Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Books I Recommended (And People Actually Bought)

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

The internet calls book bloggers "influencers," but how much influence do we actually have? Do people really buy the books we shout about incessantly?

I checked the data from this blog's affiliate links* to find out. I discovered that the answer is yes! People do buy the books I screech about.

Here are the last 10 books people bought from my affiliate links.

*What the heck are affiliate links? In many of my blog posts, you'll see buttons that say "Buy it on Amazon" or something like that. When someone clicks the button and buys the book, Amazon tells me which book was bought. That's all they tell me.

Books are not more expensive when people use my links, but I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

📚  Books I Recommended (And People Actually Bought)  🤑

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Middle Grade Novel-In-Verse

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

Why you should read it: It's loosely based on the author's experience as a Vietnamese refugee living in the US. I love Hà. She’s a sweet character who comes across as a believable ten-year-old with childlike concerns. She wants to know what they serve for lunch at school and why the men in cowboy hats don’t own horses. Those are probably the same questions I would’ve had as a kid. The author does an excellent job of capturing the disorientation of being in a new country. There’s one scene where Hà is looking up words in the dictionary, but there are so many definitions for each word that she gets confused. She has to muddle through life and figure things out on her own. I admire her resilience.

Buy it on Amazon

Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Young Adult Historical Fiction

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

Why you should read it: The writing is good! The book is about prison camps, so it has the potential to be massively depressing, but it’s actually a hopeful story. It focuses on the goodness in people and how strangers can help each other survive horrible situations. The setting is well-developed. It’s easy to picture the train cars stuffed with prisoners, and the lice-infested shacks at the camps. I’ve never been to Siberia, and I wasn’t alive in the 1940s, but this novel brought everything to life for me.

Buy it on Amazon

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Adult Historical Fiction

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

Why you should read it: Brilliant nature writing! A tense plot with lots of twists! The reader can feel the remoteness of Alaska, but the characters aren’t truly alone. They’re with a community of quirky, memorable weirdos. When humans and nature turn deadly, they rely on each other’s skills to keep (most of) the community alive.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Adult Literary Fiction

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father's vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie's father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

Why you should read it: It’s a story about the invisible walls that stop people from understanding each other. There are walls between our past and present. There are walls between genders, age groups, classes, and education levels. There are even walls between urban and rural people. The characters in this novel are doing an experimental anthropology project where they try to live like ancient Britons. The project goes wrong when a few members get too wrapped up in their own selfish agendas. They are incapable (or unwilling) to see how their actions are hurting the rest of the group. They can’t see beyond their own ghost walls.

The Smell Of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Young Adult Historical Fiction

Alaska, 1970. Being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.
Four very different lives are about to become entangled.


Why you should read it: It’s a story about connections and how small gestures can mean a lot. The characters and setting are well-developed. If you’re a wannabe writer who wants to learn how to make a setting come alive, you need to read this book! There’s a quote on the back cover from Eowyn Ivey that says “This book is Alaska,” and I fully believe that. There are beautiful descriptions of the landscape, but the setting goes deeper than that. The author shows the values and lifestyles of small-town people. She also shows the cultural differences between the white characters and the native characters. It all feels very authentic.


Buy it on Amazon


Adult Crime / Thriller

Suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie's ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante.

Why you should read it: Tom Ripley is a devious dude. This novel is full of near misses. I wanted Ripley to be caught because he’s a dangerous criminal, but I didn’t want the story to end. I was gripped by how far Ripley would push his crimes. He's an iconic character who you will never forget.


Adult Nonfiction Memoir / Essays

One of the comedy world's brightest new voices, Trevor Noah is a light-footed but sharp-minded observer of the absurdities of politics, race and identity, sharing jokes and insights drawn from the wealth of experience acquired in his relatively young life. As host of the US hit show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he provides viewers around the globe with their nightly dose of biting satire, but here Noah turns his focus inward, giving readers a deeply personal, heartfelt and humorous look at the world that shaped him.

Noah was born a crime, son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away.

A collection of eighteen personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man's fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother—a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.

Why you should read it: This book is both accessible and hilarious. You’ll learn a ton about South Africa’s history, culture, and government, but you’ll never feel like you’re learning because Trevor Noah is an entertaining storyteller. I don't understand how he survived his childhood. He got himself into so much trouble!


