Category Archives: Booklists

Tween Booklist for the Reluctant Reader

Oh, you know how we love a good booklist! In fact, our last one was so chock full of good reads that you might want to give it another look.  As Erin is currently teaching middle school, we thought it was time to put together a list for the younger set too. Sometimes, tweens are hard sells on a book, but these reads are so good, their stories so compelling, that even the most reluctant reader will succumb to their charms. So here it is: a tween booklist guaranteed to hit that reading sweet spot for your favorite young reader!

Got a reluctant reader? Great reads for the elementary and middle school crowd. Check out this great tween booklist full of books that are unputdownable! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Um, an enchanted harmonica. Say what? Trust us on this one. Ryan’s magical tale that spans multiple generations and travels across continents is a new classic. The book dives right into some of the thornier aspects of our history and brings a wide-eyed, open-hearted approach. Sometimes this makes for heart-wrenching reading, but ultimately the story is a triumph and a powerful reminder that we can overcome all with love.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Beautiful and moving, this story set in the shadow of World War II is an inspiration. Our hero Annabelle must withstand the local bully, Betty Glengarry, but her actions set in motion a larger, more important story that one of bullying. This remarkable story is “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the middle school set

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Caveat: please read this one before you hand it to a child younger than middle school. That being said, Park handles what could be a very violent book with grace and care. Told from two vantage points and set in 2008, the book follows Nya, a young girl from Sudan who has to fetch water for her village and Salva, a young Sudanese boy whose village is attacked by the rebels in 1985 and who ends up fleeing across the desert to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. This story has true elements to it and the heartbreak of this African village is certainly real, but it’s also an important beautifully rendered account that kids will read quickly.

roll of thunderRoll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

This book is a true classic and even won the Newbery Award. Set in the South during the Great Depression, this book is hard but hopeful and the characters are bright and entertaining in the face of tragedy and racism. You will appreciate the warm ties and truths as your kids will identify and cheer for the family.

The Wee Free Men  by Terry Pratchett

This book is just a great time. Funny, chocked full of adventure, and filled to the brim with heart, there’s nothing not to love here. But the magic is in our protagonist, Tiffany Aching, who sets out on a mission to become a witch. The six inch high tiny but fierce fighting men who assist her help create the magic here. If funny fantasy were a genre, this book would be at the top of it.

red kayak Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings


Set on our beloved Eastern Shore of Maryland, we would probably have a little love for this book even if it wasn’t so deftly knitted together. Luckily for your young reader, this story of a tragic kayak accident is powerful in and of itself. The moral questions the protagonist Brady must answer as he uncovers the truth behind the accident propel this story past the regret and sadness to another place. As the author steers Brady through some tough moral dilemmas without losing any of the suspense, you are reminded over and over again why the book won the honor of being named a Black Eyed Susan book.

wonderWonder by E. J. Palaccio


This Texas Bluebonnet Award winner is a wonder in and of itself. The central character August Pullman has a facial deformity which has prevented him from attending a regular school. When he does finally become a student at Beecher Prep, this buoyant tale takes off. Augie just wants to be treated like everyone else, but, well, everyone else might not be ready for that. Told from the perspective of Augie, his classmates, and his family, this anti-bullying story never comes off as preachy, but does allow room to talk about fears and prejudices and, ultimately, the power of kindness. Wonder of all wonders. A must read for all middle schoolers!

out of my mindOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Wow. Just wow. This book sticks with you. Melody is the smartest kid in school, but she can’t talk or walk, so nobody knows. When she finally finds a way to communicate, she seems on her way to fulfilling her dream of just being a “regular” kid. But, sigh, middle school is hard, yo. Frank and open, this book takes us inside one girl’s journey with cerebral palsy and, even with detours into some heavy stuff, we are all made better from the trip.

the raftThe Raft by S.A. Bodeen


This book reads like Charlotte Rogan’s Lifeboat for the teen set. Poor Robie leaves Hawaii for a trip home to Midway when her plane goes down. Unfortunately, nobody really knows she’s missing or where to look for her. Oh, yeah, and she’s pretty much on her own adrift on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s disaster lit at its best. Your older tween and teen will enjoy this fast-paced easy read.

divergent bookDivergent by Victoria Roth

This series tops the middle school lists. In this dystopian future world, society is divided into five factions named for dedication to five different virtues— (Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). This is the next series for any kid who devoured The Hunger Games and has been hankering for more of the same. This series adds some different elements that make it interesting for sure, but your child should probably have the same level of maturity to really enjoy it. Think of this one as upper middle school.

falconer's knotThe Falconer’s Knot: A Story of Friars, Flirtation and Foul Play by Mary Hoffman

Set during the Middle Ages, Silvano is a guy having kind of a bad streak of luck. Wrongfully accused of murder, he is sent to a Franciscan House for his own protection. Posing as a young friar there, Silvano can’t help falling for the lovely girl in the nearby abbey. But he just can’t catch a break. More murders threaten to take Silvano’s freedom for good and keep him from his love. Unlike Hoffman’s popular Stravanganza series set in an alternate world that looked like Renaissance Italy, this suspenseful tale is actually set in fourteenth century Umbria. The historical element just adds another layer to this already rich story. Your young readers will swoon.

among the hiddenThe Shadow Children, the Complete Series: Among the Hidden; Among the Impostors; Among the Betrayed; Among the Barons; Among the Brave; Among the Enemy; Among the Free by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Ideal for all fluent readers, this series is a runaway hit. Luke is a 12 year old kid who has spent his life in hiding. The Population Police have dictated that each family can only have two kids. As his family’s third child, Luke’s life is in danger so he has never experienced many of the simple joys of childhood. As his world changes, he glimpses others like himself and launches a daring plan to come out of the shadows that gives energy and momentum to the series. Your kids will be so busy trying to keep up with all the plot twists and turns that they won’t even know they just spent their summer reading.

feverFever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

This recommendation cannot come without also calling attention to Anderson’s other wonderful titles Speak and Chains, both National Book Award finalists. Anderson is the master of historical fiction for the Axe and Aero set. This novel takes us to Philadelphia during the yellow fever epidemic is one of her best. Told from the point of view of Mattie Cook, this tale weaves a narrative around the real-life events and characters of the time. Anderson never treats her young readers like unintelligent ones so the language in the book is just as rich and interesting as the story itself. And there’s an appendix at the end with facts about the epidemic. Sqwee! To a certain reader, it’s kind of like getting a birthday cake on Christmas. Score!

WestingGame6THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin

This is an oldie but greatie. Several of us remember this book as one of our favorites from childhood and at least one of us taught this book to our students.  Another Newbery winner, this book has been charming readers for over twenty-five years and it still reads as fresh and inventive as it did back then. Sixteen people show up to the reading of Samuel Westing’s will. Any of them could walk away with his millions. The fun is in the unravelling. An absolute delight to read!

when life gives you OJWhen Life Gives You O.J.  by

Animal-lovers will flock to this book! Zelly is moving to Vermont and she desperately wants a dog. Her grandpa Ace comes up with a crazy scheme to convince her parents that she is ready for one: he makes her a dog out of an old orange juice jug. There is a lot to love about this book. The sweet but complicated relationship Zelly has with her grandpop Ace, her new friend who encourages her to stay true to her convictions even in the face of social pressures, and the subtle themes of responsibility and treating all people (even bullies) with respect woven throughout. The author even inserts some great education about the Jewish faith into the story as Zelly meets two families who are devout Jews in a town that where they are a distinct and noticeable minority. Kids will love the Yiddish glossary at the end!

