Blog Book Marks

April 2023 Book Marks

Mud season is giving way to a selection of colorful blooms, just like the varied selection of reads below. It’s a longer list than usual, but there’s something for every reader.

And as a proud mama, I wanted to showcase a new documentary debuting on April 19th (TODAY) on Hulu. My son, Mack, spent over a year living in New Orleans and really getting to know the community and families in Algiers, serving as a cinematographer on the project. You can also check out his work at @mackwoodruff.

The result is this series, “Algiers, America.” The show isn’t just a story about the Edna Karr Cougars, the winningest public high school football team in Louisiana. It’s about community, grit, reality and life. It’s about the power of sports and the positive impact it can have on a community. It’s about a coach who’s determined to keep kids away from guns and gangs with football, fathering and a whole lot of love. This documentary is something everyone should see, and in these tragically divided times, this is a story that will lift you up. View the video here:

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American Ramble – A Walk of Memory and Renewal by Neil King Jr.

In the waning days of the Covid-19 lockdown, wearied by battles with cancer and Lyme disease, journalist Neil King set out with a small satchel, one pair of shoes and a determination to ground himself in the American landscape and history that forged this great country.  Travelogues by writers can sometimes be linear, but a well-told tale encompasses both the vast horizon and the tiny dandelion pushing up through the sidewalk crack.  King captures all of this in an engrossing book that takes us through his journey on foot from Washington DC to New York, just off the highway and rail systems that form the backbone of the Eastern corridor.  He experiences the kindness of strangers, investigates a giant trash mound in New Jersey, meets Quakers in Pennsylvania and recounts the story of the Mason-Dixon line to name just a few.  In the spirit of Paul Theroux or Bruce Chatwin, King reminds us to both look at the big picture and focus on being right where we are in time and place. 


The Half of It by Juliette Fay

After forty years, three children, a grandchild and the loss of her husband, Helen Spencer sits down on a park bench and realizes the man next to her is Cal Crosby, her high school crush.  Years ago, one night she spent with Cal, lost in the woods, is the very moment she can trace back to when things in her life began to go incrementally wrong… one decision at a time.  Through a series of flashbacks to high school and the present, we begin to piece together the story as the 58-year-old widow comes to terms with the post-Covid world, and find that the answers are all within reach.  This is a book about second chances at love and the brutal power of facing the truth.


Where the Coyotes Howl by Sandra Dallas

When schoolteacher Ellen Webster arrives in the town of Wallace, Wyoming in 1916, the remote, flat, brown landscape is not what she expected when she dreamed of going West.  A year later, she’s fallen in love with a handsome cowboy named Charlie Bacon and they face life on the high plains together through brutal weather and the hardscrabble sorrow of the era.  Ellen becomes a rancher’s wife, embracing friendships with other women as they look out for one another (especially those in less loving marriages) keep their secrets, and tend to one another.  This is a poignant love story that brings to life both the brutality and the beauty during the turn of the century in the rugged, American West.


This Bird Has Flown by Susanna Hoffs

Anyone remember The Bangles and “Manic Monday” from the 80’s?  Well, it turns out that band member Hoff can not only sing, she can write.  This funny, sexy debut novel opens with Jane Start, a 33 year-old singing has-been who is living out of her parent’s house and performing karaoke gigs in Las Vegas.  On a chance flight to London, she meets a handsome stranger and is soon smitten.  But is this man exactly who he appears to be?  And can Jane find her own way forward and shed her past, which seems forever connected to her one break-out hit with the world-famous Jonesy? 


Don’t Tell Anybody The Secrets I Told You by Lucinda Williams

Singer Lucinda William’s unmistakable whiskey and gravel voice has made a mark on country music.  Raised in a working class family in the South, with an itinerant professor father who loved to party and a mentally ill mother, she was born to be a scrapper.  Her talents and the grit and determination forged by a sometimes difficult life helped propel her up the music ladder and delight millions of fans.  This memoir covers her journey as a songwriter and musician, through the part-time jobs, the people who tried to help her and hold her down and the triumphs and set-backs that make up a life.  For fans of Lucinda and lovers of music, this memoir is an inside look at the fighting spirit of one of the greatest songwriters of our time.


Homecoming by Kate Morton

Morton’s first novel in five years begins with a shocking crime on Christmas Eve, 1959, that unsettles the small community of Tambilla, South Australia.  A delivery driver stops at the grounds of the sweeping home and makes a terrible discovery about the family who lives there.  Years later, Jess, a young London journalist, is laid off from work.  Searching for her next story,  she receives a phone call from her grandmother, Nora, who has taken a fall at home in Australia.  Jess flies home to help her grandmother and finds a book about “The Turner Family Tragedy.” As she digs into the long-ago story, she begins to unravel the disturbing connection between her own family and the murder mystery that was never solved.  Spanning generations, the book looks at how we protect the lies we tell and the healing power of the truth when it comes to light.


The Trackers by Charles Frazier

In the middle of America’s Depression, a down on his luck painter, Val Welch, travels to Wyoming to tackle a New Deal assignment to paint a mural in the town’s new post office.  John Long and his wife, Eve, wealthy ranchers with a somewhat mysterious background, have agreed to host  Val and he is quickly sucked into their life and mystique.   When Eve flees with a valuable painting, Val is given the mission of tracking her down as the trail leads to San Francisco nightclubs and the Florida swamps.  The secrets that are unearthed will change the trajectory for each of the characters.  The author of best-selling “Cold Mountain,” is back with another period tale that captivates and unravels with taut writing and vivid scenes.


Next – The Power of Reinvention in Life and Work by Joanne Lipman

I spend a lot of time talking about reinvention and life’s many chapters with friends and this book only enhances the conversation with its scientific research, anecdotes, stories and inspiration from people who have successfully made life changes.  The word here is “pivot,” and the conversation is about what’s next and how to get there.  From stories about Play-doh and Viagra to well-known business figures and every-day folks, there are nuggets here for all of us in every walk of adult life.  One of my favorite take-aways is how great ideas come when we are in a relaxed state (Paul McCartney had the song “Yesterday” come to him in his sleep.)  And the phrase “Search-Struggle-Stop-Solution is now my new best friend. 

*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to rent books at your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!


Lee Woodruff     Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer