Andrea Wilson Woods
   


On My Nightstand

"Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are." — Author François Mauriac

All books are arranged in alphabetical order by title, but an asterisk* reflects books that I have read since my last update. Click on the book to buy it on Amazon. Jump to:

Other Nonfiction            

Fiction         

Writing

Wellness

Reading Memoirs

About My Sisters

By Debra Ginsberg

This memoir was painful for me to read because I missed my sister Adrienne even more. Sometimes, I put the book down for days, but I always picked it back up because I had to know more about Debra Ginsberg and her three sisters. An honest story that is guaranteed to touch your heart, Ginsburg weaves the narrative so effortlessly that I barely noticed the transitions from past to present. How she manages this feat, I'll never know.

Angela's Ashes
A Memoir

By Frank McCourt

This book may have won a Pulitzer, but I couldn't wait to finish it.

Autobiography of a Face

By Lucy Grealy

Touching, brave, and utterly sincere, Grealy fights cancer without even knowing she had "cancer." An absolute must-read for memoir lovers!

Beautiful Boy

a father's journey through his son's addiction

By David Sheff

An excellent well-written memoir, David Sheff writes about his struggles with his son Nic (see below), a meth addict. Although I wanted to reach through the pages many times and shake Sheff, tell him to give up already, I have to admire his love and tenacity in the face of addiction. I could never be that forgiving.

Blindsided

Lifting a Life Above Illness

By Richard Cohen

I tried to stick with this story but after this sentence, "I marveled at my own inner strength" I gave up. Cohen has survived many battles, but he has not yet conquered his own self-righteousness.

Blue Nights

By Joan Didion

I want to like Joan Didion. While she writes well, I always feel as though she is holding a piece of herself back; therefore, I never become emotionally invested in her stories.

Bossypants

By Tina Fey

A fast, great, entertaining read if you like funny, smart, interesting women. Helps if you enjoy SNL, too!

Eat Pray Love

By Elizabeth Gilbert

I read this memoir right before the film came out. It must be nice to travel the world after a bitter divorce followed by a love affair destined to end. Gilbert makes it difficult to like her in the book with her numerous, unnecessary parenthetical asides and her assumptions that readers want to know her every thought. Skip the book and see the movie starring Julia Roberts—it's better.

The Friend Who Got Away

Edited by Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell

These 20 stories of "women's true-life tales of friendships that blew up, burned out, or faded away" made me feel better about the friends that I have lost in the past. The two stories that resonated the most with me were Ann Hood's "How I Lost Her" and Helen Schulman's "First in Her Class."

Funny in Farsi

By Firoozeh Dumas

In person, Ms. Dumas is a delight when she tells stories about her family's experiences in America. Unfortunately, her oral skills don't translate to the page. While her tales remain funny, her writing lacks the comedic timing her stories deserve.

The Glass Castle*

By Jeannette Walls

This memoir won every possible book award and it deserves them all. Walls tells her compelling story so vividly that you can practically feel her hunger and share her embarrassment.

Homegrown Democrat

By Garrison Keillor

This book has been sitting on my shelf for some time. I bought it because I love Prairie Home Companion, but after 150 pages, I couldn't stomach Keillor's complete disgust of conservative Americans in our country. I am proud of the diversity of our heritage. (Still love your show, Mr. Keillor!)

Homesick

A Memoir

By Sela Ward

I adore Sela Ward as an actress so I really wanted to love her book. Although the writing isn't bad and the book has a theme, it isn't a true memoir; it is written more like a biography. I wasn't interested in her story until she narrowed the focus on her search for a home.

A Long Way Gone

Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

By Ishmael Beah

A fantastic title for an otherwise mediocre book, A Long Way Gone remains a powerful story, but I wish someone else had told it. Beah is not the strongest writer; the many mechanical errors throughout the text were distracting from his heart-wrenching tale of growing up as a child soldier in Africa.

