Below is a full list of the 40 books I reviewed. Each includes a short description–a log line–to tell each title’s genre and capture what it is about.
40 Days of Book Praise – Reading List
Joan Blos’ A GATHERING OF DAYS is a middle grade epistolary novel chronicling the hardships and joys of fourteen-year-old Carrie and her farm family in 1850s New England.
Anne Carroll George’s THIS ONE AND MAGIC LIFE is a Southern novel about a family that gathers for a funeral where the deceased’s last wish uncovers a terrible secret.
Elinor Lipman’s THE DEARLY DEPARTED is a women’s novel about returning home, and how the sudden death of two parents allow two children to discover one another.
Karen Joy Fowler’s THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is a novel about a group of women and one man who study six Austen novels and learn about themselves.
Peg Kehret’s SMALL STEPS: THE YEAR I GOT POLIO is a middle grade autobiography beginning in 1949, the year 10-year-old Peg was stricken with polio.
Geraldine Brooks’ YEAR OF WONDER is an historical novel about a small village that succumbs to plague, and the incredible choice made to keep the disease from spreading.
Ruth Rendell’s THE BRIMSTONE WEDDING is an English village tale of secrets and illicit love, from the voices of two women in different places in society.
May Sarton’s THE HOUSE BY THE SEA is a journal and memoir by the poet/novelist/essayist describing her move to a house on the coast of Maine.
Jaclyn Moriarty’s FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA is the first of several novels set in Sydney, Australia, about the intertwining of students from a raucous public school and a toney private one.
Pam Conrad’s PRAIRIE SONGS is a middle grade novel set among the prairies of Nebraska and shares the wonder, heartbreak, and isolation of pioneer life.
Nancy Mitford’s THE PURSUIT OF LOVE and LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE are twin novels about the daughters in an eccentric English gentry country family and their quest to marry well.
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s NO ORDINARY TIME is a sprawling historical overview of the home front during World War II as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt guide the country through war and peace.
Kaye Gibbons’ ELLEN FOSTER is a Southern novel about 11-year-old Ellen, who is shuttled around after the death of her mother until she finally chooses a family of her own.
Luanne Rice’s CRAZY IN LOVE is a contemporary novel about the foibles of love and family, told through three generations of sisters and daughters living in a small family compound on the Connecticut shore.
Jacqueline Woodson’s BROWN GIRL DREAMING is a memoir told in verse, sharing the author’s childhood experiences in South Carolina and Brooklyn and an adolescent’s view of moments in the Civil Rights Movement.
Debra Puglisi Sharp’s SHATTERED is the true story of a Delaware woman who survived abduction and assault to become a vocal advocate for victims of sexual violence.
Jane Smiley’s 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE NOVEL is a study of how fiction works and a deconstruction of the novel form, plus critical essays by the author of 100 novels.
Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE is a modern speculative novel about a repressive, ultra-conservative republic where only a few women can bear children and so become concubines to the powerful men in charge.
Amy Hatvany’s BEST KEPT SECRET is a contemporary novel about a woman who starts with a few drinks to help her sleep, and ends up drinking so much, she loses her son.
Kate Chopin’s THE AWAKENING & SELECTED STORIES is a collection of the surprising short work by the Louisiana author, plus her classic novel about a woman’s quest for fulfillment beyond motherhood and marriage.
Kate Braestrup’s HERE IF YOU NEED ME is a memoir by the widow of a state police officer who becomes a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service’s search and rescue teams.
Alice LaPlante’s TURN OF MIND is a crime thriller narrated by a retired surgeon who can’t tell the police—because she doesn’t know—if she murdered her best friend.
Ann Rinaldi’s OR GIVE ME DEATH tells the story of Patrick Henry’s family and the bouts of madness suffered by his wife that ultimately made the family lock her away in the cellar.
Margaret Troy’s HELEN OF TROY is a sprawling retelling of the myth of Helen, a mortal woman blessed and cursed by the gods with a beauty so great, nations went to battle to possess her.
Rumer Godden’s AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS is set on a post-World War II London street and tells of the children who steal earth to plant a garden and the adults who try to stop them.
Susan Orlean’s THE ORCHID THIEF is a story about obsession set in the swamps of Florida and centered on people searching for the elusive Ghost Orchid.
Dodie Smith’s I CAPTURE THE CASTLE is a coming of age story about an intelligent and observant young woman and her eccentric family living in a tumbling down castle in England.
Joyce Carol Oates’ BLACK WATER is a short novel about a naïve young woman who went on a drive with her hero, The Senator, and ends up abandoned after their car plunged off a bridge into a pond.
Elizabeth Strout’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE is a collection of stories set in a small coastal town in Maine and connected through Olive, a retired math teacher who is blunt, observant, and enigmatic.
Karen Cushman’s CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY is a middle grade novel told in diary form, about the bright and rebellious daughter of a country knight in England and her rocky path to finding a suitable and pleasing mate.
Daphne du Maurier’s THE REBECCA NOTEBOOKS AND OTHER MEMORIES is a multi-form collection by the prolific English author of short stories, memoir, poetry, and the original outline and opening of her famous gothic novel.
Lee Smith’s GUESTS ON EARTH is a fictional account of real events and inhabitants—including Zelda Fitzgerald–at a progressive mental institution eventually destroyed by fire in 1948.
Elizabeth’s Gaskell’s CRANFORD is collection of stories about ladies, life, and the unstoppable march of progress in a small English town, told through the eyes of an affectionate visitor.
Katie Estill’s DAHLIA’S GONE is a country noir thriller about a seemingly innocuous promise to check in on a neighbor’s children, and the aftermath of a crime in a close community.
Ellen Gilchrist’s NORA JANE is a life in stories, focusing on the quirky and surprising title character who goes from a sketchy youth in New Orleans to living in a mansion on a San Francisco fault line.
Erika Robuck’s HEMINGWAY’S GIRL invents a fictional housemaid who is torn between desire for the famous writer and a World War 1 veteran working to build a railroad in 1935 Key West.
Gail Husch’s THE BUTTON FIELD blends fact and fiction to tell the story of Bertha Mellish, a real student at Mount Holyoke College who vanished from campus without a trace in 1897.
Mary Oliver’s “When Death Comes” is one of her many poems that uses nature and man’s relation to it, in this case to see the end of life as encouragement to live with boldness.
George Eliot’s MIDDLEMARCH is a classic study of provincial life and the travails of a young woman with intelligence, money, and a good name, but whose expectations of marriage are higher than the social norms of the time.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK is a young adult novel about Melinda Sordino, whose first year in high school is marked by ostracism, mockery, and shame, until she overcomes her fear to voice what drove her to silence.