magazines. I like this quote from above in your post: “Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.” I agree!

  • Reply Chubskulit Rose October 9, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Before I discover my love for blogging, I used to read a lot! I miss it and wish I have more time to read. There’s something liberating when you read, your imagination fly with no boundaries.

  • Reply Tim B October 9, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Great pic of the dogs! What type of treat did you bribe them with to stay still and wear those glasses? That shot put a smile on my face.

  • Reply Surekha October 9, 2017 at 11:53 am

    This post makes me nostalgic, make me miss my old days when I used to be an avid reader. I bought the book thief 3 months back hoping to start reading again. I haven’t started it yet. After seeing that on your list seems like I am missing out. Listening to books is also a great idea. Maybe I should start that, it might bring back my hunger to read books after that. Wonderful post as always

  • Reply Rebekah October 9, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I’m reading the Woman in Cabin 10! I wish I had more free time to read. I love snuggling by the campfire to read a book in the fall/winter.

  • Reply Mellissa October 9, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I’m a book lover too! I do enjoy listening to them while traveling. Makes the trips so much more interesting and I’m able to multi-task. You can’t drive and read a paperback at the same time.

  • Reply Mike October 11, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    People always look at me funny when I pull out a real book. But there is just something about having a hard copy and turning the pages that helps me escape.

  • Reply Mike October 11, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    People always look at me funny when I pull out a real book. But there is just something about having a hard copy and turning the pages that helps me escape.

  • Reply Joline October 11, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    We just came home from a vacation where I brought with me 3 books and then I bought a new one on the trip lol. Yes, I love my books. I never did get into audiobooks. I love the feel and smell of real books too much. Our little library is close to overflowing though so space is definitely an issue! A Thousand Splendid Suns has been on my to-read list for a while.

  • Reply Zarina October 11, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    That is an amazing fall list! I especially agree with When Breath Becomes Air which was a a heartrending but stunning read.

  • Reply Jajwalya October 12, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Oh my Gods this is awesome I LOVE audiobooks! I discovered them last year and have listened to more than 40 already. Some of my favourites are autobiographies or memoirs read by the author like The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer or Stephen Fry’s Fool me once. Just makes the experience more intimate, you know? Apart from those I love the Discworld series narrated by Nigel Planer, or The History of World Literature, or anything at all ready by Neil Gaiman. Percy Jackson books are really good too!
    Just a suggestion, maybe you can link us to the narrators as well. Sometimes there are celebrity voice narrators who are really good and we can find out more audio books that way!
    From you list, I love The Book Thief the most!

  • Reply Claire October 13, 2017 at 2:08 am

    I agree with you on reading books and who you surround yourself with. By reading one good book, I was able to change some of my bad habits, and become more positive, have a new perspective on life. I love that first image with the dogs, they are so cute I can’t even.

  • Reply Jess October 13, 2017 at 6:16 am

    Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve actually been really getting into audio books at the moment rather than sitting down with a book. I do appreciate a tech detox once in a while with a classic book!

  • Reply Sreekar October 13, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I read daily before I go to bed. It’s just a habit that works perfectly and fits in my schedule. Somehow hate the audiobooks. Not sure why. Guess they don’t feel authentic to me. Maybe I’m a lil old fashioned:)

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