The average dedicated reader in North America goes through 12 books a year.  That’s one a month for those of you who haven’t read a lot of math books.  I have you covered for the rest of the year with 5 books I’ve recently read and 5 books I’m gonna read.  That even gives you one to spare in case you’re slightly above average.

Funny story.  I’ve tried to sit down and write this post for the past 3 days and just haven’t been able to do it because my mind is on a book.  It’s not that I keep leaving my post at the computer to go and read the book,  it’s that I just can’t focus because I want to be reading the book.  I didn’t even like the book to begin with.  You know how you can read the first few paragraphs and know immediately if you’re going to enjoy a book?  I read the first few paragraphs of this book and knew immediately I was not going to enjoy it. Not.  Not, not, not.  It was a stupid book and the writing was trying way too hard and it was just not my kind of thing.  A math book would have been better.  A book about a math book would have been better.

But because I paid for the book, felt bad for the writer who had put SO much wasted effort into their ridiculous, elaborately constructed sentences, and still liked the premise of the book, I kept reading.  Because I’m a good human being like that. The sort of person who goes out of their way to help people, who sees the good in the storm clouds and who sometimes even shares her french fries.  A. Good. Human.  Also, I didn’t have anything else to read.

It took a few chapters to get past my annoyance.  By the middle of the book I was shocked to realize I really  liked the book.  And by 3/4s of the way through ( the point I’m at right now ) I can’t stop thinking about getting back to reading it.

The moral of this story? I’m not sure.  But I think it’s to never share your french fries.


There are three genres of books that I always gravitate towards:  Circus folks, WWII and slavery.  I’ve yet to hit a trifecta with a book about all three.

For me, the past year was a bit of a dud for books.  There really wasn’t a single book that I went nuts over like I have in the past with Tell The Wolves I’m Home  or  We Were Liars  (you can read about those in this post and this post.)   But I did read some solidly good books.


Click on the title of the book to read a more complete description or to buy it.

book recommendations


The Little Giant of Aberdeen County was one of my favourite reads from last year.  It follows the birth and life of Truly Plaice. A recordbreakingly giant of a girl making her way through life in the small minded,  small town of Aberdeen, New York.  Just bordering on Magical Realism (Much like The Snow Child) The Little Giant of Aberdeen County confronts themes of body image and assisted suicide.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will convince you of two things.  England has way cooler named little towns than anywhere else on Earth and … you’re never too old to do something remarkable.  Retired beer salesman Harold Fry sets off one morning to mail a letter but passes by the letterbox and just keeps going.  Suddenly determined to deliver the letter in person he travels by foot across 600 miles of England.  What’s not to love about that?

The Remains of the Day is another pilgrimage through England, this time by car.  The book follows Stevens, the quintessential English butler, as he travels across the English countryside in the last years of his fading career, reminiscing about and coming to grips with the truth of his past glory days.  Set in post WWII England, The Remains of the Day raises questions about memory, perception, social constraints and the decline of the British Aristocracy.

Who Moved My Cheese O.K., here we go.  A reader has been trying to get me to read the book Who Moved My Cheese for the past 500 years.  It’s categorized as a Self Help book which might as well be categorized as a Hey Karen You’ll Hate This with All of Your Heart book.  So I just couldn’t bring myself to read it.  Years went by.  Finally last year I bought it and when it arrived I realized it was just a little wisp of a book and I whipped through it in one sitting.  It was like reading a comic book.  And I will wholeheartedly now agree to recommend it to other people.  The message in it is so simple and easily applicable to pretty much everyone on the planet.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  I forgot one other genre of books that I gravitate towards.  I love books about books.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is one such book.  A.J. Fikry owns an independent book shop in an out of the way seaside tourist town. He is alone and miserable until one day when a package that will change the course of his life shows up.  BAM!  You want to read it now don’t you?!  And you should.





The Kitchen House  I have a tendency to save books if I think I’m going to really love them.  I don’t want the experience to be over.  It’s like when you love a movie or television show so much you think I wish I could see that for the first time again!   Knowing (or at least being pretty sure) that I’m going to love a book results in my putting it at the bottom of the pile time and time again.  I’m doing that with The Kitchen House.  The Kitchen House is the story of a 7 year old girl from Ireland whose parents die during their passage to America.  Orphaned, she finds herself on a Tobacco plantation as an indentured servant working with the kitchen house slaves.

A Man Called Ove  This is one of those backwards cases where I was aware of the movie but not of the book.  I stumbled onto the Swedish movie A Man Called Ove over the winter and loved it with all of my heart.  I included it in my Dinner and a Movie post  where I paired unusual movie ideas with dinner ideas for your weekend enjoyment.  Because as previously proven with the whole french fry sharing thing, I’m a good human being.  It was in the comment section of that post that I learned the movie was based on a book.  I bought that book.

Dear Committee Members I have absolutely no idea how or why I bought this book.  I must have read about it on a list or heard about it somewhere but for the life of me I have on idea where or from who but from the description on Amazon I can’t wait to read it!

Eventide is the second book in a trilogy by Kent Haruf.  I loved the first one Plainsong.  Just the title of it evokes the emotion of the book and author Kent Haruf’s writing. Haruf was a bare bones writer who constructed his novels in the back shed of his house on a manual typewriter and his quiet stories of rural townspeople and their lives reflects that.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is a book I impulse bought at Costco.  One review describes it as the next “Girl on the Train”, which isn’t a big selling point for me since I didn’t like the book and couldn’t even watch the movie.  On the upside the back of the book jacket proclaims Reese Witherspoon liked it so there’s that I guess.  It’s a murder mystery I think.  Or maybe just scary.  I guess I’ll find out and let you know.

As is always the case I expect you’ll be making and leaving your own recommendations in the comment section.  Now if you’ll excuse me I have a book to read.


  1. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen has been on my shelf for years and I just kept passing it up. Last week I picked it up and read it in a few days. I know it is old and everyone has probably seen the movie with Meryl Streep but the book is so different. She has a lovely way of writing and I felt like I was there. Now I need to find another book by her. Also, after you read A Man Called Ove, read My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry also by Fredrik Blackman. I loved it.

    • joanne says:

      Oh, yes – I read “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You….” before I read Ove. Loved it, and decided to read Blackman’s other books. “My Grandmothers Asked Me…” is a totaly different style – from a kid’s POV, more fantasy than reality at first (because it is from the kid’s POV) – but I absolutely loved it!

    • LOIS M BARON says:

      Dinesen’s writing is lovely.

    • Allison says:

      I also loved Ove and am now working on My Grandmother Asked Me. I love it also.

  2. “A Man Called Ove” will make you laugh, cry, and hold your breath more than once as you read through a passage.

    I listen to books on audio, and many are easily forgotten as soon as completed. But, not this one. This book was so amazing, so well-written, so tender and touching and funny. I still remember so many details about it after more than two years.

    I’m sure you will love it.

  3. Katie C. says:

    I feel like I’m the minority here, but I did not like A Man Called Ove at all.

    My aunt and uncle recommended it to me and said it was the funniest book they’d ever read and I just found it depressing. Maybe if I’d gone into it without expectations I would have enjoyed it, but I was really disappointed.

    • Karen says:

      Having watched the movie I wasn’t expecting the book to be funny. Amusing at times, yes. “Funny”, no. Well. I guess I’ll see, lol. ~ karen!

    • Susan says:

      I didn’t care for it either, Katie (which makes me sad, since so many people adore it). I thought it was really predictable, including the sassy ethnic sidekick who teaches life lessons formula.

      I also didn’t like The Kitchen House. The characters seems SO inconsistent and constantly made not just ridiculous but bizarre choices — not in an oh-we-humans-are-a-fickle-lot way, but in a huh?? way. Plus, lots of perpetuating stereotypes of the the mammy archetype and so much drama at every turn.

      The Remains of the Day is exquisite. Man, Ishiguro can write!

  4. Wendy says:

    I have read most of your list & loved them, but will look for Who Moved my cheese?
    I will add “Where Did You go Bernadette?” By Maria Semple. Funny writing style, amusing prose, unusual characters. Bernadette is an unusual diy extraordinaire.

  5. Karen says:

    I highly recommend the Exit Unicorns series by Cindy Bradner. It’s set in Ireland during ” the Troubles”. I still have not read the last book in the series because I can’t bear to be done with the experience. So, so good.

  6. Mary W says:

    I couldn’t believe my eyes – you read it! You notice I didn’t nag you last year, again. I have another one but not sure if you would like it – I won’t ever forget it: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It is a true story written by a man for his kids but one that will be read for generations to come. I’m glad you liked Who Moved the Cheese and think this one is worth the read, also. I won’t suggest again, promise. I will be getting A Man Called Ove.

    • Jenifer says:

      The Last Lecture is a great book…I’ve read it and listened to the audio. It is timeless!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. I was wondering if you’d be chiming in. ;) It was a good little lesson that’s easy to remember and makes perfect sense. I know about The Last Lecture and I won’t be reading it, but I do appreciate the constant badgering over Who Moved the Cheese, lol. ~ karen!

  7. Jennifer says:

    The Kitchen House was great!
    You should try “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah if you like WWII stories.
    I actually cried in the end, I have never done that with a book in my life, it was so good.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jennifer. The Nightingale is actually in my stack of books right now! :) ~ karen

      • Patty says:

        I second The Nightingale recommendation. You’ll want to move it to the top of the stack. Its a fast read because you won’t be able to put it down.

  8. Chris White says:

    A beautiful, historical read is People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. A book conservator is restoring an ancient Jewish manuscript and small fragments she finds in its pages reveal the stories of the many incredible characters who have cared for and protected the book throughout history.

  9. Joanna says:

    My reading goal is 42 (new-to-me) books this year; you just gave me 7 to add to my list so THANKS!

    Umm since I also just read through your Cheese Grotto post… have you read “The Telling Room”? The full title is actually: “The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese”. Enough said. I loved it.

  10. Nan Tee says:

    I loved The Kitchen House and the follow-up, Glory Over Everything. I also highly recommend The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, loved it! Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult was great, too.

  11. Robert says:

    I got three that I’m not really sure how much you would enjoy, “There once lived a girl who seduced her sister’s husband, and then he hanged himself” a collection of short stories about everyday life in Russia, a little to slow for me but with that title I simply could not resist.
    “A single man” picturing Julianne Moore as her own character in the movie before the rewrite makes it really worth it
    And finally “Call me by your name” a 16 year old Italian boy sexually confused lusting after the 25 year old American that’s spending his summer helping the former’s father at their villa and a scene involving a peach of which everyone will be talking about as soon as the movie by Luca Guadagino sees the light of day some time this year

  12. tracie berry says:

    Hey Karen, you’ll never guess…I finally found a copy of Lonesome Dove, in a thrift shop. I am in the midst of reading it, and finding it very interesting indeed. Just curious if you ever read Terms of Endearment, as you said you would…;)

    • Karen says:

      Not yet. ;) BUT I am glad you found Lonesome Dove! My copy is shredded for loaning it so many times. And by loaning I mean forcing it on people. ~ karen!

  13. Dana says:

    I could not get into the Dark, Dark Wood one. Maybe I need to try it again. The Woman In Cabin 10 is on my list already.

  14. Valerie says:

    Can’t believe I forgot The Curious Charms of Arthur Potter by Phaedra Patrick – a precious book.

    • Gwennie says:

      I loved that book. I hope they make it into a movie with John Cleese as Arthur.

    • Denise says:

      I think you mean Pepper instead of Potter. Just looked for this book and it came up. Looks good and went onto my list. (btw my last name is Potter!)

  15. Sara says:

    I really like your website, but please do something with the pop-up requests for email requests. There are two: one large and one small. They are very annoying because I have to turn my phone several times to be able to hit the x. Thank you for any suggestions.

