By Guest Blogger Ellen Bryant Lloyd 

“Look for the silver lining” is a well-known phrase of encouragement shared with others during difficult times. Without a doubt, this year has presented many clouds of challenges, but there have been numerous silver linings along the way.

One silver lining has been the unexpected gift of extra time — time to spend with family, enjoy hobbies, explore home improvement projects, reflect on life, and (one of my favorites) read great books!

I like to seek out book suggestions from friends who love to read. When they enthusiastically share titles and why they liked them, I often add them to my list of books to read. For this month’s Book Nook, I reached out to some of my book-loving friends and asked them to share titles they have especially enjoyed this last year. I hope you will discover some great books to add to your reading list from their recommendations. Enjoy!


The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

I just finished this book for book club and really liked it. It was very easy to get into and all of the characters were fascinating, including the house itself. It went back and forth between the past and present, so was a bit of a historical novel mixed in. I understand that Tom Hanks narrates the audiobook, which is quite enjoyable.     —Susan


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This is the story of identical light-skinned black twin sisters living in the 1950s. They leave home together to move to New Orleans where one later disappears to live a new life as a white woman. The book follows each sister living their separate lives until an event reunites them. The Vanishing Half is going to be made into a series — I can’t wait!    —LeaAnne


The XX Brain by Lisa Mosconi, PhD

This is a great book that every woman should read! The nerd in me likes the science part, and the female empowerment and health aspects of it are powerful as well.     —Flory


The Bible

The Bible always provides comfort and hope.     —Caprice


The Island by Victoria Hislop

The Island takes place in early twentieth century Greece. A leper island is just off shore of a Greek village. The villagers are responsible for transporting new patients across to the island and several villagers also become patients on the Island. The stories of villagers parallel and weave with the patients.      —Donna


Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson

Set in Italy during WWII, a young Jewish woman is forced to pose as a Christian wife to a farmer to save her from the Nazis. She has to adapt to farm life as a member of his family and he gives up plans to become a priest to keep her true identity from being discovered. Great book!      LeaAnne


The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I love this novel!       Tracy


The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Loved the setting in Naples! Great references to how people lived and the culture there — from childhood to adulthood.     —Colleen


The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Set in the 1920s, a young woman has a romantic encounter with a local farmer. In order to save her reputation, the two marry and she leaves the city to live on the farm. This is a story of living through the Great Depression, depending on weather and the land for survival, and then a move out west in hopes of a better life. I found it to be very eye-opening with regard to what many seekers faced once arriving in California and not striking it rich.       —LeaAnne


New Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development by Mike Weinberg

I love to read fiction, but recently read this sales book for work. It was a really good book that I highly recommend for anyone in sales.  —Beth


Southern Book Clubs Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

I recently read this book and couldn’t put it down. It was super creepy and incredibly suspenseful, but ultimately a story about friendship between women.         —Wallace


The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

Hala Alyan’s book was a top pick for me because it incorporates political history and was unpredictable.        —Miriam


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

This was a really good novel. Heart-wrenching!! It is fiction, but based on historical facts.         —Susan


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I’m enjoying a book club called the Well Read Mom. The books we read have been a mix of classics. One I particularly liked given the demonstrations this year was To Kill A Mockingbird. I somehow missed reading it when I was younger but even if I had, the lense through which I saw the story and characters now would be different. Another book I enjoyed but had never before heard of was called The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Her family hid Jews in their home during WWII. Modern day saints.         —Lisa


The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

I’ve read a lot so it is hard to choose just one. The Soul of an Octopus is definitely a stand out. I had my eyes opened to their intelligence in this narrative non-fiction by Sy Montgomery. Then my daughter told me about the documentary “My Octopus Teacher.” It was a wonderful extension to this revelation I was having about octopus. The book invitingly pulls you under the water into the world of octopus… and challenged me, yet again, about whether we humans really are the most intelligent species.      —Laurel


The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

The Exiles takes place in England and Australia in the early nineteenth century when Australia was a penal colony. Although this book is not about a pandemic, it is about isolation and separation. I like historical fiction when it is about actual background events and locations, even though specific events and characters in the stories may not have happened. I think it is a much easier way to learn about history.        —Donna


All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny

I enjoyed Louise Penny’s book because it was set in Paris (a favorite place of mine), was unpredictable and introduced me to a new series. I read five more of her titles after reading this one.        —Miriam


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I couldn’t put down Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. It was interesting to learn more about the day-to-day life under apartheid. It was also just very inspiring and sometimes funny.     —Caren


The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

This is a book I reread. It helps us examine ourselves and our relationships with the world. It really helps us to be more conscious.    —Colleen


Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Given my love of the Twilight series from so long ago, Midnight Sun is pretty fun. I also recommend reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Book of Joy by Dalia Lama.     Lori


The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

Italy… Tuscany…  what else do I need to say?!! Romance, mystery, and beautifully described scenery. Sisters and family. An enjoyable pandemic escape.     —Beth


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Aichie

I chose this book because it was a way to learn about racism in a completely unique manner. It is a good story that doesn’t get bogged down in overly-developed characters or scenes.       —Miriam


People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

This is a cute romance that has been described like “When Harry Met Sally.” It’s a fun, easy book to read. I definitely recommend it!    Susanne


Finding Chika by Mitch Albom

Chika was a Haitian orphan who became the daughter of Mitch Album and his wife. It is the story of all the love that came with them welcoming Chika into their home and lives. Simple, but redeeming account of joy and pain, love and loss. Albom is also the author of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, also great books.          —Lynda


A Season in Purgatory by Dominic Dunne.

This has been my favorite book this year — perfect escapist fiction. I love authors whose descriptions allow me to feel the fabric of the clothing or smell the newly mown grass. Plus, it’s strongly relationship-driven and there’s loads of sordid drama.    —Beth


Ellen Bryant Lloyd is the author of FRECKLES and FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue. Please visit and to learn more about Freckles. Ellen writes a blog about her perspectives on life and parenting at and tweets at @EllenBLloyd. She lives in Greensboro with her husband and two children.

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