Manic

By Terri Cheney

To say this book changed my life is an understatement. Committing suicide in Santa Fe? Makes sense to me. Walking into the ocean—yep, I've wanted to dive in and never look back. I was reading my reflection only to a heightened degree.

Marley and Me

life and love with the world's worst dog

By John Grogan

I cried, I laughed, and then I thanked Winston for being such a wonderful dog compared to Marley! This memoir is not only a story about a man's relationship with his dog, but it is also about marriage, children, and everyday problems we all face ... Grogan shows us how his family faced their obstacles—with Marley at their side.

Mortality

By Christopher Hitchens

As stark as its book cover, Hitchens' last book is raw, powerful, and devastating. I couldn't put it down because I can relate. Cancer is a bitch.

The Nearly Departed

Or, My Family & Other Foreigners

By Brenda Cullerton

If you like sick, twisted, smart humor, you will love Brenda Cullerton's memoir about her unusual family (they make the people Augusten Burroughs stayed with seem normal). I seriously laughed out loud—read it. Now. You won't regret it.

Riding the Bus with My Sister

By Rachel Simon

Beautifully written and thoughtfully structured, this memoir is one of the best books about sisters I've ever read. Ms. Simon's emotional honesty will astound you, and her sister Beth will amuse you.

Running with Scissors
A Memoir

By Augusten Burroughs

Out of the last ten memoirs I've read, this one is the best. Some people are horrified by Burroughs' detailed account of his dysfunctional childhood, but I find his honesty refreshing.

Teacher Man

By Frank McCourt

Although I didn't like Angela's Ashes, I was willing to give McCourt's Teacher Man a chance. As a former teacher, I was curious about his experiences in the classroom. His unique approach to teaching and his obvious passion for learning made this memoir an enjoyable read.

The things that need doing

By Sean Manning

I decided to read this memoir after it was panned by the New York Times. I consider the book a learning experience of what not to do in terms of structure, narrative, content, and theme. How and why did this book get published?

A Three Dog Life

By Abigail Thomas

This memoir is a good example of what happens when too many enthusiastic reviews lead to high expectations; I was extremely disappointed. Though Thomas is honest, her writing bored me.

Tweak

Growing up on Methamphetamines

By Nic Sheff

The only reason I bothered with this memoir was I wanted to compare it with David Sheff's Beautiful Boy. I thought it would be interesting to read the same story (essentially) from two different points of view. Otherwise, I don't recommend this book. The writing is weak, and it's hard to have any empathy for Nic, an addict who just won't—or can't—quit.

Why We Suck

A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid

By Dr. Denis Leary

I borrowed this book from my sister-in-law even though I'm not a big Denis Leary fan. Well, I didn't make it past p. 100. After insulting just about every lower-class female profession (e.g., stripping) and suggesting that women only did such things due to abusive childhoods, I closed the book. What does he know? He's a f**king man!

The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion

I wanted so desperately to connect to Didion's grief—to feel her pain, and yet I felt cheated after reading this memoir. Not only did she withhold valuable information that might have changed any reader's opinion about her daughter, but she also withheld herself.

back to memoir

 


Reading other Nonfiction


Ben Franklin’s Almanac of Wit, Wisdom, and Practical Advice
By the editors of The Old Farmer’s Almanac


This book is great if you only have time to read a few paragraphs. I skip the recipes, but the household tips are terrific. For example, improve the smell in your refrigerator by soaking a cotton ball in vanilla extract and leaving it in the fridge overnight.

The Diary of Frida Kahlo

An Intimate Self-Portrait

Introduction by Carlos Fuentes

I liked Frida Kahlo after seeing the film Frida; I fell in love with her after viewing her paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Her art isn't really my taste, but the passion and intensity behind her work is fantastic. This diary, which includes an English translation, reveals her inner soul as well as contains many colorful sketches that have never been shown before.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

By David Sedaris

Since Sedaris writes humorous short stories, I felt this book belonged in my "Other Nonfiction" category as opposed to "Memoirs." Although Dress Your Family is not quite as funny as Me Talk Pretty One Day, I still laughed out loud at certain stories and in particular at certain lines.

Fast Food Nation

The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

By Eric Schlosser

I haven't eaten read meat in 20 years, but I don't know how anyone could after reading this book. In-N-Out Burger, however, does receive high praise from the author and its consumers; the company has maintained quality control by keeping the business within the family.

Generations

The History of America's Future 1584 to 2069

By William Strauss and Neil Howe


This book fascinates me. The cyclical nature of America's generations will amaze you, too. By understanding our history, the authors accurately predicted America's future including the current economic crisis.

A Hundred Little Hitlers

The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America

By Elinor Langer

Author Elinor Langer tells the shocking story of the beating and subsequent death of an Ethiopian immigrant in Portland, Oregon, in November 1988. By helping readers understand how racism evolves over generations, Langer reveals the many facets to a complex narrative. I wouldn't say this book is an easy read due to its content, but it is a must-read.

The Illustrated A Brief History of Time
By Stephen Hawking

I’m not a scientist, but I’m fascinated by the concept of quantum physics. The material in this book is dense so I only read about half a chapter at a time. I may not understand every concept, but I am always thrilled by the information.

Killing Lincoln

The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

By Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

This excellent account of the last two weeks of President Lincoln's life should be required reading in American History classes.

The Little Black Book of Big RED Flags

By Natasha Burton, Julie Fishman, and Meagan McCrary

Hysterical book taken from a blog by the same title, the Little Black Book makes you realize just how many Big Red Flags you should have noticed in your life

The Little Dictionary of Fashion

By Christian Dior

I LOVE this book. Some of the information is outdated (who wears gloves anymore?), but learning about materials, colors, patterns, and what clothes work best for your figure is invaluable advice that I will always treasure.

Nisa

The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman

By Marjorie Shostak

I read this story to become more acquainted with the Kung people, but I was pleasantly surprised by this piece of well-written narrative nonfiction.

The One Hundred

A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own

By Nina Garcia

This book is fabulous. I don't need all 100 pieces, but I discovered some basics that were missing from my wardrobe.

Secret Lives of Great Artists

By Elizabeth Lunday

Which artist was arrested for murder? What happened to the Mona Lisa's eyebrows? This book is a must-read for any art lover. Enlightening and entertaining!

The Perfect Storm

By Sebastian Junger

After reading Junger's detailed description of weather and ships, I understand why the film chose to focus on one group of people—it's hard to become emotionally attached to wind.

What Would Wonder Woman Do

By Jennifer Traig and Suzan Colon

I worshiped Wonder Woman as a child so I couldn't resist reading this entertaining book about women in the work force. What would Wonder Woman do indeed!

Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara?

The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World's Best-Loved Books

By Jenny Bond & Chris Sheedy

From War and Peace to The Cat in the Hat, authors Bond & Sheedy reveal the trials and tribulations of many famous, if not your favorite, books. They also shed light on the writers behind these unforgettable works of literature.



Reading Fiction

All the King's Men
By Robert Penn Warren

At first, I wasn't enthusiastic about this book. I'm not fond of required reading even though it's common in academia. After the first 200 pages, I started to appreciate the depth and scope of Warren's story, which is a loosely fictionalized account of Governor Huey Long from Louisiana. Don't watch the movies though (two were made); the book is by far better.

Atlas Shrugged
By Ayn Rand

One survey says this book is the second most read book in the world after the Bible. I highly recommend it!

Barrel Fever

By David Sedaris

Sedaris's first book contains mostly fictional short stories, and all of them failed to entertain me. The characters are unrealistic, and the message "I am a gay man who loves my dick" is overbearing and unnecessary. However, the four essays at the end of the book show Sedaris's real talent—telling true tales with a humorous twist.

