My 10 Favorite Books with Sarah Bessey

by jessicaturner on January 7, 2014

Sarah Bessey - GraphicWell, first things first, eh? It’s an absolute honour to be sharing Jessica’s space here. I have such respect for her and am thankful for her presence in my life and for her work. Jessica has a gift for friendship, and she has brought richness, conversation, a challenge to be more intentional, and a lot of laughter to my life.

But when Jessica asked me to share my 10 favourite books here, I floundered. Just ten? Ten books OF ALL TIME? I’m a voracious lifelong reader and so the very notion was laughable. Impossible. It can’t be done – not by me anyway. I have favourite works of literature, favourite theology books, favourite memoirs, favourite poetry books, favourite biographies, favourite children’s literature, favourites for Sunday afternoons, and favourites for Christmas Eve. But just ten favourites that encompasses all the seasons and preferences of my life? Can’t do it, Mrs. Turner.

And since I am unable to perform even the simplest of tasks to specifications, I’ve decided to narrow the field a bit to my ten favourite books for a cozy evening. My apologies.

Of course, we read books to be changed, to know we’re not alone, to be enlightened, to be educated. We read to be challenged, to have our brain stretched in a new direction, to grow up, to walk a mile in some else’s shoes, to learn.

But sometimes, especially on the cold nights of winter, I like to set aside my highest intentions and simply burrow into a good book that feels as cozy and satisfying as a freshly laundered quilt. That variety of reading makes me feel more like a person and reminds what I love first about reading – the beauty of a good story.

Persuasion by Jane Austen. This lesser-known novel of Jane Austen’s is one of my two favourites of hers. Anne is a wonderful character, the story is comic, genius, mellow, simply superb. And the climax, in particular the letter from Captain Wentworth, well. SWOON.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. This was my favourite “fun” read of the past summer. The premise of the book has sparked fascinating conversations among my girlfriends. This is one of those books that is just so fun to read and talk over with your friends afterwards.

Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. A collection of essays from the ferociously honest and self-deprecating abbess of Momastery, Glennon’s book actually did make me laugh out loud and cry real tears. She’s brilliant, yes, but she’s wise and wry and heartbreakingly real. An evening with her makes me feel glad to be alive.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Almost the entire catalogue of L.M. Montgomery books should be here, they are my ultimate comfort books. (I spent an entire two days last week re-reading Anne of the Island.) I’ve worn out every paperback from that shelf of honour in our home, but I chose just this one for the list. The characters are an absolute delight to me and it’s just a plain happy-ending pure satisfying read. It’s also quite funny.

The Reading Group: A Novel by Elizabeth Noble. I have a weakness, and her name is British chick-lit. Elizabeth Noble is one of my favourites in that maligned genre, and this is my favourite one. It follows a group of women in a book club (books! more books! English characters talking about books!). It’s funny, more insightful and complicated than you’d guess by the cover.

The Forgotten Garden: A Novel by Kate Morton. I love a good mystery. And this is a good mystery. You might not want to start this one if you want to get anything done for the next day or two.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I love, love, loved this book. So delightful, interesting. I missed the characters when it ended, actually missed them.

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. I very nearly chose her previous book, Bittersweet, to put here because it’s still so dear to me, but I’m going to go with Bread & Wine. The chapter she wrote about how afraid women are to admit to their hunger is amazing. I love how she writes so effortlessly about the deep things of life, and this book – filled with accessible recipes – is even better than the gathering at the table for this introvert. I like to read about parties more than I like to attend them.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotee Brontë by Syrie James. Jane Eyre was on my first draft of this post – I’ve worn out three copies of that book. So I devoured this novel, set up as a diary, about the author and the lives of the three writing sisters on the moors. I am a sucker for these kinds of books.

And of course, no winter is complete without the Harry Potter series. I re-read the entire series every year or so. The problem with that is that once I pick up the first one, just as a little treat for one evening, then I don’t get anything done for the next two weeks while I obsessively read all seven books, cover to cover, once again.

What about you? What are your favourite books to read on a cozy winter night?


Sarah Bessey is the author of “Jesus Feminist”, an invitation to the Kingdom of God waiting on the other side of the Church’s gender debates. She is an award-winning blogger at, an editor at A Deeper Story, a contributor for SheLoves Magazine, and a passionate advocate for global women’s justice issues. One of those happy-clappy Jesus-followers, Sarah is a joyful subversive, a recovering know-it-all, and a voracious reader. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their three tinies.


Twitter: @sarahbessey



{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan January 7, 2014 at 6:37 am

I love reading lists such as this. I am a fan of Persuasion, and also love watching the BBC dvd of this wonderful book each winter. Harry Potter is a must, annually – at least the last book if time is short. I love LM Montgomery and have The Blue Castle on my shelf, waiting to be read. This is just the nudge I needed. And What Alice Forgot? A perfect vacation read. I loved it too.

Thanks for posting this list, there are a few titles that are brand new to me – best go write them down, right now!


Sarah Bessey January 7, 2014 at 11:30 am

Well, since we seem to be such kindred spirits for books, please share your favourites, too, Susan – I could use a new nice winter read!


Susan January 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Well, first of all I’m happily reading your book! But we’re speaking of cozy fiction, aren’t we :-)

While on our Christmas holiday trip I read a very comfy book by Rosamund Pilcher, September. It suited perfectly for travel and reading on trains. Before that I was in the same zone, and enjoyed Minding Frankie by M. Binchy very much. Another book that I recently enjoyed was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. Also a non-fiction that I couldn’t put down: In the Midst of Life by Jennifer Worth.


Kim January 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm

September is one of my top 10. Also, by Pilcher, The Shell Seekers and Winter Solstice. Another favorite author is Susan Vreeland, especially The Passion of Artemisia and Girl in Hyacinth Blue.


emily p freeman January 7, 2014 at 8:16 am

First, what a fantastic idea for a series Jess!

And second, great list!

I loved Guernsey and recommend the audio version. The accents and different voices reading the letters totally made the book for me.


jessicaturner January 7, 2014 at 10:02 am

Thanks, Emily! I am enjoying it as much as everyone else. :) I totally want to listen to the audio version now of Guernsey.


Sarah Bessey January 7, 2014 at 11:32 am

Oooo….the audio version! good call.


Julie B January 7, 2014 at 8:17 am

I love that you chose Persuasion! It would be on my list, too. Like Sarah, I don’t think I could narrow my faves down to 10, but it sure would be fun to see what would make the cut! This is a great series, Jessica.


jessicaturner January 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

Thank you! So glad you are enjoying it!


Sarah Bessey January 7, 2014 at 11:34 am

I love that book so much, it gets better with every re-read. And the BBC film with Amanda Root is phenomenal.


Julie Clawson January 7, 2014 at 9:47 am

Oh, I love The Blue Castle. Read it over and over as a kid. Haven’t thought about it in years. Now I have to go find a copy. :)


Sarah Bessey January 7, 2014 at 11:33 am

There’s something wonderful about rediscovering and re-reading books as an adult! I re-read all the Wrinkle in Time books a few years ago and it was just marvellous.


Bridge January 7, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I love all the books I’ve read on this list and will definitely pick up those I haven’t! I also revisit the Boy Who Lived annually, but had to switch to audio books because of the intense, time-consuming nature of reading the whole series. (Confession: occasionally, on a bad day, I just listen to the epilogue all by itself – it just makes me that happy).


Blaire McDaniel January 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Would I be a total tool if I said YOUR book tops my list??


Barb from CNY January 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I love your list, thanks for the great ideas! I too love-LOVE-Brit chic lit and love Elizabeth Noble…have read and enjoyed each one and agree that The Reading Group is wonderful.


Alysa January 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

I felt the same way when I was finished with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. So good.


Misty January 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I just finished “A Light Between Oceans” by ML Stedman and it was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in awhile. It was absorbing, heart-wrenching, and a bit suspenseful but in the end incredibly hopeful and satisfying. Reading this list, I thought it might be a recommendation that went along nicely. You won’t want to put it down though. Plan accordingly. :)


Linda@Creekside January 7, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Ah … we must be kindred spirits or something. ‘Cause I was huddling under a quilt yesterday, warding off the chill, gathering just a few books around me


Carly @ Creating Mom January 7, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I enjoy curling up to a John Grisham novel. I know it’s not literature, but the plots are exotic and fun. A true escape read. Last week, I read “The Confession”, one of his latest. Also Anne Lamott books are cozy winter reads. For January, “The Circle” and “Jesus Feminist” are on my list. Yep, I just ordered it and can’t wait until it arrives.


