Ten Books for Ten Moods


If you read as I do (unceasingly, never sticking to any one genre, and always with a backup book (or ten) just in case, you’re always seeking books to match your current mood, yes? Pride and Prejudice won’t do when you’re in a Frankenstein mood.

There are times nothing will work except dark and broody-moody, to be accompanied by rough dark bread and almost unbearably smelly cheese. The next week, I may be in need of adventure so intense that eating while reading is almost unbearable. (Notice I said ‘almost’ unbearable. The only instances that really make me stop eating are break-ups, and I refuse to leave my beloved just to lose twenty pounds . . . of that I am almost positive.)

Thus, ten books for ten moods . . . (and since books are evergreen, I never limit suggestions to just current releases.)

Work Obsessed? For when your husband/wife/children/friends don’t understand how and why work takes over your life (or how jobs make dysfunctionally satisfying families), here’s a great one by Jillian Medoff, who’s been there.

This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff. (Releasing 1/9/18—I was lucky enough to read an early copy)

Uplifting and hilarious…As [characters] navigate office drama, love affairs, and personal ambitions in the face of corporate cutbacks, Medoff examines the impact our work-life decisions have on our home lives.” Real Simple

Food Obsessed? This one’s for the times when you need to be immersed in food, family, sex, work and . . . food. One of my all-time favorite memoirs.

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

At an early age, Ruth Reichl discovered that “food could be a way of making sense of the world. . . . If you watched people as they ate, you could find out who they were.” Her deliciously crafted memoir, Tender at the Bone, is the story of a life determined, enhanced, and defined in equal measure by a passion for food, unforgettable people, and the love of tales well told.  Beginning with Reichl’s mother, the notorious food-poisoner known as the Queen of Mold, Reichl introduces us to the fascinating characters who shaped her world and her tastes, from the gourmand Monsieur du Croix, who served Reichl her first soufflé, to those at her politically correct table in Berkeley who championed the organic food revolution in the 1970s.  Spiced with Reichl’s infectious humor and sprinkled with her favorite recipes, Tender at the Bone is a witty and compelling chronicle of a culinary sensualist’s coming-of-age.”

Born Survivors by Wendy Holden“Three women pregnant by their husbands.Three couples praying for a brighter future.Three babies, born within weeks of each other in the most horrendous of circumstances. By the time they arrived, weighing just three pounds, their fathers had been killed by the Nazis and their mothers were ‘walking skeletons’ living moment to moment in the same concentration camp. Somehow, all three women managed to survive.Against all the odds, their babies did too. Seventy years on and now living in Britain and America, these ‘siblings of the heart’ have come together for the first time to tell the remarkable stories of the three mothers who defied death to give them life.”Want armchair travel through time and place? Learning an entirely different world and culture, being thrust into a ‘gotta know’ book that sends me reeling–that’s pretty much heaven. Vincent Lam gifted me with this one.

The Headmasters Wager by Vincent Lam”Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a compulsive gambler, and an incorrigible womanizer. He is well accustomed to bribing forever changing lists of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of the Chen Academy. He is fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage and quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at high-stakes mahjong tables.But when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away. In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and Laing Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive. Percival’s new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.”Seeking hope when you see too much racial enmity? If, like me, you thirst for families where love overcomes boundaries and great strength results. A few favorites:The Color of Water by James Mcbride

“The story of James McBride and his white, Jewish mother Ruth. Ruth was born in Poland and raised in Suffolk, Va, the daughter of an itinerant rabbi and a loving, disabled mother who spoke no English. At 17, Ruth fled the  South, landed in Harlem, married a black man in 1941, founded a church, was twice widowed and raised 12 children in New York City. Despite hardship, poverty, and suffering, Ruth sent all 12 of her children to college. 

Lavishly praised by critics, embraced by millions of readers, this tribute to a remarkable woman helped set the standard for modern-day memoir writing.   It is considered an American classic and is required reading in high schools and colleges across America. It is a perennial favorite of book clubs and community-wide reading events, including New York City and Philadelphia. IBut most importantly, it is an eloquent, touching exploration of what family really means.”

Need humor mixed with your hope? Angela Nissel provides.

Mixed: My Life in Black and White by Angela Nissel

” “Tell anyone who asks that you’re half-black and half-white, just like David Hasselhoff from Knight Rider.”–Angela’s mother “Love has no color,” insist Angela Nissel’s parents, but does it have a clue? In this candid, funny, and poignant memoir, Angela recounts growing up biracial in Philadelphia–moving back and forth between black inner-city schools and white prep schools–where her racial ambiguity and doomed attempts to blend in dog her teen years. Once in college, Angela experiments with black activism (hoping to find clarity in extremism), capitalizes on her “exotic” look at a strip club, and ends up with a major case of the blues (aka, a racial identity problem). Yet Angela is never down for the count. After moving to Los Angeles, she discovers that being multiracial is anything but simple, especially in terms of dating and romance.
By turns a comedy of errors and a moving coming-of-age chronicle, Mixed traces one woman’s unforgettable journey to self-acceptance and belonging.”

Looking for an engrossing, can’t-stop-reading, nourishing read? Do you know what I mean? Something you can’t put down, but that stays with you long after you finish...Thrity Umrigar specializes in just that genre.


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  1. Posted January 6, 2018 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I love these brilliant, mood-matched book recommendations. And the quick synopsis of each is so helpful. Thank you!

    • Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Lynne. I’ve always loved reading in and out of various moods and genres. And I can’t wait for your terrific book to be released!

  2. Christine Terrell
    Posted January 7, 2018 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    What a treasure trove of wonderful books, Randy! I do not know any of these books, yet there appear to be many potential gems in your list. Many thanks for putting this post together!

  3. Posted January 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this diverse list of books. I actually have Mixed on my bookcase so I will move that one to my tbr shelf. The Story Hour sounds like an interesting one I’d like to read too. Thanks!

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