The Best Awful

By Carrie Fisher

Even though Fisher is known for her novels, she often bases them on her own experiences. I found it difficult to feel sympathy for the main character Suzanne, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder. The disease didn't bother me, but Suzanne's abandonment of her daughter did.

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

By Eudora Welty

This book was recommended reading in my master's writing program, but I didn't start it until after I graduated. Although Ms. Welty easily establishes character through dialogue and action, I don't always find the plots of her stories interesting. In fact, I stopped reading one of the longest short stories in the collection "The Wide Net" because I was bored.

11/22/63

By Stephen King

Time travel, love story, and suspense thriller, this book is Stephen King at his best. Loved it!

Entrekin

By Will Entrekin

For full disclosure purposes, Will and I are friends; we went to graduate school together. His first published work Entrekin contains fictional shorts stories, poetry, and true tales. My favorite selections are A Little Heaven and What I Saw That Day.

Fifty Shades of Grey*

By E.L. James

Oh my. Wow. Holy cow. This book needs to be renamed Fifty Shades of Crap. BTW--it's not erotica; it's a romance.

Girls in Pants

The Third Summer of Sisterhood
By Ann Brashares

I love this Young Adult series. Reading Girls in Pants reminded me that I must read more fiction. There is nothing liking losing time in a fantastic story.

GWTW

Gone with the Wind

By Margaret Mitchell

I am embarrassed that it took me 38 years to read the novel that inspired my favorite movie of all time.

One word: Extraordinary!

The Hours
By Michael Cunningham

Even though this novel won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a movie, I had no idea what it was about. WOW. Cunningham's tight writing that includes three narratives is truly spellbounding, but this book needs a warning label: do not read when you are depressed.

I've Been a Naughty Girl

by Dahlia Schweitzer

Naughty is right! This is not your Harlequin romance; be prepared for some serious erotica that mixes sex and story effortlessly.

Love in the Asylum
By Lisa Carey A woman on an airplane gave me this book; she said that I had to read it. When I finally sat down to read this novel (six years later), I finished it in two days. The complexity of the story, which includes three narratives, is impressive, but the heart of the plot and characters moved me to tears.

Meets Girl

By Will Entrekin

For full disclosure purposes, Will and I are friends; we went to graduate school together. This story will absolutely warm your heart. While I don't particularly like the structure (i.e., breaking of the fourth wall), I adore the characters and admire their struggle to make their relationship work.

Middlesex

By Jeffrey Eugenides

One of the best novels that I've read in a long time, Middlesex is so engaging, one wonders if the book is actually disguising a deeply touching true story.

Nine Stories
By J.D. Salinger

I liked Catcher in the Rye, but these nine short stories by the same author left me cold.

Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog

By Garth Stein

Told from a dog's POV, this story is fabulous—especially if you love your pets. Absolutely heartfelt and heartbreaking, this book made me laugh and cry.

Scarlett

By Alexandra Ripley

This sequel to GWTW is almost as enchanting as Margaret Mitchell's original tale. Though the locations change, the characters of Scarlett and Rhett remain intact.

The Tom Ripley Novels

By Patricia Highsmith

The author of Strangers on a Train doesn't disappoint with her five novels about Tom Ripley, the most famous one being The Talented Mr. Ripley. Almost every book is outstanding except for Ripley's game; when Tom disappears for over half the story, the plot loses its momentum.

A 21st Century Courtesan

By Eden Bradley

A well-known romance writer, Bradley combines a complex character and erotica in this story about a courtesan who falls in love for the first time in her life. While the sex scenes are realistic and steamy, they are not as wicked as I expected.

back to fiction


Reading about Writing

Blogging for Dummies

By Susannah Gardner and Shane Birley

Even though this book is written for beginning bloggers, I found it very helpful. For example, I had never heard of Tumblr or Goodreads until I read this book.

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

By Emily Dickinson

I was thrilled when I got to read my favorite poet for my first poetry class.

