10 Novels that Rocked My World

I really LOVE getting book suggestions from people who've read something that moved them in some way. It always feels like such a gift when I receive that kind of recommendation. It's like they've given me a small part of themselves in some way. So, in this post, I'd like to give you a gift of 10 book recommendations of my own. Some of them you might recognize. (Frankly, some of the books have been around FOREVER.) But there might be at least a few that are new to you and that you'll enjoy as much as I did. The links are affiliate links--which means I'll get a small commission if you use them, but it won't cost you anything extra. If you don't want to use them, that's cool. You can always go directly to Amazon or any other bookseller--including your local bookstore! Enjoy!

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain  

Ever heard of Hemingway--as in Ernest? Yep. Thought so. Well, this book is a fictional account of his first wife--​Hadley Richardson--and their passionate and heartbreaking romance. The setting is 1920s Paris and the cast of characters includes many you'll recognize, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce. As a writer, I ate all of this up! It was so much fun to be transported back to a time that was as creative and transformative as it was wild and heady.

Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

My soul sister introduced me ​to the Chief Inspector Gamache books several years ago and I fell in love with them from the very start. Although the books are typically murder mysteries, the focus is on the characters who live in a small, out-of-the-way town near Montreal, Canada called Three Pines. I love them all--from the profanity-spewing elderly poet to the gay innkeepers to the intelligent and kind chief inspector. And I miss them while I'm waiting for Louise Penny to publish the next book in the series.  The book I've mentioned here isn't the first book in the series--that would be Still Life--but it's my fave.

​The Art of Racing in the Rain--A Novel by Garth Stein

If you love dogs, this is a must read. Seriously. ​Get it now--and bring tissues. I read this book right after I had to put my beloved 15-year-old Labrador to sleep several years ago and SOBBED when I got to the end. (And I'm not a crier.) But it brought me an overwhelming sense of peace that I hadn't been able to find until this book. It's that good.

The Prince of Tides--A Novel by Pat Conroy

When Pat Conroy passed away, it felt like such a huge loss to me. I had never met the man--but I was so sad that I'd never read a new work by him. I'm a southerner by birth and loved how he wrote about the South--fearlessly and beautifully exposing its downfalls and celebrating its wonder. The Prince of Tides was the first book I read by Mr. Conroy. I was in my early 20s and I clearly remember sitting on the floor of my two-room apartment reading the final pages of this magnificent novel--realizing that this would be the book against which I'd forever measure all others.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood--A Novel by Rebecca Wells

Maybe you've seen the movie Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I did. And I loved it! But, even if you saw it, you still need to read the book it was based on. It's such a wonderful tale of strong--and sometimes broken--female characters. I was mesmerized by the way it explored the relationship between mother and daughter and the strength and resilience of the tie that binds a group of such uniquely different friends through the decades.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I loved The Kite Runner. Amazing story. But I ADORED A Thousand Splendid Suns. From beginning to end, I was absolutely spellbound by this story of two women. It seemed to constantly move back and forth between heartwarming and horrifying. ​And I was also awestruck by the way Khaled Hosseini brings Afghanistan to life in such a vivid and beautiful way.

American Assassin: A Mitch Rapp Novel by Vince Flynn

Okay. I must confess. I'm a political junkie. And the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn feeds my habit. The main character--Mitch Rapp (obviously)--is a CIA secret operative whose focus is counterterrorism. I've read the entire series to date and most of the reading I did was when I was on the treadmill. The action in the books is too intense for me to read sitting down. Let me just say, it made my workouts go by faster than EVER.

The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

I've always been a history buff and this book set during WWII is the REAL DEAL when it comes to sweeping historical fiction. I read it years ago when I was a college student--and it wasn't a class assignment. I read it because it's a story that absolutely consumed me. I lived with the characters day after day, night after night as I made my way through this epic. And the best part? It didn't end at "The End." There's a sequel called War & Remembrance!

Pompeii by Robert Harris

I've always been fascinated by the story ​of Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. We've all seen the ghostly images of those who were frozen in time by the ash and debris that rained down on the city. But that doesn't even begin to tell the story of the vibrant seaside community that existed before that terrifying day. This book by Robert Harris brings it all back to life in a way that gave me a whole new perspective--not just about the disaster, but about the people who lived through it and died because of it.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I've been a fan of Sue Monk Kidd for years. And The Invention of Wings just solidified that fandom. Set in 19th century Charleston, it's a tale of an unexpected and complex relationship between a female slave and the plantation owner's daughter. Their age is about the only thing these two have in common--but their life stories are intertwined in ways that held my attention from beginning to end.

So--there you have it! Ten books that I've loved and that touched me in so many ways. Now, how about sharing YOUR favorite books with me and others in the comments below? I'd love to hear your recommendations. Summer's coming up and I need to get my reading list together!

