Books that make me feel better about the world

By Erica Bauermeister Author

By Erica Bauermeister Author

Joy for Beginners

Erica Bauermeister

$16.00 $14.72

Having survived a life-threatening illness, Kate celebrates by gathering with six close friends. At an intimate outdoor dinner on a warm September evening, the women challenge Kate to start her new lease on life by going white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon with her daughter. But Kate is reluctant to take the risk. That is, until her friend Marion proposes a pact: if Kate will face the rapids, each woman will do one thing in the next year that scares her. Kate agrees, with one provision—she didn't get to choose her challenge, so she gets to choose theirs. Whether it's learning to let go of the past or getting a tattoo, each woman’s story interweaves with the others, forming a seamless portrait of the power of female friendships.

This Is How It Always Is

Laurie Frankel

$16.99 $15.63

This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them. This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated. This is how children change…and then change the world. This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes. Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

Jan-Philipp Sendker

$17.95 $16.51

When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Cheryl Strayed

$16.95 $15.59

This bestselling book from the author of Wild collects the best of The Rumpus's Dear Sugar advice columns plus never-before-published pieces. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way. Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Rachel Joyce

$17.00 $15.64

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning a letter arrives, addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl, from a woman he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. But before Harold mails off a quick reply, a chance encounter convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. In his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold Fry embarks on an urgent quest. Determined to walk six hundred miles to the hospice, Harold believes that as long as he walks, Queenie will live. A novel of charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts,

My Family and Other Animals

Gerald Durrell

$17.00 $15.64

When the unconventional Durrell family can no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they do what any sensible family would do: sell their house and relocate to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. My Family and Other Animals was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up as a delightful account of Durrell’s family’s experiences, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies into their home.

Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe

Jennie Shortridge

$14.00

Upon learning that her college sweetheart husband has been seeing another woman, Mira Serafino’s once perfect world is shattered and she wants no one, least of all her big Italian family, to know. She takes off—with no destination and little money—heading north until her car breaks down in Seattle. There she takes a job at the offbeat Coffee Shop at the Center of the Universe, where she’ll experience a terrifying but invigorating freedom, and meet someone she’ll come to love: the new Mira.

Gift from the Sea: 50th Anniversary Edition

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

$18.00 $16.56

In this inimitable, beloved classic—graceful, lucid and lyrical—Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea. Drawing inspiration from the shells on the shore, Lindbergh’s musings on the shape of a woman’s life bring new understanding to both men and women at any stage of life. A mother of five, an acclaimed writer and a pioneering aviator, Lindbergh casts an unsentimental eye on the trappings of modernity that threaten to overwhelm us: the time-saving gadgets that complicate rather than simplify, the multiple commitments that take us from our families. And by recording her thoughts during a brief escape from everyday demands, she helps readers find a space for contemplation and creativity within their own lives.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue

Susan Vreeland

$16.00 $14.72

A professor invites a colleague from the art department to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer—why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of stories that trace ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work’s inspiration. As the painting moves through each owner’s hands, what was long hidden quietly surfaces, illuminating poignant moments in human lives. Vreeland’s characters remind us, through their love of the mysterious painting, how beauty transforms and why we reach for it, what lasts, and what in our lives is singular and unforgettable.

Wild Ride Home: Love, Loss, and a Little White Horse, a Family Memoir

Christine Hemp

$24.99 $22.49

Christine Hemp's debut work of nonfiction, Wild Ride Home, is a brilliant memoir, looping themes of finding love and losing love, of going away and coming home, of the wretched course of Alzheimer's, of cancer, of lost pregnancies, of fly fishing and horsemanship, of second chances, and, ultimately, of the triumph of love and family--all told within the framework of the training of a little white horse named Buddy. Wild Ride Home invites the reader into the close Hemp family, which believes beauty and humor outshine the most devastating circumstances. Such optimism is challenged when the author suffers a series of blows: a dangerous fiancé, her mother’s dementia, unexpected death and illness. Buddy, a feisty, unforgettable little Arabian horse with his own history to overcome, offers her a chance to look back on her own life and learn to trust again, not only others, but more importantly, herself. Hemp skillfully guides us through a memoir that is, despite devastating loss, above all, an ode to joy.

