PaperBackSwap Blog

Free Book Giveaway! What book has surprised you?



We can’t imagine life without books. They’ve been with us forever– from the fairy tales we read as children, through novels and science fiction and thrillers and memoirs, they’ve offered escape, instruction, entertainment, laughter and wisdom.

One thing we keep finding out: the genre of a book doesn’t necessarily predict what it might add to your life. Young adult books can give new perspectives even to grown-ups; some humorous books can contain a deeper truth.

So it shouldn’t have surprised us when we stumbled across some serious wisdom in a cookbook! Yes, a cookbook.

It says Start where you are. Feed yourself. Do your best, and then let go. Be helpful. Slow down. Don’t be afraid of food. Those are among the notes that Alana Chernila has on her refrigerator, and they also make the chapter headings for her cookbook, The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure.

The book goes right to the heart of a complex daily struggle for many. To eat organic, local, fresh and healthy — to do everything right — while the reality may be a grumpy hungry family at the end of a long day of work. Alana admits that sometimes she hates cooking dinner too! The Homemade Kitchen is a lovely cookbook — it’s beautifully photographed and includes basic recipes as well as fancier fare. But the author’s philosophy offers an extra dimension — like many books, this one is more than the sum of its parts.

Encountering The Homemade Kitchen reminded us again to stay adventurous in reading, to try books that might not be in a favorite genre, or a new author we’ve never heard of. Members have often told us that PaperBackSwap makes it easy to discover new authors or genres, since it’s not a huge commitment to get a book, and every book can be swapped again for a different one when you’re done reading.

Written as much for the reader as the cook, The Homemade Kitchen covers a globe’s worth of flavors and includes new staples (what Alana is known for) such as chèvre, tofu, kefir, kimchi, preserved lemons, along with recipes and ideas for using them. Here, too, are dishes you’ll be inspired to try and that you will make again and again until they become your own family recipes, such as Broccoli Raab with Cheddar Polenta, a flavor-forward lunch for one; Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder, “late summer in a bowl”; Stuffed Winter Squash, rich with leeks, chorizo, apples, and grains; Braised Lamb Shanks that are tucked into the oven in the late afternoon and not touched again until dinner; Corn and Nectarine Salad showered with torn basil; perfect share-fare Sesame Noodles; Asparagus Carbonara, the easiest weeknight dinner ever; and sweet and savory treats such as Popovers, Cinnamon Swirl Bread, Summer Trifle made with homemade pound cake and whatever berries are ripest, and Rhubarb Snacking Cake.
In this follow-up to Alana’s wildly successful debut, The Homemade Pantry, she once again proves herself to be the truest and least judgmental friend a home cook could want. ISBN 9780385346153


We are giving away a free, brand-new copy of this cookbook to one lucky member here on the Blog! Leave a comment telling us about a book that surprised you — that you didn’t expect to enjoy as much as you did– before the end of Sunday June 26th, and we’ll choose a commenter at random to receive The Homemade Kitchen . We’ll announce the winner here in the blog next week! NB: Contest open to PaperBackSwap members only (join here!).



Tags: , ,

104 Responses to “Free Book Giveaway! What book has surprised you?”

  1. (reading-rahel) says:

    I read a book by Charles Martin , “The Mountain Between Us”, that book really surprised me with the twist near the end of the story.

  2. Margaret H. says:

    I too was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading The Martian by Andy Weir. He knew his fate was sealed the moment he was abandoned on the planet, but he refused to give up. I felt the character’s despair, hope and determination and got to go on an adventure I would NEVER attempt in real life.

  3. Danielle R. says:

    I really enjoyed The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes. It isn’t a genre I normally read, but some of the details captured my imagination about the realities of what living with multiple personalities could be like.

  4. SirryD says:

    I recently read The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley. I can honestly say I was totally and pleasantly surprised by this book. I don’t really know what genre it fits into. That doesn’t matter. It sounded like science fiction, sort of. There is certainly some of that. There is an amazing rescue, a developing love story, complicated family dynamics, some mystery, some history, and an unexpected but satisfying ending. Among the thousands of books I have read, this stands tall in its beautifull writing, captivating story, and inspiring message. Yes, it is surprising on all levels. Loved it and recommend it.

  5. Sandra C. (muthagoos) says:

    The book that surprised me was a children’s book! My granddaughter had read it and loved it. We saw it was being made into a play, so I decided to take her. We loved the play so much I decided to buy the book for her. The book was Mirette on The High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. I read the book and really enjoyed it.

  6. Peggy Forstad says:

    I was in the process of reading James Herriot’s veterinarian books, but the library copy was checked out. In a huff, I checked out a book called “An Uncommon Gift” by James S. Evans. It was revolutionary for me, a mother of a highly hyperactive daughter. The book was written by an adult man who had dyslexia and hyperkensia, and it started unravelling the intense guilt I felt toward not being a good enough parent to my daughter. I don’t know how I would have made it through her childhood and adolescence were it not for the insightful honesty of this book’s writer. (By the way, she’s now the grandma of my first and second great-grandsons!)
    Thanks for letting me share about this book.

  7. Ginger S. (gingerrr) says:

    I have an author that I didn’t know I was going to enjoy so much! It is Karen Kingsbury. Her Red Shoe series is wonderful! The favorite so far is The Gift. It is a small book but is so great!


  8. Sharon P. says:

    Peter Collington wrote two very detailed picture books: On Christmas Eve and The Tooth Fairy. I found them in our school library when I taught second grade. They weren’t your typical children’s book and I fell in love with them. After I left teaching, they went out of publication (they’re back now) and I couldn’t find them anywhere until I placed them on my wish list here and one magically showed up on my front porch! I was thrilled and have since read them many times to my grand children. Who would have thought the most popular book in the house would be one without words, where the story gets more exciting every time we read it!!

  9. Wallis D says:

    I recently read Maria Augusta Von Trapp’s memoir, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers”, and was really surprised and delighted that it was so much fun! I felt as if I really got to know Maria, and I found the Trapp’s strong faith really inspiring. After reading it, I decided that I’ll read another of her memoirs, “Yesterday, Today and Forever.”

  10. CJ Keele says:

    I read Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie and feel in love with all the characters . I was thinking this would be a play of Nancy drew but oh no this was one of the best books I had ever read. So of course now have read the whole series .

  11. Penni says:

    My first Dark Hunter book by Sherrilyn Kenyon opened my world up to about 30 books by her and I continue to purchase and swap latest editions. Now I’ve lost count of how many books under both names I’ve read.

  12. Danny N. (Alameda) Havelock, NC says:

    “The Crystal Shard” by R. A. Salvatore which introduced me to the world of the “Forgotten Realms” and into a love for trilogies – this was the 1st book in The Icewind Dale Trilogy – the 2nd being Streams of Silver followed by The Halfling’s Gem. Since then I have read over 90 of the Forgotten Realms series of books and loved them all (well mostly all). A fine melding of characters, races, good, evil, adventures, mis-adventures and just fun reads.

  13. Joyce Guetschow says:

    My “book club” (church lady friends) enjoyced “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend….. Two women become pen pals because of their love of books. One travels from Norway to Broken Wheel, Iowa to meet this friend….and then things really get complicated. All the books they read and share and listed and we have read many of them ourselves. A feel-good read!

  14. Kimberly Bills says:

    I have been reading a lot my favorite childhood books with my children. Recently we read The Secret Garden. I did like this book as a child but I expected to like it a little less as an adult and probably find it cliche. Instead I loved it just as much as when I was a kid. My 12 year old son and my two daughters also really loved it. One of the things I enjoyed was the concept of Magic, mixed up with science experiments, religion, and good health practices.

  15. hi i am yashi mahendra yesterday i read a fabulous book by chrles dickens ‘david copperfield which was realy a great learning experience for me and surprised me a lot . i love reading books and randomly i have read 102 books in my whole life reading gives me pleasure but readeing david coperfield was a great experience

  16. Michael Zosh says:

    For a road trip one weekend I downloaded The Alchemist having no idea what it was about. I had picked it up in Target one time, barely even skimming the back cover. As I listened I continuously heard lines and passages that resonated with me. About an hour into the audiobook I knew I was irrevocably in love with Santiago and his story. I rarely, if not never, re-read books. This is one I KNOW I will read again.

  17. Laurie P. (lauriepine) , says:

    I am mostly a Fantasy book reader, my bookshelves are busting at the seams with them. I read The Lord of the Rings when I was 14 years old. The reason I did was that I was a troublemaker, a kid that didn’t care about school, care about most anything. I was failing my Creative Writing class. The teacher met with me after school, he said “I know you don’t care, your too cool for that, but here’s the deal, you read this book, in total…you write me a paper, and maybe you will pass this class” I looked at it, it was huge and I thought this is going to be a wasted summer! Not so…I was glued to it, I loved it, it filled up every waking moment for me until I finished it. I realized I loved reading about other places, new things, other people. I wrote his essay and passed the class. I became a regular at the library and book stores. All the sudden, I realized, all that stuff I was doing didn’t matter anymore, school did and I loved it. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, went on to college. Without the teacher and that book, no telling where my life was going. It changed me forever. I’m 51 now, and still a huge reader though I branch out some to new genre’s now. I’ll never forget the teacher and the first book.

  18. Michelle H. (ahenleyreadit) says:

    I read Atlas Shrugged last year…I expected to have to trudge through it…like it was a book for school, but I ended up really enjoying it! It wasn’t a chore at all! 🙂

  19. Lisa says:

    Lily King’s “Euphoria” is one of the best books I’ve read this year. A member of my book group suggested we read this novel, which is based on the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. I thought I would have to plod through it, but how wrong I was! It’s a brilliantly written page-turner. I could not put it down!

  20. Betty W. (bejuwi) says:

    A book that surprised me was Bloody Politics by Maggie Sefton. Even though most of the “bad guys” are identified toward the beginning of the book, the mystery soon picks up and has me rooting for Molly.

  21. Mary J. (chuteboss) says:

    I was surprised by Pirate Hunters! I thought it was going to be a fairly straightforward book about diving for a ship, but it turned out to have history on pirates, the Mob, diving terminology and explanations…
    Very rich book.

  22. CC says:

    The Confederacy of Dunes keeps surprising me. I didn’t like it while I was reading it. I just didn’t like the character! But I think about it often and now, after a few years, I want to read it again.

  23. Joyce S says:

    The book Take This Bread by Sara Miles filled me with hope. I was delightfully surprised by the faith she found in God and the stories of people brought together and made into a family by cooking and eating together. Definitely a book i will reread!

  24. Evelyn B. (grannydingdong) says:

    I used to read all books by Dean Koontz, but then it seemed like his themes were becoming too dark and violent So, when I came across the book The Big Little Life…..A Memoir of a Joyful Dog, by him, I was reluctant to read it. But, not being able to pass up a bargain, I bought it.
    How glad I am that I did. It is such. a charming and delightful book about the years he spent with a very special dog.It gives the reader a look into his life, and made me see what a kind, humble man he must be. I have to say it is the most surprising book I have ever stumbled across.

  25. Having recently finished The Nighingale, I was somewhat hesitant to begin Lilac Girls, in the same genre, so soon. I am SO thrilled I did. What a simply marvelously written book: horrendous subject matter (Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and German occupied Poland, WWII), but gives incredible insight into the horrors these women suffered.

  26. Karen Z. says:

    I was looking for a book with a dog as a character. The book I chose was Emily and Einstein
    by Linda Francis Lee. It is a story about a ‘man’ and his wife. The man has a fatal accident, but he refuses to die. He makes a deal to do anything but cross over to the afterlife, so he becomes a dog…
    This book is a good read and insightful.

  27. Deborah H. says:

    I recently read Dear Mr. Rogers, having to explain who he was to my 13-yr. old, who was also intrigued by the book and decided to read it as well. The book did surprise me, and was definitely not my usual genre. It is composed of letters from children (and some parents) to Mr. Fred Rogers, including questions or comments about his show or just life in general. These (sometimes very young) children will write about ANYTHING, and I do mean nothing spared. Their questions are cute, blunt, serious, etc. and his answers back to them are extremely thoughtful, sincere, honest, and encouraging. Loved it!

  28. Melinda says:

    I have a goal to try books outside my normal taste a few times a year. A few years ago, i stumbled,across “Wild Magic” by Tamora Pierce. It is completely outside the genres of what I would normally read and like (juvenile fiction, fantasy) but I was drawn into the story and couldnt put it down.

  29. Mikayla says:

    The graphic novel, Friends with Boys, surprised me. I had never read a graphic novel and thought I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I did!

  30. Veronica says:

    I read Pastora by Joanna Barnes. I very seldom if ever read historical fiction, but my mom loves this one, so I decided to give it a try. I went into it expecting to read about the trials and tribulations of a woman oppressed by men and society in the 1800. What I found was a main character with grit and determination. A woman who, despite the era she lived in, didn’t let what others thought of her stop her from pursuing her dreams. Pastora is a character who reminded me to be my own person and pursue my own passions despite what anyone else may think.

  31. Anne B. (anneb) says:

    Cookbooks are my favorite genre, so I’m not at all surprised that you found some wisdom in a cookbook. Thinking about what book surprised me, I’d have to go with Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Wild Shore. I thought it was going to be just another dystopian future paperback, something to read on my lunch hour, but I found myself completely immersed in the story, the characters, and the world of the book. The descriptions of the natural world were exactly the sort of things I look for in nature, and I found it believable and very real. I didn’t want it to end~and that’s what surprised me.

  32. Susan says:

    I recently read “the life-changing magic of tidying up” and it has truly changed my life. I expected another improveyourlife litany but I was happily surprised! Author Marie Kondo has a unique and delightful way of teaching me to truly trust my heart and soul as to what belongs in my home and what I can truly and easily part with; as for items that are more difficult to let go, I was finally able to donate my beloved bowling ball (gold swirly with my name engraved on it along with my blue suede bowling shoes with ice cream shoelaces😛 and a bowling bag that handily carried both!) that I broke 200 with several times, that I’ve packed around with me from Tucson to Anchorage to Juneau to Oregon, even though I hadn’t actually used it for at least 25 years! I had MEMORIES and EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENTS to my bowling ball!!
    Ms. Kondo provided the tools and guidance to help me choose to let it go and even several weeks later I still feel proud of my choice! To me that is success, and the feeling of release and pride in making room in my life for more love and joy just makes me happy! Not many books have been such a pleasant surprise and I highly recommend it!

  33. Susan M. L. says:

    I happened upon a book by Danielle Steele at a local flea market. The book is calked Letters From Nam. I had read Danielle in the past, and was not expecting to get so engrossed in this book. By the end of the story, I had gone through all of the emotional spectrum, from happy to sad, n even angry and scared. This wonderful book shook me to my core. I fell in love with Danielle Steele’s books even more after reading Letters From Nam.

  34. Jody M. (jodymcgrath) says:

    Schizo by Irene Benator really surprised me. The cover art sucked, but I got an ARC so I thought I should read it and review it. It turned out to be really good. Totally shocked me. She does need to change the cover though.

