Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)

I dare you not to fall in love with the delightfully quirky Eleanor Oliphant. She is charming, logical, and socially awkward. In her early 30s, Eleanor struggles with falling in love, making friends, and connecting with colleagues—and it is slowly revealed that Eleanor’s dark childhood may have stunted her social development.

A cross between The Language of Flowers and The Rosie Project, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will tug at your heartstrings. Gail Honeyman’s debut novel is set in Scotland, which will be immediately apparent if you listen to the audiobook (the narration by Scottish actress Cathleen McCarron is spot on). You’ll laugh and cry as Eleanor’s orderly solitary life is turned upside down.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) R

A gripping true story about a man who stood for his convictions while defending his country, Hacksaw Ridge details the life and service of Desmond Doss. A conscientious objector, Doss refused to bear arms. Nevertheless, like many others, he volunteered to join the army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a combat medic, Doss's heroics saved 75 lives during a WWII battle. Just a warning: the combat scenes (which start about halfway through) are quite graphic.

Hacksaw Ridge won Oscars for film editing and sound mixing. Andrew Garfield (actor) and Mel Gibson (director) received Oscar nominations.

Learn more about the true story of the first conscientious objector to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor in an NPR article and Army history.

 
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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)

At turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, Trevor Noah’s candid memoir is a powerful, moving story of his life as a mixed race child growing up during apartheid. Told in vignettes, Born a Crime documents his relationship with his mother, his childhood and teenage antics, and his struggle to fit into a world that considered him a crime (at the time of his birth, interracial relationships were illegal).

Perhaps best known as the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Noah does infuse humor into his stories, but this is not your typical comedian’s memoir. Listen to the audiobook: the author’s command of multiple languages and skill at impersonations shine in his engaging narration.

Sully (2016) PG-13

A gripping movie that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end, Sully is based on a true story: on January 15, 2009, after a bird strike killed both engines, Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III landed his US Airways plane on the Husdon River in New York City. All 155 people on board survived.

Knowing about “the miracle on the Hudson” will not dull your interest in Sully. Starring Tom Hanks (Sully) and Aaron Eckhart (Jeff Skiles, his copilot) and directed by Clint Eastwood, the film focuses on the humble hero during the water landing and the subsequent chaos. This heartwarming drama is so worth an uninterrupted screening (or two).

Based on the autobiographical memoir Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.
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Memory Man by David Baldacci (2015)

David Baldacci’s latest hero is quirky and troubled Amos Decker: he can’t forget anything thanks to a head injury in his first (and last) NFL game, and he abandons his career as a police detective following the murder of his wife and daughter. Sixteen months after the tragedy, a man unexpectedly confesses to that crime—but is he guilty?

In Memory Man, an introspective antihero is drawn back into police work by a school shooting. Is it somehow connected to his family’s murder? A gripping story and a memorable character. Intrigued? Check out The Last Mile and The Fix (just released last month) for more Amos Decker action.

The Thing About Love by Julie James (2017)

FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd didn't exactly bond during their training six years ago. When they're paired together for an undercover assignment, sparks fly and banter ensues. With charming characters and witty dialogue, Julie James pens another smart contemporary romance. If you enjoy Susan Elizabeth Phillips, try The Thing About Love.

Bells Are Ringing (1960)

A delightfully charming musical romantic comedy, Bells Are Ringing stars Dean Martin and Judy Holliday. Ella is a kindhearted telephone answering service operator who can’t help but meddle in her customers’ lives: making love connections and arranging employment opportunities. She’s in love with one of her clients: Jeffrey, a playwright with writer’s block. The storyline is full of silliness and warmth, and the film is definitely one worth revisiting (and thanks to Debbie for the recommendation).

Directed by Vincente Minnelli (Meet Me in St. Louis, Designing Women, etc.).

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman (2017)

In this charming romantic comedy, author Elinor Lipman writes lovable characters, smart dialogue, and zany situations. Thirty-something Faith Frankel returned to her small Massachusetts hometown after a stint in New York City. She spends her days writing thank you notes as a fundraiser for a local private school while her fiancé "finds himself" on a walk across America. Faith impulsively buys a semi-decrepit cottage, setting off a hilariously bizarre series of events (including a mystery). On Turpentine Lane is a gem, deserving of a read or listen (narrated beautifully by Mia Barron). I can't wait to read more by Lipman.