The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown

$25.00 $22.50

Carefully selected by the creative minds at The Moth, and adapted to the page to preserve the raw energy of live storytelling, All These Wonders features voices both familiar and new. Alongside Meg Wolitzer, John Turturro, Tig Notaro, and Hasan Minhaj, readers will encounter: an astronomer gazing at the surface of Pluto for the first time, an Afghan refugee learning how much her father sacrificed to save their family, a hip-hop star coming to terms with being a “one-hit wonder,” a young female spy risking everything as part of Churchill’s “secret army” during World War II, and more. High-school student and neuroscientist alike, the storytellers share their ventures into uncharted territory—and how their lives were changed indelibly by what they discovered there. With passion, and humor, they encourage us all to be more open, vulnerable, and alive.

Here at Eagle Pond

Donald Hall

$14.95

HERE AT EAGLE POND is Donald Hall's remarkable collection of essays about the permanent and transparent memory of place and of his coming home to Eagle Pond, New Hampshire, where he grew up and returned to live with his wife Jane Kenyon at the age of 45, where he began writing poems at the age of twelve, and where his ancestors made their livings by free-lancing as farmers. In these tender essays, Hall tells of the joys and quiddities of life in the ancestral New Hampshire place formerly worked as a dairy farm by his grandparents; of the comforts and discomforts of a world in which the year has four seasons -- maple sugar, blackfly, Red Sox, and winter. These essays are also Donald Hall's letters to friends, answers to such life-altering questions as: "What would our lives be like, living here at Eagle Pond, in solitude among relics and memories, in a countryside of birches and GMC pickups?" And they are ghost stories as well: vivid descriptions of Hall's intimate connection with the land and with his family past. Most importantly, HERE AT EAGLE POND is Donald Hall's coming home to language.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Helen Simonson

$17.00 $15.64

In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

Population: 485

Michael Perry

$15.99 $14.71

Welcome to New Auburn, Wisconsin, where the local vigilante is a farmer's wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Against a backdrop of fires and tangled wrecks, bar fights and smelt feeds, Population: 485 is a comic and sometimes heartbreaking true tale leavened with quieter meditations on an overlooked America.

The Enchanted April

Elizabeth Von Arnim

$16.00 $14.72

Four very different women, looking to escape dreary London for the sunshine of Italy, take up an offer advertised in the Times for a “small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.” As each blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur. An immediate bestseller upon its first publication, in 1922, The Enchanted April set off a craze for tourism to the Italian Riviera that continues today. Published here to coincide with a contemporary retelling, Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen, it’s a witty ensemble piece and the perfect romantic rediscovery for fans of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love as well as of Downton Abbey and the hit movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Baby

Patricia MacLachlan

$6.99 $6.43

Larkin's family welcomes Sophie into their home, caring for her and teaching her games and new words. They come to love this baby as their own, all the while knowing that eventually Sophie's mother will return one day to take her from them. (note from Erica: you might think this is a book for children, but the love in it surpasses age barriers)

Belong to Me

Marisa De Los Santos

$14.99 $13.79

Cornelia Brown surprised herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to move to the suburbs with her husband. Her mettle is quickly tested by her impeccably dressed, overly judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt—the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she'd find in suburbia. With Lake, another recent arrival, Cornelia shares a love of literature and old movies—as she forms an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman and her perceptive, brilliant young son Dev. Acclaimed bestselling author Marisa de los Santos's literary talents shine in the complex interactions she creates between three unforgettable women, deftly entangling her characters in a web of trust, betrayal, love, and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined.

Nothing to See Here

Kevin Wilson

$28.99 $26.09

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang, a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with a remarkable ability. Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help. Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth. Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for? With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

Be Frank with Me

Julia Claiborne Johnson

$15.99 $14.71

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane. When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book. Full of heart and countless “only-in-Hollywood” moments, Be Frank with Me is a captivating and unconventional story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Trevor Noah

$18.00 $16.56

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life. The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.