We'll continue to add to this list. Let us know what you're reading that you would recommend to others. Send your comments and recommendations to me at cmsigmon@aol.com.

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett - Now one of my all-time favorite books! Told during the civil rights movement in the US, the story unfolds through the voices of three main characters—two maids and a young, aspiring writer, all living in Jackson, Mississippi. This book made me recall my life during those years. You’ll laugh…you’ll cry…you’ll LOVE this book! When you finish, I can guarantee, you’ll miss these unforgettable characters. By the way, my husband read it, too, and loved it.
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - Most reviews I’ve read of this book tell you not to reveal the plot line to others—just as the book cover asks. I’ll mention, though, that a beach scene in the beginning goes from a calm walk on a beautiful beach to a brutal scene with far reaching ramifications for people involved in “0 to 60.”
  • Same Kind of Different as Me - by Ron Hall and Denver Moore - The true life story of the two authors—one a homeless man, one a wealthy art dealer—and a woman who is a catalyst for the unlikeliest of friendships—a deep, binding friendship. I had to put this book aside on a flight I had recently as I was beginning to embarrass myself with the tears I was shedding—sometimes tears of laughter, and sometimes tears of sadness. (The book has definite religious overtones.)
  • Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Anne Patchett - This was another book about the depths of friendship that some people are lucky enough to experience. Both tragic and compelling, the friendship was between Patchett and author, Lucy Grealy. Patchett offers many gems in her prose, although I must admit the story line was a bit repetitive at times. However, since the story was true, I suppose life can be repetitive sometimes!
  • Philippa Gregory’s historical novels hooked me in a big way! No one could possibly make up stories as good as the true ones lived by the Tudor family and their linage! I’ve never considered myself a huge fan of historical novels, but these books got me hooked. Even when I knew the fate of the main character, the “getting there” kept me spellbound. I would recommend that you put “Tudor family tree” in your search engine and print out a family tree before you begin even one book. It will help you keep the characters in perspective. Here are all of the Gregory books that I read and would recommend:
    • The Other Boleyn Sister – Dismiss the movie version in favor of the book! Told by Anne Boleyn’s sister, Mary, who first caught the attention of Henry VIII before her ill-fated sister.
    • The Virgin’s Lover – This novel tells of the heated love affair between Queen Elizabeth and her lifelong friend, Sir Robert Dudley. The novel often portrays Elizabeth as a conniving and betraying as she strings along several of the world’s most eligible bachelors.
    • The Constant Princess – This story reveals the life of Catherine of Aragon who married Henry, VIII after being married to his younger brother from whom Henry ascended the throne. A gripping, suspenseful novel!
    • The White Queen – The story of Elizabeth Woodville who secretly married the boy king. This reveals Gregory’s research about what happened to the young boys who were imprisoned in the London Tower.
    • The Boleyn Inheritance – Narrated by three historical characters—Anne of Cleaves (Henry’s 5th wife), Lady Rochford (Jane Boleyn), and Katherine Howard (Henry’s ill-fated adolescent 6th wife), this novel shares the complex relationships and motives behind some of the greatest historical events of the Tudor family.
    • The Queen’s Fool – Told by a female court fool, this novel explores the tumultuous relationship between the two half-sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, vying for the throne after the death of Henry VIII.
    • The Other Queen – Mary, Queen of Scots, is portrayed in this novel of espionage and mystery.
  • Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey by Allison Weir - Just as a change of pace from my endless readings of Philippa Gregory, I chose to read a similar one by Allison Weir. Weir’s style of writing is comparably sophisticated to Gregory’s, and at times, I forgot that I had changed writers. The story of Lady Jane Grey is intriguing—What were the unusual circumstances of her short reign?
  • South of Broad by Pat Conroy - (my all-time favorite writer!) This is another of Conroy’s stories based in the South where, by the way, he continues to reside. It’s a great summer read with its usual twists and turns and eclectic characters. (I do recall reaching one rough point—a little bizarre—in the novel but I’m glad I continued to read.) Conroy’s writing is lyrical prose! I savor his beautiful sentences.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Reader Denise Goodin of Columbus, Indiana, shares, “You MUST read The Book Thief. It is set in Nazi Germany and is written in the voice of ‘Death’. The title refers to a young girl who loves books.” Book reviews say this book is for high school and above. Adults should enjoy it, too. Sounds intriguing…I’m going to read it!
  • World Without End by Ken Follett - For me, this book was much anticipated since reading this author's Pillars of the Earth. It's historical fiction in a similar Medieval setting-always my favorite! Set once again in Kingsbridge, World Without End takes place 200 years after the first novel with descendents of Pillars of the Earth. (It doesn't matter whether you've read Pillars.) It's a novel of epic proportions, so be prepared for a long read. But, it's also well worth every minute. I was absolutely consumed by it and read feverishly through wars, plagues, and every emotion from A to Z. The characters are richly developed, and they tended equally to enrage and inspire me.

    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - Originally recommended to me by Dr. Allen Berger when he was contacting me about speaking at the Ohio Reading Conference. Frankly, the book has such a strange name that I didn't read it for a long time just because it didn't sound like anything I would enjoy. But, I was wrong! The novel starts with the trauma to a young man on the brink of getting his veterinarian degree. Dazed and confused by the loss of his family, he walks away from the degree and hops a train to a new life. This story depicts circus lore in the depression era which is most interesting. (My own father once joined the circus so I was most curious about this!) The colorful characters make for a good plot with a twist in the end.

    Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman. Donna, a dedicated parent, writes to me, "I see in your bio you are fond of historical fiction, particularly medieval times. Mists of Avalon' is my second favorite book--my absolute favorite is Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman. It's the first of a trilogy, so there's lots of hours of wonderful historical escape there.......If you haven't read it I highly recommend it!" (I'm putting this one on my list!)

    The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory If you're like I was in saying, "Well, everyone knows how this one's going to end!" put that thought aside and read this book! First of all, I didn't know Anne Boleyn had a sister who had a child by Henry VIII. This novel grabs you from the beginning, and you won't want to put it down. I learned more from this novel about the Tudor family and this period of history than from any of my high school, undergraduate or graduate studies in school. Gregory's style of writing is fluid, fast-paced, and sophisticated. My daughter Ashley told me she was reading this and that we should read it together and compare notes. I'm so glad she suggested that! When I finished this book, I wrote an email to many of my female friends to recommend it. I'm a Gregory fan now!

    The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory - After reading The Other Bolyn Girl by this same author, I wanted to read more. This historical novel was told from the point of view of Hannah, a young girl who became a fool in the queen's court. The becomes embroiled in the treacherous rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth in their bids to rule England after the death of Henry VIII. An excellent story! The Tudor family history often reads like The Enquirer Magazine---too bizarre to believe!

    A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - This Afghan-American author of The Kite Runner follows that acclaimed book with another riveting story. This compassionate story of two women whose lives are intertwined with despair and hope will haunt you. I haven't heard from any men who've read this, but I feel it's a must read for women. Those of us who lead empowered, free lives still relate to the plight of all women in some way. Read it and be thankful for your own circumstances.

    Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher - Be forewarned that this is billed as an adolescent novel. Well, that's the target group…or so says the write-up (12 and up…yikes!). I read this to be able to recommend it to middle school teachers. I loved the book but can't recommend it for classroom use unless you are in an area that is extremely liberal with the language it allows or tolerates in literature. However, as an adult, I loved the novel! I had my twenty-something daughter read it (when she was at home getting her wisdom teeth extracted…ugg!) and she loved it as well. It's the story of a junior high student who is labeled a social outcast because of his weight. He assumes a friendship with another outcast, Sarah, whose face and hands are disfigured because of a childhood accident which also becomes part of the plot. The plot is extraordinary…reminded me a bit of Freak The Mighty.

    Swine Not by Jimmy Buffett - Many of you know that I'm a real Buffett fan-a card-carrying Parrotthead. However, I can't recommend this one. Jimmy just needs to keep singing!

    The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards - While I was writing the comprehension series for Scholastic, I had to withhold books that would distract me. When I turned in the last manuscript, though, I went straight to the bookstore. This was my first choice-a book I didn't know anything about but which I enjoyed. It's a story about an ill-fated decision of a doctor who delivered his own twins on a snowy evening. One of the twins was less than perfect, and without knowledge of the mother, the husband asked his nurse to take the baby to an institution to be raised. The story unfolds as the family pays a high price for a bad decision-some knowingly and some without any idea of the existence of the child. It's a good and easy read. Try it by the pool!-Cheryl

    See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism by Robert Baer - This is the next book I'm going to read, but I'll give you the recommendation based on my airplane seatmate's recommendation. He raved about it! This is non-fiction based on what the government knew prior to 9-11. A more serious work for sure, but nonetheless thought-provoking.

    Three Weeks with My Brother by Nicholas Sparks. Dee Hostetler shares, "I must admit that I'm not much of an adult novel reader. I tend to stick to children's chapter books so I can keep current with my 4th graders. However, as I was looking into the writing craft for the genre of memoirs, a colleague suggested that I read this book. I reserved it at the public library and could hardly put it down once I started. Sparks definitely shows that there is a real difference between autobiography and memoir. Craft aside, it's an all around good read! Dee Hostetler, 4th grade teacher, Meadowview Elementary School, Shipshewana, IN

    The Mitford series by Jan Karon - Her description of the setting and her way of getting you to fall in love with the characters is priceless! I reread the series each summer-it's that good! Susan Spaulding, English Dept. Chairperson, Bailey Bridge Middle School, Chesterfield County, VA.

    The Kite Runner - My name is Janna Johnson and some colleagues and I recently attended your workshop on Four-Blocks in Nashville where you told us about a book called The Kite Runner. Another teacher and I were very interested, and we ran out and bought a copy each. We devoured the book and we can't quit talking about it. It was "disturbingly good" as we tell other teachers who are now borrowing our copies to read it. We wanted to thank you for telling us about this book. Of course, our students have listened and watched us tell others about this book and have seen us read in class while they read their books of choice and I do believe we have became prime examples of how book talks should be. Thank you so much for introducing us to this book. We can't wait until his next one comes out. (You'll see my earlier recommendation of Kite Runner in this list.-Cheryl)

    A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. As soon as Opray announced this choice for her book club, I saw it at an airport bookstore and bought it. Opray's right-it's a riveting, true autobiographical account of a serious drug and alcohol addict's fight for survival against almost insurmountable odds. The uniqueness of the writing style provides a special effect for the reader-no quotation marks and quick, rolling conversation that is often recalled by the addict. Opray said the book didn't let her sleep until she finished it. I'll have to say that I did sleep during the couple of days this book took to complete, but it is spellbinding. You'll surely wonder, as I do, how anyone gets in the condition described by this writer and then how survival could be possible. The story and the language are not for the faint of heart. (Although I'm not a fan of the "f" word in movies or books, I saw it as relevant in this one.)

    The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I picked up this book in an airport bookstore because two ladies were raving about it being the best they'd ever read. I always like a recommendation if I'm going to spend valuable time on a book. I couldn't put it down, and after reading it, I'll have to agree that it ranks high on my list of favorites. After sharing my recommendation at a seminar recently, I received an email from a participant who said that she read and loved it and immediately formed a reading club to explore it! Another reader, Monica, says Kite Runner "is perhaps the best novel I have read this year. The story takes you from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the present. The story as told by the main character reveals the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. They were raised in the same household, but were of two different social classes. Their intertwined lives and their fates make for a fabulous read." It's a difficult book to summarize; however, suffice it to say, with surprising irony, this riveting story develops into one that explores family, friendship, and the forgiveness of others and ourselves.

    The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (author of Secret Life of Bees, which you'll find in my list, too) Ladies, put this one on your reading list! To be honest, I'm not sure it's a guy's book. In the context of a beautiful story, this author explores the feminine soul, the desire we have for self-belonging, and the longing for soul-mate love. Not at all your typical romance novel! The story begins with Jessie's confession that, in the midst of her marriage to Hugh and her motherhood with her daughter Dee, she has fallen in love with a Benedictine monk. From there the story unfolds, centered on the myth of a mermaid chair in a monastery on Egret Island off the coast of South Carolina. You'll laugh and cry your way through this one, but it will touch your soul.

