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15 Recent Recommendations from the Famous Bibliophile

Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon loves to read, so much so that she curates an online book club! The bibliophile A-lister is an old hand at recommending great novels that are perfect for book clubs. Here are some of the latest Reese Witherspoon book club picks, complete with publishers’ descriptions below.

 

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women — a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947 — are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth… no matter where it leads.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “I think you’ll really enjoy this exciting and fast-paced story about a pregnant American socialite who teams up with a female ex-spy and a hot-tempered young soldier in the aftermath of WWII. A story of courage and redemption.”

 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

little fires everywhere

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town — and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood — and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “I love this beautiful book about motherhood.”

 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

From beloved author Alice Hoffman comes the spellbinding prequel to her bestseller, Practical Magic.

Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “This story is full of magic, love, family, heartbreak and redemption… I got so swept up in this enchanting story!”

 

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The adults are lulled by the ship’s comfort and ease. The four children — ages six to eleven — love the nonstop buffet and their newfound independence. But when they all go ashore for an adventure in Central America, a series of minor misfortunes and miscalculations leads the families farther from the safety of the ship. One minute the children are there, and the next they’re gone.

The disintegration of the world the families knew — told from the perspectives of both the adults and the children — is both riveting and revealing. The parents, accustomed to security and control, turn on each other and blame themselves, while the seemingly helpless children discover resources they never knew they possessed.

Do Not Become Alarmed is a story about the protective force of innocence and the limits of parental power, and an insightful look at privileged illusions of safety. Celebrated for her spare and moving fiction, Maile Meloy has written a gripping novel about how quickly what we count on can fall away, and the way a crisis shifts our perceptions of what matters most.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: She recommended Do Not Become Alarmed as one of four books she was “loving” last summer.

 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages — a spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.

Every woman has a secret life…

Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.

Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected — and exciting — kind.

As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s “moral police.” But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife — a modern woman like Nikki — and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “Our March book pick, Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows, has something for everyone: It’s a mystery, a romance, a family drama… Most of all, it’s about how women across all generations can come together to change their community.”

 

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last?

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story  — their story — at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated — perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a 13-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “This book kept me up all night, turning the pages to find out. Can’t tell you the ending but definitely have tissues close by!”

 

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives — experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.

Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness. Brown writes, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “Brené Brown speaks of how divided our world is politically, socially, racially, and how we can bridge that divide with more civility and consciousness… I learned so much about communication from this book, and I hope you will too.”

 

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

The mesmerizing debut about a coolly manipulative woman and a wealthy “golden couple,” from a stunning new voice in psychological suspense.

Some women get everything. Some women get everything they deserve.

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more — a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne — a socialite and philanthropist — and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive… if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life — the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “It’s a fun and fast-paced psychological thriller about two determined women who play a high stakes game of deception that only one can win.”

 

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London — Fatima, Thea, and Isabel — receive the text they had always hoped would never come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other — ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed — which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style — The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “Ruth Ware has created another thrilling page-turner about a group of women who were childhood friends bound by a dark secret. 17 years later, they are forced to deal with the secret they have kept for so long.”

 

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills — and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar — the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild — is the person thousands turn to for advice.

Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion — and absolute honesty — this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “It will crack your heart open.”

 

The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal

uplifting books 5

“They’ve chosen the one thing that will make our family life impossible. It’s genius really, when you think about it. It’s the perfect sabotage.”

Julia Alden has fallen deeply, unexpectedly in love. American obstetrician James is everything she didn’t know she wanted — if only her teenage daughter, Gwen, didn’t hate him so much. Uniting two households is never easy, but when Gwen turns for comfort to James’s 17-year-old son, Nathan, the consequences will test her mother’s loyalty and threaten all their fragile new happiness.

This is a moving and powerful novel about the modern family: about starting over; about love, guilt, and generosity; about building something beautiful amid the mess and complexity of what came before. It is a story about standing by the ones we love, even while they make mistakes. We would give anything to make our children happy. But how much should they ask?

Witherspoon’s recommendation: She recommended The Awkward Age as one of four books to read last summer.

 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty book cover

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: They have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “It’s a great summer book about six adults, three cute kids & BBQ that goes wrong. A real page turner!”

 

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

endaffair

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses a moment of experience from which to look ahead…”

“This is a record of hate far more than of love,” writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair, and it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles. Now, a year after Sarah’s death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of his passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to love-hate. At first, he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. Yet as he delves further into his emotional outlook, Bendrix’s hatred shifts to the God he feels has broken his life, but whose existence at last comes to recognize.

Originally published in 1951, The End of the Affair was acclaimed by William Faulkner as “for me one of the best, most true and moving novels of my time, in anybody’s language.”

Witherspoon’s recommendation: Witherspoon posted a picture of herself reading the book and captioned it, “When the book is so good you can’t put it down… no matter what you’re doing.”

 

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes…

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: Witherspoon recommended Honeyman’s novel on her Instagram account, and her production company acquired the film rights.

 

The Dry by Jane Harper

the dry

A small town hides big secrets in The Dry, an atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.

Witherspoon’s recommendation: “[…]this one is not to be missed! The Dry by @janeharperauthor is an unpredictable page-turner about a man from a small Australian town who goes home to help investigate a local crime. You won’t want to put it down…”

Which of these Reese Witherspoon book club favorites are you looking forward to reading? Tell us in the comments!

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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.