Good Reads : Betty Smith + Amy Kruse Rosenthal


At the end of last month, I found myself pulled in so many different directions and hardly knew which way was up. After December 23, 2009, however, JD asked me to check out and just relax. In light of this, I picked up a few books and found solace in each paragraph and chapter. I randomly collected a pile and devoured each book like it was my last. And then I found my mind back to a simple and happy place.

Here’s a few books I read in the past three or four weeks, but I just want to highlight two of my favorites…books that made me smile, but for two different reasons.

After a Christmas Eve celebration with JD’s family, we arrived home at 1:30am. As we prepared for bed, I saw A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith nearby and I promised myself I’d read just one chapter. I just started the book a couple days earlier, but already I was in love. With the story, with the prose, with the changing voice of the narrator. Everything. At 5am in the morning, I found myself laying on the cool tiles in our bathroom with the door closed. I didn’t want to wake JD with the light, so I crept into the bathroom to finish the book. As I turned the last page, my heart floated into Christmas oblivion and slid back into bed. JD, I whispered to his upturned left ear, Merry Christmas and I love you. And THAT is how good that book is. Makes you realize all you have and how beautiful life is.

Just started Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal a couple days ago and I have just a few pages left. Odd, funny, and heartwarming all at the same time. It’s basically an encyclopedia of Amy’s life, most of which is comprised of random thoughts and banal commentary. But it’s so funny. I’ve been reading it in public and I get embarrassed because I look stupid laughing to myself.

Of the other books I’ve read–all wonderful in their own right–these two books deserve a J* Shout Out because every so often a book makes you love harder and live louder, and these two books did just that. Thanks to my good friend Amy for recommending these books. I’m always on the hunt for good reads, so if you have one, holla back at your girl! 🙂

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  1. Laura

    January 17th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I just read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" a couple weeks ago too!

  2. Bree

    January 17th, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I read Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life… last year? I loved it. I love her children’s books too.

  3. Heather Corporan

    January 17th, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn became my all time favorite over this past summer. My husband had been laid off, and I’m a stay at home mom to two, with another on the way. Wow, what a great book to read during that trial. It made me realize how good we had it, even through such financial strains. Glad you shared and enjoyed it so much too! When it ended, I found myself wishing there were another 400 pages left to read. : D

  4. Tira J

    January 17th, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations J*! This is a great reminder that we all need to slow down and read, which in turns helps us grow as human beings.

  5. gwyneth colleen

    January 17th, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    i’m most of the way through "3 cups of tea" and enjoying it THOROUGHLY.

    i also really loved "girl meets God" by lauren winner…it gave me some freedom from some of the evangelical rules and idealized mysticism that doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

    also, i am kind of assuming you’ve read donald miller’s books? he writes in a semi-similar tone as anne lamott, but i find him much more relatable.

  6. Caroline Ghetes

    January 17th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    If you haven’t yet, read "Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers. Absolutely the most beautiful love story of all, and the best book I have EVER read.

  7. Sue McFarland

    January 17th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Jasmine, a treat to see what you are reading. I hope that checking out and doing something as relaxing as reading good books has helped you!! ALL my reading has been digital photography books lately. I am DETERMINED to become a really good photographer. Your blog helps so much. Thanks!!

  8. Rachel Perry

    January 17th, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Have you ever read Blue Like Jazz or Same Kind of Different As Me? They are both fantastic. I might have to go read those books you mentioned, I just have to get through my pile first!

  9. s h e r r y

    January 17th, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Ahh, my last semester just started so I don’t have time for books. But I love to read! 🙂 I’m noting these books, and hope to read them after the semster’s over! 🙂 Thanks.

  10. Melissa

    January 17th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    You should get on (if you aren’t already)- tons of bloggers are on it and you can share book suggestions and reviews with friends. Its fun!

  11. angela

    January 17th, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    I’m in the middle of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – if the gentleman sitting next to me on the way home was so interesting I would have finished it…

  12. kate Lemmon

    January 17th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    ka tree grows in brooklyn has been sitting on my shelf since this summer, and you’ve inspired me to pick it up. also, I highly recommend the glass castle. amazing book!

  13. gina

    January 17th, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks Jasmine, I have been researching to find the perfect "Birthday Book" for this year, I buy myself a couple books on my birthday and its very exciting…I am a dork! I just finished Time Travellers Wife and thought it was AMAZING!

  14. alex.kruk photography

    January 17th, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks for sugestions ! I will definately try to read both…. it is just so so hard with 3 kids ..

    My 2 favourites book forever. I couldnt stop until last page was done
    "Shadow of the wind" !!!!!
    "13th tail !!!!

  15. gwyneth colleen

    January 17th, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    oh oh, and "the unlikely disciple" BEYOND fascinating.

  16. Amy Nabors

    January 17th, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn! Such a moving story. I’ve been wanting to get Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Have you read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years? Great book.

  17. ajira

    January 17th, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    I haven’t read either of the books you’re recommending but I did read one of the ones in your pile- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. It is a brilliant book- moving, cutting, funny, bittersweet and beautiful.

    I recommend The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary. It is unassuming but has such depth and knowledge it is breathtaking. A very tender drawing of people in all their moments of love, fear and courage.

  18. julianne

    January 18th, 2010 at 12:37 am

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!! If you like that one, you really need to read Joy in the Morning, also by Betty Smith. Here’s the Amazon description: In Brooklyn, New York, in 1927, Carl Brown and Annie McGairy meet and fall in love.Though only eighteen, Annie travels alone to the Midwestern university where Carl is studying law to marry him. Little did they know how difficult their first year of marriage would be, in a faraway place with little money and few friends. But Carl and Annie come to realize that the struggles and uncertainty of poverty and hardship can be overcome by the strength of a loving, loyal relationship. An unsentimental yet uplifting story, Joy in the Morning is a timeless and radiant novel of marriage and young love.

  19. hannah

    January 18th, 2010 at 12:42 am

    I LOVE Encyclopedia of an ordinary life! I read it when I worked at Borders and it was just an ARA – but I still bought the published version after I finished because I loved it that much! It’s inspirational in so many ways! Good choice!

  20. Katie Lewis

    January 18th, 2010 at 12:53 am

    I LOVE ‘The Glass Castle’ by Janette Walls. It’s a memoir about a girl with a very unconventional upbringing. Really amazing!

  21. sherry bailey

    January 18th, 2010 at 1:02 am

    I’ve never read "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn", but the film adaptation (1945) is one of my all time favorite movies. I don’t care how many times I’ve seen it (six?), I cry every time and fall in love with little Francie Nolan all over again. It’s the best! Check it out when you can.

  22. MElissa Espindola

    January 18th, 2010 at 1:13 am

    HAHAHA I’m so glad I’m not the only one that lays on the bathroom floor till the wee hours of the morning reading!!

    If you like girly romantic books Dear John is another great from Nicholas Sparks that I just finished!

  23. Rae Threnoworth

    January 18th, 2010 at 1:36 am

    You brought teeny little tears to my eyes when you wrote about telling JD Merry Christmas and I love you. It’s such an amazing feeling to love and to feel grateful for our life and loved ones. Thanks for touching my heart 🙂

  24. Christine Pobke

    January 18th, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Great minds think alike sweetie! I just asked my FB friends for suggestions and ended up adding 30 books to my Amazon cart. 🙂 I guess now I have two more to add! 🙂 Happy reading! xxo PS Hope you guys are over the jetlag!! x

  25. Harmony Loves

    January 18th, 2010 at 3:11 am

    That’s funny I too was reading into the night and early morning. I started The Lovely Bones at 10 pm and finally forced myself to put it down at 3 am. Very good book 🙂

  26. Hannah

    January 18th, 2010 at 3:32 am

    I spy The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in your pile there and I gotta say, that was one of the most brilliant books I’ve read in a long time. It’s not the most heartwarming or moving book, but it’s just *SO* innovative and the narrative is so unique that I fell in love with it.

    I’ll definitely be checking out Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Thanks for the recs!

  27. Inland Empire Wedding Photographer

    January 18th, 2010 at 4:11 am

    This makes you even more Oprahish..specially because I think you’ve inspired me to pick up one of these books

  28. Nicole

    January 18th, 2010 at 4:31 am

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is by far one of my all time favorites! My mom gave it to me as a gift for my twelfth birthday and I just read it again about a year or so ago. Such amazing writing. I love a good book and just read a great one called Educating Esme. I think you’d find it laugh out loud funny. 🙂

  29. Jessi

    January 18th, 2010 at 5:02 am

    I recently read "The Shack" and loved it….It’s one of those books that gives you a different veiw on things….I’ve been wanting to read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  30. Juli L.

    January 18th, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Oh, I just love, love, love "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"…I read it when I was a teenager and it’s one of the few books that I have read a couple times over. What’s funny is I haven’t thought of this book in years and it just recently came up in a conversation with my parents, we were discussing some of our favorite books of all times and I told them about this one, so it’s a weird coincidence for me to see you list it here. A must read! 🙂

  31. Meese

    January 18th, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Another recommendation: Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay. Unputdownable!

