Best Middle Grade Books to Inspire Wanderlust

Best Middle Grade Books to Inspire Wanderlust

Stories inspire travel like nothing else! Middle grade books and YA books to inspire wanderlust in kids and us all! A chapter book list for kids who travel.

My entire life, I’ve been proud to be a book nerd. I was the kid who read a book on the bus, was intent on winning the school book challenges, and sighed with contentment when I finished my work and was allowed to read during class. Stories of the lives of others, especially in exotic settings, give you a connection to a place.

Can a book connection inspire the love of travel?

For example, in high school, I remember reading E.M. Forster’s, A Room With a View. Lucy, Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeycut, George, and all the characters seemed to pull me to Florence, Italy. From that moment on, I became determined to have my own room with a view of the River Arno and my own adventures in Florence.

And do you know what? I did. And it was amazing.

Also, I loved finding the different places in Florence mentioned in the book.

Now you think. What books have inspired you to travel or think about travel? Here’s a list of middle grade books and YA books to inspire wanderlust in kids and young adults. Also, they’re great to read when the family travels around the world.

Just want the list of books?

Scroll to the end of the blog post for the full list of books. They are books either set in other countries or perhaps the author lived in that area of the world. I’ll be adding to the list as we discover more so send me your recommendations in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Stories inspire travel in us all! A list of middle grade books and YA books great to spark wanderlust in kids and teens. #middlegradebooks #wanderlustinkids #booklist

Photo credit: Houses of Parliament, London, The Wanderlust Crew

Books inspire travel to:

1. London and the English Countryside

The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


The War That Saved My Life and its sequel The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley are both fantastic books for middle readers. The books take place during World War II. They are about a little girl named Ada who struggles with a disability but is able to overcome the odds through the kindness of others and her own strength.

The books take place in London and the English countryside. It’s heartbreaking and educational to read about the events of WWII that took place in this area and especially to read about how they affected the children of the time. There are many WWII sites you can visit in London and in the countryside even today.

From the Wanderlust Crew

2. Greece

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan

My son set his heart on visiting Greece after reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Twelve-year-old Percy’s normal life in New York is thrown into chaos when he is attacked by a maths teacher who turns out to be a terrifying Fury. Then he’s pursued by a Minotaur, and on top of it all, his mother disappears.

In the safety of Camp Half-Blood – home to the children of ancient Greek gods – Percy discovers he is a son of Poseidon. Along with his friends, Grover – a satyr, and Annabeth – a daughter of Athena, Percy begins a quest to recover Zeus’s stolen lightning bolts.

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”

Although the book is set in the US, the theme is ancient Greek mythology. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and its sequels sparked my son’s interest in ancient Greek gods and the stories associated with them. This includes an interest in Greek architecture and landmarks.

When Percy first sees Camp Half-Blood – located on Long Island – he is astounded to see Greek architecture featuring white marble columns including an amphitheater and an arena. The Greek mountain, Mount Olympus was thought to be home of the gods. During his quest, Percy learns that Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, is now accessible from the 600th floor of the Empire State building!

The Percy Jackson series is the perfect middle grade book series to inspire wanderlust to Greece. #booklist #middlegradebooks

Places to visit from the book

My son was intrigued by a discussion between Annabeth and Percy as they stood below the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Annabeth reveals she plans to visit the Parthenon in Athens in Greece and is inspired to be an architect by her heritage. My son has the same goal as Annabeth to visit the Parthenon and also to see the amazing Temple of Poseidon outside Athens. The Percy Jackson books are a great inspiration to travel and explore ancient history!

From Reading Inspiration

3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Diary of Anne Frank (The Diary of a Young Girl)

by Anne Frank

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.

This quote from Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl captures the true resilience of the human spirit. This harrowing true story is about Anne Frank; a 13-year-old girl who is forced into hiding with her family during the Nazi regime. Translated into 70 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank is a must-read for all young adults; it depicts the transition from childhood to maturity in an eloquently relatable way.

Amsterdam is the lively capital city of the Netherlands and is a very family-friendly place to visit. Explore the city by boat along the canals, try on traditional wooden clogs, and sample some delicious Dutch waffles, stroopwafels. All these bustling activities are directly contrasted against the small attic in the city center where Anne and her family were forced into hiding.

Visit Amsterdam, the Netherlands #booklist #middlegradebooks #bestchapterbooks

An afternoon spent paying tribute to the Franks, and all those who lost their lives in the Holocaust is not to be missed when visiting Amsterdam. To visit the secret annex teaches young adults about Nazi Germany and the horrors that unfolded during World War II. It is a humbling experience for people of all ages – and to paraphrase Anne – it reminds us that even when the going gets tough, there’s still so much beauty in the world.

Full ticket information & opening hours for the Anne Frank museum can be found here.

From Becular Writes Stuff

4. Concord, Massachusetts

Whispering Graves

by Brenda Felber

Whispering Graves is about a girl named Lillia who can see and talk to ghosts. She goes to Massachusetts with her brother Charlie and her great aunt, Nora. There, Lillia meets a girl named Jo, and they try to solve the mystery of the Peabody house by listening to the whispers from the graves at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

This is a great book to read while you explore Concord, Massachusetts. The characters visit the Concord Museum, which has one of the lanterns Paul Revere used to signal the revolutionists. Maybe you remember his famous line, “One if by land, two if by sea.” The Redcoats are coming!

Also, the characters visited an ice cream place for breakfast called Bedford Farms Ice Cream, where you can still visit today. For fans of the classic book Little Women, visit Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote the beautiful story. Of course, also be sure to explore Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where many famous authors are buried.

Speaking of authors, nearby is also the famous Walden Pond. First, sit by the water. Clear your head and think only of the necessities and how to be minimalistic living by the pond like Thoreau. Then pull out your copy of Walden, and read a few lines.

From a book-loving 10-year-old.

5. Egypt

The Elfin Pyramid

by Penny Fernandes

Do you think that the pyramids of Egypt were built by man? Baah! It was the magic of elves that brought about these wonders. You probably don’t know we exist – that’s exactly the way we want it. Times have changed and our magic has begun to ebb away. The only hope for Elfin survival lies in a forgotten region of modern Egypt. Sobek, Horus and I have no choice but to hurl through the desert, find a stolen pearl and bring its magic back home. The sands of time aren’t in our favor and, in a world full of deception, we are forced to face our worst fears. This is our story…

Citadel, Egypt, middle grade books to inspire wanderlust #egyptbooks #booklists #kidsread

One of the most enchanting, mind-boggling places I have ever visited is Egypt. With two trips to the country and almost two months spent in Cairo, I found that the history and the culture called out to the creative side in me. It wasn’t a surprise that I landed up putting my pen to the paper and writing The Elfin Pyramid.

Set in modern-day Egypt, the book mingles the past and the present as a group of elves race against time to find a stolen pearl and get back to their pyramid in time to save it. Things, however, were not meant to be easy and they find themselves facing numerous hurdles along the way.

