The best books with all-the-feels—laughter, tears, and characters you can’t forget

Why am I passionate about this?

Novels about humanity move me, as I love the messiness and complexities of imperfection. Because I’m passionate about reading these kinds of books, I’m also passionate about writing them. My first book, Paint Me Fearless, debuted at #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Release List in Christian Contemporary Fiction in 2021. It seemed readers found relevance in subjects like challenging family dynamics, weight issues, crippling insecurity, and the repercussions of abuse. My subsequent books continue in this vein. I aspire to write stories that reflect universal emotions like heartache and grief, but also joy and laughter. One reviewer described my books as a “rollicking good time,” which was a good day because I strive to entertain. 

I wrote...

Paint Me Fearless

By Hallie Lee,

Book cover of Paint Me Fearless

What is my book about?

"Paint Me Fearless is a story that resonates with the crippling effects of our insecurities, both those we inherit and the ones we create.” 

Desi and Robin meet in small-town Louisiana as they begin high school. They become friends, and that friendship carries them into adulthood as they marry and raise families of their own. Even as their paths diverge, they remain close…until years later, when a stunning rumor surfaces that threatens their lifelong connection. The allegation suggests that one has betrayed the other. As their worlds collide, and old insecurities rise to the forefront, the truth brings them full circle. They come to realize that the world’s prizes – beauty, approval, wealth – are fleeting, and that there is only one true way to fill the emptiness inside—and become fearless!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of To Dance with the White Dog

Hallie Lee Why did I love this book?

When I was a young, newly married woman, one of the more mature members in my book club presented this book to the group in 1992. To Dance with the White Dog is a story about the unfathomable bonds of marriage and the crushing grief of losing a spouse. Even better? It involves a dog 😊

Sam Peek’s adult children think he’s losing his mind or perhaps imagining the “white dog” to cope with the loss of his beloved wife, Cora. Even though I wept through most of this book, it remains one of my all-time favorites thirty years later. While the novel pushes us to consider serious matters such as death, aging, and grief, it also fills us with hope and gratitude.

Even though it breaks my heart, I reread it often. Because it is that beautiful, and because Terry Kay is that good. 

By Terry Kay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Dance with the White Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sam Peek's children are worried. Since that "saddest day" when Cora, his beloved wife of fifty-seven good years, died, no one knows how he will survive. How can this elderly man live alone on his farm? How can he keep driving his dilapidated truck down to the fields to care for his few rows of pecan trees? And when Sam begins telling his children about a dog as white as the pure driven snow -- that seems invisible to everyone but him -- his children think that grief and old age have finally taken their toll.
But whether the dog…

Book cover of Rainwater

Hallie Lee Why did I love this book?

I’m a huge fan of Sandra Brown because of her snappy, page-turning prose, and also because she presents her readers with moments of great emotional consequence. Naturally, I enjoy her contemporary novels, but Rainwater, a period piece of sorts, is my favorite. 

Set smack dab in the middle of the Texas Dust Bowl after the Great Depression, Rainwater has all the elements I look for when craving a book with all the feels. 

A strong, independent woman, Ella Baron runs a boardinghouse while taking care of her ten-year-old son, Solly, who is mute. When she is pressured to take in the handsome Mr. Rainwater, she hesitates, but once she agrees, she finds out that he’s dying. 

Immediately, the drama escalates against the landscape of the hellacious and deadly Dust Bowl era. This novel is gut-wrenching and an absolute tear-jerker, but it’s also one of those stories that is so moving you carry it with you for days after you’ve finished.

By Sandra Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A romantic historical novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Seeing Red about an independent woman who runs a boarding house in Dust Bowl Texas.

Ella Baron runs her Texas boarding house with the efficiency of a ship’s captain and the grace of a gentlewoman. She cooks, cleans, launders, and cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose busy behavior and failure to speak elicits undesired advice from others in town. Ella’s plate is full from sunup to sundown. When a room in her boarding house opens up, the respected town doctor brings…

Book cover of South of Broad

Hallie Lee Why did I love this book?

Pat Conroy was a master at conjuring characters and writing stories chock-full of emotion. Heck, even the way he describes his beloved state of South Carolina makes it seem like one of the characters in his novels. (Truth: I made my family go to South Carolina one summer after binge-reading Pat Conroy’s books.)

If forced to choose which of his novels is my favorite, I’d have to go with South Broad. With a lead character named Leopold Bloom, you just know it’s going to be good 😊 As Leopold’s life is defined by unimaginable tragedy, he is drawn to a group of outsiders in school. This unlikely band of friends experiences two decades of poignant, life-changing moments together.

Love, loss, and grief are prevalent in this novel, but there is also total hilarity as the bonds of friendship overcome disappointment and heartbreak.  

By Pat Conroy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A big sweeping novel of friendship and marriage” (The Washington Post) by the celebrated author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini
Leopold Bloom King has been raised in a family shattered—and shadowed—by tragedy. Lonely and adrift, he searches for something to sustain him and finds it among a tightly knit group of outsiders. Surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, as well as Charleston, South Carolina’s dark legacy of racism and class divisions, these friends will endure until a final test forces them…

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Hallie Lee Why did I love this book?

This book was my introduction to the great Amor Towles, and since then I’ve read every book he’s written. A vast novel with an incredible premise (an upper-class man of note is sentenced to the rest of his life in a grand hotel) I couldn’t imagine how so much story could happen in a single hotel.

But it did, and A Gentleman in Moscow remains one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Towles does amazing things with Count Alexander Rostov’s character, making him both debonair and amusingly sarcastic. He has many delightful—and some not-so-delightful—characters to play off of, including the hotel staff and one precocious little girl who wants to discuss “the business of being a princess.”

I fell in love at that point, with her, with him, and this community inside the hotel. Because of the consequential period in history, there was a lot of suspense in the book. There were heart-palpitating scenes that made me react with tears, and others that made me laugh out loud.

Mostly though, I was entertained beyond my imagination.

By Amor Towles,

Why should I read it?

31 authors picked A Gentleman in Moscow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mega-bestseller with more than 2 million readers, soon to be a major television series

From the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lincoln Highway and Rules of Civility, a beautifully transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and…

Book cover of Home Again

Hallie Lee Why did I love this book?

I read Home Again many years ago, and while I love all of Kristin Hannah’s books, this story in particular combined everything I love—ill-fated love, mother-daughter conflict, friendship, sibling rivalry, and an utterly shocking ending.

Madelaine Hillyard is a heart surgeon whose relationship with her teenage daughter, Lina, is strained. The DeMarco brothers, one a priest and one a bad boy, are a crucial part of Madelaine and Lina’s past, and as the plot evolves, I admit I fell a little in love with both of them. 
A relatable, heartbreaking story full of humanity, Home Again hits all the marks…and makes you believe in miracles again.  

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author The Four Winds, a moving, powerful novel about the fragile threads that bind together our lives and the astonishing potential of second chances

“A tender, beautifully told story of emotional growth, forgiveness [and] the possibility of miracles.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Madelaine Hillyard is a world-famous heart surgeon at the top of her game. Her personal life is far less successful. A loving but overworked single mom, she is constantly at odds with her teenage daughter. At sixteen, Lina is confused, angry, and fast becoming a stranger to her mother—a rebel desperate to find…

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Book cover of This Animal Body

Meredith Walters

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Neuroscience PhD student Frankie Conner has finally gotten her life together—she’s determined to discover the cause of her depression and find a cure for herself and everyone like her. But the first day of her program, she meets a group of talking animals who have an urgent message they refuse to share. And while the animals may not have Frankie’s exalted human brain, they know things she doesn’t, like what happened before she was adopted.

To prove she’s sane, Frankie investigates her forgotten past and conducts clandestine experiments. But just when she uncovers the truth, she has to make an impossible choice: betray the animals she’s fallen in love with—or give up her last chance at success and everything she thought she knew.

By Meredith Walters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Animal Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frankie Conner, first-year graduate student at UC Berkeley, is finally getting her life together. After multiple failures and several false starts, she's found her calling: become a neuroscientist, discover the cause of her depression and anxiety, and hopefully find a cure for herself and everyone like her.

But her first day of the program, Frankie meets a mysterious group of talking animals who claim to have an urgent message for her. The problem is, they're not willing to share it. Not yet. Not until she's ready.

While Frankie's new friends may not have her highly evolved, state-of-the-art, exalted human brain,…

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