Blog Book Marks

November 2021 Book Marks

For the past fifteen years, my husband Bob and I have been proud to host “Stand Up for Heroes,” the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s annual fundraiser for injured veterans and their families. We’ve raised more than $80 million to help our military veterans find ways to heal and move forward in their communities after the wounds of war.

This November 8th will be the latest event in a legacy of honoring the service and sacrifice that so many of us take for granted as we go about our daily lives. While Covid-19 prevented us from being together in person last year, this year we took a chance on booking the music and comedy show (part of the New York Comedy Festival) at a smaller venue. We sold out almost immediately, with the likes of Jon Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, Brandi Carlyle, Jim Gaffigan, Grace Gaustad, Nikki Glaser, Donnell Rawlings and Nate Bargatze.

For those of you who won’t be with us this year, perhaps we can see you next year. And on Veterans Day this year, please think about a way to honor those who serve and the legacy of all who have served throughout time. Whatever you do, both small and large gestures are appreciated. Like so many people, military families have been greatly impacted by the pandemic as well and families are making tough choices after choosing to serve their country.

If you wish to make a contribution to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, you can DONATE HERE.


I Keep Trying to Catch His Eye by Ivan Maisel

Beautifully written and sorrowful stories move us in profound ways. They can provide the “pinch” that reminds us all to cherish the small moments and not take anything for granted. This engrossing and poignant memoir about Maisel’s son Max’s suicide is so much more than an emotional reflection on parenting, life, grief and love. As an award-winning sportswriter, Maisel’s taut prose brings to life the experience of all too many families when a child dies by suicide. He finds a compelling way to tell the story from his own perspective, careful not to co-opt the emotions and relationships of other family members to Max. From the phone call that altered their lives forever to the search for how this could have happened with no obvious signs, you will be moved by the deeply empathetic story of a father’s relationship with his son and the ways in which grieving openly can ultimately free us to heal.


The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

Albom made his mark with “Tuesdays with Morrie” and cemented a reputation for soulful and comforting stories that connect us to the spiritual side of life’s random, unexplained sorrows and miracles. A giant yacht containing some of the world’s richest and most influential people sinks far out at sea. A few individuals are saved in one of the life rafts, including the boat’s owner. One of the people they rescue at sea, three days after the tragedy, is a quiet man who claims to be God. He claims he can save them if they believe in him. The story toggles between the lifeboat and life on land, where a police inspector has located the empty raft and a diary kept by one of the men on board. It is up to him to piece together what happened on that fateful night and in the days following.


Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

As unusual and compelling as his first book, “All the Light We Cannot See,” Doerr weaves a complex tale set in multiple locations and time periods, from Constantinople in the 1400s, a small town in present-day Idaho and an intergalactic spaceship with a version of Noah’s Ark on board, hurtling to an uncertain future. Each character is a dreamer and an outsider, yet they all represent the human connection that has existed through time. This could have been a dystopian book, but with Doerr’s deft storytelling, it left me with a sense of hope about not just the planet, but for what lies inside the human heart. May it be enough to save us all.


Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

The crucible of Covid is already forging interesting works of art based on personal experiences and “Burntcoat,” by this twice nominated Booker Prize author is one such work. Set against the backdrop of, yes, a deadly global virus, a celebrated British sculptor retreats inside, isolating herself in her large studio “Burntcoat” with a new lover she barely knows. As life outside takes its own turns, Edith and Halit find themselves changed by their histories and responsibilities as they begin to learn how to survive the seemingly impossible. This novel explores art and ambition, morality and connection in the face of a crisis which will leave lasting repercussions.


The House of Gucci: A True Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed by Sara Gay Forden

As Bureau Chief and Business Reporter for Women’s Wear Daily in Milan from 1993-1999, Forden had a front row seat to the twists and turns of Gucci’s evolution, struggles, successes and epic family saga. She tracks the company’s rise from 1921, when Guccio Gucci opened a modest leather goods shop in Florence to the present 100th anniversary as a multinational corporation with more than 100 interviews with Gucci family members, friends,confidants, executives, employees, and competitors. But it was the stunning family murder that captivated the world and forms the basis for a feature film, starring Adam Driver and Lady Gaga that lies at the heart of this story. Forden was in the courtroom for the most jaw-dropping moments of the trial of Patrizia Reggiani, with whom she had a jailhouse correspondence that retraced Patrizia’s early love and later conflicts with Maurizio. In the end, the book is a riveting account of the talent and creative chaos that built one of the world’s great luxury-goods empires–and the egotism, bitter family conflict, and incompetence that nearly destroyed it.


The Collective by Alison Gaylin

How far would a grieving mother go to get justice for her daughter’s death and what is the depth of female rage? This theme of family and how far we will go to protect the ones we love is at the heart of this twisting novel. Camille has lost her daughter five years ago when she was raped at a frat party and left to die in the woods. The young, privileged man she knows is responsible is acquitted at the trial and has gone on to live a successful life. Camille’s marriage has ended, her daughter is dead and she’s consumed by rage, connecting only with the young man who received her daughter’s heart in an organ donation. When she is drawn into the dark web of mothers who have lost children in similar ways, she becomes part of a band of women who are carrying out vigilante justice through revenge killings.


They Called Us Lucky: The Life and Afterlife of the Iraq War’s Hardest Hit Unit by Congressman Ruben Gallego

November and Veterans Day are moments to stop and pause what it means to serve and the cost of that sacrifice for country. This memoir details the inexplicable bonds of warriors and the incredible journey and devastation of the marines in Lima Company, the hardest hit unit in the Iraq war. The son of Hispanic immigrants, he was the first person to attend college in his family and graduated from Harvard. They went from a unit with no casualties to the unluckiest band of brothers in a day and the book details the connections, emotions, loss and grief that constitute what it means to go to war.


No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler

Bowler’s writing chops come from publishing a trove of wonderful books and from being an associate professor of the history of Christianity at Duke Divinity School. So, at age 35, when Bowler received the diagnosis that her body was riddled with cancer, she chose to traverse the minefield of “wisdom” that calls upon the power of positive thinking. Bowler’s gem of a book gives us to it straight with unflinching prose and small beautiful moments; life is beautiful and horrible, hopeful and despairing and we are all inevitably and relentlessly human.

*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