Adult Nonfiction / Biography

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life—why did he leave? What did he learn? As well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.

Why you should read it: The history of hermits is surprisingly fascinating. This is a nonfiction book that you’ll have to keep reminding yourself is true because Christopher Knight is a highly unusual person. I’m not a people-lover, but I don’t think I could live like he did. That lifestyle is a little too lonely. (Also, I'm way too clumsy to be a successful burglar.)


Adult Literary Fiction

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage—after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures—Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time—until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does—but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine.

Why you should read it: So many plot twists. Every time I thought I knew where the plot was going, it completely changed directions. The characters are complicated. I was so invested in their story that I downloaded the audiobook so I could listen to it at work. I’d get mildly irritated whenever I had to pause the book to help a customer. I didn’t want to be rudely jerked out of Yejide’s world. I could have read this novel in one sitting if work hadn’t gotten in the way. I really didn't want to put it down.


Middle Grade Nonfiction / Memoir

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.

At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls—all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.

In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.

Why you should read it: This is a children's book, but it's not just for kids! It has beautiful illustrations and historical photos. You will fall in love with Margaret. She's tenacious, imaginative, and won't let anyone bring her down. As someone who was bullied in school, I could relate to a few of her experiences. I'll be passing this book on to my niece when she's old enough to appreciate it.

Which books have you recommended to others?


  1. I've read most of Kristin Hannah's books, but for some reason, The Great Alone is one I never gravitated towards!

  2. The Stranger in the Woods sounds really interesting.

    My post: https://lydiaschoch.com/top-ten-tuesday-books-ive-recently-recommended-to-others/

  3. Okay, I love the sound of Ghost Walls. I do an annual event called Read of England where I read nothing but English history & lit for a whole month (April). Definitely putting that on the list for next year if curiosity doesn't bid me buy it before! My TTT is here. :)

  4. I love that you recommended these and someone bought them! That's so cool!

  5. Hitchcock's book is so underrated. She is a fantastic author. I loved her short story collection too.

  6. As much as I love Kristen Hannah, I have yet to read The Great Alone. That one seems to have a bleakness that I'll need to be in the mood for.

  7. How great that you can track what people bought based on your recommendation! I LOVED Between Shades of Gray; Inside Out and Back Again; The Great Alone; and Born A Crime

  8. Some fantastic books on your list today. Thanks for the reminder to read to The Great Alone. Happy reading! My TTT https://readwithstefani.com/books-i-recommend-to-others-the-most/

  9. I loved that Ripley book! I have to continue the series.

  10. I want to read The Talented Mr. Ripley. I am not sure what is taking me so long to get to it.

  11. The Stranger in the Woods sounds interesting. It sounds like "Into the Wild" with a better ending

  12. I've read the first three of these as well as BORN A CRIME. THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS is one I've been wanting to read. It sounds fascinating!

    Happy TTT!

  13. Great list of books, gave me some new ones to look into to add to my ever growing TBR.

  14. Fatty Legs is a book I keep seeing, yet I have never read. I really should though. Thanks for the reminder.

    Pam @ Read! Bake! Create!

  15. That is so cool that you can track the books people bought based on your recommendations-I never have any idea if people choose to read books I recommend on my blog, unless they tell me! You have a couple of books I really loved on here: Between Shades of Gray and Born A Crime so I'm glad your recommendations helped more people find those great books!
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2023/05/09/top-ten-tuesday-419/

  16. That's very cool information to know. I bet it makes you feel happy, AJ!

    (And I might have been at least one of your Born a Crime sales!)

  17. I haven't read a Kristin Hannah book in so long. This looks like a good one.

  18. I've read a few of these books. Good list! Sarah Moss is an interesting & unusual author and I'd buy Ghost Wall.

  19. The only things people have ever bought from my affiliate links were like, a gift for a baby shower, and some cleaning supplies, which I don't understand at all. But I am very happy for you that you have like, actually convinced people to buy books! This is impressive! Also nicely done recommending Smelly Houses, such a fave.

  20. I love Ruta Sepetys's books, her stories are hard, realistc and important, this is my favorite

  21. Glad people are actually using your affiliate links! Yay for success!