The best books that inspire us in the real world and also beyond our imaginations

Why am I passionate about this?

My first introduction to the art of reading and storytelling was my dad’s bedtime stories. Sometimes he’d read a favorite, but most times he made them up; complete with sound effects. He was a journalist and inspired my love of reading and writing. My imagination was developed at an early age and shows no sign of slowing down or disappearing. I still gravitate toward fantasy, but am also a history buff and plan to read and write for the rest of my life.


I wrote...

Sazerac, Sleuth & Slay

By Mary Cunningham,

Book cover of Sazerac, Sleuth & Slay

What is my book about?

It’s gonna be a great day! Or, so she thought. Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent, amateur sleuth, doesn’t suspect her least favorite client, Stewart (The Pain) Payne, will set off circumstances that lead to disappearance and death. After his wife is a no-show for a convention in New Orleans, his threat to sue Graves Travel for “ten times more than it’s worth” and Andi’s wish to honor her late dad's requests, leads The Big Easy in search of Grace Payne. 

Five unsolved murders and a body caught in a crawfish cage, takes Andi deep into the bayou on a hunt for clues. Will another victim be added to a serial killer’s list, or is the main suspect closer to Andi than she thinks?

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Hattie Big Sky

Mary Cunningham Why did I love this book?

Not only is Hattie Big Sky a Newbery Award Honor Book, it’s a beautifully written story based on the author’s own history and ancestors.

At the ripe ol’ age of sixteen, the main character, Hattie Brooks, moves to Montana to work the homestead of her great uncle. Alone, I might add. I felt Hattie’s fear, tragedy, determination, and triumph throughout the story.

By Kirby Larson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hattie Big Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

This Newbery Honor winning, New York Times bestseller celebrates the true spirit of independence on the American frontier.

For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle’s homestead claim.
 
Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cookstove. Her quest to make a home is championed by new neighbors Perilee Mueller, her German…


Book cover of Because of Winn-Dixie

Mary Cunningham Why did I love this book?

I’m an unabashed dog lover. Any story about a sweet canine melts my heart.

And, no, Cujo isn’t on my list.

Not only do I love the story, the writing is superb. I adore quirky characters and this book doesn’t disappoint. 10-year-old Opal Buloni shines above all the others. As a former tomboy, I could relate to her spirit.

The book is the perfect blend of laughter, joy, and heartache, and is lifted by the goofy exploits of Winn Dixie.

By Kate DiCamillo,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Because of Winn-Dixie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Funny and poignant, this 2001 Newbery Honor novel captures life in a quirky Southern town as Opal and her mangy dog, Winn-Dixie, strike up friendships among the locals.

One summer's day, ten-year-old India Opal Buloni goes down to the local supermarket for some groceries - and comes home with a dog. But Winn-Dixie is no ordinary dog. It's because of Winn-Dixie that Opal begins to make friends. And it's because of Winn-Dixie that she finally dares to ask her father about her mother, who left when Opal was three. In fact, as Opal admits, just about everything that happens that…


Book cover of The Hobbit

Mary Cunningham Why did I love this book?

I’ve loved fantasy from the time I was a little girl and my dad made up bedtime stories.

His were the best, of course! I must admit, though, I wasn’t introduced to Tolkien until my late 20s! A co-worker was so engrossed in the book while reading it on her lunch hour, she loaned it to me when she finished. I was hooked!

Tolkien was a master when it came to description, and unlike other verbose authors, I never tired of reading about the hobbits, dwarves, elves, or the evil beings that threatened Middle-Earth.

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

43 authors picked The Hobbit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Special collector's film tie-in hardback of the best-selling classic, featuring the complete story with a sumptuous cover design inspired by THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and brand new reproductions of all the drawings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End.

But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey 'there and back again'. They have a plot to raid…


Book cover of The Fellowship of the Ring

Mary Cunningham Why did I love this book?

The diverse group Gandalf (Tolkien) puts together to accompany the ring and ring bearer (Frodo) is inspiring.

While they all have their own opinions on the best route, and argue incessantly, they all come together in the end. This book represents life; the ups and downs, the danger and reward. The symbolism in this book is both heartening and foreboding.

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Fellowship of the Ring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

This brand-new unabridged audio book of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of J. R. R. Tolkien's epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings, is read by the BAFTA award-winning actor, director and author, Andy Serkis.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, a young hobbit is entrusted with an immense task. He must make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ruling Ring of Power - the only thing that prevents the Dark Lord Sauron's evil dominion.

Thus begins J. R. R. Tolkien's classic tale of adventure, which continues in…


Book cover of Of Mice and Men

Mary Cunningham Why did I love this book?

I fought against recommending this because it’s so well-read. However, when I think back to my favorite reads, this one stays near the top.

The cliché, “the characters jump off the page” were made for this fabulous novel. It didn’t take a movie for readers to hear Lenny and George. The writing puts you right in their space. I could read this book over and over, and still tear up when George says, “Tell me ‘bout the rabbits, George.”

You feel George’s pain sear right through your bones when the inevitable becomes necessary.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Of Mice and Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introducing Little Clothbound Classics: irresistible, mini editions of short stories, novellas and essays from the world's greatest writers, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Celebrating the range and diversity of Penguin Classics, they take us from snowy Japan to springtime Vienna, from haunted New England to a sun-drenched Mediterranean island, and from a game of chess on the ocean to a love story on the moon. Beautifully designed and printed, these collectible editions are bound in colourful, tactile cloth and stamped with foil.

Drifters in search of work, George and his childlike friend Lennie have nothing in the world except…


You might also like...

Legacy of the Witch

By Kirsten Weiss,

Book cover of Legacy of the Witch

Kirsten Weiss Author Of The Mysteries of Tarot: A Work of the Imagination

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

When I joined the Peace Corps in the early nineties, I wasn’t allowed to take much luggage. I decided to bring a Tarot deck, figuring I’d finally have time to learn it while parked in an Estonian forest. That Tarot deck opened up a world of Renaissance mysticism and magic, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Tarot cards and readings feature prominently in many of my cozy mystery novels, not the least of which are the Tea and Tarot mysteries. Now my imaginary Tarot reader from that series, Hyperion Night, has recently written his own Tarot guidebook, The Mysteries of Tarot.

Kirsten's book list on how to read Tarot

What is my book about?

Seeker: As societies grow increasingly fragmented, hopelessness, nihilism, division, and despair are on the rise. But there is another way—a way of mystery and magic, of wholeness and transformation. Do you dare take the first step? Our path is not for the faint-hearted, but for seekers of ancient truths...

Legacy of the Witch is a spellbinding, interactive tale of a woman’s midlife quest to understand the complexities of her own heart. A paranormal women’s fiction murder mystery for anyone who’s wondered if there might be more to their own life than meets the eye…

Legacy of the Witch

By Kirsten Weiss,

What is this book about?

Seeker: As societies grow increasingly fragmented, hopelessness, nihilism, division and despair are on the rise. But there is another way—a way of mystery and magic, of wholeness and transformation. Do you dare take the first step? Our path is not for the faint-hearted, but for seekers of ancient truths.

All April wants is to start over after her husband’s sudden death. She’s conjuring a new path—finally getting her degree and planning her new business in bucolic Pennsylvania Dutch country. Joining an online mystery school seems like harmless fun.

But when a murdered man leaves her a cryptic message, she catches…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Middle Earth, good and evil, and Montana?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Middle Earth, good and evil, and Montana.

Middle Earth Explore 17 books about Middle Earth
Good And Evil Explore 134 books about good and evil
Montana Explore 72 books about Montana