    Miss Julia's School of Beauty by Ann B. Ross This is another of the hilarious tales of Miss Julia in the series by Ann Ross. You don't have to have read all of the other books to hop in on the storyline in this book. (I would recommend, though, that you read Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind first to know the characters a bit better.) Told in Ross's characteristically rich voice, Miss Julia, widowed in a previous book, remarries but finds that the chapel in Pigeon Forge where she and Sam married may not have had a certified minister. The thought that she may be "living in sin" drives her over the edge! Her mind is somewhat distracted by her involvement in a beauty pageant she's been coerced to assist with. Oh, my! You'll laugh out loud! Take this one to the beach or the pool with you.

    The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks At the urging of Muskogee teacher, Angie Ayers, I read this book. It's fairly typical of Sparks' work-romantic, tender, insightful, and always with a twist of irony. I still marvel at Sparks' ability to understand women. I think this one is for women-let me know if you think otherwise. The story begins with a husband forgetting his wedding anniversary-a last straw for his wife who feels neglected. The daughter announces her plans to marry, and as the wedding arrangements are completed, the husband begins to rethink his role in his own marriage. If you read The Notebook, the couple from that story are the parents of the wife in this one-a nice thread to weave through the novels!

    Three Weeks with My Brother by Nicholas Sparks. Dee Hostetler, a 4th grade teacher at Meadowview Elementary School in Shipshewana, IN, says, "As I was looking into the writing craft for the genre of memoirs, a colleague suggested that I read the above book. I reserved it at the public library and could hardly put it down once I started. Sparks definitely shows that there is a real difference between autobiography and memoir. Craft aside, it's an all around good read!

    The Pat Conroy Cookbook, Recipes of My Life by Pat Conroy - This was the most memorable book I read during the '04 holiday season. Conroy is my all-time favorite writer. No one---but no one-writes better prose or tells a better story than Southern writer Pat Conroy. Yes, there are some great recipes in this book, but the stories Conroy shares about his life just before each series of recipes will touch your heart. Conroy says this book is his "autobiography in food and meals and restaurants and countries far and near." I loved it!

    The Autobiography of Santa Claus as told to Jeff Guinn - A colleague of my husband's says, "I picked up this book at the library on Sunday afternoon and I am half way through. It's something that everybody from ages 8-108 should read….and preferably with family. This book is the most fun/serious Christmas book I have read in a long time. It is an explanation of history, myth, and customs since Saint Nick was about 14 years old. I have just finished the part when he met King Arthur. I don't buy many books, but I am going to get this one. I would love for it to be a tradition to read it with/to older children before Christmas. I find it hard to separate fact from fiction when reading historical fiction. But, Santa says in the first sentence of the foreword: 'YOU'RE RIGHT TO BELIEVE IN ME'. …And I do!"

    The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom - This was one of my favorite books of the summer! Short but ingenious! In the beginning of the story, the main character has minutes left to live…20 minutes…11 minutes…4 minutes… You see it coming. He dies and goes to heaven. He finds that heaven is arranged so that you meet five people who help to explain your life. They have had some profound impact on him or he finds that he's had a profound impact on them. Some of them he discovers he doesn't even know. I found this book to be inspirational on two main accounts-1) We all make a difference in this life; and 2) Our lives all intertwine here on earth. Hope you'll add this one to your list. It's one I'll read several times. Melissa Pratt wrote after I recommended this book during a visit to her school and said, "I took your advice about the Mitch Albom book. It was great! I couldn't put it down!"

    Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries behind the Da Vinci Code by Dan Burstein - I finally read the Da Vinci Code this summer and loved it! Like many other readers, I was fascinated by the details that Dan Brown included in his fictional novel. So, I had to rush out and get this book to sort through the facts and the fantasy. It's not a book you'd likely want to read from page 1 to the end, but it does clarify the issues.

    Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Trusse - For any of you who loved to diagram sentences, this informational book presents in a humorous way (British humor at that!) how we inherited some of our grammar and punctuation. There's an interesting story behind the title of this book!

    The Beach House by James Patterson - Given to me by Diana Farthing at Horace Mann Elementary School in Huntington, IN, this book was a good read in Patterson's typical, smooth writing style. It's an intriguing, rather sexy murder mystery that's not too predictable. I thoroughly enjoyed it! (I inherited another Patterson book from Dianne, The Jester, which I've still got to read. Gotta find more reading time!)

    Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson - This was another Patterson book that left me wondering how a man can possibly understand a woman well enough to have written it in with that point of view. He's amazing! This is a book about a young woman (Jennifer) whose close relationship with her grandmother (Samantha) brings Jennifer back to town to be close by when Sam has been hospitalized by a severe stroke. She discovers that Sam has written letters to her over the years and has left them in the house for Jennifer to discover. The letters reveal startling secrets of Sam's life that also help Jennifer to examine her own life. An easy, good read!

    New picks from other readers:

    The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (The Today Show's book club choice) - Ann Hollar, a fifth grade teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School in Huntington, IN, highly recommends this book and others in the series. She reports that it's fun, informational, and a different type of mystery altogether.

    The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren - Denise Dorcas had this on her summer reading list. She says, "It's a 40 day study. I bought it for my husband for Valentines Day. He wasn't ready for a 'new read' yet so I started reading it. It's really great!"

    The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman - This is another of Denise Dorcas's recommendations. She's reading it because she says it's been referred to in so many workshops and professional development events that she has attended. (I think I'll put this one on my list next!)

    The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus - This recommendation comes from Lynn Hoff, a 4-Blocks teacher in Downers Grove, IL. She shares that, "it was wonderfully funny but sad at the same time! It is a fabulous story of a young student nanny in NYC and what she goes through raising the son of a couple riding the social circuit. It is terrific! (Well wishes to Lynn who had double knee replacement this summer! There's been lots of reading time for Lynn as she's mending!)

    Elizabeth Kyser, a 5th grade teacher in Richmond, VA, writes: "Thanks for your book ideas; I recently read the first Southern Sisters mystery and thoroughly loved every word!"

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - by Mark Haddon - Mary in Indiana says this is a mystery written from the voice of a fifteen year old autistic boy. He's gifted mathematically but has trouble socially. It's a quick read and has an interesting perspective.

    Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel - If you only saw the movie long ago with Darrell Hannah (awful movie!), you've really got give the book a chance. It's one of the most interesting books I've ever read-great storyline and well-researched details. I read it long ago and became a fan of this writer, but felt that her sequels, unfortunately, pandered to commercialism. The story is set in prehistoric times-most thought-provoking!

    Angels and Demons by Dan Brown - Monica writes, "I see that you have DaVinci Code listed, but Dan Brown also wrote Angels and Demons which actually introduces the detective in DaVinci Code. It is a very good read! (Monica, my husband agrees that Angels and Demons probably has the better plot, even though DaVinci is amazing in other ways.)

    The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - This one has been listed before; however, my husband and daughter, Beth, read this over the past month and thought it was one of the best books they've ever read. It's a thought-provoking book and well worth the investment of time. It's not light reading, though, so find some quiet time for this one.

    The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan - Leslie Nixon at North Miami Elementary School in Denver, IN, highly recommends this book. She says it's another of Tan's generational books that explores relationships between mother and daughter. Tan's books always enrich your knowledge about the Chinese culture. (Liza Vickers echoed the kudos for this book and added clarification that Tan's book deals with Chinese culture where we had Japanese previously. Thanks, Liza!)

    It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden- I enjoy reading motivational books occasionally when I need a little pick-me-up. This one was a short read and boasted of being the best selling book in the world (?). Although it's based on the business world, I found so many connections to our school world. The pages are short and to the point with memorable sound-bytes. For those of you at upper grades who like to share maxims with your students or who share thought-provoking writing topics for journals, you'll find a wealth of them here.

    The Essential Fifty-Five by Ron Clark - This is a must read for teachers. Award-winning teacher Ron Clark shares 55 rules that changed the life of his students.

