Mama Loves Reading: Five Favorite Recent Reads


I am a certified book-a-holic. In my opinion, when the weather turns cold, it is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. Just add a hot beverage and a cozy blanket, and you are set! Choosing the book is always the hard part for me . . . but once I’ve started on a good book, I want to put the rest of my life on hold until I’m done. Anyone else? No mama guilt here. It’s great for our kids to see us reading and enjoying habits and hobbies we love. Here are five of my favorite recent reads that I highly recommend! Feel free to follow me on Goodreads for more inspiration! 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah Favorite Recent Reads

“In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the near-isolated wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature.” 

I literally stayed up for hours after my family went to sleep reading this book so I could finish it in about two days. While Alaska has long been on travel bucket list, going to the bush has not… and now I must go! The heroine of the novel, Leni, is about thirteen when the story begins and her adolescence is captured here beautifully. Her father, Ernt, is a broken man, deeply affected by Vietnam. Some parts of this book were very emotionally tough to read–the anguish!!–Leni and her mother, Cora, experience so much redemption. It is beautiful. I loved this book so much, but be sure to read all the way through. The ending is so unexpected!!

for fans of: historical fiction, travel, Alaska, adventure, or anyone who needs a good cry

The Woman in the Window by A.J. FinnFavorite Recent Reads

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.”

You might not want to read this book if you’re home alone. It’s a little creepy, but in the best way possible. I didn’t see the twist at the end coming–the mark of a great book in my opinion. The Woman in the Window is an absolute page turner… and I couldn’t stop thinking about it after I put it down for the night (or after I finished it!!). I definitely am the sort of person who keeps an eye on my neighbors (hope it’s not too weird to admit that on the internet, but it’s true…) so I could see something like this (hopefully not just like this) happening to me! There are lots of fun film/movie references that take me back to my college film studies class. 

for fans of: suspense, Hitchcock, classic films, Gillian Flynn

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Favorite Recent Reads

Some bodies won’t stay buried. Some stories need to be told.

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past, the present, and herself.

One hundred years earlier, a single violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns.”

I don’t read much young adult (YA) fiction, but this audiobook was captivating and very eye opening. The narration/acting in the audiobook is very well done, too! If you have kids in middle school or older, this would be a great book to listen to as a family and discuss. I know that sounds so formal, but I think that talking to our kids about racial issues and injustices is so important. Though the subject of this book happened nearly a century ago, it is still so relevant today. Before hearing about this book, I wasn’t at all familiar with the Tulsa riots (or whatever you want to call them) in 1921. But they are heartbreaking to learn about in this book. Will’s (and subsequently Joseph’s and Ruby’s) story was more captivating to me than Rowan’s was, but I thought Rowan’s was more powerful in the sense that it makes you think about racial issues in the US today. Things are different now, but are they better? Questionable. 

for fans of: historical fiction, YA, mysteries, suspense, American history, race relations, stories told in dual timelines 

Finding Holy in the Suburbs by Ashley Hales

Favorite Recent Reads

“Suburban life—including tract homes, strip malls, commuter culture—shapes our desires. 

More than half of Americans live in the suburbs. Ashley Hales writes that for many Christians, however: “The suburbs are ignored (‘Your place doesn’t matter, we’re all going to heaven anyway’), denigrated and demeaned (‘You’re selfish if you live in a suburb; you only care about your own safety and advancement’), or seen as a cop-out from a faithful Christian life (‘If you really loved God, you’d move to Africa or work in an impoverished area’). In everything from books to Hollywood jokes, the suburbs aren’t supposed to be good for our souls.” 

What does it look like to live a full Christian life in the suburbs? Suburbs reflect our good, God-given desire for a place to call home. And suburbs also reflect our own brokenness. This book is an invitation to look deeply into your soul as a suburbanite and discover what it means to live holy there.”

This book, Finding Holy in the Suburbswhich I recently read as part of the launch team (full disclosure!), resonated so much with me. As a Christian, it is especially hard to mix our culture and our faith, our life of abundance with the knowledge that others, even in Nashville do not have so much. I found this book to be really convicting, but also funny. The author is a mom with the same loves of Target and Starbucks as many of us do. Even if you don’t live in the Nashville suburbs per se, I think you’ll still find this book entertaining and grounding and challenging and inspiring. 

for fans of: being challenged in their Christian faith, Christian living, Target, Starbucks, minivans, the suburbs, realizing the life they thought they were living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benson

Favorite Recent Reads

“A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid a life of poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.”

I read this book awhile ago, but I can’t stop thinking about it and recommending it to mamas everywhere! It’s told in a diary format and is so raw and powerful, a story of love and loss. Reading this book while my baby nursed and napped on me was intense. As a new mama myself, I connected with Lilli and the struggles and challenges she endures to care for her baby girl.. .but am so thankful my life wasn’t like hers. Parts of the story were so painful to read but I think are necessary for the historical context and the way the author conveys Lilli’s love for her daughter. A must read!

for fans of: historical fiction, babies, Quakers, Philadelphia, women’s issues

Also, be sure to check out…

It was SO agonizingly hard to narrow this list down to five, but I couldn’t share all my favorites here! So here’s a few more reccs. 🙂

  • A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult – This is her latest, set over the course of one day during a hostage situation at a Mississippi abortion clinic. No matter your feelings on abortion, this is a challenging book to read and to consider.
  • The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen – This suspense/thriller novel is fantastic! You can’t assume anything about this love triangle, and that is so true! Some parts were a little predictable but there was still lots of intrigue. 
  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson – I read this book as part of a diversity initiative at work, and though it is nonfiction, it is very compelling. (It’s also not as long as it looks, as the bibliography and notes sections are extensive. If the current divide in our country saddens you, this book is a very informative look at how that came to be. Note: this is just one perspective, but the author uses a lot of historical evidence to make her argument. Despite my academic background in history and African American Studies, there was quite a bit in this book that I was unfamiliar with. 
  • Born a Crime: stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah – This memoir was simultaneously hilarious, sad, and compelling. Trevor Noah is so much more than he seems! Even if you don’t know much about South Africa, apartheid, or the related injustices of this time, this book is relatable and educational.
  • We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – This will be a movie sometime soon-ish, so read it first! It’s a sweeping tale of how one family survives the Holocaust, and it is exceptional. And a tear jerker. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 🙂 

What have you been reading (and loving!) lately?

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After three years in Nashville, Sarah still doesn't consider herself a Southerner—though she loves it here in Middle Tennessee. Maybe that day will come, but until then, she is still a proud Indiana girl married to an Ohio State-obsessed man, Ben (who has banned the term "y'all" at their house and will be utterly devastated if their baby develops a Southern accent). Sarah became a mama in May 2016 upon the birth of their first child, a son (online persona=#BabyVolde). Though she loves her three cats, they are most assuredly not her children. By day, Sarah is an academic librarian. By night, she loves to cook, bake, read, run marathons (well, not every night...), be involved with her church, and explore Nashville's many parks, restaurants, and coffee shops with her little family. You can find out what Sarah is up to in the kitchen by visiting her blog, The Pajama Chef (, or by following her on Twitter or Instagram (@thepajamachef).


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