Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Love to See Under My Tree

Posted December 20, 2016 by meezcarrie in nonfiction, Top Ten Tuesday / 30 Comments


Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Tuesday! In leading up to Christmas, we’ve talked about bookish gift ideas as well as actual books for every reader on your gift list. Today, I’m going to look at 10 books that I would personally enjoy finding under my tree. Perhaps not this year, as it’s a little late to update ye olde gift list, but for future gifting purposes 🙂

True to form, however, I’m mixing things up a bit and talking about ten NONFICTION books that I would love to own. Nonfiction isn’t my typical genre, but occasionally the topic or the author catches my attention and I add it to my must reads list.


the-saffron-talesThe Saffron Tales by Yasmin Khan (Bloomsbury, Sept 2016)

Armed with little more than a notebook and a bottle of pomegranate molasses, and fueled by memories of her family’s farm in the lush seaside province of Gilan, British-Iranian cook Yasmin Khan traversed Iran in search of the most delicious recipes for this Persian cookbook.

In The Saffron Tales, Yasmin weaves together a tapestry of stories from Iranian home kitchens with exclusive photography and fragrant, modern recipes that are rooted in the rich tradition of Persian cooking. All fully accessible for the home cook, Yasmin’s recipes range from the inimitable fesenjoon (chicken with walnuts and pomegranates) to kofte berenji (lamb meatballs stuffed with prunes and barberries) and ghalyieh maygoo (shrimp, coriander, and tamarind stew). She also offers a wealth of vegetarian dishes, including tahcheen (baked saffron and eggplant rice) and domaj (mixed herb, flatbread, and feta salad), as well as sumptuous desserts such as rose and almond cake, and sour cherry and dark chocolate cookies.

With stunning photography from all corners of Iran and gorgeous recipe images, this lavish cookbook rejoices in the land, life, flavors, and food of an enigmatic and beautiful country.

I love Persian food … and I love my friends from Iran. I have had my eye on this book for quite some time. Is it too much to hope that it includes a recipe for “bottom of the pot” too? 🙂

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vanishing-graceVanishing Grace by Philip Yancy (Zondervan, Oct 2014)

“Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” Philip Yancey has been asking this all his life as a journalist. His perennial question is more relevant now than ever: in a twenty-year span starting in the mid-nineties, research shows that favorable opinions of Christianity have plummeted drastically—and opinions of Evangelicals have taken even deeper dives.

Yet while the opinions about Christianity are dropping, interest in spirituality is rising. Why the disconnect? Why are so many asking, “What’s so good about the “Good News?”

How can Christians offer grace in a way that is compelling to a jaded society? And how can they make a difference in a world that cries out in need?Yancey aims this book at Christian readers, showing  them how Christians have lost respect, influence, and reputation in a newly post-Christian culture. “Why do they hate us so much?” mystified Americans ask about the rest of the world.  A similar question applies to evangelicals in America.

Yancey explores what may have contributed to hostility toward Evangelicals, especially in their mixing of faith and politics instead of embracing more grace-filled ways of presenting the gospel.  He offers illuminating stories of how faith can be expressed in ways that disarm even the most cynical critics.  Then he explores what is Good News and what is worth preserving in a culture that thinks it has rejected Christian faith.

I have read snippets of this book and it seems to say everything that my heart often mulls over when it comes to Christianity and our impact on the world around us.

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seven-womenSeven Women & The Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas (Thomas Nelson, Sept 2015)

In his eagerly anticipated follow-up to the enormously successful Seven Men, New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas gives us seven captivating portraits of some of history’s greatest women, each of whom changed the course of history by following God’s call upon their lives—as women.

Each of the world-changing figures who stride across these pages—Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks—is an exemplary model of true womanhood. Teenaged Joan of Arc followed God’s call and liberated her country, dying a heroic martyr’s death. Susanna Wesley had nineteen children and gave the world its most significant evangelist and its greatest hymn-writer, her sons John and Charles. Corrie ten Boom, arrested for hiding Dutch Jews from the Nazis, survived the horrors of a concentration camp to astonish the world by forgiving her tormentors. And Rosa Parks’ deep sense of justice and unshakeable dignity and faith helped launch the twentieth-century’s greatest social movement.

Writing in his trademark conversational and engaging style, Eric Metaxas reveals how the other extraordinary women in this book achieved their greatness, inspiring readers to lives shaped by the truth of the gospel.

Some of the women included in this book are already among my heroes, and I’m very eager to learn about the others! And even to gain more insight into Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Susanna Wesley.

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made-wellMade Well by Jenny Simmons (Baker Books, Oct 2016)

From the woman fighting cancer to the man who has lost his child to the girl sinking into depression, so many of us are engaged in daily battles as we long for healing. When he walked the earth, Jesus said to an unwell man, “Do you want to be made well?” His invitation stretched beyond physical healing–he sought to restore the soul. The same invitation stands for us today.

For anyone struggling on the journey toward wholeness, singer/songwriter Jenny Simmons offers a resting place and a friend along the way. With personal insight into emotional pain, she invites readers to encounter a God who is working out their restoration–often in surprising “half-baked” ways. Her humorous and inspirational prose lights a path toward wholeness. Anyone trying to find their way to spiritual, mental, and emotional healing will benefit from Jenny’s vulnerable and compassionate stories of being made well in the midst of a messy life.

I love Jenny’s music, and I’m pretty sure I would love her books too. Both “The Road to Becoming” and this book sound like they would meet me right where I’m at.

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how to be a heroineHow to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis (Vintage, Feb 2015)

While debating literature’s greatest heroines with her best friend, thirtysomething playwright Samantha Ellis has a revelation—her whole life, she’s been trying to be Cathy Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights when she should have been trying to be Jane Eyre.

With this discovery, she embarks on a retrospective look at the literary ladies—the characters and the writers—whom she has loved since childhood. From early obsessions with the March sisters to her later idolization of Sylvia Plath, Ellis evaluates how her heroines stack up today. And, just as she excavates the stories of her favorite characters, Ellis also shares a frank, often humorous account of her own life growing up in a tight-knit Iraqi Jewish community in London. Here a life-long reader explores how heroines shape all our lives.

The subtitle alone – “Or, what I’ve learned from reading too much” – makes this a must read for me! 

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bound-for-canaanBound for Canaan by Fergus M. Bordewich (Amistad, Jan 2006)

The civil war brought to a climax the country’s bitter division. But the beginnings of slavery’s denouement can be traced to a courageous band of ordinary Americans, black and white, slave and free, who joined forces to create what would come to be known as the Underground Railroad, a movement that occupies as romantic a place in the nation’s imagination as the Lewis and Clark expedition. The true story of the Underground Railroad is much more morally complex and politically divisive than even the myths suggest. Against a backdrop of the country’s westward expansion arose a fierce clash of values that was nothing less than a war for the country’s soul. Not since the American Revolution had the country engaged in an act of such vast and profound civil disobedience that not only challenged prevailing mores but also subverted federal law.

Bound for Canaan tells the stories of men and women like David Ruggles, who invented the black underground in New York City; bold Quakers like Isaac Hopper and Levi Coffin, who risked their lives to build the Underground Railroad; and the inimitable Harriet Tubman. Interweaving thrilling personal stories with the politics of slavery and abolition, Bound for Canaan shows how the Underground Railroad gave birth to this country’s first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for social change.

The Underground Railroad is one of my favorite parts of American history – I feel such great pride for those men and women who risked everything to help give other people the freedom and dignity they deserved! Reading this book is a no-brainer for me.

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devil-in-the-white-cityThe Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (Vintage Books, Feb 2004)

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book’s categorization to be sure that ‘The Devil in the White City’ is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham’s challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair’s incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

The Chicago World’s Fair is another favorite part of history for me to read about … combine that with a little suspense? Nonfiction suspense? I’m in.

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humans-of-new-york-storiesHumans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton (St. Martin’s Press, Oct 2015)

In the summer of 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began an ambitious project -to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. The photos he took and the accompanying interviews became the blog Humans of New York. In the first three years, his audience steadily grew from a few hundred to over one million. In 2013, his book Humans of New York, based on that blog, was published and immediately catapulted to the top of the NY Times Bestseller List. It has appeared on that list for over twenty-five weeks to date. The appeal of HONY has been so great that in the course of the next year Brandon’s following increased tenfold to, now, over 12 million followers on Facebook. In the summer of 2014, the UN chose him to travel around the world on a goodwill mission that had followers meeting people from Iraq to the Ukraine to Mexico City via the photos he took.

Now, Brandon is back with the follow up to Humans of New York that his loyal followers have been waiting for: Humans of New York: Stories. Ever since Brandon began interviewing people on the streets of NY, the dialogue he’s had with them has increasingly become as in-depth, intriguing and moving as the photos themselves. Humans of New York: Stories presents a whole new group of humans, complete with stories that delve deeper and surprise with greater candour. Let Brandon Stanton and the people he’s photographed astonish you.

I love the HONY stories on Facebook – such fantastic people and stories that showcase the heart and diversity of humanity.

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tolstoy-and-the-purple-chairTolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch (Harper, June 2011)

“Nina Sankovitch has crafted a dazzling memoir that reminds us of the most primal function of literature-to heal, to nurture and to connect us to our truest selves.” —Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us

Catalyzed by the loss of her sister, a mother of four spends one year savoring a great book every day, from Thomas Pynchon to Nora Ephron and beyond.

In the tradition of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and Joan Dideon’s A Year of Magical Thinking, Nina Sankovitch’s soul-baring and literary-minded memoir is a chronicle of loss,hope, and redemption.

Nina ultimately turns to reading as therapy and through her journey illuminates the power of books to help us reclaim our lives.

I’ve been intrigued by this book since I first heard about it!

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And ok… this last one isn’t a book to READ per se … so technically it’s not nonfiction. But it’s also not fiction either so I’m totally counting it! This gorgeousness is a journal from A Thing Created etsy shop. I love her artwork! And this particular print also comes in a travel mug.


So what about you? Which books would you love to see under your Christmas tree this year? Nonfiction or otherwise 🙂


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30 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Love to See Under My Tree

  1. Ahhhh Heroine sounds good!!! I would have to echo what I think I said last week….Little House Series….lol! But I would love to have more books on Audrey Hepburn and the Beatles….lol

  2. Rebecca Maney

    I have read “7 Women and the Secret of Their Greatness”; you will love it! It’s actually on our church book club reading list for 2017, so I will be reading it again.

    I love stories about the Underground Railroad as well, so I am pinning “Bound for Canaan” on my own “more to read” board.

    • Carrie

      yay!!! I’m so glad to know that 7 Women is good! If you get to Bound for Canaan before I do, let me know how it is 😀

  3. The Devil in the White City brings to mind Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Another terrific non-fiction book that reads like a page turner thriller! Great list, Carrie.

  4. Debra E. Marvin

    Wow. What a great mix of stories! Thank you for sharing these, Carrie. I’d hate to rate which ones I want the most, but my love of history leans toward Bound for Canaan and Devil in the White City.

  5. Saffron is now at the top of of my WANT list! I’m reading (slowly) 7 Women–the chapter on Wesley is very good. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is a great read–enjoy. I love the journal!

    • Carrie

      oh yay! it’s good to hear from someone who has read Tolstoy & the Purple Chair. And yes… I always have to read Metaxas slowly lol

  6. These all sound interesting – I think 7 Women might be a great gift choice for one of my sisters 😀
    My Christmas list does have a few non-book items, but not many. It includes a range from a pre-order of Karen Witemeyer’s new novella, Worth the Wait, to an out of print D.E. Stevenson title, The Empty World (her one venture into Science Fiction, first published in 1936 and set in 1973).

  7. Andrea Stephens

    You have some really great choices here Carrie. I have a wishlist full of books, that I have pointed out to the one who would be getting me a gift. I know not one of them will be under the non-existent tree. (I still haven’t taken it out of the box, nowhere to put the poor thing.) Anyway, does he get me what I ask for, no. A package arrived from China, I was told not to open it. Then one from amazon, but he forgot that all the order confirmations come to my email, not a book that I wanted but something else I already have. I don’t mind. I told him not to get me anything, to begin with. He ordered himself everything I was going to get for him. Sorry, I’m just lacking Holiday spirit this year.

  8. I’m still trying to get through Devil in the White City. It’s really good, but I find myself distracted by plots and story ideas that swirl inside my head while reading him. When I’m done with current deadlines, I’ll get back to this story, or maybe the one about the murder in NYC, or…

    Yeah, my non-fiction TBR pile is out of control, too!

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