    Use What You've Got - Barbara Corcoran (Cheryl's pick)

    I'm hoping you'll put this book at the top of your reading list. I saw this spunky lady on the Today show a while back and was intrigued. Her story is one of those "poor-student-everyone-thought-was-dumb" who goes on to make millions because she has good common sense and imagination. Corcoran's writing style is fun and easy to read. She first tells a short story from her youth and a lesson she learned from her mom about that incident. Then she applies the lesson to something in her life that helped her rise to the successful business woman she is today. After reading this book, I ran to Barnes and Noble and bought 4 copies. I inscribed three of them-one for each of my daughters. I did what Barbara Corcoran's mom did and told each of them what I felt were their greatest strengths and gifts. I told them that I wasn't as clever as Corcoran's mom to have such good advice as she did, but at least I knew good advice when I read it. I wanted them to promise me they would read every page of the book. They all called to let me know they did read the book and how much they appreciated my words and the lessons from the book. You've just got to read this book!

    Big Brother and the National Reading Panel - Richard Allington (Cheryl's pick)

    If you don't mind squeezing in a professional book during the summer, you'll want to read this one. Especially if you're involved with grants, program coordination, staff development and support or curriculum work, you'll benefit from Allington's newest book. He's is rare form-or, maybe it's more precise to say he's in his element-in this book as he explains the educational myths perpetuated by the media, the inaccuracies of the National Reading Panel, and what the "real" research is saying to us all. When you're not finding yourself saying, "I wish I'd said that!" as you read, you'll be saying, "I can't believe he said that!" I so appreciate Allington's honest, non-political point of view-which he does support with research. Thank heavens for folks like Dick Allington!

    Gone for Good - Harlan Coben (Cheryl's pick)

    This fictional novel is a murder mystery with an intriguing plot and numerous twists of irony-right up till the last page. Just when you think you've figured it out-another twist proves you wrong! The story line involves a man whose girlfriend was murdered years before. The suspect was the man's brother who disappeared after the crime. Twelve years later, there is doubt as to whether the brother is dead or alive. Ironically, the main character has fallen in love again, only to have this girlfriend murdered too. The plot continues to thicken, with unexpected revelations throughout that will make you hate to put the book down. (Murder mysteries aren't usually my choice, but I did thoroughly enjoy this one!)

    East of Eden (Oprah's pick) - Charlene Richards says that she's reading this book and can't put it down! How many of you are also reading this one?

    Perfect Match by Jodi Piccault - Charlene Richards shares that, "Nina Frost is an assistant DA who frequently battles the courts and knows its weaknesses. When her 5 year old is raped and identifies a priest as the assailant, she decides to take matters into her own hands. I just kept turning the pages to find out if she would be acquitted or not for her crime (I'm not telling!) only to run into a real shocking ending!

    Alas, Babylon! by Pat Frank - This book was highly recommended during my workshop in Chillicothe, OH recently by Patsy Graff. She kindly gave me a copy of the book to read on my return flight home. I couldn't stop reading it! It's a classic, originally written in the 50's, but most appropriate and thought-provoking for today. The story is an account of a nuclear attack on the US. It made me want to run out and stock up (especially on salt!). This is a quick read!

    Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Nasland - Katherine Klevinskas shares that this is "The last book I truly loved! It was lovely-long and thick and beautiful. I want to read it again, too. I always want to read everything I love again...."

    Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (Cheryl's pick) This will be one of the most unique novels you'll ever read since it's written by a dead person! The storyline involves a young girl who has been murdered as she observes from heaven how her family, friends, and her murderer go about their lives after her demise. This author's interpretation of heaven is an interesting one. This book is thrilling, touching, and thought-provoking. (Two readers share their thoughts about this book: "I also read The Lovely Bones when it first came out. I think it may be one of the best books I have ever read. I'm glad you included it on your list!" ----Michele "I also read The Lovely Bones. WOW!! I wasn't sure about it when I read the reviews, but now I recommend it to all of my reading friends!" ----Mary, IN)

    When Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind - Ann B. Ross (Cheryl's pick) If you need to LOL after a tough school day, read about this character who inherits the son of her recently deceased husband just after his funeral! Filled with colorful characters, a humorous plot, and lively dialogue, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind is a delight!

