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Recommended Reading: My 5-Star List

One of the questions my friends and family ask me the most often, is what is on my recommended reading list. I love sharing my love of books with others and my book ratings system reflects this passion. I keep track of every single book I read on Goodreads (A habit I highly recommend) and have created a system for how I give out stars.

A five-star book is a book I just want to talk about with everyone. If I read this book first on my Kindle I have absolutely bought a copy for my home library and I want to share this book with others. A four-star book is a book I really enjoyed and will talk about with anyone who likes this genre of book. I think it’s a really good book but I don’t recommend it to everyone. A three-star book is an average book that I may or may not remember in six months. A two-star book is a book that I didn’t like but I kind of keep my thoughts to myself. A one-star book is a book I don’t like and I actively tell others not to read this book.

So, here’s a look at some of my five-star books. Historical fiction usually rates higher for me and almost anything set in the UK gets an extra star because I love being transported there while I’m reading. You can head to my Goodreads page to see more of what I’ve been reading.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy.

Recommended Reading: Fiction

After I Do – Many books wrap up with some version of living happily ever after. But what happens after that? Taylor Jenkins Reid (one of my favorite authors) writes about what happens after you say I do.

Beartown – Set in Sweden Fredik Bachman (who I’d also highly recommend as an author) explores what a town is willing to do to reach their big dreams. The sequel, Us Against You, is also excellent.

Daisy Jones & The Six The attention to detail in this book is almost unrivaled. While a complete work of fiction about a band in the 70’s, it feels so real that I stopped reading no less than five times to google the band. Only to be reminded that they were in fact imagined by Taylor Jenkins Reid (her books consistently land with 4 or 5 stars for me).

One True Loves – The book opens with, “I was sitting at dinner with my fiancee and my family when my husband called.” From that moment I was hooked. Another homerun from Taylor Jenkins Reid.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – As a lover of books, I love books about books. Books set in bookshops or about the love of books usually rank a bit higher than other books for me. And this was no exception.

British Fiction

If you want to transport yourself over to the United Kingdom, here is my recommended reading for a jaunt over to Great Britain. Brew a cup of tea and curl up while you read.

The Bookshop on the Corner Nina is a literary matchmaker and that sounds like an absolutely lovely job. Sometimes I dream of starting a new life that involves being a book seller. And getting to do it in Scotland wouldn’t be too bad. Jenny Colgan is one of my go-to authors when it comes to needing to be virtually transported to the UK.

The Bookshop on the Shore – Another Jenny Colgan delight. By the time I finished I was ready to pack all of my bags and move to Scotland. This book is loosely tied to The Bookshop on the Corner but doesn’t need to be read for this one to make sense. A third book will be coming out in June 2020.

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop Give me a book set in London and I’m pretty happy. Make that book about a bookshop and I’m even happier. Add in a main character I relate to deeply and I’ll probably give the book five-stars.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe Another favorite from Jenny Colgan (confession: I own at least 10 of her books). A fun book that inspired me to think about trying new things in my life. And it’s set in London which I always enjoy.

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Recommended Reading: Historical Fiction

Lost Roses – Set during World War I and based on a real-life heroine this was an excellent book. Martha Hall Kelly is quickly becoming a favorite author and I recommend reading this and her first book, Lilac Girls.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – My favorite genre of historical fiction is World War II. Every time I start a book I can’t imagine learning about even more of the horrors during this this time period. And then I do. This is a powerful story, especially when you realize it’s based on someone’s life, and not just a fictional account.

No Woman’s Land: A Holocaust Novel – While I read many WWII books I don’t read many books set on the Eastern front of Germany or the Pacific Theater. So this was an excellent opportunity to learn about a different part of the war. I enjoyed this book so much I emailed the author afterwards. This is also another story based on someone’s life, and not just a fictional account.

The Nightingale Two sisters who each fought in their own way against the Nazis during WWII. While this book is a bit different from Kristin Hannah’s other books, it is definitely worth a read.

When We Left Cuba – One of my favorite quotes from this Cold War era book, “Do necessity and desperation change our moral fabric so much that we no longer recognize ourselves?” As I mentioned earlier, most of my historical fiction is WWII so it was a good change of pace for m.

Recommended Reading: Thrillers

The Kind Worth Killing Are any people the kind worth killing? I love thrillers with unexpected twist, and this one definitely provided twists!

The Last Mrs. Parrish – Oh. My. Word. I stayed up late. I woke up early. I could not put this book down and there were several jaw dropping moments. A thriller with some creepy twists!

Do you have any suggestions of books I should read? Please leave them in the comments below so we can all add to our TBR lists!

And if you want to see how reading has inspired my travels, check out this post on a trip to Germany.

Best Bookstores in London

One of my favorite hobbies is reading, so when I was planning my first trip to London I knew I needed to set off in search of the best bookstores in London. But since it was a bit daunting to research London book shops I decided to bring to life the London Bookstore Tour from Cierra of londonblockbyblock. This gorgeous map doesn’t include specific directions, so I sat down with Google Maps and worked out a plan to visit twelve of the best bookstores in London. If you want to explore the best bookstores in London on your own, download my Google Map for easy exploring.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

John Sandoe Books

Founded in 1957, John Sandoe Books is in one of my favorite areas of London, Chelsea. Set just off Kings Road you can stop by to browse the books after a bit of shopping.

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Hatchards

Founded in 1797, Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop. The bookshop is located on one of the most famous streets in the world, Piccadilly. Additionally, Hatchards holds not one, not two, but three royal warrants, which you can see displayed above the entrance.

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National Theatre Bookshop

Located on London’s South Bank, the National Theatre Bookshop offers an unrivaled selection of playtexts. There are also books and gifts related to the theatre.

Stanfords

Another one of my favorite areas of London is Covent Garden. Add in a bookshop filled with maps and travel inspiration and I’m in literary heaven. The bookshop might look like a typical shop when you enter, but when you descend the stairs into the basement you are greeted by maps upon maps upon maps.

Persephone Books

A quite unique bookshop that actually does more business online than in the store. Founded in the 1990’s, Persephone Books only publishes reprints of books, and each book sold has a gray cover.

Daunt Books

There are several Daunt locations throughout London with the Marylebone location being the original. The store originally opened in 1912 and claims to be the world’s first custom-built bookshop. And the design has paid off because you’ve likely seen images of Daunt Books on Instagram.

Blackwells

Blackwells began in a single room with the trade of rare and secondhand books. Now they have been trading books for more than a century and there are Blackwells located all over the UK. With an even greater selection available online for worldwide delivery, including thousands of rare books.

Word on the Water

Floating in the Regent’s Canal Towpath this is definitely one of the most unique bookshops I’ve ever visited. Step onboard this 1920’s Dutch barge near Granary Square in King’s Cross and explore the books of Word on the Water.

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Owl Bookshop

Although Owl Bookshop is now owned by Daunt Books, the store retained its original name. Owl Bookshop has a truly terrific children’s section and regular author talks. Walking into Owl Bookshop gives you all the warm feelings you want when you walk into a bookshop and encourages you to stay a while.

Primrose Hill Books

I highly recommend a visit to Primrose Hill when you’re visiting London for the stunning views of the London skyline. Then stop by the family owned and operated Primrose Hill Books located in a Victorian terrace. After visiting this lovely shop, be sure to also browse their online selection.

West End Lane Books

An independent bookshop which prides itself on making excellent literary recommendations. In their own words, “We’ve been selling books, recommending books and drooling over books since 1994,” and that is exactly the kind of literary haven I enjoy exploring. Add in the delightful children’s section and this has everything you want in an indie bookshop.

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Books for Cooks

Notting Hill’s famous cookbook shop not only sells cookbooks but tests out the recipes in the in-store cafe. There are countless titles stored in every available space in the store plus mouthwatering aromas tempting you to taste the food and then buy the cookbook.

Literary Connections

Here are a few of my favorite books about bookshops, one of my favorite settings for a book.

Nina is a literary matchmaker in Jenny Colgan’s Bookshop on the Corner and she sets out from London to build a new life.

Another Jenny Colgan suggestion, because you really can’t go wrong with one of her books, is Bookshop on the Shore.

Although it is set in Iowa, US and not in London, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is an excellent book about a bookshop.

If you’re planning to visit London during the holidays, here’s a look at my five favorite things to do in London at Christmas.

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Literary Adventures: Phoenix Books

One of the things I love most about reading is getting lost in the story and being transported into the setting of the book. So anytime I find a bookstore where I can get lost in the books, I am one happy girl. Phoenix Books likely won’t be winning any “Most Instagrammable Bookstore” awards anytime soon, but this is a San Luis Obispo gem!

Phoenix Books is an independent, used bookstore located in downtown historic San Luis Obispo. When you visit, be prepared to sift through a lot of books. Like literally piles and piles of books! Every shelf is packed from top to bottom and then there are stacks of additional books throughout the store…including all the way up the staircase.

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Planning Your Trip

A few things I learned on my trip to Phoenix Books to help you plan your trip…

•The store is located at 990 Monterey St, in downtown historic San Luis Obispo, and so parking can be tricky. Rather than look around for a parking spot I found it helpful to use one of the nearby public parking structures. I thought the parking structures were reasonably priced at $1-2 for 2 hours.

•Don’t go into the store with your heart set on finding a particular book! This is a used bookstore, so they won’t have every book you want on hand. When you visit, go into the store prepared to spend time getting lost in the rows of books and you will walk away with a treasure.

•Be sure to stop by the loft upstairs to find stacks and stacks of history books. I also thought it was a fun birds-eye vantage point of the rest of the store.

•Budget more time in your schedule than a quick pop-in to the store! Remember, there are LOTS of books to peruse so you want to leave enough time to truly browse the store

p.s. check out my favorite books from 2018 and see more of my travel and book pics on Instagram!

Book Recommendations – 2018 List

41,599 pages read in 2018.

At the beginning of 2018 I set a reading goal of 156 books and promptly asked everyone I knew for book recommendations. And then I started reading. A lot. Whether I met the goal is a matter of how you want to look at the data. Technically, I entered 195 books on GoodReads (where I track all of my books) during 2018 but only 110 of them were chapter books. The other 85 were picture books as I read one book a day with my 4th graders. So even though I didn’t technically read 156 books for me this year, 110 is still pretty awesome!

I regularly have people ask me for book recommendations so I thought I would take a look back at 2018 and share my favorite books.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the link.

Historical Fiction Book Recommendations

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – This is one of the best World War II historical fiction books I’ve read. The fact that it is inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine moves it even higher on my list of book recommendations. I’m looking forward to reading Lost Roses, also by Martha Hall Kelly in 2019 and discovering the connections to the characters in Lilac Girls.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – This book is why historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I love when author is able to share a piece of history through incredible storytelling and when I finish the book I race to Google to research the historical event. Which is definitely what happened with this book!

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – Hunter does something not all authors are able to do well, write a story that covers quite a few years and quite a few characters. And the fact this incredible story is inspired by a true story makes it even more remarkable. Another excellent World War II book.
The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith – Set during World War II, this book was quite thought-provoking. Reading made me think about how war might change what you will and will not do for your family.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan – Another World War II book inspired by a true story. Not only was I not able to put the book down, but this book has helped me inspire my travels in Europe.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – Sometimes it’s important for my reading to wander beyond World War II and out of Europe and Hannah did that by taking me to Alaska in the 1970’s. An outstanding read that made me think about right and wrong and whether the line can ever be moved.

General Fiction Book Recommendations

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan – Admittedly, I am a royal watcher…and not just the British Royal Family! Although I would be happy to talk about the awesomeness that is the Duchess of Cambridge anytime!  This book was just a downright fun read and would be a great beach read and a must-buy for any royal fans.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman –  I connected with this book because I’ve definitely had seasons of my life where I was okay with things just being fine. Ng looks at a life that is more than fine.

180 Seconds by Jessica Park – I truly do not think I could articulate just why I liked this book but every time I scanned back over the list of books I’d read in 2018, this one came to the top.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – As an avid reader I love finding new bookstores and connecting with others who love reading, so this book was the perfect dive into an intriguing literary world.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (Young Adult Fiction) – Fun young adult fiction (because sometimes my brain needs a break from heavy World War II reading) that will make you want to head to the nearest airport and hop on a flight to Italy.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (Children’s) – I love children’s books with a theme of friendship because I think that’s so important for kids to read about it. And Brown does an outstanding job with the illustrations (he also has lots of great picture books!) and a compelling story.

After reading over 100 books last year, here is a look at my book recommendations with historical fiction, general fiction, non-fiction and children's!

Non-Fiction Book Recommendations

Finish by Jon Acuff – This was the first book in read in 2018 because I had a couple of big goals (read 156 books, become debt-free) and I wanted 2018 to be the year I actually finished my goals. I can’t recommend this book enough for anyone setting any type of goal.

Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath – Fantastic read on how to create memorable moments and why it’s so important to create those moments.

Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines – I enjoy reading biographies and memoirs and after several years of watching Chip & Jo on TV I was excited to read Chip’s book. And it was well worth it. Great to take a closer look at their journey and who they are as people.

The Disney Way by Bill Capodagli & Lynn Jackson – Disney has been successful year after year and decade after decade for a reason. And this book gives you a sneak behind the curtain at Mickey’s house and how to implement the strategies yourself.

Picture Book Recommendations

Here’s the thing…picture books aren’t just for little kids! This school year I’ve committed to reading a picture book every day with my 4th graders and it is one of our favorite parts of the day. Since we’ve already read nearly 90 books this year, it’s difficult to pick just one or two favorites, so here is a look at some of our top favorites from the first half of the year…

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin – We’ll be reading the sequel in the spring!

After the Fall by Dan Santat – A book about trying again even when it’s really hard.

What If You Had An Animal Tail!? – In the words of my students, “It’s both informational AND entertaining!”

The Bad Seed by Jory John – Is it possible to change?

What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada – The process of nurturing ideas until they come to life.

Water Princess by Susan Verde – Raising awareness and inspiring action for global access to clean water.

Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt – Fun read!

Rot, the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton – You’re perfect just the way you are!

2019 Book Recommendations

I’d love to hear from you in the comments, what books should be on my 2019 reading list? My first goal is to see how long I can go without getting any new books while I read all the books already on my shelves, but then I’m open to suggestions!

Other posts you might like:

Orange County Bucket List

Haiti: More Than an Earthquake