Elizabeth Berg's new novel is The Confession Club, her third book about fictional small town Mason, Missouri. Below, the best-selling author of The Story of Arthur Truluv and two dozen other novels recommends "books for a kinder, gentler world."
Open Secrets by Alice Munro (1994).
Many call Munro "a writer's writer." I think she's a people's writer. No one compares with her for psychological acuity, and you never see what's coming until she's practically floored you. She is the rare writer who really does take your breath away. Every one of her sentences is perfection.
Beat This! by Ann Hodgman (1993).
Here are recipes for familiar staples — roast chicken, spaghetti sauce, apple crisp — except each is the best version of those dishes ever. Oh, you might think you don't need a cookbook when everything is online, but you need this one, badly. Bonus: Ann's commentary is laugh-out-loud funny.
One Man's Meat by E.B. White (1942).
Don't tell anyone this: Beyond Charlotte's Web, I didn't read E.B. White until after his death. His obituary contained a few lines from this collection of magazine columns, and I thought, 'Wow. I've got to read this!' I have, over and over. An example of White's sublime wit: "Being the owner of dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor. Every sentence is a riot."
Healing the Divide edited by James Crews (2019).
If you think you don't like poetry, you might not have found your poet yet. Here is an anthology with a wonderful mix of poets, such as Jane Kenyon, Ted Kooser, and Naomi Shihab Nye, focused on reminding us that the world is still full of beauty and kindness. Read one each morning and you'll feel better. (Listen to me: I'm a former nurse.)
The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman (2018).
In rural Australia in 1968, a sheep farmer recently deserted by his wife is asked to build shelves for a Holocaust survivor's new bookstore. From there, an extraordinary relationship develops. Wonderfully crafted, unsentimental, and deeply moving. I adored all the characters — even the sheep.
The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler (2004).
I have never read an Anne Tyler novel that I haven't loved. In this tale of two people who never should have gotten married, Tyler is quirky, her characters are eccentric, and you keep re-reading her dialogue for the sheer pleasure of it. The world she creates is the world I want to live in.