Blog Book Marks

January/February 2024 Book Marks

My least favorite month on the calendar is January.  There isn’t much to get excited about on the east coast at this time of year unless your favorite color is gray.  January always feels like the hard stop of a slammed door after all the holiday festivity, lights and blazing energy of December.  My January energy feels focused on dismantling all that, kind of the opposite of anticipation.

So, I got a little extra focused on good reads that could take me away, entertain me and give me something to look forward to by the side of the bed.  And I say, welcome to 2024.  I’m hoping there will be something here that resonates with you…


Rouge by Mona Awad

Belle has been living in Montreal for years, but when her estranged mother dies, she must return to Southern California to deal with her effects.  Not only are there lingering questions about her death, but Belle is shocked to learn she was in serious debt.  When a strange woman in red appears at the funeral, offering clues about her mother and a mysterious spa experience, Belle decides to visit the culty spa.  Mysterious jellyfish in tanks and an obsession with looking glasses is just the beginning of a journey through secrets, beauty, envy, grief and our culture’s eternal quest to look young.  Rouge is a fantastical exploration of the cult-like nature of the beauty industry and our relationship with aging and mortality.  This book is a little bit like Snow White meets Get Out


Everyone But Myself by Julia Chavez

This book will resonate with any Mom (or person) who has put themselves last on the list in the family.  Julia is an elementary school librarian and the mother of two boys.  But when a panic attack happens out of the blue, while her husband is away, she finds that everything she thought about herself and her capabilities as a person, wife and mother are suddenly wobbly.  This self-reflective memoir is a look at real life, chaos, anxiety, loss and how grappling with these questions around mental health helped her find a path back to who she is and the life she wants to live.


Anna O by Matthew Blake

Anna Ogilvy is a young editor with a great career ahead of her…until on a weekend away, her two friends are found murdered in the cabin next to hers.  Anna is discovered next to the murder weapon and appears to be in a kind of “Sleeping Beauty” slumber, from which she has not awoken.  When she is moved to a sleep clinic under the care of a pioneering researcher, he begins to look into the phenomenon of mysterious illnesses and sleep-related crimes.  Can the doctor awaken Anna so that she can stand trial?  Is she guilty?  Only Anna knows the truth about that night and only Dr. Prince can unlock it.  And as for the story?  The truth will be dangerous to them both. 


Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

Life is busy at the Florida State University sorority house in January 1978, where Pamela Schumacher is tackling all the duties required of a sorority president to make everything run like clockwork.  When she goes to investigate an odd noise at 3:00 AM, she finds two of her sisters are dead and two more have been maimed.  In this well-researched, fictionalized account of serial killer Ted Bundy, the author does something very clever.  She looks at the story from the victims and their loved one’s perspective, flashing back in time to the 70s when “The Defendant” as he is called, is murdering women around the country.  Then she flashes forward to 2021 when an older Pamela and another woman she has befriended help to draw connections to another murder in the Seattle area.  What’s so clever about this book is it seeks to burst the illusion that Bundy was some sexpot women couldn’t refuse and instead looks at the raw psychopath whom the media and even the judge presiding over his trial glorified.  This book asks important questions woven through a well-written and compelling story that’s hard to put down. 


How to Know a Person by David Brooks

Brooks is the master at taking social subjects that human beings often struggle with and turning them into very readable and understandable books.  In this book he tackles a very topical subject about how we can truly try to know another human being in order to foster deeper and more meaningful connections in every aspect of our lives.  It’s an area where we seem to be failing as a society, with the rise in loneliness and isolation.  All around us are people today who feel unseen, unknown and often misunderstood.  Brook’s book draws on psychology, neuroscience, literature theater and so much more to help us understand how we can see something larger in others and ourselves.


American Woman – The Transformation of the Modern First Lady, from Hillary Clinton to Jill Biden by Katie Rogers

The role of the nation’s first lady has never been defined. And since the first lady is not an elected role, it makes the position a bit of a blank slate for each woman who inhabits the position.  Since the Clinton era, so many factors have defined and redefined the expectations of first ladies from shifts in media, politics, culture and their own individual personalities.  Rogers looks at how the role of first lady has evolved into a modern day power broker, with the ability to deliver on behalf of the president. As the White House correspondent for the New York Times, the author has a first-hand look at Jill Biden’s life and her triumphs, sacrifices and choices, which run throughout the backdrop of the story.


End of the Hour – A Therapist’s Memoir by Meghan Riordan Jarvis

What happens when a trauma therapist encounters her own trauma?  In this heart-searing account of Meghan Riordan Jarvis’s own story, we see what personal trauma looks like inside out from an expert who helps patients every day.  After a long battle with cancer, Jarvis’s father died and before she can grapple with that grief, her mother unexpectedly dies while on a family vacation, plunging Jarvis into feelings of guilt and grief.  A long-buried childhood trauma emerges creating the perfect storm and rendering her helpless.  Leaving the house, going to a parent teacher conference all become insurmountable for her until her twenty years of training show her what she must do to heal –  check herself in to a facility where she has referred patients for years.   This is a brutal and honest story, beautifully written, that is relatable to anyone who have experienced grief, loss and anxiety.

*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 check books out of your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!


Lee Woodruff     Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer