Mary Chapin Carpenter

Three beloved favorites selected by the singer-songwriter.

Grammy Award-winner Mary Chapin Carpenter crafts folk-tinged ballads that appeal to the heart and galvanize the spirit. Her new album, Ashes and Roses, is the most confessional record of her career, examining themes of heartbreak, loneliness, grief, and gratitude. When we asked her to pick three essential reads, the singer-songwriter responded, “It seems an impossible assignment, to declare what my three favorite books are…so I will say that these are among my favorites, as I know that I could wake up tomorrow with a different list and that would make me crazy.”

Music by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Blood, Bones & Butter

By Gabrielle Hamilton

“This is one of those memoirs where it feels as if you are being taught something important in every chapter. I found her descriptions of her childhood to be very moving, as we grew up in the same part of the world, and I remember those hot and humid summer days as easily as I breathe in and out. As she goes out into the world, fights her battles, works toward self acceptance, discovers her passions, I felt as if she was talking to me through every experience. Her gifts as a writer are stunning, and the fact that she is a celebrated cook, self taught in everything and tough as nails just make me love and admire her more.”

Peace Like a River

By Leif Enger

“A magical novel about a journey, childhood, loss, memory, family, and faith — and so much more that I can’t even describe. Reading this magic story, as I did on my honeymoon (I could hardly tear myself away from it to spend time with my then husband; that should have been an omen on the fate of the union), I found myself weeping at different times. And I didn’t want it to end. I have given this book to dozens of people. The greatest compliment it received was from a friend who said that it spoiled her for all future novels. Nothing could be as extraordinary an experience as reading this book. I knew what she meant.”

Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott

“Growing up, I read and re-read this classic endlessly. Over and over. I would come in late after school from practice or some activity and dinner would be done, so I would sit with a warmed-up plate in the quiet kitchen turning the pages to keep me company. I knew it almost by heart. And as a young girl, often lonely, often alone, it was my company, my moral compass, as it was when it was first published for millions of young girls. It is an idealized story, but there are losses, tragedies, heartbreak even so — and in the end, it gives one hope that second chances are possible. As is hope, resilience, dreams that come true, and most important of all, love. Alcott was a fascinating figure and I’ve found my way to a number of biographies of her and her complex father Bronson Alcott; his involvement in the transcendentalism movement is both fascinating and illuminating as to how it figured in his daughter’s future as a revered author.”