America's Sweethearts (2001) PG-13

americassweetheartsJohn Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones play America's sweethearts (Eddie and Gwen): they're actors who married, starred in several movies together, then split publicly and messily (sounds like real life, right?). The studio needs them to promote their final movie, and sends veteran publicist Lee (Billy Crystal) to control the chaos. Add Julia Roberts as Kiki, Gwen's sister/assistant, and you've got America's Sweethearts, a comedy about love and the ridiculousness of Hollywood.

In the mood to binge watch romantic comedies? We’ve got romantic comedies you’ll love – part 1 and part 2.

 

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (2017)

notsoperfectSophie Kinsella introduces another delightful character in Katie Brenner. In My Not So Perfect Life, country girl Katie is fulfilling her lifelong dream of living and working in London. According to her Instagram account, life is rosy. And yet, reality is quite different.

In this fast-paced witty novel, Kinsella covers workplace culture, social media “truth” vs. reality, and making assumptions/being quick to judge people. A fun yet thought-provoking look at life in the 21st century.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992)

doomsdaybookThis book hit all the right notes: likable, interesting characters; gripping story told from multiple perspectives; and historical fiction blended with believable time travel. In 2048 England, students and professors at Oxford have mastered the art of time travel as a means to fill in the gaps in the historical record. Budding historian Kivrin plans to visit 1320 Oxford to learn more about everyday life in the Middle Ages; instead, she ends up in 1348 at the height of the Black Death. A mysterious epidemic in 2048 also creates chaos, preventing Dunworthy (Kivrin’s mentor) from bringing her home.

A compelling narrative, Doomsday Book will propel you forward, frantically turning to pages to discover the fate of those in past and future. My first foray into Connie Willis’ novels—but it won’t be my last!

Love Actually (2003) R

loveactuallyAlthough this is a movie you can watch any time of year, I always seem to revisit Love Actually in December. Set in London, the film follows eight loosely related couples in the month leading up to Christmas. It’s not all happy endings in this romantic dramedy, but I’d still call this one a feel good movie. One of my favorite moments is Hugh Grant’s dance scene through 10 Downing Street (he plays the prime minister). You’ll see lots of other familiar faces including Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, and Martin Freeman.

In the mood for a Christmas movie? We’ve got a whole list.

The Muse by Jessie Burton (2016)

museAlternating between 1930s Spain and 1960s London, The Muse is a compelling story with its threads tied together by a painting and its artist. In the months leading up to the Spanish Civil War, teenager Olive Schloss struggles with identity, relationships, and artistry. In 1967 England, Trinidadian writer Odelle faces similar challenges. Early on in Jessie Burton's sophomore novel (after The Miniaturist), it's obvious that a mystery in the plots of the parallel narratives will be resolved; the surprise (and joy) is in how Burton accomplishes it.

This novel is for fans of historical fiction and art-related novels such as The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, and That Summer by Lauren Willig. Plus, check out our book list featuring Art & Artists.

What We Live For by American Authors (2016)

5a7092e49e8fe81c0acce9e4525147bd-600x600x1As a huge fan of the 2014 single “Best Day of My Life,” I was excited to discover American Authors’ sophomore effort. What We Live For is an upbeat, feel good alternative pop/rock album. Especially catchy are the songs “Go Big or Go Home” and “Nothing Better.” Give it a listen to lift your mood. For fans of OneRepublic and Fun.

Good news: listen instantly on Hoopla (or check out the CD).

The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot (2016)

boyisbackTake one part Meg Cabot’s (of The Princess Diaries fame) brand of romantic comedy and one part modern epistolary novel and you get a delightfully endearing story. Told through phone chats, social media messages, journals, and emails, The Boy is Back follows high school sweethearts Becky and Reed as they reconnect after a decade apart. Mix in a wacky family, small town shenanigans, and a few misunderstandings for a sweet and breezy read.

And if you’re a fan of epistolary novels, check out our list.