  11831Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt


So you had to know this book was special once you figured out that this sequel won the Newbery Honor Award, but it’s also pretty apparent from the moment you open the spine (without breaking it, of course) and settle into the pages. Thirteen year old Dicey and her three siblings were abandoned by her mother in a parking lot and she has heralded them safely to her grandmother’s house where this story begins. The truth and beauty of Dicey’s voice and story, the pace and strong characters, and ultimately the honesty that permeates from this fast-paced read are all part of its charm. Oh, and it was one of Erin’s favorite books from when she was on the cusp of teendom.

nerd campNerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman

This funny, tender book about being true to who you are doesn’t ever come across as schmaltzy and boys will be laughing too hard at all the crazy adventures of Gabe and his friends at Nerd Camp to notice all the sweet stuff anyway. Gabe’s dad is getting remarried and he is getting a stepbrother who happens to be the very same age. This is great news for Gabe until he realizes that his new brother Zack is a cool skateboarder while he is, well, not. Gabe desperately wants to hide his geekiness from Zack and the story unfolds. In the end, this is a story about accepting yourself for who you are. It’s such a positive, upbeat story narrated by an engaging young voice that tween boys won’t be able to put this book down.

three Times LuckyThree Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage


Oh, we love a strong female lead and this book has one in the firecracker protagonist named Mo LeBeau. Big on personality and heart, this book is also a full-blown mystery topped with a little Southern charm. As a read, it goes down like a smooth glass of perfect lemonade. Your kids will be charmed by the quirky cast of characters and the precocious but believable dialogue.

spy schoolSpy School by Stuart Gibbs

Erin’s kids have been known to fall asleep clutching spy goggles and our friend Mary’s son brought his spy watch kayaking, hiking, and camping last year. Boys LOVE spy stuff. So a book about a school for spies? It has Hogwarts for Future Double Agents written all over it. Even the hero Ben is a little Potter reminiscent. Slow to warm up to the spy stuff, Ben wins in the end—making friends, helping to uncover the hidden mole, and getting his spy groove on. This book brings the action, ninja stars, and combat simulation (in the form of paintball—of course) to the CIA Academy and kids who enjoy a witty tale with a side of suspense will be delighted.  This would be a great read-aloud for younger kids too.

Alas, we think all the books on this tween booklist are winners, but we also love it when smarter people with fancy ribbons agree with us too. We have found the Newbery Award winners, the Black Eyed Susan books, the Texas Bluebonnet Award winners, and the National Book Award winners to be great resources for finding even more wonderful reads for our kids.

But if all else fails, ask a librarian. They will usually rain down suggestions with just a little prodding. We have some of the best here in our county, but we bet there is a great one near you too!

Happy reading!

-Erin and Ellen

Hey! Want to buy our new book? I Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious and relatable essays that showcase the foibles of ordinary women trying to be perfect.

I Just Want to Be Perfect

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10 Books For the Sidelines

If your spring looks anything like ours, you would appreciate not just an extra blanket, some stay cool water bottles and another hour in your day, but something to fill those minutes you will inevitably spend waiting by soccer fields or tennis courts. Well, in our experience, a good book will brighten even the soggiest of sidelines. Here are 10 books for the sidelines that you are sure to love! Need a great book to read this spring? These 10 Books for the Sidelines are fast, easy reads you will love from the first page to the last! | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. The Lake House  by Kate Morton

Spring loves a mystery and this one does not disappoint. After a lovely party at the lake house, the Edevane family’s 11 month old son Theo goes missing. Morton’s page turner takes this pivotal moment in a family’s history and creates something special and utterly unputdownable. Told from two vantage points–2003 London and 1930s Cornwall–this book will have you ignoring kids just to figure out what is happening and where this story will go. As always, Morton’s gift for managing complicated story lines while simultaneously creating well-developed characters will make you grateful for all that extra time you have to read.

2. The Quiet Game  by Greg Iles

A good friend recommended this book calling it a “sexy beast of a read”. If you are anything like me, that alone might make you want to read this book, but if it doesn’t, try this: this is a novel that won’t be compartmentalized. A virtual smorgasbourd of all good things literary, this book has action, suspense, courtroom drama, some literary allusions, and even a tiny sprinkling of horror toward the end. There are no small bites here; you will devour this book. Without a dull moment in sight, this book grips you from the first sentence and keeps you entertained and hungry for more until it delivers one sad reader at the very end. You will miss these characters and this story when it’s gone. Lucky for all of us, this is book one in a five book series. Read on, book warriors!

3. The Widow by Fiona Barton

Don’t read the dust jacket: this book is neither Gone Girl nor The Girl on the Train, both books we really, really liked even with their creepy, psychological suspense. It IS a great read though. In fact, it reminded us more of Leanne Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret with the marital secrets and the mystery at the heart of it. Sometimes, multiple points of view can be distracting, but in this case, the structure of the novel contributes to some of the magic. Be forewarned: you could easily lose an afternoon falling down this delightful rabbit hole, but the pay-off is worth it!

4. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafazi

Our book club just read this one, and we universally loved and were inspired by it. So much so that those of us who had borrowed it from the library purchased copies to share with our kids. We were mesmerized by Malala’s chilling account of her hometown being taken over and then living under extremist terrorists, moved by her descriptions of the Swat Valley where she grew up, and emboldened by her courage. The book held up for us as a read, not just a recounting. 2016 is The Year for Global Girls. Lose yourself in Malala’ s incredible story and find yourself fired up about getting girls all over the world access to educational opportunities.

5.  Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

 We share a huge author crush on Rainbow Rowell. We both LOVED Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, so we had huge expectations for this book, especially because favorite characters from Fangirl show up again in this story. Well, the inimitable Rowell never fails to surprise, entertain, and stun us with her craft and cleverness. She can also give you that rare stomach flip. Even in a book about magic, she is the real deal. Before you start to call this book Harry Potter for big kids, you have to know that this book is its own brand of special. How do we know? Over 500 pages disappear in a flash before your very eyes. This is Rowell at her best. The results? Magical.

6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

In one sense, you can think of this book as bread crumbs in the forest because essentially that is how this smart novel is written. Bee, the daughter, assembles emails, documents, letters et al after her mother Bernadette disappears in an effort to assemble the clues to unravel the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. The structure of the novel is just one intimation that this book is something special. After you read each document in its entirety, the full force and power of this novel is brought to light. Bitterly funny, satirical, and off-kilter in the best sense of the word, this send-up about all the things we mock and fear and revere in our modern society is the equivalent of a literary carnival. Dork Alert: Fans of Arrested Development won’t be a bit surprised to learn that the author Maria Semple was also a writer for the series .

7. Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline

Erin gobbled this one right up. She even took it backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Nothing says “must read” like a willingness to cart those extra ounces up and down a mountain. In any case, the novel opens as stay-at-home mom Allison’s life is about to go off the rails. She goes to her childhood best friend’s book signing one night and has a little too much to drink. Mere hours later, she is involved in a fatal accident in which a child dies. The air you take into your lungs in the big gasp in the beginning takes this whole well-paced novel to be released. This may not be high literature, but it is a captivating read that makes you think. Like we said, you are gonna want to take big bites of this one.

8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Erin laughed, cried, and ignored her kids for three days to finish this piece of book crack in the big, sloppy gulps it demands. You know from the beginning that there has been a terrible tragedy at the local school’s Trivia Night, because Moriarty leaves little crumbs at the end of each chapter. But that’s not the story here. This is NOT another legal thriller. A big, sprawling character study of modern moms, it may be. An ironic, funny take on modern parenting, it definitely is! It’s also a rollicking good time. You’ll laugh and cringe at just how right Moriarty gets all the characters hanging out in the school parking lot. A great read for fall while still reminiscent of that last joyful moment of summer indulgence.

9. Unbecoming: A Novel by Rebecca Sherm

A book lover’s dream, this first novel has the trifecta for a satisfying read: great well-developed characters, a dynamic and well-paced plot, and some nice curve balls to keep you guessing. Our protagonist Grace looks like a simple girl from Tennessee, but she can’t hide her complex and slippery character for long. You’ll root for her and want to wring her neck in equal measure.  There’s a question that hangs over the novel from the beginning that’s begging to be answered and when Scherm finally gets around to it, you are grateful for the care she took in the build-up as well as the payoff itself. This is a debut that leaves you wanting more.

10. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Moms of daughters, beware: this read will make you want to lock your girls up and throw away the key. But despite the dark cloud that hangs over this novel as a teen girl goes missing, there is so much to enjoy as well. Ng is a writer’s writer and she doesn’t so much document this family’s unraveling as their personal hell unfolds as invite you to pull at the fraying threads with her. At once, a novel about family, the mother/daughter dynamic, and cultural divides, this book is also achingly real and familiar. The truth hurts so bad in this one, but the reader is so grateful for every perfect note Ng hits. If the ship is going down, we might as well learn something from the trip. Ng makes sure she plumbs the depths so well that this is one dark corner now revealed.

We hope these page turners will brighten your spring!

Happy Reading!

Erin and Ellen

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10 Books to Read Before You Send Your Kid to College

Sports and prom and graduation day, oh my! Even with our spring overstuffed to-do lists, we managed to pull together a booklist for you of our favorite reads for getting yourself and your kid ready for college. Even if it will be a little while before your baby crosses that stage and moves that tassel, even if you are just overcome planning all the things you want to say to your graduate, even if college is still very much a SOMEDAY rather than a couple of months from now, try to find some time to open up one of these great books. Time moves super fast in the teen years, so you might want to get started today.

Got application anxiety? College admission angst? 10 books to read before your kids goes to college | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

Any parent who has been through it will tell you: college admissions is an emotional pressure cooker. Nothing quite captures the high highs and the low lows quite like this utterly delectable piece of fiction. The Hawthornes are a family so familiar you feel from the first page like you might be reading about your next door neighbors. As their oldest gets put through the wringer applying to Harvard, dad’s alma mater, so do the rest of them. As the pressure is on, things start to unravel and secrets are revealed. Bottom line: an immensely enjoyable read for you that will make you grateful for your own process in comparison.

2. Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni

We get the anxiety around getting into college.  It’s not just about getting into college, but the right one that makes a difference, right? Bruni has made it his life’s work to smack that idea right out of your head. With frank, honest talk and persuasive arguments for why you are looking at this whole college admissions thing all wrong, Bruni turns everything you think you know about it on its head. His passion is palpable and his research thorough. In the end, his argument that motivated kids can get a good education almost anywhere feels like just the balm you needed just when you needed it.

3. Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges by Loren Pope

Snuggle this one up beside that big honking behemoth, Princeton Review’s The Complete Book of Colleges . Honestly, this book gave us a different way to talk about college and all the different reasons you matriculate to institutes of higher learning besides just the great job opportunities. We love, love, LOVE the acknowledgement that kids, like colleges, are not a “one size fits all” commodity. So many great ideas here for kids who might not fit the mold of the high achiever but who would thrive in college. A great resource that opened up lots of great discussions with our kids!

4. Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wiseman

Before you launch your young man out into the world at large, read this book. Frankly, anyone who spends any time at all around any boys age 11 through 18 needs to read it too. With over 200 interviews with boys and strong research guiding her conclusions, Wiseman draws the adolescent boy in sharp relief and gives us not only a true picture of the more complex lives of boys, but some ways we can help them through the next few years.

Our favorite insight is that we as a society do boys a disservice by dismissing their emotional lives as simple when they most assuredly are not. There is even a free e-book for boys themselves to read about what to do in difficult situations.

We know what you’re thinking: Wiseman is kind of a superhero. Or a superstar. In any case, she has written a book that can save you and any special boys in your life and help get them ready for that eventual big step up and away from you.

5. Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman

And Wiseman works a similar magic for girls. Erin read this book when she first started teaching middle school and it fundamentally changed the way she looked at girls, their friendships, and their struggles with each other and themselves.

Wiseman offers sage, sound advice for how to guide girls towards treating themselves with dignity and grace and treating each other fairly, but there is so much more than that in this book. Understanding girl power plays, how boys fit into the big picture of girl relationships, and the different roles girls play really helps anyone who knows or loves an adolescent girl guide her to her best, most authentic self. Thanks again to the wonderful and very wise Wiseman for helping us prepare our daughters (and yours) for the big wide world.

6. Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour

When it comes to advice about college, we listen to our friends Lisa and Mary Dell who write over at Grown and Flown, a great online resource for parenting through this next phase of life. They told us to buy this book, and we are ever so grateful they did. Chock full of great research, stellar examples, and good advice, this book is a gem, but what we felt was most helpful was the overall tone. Damour’s message time and time again is that we, as parents, can do this very hard thing of parenting our girls through this tough phase of development.  With the cool confident tone of a priest or a hostage negotiator, Damour emphasizes  that there is more than one way to “get this right.”  Our harried teen mom hearts wish we could clone her and carry her around in our pockets to talk us down off our ledges when the time comes. In the end, this is one book that will deliver all of you to the other side and get you ready for the big, beautiful things that lie ahead.

7. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by John Krakauer  

This one might make you want to lock up ALL of your college aged kiddos, but you HAVE to read it. You know how we love to talk to kids about everything from sex to drugs to alcohol. Well, Krakauer lays out why we need to talk to our kids about alcohol and campus rape too. YIKES! But why, you ask? WHY?! We get that this is a tough read in many places, but Krakauer’s firm steady journalistic hand makes this one of the best, most important (but still immensely readable) things you can read, especially if you have kids filling out college applications or already cozied up in dorm rooms. It is a book that launched a thousand conversations for us. We are sharing it with you in the hopes that it will do the same in your family. A MUST read!

8. How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims

This, from Julie Lythcott-Haims’ Amazon author page, is one of the reasons we love her and her book:

I am deeply interested in humans – all of us – living lives of meaning and purpose, which requires figuring out what we’re good at and what we love, and being the best version of that self we can be. So I’m interested in what gets in the way of that.

Um, yeah, all of what she said. This is not a book about helicopter parenting, per se, so much as a path through the fears that can interfere with our parenting and foil our relationships with our kids. Lythcott-Haims tells us how we as a society evolved to this style of parenting and how to break the bad habits that threaten the job we are trying to do. Such insight in such a readable form! A book we keep coming back to again and again!

9. The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances Jensen

You know our science-loving hearts love us some fine research. This one is top notch while also keeping it real. Jensen is a mom to two boys as well as a neurologist. She gets that we don’t want to just know why our crazy teens act the way they do, but what we can do about it. Brimming with good science and better ideas of how to use that research to improve our parenting, this book won over our hearts and minds.

10. The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only: A Parent’s Guide to the New College Experience: Calling, Not Calling, Packing, Preparing, Problems, Roommates, … Matters when Your Child Goes to College by Harlan Cohen

When Erin sent her oldest to college this fall, she desperately needed a place to answer her five million questions. Her friends were all, “we haven’t done this before, make a new friend.” Harlan Cohen was that buddy. Erin loved his straight-shooting, non-preachy tone and oodles of relevant advice. If at times it felt like he had peered into her soul and presciently written chapters just for her, well, that was just gravy. Though the 600 pages look daunting, this book is one you pick up and put down. Think of it as the Bible of Letting Go. There is a companion book for kids headed to college which we did not purchase. Erin knows her kid and the sheer volume of it meant that it would be a doorstop, not a resource. But THIS book was perfect for her and, hopefully you too, as you and your family take this next big step.

So whether you have a kid heading off to college in the fall or a few years from now, these are all books that will help you not just survive but enjoy this brave new world you are entering.

-Erin and Ellen

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, because  college is expensive, y’all.

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15 Books to Read This Fall

Alas, summer is exiting stage right, but before we all cry a collective tear for the lazy, hazy days we are leaving behind, here is a happy thought: books are always in season. As other delights happily move to the forefront like comfy sweaters, roaring fires, and pumpkin lattes, we don’t have to put our proverbial favorites on the shelf. Heck, no! In fact, here is a list of books that will keep you great company through one of our favorite seasons.  We dug deep for this list of our favorites, so each and every one of these is roaring-fire-latte-and-comfy-sweater-worthy. In fact, every last one of these books might make it on to your own list of favorite reads ever, we promise.

Craving a great book to read? Here is a booklist any mom would love with fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. You need these in your world. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 1. Unbecoming: A Novel by Rebecca Sherm

A book lover’s dream, this first novel has the trifecta for a satisfying read: great well-developed characters, a dynamic and well-paced plot, and some nice curve balls to keep you guessing. Our protagonist Grace looks like a simple girl from Tennessee, but she can’t hide her complex and slippery character for long. You’ll root for her and want to wring her neck in equal measure.  There’s a question that hangs over the novel from the beginning that’s begging to be answered and when Scherm finally gets around to it, you are grateful for the care she took in the build-up as well as the payoff itself. This is a debut that leaves you wanting more.

