Susan Meissner, author of As Bright As Heaven recently shared with She Reads the last five books she’s read and loved. Keep reading to see her picks!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

All throughout 2016, friends told me I should read this book, and finally in 2017 I did. And now I know why everyone was recommending it. It is about a grumpy, grieving elderly man who wants to commit suicide but his plans are always being thwarted by Life itself, and by his quirky, loveable neighbors whom he pretends not to care about. Just talking about this book makes me feel good about the world. Some of my recent reads have been heart-wrenching; this one is heart-restoring.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

This novel was the One Book One San Diego pick for 2017. I love Bohjalian’s style (his The Sleepwalker is also a great book!) and this one is everything I’ve come to expect from him. It is a WWI story based on a historical event, but sadly one you might not know much about because the genocide of the Armenian people has all but faded from contemporary memory. It is a dual time period tale, my favorite kind, set partly in the current day and partly in war-torn Aleppo in 1915. It is a sad read, but a needed one, because it’s a story of humanity that should not be forgotten. It is one million stories, if you will, and I’m glad Bohjalian, of Armenian descent himself, told it.

A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

I am a forever fan of the Harry Potter books and Rowling’s masterful storytelling skills. She is a wonder, truly. This book is no exception but it is not, I must repeat, not, anything like a Harry Potter book. This is the grittiest novel I’ve read in a long time, full of story threads that make you want to scream at what one person can do to another, and weep at how a person might deal with what has been done to him or her. And yet the characters are so exquisitely drawn; I was swept up into their flawed little worlds. But be warned of the rawness of the language and some of the situations.[/vc_column_text]

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

I had the pleasure of hearing Kline speak about this book and show her beautiful photographs in a Power Point presentation on the day I bought the book, so I was already predisposed to be captivated by it. It’s a quiet novel that is more about how we look at life and meaning more than how we go after it. It’s a blend of fact and fiction, told in generous servings of beautiful prose. I adored Kline’s Orphan Train, and I loved this one too, just in a different way.

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

I am currently on an Inspector Gamache binge; I have an audio version in my car at all times now, and I am reading them out of order, which is so unlike me. But Penny is such a goddess of mysteries with recurring characters, it doesn’t mess with you to read them haphazardly the way I am. I loved the artistry in this book, but I’ve loved all of them so far. There are a dozen, I think. Penny’s cast of characters are delightful; the usual rural Quebec setting, Three Pines is delicious; and the writing is smart and evocative. If you haven’t started the Inspector Gamache stories, I should probably tell you to read them in order, because that does make the most sense. This one is Number 8, and is set in a remote Canadian monastery where the last of the Gilbertine monks write Gregorian chants. But it’s a murder mystery, so of course, even in a setting such as this, the fallen part of human nature is revealed.