Death Sentences

How Cliches, Weasal Words, and Management Speak Are Strangling Public Language*

By Don Watson

I think the title says it all. KISS = Keep it simple, stupid.

Double your creative power!
By S. L. Stebel

An excellent book on writing and an easy read.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

By Lynne Truss

The funniest and most entertaining book about punctuation that I have ever read. I laughed out loud. I share Truss's despair over the state of the apostrophe and the comma.

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers

By Betsy Lerner

The best advice in the business from one of the best agents (and editors) ever. Read it.

The Freelance Writer’s Bible
By David Trottier

The exercises in this book are outstanding. I recommend this workbook to anyone pursuing a freelance writing career.

Guide to Literary Agents (2007)
Edited by Joanna Masterson

Want to find an agent? Then you have to read this book.

How to Write Irresistible Query Letters

By Lisa Collier Cool

This book offers practical how-to tips for query letters, one of the hardest things for all writers to write. The author provides numerous examples to illustrate various techniques. I highly recommend it!

Inbound Marketing

Getting found using Google, social media, and blogs

By Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah

I read this book for my job as a Social Media Specialist, but I think anyone who has a website will find it useful. Excellent tips.

Writing

If You Want to Write

A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
By Brenda Ueland

A truly inspiring book that breaks the "rules" about writing in many ways. My favorite chapter title, "Why women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing." I've been saying the same thing to my husband for years!

Living to Tell the Tale: A Guide to Writing Memoir*

By Jane Taylor McDonnell

This practical how-to guide for writing memoir is extremely useful if you are new to the form.

The Making of a Poem

A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms

By Mark Strand and Eavan Boland

This required text helped me understand a variety of poetic forms as well as exposed me to many poets.

Mortification
Edited by Robin Robertson

Over 50 writers contributed stories about their worst moments in the public eye. Many of them relate to book signings (e.g., no one shows up), but sometimes writers—like everyone else—say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person.

Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write*

By Elizabeth Lyon

This how-to book is fantastic. I followed the instructions and my first book proposal won sixth place in a national competition. Every aspiring nonfiction writer should own Lyon's brilliant book.

Screenplay

By Syd Field

I could not have survived my first screenwriting class without this book.

Search Engine Optimization (all-in-one) for Dummies

By Bruce Clay and Susan Esparza

If you have a website, you need this book. I learned how to use key words effectively, how to exchange links, how to become listed in directories, and more! A must-read for ALL website owners who want to increase traffic to their site.

Stand up Poetry

Edited by Charles Harper Webb


This book taught me poetry comes in many forms; it also inspired to expand beyond my own comfort zone as a writer.

78 Reasons why your book may never get published and 14

reasons why it just might
By Pat Walsh

Literary agent Lisa Cron recommended this book to me. It's entertaining and enlightening.

Teach Yourself Tumblr in 10 Minutes

By Bud E. Smith

This book does its job well: it is easy to use, easy to understand, and easy to read. However, the 2010 edition is already outdated, which is typical for any book about social media. By the time the book is published, something has changed.

Why I Write

By George Orwell

"From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer." This series of essays (including Why I Write) by Orwell is an inspiring and excellent read for any writer.

Writing out the Storm

Reading or writing your way through serious illness or injury

By Barbara Abercrombie

Part memoir (of Abercrombie's cancer battle) and part how-to guide, this book is an interesting combination written by a well known writing teacher located in the Los Angeles area.

back to writing

 

Reading about Wellness/Spirituality

Ayurveda

The Science of Self-Healing

By Vasant Lad

This book is an excellent introduction into the study of Ayurveda. The tips are easy to understand and to implement into your daily life. Figuring out your primary dosha is an enlightening experience.

The Bhagavad Gita

Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller

An essential text of the Hindu culture, the Bhagavad Gita is an epic poem that challenges you to rethink your morals in a new context.

