The best set of books that capture the magic of seeing everyday good even in the face of adversity

Why am I passionate about this?

Every time I see a wonderful episode of life, I want to capture it in writing or tell a compelling story about it. Too often, we let the good memories go, and remember the difficult ones. So, I keep writing books that have a real—yet positive outlook that can ignite a smile out of someone—or a hearty laugh. In 2020, I published Profiles in Kindness—an award-winning CIPA/Reader's Choice Award for motivation & inspirational leadership. In 2018, I first released the CIPA Award-winning Something Happened Today, addressing seeing the goodness in everyday life even in the face of difficulties. 


I wrote...

Start Late, Finish Happy: Random Encounters - Unexpected Joy

By Paul E. Kotz,

Book cover of Start Late, Finish Happy: Random Encounters - Unexpected Joy

What is my book about?

Stories of inspiration, making mistakes, finding happiness as well as bringing to light anecdotes of deliberate and unexpected kindness are found within! Many times these random encounters have untapped joy. It is about everyday life, vulnerability, and our reactions. Ravi Zacharias stated, "None of us escapes life without some ecstasy and heartache." When you see a baby jumping for joy, splashing water during a bath, or smiling from a hug you just gave them, we rarely question their excitement and enjoy the moment of their ebullient happiness.

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Once in a Blue Moon Lodge

Paul E. Kotz Why did I love this book?

Lorna Landvik captures your attention with entertaining and provocative characters who have endearing qualities that also can challenge us to look at our own lives. She writes with humor, race, and has a style that will draw you in. Many of her books have stories that take you off guard and make you laugh hysterically.

By Lorna Landvik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once in a Blue Moon Lodge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set adrift when her mother sells the salon that has been a neighborhood institution for decades, Nora Rolvaag takes a camping trip, intending to do nothing more than roast marshmallows over an open fire and under a starry sky. Two chance encounters, however, will have enormous consequences, and her getaway turns out to be more of a retreat from her daily life than she ever imagined. But Nora is the do-or-die-trying daughter of Patty Jane, who now must embrace the House of Curl's slogan: "Expect the Unexpected."

With her trademark wit and warmth, Lorna Landvik follows Nora and an ever-growing…


Book cover of The Diamond Eye

Paul E. Kotz Why did I love this book?

A true story of a heroine who is a sharpshooter in WW II is not one that I would immediately gravitate to. But, she is complex and can compartmentalize her need to defend her country, while at the same time trying to live an ordinary life when not in the military. She meets up with U.S. dignitaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR, and charms them with her no-nonsense approach to life. It is a historical fiction piece based on a true story and has been a NY Times bestseller.

By Kate Quinn,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Diamond Eye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The brand-new historical novel based on a true story from the bestselling author of The Rose Code and The Alice Network

In the snowbound city of Kiev, aspiring historian Mila Pavlichenko's life revolves around her young son - until Hitler's invasion of Russia changes everything. Suddenly, she and her friends must take up arms to save their country from the Fuhrer's destruction.

Handed a rifle, Mila discovers a gift - and months of blood, sweat and tears turn the young woman into a deadly sniper: the most lethal hunter of Nazis.

Yet success is bittersweet. Mila is torn from the…


Book cover of The Devil's Highway: A True Story

Paul E. Kotz Why did I love this book?

In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, the "Devil's Highway." Three years later, Luis Alberto Urrea wrote about what happened to them. The result was a national bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a "book of the year" in multiple newspapers, and a work proclaimed as a modern American classic. What resonates with many readers, including myself is the struggle that people will go through to enter the U.S., sacrificing just about everything a person has, including possibly losing one’s life their lives to start anew. It is chilling at times, and an eye-opening read.

By Luis Alberto Urrea,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Devil's Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A widely-praised piece of investigative reporting examining the journey of 26 men who in May 2001 attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of Southern Arizona through the region known as the Devil's Highway. So harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it, the Highway has claimed the lives of countless men and women - in May 2001 it claimed 14 more. History of high acclaim from the author of The Hummingbird's Daughter.


Book cover of 11/22/63

Paul E. Kotz Why did I love this book?

This book does a time travel back to the late 50s and early 60s. Jake finds himself being able to ‘reset’ each travel back in time, to alter history and save lives, or let a situation be as is—unaltered. In King’s style, he paints vivid pictures of good and bad characters who influence the hero’s decisions to often watch life unfold, or try and make a change for the best.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked 11/22/63 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major TV series from JJ Abrams and Stephen King, starring James Franco (Hulu US, Fox UK and Europe, Stan Australia, SKY New Zealand).

WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot - unless . . .

King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 - from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of…


Book cover of Leora's Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

Paul E. Kotz Why did I love this book?

It is the captivating story of the five Wilson brothers from Iowa. Leora was their motherJoy’s delightful grandmother. All five of these brave young men enlisted. Only two came home. All served their country during WWII, two in the Navy, and three in the Army Air Corps. Kidney provides her readers with a genuine and heartfelt glimpse into the life of an American family during one of our nation's most difficult times. It is so well-crafted, combining letters, photographs, and narratives that touch your heart. Joy Neal Kidney makes you feel like a member of her family. I hoped that all men would make it back safely. Unfortunately, war is never that compassionate and affects many lives in the process. It is an absorbing read and well worth the endeavor.

By Joy Neal Kidney, Robin Grunder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leora's Letters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the…


You might also like...

Rewriting Illness

By Elizabeth Benedict,

Book cover of Rewriting Illness

Elizabeth Benedict

New book alert!

What is my book about?

What happens when a novelist with a “razor-sharp wit” (Newsday), a “singular sensibility” (Huff Post), and a lifetime of fear about getting sick finds a lump where no lump should be? Months of medical mishaps, coded language, and Doctors who don't get it.

With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling artistry of an acclaimed novelist, Elizabeth Benedict recollects her cancer diagnosis after discovering multiplying lumps in her armpit. In compact, explosive chapters, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity, she chronicles her illness from muddled diagnosis to “natural remedies,” to debilitating treatments, as she gathers sustenance from family, an assortment of urbane friends, and a fearless “cancer guru.”

Rewriting Illness is suffused with suspense, secrets, and the unexpected solace of silence.

Rewriting Illness

By Elizabeth Benedict,

What is this book about?

By turns somber and funny but above all provocative, Elizabeth Benedict's Rewriting Illness: A View of My Own is a most unconventional memoir. With wisdom, self-effacing wit, and the story-telling skills of a seasoned novelist, she brings to life her cancer diagnosis and committed hypochondria. As she discovers multiplying lumps in her armpit, she describes her initial terror, interspersed with moments of self-mocking levity as she indulges in "natural remedies," among them chanting Tibetan mantras, drinking shots of wheat grass, and finding medicinal properties in chocolate babka. She tracks the progression of her illness from muddled diagnosis to debilitating treatment…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in undocumented immigrants, time travel, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about undocumented immigrants, time travel, and presidential biography.

Undocumented Immigrants Explore 24 books about undocumented immigrants
Time Travel Explore 355 books about time travel
Presidential Biography Explore 18 books about presidential biography