Good Reads : Paula McLain + Melanie Benjamin


Without fail, he and Polo wait at the door for me when I come home. Without fail, he brings a glass of water to bed because he knows I’ll ask for it at a later point in time. Without fail, I drive him crazy (no, really, Jasmine you’re driving me crazy!!). Without fail, I’ll beg to get into a photobooth…case in point at last Saturday’s wedding:

And without fail, he knows I need a book to maintain balance in my life (apparently watching Jersey Shore isn’t considered an intellectual activity). In light of this, when I’m on the verge of falling over the edge, we go to a bookstore and roam the aisles for soul food. Because, without fail, it means he loves me.

Here’s a few good books I’ve read lately…
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. Okay, so this book? Ah-maze. Written fluidly and I was lost in its pages for a few days…when I finished the last chapter, I made JD promise we’d live in Paris for a few weeks next year. No, really, Jasmine you’re driving me crazy!! The story is historical fiction based on Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadie Hemingway, and their struggles to start his writing career. Her sacrifice, diligence, and love melted my heart and though it ends with sadness and pain, her life was truly remarkable. LOVED it.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Being so intrigued with Hemingway’s personal life, I read his autobiography. It’s incredible to read his words in light of McLain’s research and juxtapose both versions. His tight, lean writing painted his life in Paris and Europe with beauty. I was especially fond of his chapter on hunger. Essentially, he says hungry artists are better artists because they want it more. It being writing for Hemingway, but I applied it to any artform, especially photography and how hunger for precision, success and authenticity reveals itself in need. And want.

Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus. This series of short essays by McManus was a nice break from my usual reading. Every chapter reveals McManus’ insight on love, specifically the role God plays in loving humanity. More than anything, it challenged me to love beyond what I think I’m capable of. For this, I’m thankful.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin. Oh, wow. This book hit me like a swig of Nyquil. Soon enough I was dreaming of rabbit holes and Cheshire cats. I bought this book and was glued to it since I’ve always been fascinated with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The story is told through the voice of Alice, the real life girl for whom the story is dedicated. As the daughter of the Dean of Oxford (where Lewis taught mathematics), he befriended Alice and their story unfolds in the strangest of ways, revealing a new side to this child protagonist…who eventually grows up outside of Wonderland. A truly delightful read.

If you have book recommendations (I prefer only AWESOME BOOKS), please feel free to let me know what they are since I’m always on the look out for good reads! Happy Tuesday!

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  1. sherri lynn

    August 23rd, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I just read The Paris Wife a few weeks ago and also loved it! I would be interested to read A Moveable Feast now. Looking back through your Good Reads posts, we’ve read a lot of the same books! Some of my favorites are Reading Lolita in Tehran, Little Bee, The Happiness Project, and Blink. Happy reading!

  2. Katie Dickson

    August 23rd, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I’m reading the Paris Wife now and I love it. If you haven’t read it yet, you should read ‘The Help.’ It was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

  3. Amanda

    August 23rd, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    You are truly amazing! I’m going to have to check out some of these books especially Alice I Have Been. I just can’t get enough "vacations" through the written word. 🙂

  4. Liz

    August 23rd, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Hi Jasmine:

    I’m more of a non-fiction gal myself (I am reading Today We Are Rich, based on your recommendation and love it!), in part because of a long story involving an English Lit major and too many tutorial presentations! However, I recently finished reading Sarah’s Key and could not put it down. The movie is out this summer and so I wanted to read the book before seeing that. It’s a fictional story (sadly) based on true events, none of which I had ever heard of in countless modern history classes. You might cry, but love it anyway!

  5. Rachel Tatem

    August 23rd, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I love that you keep yourself balanced enough to still have time to read. Your photo booth set is too cute

  6. angela young

    August 23rd, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    you ruined my day……….GTL, is VERY intellectual. Well not as much as Real Housewives….but a close second. 🙂 :o) You always make me laugh! I wish I had time for books….but until that day I will enjoy my reality TV. LOL!

  7. Falcon

    August 23rd, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I love these posts! I really hope you write a book one day (I have a feeling you will) because your writing totally sucks me in! I’ll be checking out The Paris Wife, I’m a sucker for anything French 🙂 I wish I had a book to recommend but it’s been a while since Ive read anything amazing.. Next time!

  8. Molly W.

    August 23rd, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I just finished "The Help" and really liked it (but really, one of the best books of all time and the inspiration for my daughter’s name is "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning -MUST.READ.