The Elfin Pyramid inspires a person to look beyond just the external structure of the Pyramids of Egypt. It helps a person’s imagination take shape while simultaneously understanding a lot of the ancient Egyptian history (which is really cool!). I really fell in love with the country and I think I will go back someday soon as there is still so much that I haven’t seen.

From Globe Trove

6. London, UK

A Bear Called Paddington

by Michael Bond

The story of Paddington Bear begins on Paddington station in London, when the Brown family of 32 Windsor Gardens, come across the young bear waiting at the station. He’s carrying just a suitcase, an old bush hat and a sign around his neck from his beloved Aunt Lucy in Peru (‘please look after this bear’). The Browns adopt Paddington and he quickly becomes the center of life in their household. Paddington has an uncanny knack of causing uproar wherever he goes, due to his propensity for unwittingly causing misunderstanding – but always with the best of intentions.

Paddington exposes the quirks of British culture in a humorous and innocent way that also involves many London landmarks.

London, Paddington Bear, Middle grade books to inspire travel #paddingtonbear #middlegradebooks #booklist

There’s the obvious Paddington station reference (and there’s a statue there today), as well as hilarious stories of Paddington bringing the escalators on the London Underground to a halt as he tries to understand British escalator etiquette. Then there are trips to the department store for Christmas shopping – in Paddington, the store is called Crumbolds and Ferns, and it always reminds me of our Liberties or John Lewis department stores. One of my favorite episodes is in Paddington Races Ahead, when Paddington tries to board a London bus using a pair of fresh oysters – rather than an Oyster Card.

Throughout all the stories we learn of Paddington’s love of a marmalade sandwich (marmalade being a peculiarly British kind of jam!) as well as sticky buns and tea.  He is a very British bear!

From Epic Road Rides

7. Yellowstone National Park, the USA

The Mystery at Yellowstone National Park

by Carole Marsh

There are a lot of great books for kids, tweens, and teens to read before or during a trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The Mystery in Yellowstone National Park is one of our favorites. The book is a fun read about two kids and their grandparents who snowmobile into Yellowstone. It’s part of the Real Kids Real Places series. In addition to exploring real places in Yellowstone during the winter, the family encounters a mystery they have to solve. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger to keep the reader on the edge of their seat (or snowmobile!).

Yellowstone National Park in winter, USA, middle grade books to inspire wanderlust #yellowstonenationalpark #booklist #wanderlust

Marsh uses her two grandkids, her husband, and herself as the main characters as they explore real places and have fictional adventures. Marsh wrote the book after a trip to Yellowstone with her two grandkids. They explore the hot springs, geysers (including Old Faithful), mud pots, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for which the park is famous.

From Yellowstone Trips

8. Italy

Love & Gelato

by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Gelato, Italy, YA books to inspire wanderlust #yabooks #booklist #bookstoread

Lina is sixteen with a dying mother and all her mother wants her to do is go to Italy to get to know her father.  Of course, being sixteen, that’s the last thing she wants to do, but she goes anyways.  Once she arrives, she is given a journal her mother wrote when she lived in Italy.  Lina and her charming new friend Ren follow her mother’s footsteps around Tuscany and Florence on their own adventure learning about her parents and herself.

The book is set in the Tuscan countryside but includes frequent trips to nearby Florence. Make a trip to the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio with frequent stops to enjoy gelato. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the squares and walk around the streets and alleys. Explore the Tuscan countryside and take the train down to Naples for an afternoon and enjoy some pizza. Follow along on Lina’s journey through her mother’s journal.

From Red Around the World


9. Oxford, England

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

Oxford is a literary treasure trove, and many authors lived and studied here including Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lewis Carroll. It was actually in Oxford that Lewis Carroll met a real-life Alice who inspired the beloved children’s character Alice in Wonderland. Alice famously follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole and ends up in a weird and wonderful world where she makes many friends and enemies.

Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) was both a student and tutor at Christ Church in Oxford. Here, he met Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean. Several years later, Dodgson and the Liddell family were out on a boating trip and Dodgson created a story for the children as they rowed along. Alice asked him to write it down for her and, voila, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was born!

Alice in Wonderland in Oxford, middle grade books to inspire wanderlust #oxford #booklist #familytravel

Where to visit in Oxford

There are many Alice in Wonderland inspired places to visit in Oxford and you should start your tour at Christ Church. In the infamous “Harry Potter” dining hall here, you will find firedogs on either side of the fireplace with incredibly long necks. These inspired the events in the story where Alice ends up growing really tall with a super long neck! If you’ve got a keen eye you’ll also notice that there’s a tiny Alice and White Rabbit painted in one of the panels of stained glass.

Further afield in Oxford, you can visit Alice’s Shop, a shop wholly dedicated to Alice in Wonderland souvenirs. There’s also a rare specimen of the Oxford Dodo in Oxford University’s Natural History Museum, which is sadly now extinct. There is a painting of a Dodo in the museum which is thought to have inspired the Dodo in the story. This museum is wonderful for children and you could spend the whole afternoon here. If you’re feeling peckish at the end of your tour, head to Cafe Loco where the whole family can enjoy an Alice in Wonderland inspired afternoon tea.

Find out more about Alice in Wonderland in Oxford.

From What’s Hot?

10. Namibia, Africa

Tippi My Book of Africa

by Tippi Degré

When I asked my children which book had made them want to visit different places, they didn’t have to think long before they agreed “Tippi.”

Tippi is an extraordinary book, by an extraordinary girl. Written in the voice of 10-year-old Tippi. It’s the story of her life so far. She was born in Namibia, the daughter of French photographers. Her parents are documenting African meerkats..

Tippi believes that she can speak animal language. And when you read the book you can believe it too. The book brings out the magic of her friendship with the wild animals of Africa including a  28-year-old elephant and a jaguar.

It’s full of warm pictures showing little Tippi with her animal friends. This book and its pictures project Africa and Namibia through the eyes of an extraordinary child.

First I read it to them, and now they re-read it themselves.  Whenever they do so I hear the same question, “Mummy, when can we go to Africa?”

From The Travelling Twins

11. Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Aloha, Kanani

by Lisa Yee

Aloha, Kanani is from the American Girl series, and Hawaiian native Kanani was their first Girl of the Year. The story introduces middle grade readers to Kanani’s unique world in Hawaii through both a cultural and geographic lens.

Readers meet Kanani’s many “aunties” in the small town of Waipuna and learn about the slower pace of life than mainland USA. Also, they get to see Kanani and her friends spend their time helping their families or enjoying the natural wonders of Kauai’s north shore. But there’s a big shakeup in Kanani’s world when her cousin arrives from New York with a very different perspective and her own emotional challenges. 

From The Family Voyage

Oahu, Hawaii, Middle grade books to inspire travel #booklist #middlegradebooks

12. Prince Edward Island, Canada

Anne of Green Gables

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is about a little red-headed orphan girl named Anne who goes to live with Matthew and Marilla on Prince Edward Island. They want a boy orphan to help Matthew. However, there’s a mixup, and they end up with Anne instead.

After many misadventures and mishaps, they end up keeping her. The joyful Anne goes on many adventures with her best friend, Diana Barry. We love the drama and optimism of Anne’s character. For example, one day she’s in the “depths of despair”, the next she is blissfully happy.

Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables #middlegradebooks #anneofgreengables

Anne lives in Green Gables, which was inspired by the Green Gables Heritage Place in Cavendish on Prince Edward Island. It’s visited by tourists throughout the year and a great place to reenact your favorite scenes from the book series.

Also, get tickets to see Anne of Green Gables, the Musical at the live theater at the Charlottetown Festival. In addition, today the Anne of Green Gables Museum and the L. M. Montgomery Birthplace are sites not to be missed.

Don’t forget to take a stroll along the beach and seek out some of the many lighthouses. Prince Edward Island is a beautiful place on its own but has more meaning when you read about Anne’s life there. Around every bend in the road, there are things to see to spark a connection to a scene or character for a true Anne fan.

From a 10-year-old Anne fan.

More books to inspire wanderlust:

Or to read when you visit these places! This is a list in progress, and I will update periodically.


  1. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – France/Europe
  2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – France
  3. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy – France
  4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein – England/France
  5. The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – England
  6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – UK
  7. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond – London, England
  8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – Oxford, England
  9. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Oxford, England
  10. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Oxford, England
  11. The Ravenmaster’s Secret by Elvira Woodruff – London
  12. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming – UK/Germany/Europe
  13. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  14. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – Italy
  15. A Room With A View by E.M. Forster – Florence, Italy
  16. The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly – Poland
  17. The Good Master by Kate Seredy – Hungary
  18. Percy Jackson Book 1: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – Greece
  19. The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart – Greece
  20. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park – Korea
  21. Tales of a Korean Grandmother by Frances Carpenter – Korea
  22. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – South Africa
  23. Tippi My Book of Africa by Tippi Degre – Namibia, Africa
  24. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder – Egypt
  25. The Elfin Pyramid by Penny Fernandes – Egypt
  26. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster – India
  27. White Fang by Jack London – Alaska, USA
  28. Alamo All-Stars (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #6) by Nathan Hale – Texas, USA
  29. Book Scavenger (The Book Scavenger Series) by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman – San Francisco, CA USA
  30. Aloha, Kanani by Lisa Yee – Hawaii, USA
  31. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool – Appalachian Trail, USA
  32. Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk – Massachusetts, USA
  33. The Mystery at Yellowstone National Park by Carole Marsh – Yellowstone National Park, USA
  34. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – Prince Edward Island, Canada
  35. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – Barbados/Connecticut, USA
  36. Whispering Graves by Brenda Felber – Concord, Massachusetts, USA
  37. Heidi by Johanna Spyri – Switzerland
  38. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lyn – China
  39. The Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark – Peru

Also, if you’re wanting a great list of books for various ages, check out Mini Travellers Children’s Book Recommendations!

What other middle-grade books inspire wanderlust? What about YA (young adult) books?

Can you think of another middle grade or YA book in an amazing setting? I’ve always wanted to visit the Greek islands dotted with windmills thanks to Mary Stewart’s The MoonspinnersDefinitely, it’s on my bucket list.

I would love to add to this list so if you have an awesome book that’s a source of wanderlust for you, please let me know! Put it in the comments below, and I’ll review it to read myself and add to the blog post.

Thanks for reading! Happy travels!

Want more book suggestions?

Pondering what books to read next? Get new books categories with the #40nextbooks challenge and see what I'm reading for each. #booklist #bookstoread

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The best middle grade books to inspire wanderlust and exploration. Middle grade and YA booklist for kids, teens, and family travel. #familytravel #kidsbooklist #bookstoread

What books to read next? 40 Books Challenge

What books to read next? 40 Books Challenge

Wondering what books to read next? Join me in my New Year 40 next books reading challenge! Today I’m sharing about categories 6-10 in the booklist and the book (or books!) I’ve selected for each.

Welcome to the 40 next books reading challenge!! We’ve had a good start to 2019 and hope you have too. Can you believe it’s already May?

I have to tell you, having a list with categories has really motivated me to try new topics and search out different books than my normal comfort zone series and authors I normally read. What about you? Have you tried a new book in another genre or new author?

Yes, it’s also brought out my competitive streak even if it is just me staring at my Goodreads number of 40 I put in for my goal at the beginning of the year. My inner child does a dance when it reports I’m 1 or more books ahead of schedule.

If you haven’t checked out Goodreads yet, click here to go to the website. Truly, it’s a good resource and helps you keep track of what you’ve read or would like to read later.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

What books to read for the 40 next books reading challenge. Check out what I'm reading for categories 6-10. #readingchallenge #40nextbooks

40 Next Books Reading Challenge

First of all, if you haven’t joined in the 40 next books reading challenge, I invite you right now to pick out your first book. Admittedly, it’s not always easy to stick to a list and I’ve veered off of it several times. However, I always go back to the categories and am determined to go through the entire 40.

Also, if you’re a list person like I am you get that little squeal of joy when you can mentally check off numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on!

Now, I also want to emphasize this is not something that has to be done in a year! It’s the year of my 40th birthday, which is where the 40 comes in. Be that as it may, it does not mean you have to stuff 40 books in the year or limit it to 40!

Different ways to participate in the book challenge

Everyone reads at a different pace, has other motivations, and prior commitments taking all their time. I love to read with a book in hand, but sometimes I just can’t give myself an hour or so a night. When the kids go to bed, half the time there are lunches to be made, laundry to do, the kitchen to clean, etc.

For me, this is the perfect time to listen to an audiobook, when I’m doing little thought activities like folding laundry, cleaning, or editing pictures. Definitely, don’t rule out those audiobooks! There are so many places you can easily get them now and listen to an app right on your phone.

Put on your earphones and bam! You’re in Winterfell.

Where to get audiobooks

My 4 main go-to places for audiobooks.

  1. Hoopla Digital – I discovered Hoopla on a suggestion from a local librarian and have the app on my phone. You will need a library card.
  2. Overdrive and the Libby app – Another app on my phone I got as a suggestion from a local librarian. See if your local library participates in the program as you do have to enter your library card information. Bonus: It’s free!
  3. Local library for books on CD for the car.
  4. Audible – I love Audible but I don’t always love to pay for it! This is my last source for when I know there’s a book I really want to listen to and can’t seem to locate anywhere else.

So let’s get to it! What books are you reading for categories 6-10?

Books to read: 40 Next Books booklist

In case you need a reminder – here’s the list I’m following for the challenge! You can also join my email list and get a PDF download of it as a bonus. Check it out below!

40 Next Books Reading Challenge booklist #40nextbooks #2019booklist

Books to read: the next 5 books

After finishing the first 5 books for the 40 next books reading challenge, I set to selecting the next five! I like to do things organized and in groups. Absolutely it’s that listmaking tendency again. It makes me feel like I have power over something. 😉

Now, pick out your own books in the categories or read along with me! Use the hashtag #40nextbooks or join the book discussion in the blog comments. I’d love to see what you’re reading and add to my own booklist!

6. Historical Fiction

In truth, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and I read a lot of it! I’ve actually read several good historical fiction books lately and will give you a sample here.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter

by Hazel Gaynor

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is set in two locations in two different times with stories that intertwine. First, there is Grace Darling, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter in 1838 who bravely fought to save those in a shipwreck near her lighthouse. In Northumberland, England the story centers on her and her family, relationships and what happened because of this incident.

The second setting is 1938 in Newport, Rhode Island when unmarried 18-year old Matilda Emmerson is sent away from Ireland and her notable family for a time to have her baby far away. The family must avoid scandal at all costs as Matilda’s father is in politics. She stays with Harriet, a relative who is also an assistant lighthouse keeper.

I love the fact this story is based on the stories and true bravery of the women lighthouse keepers of this time period. I’ve read several books by Hazel Gaynor, and she’s a strong writer. Full disclosure, I have a fondness for lighthouses so it was a perfect fit.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

Bonus historical fiction books:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov and his experience trying to stay alive in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Surprisingly because of his knowledge of languages, he was given the “honored” task of tattooing prisoners numbers on when they entered the camp. He deals with his struggle of the guilt of feeling like a traitor and trying to survive and make a better life for himself and fellow prisoners.

For me, this was a new perspective on the concentration camp life and treatment by the Germans. It was a difficult read to get through at times because the realities of the time period are so heart-wrenching. It didn’t help that I was going through some other emotional issues when I read it! Therefore, this may be a book to read in the right season of your life.

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is one that’s been on my to-read list for a LONG time. Somehow I’d just never gotten around to reading it, and most likely many of you out there beat me to it. I have not seen the movie yet so am interested to see how it’s put on the screen.

Liesel’s first act of book thievery is at her brother’s gravesite. She picks up the Gravedigger’s Handbook, unable to read a word, but so begins her love of books. Liesel learns to read and steals books from Nazi bonfires, the mayor’s library, and more. She lives with a foster family and eventually they hide a Jew in the basement.

I can see why this powerful, well-written book was so popular and on PBS’s list for the Great American Read. If you haven’t read it I highly suggest you do.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

7. Alaskan Author

To the Bright Edge of the World

by Eowyn Ivey

To be perfectly honest, it took me a while to select a book by an Alaskan author, but I’m so glad I did. To the Bright Edge of the World took me to the cold, harsh days of 19th-century Alaskan exploration. It’s not something I would have instinctively chosen and that’s where having the book challenge and categories helps to stretch me just a bit.

Colonel Allen Forrester is granted a commission to lead a team to explore Alaska’s Wolverine River. At the time it was unpassable and past attempts ended in tragedy. Yet, it is the key that opened our largest state to the Gold Rush and American presence.

The story goes back and forth between Colonel Forrester and his young wife Sophie. She’s entered a risky pregnancy and is waiting behind in the military barracks. The thoughts, fears, hopes, and lives of the characters are poignant and bring them to life off the page.

I truly enjoyed this book and the Alaskan wilderness it painted along with the struggles of the people involved. I hope you check it out too!

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

Read more about the 40 next books challenge

40 next books to read list. A fun reading challenge for all. #booklist #40nextbooks

8. Anne of Green Gables

This category is one you should not skip. Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite books/series of all time. Moreover, the books made a huge imprint on me as a child and helped shape my outlook on life. I love Anne, her drama, bright hopes, and determination. All the books are fun and have good lessons for kids and adults alike.

I’ve read Anne of Green Gables often and recently read much of it with my daughter. Therefore, I decided to choose the second book in the series, Anne of Avonlea, for the book challenge. But really, you should read the entire series!

Anne of Avonlea

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Oh, how I adore all of these books! However, I have always loved Anne of Avonlea for its new characters and locales on Prince Edward Island.

We see her trials, antics, and scrapes as she teaches at the Avonlea schoolhouse. She finds new kindred spirits. First, in her student Paul who tells her the stories of fairies. Also, she meets the delightful Lavender Lewis in the little stone house called Echo Lodge. Don’t you just ache to live in a little stone cottage on Prince Edward Island tucked in the woods called Echo Lodge!?

Lucy Maud Montgomery always keeps me amused and engaged in the stories, laughing or crying where it fits. In Anne of Avonlea, we have orphaned twins, Marilla, Gilbert, Diana, Anne is almost grown up, and a surprise love story. Love.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

9. Space

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has been hailed as a modern Science Fiction masterpiece.

The book centers around Rosemary Harper and the life she wants to leave behind to go on new exciting adventures to faraway galaxies. She joins the crew of the crazy and chaotic ship called the Wayfarer. However, she’s unaware their new assignment will possibly risk her life.

With a wide assortment of characters, all with their own quirks, we navigate the plot. Rosemary has adventures but also learns more about family. Truly, she has to figure out how to rely on and work with others and not keep everything to herself.

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

10. The Olympics

When I started to think about the Olympics category my mind immediately went to The Boys in the Boat. My father had recommended it several times to me as one I would enjoy and even went so far as to loan it to me for a while. Unfortunately, it sat in a pile and never was read!

The Boys in the Boat

by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat is one of those books to which you become emotionally attached. In my case, you start talking to the main character Joe Rantz. “Come on Joe! No, don’t do that! You can do it! Yes, yes, yes!!”

One of eight rowers on the University of Washington’s 1936 crew, Joe and his crewmates show what hard work, determination, and spirit can do. All from lower working class families during the Great Depression, the boys seek what many deem as impossible. They go for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics under Hitler’s gaze.

Spoiler alert!: Let’s just say it goes well for them and may have you jumping up and down cheering with tears in your eyes. Not that I’d do that or anything… 😉

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Buy it here on Amazon.

What are your next books to read?

Have any of these books caught your eye? Or maybe you have others you’re reading that would fit in the categories. I’d love to hear about them. I’m always up for a good book suggestion!

If you can, follow along with the challenge! I’ll be posting on Instagram and other social media with #40nextbooks, and I hope you do the same.

Who doesn’t love to talk about books and share stories? It’s a part of human nature and helps us grow! I can’t wait to hear about your books and reading journey.

Post your reads for the challenge at #40NEXTBOOKS!

Happy reading!

Pin it here!:

Do you have a books to read list? Check out the #40nextbooks challenge and what I'm reading in the current categories. Let's read! #bookstoread #booklist #bookchallenge

More book suggestions:

Women’s what to read next: a cold weather booklist

What to read next for history fans

Summer what to read next

Spring book list: what I’m reading

Kids Travel Journal

Kids Travel Journal

A kids travel journal is the ultimate fun and memorable activity on a family vacation! You know all that time in the car or on the airplane? Use it wisely and have your kids reflect on what they’ve seen, eaten, and experienced!

Do your kids love to look back at old photos? What about old school papers and accomplishments?

Both of my kids do, especially my daughter. She is my child who likes to write stories, make lists, and have written and physical souvenirs of past adventures. If you’ve followed this blog at all you may have seen or downloaded the original kids travel journal I created for her.

While we still LOVE it, and it’s been great for past travels and adventures, the child is ready for something new.

That’s why I put together this new journal. Next week we’re heading off on a Spring Break road trip, and it requires something new and fresh for her to put her mind to!

In a hurry?

Scroll to get the travel journal bonus! Or PIN it for later here!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

A kids travel journal is the perfect road trip or air travel activity! Give the kids something to do as they travel, make memories, and reflect on new experiences. #kidstravel #traveljournal


The journey, not the arrival matters.

T.S. Eliot


What’s new in this kids travel journal?

First of all, I looked at quite a few ideas from my kids and others who’d used our original journal before. How could we make it better, more user-friendly, and still super-fun and engaging for kids?

One of the first things I did was change the size of the journal. Instead of a full page, I changed it to a half-sheet printout.

Why do you ask? Well, the half-sheet size is easier to travel with. It will fit in all sizes of bags, purses, backpacks, as a bookmark in a book, you name it.

It makes it easier to pull out and write/draw on any place you go whether it be in a car, a museum, or when you sit down to rest during a hike.

Record and reflect on family vacations with this printable kids travel journal. Fun and easy to take on the go, it's perfect for road trips, air travel, or any kids' outing! #kidstraveljournal #travelprintable

Another thing that’s changed is the amount of color vs. white space.

This journal has some pictures and color, but not as much as the last one. It was done on purpose so it’s easier to print out either in black and white, full color, or grayscale, depending on your preference. This also lets the child doodle in the edges and put in their own colors.

In addition, I’ve added some more prompts to spark kids imaginations.

For example, there’s a page for the day with the weather, how I feel, and other things listed. But then there are also pages on what I ate today, where I’m sleeping, who I saw, etc.

Depending on the kid, you may want to use all the pages or just a few and make more copies based on the length of the trip.

Filling out the kids travel journal. #kidstravel #printables

List of travel journal activity pages

  • Cover Page: My Travel Journal
  • Name and contact page with space to draw a self-portrait
  • Where in the world are you going? A world map to record where you travel.
  • Where in the USA are you going? A map of the USA to record where you travel.
  • The daily page includes:
    • Today’s Date:
    • I felt
    • The weather was:
    • I learned:
    • I met:
    • Three things I did today:
    • Today I traveled by:
  • What I ate
  • Written prompts: Three words to describe today, I miss…, I tried something new today!, I felt…
  • Out my window is a place to draw what they’ve seen out their window today!
  • Tonight we are staying… (where, and place to draw it)
  • Written prompts 2: The best thing about today was…, my least favorite thing was…, three words to describe this city/town are…, three questions I have are…
  • Today I learned a new word! This page includes a word bubble with an area to draw and a field to describe what it means.
  • Today I saw this! Includes a space to draw/color and descriptive words.
  • Here is a portrait of a person I saw today.
  • Today I saw this animal.
  • Trip Reflection page

Pages of the kids travel journal with a pen. #kidstraveljournal #kidsactivities

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Author, The Lord of the Rings

New Kids Travel Journal Bonus

Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and get the NEW Kids Travel Journal as a bonus! If you’re already on our list, awesome! You can still download the journal!

Preview of the new kids travel journal #kidstravel #kidstraveljournal

How to download the kids travel journal

First, enter your first name and email in the field below. Second, open up your email, and in a few minutes or less you should receive an email. Click on the button in the email to confirm your subscription to the Explorer Momma newsletter and your bonus kids travel journal should then download to your computer.

It’s that simple! Print out the entire thing or pick and choose the pages your child would most enjoy!

What do you think of the journal?

So far the journal has met approval with my own kids. We’ll be giving it the full road trip test next week, and I can’t wait to see how it goes!

After this one, as my daughter gets older we may turn to a basic blank journal with a few travel quotes here and there.

However, for now, when they’re in elementary school, this style of a journal is still appealing. It also makes kids think a bit about their travels. Who they’ve seen, what they’ve done, cultural differences, etc.

Do please let me know if you use it with the kids in your life! I hope it’s useful, and let me know if you have any suggestions to make it even better!

PIN it here for later:

An easy to use kids travel journal is perfect for any family vacation! Whether the kids are on a road trip, airplane, or train it makes a memorable travel diary. #traveljournal #kidstraveljournal


More kids travel activities:

  1. The Ultimate Road Trip Activities for Kids
  2. Kids Airplane Activities: Airplane BINGO
  3. 8 Ways to Survive a Long Layover with Kids
  4. The Complete Kids Carry-On Packing List

Kids Travel Journal

The Perfect Road Trip or Air Travel Activity! Click here to check our the Original Travel Journal Printable

40 Next Books Reading Challenge

40 Next Books Reading Challenge

Preview: Join me in my New Year 40 next books reading challenge! I’m turning 40 this year, and this booklist looks back at the past and is motivation for new learning.

Welcome, 2019!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

It’s here, it’s here! It’s finally 2019! Actually, 2018 seems to have gone by in a flash, and my kids are no longer babies or toddlers. What’s more, this is a significant year for me as I’m turning 40! How did that happen?!

Rather than dwell on the negative, I’ve decided to embrace this 40th year and look to the future. With the New Year, my resolutions vary with health, exercise, nutrition, and family goals. Also, I’ve decided to add a fun resolution just for me!

Because I love books so much I will commit to getting organized and focus on a reading goal for the year. Rather than haphazardly pick out books, this booklist is perfect to broaden my reading choices. Do you get in a reading rut? I admit it, I do! I look to my favorite authors and series and well-loved characters. It’s where I’m comfortable, and I’ll always go back to my favorites, sometimes I need a little push to try new things.

That’s where the challenge comes in!

40 Next Books Reading Challenge

40 next books reading challenge. Booklist for all, join us! #booklist #40nextbooks

Are you ready to read? I am so excited to continue picking out books for this year! It’s fabulous to have an excuse to take some time to explore new and past books you’d like to read. I can disappear for hours at a library or on online book websites just getting ideas and coming up with books I’d love to read.

I almost always have a long list of to-read books. What about you? With the 40 next books reading challenge, I’ve been inspired by my own 40th year and making time for my own personal growth. So often as moms we are pulled in so many directions and focus on everyone but ourselves.

What’s best for the kids, the family, our home? But do you know what? Taking care of yourself and growing your own mind and outlook will help everyone. You can make yourself a priority!

40 Next Books Reading Challenge booklist #40nextbooks #2019booklist

Credit where credit is due

Now, I have to give credit where credit is due. The 40 next books reading challenge was inspired by my friend Marci from my Peace Corps days. She pointed out how fortunate it is to be 40 and started her own reading challenge. Of course, I thought this was a fabulous idea and have joined her challenge but tweaked the list slightly. I plan to read several of the books she has on her own list and have many of the same categories in my list of forty books.

What I’m reading: the first 5 books

To begin the year, I’ve picked out the first 5 books for the 40 next books reading challenge! Select your own in the categories or read along with me. Use the hashtag #40nextbooks and join the book discussion in the blog comments. I’d love to see what you’re reading and add to my own booklist!

1. Published in 1979 (the year I was born!)

I have a couple of books in this category I feel like I should have already read and still want to. Therefore, let’s remedy that and start with one.

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

This book is on so many booklists of best books ever. Have you read it? Does it live up to its reputation and how would I feel about it? I guess I’ll find out!

2. Set in Colorado

I grew up in Colorado and kept leaving, but I’m always drawn back. Truly, I love my Rocky Mountains, and it’s the perfect place for our family. This is a book I read long ago but feel like I’ll have a new perspective on it now.


by James Michener

Here’s another non-fiction book I love about an amazing lady that reads like an adventure novel. I highly recommend it!

A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains

by Isabella Bird

3. Animal Book

This book is in honor of my childhood love of animals in nature, and now my son’s obsession with peregrine falcons, panthers, and learning about all living things. To be honest, it’s an unusual pick for me, but I’m branching out. Moreover, I’ve heard good things about this book and can’t wait to dive in!

The Animal Dialogues

by Craig Childs

Want some more book suggestions?

Spring book list book with a flower. What to read next. Book suggestions. #readingchallenge #booklist

4. A book about an artist

This book was recommended to me as a fun read with the history in the background I would enjoy. Have you read it? What do you think?

The Masterpiece

by Fiona Davis

5. Family

This story is more of a woman searching for her family’s past in India after her own heartbreaks with miscarriages and family struggles in New York. Interpret this category however you want for your book, but this is one I’ve been seeing over and over again and just hadn’t gotten around to reading.

The Storyteller’s Secret

by Sejal Badani

Join the 40 next books reading challenge!

Do you make a reading goal for the year? This list is not to limit or pass judgment if you don’t get through all 40 books, but a tool to help motivate and explore. No matter the time you have to commit or the number of books, I’d love for you to join in our book conversations! If nothing else I hope you find a fabulous new book to read and learn something in the process.

If you can, follow along with the challenge! I’ll be posting on Instagram and other social media with #40nextbooks, and I hope you do the same. Who doesn’t love to talk about books and share stories? It’s a part of human nature and helps us grow! I can’t wait to hear about your books and reading journey.

Post your reads for the challenge at #40NEXTBOOKS!

Happy reading!

More books suggestions:

Women’s What To Read Next: A Cold Weather Booklist

Summer What To Read Next

What To Read Next For History Fans

Christmas Mystery Books to Read Next

Christmas Mystery Books to Read Next

Preview: Here’s your list of fun historical Christmas mystery books to read next! Grab a cushy seat by the fire, a blanket, and spiced tea. Now, read!

I don’t know about you, but at Christmastime, I naturally like to read books set in the same season. There are so many fabulous traditions and fun characters to be found, and so many problems to get mixed up in and hopefully then fixed at the family manor! Yes, one of my favorite genres at Christmastime is the historical mystery.

So, come on snow! Let’s get those yuletide fires going, spiced scents filling the air, and time to enjoy some good Christmas mystery books. Let’s go back to the Downtown Abbey Christmas mood with a twist of mayhem and detective work!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Do you love a good murder mystery at the manor? Christmas mystery books are one of my favorite genres and fabulous for de-stressing during the holidays. #christmasmysteries #christmasbooks

Why Christmas mystery books?

The historical mystery is always one of my favorite genres for de-stressing and getting a break from daily life. I find it especially important to make an escape a during the holidays and take some time out for myself. Also, I tend to be more of an introvert and so crave and need that time by myself to regroup and be ready for the next thing. What about you?

If you also need that time to yourself to recharge, don’t be afraid to send the crowd away for a while and enjoy a good book. Suggest they go on a fun ice skating outing or to a movie. Then you can take that time and dig into a stress-free murder mystery.

Christmas mystery books to read next

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas

by Stephanie Barron

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is a very enjoyable peek into an 1814 Regency Christmas with some detective work and murder thrown in. Jane and her family are invited to The Vyne, the ancestral country home of the prominent Chute family. Other friends and well-wishers join the Christmas party, and we have a traditional snow-bound Christmas.

With so many people unable to return home, one of the guests comes to an unfortunate fatal accident. But is it an accident? Jane and others investigate the politics, personal conflicts, and all the house suspects.

I found it delightful and fun to see Jane developing the characters for her next book, Persuasionon the heels of the successful Mansfield Park. Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve read all of her books multiple times and like Bridget Jones, obsessed on the BBC’s miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice. Therefore, I’m preparing you before you read this book. Be warned! Jane Austen is being turned into a character here. I personally feel it’s fun, well-researched, and excessively diverting, so don’t let the real-life author turned character bother you.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Spoil yourself and order it now on Amazon by clicking here!

12 Days At Bleakley Manor

by Michelle Griep

Don’t you just love this cover? It immediately invited me in because I think I know what to expect. It’s cozy and comforting and another snow covered Christmas at the manor! Set in the Victorian Era, there’s a twist to this one. In the case of Bleakly Manor, the guests are invited for various reasons and enticed with personal motivations, but alas the host is absent!

I read a review of this book that said it was reminiscent of a mystery dinner theater, and who doesn’t love that? In fact, I’m a huge fan of going a step further to the mystery dinner parties where you’re assigned a character, but I digress. With just a hint of romance and almost exaggerated characters, I had a wonderful time reading this book. Perhaps I’m being generous with the rating due to the Christmas season, but it was a fun escape to the English manor and an enjoyable read.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

Why not order it now on Amazon by clicking here?! (You know you want to)

Murder for Christmas

by Francis Duncan

Oh, look! Another Christmas party at a country home. Now we’re in the Golden Age, and with Murder for Christmas, we are introduced to amateur detective Mordecai Tremaine (if you haven’t already met him before in the series). Mordecai Tremaine reminds me of a mix between Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. He’s well-known for solving mysteries and murders, but when people meet him, he comes off as harmless and maybe not completely capable of comprehending what’s happening around him.

However, of course, he’s not the tottering old man perceived! Will he aid the police to discover the Christmas Eve murderer or be a thorn in their side? Who killed the man dressed as Father Christmas found at the foot of the Christmas tree?