  32. Katelyn

    January 18th, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is probably my favorite book ever. No, it is definitely my favorite. I did a project on it in high school. It really is a beautiful story.

  33. Melissa Kay

    January 18th, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks so much for your recommendations. I finished ‘Bird by Bird’ last night and loved it. I’m adding these to my list as well.

  34. Judi

    January 18th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Jasmine, two great feel-good, inspiring, empowering reads are Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson.

  35. Stephanie Stewart

    January 18th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I will have to add these to my ‘must-read’ list! Thanks for sharing! I highly recommend Dear Rosie and P.S. I love you by Cecila Ahearn. I love her writing style, I didn’t want to put either book down. Both are love stories, and I know how you love love. 🙂

  36. Mikaela

    January 18th, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    As a regular blog reader and HUGE admirer, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to comment! But I have to say, I’ve had a copy of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn sitting in my collection of vintage books for years but now I’m super pumped to crack it open 🙂 My two favorite reads last year were Time Traveler’s Wife and The Reason For God. Great books. Thanks for the recommendations!

  37. Leyla

    January 18th, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Nice! I am also always on the lookout for good reads… So thank you for these wonderful recommendations! =)

  38. amanda thiessen

    January 18th, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    now definitely with this weather sitting by the fire with a good book sounds amazing!!

  39. Heather

    January 18th, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    i’ve been reading alot lately too with all the cold weather we’ve been getting lately.

  40. cassandra m

    January 19th, 2010 at 5:05 am

    I will have to ask my sis to offer opinions on books, she reads like you…A LOT. The most I’ve read in the past 6mths were the 4 books in the Twilight series. I know I know…shame on me. I should read more. But I did get those other books you recommended on an earlier post. :))))

  41. cassandra m

    January 19th, 2010 at 5:06 am

    PS…In my defense…I DO READ alot of WONDERFUL PHOTOGRAPHER’s BLOGS…that counts right ????

  42. Charity

    January 19th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Hey J* I just wanted to tell you that if you really like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Excellent taste in books by the way!!) I think you would really like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Both are like A Tree, Gritty yet uplifting. Anyway just wanted to let you know!
    Thank you.

  43. anda

    January 19th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    books! well since i couldn’t narrow down to one fave book, i sent you a list of my fave 16 — but i hope you enjoy at least one of them (judging from these pics, i think we have very similar tastes) 🙂

  44. Kristina

    January 19th, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    If you haven’t discovered Jodi Picoult yet, you should! I read My Sister’s Keeper a few years ago and since then I’ve read everything she’s ever written! Sooooo good! If you enjoy a witty writing style, check out the Spellman Files books, too. They’re about a wacky family of private investigators getting themselves into trouble.

  45. Bethany

    January 19th, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Sarah’s Key is an EXCELLENT book about World War II and the French people. It will keep you on the cool bathroom tiles until the wee hours of the morning. 🙂

  46. Gail

    January 20th, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    "A Tree" has been sitting on my shelf for ages, having been highly recommended from other friends.

    Two picks for you:

    1) The Book Thief: This book in some small way changed my life. I never thought I’d put a book up there with "To Kill a Mockingbird" but this one is THAT good.

    2) "Let the Great World Spin: This one made a lot of year-end best of lists. I’m DYING to read it since it was recommended and one of my most well-read friends said it’s the best book he’s ever read. WOW.

    And girl, you need to get on!!! 🙂

  47. holly

    January 23rd, 2010 at 1:35 am

    i am a book whore and also book snob. not in the sort of way, but in the sort of way.

    that said, here is my book opinoin. anything anne lamott, of course. but my two favorite books of recent all times are:
    1) "extremely loud and incredibly close" by jonathan safran foer

    2) "the elegence of the hedgehog" by muriel barbery.

    when you read these and they do not disappoint and they kinda change your life in the little ways that count, but you cannot put words to…well then you can email me, ask me for my address, and i will send it to you and you can then send me a pound of really good coffee. because to love books is to love coffee. and i love both.


  48. Karen Slate

    January 25th, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Great list of books! My all-time favorites are:
    Redeeming Love
    The Glass Castle
    Joy In The Morning
    Water For The Elephant
    The Good Earth
    Time Traveler’s Wife
    Haven’t read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn but have always meant to … is now on my "to read" list!

  49. Mia

    January 28th, 2010 at 6:01 am

    How awesome! I always love reading what books others love, and it’s funny because Encyclopedia of An Ordinary Life is one of my favorites, and an old library school friend and I were just talking about how much we loved that book, but didn’t know anyone else who’d read it!