  9. Meridith

    August 23rd, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I love historical fiction so I must read The Paris Wife. Just requested it from the library. Thanks for the recommendation!

  10. kath bisson

    August 23rd, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I too love to get lost in the pages of a good book,and i highly highly recommend " the celestine prophecy" about a guy who takes a journey of no coincidences and some good life lessons to take from it too :)xx

  11. cipriano panzarella

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Must read: The Greatest Salesman In The World

    Inspiring + motivating, it will change your outlook on life.

  12. cipriano panzarella

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Must read: The Greatest Salesman In The World

    Inspiring + motivating, it will change your outlook on life.

  13. shauna nicole

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve been looking for some new reads. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Sheree

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I go through ‘book’ phases, at the moment I’m definitely in the ‘phase’ and have just finished ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls (currently made into a film starring Anne Hathaway) and just started ‘Water for Elephants’ by Sarah Gruen – again recently a film – I have to read the books before I watch them! Once I finish WFE I shall start reading ‘The brightest star in the sky’ by our very own Marian Keyes (she’s a fab author here in the UK, full of fun storylines, laugh out loud moments!) for a truly laugh-out-loud and pee-your-pants book I highly recommend ‘A Year in the Merde’ and ‘Merde Happens’ both by Stephen Clarke, hilarious.

  15. Jodie Lemke

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    JASMINE!!!! I am just reading Soul Cravings right now! WOW. its unreal. i love it soooo much! Another good book right now is ‘Erasing Hell’ By Francis Chan it’s his follow up to Rob Bell’s book (title is slipping my mind)

    Love your photo strip/

  16. Andrew

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    If you want a book that will seriously challenge and spur on spiritual change I highly recommend Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

  17. Nancy

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    The Paris Wife is next on my list, already purchased it and all. Going to check out the rest on here, what a great reading list.

    Thanks for sharing!

  18. anda

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    i’m so excited to read some of these! my personal ‘to read’ list is finally nearing it’s end (cannot believe it!). i’ve already told you my favorite reads a couple times. still waiting to see if you actually read some of them though, haha 😉 they ARE awesome.; i promise.

  19. Ashley Terry

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Jasmine–I’m reading The Help right now. I know, I know, it’s what everyone else is reading these days but I always prefer the books over the movies so I picked this one up and it makes me want to stay up until all hours of the night for more. I already know I’ll be sad when I finish it, which for me is the mark of a great book.

  20. elizabeth s.

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Jasmine, these recommendations are older books–you’ve probably read them already. But, I loved, loved Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott and Poisonwood Bible (friends of mine complained about the first 100 pages, but I didn’t have that problem–hang in there and I promise, it is a super read!!) Also, have you ever read Anne of Green Gable?? A classic childhood fav that I could read once a year–it’s just such a sweet, feel-good story. You will close the book with a smile on your face.
    And, if you’ve never read classics like Gone with the Wind or To Kill a Mockingbird, then your library will forever be incomplete.

  21. Sandra Fazzino Photography

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I’ve been walking around my house and driving in my car and lounging on my couch asking the question: how do I maintain balance? Regardless of what I do to earn a living, I seem to work at top speed, full force, only to crash. Ramping up a photo biz, plus a non-profit is clouding my vision of balance. Thank you for posting this today. I SO appreciate it. My husband and I are both maneuvering busy schedules, and this post was just what I needed. I believe God speaks to us through others. Last night the community activity catalog came in the mail and now this. It’s clearer to me what I can do now to move towards better balance, and I’m oh, so, grateful for needing and having the capability to put things in check.

  22. Krystal

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    "1000 Gifts" Ann Voskamp

  23. Shawna

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    I’m always on the lookout for good books too, so I’ll have to check out a couple of these! I highly recommend Alan Lightman’s "Einstein’s Dreams". It’s a quick, short read but it’s awesome! I swear! It’s fiction but it’s based on Einstein working as a patent clerk and what it would be like if he had dreams of where time behaves differently, so it’s basically a little collection of fables. I recommend it to everyone. I think you’ll like it! 🙂

  24. Brynn

    August 23rd, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Along the lines of The Paris Wife is any of Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction books revolving around the Tudors. My favorite was The Other Boleyn Girl, but they are all captivating. Another is The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, it is another historic fiction surrounding Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting and the story of the model he used to create the painting. Wonderful. Wonderful.

  25. Bridgit

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    For a swift kick in the pants, and a good look into the mind of an artist, read "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield.

  26. Carrie K

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    I just sent this link to your sister yesterday for her post too…

  27. Kimberly

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I absolutely LOVED "Hector and the Search for Happiness" by Francois Lelord.

  28. Di Holmes

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks Jasmine, we’re just about to go on holiday to our place on the beautiful island of Corsica and have been asking friends for recommendations. I’ve now bought ‘The Paris Wife’.
    FYI… my favourite author is Paul Auster & I would recommend one of his books called ‘Book of Illusions’… it’s awesome! Oh by the way, I’ve just treated myself & upgraded from a 5d to a 5d mkii… very excited!

  29. Dana

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    A Moveable Feast is absolutely divine… I don’t know if I’ll read The Paris Wife… i quite like Ernest’s account of their time spent in beautiful Paris & don’t want my view of him or their experience to be marred … 🙂 We’ll see though… i’ve heard from others also that it’s a phenomenal read… the paris wife.

  30. Amanda N

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Have you read Cutting For Stone? I finished it last month and it was wonderful. It’s a big sluggish at the beginning, but the last 3/4 of it is so worth the effort. And the Prez is reading it right now on his vacation!

    One of my favorites is Shadow of the Wind. Have you read it?

    Other suggestions: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Passage, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and anything by Christopher Moore (especially Lamb, if you haven’t read it yet).

  31. Kristin Hardwick

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    your love for each other is awesome-sauce. I mean that in a light-hearted, but dead serious way. 🙂

  32. Andrea Paris

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you so much for the book recommendations! After watching Midnight in Paris I told my husband the same thing you told JD. It was the first stop on our honeymoon and we can’t wait to go back!

  33. Carissa J

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I love these book updates! Shows a little bit of your personality and also gives me new things to read!

  34. Deanna

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I highly recommend "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s the true story of Louis Zamperini and his survival as a Japanese POW. Truly inspiring tale. Best book I have read this year.

  35. Greg S

    August 23rd, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Jasmine, if you like venturing into non-fiction, In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton (the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the extraordinary story of its survivors) is a stunning book. I don’t think I had a dry eye for the last 50 pages! If you read the book, you will find the backstory just as fascinating, just Google "Hunter Scott". Enjoy!

  36. rich

    August 23rd, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    great photo booth pictures! thank you for sharing the books to read!

  37. Christina Glawe

    August 23rd, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Love & War by John and Staci Eldredge……great book. My Husband and I both just finished it. It really will help your heart grow!

  38. Odalys Mendez

    August 23rd, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing! The photo booth pics are so very cute.

    I am one who also needs a book in my life to achieve balance. If I don’t have a good one on hand, my mind races too much. TV just doesn’t allow me to disconnect fully, getting lost in a book, somehow does. Hence my obsession with Kindle for Ipad and endless charges to Amazon. 🙂

  39. Jason+Gina

    August 23rd, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Glass Rainbow – Great Southern read (no – I’m not southern, I just dig the accent sometimes!)

  40. Pam

    August 23rd, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    I loved "The Soldier’s Wife".

  41. Stephanie

    August 23rd, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Have you ever read anything from Karen Kingsbury??? I haven’t read every book, but I read "Every Now and Then" and I LOVED it!!

  42. Jessie Louise

    August 23rd, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I love reading your book suggestions. Your way of writing rocksmysocksoff. 🙂
    One of my favorite books is A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. You’ll wanna write it down, because I promise you’ll get to the bookstore and NOT be able to remember that last name.
    Anyway. Beautifully written incredible story.

  43. Kali Ryan

    August 23rd, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Love the article! and the photobooth strip! you and JD are hilarious! (btw, what’s the photobooth company called?)

    I’ve always enjoyed the classics like The Count of Monte Cristo and Pride and Prejudice. But you’ve probably already read those! Thanks for the book suggestions. I’ll dive into The Paris Wife next!

  44. Malvina

    August 23rd, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    If you like Hemingway, you should watch Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen. Actually maybe you already did. I loved it. And went straight to get Tender is the night by Francis Scott Fitzgerald. A real pleasure to read. You really feel like you are there and then yet you can still think that it could be happening now as the themes are also relevant today.

  45. Rachele S.

    August 23rd, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    You should totally check out if you have not already. It’s a great way to keep track of what you have read, what you want to read and what your friends are reading. I’ve gotten some interesting suggestions from there. :o)

  46. The New Diplomat's Wife

    August 23rd, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    loved a moveable feast. and there is nothing like paris. ever. i’ll follow up with a paris wife, that one is new to me.

  47. Naomi

    August 23rd, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    You should read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. I’m working through it, and it’s absolutely incredible so far 🙂

  48. Sheila

    August 24th, 2011 at 1:39 am

    I’m fascinated that you find the time to read. I’m SLOWLY making my way through Pride & Prejudice and feel I may never reach the end!

  49. Addie

    August 24th, 2011 at 2:43 am

    You absolutely MUST read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, if you havent already…

    I always write down your selections and then go check them out at the library… this time you must do this one for my suggestion… 🙂

  50. Heather Beach

    August 24th, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Just finishing up Today We Are Rich from your last book recommendations! 🙂 I love reading everyone’s recommendations in the comments as well.

    My favorite book is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I bought a few copies to give away as gifts last year. It totally makes you think about what makes a life well lived. Seriously, download the free sample to your Kindle (or if you’re like me, your Kindle app on your cell phone) and read the intro – you’ll be hooked. <3

  51. Briana Moore

    August 24th, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Have you read Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik? His writing is absolutely brilliant.

  52. Jessica Sweeney

    August 24th, 2011 at 5:08 am

    I love A Moveable Feast. I read so many books that I usually get rid of them as soon as I’ve read them, but that’s one that I’ll always keep around. I love that his head worked nothing like mine; it’s a great window into genius. If you haven’t, you might want to try some of his short stories. They’re wonderful as well, although not so personal.

  53. Kelsey Blome

    August 24th, 2011 at 7:04 am

    I about fell out of my chair that Soul Cravings made it on your list of Goodreads!! So glad you liked it! I just knew you would! Can’t wait to read these!

  54. nicole

    August 24th, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    i found most of my summer reading list and new favorite books from your blog so i guess that it’s about time that i give a suggestion in return. read Peace Like A River by Leif Enger. it was the first book in a long time that made me cry, and i don’t like to think of myself as a crier. the tears were not even from a sadness, though the book has its moments, but from a moving story. and if you’re in the mood for a few easy but touching reads, The Chronicles of Narnia are timeless.

  55. Jenny

    August 24th, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Jasmine, I highly recommend The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Evil Genius by Hugh Mcleod, and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

  56. Jen

    August 25th, 2011 at 5:43 am

    Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

  57. Renae

    August 25th, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Two totally awesome reads (both books are first in a series): The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, and Tomorrow When the War Began, by John Marsden (love love LOVED this one – the entire series was unputdownable!)

  58. Dana Laymon

    August 25th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I love getting good book suggestions! Since a hurricane is coming and we might be out of power for a while, this list will come in handy. I just started reading Radical by David Platt and i think it’s going to be a good one!

  59. julie

    August 25th, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    I also recommend ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp. beautiful, poetic writing, and full of truth!

  60. Maxine

    August 25th, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    I picked up NYTimes bestseller "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin, and it has already inspired me to cut my closet in half, do the things that would take me less than a minute to do NOW, and reach further in my career and dreams. I’m only on the 3rd chapter, by the way 🙂 It’s about a woman who decides to devote a year of her life to increasing her happiness, focusing on goals that make sense to her and chronicles her journey in just a sweet, genuine, inspiring way. Hope you get a chance to read it!

  61. Michelle G

    August 27th, 2011 at 3:39 am

    One of my favorites is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. (Another is the Canon 7D manual–lol!) Thanks for the great topic–definitely going to add some of these to my list!

  62. Eric McCarty

    September 1st, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    I think I’ve recommended this before, likely when I tried to get you hooked on audible. Mark Twain’s "Letters from Hawaii". Pure fun. Perfect narration. And it should bring back some good wedding vibes for you. "In my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago . . ."

  63. Rachel Boatright DeVault

    September 3rd, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Dear Jasmine, you are AWESOME. I love your work, and I’ve been enjoying your site for the last several weeks! I just wanted to recommend a book that I LOVE, one I just finished–and it makes me sad to read anything else because I love it so. (And I am most definitely a bookworm, I’ll have you know.) The book is The Thirteenth Tale. (by Diane Setterfield)

  64. Barbara

    September 12th, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (by Rebecca Miller) – I just read it (in one day)

  65. Kelly

    September 20th, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Look Me in the Eye | John Elder Robison LOVED IT!!

  66. Melissa Ann

    October 3rd, 2011 at 12:44 am

    A book of poetry be e.e. cummings. If books are soul food… poetry is like a really yummy appetizer or something healthy you can grab on the run.

  67. Kerri Helms

    February 23rd, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I am an avid book reader [um, book hog?] and can recommend The Help by Kathryn Stockett as my most recent love. A great, but unfortunate, representation of the south many years before.