    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - I've had several folks write in to recommend this book. It was the first book I decided to read after recommendations started coming in. It's now one of my favorites! You'll love these eccentric characters, the obvious symbolism, and the beautiful, unusual story. The prose is masterful! Michele wrote, "Our book club just finished a great book called The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This is fiction; girl-coming-of-age-in-the-south, but with a wonderful twist involving three sister beekeepers and the legend of the Black Madonna. It is out in paperback." By the way, this is an author from my home state, South Carolina!

    Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George - This book recommendation comes from Peg Chambers in Junction City, KS. In fact, she sent me home from her school with this book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading on the flight back home! Often referred to as The Southern Sisters Mysteries, this book will have you in stitches over the calamitous exploits of these two brazen sisters! They find themselves innocently in the thick of a murder in this story, and things only get worse. You'll enjoy this easy to read book!

    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - Michele Rankin again shares, "The second book I'd like to recommend is a long one, but worth it. This is about a minister who takes his family to Africa as missionaries in the late 1950's / early 60's. One of the daughters has a language of her own, which the author writes in. (Makes me think about how hard reading is for our beginners!) How the family survives, despite the father's growing insanity and the tumult of the times makes for fascinating reading.

    The DaVinci Code - Michele's last recommendation is, "Our book club selected it for summer and I bought it this weekend intending to 'save' it. Couldn't hurt to start it, right? WRONG! I didn't get anything else done all weekend! It's called The DaVinci Code. What a good read!"

    Laurell K. Hamilton's vampire series - Susan Nixon wrote, "For those of us who don't plan to pick up a serious educational book for at least a month after school ends, I have an author suggestion. Laurell K. Hamilton writes a wonderful vampire series. It's nothing like the usual vampire story. Anita Blake, heroine, is a vampire hunter, but lives in an alternate reality where vampires have legal rights, so long as they follow the rules. The stories are graphic in description, there is a taste of romance, but the reality is so interesting. Included are ghosts, zombies, vampires, fairies, werewolves, and other "imaginary" characters. The best part of Laurell's books, though, is her wonderful sense of humor, fueled by her unusual word choices and voice. These books are still available through Amazon - I just checked. Except for the recently published title (April), they are all in paperback editions, too.

    Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum mysteries - Molly E. from Florida writes, "I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every Stephanie Plum mystery ("One for the Money", etc) by Janet Evanovich. These books are funny, fast-paced, and each one in the series tells a hilarious story. The reoccurring characters will keep you coming back! Be aware, however, that the language can be a little vulgar for some. Our whole faculty passes them around during the year.

    "In Death" series - Molly from Florida also shares, "I've enjoyed the 'In Death' series (Ceremony In Death, etc.). Eve Dallas is a homicide detective in the year 2050. She has a tragic background and a promising future. The stories could each stand alone, but the series continues to get better.

    Plain Truth by Jody Picault - Mary from Indiana shares that this novel takes place in Pennsylvania and centers around an Amish family and a murder. A lawyer comes to live with the family to defend a family member.

    Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas - Another of Mary's favorites, this book is historical fiction and involves female friendships, brothels, and humor! What a mixture! I'm curious…

    The Prey series by John Sanford - Mary's third recommendation is this series of books about a detective from Minnesota who solves a number of big crimes. She adds that, "There's a thread through all of the books about his personal life so I recommend reading them in order."

    In my "About Cheryl" section of this website I shared two all-time favorite books: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - A 12th century story that follows the life of a man who dedicates his life to building a great cathedral, includes mystery and romance. (Michele wrote that, "I wanted to let you know also that I read Pillars of the Earth over spring break after seeing it mentioned on your website. It isn't my usual kind of book, but I loved it! Thanks for suggesting something I never would have picked up on my own.") The second of my all-time favorites is Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley - A medieval tale of the Arthurian Legend from the point of view of all of the women involved. (If you saw the movie, please don't base your opinion of this epic tale based on the poor movie version!)