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Best 2017 reads so far

Best 2017 reads so far - Love Jo by Jo Cooper

These are all 5 star, in my book.

Best 2017 reads - Love Jo by Jo Cooper

Antoine Leiris, You Will Not Have My Hate

On November 13, 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène, was one of 89 people killed at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, when three men opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd at a rock concert. Three days later, Leiris, a young journalist, wrote an open letter on Facebook addressed to his wife’s killers, proclaiming his refusal to be diminished or to let his 17-month-old son’s life be defined by Hélène’s murder. Perhaps you saw that? This is his subsequent memoir of moral certitude, courage and love — a compass for us in difficult times. Beautiful.

Donna Jackson Nakazawa, The Last Best Cure

I cried at the end of this book! Not because I was sad, but because I was so excited that the author’s health improved so much! I’ve had chronic health problems my whole adult life, and many things I have done, including meditation, yoga, walking, building community, spending time with friends, reading, music and art, have kept me wonderfully afloat. Nakazawa’s success and her well researched and engagingly written tale are inspiring and invigorating to me, as they may be to you. A triumph! (Thank you, Pleasance, for the marvelous recommendation!)

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy

Echoing so many, I thought this book was wonderfully well-written, and such a revelation about the hardships, contradictions, staunch loyalties, trigger points and idiosyncrasies of hillbilly life. The author has lived on both sides of the divide, from his hardscrabble childhood, absent father, addicted mom, caring sister, and loving, wild grandparents (who were likely to defend their grandson with their shotguns); to the Marines, Yale Law school and a successful career. Vance makes the perfect guide to Appalachia, a blessing for this time of confusion in our country, when understanding is more important than ever. The audiobook is read by the author. Highly recommended!

Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Early

I love reading poetry or Buddhist literature early in the morning before meditation, to point my day in a beautiful direction. This is one of my favorite morning books ever! Full of grace, and that deft connection with nature that Mary Oliver embodies like no other writer. I read a poem each morning, and kissed the book in thanks. Can’t wait to start this one again. Exquisite!

Cal Newport, Deep Work

This is one of those concept books that just grabs you and won’t let go! I haven’t been able to stop recommending it to clients and friends, who, in turn, can’t stop telling me how much they like it and how many friends they are recommending it to.

In brief, this is a potent antidote to our distracted lives, a compelling treatise on the virtues of uninterrupted, focused, deep work as a means to achieving important, meaningful, original goals. As a writer, I get this immediately and am totally on board! I love work, and appreciate the occasional read that inspires me to dig deep. This!

Donna Leon, Earthly Remains (Commissario Brunetti #26)

I love a good mystery. But what I love best about them is the milieu, the inside look at life in a place, time or culture. A view of life itself, not darkness, gore nor scariness. Also I prefer protagonists with a heart of gold. So my list of appropriate titles is rather brief.

This is an especially gorgeous one in Donna Leon’s series set in Venice with Commissario Guido Brunetti. Guido is taking a break from work at the Questura to rest, recuperate and reflect on an island in the Laguna, where his daily rhythm includes rowing with an older man who knew his father. Deliciously slow-paced, sensual and intelligent, as are all of Leon’s books.

Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

Jahren’s odd, engrossing, meandering memoir was a pleasure because I love her topics, “A story of trees, science and love,” and because she writes about them with gentle vulnerability.

What touched me most was Jahren’s devoted friendship with her quirky friend and lab assistant, Bill. Friendship deserves to have more written about it, don’t you think? The idiosyncrasies, the fierce loyalties, and the strange, beautiful life experiences, such as those shared here. The audiobook is read by the author, which makes it even more touching and memorable.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Ok, I’m cheating, this was my favorite book in 2015. But I haven’t told you about it, have I? I think everyone should read Big Magic. A romp! A sheer delight, deeply inspiring, fun, serious, chatty and soulful, all at once. Elizabeth Gilbert reads the audiobook, with her gorgeous voice. A treat, and the perfect thing to read when you are ready for something new and wonderful in your life to begin!

What are your recent favorites? How do you find great books to read? I’m always on the lookout 🙂 Especially for the gold, the good, the inspiring.


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  1. This is a beautiful list, I am going to check out a few on here I didn’t know about!! Thanks for ever tending to our hearts…

  2. Susan Hardy

    imma thinking Big Magic for my summer island read xox

  3. Thanks for your recommendations you always have great books to read. Right now I’m reading
    Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. It talks about race relations in America. Not as uplifting as the books you have shared but important to heal the wounds that divide us.

    • Jo

      Thanks for this, Dae! Added Tears We Cannot Stop to my list. Sounds really, really good. Also want to read: Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative and was recently featured on the Ezra Klein Show podcast. A beautiful human being working courageously for a culture of justice. xoxo

  4. Christie Uhler

    The Lab Girl is up next in the small stack on my bedside table. I’ve been looking forward to it.

    • Jo

      Christie, I’m really curious what you’ll think! I found it oddly vulnerable, non-linear, and in the end, unforgettable. As a nature person, I think you’ll appreciate the botanical bits 🙂 LMK!

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