2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Moms of daughters, beware: this read will make you want to lock your girls up and throw away the key. But despite the dark cloud that hangs over this novel as a teen girl goes missing, there is so much to enjoy as well. Ng is a writer’s writer and she doesn’t so much document this family’s unraveling as their personal hell unfolds as invite you to pull at the fraying threads with her. At once, a novel about family, the mother/daughter dynamic, and cultural divides, this book is also achingly real and familiar. The truth hurts so bad in this one, but the reader is so grateful for every perfect note Ng hits. If the ship is going down, we might as well learn something from the trip. Ng makes sure she plumbs the depths so well that this is one dark corner now revealed.

3. Rules of Civility: A Novel

rulesFall is the perfect time for a book that begs you to get lost between the pages. Towles evokes a time and place in his portrayal of 1930s Manhattan that would be fun to visit in and of itself, but the plucky, lucky every-girl Katey Content as the protagonist powers this past just another period piece. Katey is trying to make something of herself and we are enchanted by this girl on the edge of metamorphosis. When random events and people like the charismatic Tinker Grey change the course and temper of her future, we recognize Katey and her transparent yearning and root for her. We all have been that girl (or guy) on the cusp of possibility. This is a wonderful, buoyant novel about coming of age in a time and place with an enchantment all its own.

4. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

seating arrangement A lesser author might have made this story into a tragedy, but this book is laugh out loud funny. Winn’s daughter is getting married at the Kennedy-esque family compound, and his world of privilege is unraveling. He’s a man with everything but true happiness, and the three day extravaganza is primed to turn into a spectacle rather than the refined affair he desires. Even as Shipstead takes on the world of the well-bred with a sharp, biting wit, you will be swayed by her sidesteps into the heart of desire, the obligations of love, and what we must never surrender for fame, fortune, or a seat at the country club. This is funny with a super sized helping of smart, and it goes down smooth.

5.  Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter

beautiful ruins Absorbing, interwoven stories and beautifully drawn characters help you travel back and forth over fifty years in this tale. You won’t mind the trip a bit. In fact, you will be drawn into this world. From the lovely actress to the soulless movie producer, from the novelist to the innkeeper, each character dreams deeply improbable dreams and you can’t help but be carried away with them. This is a book to fall into and lose yourself a little.

6.Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

So this might seem a funny one to suggest for curling up with by a crackling fire. End-of-life issues? Medical research? Um, ladies, you have done lost it this time. Pipe down over there. Gawande is the most gifted of storytellers who just also happens to be a doctor. Every book of his is a gem, but this one might be his best yet. His beautifully drawn anecdotes and stories create a lovely scaffold to hang this question: If medicine has now reached the stage where it can give us a good life, is it ready to give us a good end as well? A surprising page-turner, you’ll not mind the twists and turns and hefty research he sprinkles throughout to answer this question. This is a book you’ll want to share with your friends and loved ones.

7. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by John Krakauer  

This one might make you want to lock up ALL of your college aged kiddos, but you HAVE to read it. You know how we love to talk to kids about everything from sex to drugs to alcohol. Well, Krakauer lays out why we need to talk to our kids about alcohol and campus rape too. YIKES! But why, you ask? WHY?! We get that this is a tough read in many places, but Krakauer’s firm steady journalistic hand makes this one of the best, most important (but still immensely readable) things you can read this fall, especially if you have kids filling out college applications or even already cozied up in dorm rooms. It is a book that launched a thousand conversations for us. We are sharing it with you in the hopes that it will do the same in your family. A MUST read!

8. The Martian by Andy Weir

Erin has already shoved this book into the hands of every person willing to take a book from a crazy lady. But in all seriousness, this book knocked her socks off. The premise is that Mark Watney is left for dead on Mars after an ill-fated mission. But he is so not dead. Watney’s humor and humanity breathe life into this well-paced and thoughtfully constructed story about a man’s struggle for survival in an unforgiving environment. He makes us laugh, gasp, and root for his plucky ultimate underdog self. Add to this already amazing mix that this is a real science brand of science fiction and the result is unputdownable fiction. You can just thank Erin later or, at the very least, not run from her when she is shoving books at you.

9. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Broken hearts are good for one thing: creating some powerful books. In this case, Helen Macdonald has lost her dad and then her way. So she does what all grieving girls do: she decides to train a goshawk. Weaving together stories of her grief with her experience training the hawk and anecdotes about T.H. White who also trained hawks, Macdonald is spinning a special kind of magic here. Her vulnerability, her bare-faced honesty, and her well-researched and deftly placed bits about White mesh with her rich wells of talent to bring us something far more encompassing and satisfying than a memoir of her grief. This is writing at its highest level with sentences that hold up to re-readings. We are not grateful for her loss so much as deeply affected by it and the lovely piece of writing it spawned.

10. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Erin laughed, cried, and ignored her kids for three days to finish this piece of book crack in the big, sloppy gulps it demands. You know from the beginning that there has been a terrible tragedy at the local school’s Trivia Night, because Moriarty leaves little crumbs at the end of each chapter. But that’s not the story here. This is NOT another legal thriller. A big, sprawling character study of modern moms, it may be. An ironic, funny take on modern parenting, it definitely is! It’s also a rollicking good time. You’ll laugh and cringe at just how right Moriarty gets all the characters hanging out in the school parking lot. A great read for fall while still reminiscent of that last joyful moment of summer indulgence.

11. Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline

Erin gobbled this one right up. She even took it backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Nothing says “must read” like a willingness to cart those extra ounces up and down a mountain. In any case, the novel opens as stay-at-home mom Allison’s life is about to go off the rails. She goes to her childhood best friend’s book signing one night and has a little too much to drink. Mere hours later, she is involved in a fatal accident in which a child dies. The air you take into your lungs in the big gasp in the beginning takes this whole well-paced novel to be released. This may not be high literature, but it is a captivating read that makes you think. Like we said, you are gonna want to take big bites of this one.

12. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Nothing warms the heart faster than a love story, and this one charmed us both. It’s a story of first love peopled with characters so real they could walk right off the page. Eleanor and Park are high schoolers the way we remember them and know them now. Funny, sweet, vulnerable, flawed, and deeply striving for love, acceptance, and independence, they are characters to cheer for, and you will. Erin walked around like a teen in love while reading it and couldn’t stop shoving it into the hands of any unsuspecting reader she could find. Don’t let the Barnes and Noble sales rack fool you: this is not a teen romance in the same way that War and Peace is not a book that concerns Russia. It IS a 24 hour read. Tops.

13. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

In one sense, you can think of this book as bread crumbs in the forest because essentially that is how this smart novel is written. Bee, the daughter, assembles emails, documents, letters et al after her mother Bernadette disappears in an effort to assemble the clues to unravel the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. The structure of the novel is just one intimation that this book is something special. After you read each document in its entirety, the full force and power of this novel is brought to light. Bitterly funny, satirical, and off-kilter in the best sense of the word, this send-up about all the things we mock and fear and revere in our modern society is the equivalent of a literary carnival.

Dork Alert: Fans of Arrested Development won’t be a bit surprised to learn that the author Maria Semple was also a writer for the series .

14. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Loss moves us in lots of ways. For Cheryl Strayed, loss meant literally moving. Away from her broken heart after losing her mother, away from the painful detritus of her failed marriage, away from a life veering off the tracks, she needed to get away in the realest sense possible. So she hit the trail. For her, healing meant lacing up her brand spanking new boots and setting her sights on a trip she honestly was unprepared for in every way. Strayed’s recounting of her time on the Pacific Crest Trail is riveting. Not only is she gifted with a steely resolve worthy of wonder and awe, but she has a wordsmith’s touch and a clear-eyed honesty that will captivate you. Can’t-put-down-able.

15. Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson

Three years after the loss of her son, Anna Whiston-Donaldson has crafted something beautiful out of the crazy, sad space left behind after the loss of her son. “Rare Bird” is exceptional in its power and inimitable in its voice. It is a rare and beautiful find on a dark road. Anna’s story is also a story of deep faith in the face of that which rocks one to the very core. Her poignant, painful, and sometimes funny anecdotes don’t just paint a picture of grief but gives it clear edges and hard corners. This new framework that grief imposes leaves her struggling to find in this new dark place the God that has always sustained her. But her straightforward open-hearted approach to this journey helps her see the new big God who is walking beside her in this place. A beautiful, big-hearted, clear-eyed, and ultimately hopeful and inspiring read.

There you have it: a big, honking stack of readable, lovable books to keep you warm and in reading all season long. We hope you love them all as much as we do!

Happy Reading!

-Erin and Ellen

 

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Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!!

Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!! Grab some reading inspiration and suggestions plus a chance to win a $225 gift card and 7 books in our giveaway! It’s here, friends. The end of summer is upon us. We know. We’re sad too. But just because lazy days on the beach are ending, doesn’t mean the reading stops! In fact, just the opposite. No time like the present to lose yourself in a great book to escape the hassles and woes of Back-to-School prep and fuss. There’s some solace to be had by making the most of these last summer days.

To this end, we asked the uber-important question of our blogging buddies: What book would you recommend for a last blast of summer reading?

Actually, our friend, Meredith, from The Mom of the Year asked this question and was nice enough to include us. Every month she and Normal Level of Crazy meet through a virtual book club* to allow moms to come together and chat about fab books while still rocking their pj pants in the cozy comfort of their own homes. It doesn’t get any better, really.

This month, the skies have been blown wide open with an entire book list of great reads that you need to check out! Even better, we are giving one of you a $225 Amazon gift card along with seven of the titles on this list to read! In short, you will be in a reader’s heaven and completely forget that the daily school grind is around the corner. Oops! Did we just remind you? Forget we said anything and focus on the sweet deal instead.

Enter to score the gift card and the hard copies of the books before 8/14/15 at 5:30am ET through the Rafflecopter below. As long as you are resident of the continental U.S. and 18 yrs. or older, you are eligible to win!

Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!! Grab some reading inspiration and suggestions plus a chance to win a $225 gift card and 7 books in our giveaway!

 

What’s on the list of recommended reads?

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks (Jessica of Herd Management)–Possibly the best Sparks’ book I’ve ever read. Two couples in completely different time periods paths cross and the end result is amazing. Tear-jerking romance is enfolded within the pages of the characters’ captivating challenges. Plus, I can’t resist a cowboy. Read this before you see the movie!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Courtney of Our Small Moments)– How would you feel if the one you loved turned out to be from one of the richest families? Crazy Rich Asians shows the complexity of that situation.

The Liar by Nora Roberts (MamaRabia of The Lieber Family)–What would you do if you found out that your recently deceased husband was not only a liar and a thief, but possibly worse? Shelby Pomeroy decides to take back her life by clearing her name and fighting to make a better life for herself and her young daughter. But her dead husband still has some surprises in store for her!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Jennifer of Real Life Parenting)–The primary female characters in this historical fiction are strong, feisty, and full of heart and personality. The way their lives in time are so far apart, their connections are close and poignant. I loved the blending of history with modern day happenings! A quick read because you just don’t want to put it down.

Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!! Grab some reading inspiration and suggestions plus a chance to win a $225 gift card and 7 books in our giveaway!

Child, Please, How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself by Ylonda Gault Caviness (Stacey of One Funny Motha)–Maybe I like this book because I’m old-school myself. Or it could be the author’s funny, lively, entirely personable voice that makes reading it feel as though you’re talking to a friend. Or it could be that I write about similar issues myself and found much to agree with in the author’s perspective. Whatever the case, this memoir is a throughly enjoyable read of one woman’s straight-talking journey through motherhood and was selected by Ebony as 1 of the top 4 must-reads of the summer.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Alyson of The Shitastrophy)–Was the most amazing read for me. After having walked away from reading for pleasure for some time due to work commitments I selected this book to read on an airplane. I couldn’t put the book down and finished it within 2 days. The story winds and weaves through three friends lives together. The ending was something I didn’t see coming and was suiting to see how justice can come to fruition, even when not done judicially. I have gone on to read the rest of her books available and none have disappointed.

Now the Hell Will Start by Brendan I. Koerner (Femme of FemmeFrugality)–Part history, part thriller, all non-fiction. Now the Hell Will Start is the story of Herman Perry, a WWII American soldier on the run in Burma after shooting his commanding officer. Not only does it expose a massive part of WWII history we never learn about in school, it also follows his incredible run from the law, including marrying into a local, headhunting tribe.

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran (Alicia of Sadler House)–Many writers have extolled the virtues of Italy’s countryside, but no other story of Italian transplants is quite like this one. This witty memoir recounts how an award-winning Hollywood comedy producer finds himself renovating a 300-year-old house in Tuscany, where escapism gives way to real-life hilarity.

The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman (Janene of More than Mommies)–We all have those reader friends who we want to be like. You know . . . the ones who are always reading WAY cooler books than we are reading? Well, this book came HIGHLY recommended by my reader friend who I have reader envy of, so, I think we should ALL read it and discuss! (I’m planning on reading it in August . . . so if you pick this one to read I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown (Dani of Cloudy, With a Chance of Wine)–My BFF sent me Secrets of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown for my birthday in March and I absolutely COULD NOT put it down. I only ever trust her book recommendations, and she was spot on with this one. It’s the perfect late summer / back-to-school read, and will not disappoint!

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (Norine of Science of Parenthood)–Though it reads like a Downton Abbey-esque drawing room drama, behind the mansions and manners and horse-drawn carriages, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth is a fierce social commentary on the proscribed roles for American women in the 1880s. Wharton is a social commentator bar none. And Lily Bart, whose story this is, is my favorite tragic heroine. Every time I read this book, I root for Lily to emerge victorious … and am heartbroken all over again when she falters.

On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad (Amy of Funny is Family)–On Borrowed Wings is the story of a girl who disguises herself as a boy to attend Yale University in the 1930s, before women were allowed to enroll. It’s a fantastic read that weaves well-researched historical details and the strong desire of a girl to break away from her predetermined life path.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner (Meredith of Meredith to Mommy)–This book really struck me. Well-off, suburban, mom blogger who is trying to do it all winds up addicted to pain meds. This constant monologue of “I can fix this myself. I have a plan. I don’t REALLY have a problem.” as she falls deeper and deeper into addiction made me choke up at how easy it is to lose control and wind up in a hole that you have no hope of clawing yourself out of alone, while still keeping up a strong facade as someone who has it all. I’ve read it multiple times, and find myself just as drawn in as I was the first.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (Kimberly of Red Shutters)–Did you love Rob Lowe in “The Outsiders” and “St. Elmo’s Fire” as much as I did? Then, you’d love this memoir in which Lowe pulls back the curtain on his life in Hollywood, from 19-year-old heartthrob to award-winning actor, sharing life wisdom along the way. I enjoyed the audio version of this book, which Lowe narrates himself, complete with impressions of Christopher Walken, Francis Ford Coppola, and other film industry luminaries.

The Martian by Andy Weir (Kim of Let Me Start By Saying)–A man gets left on Mars by accident and his personality, smarts, creativity, and sense of humor carve a place in your heart for him as he tries to figure a way to survive–and eventually leave–his new home in space. What is happening back on Earth and in the ship that left him will have you cranking through the pages, itching to know what will happen next, because this book is full of surprises, laughs, details that make you feel right there.

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion)–A thought-provoking punch to the gut that, unfortunately, mimics reality a little too closely. I read it before I had kids, then again after I had my three, and I think a parent’s perspective is far more frightening. In the novel, a sociopath “kid” commits the darkest of sins and turns a town–and his family–upside down. *Shivers*

Finding Zoe by Brandi Rarus (Stephanie of Binkies and Briefcases)–the story of a deaf mother and how she came to find herself raising an adopted daughter who is also deaf, as well as her biological children. As an adoptive mom myself, it can be hard to find other stories that relate to my own journey mothering a child with special needs who joined us out of foster care, and this book certainly does that. More than that, Finding Zoe also gave me a glimpse into deaf culture (which was neat for me because before my grandmother passed away she volunteered as a sign language interpreter) and was full of cool trivia, like the author being cast as Marlee Matlin’s understudy in a play, but it was also real and relatable on a human level. I think any mom will be able to relate to this memoir.

Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!! Grab some reading inspiration and suggestions plus a chance to win a $225 gift card and 7 books in our giveaway!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (Melanie of Not So Super Mom)– I like it for summer reading because it’s not too heavy of a story but it does make us think a bit about our own lives, the expectations we had when we were younger and how changing priorities can set our lives on a different course than we imagined. What a difference a decade makes, right?

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Ellen and Erin of Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms)–Stop looking to other authors to give you the next Gone Girl and just read Flynn’s earlier work. Dark Places is told in a captivating flashback format, with Libby–complicated and damaged from a horrific tragedy in her childhood–narrating the present-day chapters in first person, while the flashback chapters, told in third person, describe the actions of several key characters on that one winter’s day in 1985.
The plot is gripping and complex enough to have you guessing how the puzzle really fits together until the very end. I only wish the story had been longer because it was the type of read you just want to binge on, but are sorry when it’s over.

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro (Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and Meredith of The Mom of the Year)–With raw and heartwarming honesty, Fierro’s debut captures the sacrifices we make in order to seek understanding, compassion, and love.

Now that you have this whole list of awesome recommendations, it’s time to get reading, friends! Grab up these titles and make sure to enter in the Rafflecopter below for a super sweet $225 Amazon gift card and seven of these books for your very own!

We are thrilled to have you reading with us!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter before 8/14/15 at 5:30am ET. As long as you are resident of the continental U.S. and 18 yrs. or older, you are eligible to win!

A huge thank you to the publishing houses that offered copies of the books included in our giveaway! All the books were chosen because we genuinely think they are fantastic. We love reading and we so appreciate working with you, Grand Central Publishing, St. Martin’s Press, Penguin Random House, BenBella Books, The Crown Publishing Group, and Penguin Press.

* Note to Meredith and Carries’s dedicated book club fans: They will be discussing Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event as promised, but in the interest of this ginormous giveaway and recommendation list post, they’ve decided to table this discussion until September. Check in on the first Friday of the month, 9/4/15 to catch their thoughts on this book and snag their pick for the next month! It really is a good time!

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Books Any Mother Would Love

You all know how we love the books. The following is a list of books that any mom would be happy to have on her bookshelf, bedside table, or sitting beside her in the carpool lane.

Great booklist for all moms whether they miss their NPR, love their historical fiction, or just want a smarter beach read---Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

At first glance, this list looks a little like the inside of Erin’s head: fascinating but frazzled. So we decided to tidy them up for you. Carry on, but more importantly, read on. These are all gems of the highest order.

For History-Loving Mommas

Books For History-Loving Mommas | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

Our book club read this book a couple of months ago. If you could really dub a book about the plague a beach read, this is the one that could make that leap. That particular brand of easy, summer breezy reading, this book makes you forget that you are swallowing heavily doses of real history.   It’s the kind of learning that goes down easy and leaves the reader wanting more, which is saying a lot, because, well, it’s the plague.

Paris Red: A Novel by Maureen Gibbon

Everybody’s talking about this book, and they should be. The guiltiest of pleasures, this book inhabits the very essence of Paris while also revealing the passionate, transformative relationship between Manet and his model muse Victorine. The lush language, the practically pulsing imagery, and the fierceness of Victorine herself powers up this novel to full wattage. This novel will stir even the staidest heart. A deeply evocative piece of writing that transports the reader not just to a time and place, but to the very heart of the affair that changed the history of the art world, this book is a must read.

For Science-Loving Moms

Bookd for Science-Loving Moms | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

The Martian by Andy Weir

Erin has already shoved this book into the hands of every person willing to take a book from a crazy lady. But in all seriousness, this book knocked her socks off. The premise is that Mark Watney is left for dead on Mars after an ill-fated mission. But he is so not dead. Watney’s humor and humanity breathe life into this well-paced and thoughtfully constructed story about a man’s struggle for survival in an unforgiving environment. He makes us laugh, gasp, and root for his plucky ultimate underdog self. Add to this already amazing mix that this is a real science brand of science fiction and the result is unputdownable fiction. You can just thank Erin later or, at the very least, not run from her when she is shoving books at you.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

Kingsolver herself and her inimitable talent is part of what makes this book work. There are other stories like this one about eating locally, about families trying to live on their land, about treating the environment well. This tightly controlled story is all these things and yet something else entirely unique and special. Kingsolver’s gifted narrative skills elevate this book from a memoir of her family’s year of eating locally to the deeply entertaining and obsessively readable prize that it is. The sidebars, the recipes, and the sound research charm our science-loving hearts, but even more precious and appreciated is the very tone and tenor of this book. Never once does it devolve into smugness or snobbery, a pitfall of the genre. Kingsolver is the master of this domain, and we are better people for having this book in our lives.

For Moms Who Love NPR

Books for Moms Who Love NPR | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

If NPR is your jam, then you know its book lists are killer. These two topped all the lists for 2014 and with good reason: these are two very powerful reads. They will almost make up for the fact that your kids keep changing the radio station.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Broken hearts are good for one thing: creating some powerful books. In this case, Helen Macdonald has lost her dad and then her way. So she does what all grieving girls do, she decides to train a goshawk. Weaving together stories of her grief with her experience training the hawk and anecdotes about T.H. White who also trained hawks, Macdonald is spinning a special kind of magic here. Her vulnerability, her bare-faced honesty, her well-researched and deftly placed bits about White mesh with her rich wells of talent to bring us something far more encompassing and satisfying than a memoir of her grief. This is writing at its highest level with sentences that hold up to rereadings. We are not grateful for her loss so much as deeply affected by it and the lovely piece of writing it spawned.

Redeployment by Phil Kay

When this book won the National Book Award, Erin was skeptical. After the first page, she felt some remorse for her cynicism. With every turn of the page, it was clear that Erin has no business judging the big literary guns when they decide to bestow their blue ribbons on their favorites. Phil Kay grabs our hand and forces us to take a long, hard personal look at the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no place to hide emotionally in this book and that is a very good thing. Kay is a gifted storyteller and the stories themselves are well-crafted offerings the reader gladly accepts. Alternately funny, brash, philosophical, and fearless, these stories are always honest in an “eyes wide open” kind of way that makes it impossible to look away.

For Moms Who Love a Good Beach Read

Books for Moms Who Love a Good Beach Read | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer

This was a book club read for us a couple years ago, but its charms are fondly remembered. Told through a series of letters, this book is in many ways a love letter to language itself as it explores the ways that written language helps bring us to each other. Sound a little deeper than your usual beach fare? Maybe, but it’s part of what makes this book so special. The great story and funny warm characters will have you turning the pages quickly, but its the deep rich vein of love for humanity, literature, and a lovely little island off the coast of England that will give you a reading experience you’ll long remember. Just stick it in your beach bag now.

The Senator’s Wife  by Sue Miller

Oh, Sue Miller. We just love her. She brings us stories that don’t just entertain but make us think. This book about two women on opposite sides of the marital timeline but facing similar issues within them is no exception. Miller can craft a conversation like nobody’s business, but its her adept pacing and characterization that make her novels little living, breathing things. In this case, she has breathed life into the very concept of marriage itself and in turn created a fascinating, fun read. No small feat, but one we will gladly take.

For Moms Who Just Need a Good Laugh

Books for Moms Who Just Need a Good Laugh | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

The Bigger Book of Parenting Tweets: Featuring More of the Most Hilarious Parents on Twitter  edited by Kate Hall, Norine Dworkin-McDaniel, and Jessica Ziegler

Sometimes you just want to get your funny on. Busy moms will appreciate the bite-sized morsels of hilariousness in this book. A great culling of clever from the tweeter sphere, this book will entertain for as long as you will let it.
This and other books any mother would love in our srping booklist--Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

I Still Just Want to Pee Alone: Volume 3 edited by Jen Mann

The latest compilation of essays on motherhood from some of our most favorite bloggers on the web, this book is the third in a series of books that we wish had been around when we were new moms. How great it would have been to have these stories not only for commiseration, but to lighten us up so that we could find the funny in the sheer ridiculousness that is parenting small children. Hilarious, tender, and true, these books are a reassurance that imperfection is normal and something to be celebrated as well as gently poked for fun. But if you love this, there is more where this awesomeness came from!

Don’t just read one! Read the whole series!

I Just Want to Be Alone

We’re in this one!