Susan January 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm

I read “The Testament” this summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. John Grisham is a good read :-)


Annie January 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I love rereading books as an adult, and wish I had time to do more of that. (There are too many new books I want to read!) My go-to cozy reread is “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith.


Kimberly January 8, 2014 at 9:43 am

I don’t even know where to begin. So much literary deliciousness in one post, and now I feel the need to pull out a well-worn stack of my books (Persuasion! Bread and Wine! H.Potter!) and re-read them. Will there ever be enough time?


Rachel Franklin January 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I love this list, and have many of the books on it. I re-read Madeleine L’Engle’s “Wrinkle” trilogy and beyond each year. I have absolutely devoured them since I was a young girl. I have to admit, I watch AoGG more than I read it, but I’m going to change that. I always look forward to your book lists, Sarah. And thank you, Jessica, for hosting this series.


PHOTOGJENN May 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I found this at our library book sale last month. After reading so much of her non-fiction, I HAD to pick this up!


Sarah Caldwell January 8, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Posts like this make me swoon, and to have one of my favorite bloggers Sarah, sharing some of her fave reads is just plum delightful. There’s a good few I’ve read on this list, and a few I’m adding to my reading list. So great! And I’m especially looking forward to reading your new book whenever it releases, Jessica! :)


jessicaturner January 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Yes, Sarah is a delight! :) My book comes out early next year. I’ll be sure to share when there is an official release date. Right now, I am staying focused on getting it written.


Heather January 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I just read The Light Between Oceans and now I’m reading Beautiful Ruins and both have been devoured while under a down comforter. It’s COLD for Texas….lately.

Love your list, Sarah. Wouldn’t it be THE BEST if we really could read ALL the books?


Leigh Ann @ Intentional By Grace January 8, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Great list! I agree – no winter series is complete without all of Harry Potter! I’m so tempted to pick them up again and read them … thanks to you! :)


Jamie Ivey January 8, 2014 at 9:47 pm

LOVED this Sarah! Thanks bunches!


Bev Murrill January 8, 2014 at 10:08 pm

I love your reading lists Sarah… and I love that they are written for you and for anyone who can identify with you and that LM Montgomery is so often there. I think that out of all the books, The Blue Castle is the only one I’ve not read, but I’ll remedy that. I just finished reading Anne of Green Gables with one of my granddaughters onto mp3 player for my other granddaughters… I’m going to do the whole series, cause it’s a book every girl should read.

This is a funny set of books, but whimsical enough to appeal to some of us if you can get past the title… The Monster Blood Tattoo is a trilogy. Completely unusual and like no story you ever read but captivating in its own way. A bit too much minutiae, in the same way that Lord of the Rings does, but very interesting and the premise is that not all monsters are monsters and not all those who appear monstrous, are! I only read it because I made a bargain with someone to read what he had recommended… but you may like it.


cheryl January 10, 2014 at 6:26 am

I absolutely love reading lists. They are the world’s greatest time saver. Too many books out there….not enough time. I just wanted to throw one of my favourites out there. 84 Charing Cross Road. Just the smallest of books, but I always wanted to crawl into it and live there.


Kristen May 18, 2014 at 10:55 am

Thank you for this list – loved seeing so many of my own personal favorites! Have read the Anne series too many times to count, and you inspired me to order copies of the books by L.M. Montgomery I don’t have (if you haven’t tried Better World Books already for used books they are a great source). I adored What Alice Forgot too – it sparked numerous discussions with my friends and was a great book club book. I cannot say enough good things about Carry On, Warrior – and Glennon is how I came to read this list after she shared your new video the other day on FB. The Guernsey book is another favorite. In case you haven’t already read these, a few other books I feel are “cozy” or at least feel-good reads are: I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan; Hannah’s Dream by Diane Hammond; and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I’m also in the middle of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin now and it is wonderful.


PHOTOGJENN May 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Austen, Montgomery, Niequist. Yes! And Yes! Love this list.

My top 3 are a bit diverse and unusual:
1. The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas)
2. Christy (Marshall)
3. The Hiding Place (ten Boom)


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