This book is another good distraction and amusement, although because the writing does jump around slightly making it not quite as easy to follow, my rating is slightly lower.

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Would you like to pick it up now on Amazon by clicking here? Enjoy!

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

by P.D. James

P.D. James, or rather Phyllis Dorothy James White, Baroness James of Holland Park, was born in Oxford, England in 1920. She is best known for her detective Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard, and this book indeed includes two of his stories. 

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories is a compilation of four stories by this great mystery novelist. With a more serious and sinister tone than the first books in this list, yet with a sly humor, these stories reveal the good, bad, and difficult aspects of human nature. A novelist recounts the story of a crime she herself was a party to 50 years previously, Dalgliesh’s godfather asks him to re-investigate the details of an inheritance, and so forth.

A good set of whodunits for the Christmas season, although the holiday aspect of them is not as in your face as some of the others.

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Order it on Amazon by clicking here!

Do you need more Christmas book suggestions?

What Christmas Mystery book list is complete without Hercule Poirot? I’m always up for a good Agatha Christie novel!

Mistletoe and Murder: A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery

by Carola Dunn

It’s December of 1923, and Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher is the daughter of the imperious Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple who’s decided they will all spend Christmas at, wait for it…the ancestral home of Lord Westmoor in Cornwall. Daisy is her own woman and displeases her mother by writing articles for publications such as Town and Country.

On this occasion, Daisy arrives at the home before everyone else to complete an article on the house itself and it’s history. When more guests and colorful characters arrive, although Lord Westmoor is absent, our scene is set for a colorful set of ghosts, schemes, and murder.

Daisy and her husband Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard investigate along with the help of their two children and Lord Westmoor’s poorer relations. I had fun with Daisy and the characters in this book and series.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 4 1/2 stars

Treat yourself and order it now on Amazon by clicking here!

The Twelve Clues of Christmas

by Rhys Bowen

What can I say about The Twelve Clues of Christmas? Set in 1936, this is the sixth book in A Royal Spyness Mystery series. It can definitely be read as a stand-alone, and score! Once again we have a house party, but this time it’s the local villagers who are being murdered.

Penniless Lady Georgiana Rannoch finds herself stuck in her brother’s castle in Scotland facing a bleak Christmas with her penny-pinching sister in law and family. Her MIA boyfriend is exploring somewhere in South America so she gets herself a position as a hostess for a large house party in Devon, in the quaint village of Tiddleton-under-Lovey. Unfortunately, the villagers keep having fatal unrelated accidents.

Georgie begins her own investigation, of course, and looks into her list of house-guest suspects. A bonus in this book is the description of all the traditional English Christmas fare and joy! an appendix with recipes. I’m hungry.

Explorer Momma’s rating: ***** 5 stars

You need this book. Find it here on Amazon!

A Christmas Revelation

by Anne Perry

Now, what Christmas Mystery Books list is complete without representation by Anne Perry? I love a good Anne Perry mystery, her Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, the Monk series, and my favorite the WWI series. Truly, I’ve read a lot of Anne Perry’s novels, and most Christmases I read at least one of her novellas or, in this case, Christmas novels.

The Christmas stories often make a supporting or side character of one of the series into the main character with their own Christmas mystery adventure. In this sentimental book, a nine-year-old former river urchin named Worm enlists the help of Squeaky Robinson to go to the aid of a kidnapped woman just before Christmas. Squeaky works in Hester Monk’s clinic and so here we have a new adventure with lesser-known characters in the Monk series. How can they help a woman who doesn’t want to be rescued?

I’m always happy with her Christmas books and really any of her novels. They are familiar friends, with characters I can depend on.

Explorer Momma’s rating: **** 4 stars

Order it now on Amazon by clicking here!

Give me some good Christmas mystery books

Now some of you, in fact, many of you, will say, “Give me a good Hallmark Christmas story”. I can do that. Sweet girl from the city has some major failure and fight with big city boyfriend. Girl goes to small town USA and falls for the local boy in a Christmas sweater who helps everyone in town. However, I can only do a couple of those a year and truly love that escape.

Give me some variety! Manor houses with snowbound guests, English puddings, and murders. Oh, yes. Throw a couple of those into your yearly Christmas readings. It’s the season for traditions and cozy family time. Take some time out of the Christmas rush and start another tradition, a good Christmas mystery. Cheers to you!

Merry Christmas!

Check us out on Instagram @explorermomma!

Pin it for later here!

Do you love historical mysteries? Christmas mystery books are some of my favorites around the holidays. Families stuck together in manor houses with lots of English Christmas goodies, what's not to love? Great Christmas booklist. #christmasbooklist #christmasmysteries

Women’s What To Read Next: A Cold Weather Booklist

Women’s What To Read Next: A Cold Weather Booklist

Preview: In this booklist, you’ll find my current version of women’s what to read next. Strong women, powerful women, good stories, and inspiration. This is what I’ve been reading lately.

This post contains affiliate links which means I make a very small percentage if you click through and purchase something. All opinions are strictly my own!

We’ve made it to that time of year it’s actually starting to feel like fall. The high is a mere 54 fabulous degrees Fahrenheit today, and it’s a little cloudy. I don’t know about you, but that signals tea and book reading time to me! So naturally, I took myself off to Barnes and Noble. I made the excuse to my husband that Children’s Place is right there too, and the child really needs new jeans since his are two inches too short with holes in the knees.

I love bookstores

Like I really ever need an excuse to go hang out in a bookstore.

I love visiting bookstores, and it makes me very sad there are so few of them about nowadays. I’m sounding old, but many moons ago when I was in high school my best friend and I used to spend our Friday nights at bookstores. We’d get our latte or tea (I wasn’t doing black coffee at this time), listening to the new music, going through every book and picking just the right one. It was fabulous, and hey, you can’t get into a lot of trouble at a bookstore now, can you?

Women's what to read next booklist. Looking for the perfect book for chill weather? Literature, historical fiction, tragedy, comedy, pick one here! #booklists #whattoreadnext #whattoread #womensbooks #reading #explorermomma


Women’s what to read next

After a while of not being thrilled with my book choices (something was off), I’ve recently had a fabulous run of winners I’d strongly suggest to anyone. There are tales of inspiration, ghosts of the mind, difficult circumstances, powerful, intelligent women, and great storytelling. You know when a book pulls you in, and your mind won’t let you, and indeed you don’t want to, leave that world until those final pages have been turned? That happened to me on almost all of these books.

So let’s get started.

The Great Alone

by Kristin Hannah

This was a book recommended by someone in a Facebook group I’m in, and yes, I’m in several bookclub type groups. It caught my eye because of the location, to be honest. The setting is on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska in 1974, and the book begins with the main character’s family arriving from the Lower 48. My grandparents used to live in Homer, Alaska, a key location in the book and a place I’ve visited several times myself, so it naturally piqued my interest.

I agree there is this idea that if you need to get away from society you can escape to Alaska. In The Great Alone, after the Vietnam Conflict, one family is given land near Homer and their adventure begins. They have no idea what it will take to survive off the grid in an untamed wilderness. They encounter all types of people, all with their own stories and reasons for being there. It is the story of the family, a father fighting the demons of the Vietnam War, his wife who will do anything for him, and their daughter and her coming of age and survival story. A beautifully written book and one I stayed up until 3 am one night to finish! It’s engrossing with good story-telling, and I highly recommend it.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ***** Five out of five stars.


The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

by Genevieve Valentine

Imagine a well to do New York family in the 1920s. The father is a determined businessman who wants an heir and son. He and his wife have daughter after daughter until they have a collection of them upstairs he won’t admit to society. They don’t go to school, don’t go out, don’t visit others socially, they are kept in the house.

“Dressed up in the thrill and sparkle of the Roaring Twenties, the classic fairy tale of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ has never been more engrossing or delightful. Valentine’s fresh, original style and choice of setting make this a fairy tale reimagining not to be missed” (Library Journal, starred review).

So what do they do? It’s the roaring 20s! They learn to dance, and organized by their eldest sister Jo they sneak out at night to the clubs and find a home at the Kingfisher Club. Put on some 20s music as you read for there are bootleggers, raids, and drama. The story goes deeper focusing on each girl and is a fun read.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ****1/2 Four and a half out of five stars.


The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist I happened upon I believe through my library app suggesting it to me. I read it, and it was interesting because I then noticed it on the PBS list of top books to read and in my Barnes and Noble promo email. Quelle coïncidence! It seemed fated for me to read it.

This is the sweeping story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel. We already have something in common. But he wants to travel in search of worldly treasures. What does he truly want? How can he get it? Will he give up? Santiago learns many lessons along this mystical journey. He reads and listens to omens that come to him and follows his dreams. We all need some inspiration every now and then, and The Alchemist certainly delivers.

I liked this book very much and appreciated the positivity and determination in Santiago to never give up. Live your life and your dreams.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ***** Five out of five stars.

Ready for the holiday season?

Are you ready to start your pile of cozy Christmas books by the fire? Here are some I recommend.

Cozy Christmas books, a Christmas booklist #christmas #christmasbooks #fireside #explorermomma

Cold Sassy Tree

by Olive Ann Burns

I picked up Cold Sassy Tree on the recommendation of a friend, and it was indeed a hilarious journey and character study. In the small town of Cold Sassy, Georgia news and/or gossip spreads like wildfire. It’s 1906 and Grandpa E. Rucker Blakeslee announces only three weeks after Grandma Blakeslee’s in her grave that he’s going to marry the young milliner in his store, Miss Love Simpson. Yes, half his age and a Yankee! Gasp! His grandson, young Will Tweedy finds himself in the scandal while having adventures of his own. At 14, he’s growing up and has to deal with class and place, is run over by a train (literally), and does his best to keep the peace in his own household.

There are lots of characters from all over town in this one and an amusing read. I took this one about a chapter at a time and had fun with it.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ****1/2 Four and a half out of five stars.


The Woman Who Smashed Codes

by Jason Fagone

I have to say, I came upon this book quite by accident, and I consider myself lucky to have done so. This is not a novel but a popular history book that reads like a spy thriller, about a real-life character hidden in history in government secrets. This era of codebreaking is fascinating, and while I’ve seen movies and read books about the British side in Bletchley Park with Alan Turing and others, I didn’t know much about the American efforts in codebreaking in World War II.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes is the true story of Elizebeth Smith Friedman. We are introduced to her when she meets her partner in cryptology and future husband, William Friedman, at an eccentric tycoon’s estate just outside of Chicago where they both worked in 1916. They become an unstoppable team in codebreaking, or cryptology, in WWI and WWII.

See a part of the Amazon summary:

In The Woman Who Smashed Codes, Jason Fagone chronicles the life of this extraordinary woman, who played an integral role in our nation’s history for forty years. After World War I, Smith used her talents to catch gangsters and smugglers during Prohibition, then accepted a covert mission to discover and expose Nazi spy rings that were spreading like wildfire across South America, advancing ever closer to the United States. As World War II raged, Elizebeth fought a highly classified battle of wits against Hitler’s Reich, cracking multiple versions of the Enigma machine used by German spies. Meanwhile, inside an Army vault in Washington, William worked furiously to break Purple, the Japanese version of Enigma—and eventually succeeded, at a terrible cost to his personal life.

Due to the secrecy of Elizabeth’s missions and work, her story had never been told before, and she herself never spoke of it. She was true to the oaths she made to the government, and only recently have some of her records be declassified.

I LOVED this book, and if you have any interest in codes, codebreaking, espionage, and the history of World War II, you need to read this book. Elizebeth Friedman was a dynamic and powerful woman who was not afraid to use her mind. Read it!

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ***** Five out of five stars!!! Maybe more.


The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale is a book for those of you, like myself, who love the brooding stories of the Bronte sisters such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, with perhaps a bit of Wilkie Collins thrown in, The Moonstone. (And by the way, if you haven’t read those three books, by all means order them all now or get to your local library and remedy that error in your book reading ways).

Our main character, Margaret Lee, is summoned to the country to write the biography of famous author Vida Winter. Throughout her life, Ms. Winter has invented many versions of her origins and life story to shield the truth. Now is the time to share her tale with Margaret, who has her own clouded and troubled story of her birth and childhood.

In this book, you get great characters, abandoned country houses, destroyed topiary gardens, ghosts, wild twins, a great house fire to conjure up scenes of Jane Eyre, and so much more. It’s a way of bringing those past ghosts to light and freeing those in the present of their haunting.

I know those who absolutely obsess over this book and how good it is. Yes, I enjoyed the book very much and a return to the feel of some of those Victorian novels. Each character (and there are quite a few of them!) is well-developed and well-placed in the setting. I don’t obsess over it, but I do definitely recommend reading it! It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time to really transport me back in time through good storytelling.

Women’s What to Read Next Rating: ***** Five out of five stars.

Sugar free latte with almond milk at Barnes and Noble #booksandcoffee #ilovebooks #explorermomma

Books and coffee

So now, this is me telling you, go to your local bookstore! Enjoy your sugar-free almond milk latte (that’s mine above) or coffee, or tea, or whatever! Take some time for yourself and just breathe in the books. Wander about the bookstore and find the perfect one for your mood or pick one on my list above.

Today I found myself perusing the military history section of the bookstore. Why? Well, why not? I love history, and read a lot of historical fiction, but sometimes the true stories are even more compelling. If I hadn’t hung out in the military history section I might never have found The Woman Who Smashed Codes. Of course, you can do this section hopping on your phone or online too, I just happen to enjoy the luxury of doing it in a real bookstore!

So I challenge you! Try a new genre or section to choose your next read. You just might find your new obsession.

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