    This is the FIRST time I have complained about your wonderful my written and informative blog. I enjoy your writing because you can write well and always have something interesting.

  16. Valerie says:

    Dear Committee Members is an perfectly composed humorous treat for anyone who has ever had to endure work mates that are pufffed and full of themselves. It is best to try to read through in one sitting – this will take about 2 – 3 hours.
    In a Dark, Dark Wood is truly creepy but good – her follow up The Woman in Cabin 10 is also excellent.
    I recommend two authors who provide fascinating plots and character development and who are seasoned wordsmiths; Robert Goddard ( mystery) and Eric Larson (historical) particularly Eric’s overview of the 1899 World’s Fair in Chicago titled The Devil and the White City.

    • Karin in NC says:

      Devil and the White City is a real favorite of mine. I LOVE it. Last year I went to a conference in Chicago and happened to mention some little known facts about the city to some of my co-workers. They were amazed at how much I knew about the city so I told them I learned it all from that book. They all immediately bought the book and every single one of them hated it. Hahahahaha!

  17. whitequeen96 says:

    A Man Called Ove is a FABULOUS book! I love the family next door, especially the woman!
    I also really liked The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Funny, I was sure you recommended these 2 books earlier, but maybe they were mentioned in the comments in one of your other posts about books.

    I’m afraid I can’t agree with you on The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I found it very disappointing. But different strokes for different folks!

  18. Alex Griller says:

    Kent Haruf, Kent Haruf, Kent Haruf – anything by Kent Haruf. He was the most wonderful writer. I bought all his books in hard copy to keep and treasure, and I normally just throw stuff I’m reading onto my e reader.
    Maybe that’s the real difference between reading electronically and the printed version?? You want the books you really love sitting nobly on your shelf. The ordinary texts can hide in the e-reader.

  19. Jennie Lee says:

    Also, “Life of Pi”, by Yann Martel. I haven’t read my copy yet, but everyone I’ve mentioned it to has told me that they love it.

  20. Jennie Lee says:

    Well, considering what you said about circus folks, I hope you have read “Water for Elephants”, by Sara Gruen. As usual the book is much better than the movie; even if the movie does have Reese Witherspoon. I’d also like to repeat a suggestion I gave you previously: “A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana”, by Haven Kimmel. You have made me laugh many times. This is the funniest book I’ve ever read, and I figure I owe you.

  21. Tina says:

    I’ve been sitting on the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for YEARS, waiting to read it until I had the time to savor it. Then I hated it so bad I had to immediately read a good book. What a disappointment!

  22. Patricia McPheeters says:

    My all time favorite book last year was “The Boys In The Boat” by Daniel James Brown. So, so sad when I finished it. I recommended it to a friend, she read it, I asked how she liked it so far, she said “I couldn’t put it down”. I said,”That’s great! I can’t believe you read all of it already! How long did it take you to read it?” She repeated,”I couldn’t put it down”. She read it in one sitting.

  23. Wendy says:

    Loved The Kitchen House and A Man Called Ove.

    • Karen says:

      Good to know Wendy! I *just* finished the book I was talking about last night so I’m now going to bed to choose which will be my next one. I’m thinking it might be Dear Committee Members. But … who knows! ~ karen!

    • Jen Top says:

      LOVED A Man Called Ove! Loved it so much I didn’t see the movie because I was afraid they’d totally ruined it.

      • merrilee says:

        I just finished it and wondered the same– I’ll wait for Karen to compare them! I’ve heard there are some key characters missing in the movie.

  24. Kath says:

    Just wanted to say how happy I am each time I see an email from you in my inbox!! Always interesting and fun. That, and that you’ve inspired me to learn how to use some power tools this spring. Kath in nyc

    • Karen says:

      Awesome! (and I normally reserve that word for things like Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon) That’s my goal. To inspire people to do stuff. :) ~ karen!

  25. Ann Brookens says:

    You didn’t say which one you are dying to get back to!!! How do we know which one to read first if you won’t tell us?

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