These first three were all new authors for me and I will be reading more by each of them!
This is my favorite kind of novel with many layers of stories within a story. A fairly contemporary story, the main character is an eclectic single woman who unexpectedly "inherits" two very damaged young children. I could not put this book down and my house is proof!
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
This is a "man's" book. Historical fiction set just at the end of World War I, Lehane weaves a fascinating story of the intertwining of three characters, Babe Ruth, a good, poor black man trying to eek out a living, and an open-minded Irish cop of means. I loved this book but be warned, there is a fair amount of violence and no romance. Suffice it to say that I had a couple of nightmares in which the events of the story wound themselves into my life. It's a good read that can occupy your imagination even in your sleep. Lehane authored a follow-up to this book, Live by Night, that I will be reading next. (By the way, this is NOT a book for teens.)
The Incredible Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
I suspect this novel is technically classified as Sci-Fi, but that part does not come into the story early. It is a completely fascinating tale of a couple of young adults who had a perfectly normal (aka challenging) upbringing. The story is built around a lemon birthday cake and the memories it conjures for the narrator. This book is a true page-turner with a very surprising ending.
A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz. I fell in love with this Pultizer Prize winning journalist when I was assigned Confederates in the Attic for a class on The South. (Thank you Sydney Duncan!) I love history and this is my favorite kind of history. Horwitz begins at Plymouth Rock and digs into the rich history of exploration of our country before the Pilgrims set foot on the famous rock. What results is an amazing -- and sometimes bloody-- story of Conquistadors, ne'er do wells, slaves, native peoples, priests, Vikings, tricksters and quite a few bumbling fools. I had the happy accident of spraining my ankle while reading this book so I had an excuse to neglect my family and read it!
Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
Just as the title proclaims, St. Francis de Sales instructs the reader on how to live a devout life. Written in the form of a letter to a homemaker, it is intended for the layperson. It is a very meaty book so I could only digest a few pages at a time, but it totally reformed confession for me! And I would venture to say that although there are definitely parts of the book that would be most meaningful to Catholics, a protestant could definitley glean a lot of useful things from his writing. And at 99 cents for the kindle version, you sure aren't taking much of a gamble.
Why do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson. This is an older book that I originally read while in RCIA. I decided to re-read it as part of the Year of the Faith. 14 years into my Catholic faith life, I definitely benefited from the review. Johnson does not attempt to reconstruct the Catechism (which he encourages every Catholic to read and reference) but rather gives simple explanations of some baffling practices of the faith from the artwork and icons in our church buildings to transubstantiation. Some of the things that people told me were "a mystery of the faith" are actually explained in this book. Most people would probably learn a thing or two from this book -- and since it's interestingly assembled and easy to read, you'd probably enjoy it too!
There are so many more but this ought to put something truly worthwhile in your hands for a day or two!