I Just Want to Be Alone: Volume 2

I Just Want to Pee Alone

We hope you enjoy all of these books as much as we have!

-Erin and Ellen

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Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

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Middle School Survival Guide: A Booklist and Podcast

For those of you keeping score at home we are both bursting at the seams with teens and tweens. Please send reinforcements in the form of Diet Coke and chocolate. Scratch that. We’re trying to be healthy. Just send lots of happy thoughts our way.

We jest, but there’s truth here too. These years leading up to and including the teens can be challenging for you, your kids, your sanity, and your bottom line. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guidebook or ten to help you navigate these unfamiliar and sometimes hostile waters? How about some Sensible Sisters to talk you through it?

Well, we’ve got what you’re looking for! We are not promising that these books  will solve all your problems but they are great guideposts to help you through the tween and teen years.

And if you need your middle school advice soundbite-sized, listen to our podcast at the end of this post!

 Got a middle schooler? This booklist and podcast will keep you sane and happy through the teen and tween years--Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wiseman

This is a parenting book that frankly anyone who spends any time around any boys age 11 through 18 needs to read. With over 200 interviews with boys and strong research guiding her conclusions, Wiseman draws the adolescent boy in sharp relief and gives us not only a true picture of the more complex lives of boys, but some ways we can help them through the next few years.

Our favorite insight? We do boys a disservice by dismissing their emotional lives as simple when they most assuredly are not. There is even a free e-book for boys themselves to read about what to do in difficult situations.

Wiseman is kind of a superhero. Or a superstar. In any case, she has written a book that can save you and any special boys in your life.

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman

And Wiseman works a similar magic for girls. Erin read this book when she first started teaching middle school and it fundamentally changed the way she looked at girls, their friendships, and their struggles with each other and themselves.

Wiseman offers sage, sound advice for how to guide girls towards treating themselves with dignity and grace and treating each other fairly, but there is so much more than that in this book. Understanding girl power plays, how boys fit into the big picture of girl relationships, and the different roles girls play really helps anyone who knows or loves an  adolescent girl guide her to her best, most authentic self. Thanks again to the wonderful and very wise Wiseman.

 The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian

We often scribble pearls of wisdom from what we’ve been reading. This quote from this book has become Erin’s talisman over the past few years:

“As our lives speed up more and more, so do our children’s. We forget and thus they forget that there is nothing more important than the present moment. We forget and thus they forget to relax, to find spiritual solitude, to let go of the past, to quiet ambition, to fully enjoy the eating of a strawberry, the scent of a rose, the touch of a hand on a cheek…”
Michael Gurian, The Wonder of Boys

Michael Gurian shares his larger vision of how culturally we are failing boys by not acknowledging and thus not meeting their biological and spiritual needs. We both love books with a strong scientific bent that are also easy to read. This book meets those criteria and yet exceeds expectations too.  It will be a beloved helpmate on the hormone highway you are now traveling.

 The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters by Michael Gurian

This is a riveting read. Honestly. Bursting with excellent, updated scientific research about how girls develop, how their brains work, and how this all affects how girls relate to themselves and each other, this is as unputdownable as nonfiction gets. Ditto everything we said about The Wonder of Boys but yet uniquely wonderful in its own way. Magic.

The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle School — Bullies, Brands, Body Image, and More by Haley Kilpatrick

Anyone who has been anywhere near a middle school lunchroom knows that The Drama Years is the perfect title for a book about girls navigating the difficult tween years. This book is one of the best for helping you and your daughter through it.

Haley Kilpatrick is the founder of GirlTalk and she is on a mission to end the drama and change the outcome for our nation’s young women. Sharing her own personal anecdotes from middle school and drawing on conversations with middle school and high school girls about what actually happens and what helps, Haley Kilpatrick has created a book with real insights and a clear path for helping. You will love the real, honest talk and the great, usable advice.

Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years by Michelle Icard

We have already recommended this book so many times that we’re out of digits to tell you all the reasons we love it. But here are five.

First, Michelle Icard establishes herself from the very first page as a woman you can trust and want to share this journey with you. Warm and empathetic, Icard is also funny and real. You’ll wish you could invite her over for tea or, in Erin’s case, Diet Coke.

Second, as the creator of Athena’s Path and Hero’s Pursuit, social skills camps for middle school boy and girls, Icard has tons of real, practical solutions to share for lots of common middle school issues.

Third, we love this book’s central theme of shifting your parenting to the role of assistant manager. It’s such a recognizable, perfect metaphor for how your role needs to change during these years and she explains just how to do this perfectly.

Fourth, one of the best pieces of advice Erin ever received about parenting this age was to remain neutral when receiving information.  Icard has given a great name to this strategy, “Botox Brow”, and she weaves in stories, examples, and advice for how to pull off this essential coping skill.

Fifth, Icard likes kids, even middle schoolers. We have that in common. She shifts the paradigm and the assumption that there is something wrong with kids at this age. Kids are just fine, but the way we have been dealing with them at this age has to change. She then goes on to give a ridiculous amount of ways to do help do this.

Honestly, we could go on, but you should just fire up the old credit card and order this one for yourself now.

So there you go: a collection of parenting books to keep you company through the next few years. Short of an endless supply of calorie-free chocolate, it’s the best option.

Of course, another great option is to listen to us talk a little about our experiences with middle schoolers.

Don’t forget to listen to our latest podcast!

Happy Tweening and Teening!

-Erin and Ellen

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

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Click the podcast below to hear us talk about our experiences in the middle school years!

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5 Books We Are Sweet On

While chocolates, hearts, and flowers may be the way to some girls’ hearts, books are definitely the way to ours. If books fill you with a warm, happy feeling too, here are five that you might want to check out, download, or purchase for yourself or your sweetie.

And if you are interested in hearing us talk about one of these in real time, just click the podcast at the bottom of this post!

A Booklist Sure to Please You or Your Sweetie---Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

There is a reason this book made it on to nearly every “Best Of” list last year—it’s quite simply a remarkable gem of a book. With her unique gift for plucking the extraordinary from the every day, Offill doesn’t just offer up moments from a marriage but gives us glimpses of the diamonds hidden in the rough patches as well. Offill’s structuring of the story can be the reader’s hard work. Through her careful curation of snippets from the marriage at the heart of this novel, Offill leaves the reader asking on every page—how do these pieces fit together? what does this mean here?—yet these tenuous but important questions serve the story she is trying to tell. Marriage isn’t a straight narrative so much as a thousand shimmering moments—beautiful, terrible, and strange—and she lays them all out for us in this gripping, lovely book about what it means to take this particular trip.

dept-of-speculation-web

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss

You know how we feel about immunizations. Ellen wrote a great post about herd immunity and its current threat from the anti-vaxxer movement here.  But this book doesn’t so much argue for vaccines as wrap itself around the very concept of innoculation itself. Biss’ pace is unhurried as she weaves personal anecdotes in with history, literature, and scientific research. The result is a captivating read on a subject we cannot escape right now.  I cannot escape one of her quotes: “We owe each other our bodies.” An unputdownable piece of non-fiction that will keep you thinking long after you have turned the last page.

On-Immunity-175x250

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This book broke my heart a couple of years ago, but it never left me. It’s truly one of my favorites of all time, but it’s not easily summed up or laid out. Krauss, the wife of the literary superstar Jonathan Safran Foer, has a weighty literary talent of her own and she embues all of her gifts on telling this beautiful love story of a boy named Leo who loved a girl named Alma. That she lets this love story travel back and forth in time and be told from many angles is just a gift for the reader. This is a book you will cherish.

history of love
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

For a big, honking tome like this with a beautiful, intricate story to boot, you could totally be spot on in thinking, “Really, Erin? You serious?” Well, those who love the literary heavy hitters are already gonna be on board with this wide open, lyrical book, but even if you are just looking for a great story, trust me when I say that this book is for you. It starts as a father’s love story. Marie-Laure loses her sight at six years old and her father, a talented locksmith in charge of all the locks at the Museum of Natural History, uses his abundant gifts to help her learn to manage her blindness. By the power of Doerr’s narrative gifts, it morphs into something else entirely.  There is so much good stuff in these pages and Doerr plays well with every character and theme he introduces. It may not be great literature, but it is a damn fine read and that is enough to keep you warm on a cold winter night.

BOOK-master180

 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Martel

This is the one book that I am telling everyone to read right now. It’s such a great all-around literary experience from the plot that sucks you in to the characters that pull you through to the questions it keeps asking you. I could go on and on.

station-elevenIn fact, you can hear me (and Ellen) go on and on about this book and other things too in our latest podcast. Just click it below!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, because books are priceless but not free. 

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A Bounty of Books You’ll Want to Gobble Right Up

In the spirit of this season of gratitude, we admit that we are two very lucky girls. While we may occasionally want for smoother skin, deeper pockets, and a great blowout once in awhile, we know we are both carrying around golden tickets every single day. One thing we are especially grateful for is our book club. Think of them as the First Generation Sisterhood, though we have never felt motivated to upgrade or move on to newer, shinier models.

Looking for a good book? Here are 9 great reads.---Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

I mean, seriously, how cute are they?

We are also thankful for the books and for what they add to our everyday. Our favorite tomes have shown themselves time and time again to be the lovely grace notes on top of an already pretty sweet life. We are ever so grateful for all they, and of course the lovely ladies who like to talk about them with us, have brought to our life.

Here’s a list of 9 we are thankful for right now.

 Need a great book? Here are 9 that are great for the carpool line or the sideline.

1. Home Front: A Novel by Kristin Hannah


This is our actual book club book this month and while we found this an easy read, it was an emotional one as well. Centered around a modern family with everyday problems—balancing work and home, dealing with a moody tween, marital problems— this story could be any of ours until the mother Jolene is deployed to the war zone as a helicopter pilot.  Jolene’s letters home are set beside glimpses of life back home as her husband Michael attempts to keep their life rolling taking care of their two girls. When tragedy strikes, we are fully invested in the casualties on both sides.

Why we like it:  While this is a relatively simple book (great for the carpool line or waiting on a sideline), the characters and the relationships are so reminiscent of the lives we are all living that we feel all the feels. Messy, perfectly imperfect people populate the pages of this novel much as they do our own lives and yet Hannah has the supreme gift of not just offering a window on their world but claiming it as our own as well. Her narrative transports us all along on the journey with this family and you’ll feel transformed for having taken the trip.

2. Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline

Erin gobbled this one right up. She even took it backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Nothing says “must read” like a willingness to cart those extra ounces up and down a mountain. In any case, the novel opens as stay-at-home mom Allison’s life is about to go off the rails. She goes to her childhood best friend’s book signing one night and has a little too much to drink. Mere hours later, she is involved in a fatal accident in which a child dies. The air you take into your lungs in the big gasp in the beginning takes this whole well-paced novel to be released.  This may not be high literature, but it is a captivating read that makes you think. Like we said, you are gonna want to take big bites of this one.

Why we like it:  Kline so gets the modern marriage and her characters are beautiful flawed creatures that live, breathe, and, in this novel, create a story that doesn’t just pull you in but threatens to take you under. It’s really, truly unputdownable.

3. The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad) by Tana French

We are just gonna come right out and say it: Tana French never disappoints. If you have never read her, just dive right in and you will not be disappointed in this detective tale of a teen boy murdered at a prestigious boarding school. But there is a caveat: if you are a true fan (one that has read all her novels and waits with baited breath for each new book), this one won’t take top billing in the special brand of mystery detective thrillers she has created. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t read it: there is still much to love in this new novel. First of all, familiar characters are back in Frank Mackey, his daughter Holly, and detective Stephen Moran. Second, like always, French is the master of this genre in so many ways. She paces her stories so well and her characterizations and her plots are memorable and special. Buuuuutttt, she departs a little too far from that which makes her truly great here. In all of her other novels, she has a main storyteller which not only highlights her supreme characterization but serves to be the hook and line to secure you tautly to her tale. In this novel, she tells the story from too many points of view and the multiple young teen narrators aren’t as captivating as her detectives have been in the past. The result: French still gets you to bite but it’s just not quite as satisfying a meal.

Why we like it: Tana French. Period. She’s that good. Even her “not as good” is heads and tails above the rest. Honestly, just read everything she’s written and see for yourself.

4. The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

This novel consists of three stories about three women, connected by the same characters and places over different periods of time, beginning with the most recent events and going backward. It is almost magical how the stories of the women’s quests for faith, love, acceptance, and meaning are intertwined. What is not so magical is the beginning of the book. Maddy–prickly and unlikeable– kicks off the narrative. She is like fighting through the brambles to get to the sun, but continue on because it will all be worth it and it will all make sense. This novel takes you on a wild ride to examine love in all its forms: parental, forbidden. romantic, unrequited, and unreasonable.

Why we like it: We are suckers for the concept of “sliding doors,” the seemingly small fate changing moments that make all of the difference, and this novel has enough sliding doors to fill a Home Depot. The complexity of the plot makes this a book you’ll think about long after you finish it.

5. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

orphanIn a nutshell, this is a tale of two girls who have both been left alone in the world by fate. Their stories are the backbone of the book: one taking place in the here and now, the other in flashback. While this book more solidly belongs to Vivian and her experience on the orphan train, Molly’s modern day tale of abandonment anchors this historical novel and lets us not forget that we still struggle with how to handle the children left behind.

Why we like it: Spunky characters, gripping plot lines, and the real-life history lesson woven throughout make this book a compelling, easy read.

6. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

sisterlandRight off the bat, Erin has to disclose that she is a huge Sittenfeld fan. Prep, American Wife, Man of my Dreams—liked ’em all, but this is an author that you love or hate, so read this recommendation with that in mind. In this novel, Kate (AKA Daisy) and her twin sister Violet have the gift of sight, ESP. It’s a gift that Violet celebrates and Daisy (now known as Kate) hides under a bushel basket. The story centers around Violet’s premonition that an earthquake is coming that is going to devastate the region and the fallout of her announcement for both the media and their relationship.

Why we like it: Sittenfeld peppers all of her novels with pop culture references, and this book is no exception. It makes reading a little like finding gems in the sand: a delightful surprise in an already pleasurable experience. Also, CS nails the complexities of the family bond. Her characterization has always been a strong suit, and she reveals in the Violet/Daisy bond why family can not only be great but also grating as well.

7. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

peregrineWe really like adolescent lit, especially when it’s this smart, well-written, and, well, peculiar. If Tim Burton was a Grimm brother, this might be his baby. After his grandfather’s death, Jacob is left only with grief and some old photos. As he takes off on a trip to his grandfather’s birthplace, he has no idea what he has stumbled upon or where it might take him. The rest is heart-thumping, jaw-dropping fun.

Why we like it: Yep, this one is dark, imaginative, and strange which would win our love all by itself. But it also has some hairpin turns and plot twists that will leave you breathless.

8. Paris Trout by Pete Dexter

parisBased on a real murder trial out of Georgia, this book could have easily turned into a schmaltzy whodunit or TV trial special. But Paris Trout the man was such a powerful force of bigotry, his crime so heinous, and his inability to admit his guilt so complete, this story is lucky to have found such a powerful literary hand to guide it.

Why we like it: Pete Dexter uses his powerful gifts with language to place us in that time and place. In the end, we might not ever understand the man Paris Trout, but we know him in a real way and we are forced to deal with him and the destruction he has wrought. Dexter never lets us forget that this really happened and what that means for all of us.

9. The False Friend by Myla Goldberg

falseFollowing up a great read like Bee Season, Goldberg could be expected to falter and, to be fair, not everyone liked this book. But here’s why you should read it: it’s an engrossing read, Goldberg is a beautiful writer, and this is a novel that doesn’t take the easy way out. As the story goes, years ago, a terrible thing happened in the woods: one girl didn’t make it out. The different versions of what did or didn’t happen drive the plot and you are left to wrestle with the fallout. The failings of memory, the casual cruelty of children, and the inevitability of time figure as prominently as the girls at the center of the story.

Why we like it: Goldberg’s talent for language and characterization will move you. You’ll want to spend time in some of her metaphors. Everything in this novel might not be tied up with a pretty bow, but it is ultimately a gift to any reader.

Happy Reading and Thanksgiving!

-Erin and Ellen

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

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Toddler photo credit: ToddMorris via photopin cc

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