A Page-Turner Mission Book Review: Everybody Writes—Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

People ask me all the time about books I would recommend to help them with marketing, writing, self-publishing, entrepreneurship—you name it. So, I thought it might be helpful to post some reviews from time to time focusing on books that have made a real difference in my business. And Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley is definitely one of them.

Handley, who’s the chief content officer over at MarketingProfs, has found a way to make effective content marketing not only seem completely doable—but also FUN! The basic premise of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content is just that—we all write. As she says in the introduction, “If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means we are all writers.” Exactly. And, if we’re all writers, then why not get good at it? Or at least as good as we can be?

“The truth is this: writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.” Speak it, Ann.

One of the many things I really love about Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content is that it’s made up of really short, snappy chapters (most 2 or 3 pages) that cover pretty much every content creation topic you can imagine. (Seriously. ALL of them.) The chapters are divided into the following sections:

Part I: Writing Rules: How to Write Better (and How to Hate Writing Less) Let’s face it—writing is hard. And writing well is even HARDER. In this section, Handley provides practical, easy-to-follow guidance regarding simple ways we can make our writing both better AND relatively pain-free. From nuggets like “Start with Dear Mom…” to “Editing by Chainsaw” to “Swap Places with Your Reader”—you’ll find that she puts into words what we know instinctively, but often fail to do when we write. I found myself shaking my head (rather vigorously) in agreement throughout the entire section.

Part II: Writing Rules: Grammar and Usage Okay. This section might seem like a yawner from the title. But, trust me, it’s not. The last time I had so much fun reading about grammar was—ummm—never? Handley covers a whole HOST of issues that many (if not most) of us have been guilty of at some point. For example, have you ever misused a word or confused it with another? Like “uninterested” (don’t care) vs. “disinterested” (impartial or unbiased)? And—THANK YOU—she tells us about rules that are okay to break. Things like “avoid sentence fragments” and “never split infinitives.” Turns out–the world won’t come to a screeching halt if we do those things from time to time.

Part III: Story Rules In this section, Handley moves away from the mechanics of writing and delves into the art of storytelling. Now, the information she includes isn’t meant to be a complete primer to telling great stories. But, the guidance she provides—like “Tell How You’ll Change the World” and “Tell the Only Story You Can Tell”—can really help put you on the right track to powerful storytelling. She also talks about voice and tone—two things writers often confuse. It’s important to know the difference—and it’s doubly important to use them consistently in any piece of content you create.

“Storytelling as it applies to business isn’t about spinning a yarn or a fairy tale. Rather, it’s about how your business (or its products or services) exist in the real world: who you are and what you do for the benefit of others, and how you add value to people’s lives, ease their troubles, help shoulder their burdens, and meet their needs.” Ann Handley

Part IV: Publishing Rules Publishing is a privilege. And as writers, we need to treat it as one. In this section, Handley discusses the concept of “brand journalism” and the role a brand journalist plays in telling the story of the company, brand, organization, etc. she or he is working with. Topics include fact checking, interviewing tips, copyright laws, the necessity of truth and how to “see content moments everywhere.” For those of us who are sticklers about integrity and about providing value to our audiences, this section makes all kind of sense.

“Thinking like a publisher is simply not enough; you also need to act like one.” Ann Handley

Part V: 13 Things Marketers Write I really love this section! Handley provides essential tips for writing across a variety of platforms—including Facebook, Twitter, landing pages, websites, infographics, blogs, podcasts, etc. She talks about how to “unite an audience with rallying cries” on Facebook, how to use hashtags on Twitter to “tap into what people care about”, the importance of using the world you “promiscuously” on a site’s home page, and “writing infographics that won’t make people mock infographics.” Great info that leads to awesome writing if you implement it.

There’s also a sixth section, called Content Tools, that contains a treasure trove of—well—tools that will help you be a better writer in every way. From productivity to editing to style to blog idea generators—Handley basically gives the reader the keys to the content creation kingdom with this section. The info in this section alone is worth far more than you’ll pay for the book.

I like Ann Handley and follow her regularly through MarketingProfs. But, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content. It takes a lot for a nonfiction book to keep my interest—even when it’s about a topic I love. I have to say, though—Handley did it from beginning to end with this book. I recommend it to my students. And I certainly recommend it to you. Even for experienced writers, it’ll give you some gems of info that will make your writing even better. And that means your audience will be even happier.

 

I’m all about transparency. So, I want you to know that some of this links in this post are affiliate links and, if you use them, I’ll get a small bit of compensation for the referral. But, you can be sure I would NEVER recommend a product I don’t completely believe in. And, if you’d rather, you can always go directly to a store (online or offline) to purchase a copy of the recommended product.