Breathing

Expanding Your Power and Energy

By Michael Sky

I love this book. It's amazing how often we forget to breathe. Our breath is everything. Each chapter ends with a breathing exercise that will rock your world.

Getting the Love You Want

A Guide for Couples

By Harville Hendrix, Ph.D

This book was recommended to me and my husband while we were going through a particularly difficult time in our marriage. We continue to do the exercises, and it has helped us understand each other so much better—not to mention save us a fortune on therapy bills!

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Translated by Pancham Sinh

As one of the oldest surviving texts on yoga practice, this book is a must-read for all yogis. Though some of the recommendations don't make sense in today's society (e.g., rubbing your body with cow dung ashes mixed with water), many do. Everyone could learn to breathe better and concentrate more.

The How to Happiness

A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want

By Sonia Lyubomirsky

This book takes a scientific approach to finding happiness and it makes complete sense. Did you know we are born with a happiness set point but we can improve it? Practical exercises will help you find your way to happiness. Given the nature of the book, I don't recommend buying the Kindle edition like I did.

Mantra Meditation

Change Your Karma with the Power of Sacred Sound

By Thomas Ashley Farrand

I used to be terrified of chanting, but now I find it soothing and necessary for meditation. This book is fantastic because it explains the purpose of mantras and provides mantras for common problems. Make sure you buy the book that comes with the CD so you learn how to chant each mantra properly.

Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga*

By Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison

This book has a brief meditation for each day. It covers everything from the eight limbs of yoga to religion and other spiritual beliefs. An easy and enjoyable read.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life

By Anna Quindlen


Most of the advice offered in this book isn't new (e.g., "Don't ever confuse ... your life and your work"). I wish the pictures had captions because they were far more interesting than the conventional wisdom.

This is Why You're Fat

(and how to get thin forever)

By Jackie Warner


I bought this book as part of my EMAO experience. Jackie Warner's blunt style is exactly what I want in a trainer. Her food tips are excellent, and her power circuit training routines will kick your ass.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Translated by Robert A. F. Thurman

An actual guidebook on how to transition from the land of the living to the various world of the betweens, this book is a fascinating read.

The Untethered Soul

The Journey Beyond Yourself

By Michael A. Singer

I don't know how to explain this book except to say it will change your entire perspective of how you see yourself and your actions. Your life can only improve by reading it.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali*

Chanted by Sonia Nelson

This chanting tutorial of the Yoga Sutras contains four CDs; the book is currently out of print, but you don't need it in order to learn the Sutras. I love Nelson's pacing; this collection is truly for a beginner. I eventually chanted every Sutra.

Yoga Therapy

A Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Yoga and Ayurveda for Health and Fitness

By A.G. Mohan

This book was required reading for my Yoga Teacher Training and I found it informative and helpful in my own yoga practice.

back to wellness

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On My Nightstand
 
I am always reading multiple books at a time. Here's a glimpse at what I'm reading now.
 
Reading Memoirs:

Vow: A Memoir of Marriage (and Other Affairs)

By Wendy Plump

Plump captures the essence of allure so magically that you understand why she cheats on her spouse multiple times even if you can't forgive her (I do). Highly recommended by Agent Betsy Lerner and well worth the read.

.

 

Reading other Nonfiction:

Someone has to set a bad example

By Anne Taintor

My stepmother bought me this book for my birthday knowing how much I love vintage with a modern twist. Hysterical!

 
Reading Fiction:
The Silent Wife

By A.S.A. Harrison

It's tragic that this author died of cancer before seeing her debut novel published. This book is outstanding: the characters are well written; the plot produces surprise twists; and the outcome may shock you.

 
Reading about Writing:

Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art

By Judith Barrington

This more advanced guide to writing memoir contains writing exercises at the end of each chapter that I found helpful.

Reading about Wellness/Spirituality:

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

By T.K.V. Desikachar

This book is amazing and a must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about yoga. Bonus: the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are in this book!

Exercising My Ass Off

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