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It seems like every time I get together with a group of woman, we start talking about the best of something. It usually boils down to the best books, the best old movies (who has time to go to movies these days) and the best recipes.

The last time I gathered with my buddies, we immersed ourselves in a discussion the hottest male movie stars–not just the lookers, the ones with brains, too. (Can you say Kevin Bacon?)

With the summer heat pounding down upon us, I thought it might be fun to survey some women who have been in book clubs for aeons, or who are such avid readers that you know anything they suggest is a great read.  Here are a few recommendations from some of my bookie (as in book lover, not horse race bet-taker) friends in the following categories:

  • Favorite read to take the beach
  • Favorite book or favorite from your book club
  • Favorite classic to be re-read
  • Favorite movie to take on vacation


La-voe Mulgrew: Lavoe spent ten years in the halls of Harpeth Hall and now heads up Lead Academy.  She’s one of the most committed readers I know. And if you know La-voe, you also know she’s quite opinionated about what appeals to her.  I always trust her judgement when it comes to books and movies.


Beach: Good mysteries. Anything by Lee Child, Michael Connolly, Tony Hillerman and Robert Parker

Book Club or other: One Thousand White Women, The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

Classic: Great Gatsby, all Jane Austen, and Frankenstein (which remains my favorite novel to teach!)

Movie:Father of the Bride (the remake) because I’m living with one!


Perian Strang: Perian and I had the opportunity to hang out together during the StyleBlueprint Gift and Accessory show.  Suffice it to say, we had lots of time to chat, and chat we did.  Her first suggestion Cutting for Stone is one of my favorite book ever.  There are several quotes in the book that I consider so profound, they’re worthy of a tatoo.  

Book club: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Classic: EMMA by Jane Austen – So good, and timely with the movie re-make!

Movie: ET – a great “classic” from my childhood that we still love to watch!


Daphne Butler: Perian told me Daphne is her go-to girl when it comes to reading.  Not only is she the mother of four children, she is a committed community volunteer, and her years at UVA must have taught her to be a speed reader.  Daphne immediately emailed me her favorites and I asked, and I completely agree with her selections.  If you notice, everyone is reading Bossypants right now.

Beach: Bossypants by Tina Fey
Book club (although I am not in one): Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Classic: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Movie: The Princess Bride

Amy Dennison (former StyleBlueprint editor and professor’s daughter):  Amy reads all the time. Her suggestions continue to resonate with me in a meaningful way.  When I’m in a pinch for a good book, I call 911-AMY.

Beach: On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan

Book Club: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston & Eleni, Nicholas Gage

Classic: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Movie: Julie & Julia or PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES! SO hilarious!


Martha Podesta (my sister from Memphis):  My sister reads a ton and tutors special education kids on the side.  She even went so far as to divide her beach book selections between short beach trips and long beach trips for this post.  You wouldn’t want to take War and Peace to a girls’ weekend, but you might take a Phillipa Gregory novel.

Beach: (short)

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (only non- science fiction he wrote)

Things my Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Bell Canto by Ann Patchett

Beach Trip (long)

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson- entire series!!

Book ClubUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

ClassicTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, I know This Much is True by Wally Lamb,Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

Movie:Jaws! ( great for a beach trip)


Elizabeth Colton Walls: I stopped by Elizabeth’s open house of my former residence, 3812 Whitland Avenue, to query her on her favorite books.  (Side note: The house is as lovely as it’s always been and is an incredible deal on one of Nashville’s favorite streets.)  Anyway, she writes the book review for nFocus magazine and is known in literary circles around town to be a voracious reader.

Here are her suggestions:

Beach: For Jane Austen fans, an ideal beach book is The Three Weissmanns of Westport (Cathleen Schine), the plot of which is inspired by my favorite Jane Austen novel, Sense & Sensibility.

Harried moms love I Don’t Know How She Does It (Allison Pearson), and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (Helen Simonson)is a must read for fans of the Very English Village genre.

Book Club:  As for non- fiction, my book club recently enjoyed an animated discussion of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot),  the story of the famous HeLa cells which were the first “immortal” human cells grown in culture. WWII buffs will enjoy Operation Mincemeat (Ben Macintyre)the true story of a British deception against the Nazis that reads like a spy thriller.

Movie: It’s Complicated or Winter’s Bone


Ann West:  Having walked with Ann West for over 7 years on the red trail in Percy Warner Park, we have had plenty of time to talk books and movies.  Like two nanny goats, we descend and ascend the ridge, huffing and puffing, but we managed to catch our breath enough to talk about all of our favorite things.


Here are Ann’s suggestions.

Beach: Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

Book Club: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Classic:The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Movie: Mrs. Doubtfire.

Happy Reading!  Don’t forget the movies.


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