On each visit home to my parents’ house, I am greeted by a stack of books on my bedside table. As I crawl into my childhood bed, I flip through the selections my mother has recently completed and passed along to me. I carry these books back to my home in Nashville and add them to the growing collection that is stacked on my own bedside table, on my shelves and in just about every corner of my one-bedroom apartment. My mother has a knack for knowing what I’ll like, much because our tastes are similar, and as a former bookstore owner, she knows that one thing worth sharing is a good book.
Today, StyleBlueprint’s team is sharing our gift of a good book … ones we recently couldn’t put down and ones that we always find ourselves coming back to. Add these books to your bedside table or the stack in the corner waiting to be read, and pass the ones you like along to your friends!
By Bryan Stevenson
Recommended by: Liza Graves, StyleBlueprint Cofounder
Brief Summary: If you are unfamiliar with this book, the author’s name may be familiar. This is likely from all the coverage of the soon-to-open National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL. This museum “will become the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.” – eji.org
This memorial is the brainchild of Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and its founder and executive director, Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy. If it were not for this book, I’m not sure I would have been as motivated to see this memorial as I am now. The book is deeply moving no matter your race. It’s eye-opening and reads like a novel. It also proves the ability of one person’s passion to make an incredible difference in this world. You will be inspired. While not a spiritual book, per se, it can’t help but move your spirit. I have not been so moved by a book perhaps ever. Bold words, and I mean them.
Why you would recommend this book: My biggest takeaway from reading Just Mercy is that I don’t have the luxury of being colorblind. I grew up in an area of the country where color didn’t seem to matter, or at least not through my white, privileged eyes. I remember one of my friends talking about landing a job, and she wondered if it was because they wanted a “minority poster child.” She had been my friend for over 20 years, and it wasn’t until she said that that it dawned on me that she was a minority. I just saw her for her. And as lovely as that is, that attitude eliminates my ability to see her for all that she has to carry each day simply because of her color and the difference in the way she has to navigate the world. Being colorblind is something I was once proud of, but it’s a luxury that none of us have if we truly want to help achieve equity for all. The first step is recognizing the disparity that exists.
I thought I understood the plight of black Americans, I don’t at all. But, I want to better understand, and I want to do my part to fight for their justice, which is many times denied in our criminal justice system.
This book. I wish you all would read it and invite me for wine to discuss it. There is so much here.
Who recommended this book to you: I saw it mentioned in an article, by Kate McKee, on Bacon in the Bookshelf, as a must read!!
By John Kennedy Toole
Recommended by: Lauren Helmer, StyleBlueprint Regional Editor
Genre: Comedy, Tragicomedy
Brief Summary: Toole’s novel follows Ignatius J. Reilly, a 30-year-old who lives at home with his mother, as he adventures around New Orleans and hunts for employment. Ignatius is the story’s central character, but secondary characters bring life and color to the story, which is a series of subplots that are artfully tied together.
Why you would recommend this book: John Kennedy Toole’s story doesn’t take itself too seriously and thus shows its cast of characters’ incredible complexity and humanity in a way that exposes their imperfections and tenderness. It is smart and delightfully funny and ultimately has you rooting for its anti-hero.
Who recommended this book to you: Found it on a bookshelf of a coffee shop I worked at during my teens, and it just drew me in!
By Michael Bishop
Recommended by: Cindy Acuff, StyleBlueprint Nashville Sales
Brief Summary: An innocent man is framed for murder, and the author discovers many of Nashville’s elite society were involved.
Why you would recommend this book: If you have resided in Nashville for a long time, the people involved and the era will be of interest. If you’re not from Nashville it will be shocking as well.
Who recommended this book to you: StyleBlueprint recommended the book! Read more here.
By Ernest Cline
Recommended by: Megan Casey, Director of Marketing
Genre: Sci-Fi-ish. I love Sci-Fi. (One of my all-time favorite books, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, follows a Jesuit priest confronting an alien civilization. If you love Ready Player One, definitely follow it with The Sparrow!)
Brief Summary: The story is set in a future where humans have depleted Earth of its resources, and civilization is on the brink of collapse. Most people escape their bleak reality by existing mostly in the virtual reality of the “Oasis,” which is a video game in essence. The billionaire maker of Oasis dies and posthumously announces that he developed a treasure hunt of sorts within the video game, and whoever wins will inherit his fortune. The book is about the unlikely hero, the evil corporation he is up against and the friendships he develops along the way.
Why you would recommend this book: It makes you think about the relationships you form online and how much time you spend crafting your “digital life.” What’s really “real”? Are you able to convey a genuine sense of your true self or are you only projecting a preferred version of yourself? Cline’s book also explores the solace that the digital world can bring to the lonely, while stressing the importance of connecting in person.
Who recommended this book to you: My sister
By Rick Bragg
Recommended by: Alex Hendrickson, StyleBlueprint Nashville Associate Editor/Lead Writer
Genre: Memoir/Collection of Essays
Brief summary: A former New York Times journalist and writer, Rick Bragg is a storyteller. Before his (controversial) resignation from the magazine in the early 2000s, he penned stories about everything from massacres to Mardi Gras. I am currently a few stories into his latest work, which is a collection of essays about life in the South. His poignancy, humor and wit come through in stories that any Southerner can appreciate.
Why you would recommend this book: Bragg has masted the art of storytelling. You can feel the truth in his words, making each story all the more relatable. Plus, since it’s a collection of essays, this is an easy book to pick up — and put down. You don’t have to worry about getting sucked into a 500-page novel. Read a story, then come back later and read another.
Who recommended this book to you: Rick’s first book, All Over But the Shoutin′, landed on my bedside table via my mother. I fell completely in love with his writing and have been hooked on him ever since!
By J. D. Salinger
Recommended by: Jesse Gillenwalters, StyleBlueprint Digital Marketing Analyst
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Brief summary: The main character, Holden Caulfield, attempts to sort out his ambiguous emotional issues by running away from school.
Why would you recommend this book: It does a lot to teach us about self-awareness and sensitivity in a way that can be deeply relatable.
Who recommended this book to you: My lit teacher in college!
By Paula Hawkins
Recommended by: Lauren Uebele, StyleBlueprint Business Coordinator
Brief summary: Told in the first person from three characters, it is about an alcoholic woman who is just losing it. She stalks her ex-husband and his new wife, as well as another couple she always sees while she is on the train. Her blackouts get worse and worse as her stalking and obsessing over these people become more and more intense.
Why would you recommend this book: It’s one you can’t put down. It always leaves you wanting to know more … and the book is a million times better than the movie!
Who recommended this book to you: I just came across it while browsing the shelves a while ago. I could read it a bajillion times!
By Bill Martin, Jr.
Recommended by: Ashley Haugen, StyleBlueprint Managing Editor
Brief Summary: A bear is posed the question of what he sees, and his response sets off a hilarious chain of events that ultimately leads to a kumbayah moment for a festive family of animals, a teacher and her students.
Why you would recommend this book: It’s simple, yet inclusive. The illustrations are brilliant, yet whimsical. It’s just a fabulous read — especially if you read it 10 times in a row as I’m asked to do quite frequently by my 3-year-old daughter.
Who recommended this book to you: Can’t recall — just a classic that all of my children have enjoyed.
By Jim Bradford with Andy Hardin
Recommended by: Kate Neal, StyleBlueprint Nashville Client Success Representative
Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography
Brief Summary: The Awakening of HK Derryberry takes you on an emotional roller coaster through the life of a local boy with special needs and the man whose life was turned upside down by meeting him. Despite a difficult past and daily hardships, HK teaches us that life is what we make of it, and sometimes the brightest gems rise from the darkest of ashes.
Why you would recommend this book: It’s an inspiring story about a local hero who has changed my perspective on life! I asked him to come speak at Belmont. When he did, half the room was in tears, but laughing at the same time. It’s an easy read but definitely worthwhile.
Who recommended this book to you: I discovered HK’s story through a local news channel and immediately bought his book.
By Dale Smith Thomas
Recommended by: Ashley Bentley, StyleBlueprint Birmingham Sales
Brief Summary: Good Morning, Gorgeous is a book that personally transformed my life in so many ways. It is an easy read that will inspire you to take positive action with your life and to follow your dreams as you truly learn to love yourself from the inside out.
Why you would recommend this book: This book gives motivation to women. I would recommend it to all women, and I give it as a gift often!
Who recommended this book to you: I heard Dale speak at a women’s conference and was inspired to purchase.
By Mindy Kaling
Recommended by: Martha Davis, StyleBlueprint Memphis Client Success Representative
Brief Summary: Mindy Kaling lets us in on the inner workings of her brain as she reflects on life, love, family, friends, Hollywood and everything in between.
Why you would recommend this book: Mindy is all of us. This read is so relatable it hurts. When you close the book, you feel like you just made a life-long friend.
Who recommended this book to you: I am a Mindy superfan, so I guess you could say it was recommended to me by the gal herself.
Looking for travel ideas, check out our travel section. And when you are packing, don’t forget to bring a good book!