I am so happy with all of your suggestions!! Gracias! There were many named that I haven't read yet, and there were also quite a few that I have read, and some of those several times over. I loved how varied the responses were, and I'd love to have some discussion on what you put out there.
As the comments started coming in, I realized right off the bat that I had left off a genre that I have read quite extensively: the Christian fiction novel. Let's park there first, as that seemed to encompass many of the recommendations. I'll start with Francine Rivers, one of my favorites. To my knowledge, I've read everything she's written, including Redeeming Love, which is most definitely a powerful allegory of Christ's love for us. It's lengthy, but it is a fast read, and worth the time if you haven't read it. But, even though I love that story, my favorite by far is her Mark of the Lion series set in AD 50 in Rome. There is some fantastic early church history, and Francine's character Hadassah goes down in my record book as one of the most amazing and inspirational I've encountered. Rivers also has a fantastic series on the women in the lineage of Jesus, including Mary, Ruth, Tamar, and Rahab.
Karen Kingsbury was also highly recommended, and while I have read some, I certainly have not read all. I did read the entire series on the Baxter family shortly after Marianna was born, but for some reason I didn't ever read any of her other stories. Her books are easy, entertaining, and encouraging, and if you usually don't like to read, they are a great place to start!
Another author in this genre that one or two mentioned was Bodie Thoene. While not as well known as the others, to me her writing style surpasses them both. She is a master of the historical fiction novel, and her two series entitled The Zion Chronicles and The Zion Covenant are unsurpassed. Each series has 7 books, so it is a huge commitment time wise, but if you are an avid reader, I would say these two sets are a MUST. One series focuses on the beginning of World War II while the other details the years preceding Israel becoming a nation.
Several of you also mentioned The Red Tent, by Anita Diamont, and this is one I will be adding to my short list on what to read next, as it definitely sounds like it will be right up my ally.
I told you last post that I am a history nut, and several suggestions looked like they would be great reads. I am definitely intrigued by the book on The Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, especially considering our current economic climate. I also would love to read 1776 and John Adams, by David McCullough.
I knew this would happen, and sure enough, several of you were proponents of the Russian novel. I have read my share of classics, but something has been holding me back, some strange apprehension or fear of getting in over my head, which has resulted in my continually avoiding anything Russian. Maybe it's the fact that I can't even spell the books titles, which makes me wonder about what lies within. Whatever the case, maybe now is the time. I just might make that my poolside read this summer and see how it goes.
There were a few suggestions for books that were garuanteed to make me cry, and when the mood is right, I'll admit that I like to settle in for a book that will bring some tears. But the thing is, I usually like to sit down with that sort when I have an uninterrupted block of time, and as any of you with young children know, those are few and far between.
Someone mentioned the Anne of Green Gables series, which brought back wonderful memories of when I read those when I was a little girl. It made me want to read them again, but this time with Marianna when she is just a little bit older. I think I will read a chapter a night and see if she loves them as much as I did.
There were many, many other suggestions, and I promise you, I will be coming back to check them as soon as I get through the first few on my list. Which brings me to what I have decided I will start tonight. It would have been hard to choose, but fortunately, Mrs. Livona made that decision easy for me when she lent me her copy of The Shack. I've heard lots of chatter about this one, so I am very much looking forward to reading it for myself. I have only a vague idea of what it is about, but when I'm done, I'll make sure I give a little review.
I hope many of you will choose one of the books suggested and let me know how you liked it! Happy Reading!!