The best emotional books that are sure to leave you with a book hangover

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by people’s behavior since I was a child. I was the kid who asked too many impertinent questions, never satisfied with the short answer. When I fell in love with historical fiction, the history mingled with my interest in human psychology. I soon discovered that despite advancements throughout civilization, people’s wants, needs, and fears remain fairly consistent. The exploration of life experiences that are not our own through the power of a book is pure magic. I hope these recommendations will allow you to put another’s life on like you would your winter parka and just for a moment, gain an understanding of another’s trials and tribulations. 

I wrote...

A Man Called Smith

By Tanya E. Williams,

Book cover of A Man Called Smith

What is my book about?

South Dakota, 1949. WWII veteran John Smith longs for the life he lost with the tragic death of his wife during childbirth. Desperate to provide for his two small children, he is manipulated into an unsuitable marriage by a young woman with a dark neurosis. Tormented by his own grief and the ravages of war, John is blind to his children’s turmoil and pain.

An emotional read, A Man Called Smith examines the meaning of family while begging the question of when is enough, enough? This complex and heartbreaking story examines the lies we tell, the love we yearn for, the loss we grieve, and the forgiveness we crave. Sometimes it is the choices we are afraid to make that alter our lives forever.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Before We Were Yours

Tanya E. Williams Why did I love this book?

A compelling read that took me by the collar and plunged me back in time to 1939 Memphis. I found the true, yet terribly disturbing events of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage to be both eye-opening and immersive. My heart was warmed by the determination of the Foss children to find their way home, despite the years it took to get there. Before We Were Yours is a story that has never left me as it straddles the tightrope of humanity, at its worst and also at its best, with a deft hand that is as haunting as it is emotional. Keep the tissues handy as I definitely cried my way through this read. 

By Lisa Wingate,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Before We Were Yours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—Over two million copies sold! A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller

“Poignant, engrossing.”—People • “Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage,…

Book cover of The Great Alone

Tanya E. Williams Why did I love this book?

With the stark backdrop of the wilds of Alaska, one might be lured into thinking the desolate yet stunning landscape with danger at every turn is at the heart of The Great Alone. It is however, the story of domestic abuse, trauma, and a father suffering from PTSD that captivated my attention into the wee hours of the night. I found the thread of the human spirit, not only desperate to survive, but to thrive, to be one of the most enduring and poignant themes of the novel. Happily-ever-after isn’t a requirement of the books I enjoy. It is however, a satisfying and realistic ending that makes a book stand out for me. This was definitely one of those reads.

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Great Alone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the near-isolated wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature.

#1 New York Times Instant Bestseller (February 2018)
A People “Book of the Week”
Buzzfeed’s “Most Anticipated Women’s Fiction Reads of 2018”
Seattle Times’s “Books to Look Forward to in 2018”

Alaska, 1974. Ernt Allbright came home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes the impulsive decision to move his wife and daughter…

Book cover of Mrs. Kimble

Tanya E. Williams Why did I love this book?

I will admit it, I am a sucker for a compelling book cover. The cover of Mrs. Kimble completely drew me in and it didn’t take long for me to be so immersed that I wanted to grab the characters by their shoulders and shake some sense into them. I was intrigued by the idea of a “serial husband” but honestly, I wanted to know more about this narcissistic man who could simply change who he was at any given moment all the while changing careers, hometowns, and wives without nary a backwards glance. Self-centered doesn’t even begin to describe Ken Kimble but he sure does make the novel an intriguing story about love, loss, betrayal, and human nature in all of its glory.

By Jennifer Haigh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mrs. Kimble as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Covering a span of twenty five years, Mrs Kimble tells the story of three women married in succession to the same man - a charismatic opportunist named Ken Kimble. Told from the perspective of each Mrs Kimble, it offers a mesmerising look at how three very different women become accomplices in their own deception.

We see Ken Kimble through the eyes of the women he seduces: his first wife, Birdie, who struggles to hold herself together in the months following his desertion; his second wife, Joan, a lonely heiress recovering from personal tragedy, who sees in Kimble her last chance…

Book cover of Ask Again, Yes

Tanya E. Williams Why did I love this book?

What I loved most about Ask Again, Yes was the real to life feeling of how the character’s world view from childhood of their family, grew and expanded, and yes, became ever more complicated as the characters themselves aged. I was deeply impressed by the realities of daily life accompanied by the stress of living with alcoholism, mental illness, and family dysfunction. The common thread that tied it all together for me was the deep and believable feeling of love, loyalty, and forgiveness. This novel is a thought-provoking family drama that spans generations with wonderfully flawed characters and world building so real if you reach out your hand you might just be able to touch the wallpaper.

By Mary Beth Keane,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ask Again, Yes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The triumphant New York Times Bestseller *The Tonight Show Summer Reads Pick*

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by People, Vogue, Parade, NPR, and Elle

"A gem of a book." —Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

How much can a family forgive?

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie NYPD cops, are neighbors in the suburbs. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

In Mary Beth Keane's extraordinary novel, a lifelong…

Book cover of The Dutch House

Tanya E. Williams Why did I love this book?

I have to say that I listened to Tom Hanks narrate The Dutch House in the audiobook version and I stand by my decision to do so as the story is told by Danny, the son, in this engaging family drama. For the record, Mr. Hanks did not disappoint. I am a huge fan when places become characters and the Dutch house in the story accomplishes this feat in spades. So much so, that I almost felt as though I’d moved in part way through the novel. At the heart of the story is family and while family doesn’t always live up to what we think it should, it remains that segmented piece of society we can all call our own. 

By Ann Patchett,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Dutch House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lose yourself in the story of a lifetime - the unforgettable Sunday Times bestseller 'Patchett leads us to a truth that feels like life rather than literature' Guardian Nominated for the Women's Prize 2020 A STORY OF TWO SIBLINGS, THEIR CHILDHOOD HOME, AND A PAST THAT THEY CAN'T LET GO. Like swallows, like salmon, we were the helpless captives of our migratory patterns. We pretended that what we had lost was the house, not our mother, not our father. We pretended that what we had lost had been taken from us by the person who still lived inside. In the…

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Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

Book cover of Radio Free Olympia

Jeffrey Dunn Author Of Radio Free Olympia

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’ve always been a child of the woods. I preferred to leave my home and wade a creek or explore a hillside. Nothing compared to the sight of a black snake or the feel of a mud puppy. School was a torture until an English teacher introduced me to Richard Brautigan and then read my first serious story to the class. Since then, this dyslexic nature lover has become a dream fisher and history miner with a Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Retired from forty-one years of teaching, I now write and publish cultural fiction.

Jeffrey's book list on where imagination and nature run free

What is my book about?

Embark on a riveting journey into Washington State’s untamed Olympic Peninsula, where the threads of folklore legends and historical icons are woven into a complex ecological tapestry.

Follow the enigmatic Petr as he fearlessly employs his pirate radio transmitter to broadcast the forgotten and untamed voices that echo through the wilderness. Venture deeper and encounter Baie, the founder of Wildsisters, a cranberry-infused roadhouse that offers solace to lost and wayward women. When a newborn is kidnapped, Baie and her community must unite to recover what has been stolen. Yet, their quest for justice extends beyond the realm of human characters—it must also be served for the fragile flora, the diverse fauna, and the very essence of the natural world.

Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

What is this book about?

Unleash the Power of the Wilderness in Radio Free Olympia

Discover the captivating allure of Washington's untamed Olympic Peninsula in Radio Free Olympia, an extraordinary literary masterpiece that immerses readers in a mesmerizing realm of visionaries, folklore legends, and historical icons. With an enchanting blend of magical realism and cultural fiction, the brilliant wordsmith Jeffrey Dunn artfully intertwines multiple narratives, crafting an intricate ecological tapestry that resonates deeply within the soul.

Embark on a riveting journey alongside the enigmatic Petr, a foundling whose path leads him deep into the heart of the majestic mountain rainforest. Armed with nothing but a…

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