By Curtis Sittenfeld
I was a fan of Sittenfeld's earlier novel Prep and eagerly awaited American Wife, with its overt parallels to the life of Laura Bush. The plot carried me from the decades of singleness to those of courting to those of the ultimate "becoming" of the American wife. This woman--down-to-earth, yet the most powerful on Earth--was someone with whom I was more than happy to spend a week.
To Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee
No other novel elicits such sensory recall in me of being a little kid in the summertime. I somehow managed not to read this book until after college, and since then I've had almost an annual reunion with Scout. Even if the images of the film adaptation weren't stamped into my head, I would still get chills from reading, "'Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin.'"
By Tina Fey
Oh, how I wish Fey were my friend! From her advice on being a woman in the workplace--"No pigtails, no tube tops. Cry sparingly ... [but] if you're so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone."--to her gem on aging: "I need to take my pants off as soon as I get home. I didn't used to have to do that. But now I do"--Tina Fey has it all down. Whether you're 20 or 40 or 60, you'll relate to it. It's not a showbiz memoir, it's an everywoman memoir. That is, if every woman was as hilariously self-deprecating as my new "bestie"--Tina Fey.
By Tana French
Assuming you can suspend disbelief for 300 pages or so, The Likeness is one of the most suspenseful thrillers you'll find. My favorite so far in the Dublin Murder Squad series, it follows detective Cassie Maddox, a dead ringer (pun intended) for a recent murder victim. Cassie goes undercover as that victim in order to flush out the attacker. The pace is fast--not a sentence wasted--and the characters are intriguing. As French herself writes, in the voice of Cassie, "Nothing takes as much work as effortless." And that's what makes it such a great read.
The Red Book
By Deborah Copaken Kogan
I'm comfortable recommending this book maybe more than any other in a decade. Writing with no pretension (other than that which a character or two naturally brings along), Kogan introduces us to four women during their 20th Harvard reunion weekend. Were I to get all "English-major-y", I'd mention how Kogan's simple but eloquent prose allows us to navigate...