  35. Christine says:

    Paradis Under Glass, an Amateur Created a conservatory. I honestly picked it up at the library because of the cover art. I had never read a micro history and i feel in love with the genre. The author weaves together the history of indoor conservatory gardens, her own life, and her struggle to create the conservatory of her dreams while undergoing a health crises. I Loved it.

  36. Diane B. says:

    Even tho I’m approaching 70 this year, I still enjoy creating new dishes for my family and community. I would love to explore this cookbook and try to embrace the outlook it brings forth…Wish me luck!

  37. Lisa G. (plum-marie) says:

    My surprise recently was The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy (The Penderwicks #1) by Jeanne Birdsall. I think it is targeted for young adults but after reading the first chapter aloud to my toddler I read the whole book that day. It is wonderfully told, you lose yourself in the excitement of the sisters and I loved everything about Penderwick honor and MOOPS/MOPS/OAP. Charming story about an adventurous summer, new friendships, standing up for what is dear to you, and family loyalty. The themes were a great reminder to my adult self and having 5 sisters myself I related to the characters and family love. Glad I went for a story that wasn’t meant for my age but still taught me something and left me happy after reading it.

  38. Nena C. (camperchick) says:

    I recently read Carly Simon’s memoir, Boys in the Trees, and was pleasantly surprised by the memories it stirred of the 70’s and 80’s music and artists that I loved so much back then.

  39. Bully L. (roxanne3) says:

    The Hunger Games. It was gifted to me for Christmas, but it was not something I would have picked out for myself. I really enjoyed it though and am grateful that I read it. Thanks for offering the giveaway!

  40. Tina B. (bookshelftreasures) says:

    The book that surprised me was “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. It was picked for discussion by my book club. This was years before the movie came out. I picked up the book from our local library, and was certain I was going to hate it. I wasn’t even impressed with the cover. I have to say I was hooked from the first paragraph. I have recommended it to several people. I have even bought it as a gift for a friend who is a nurse that worked with the elderly. I also bought a hard copy to put on my own shelf as a keeper. I love that book!

  41. Elizabeth Graham says:

    I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinckney. I’m glad my students will read this for the Reading Bowl. I think it would be a wonderful book for class discussions.

  42. Loretta D. (femmefatale) says:

    A book that recently surprised me was The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood. It is a young adult historical novel. I bought it to read to my grandchildren while we are on vacation together and thought I should read it first. What a treat. Good writing, an enjoyable plot, and interesting historical perspective.

  43. Julie Tsohandaris says:

    I have always been surprised by how much I fell in love with Plato’s Apology. I used to read it once a year, every year for 8 years, starting when I was 10 years old. I re-read it again a few years ago and his words still touched my soul.

  44. Angela Horne says:

    There have been several enjoyable books this last year, but the one that hasn’t (yet) been listed in the comments section is the YA novel “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer. Clever, and sweet.

    I’m going to pick up some of the other suggested books…

  45. Dyan Eisenberger says:

    The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg was a book I just picked up, through Paperback Swap, because the title caught my fancy. I have since read each one of her books, and loved them all! Thanks for making reading fun and easy!

  46. Sherry Schwabacher says:

    Red Plenty: Inside the Fifties’ Soviet Dream by Francis Spufford is a surprising book, challenging for anyone who grew up during the Cold War. Telling the story of the fairy tale that was supposed to create economic prosperity for the USSR, the “planned economy” proved as flawed as the “trickle-down economy” so many have believed in here in the USA.

  47. Jeaneene Nooney says:

    “Churchill Style, The Art of Being Winston Churchill” by Barry Singer surprised me because while the book did show an interesting view of Winston Churchill’s personal style of living, (cigars, foods, champagne, tailors, etc.) most of the emphasis and the fascination for me was the description of his life and character. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There are weightier books out there on Mr. Churchill for those who are keen on it, but this is a lovely small volume with great photos and a luxurious feel.

  48. Barb Weber says:

    The Circle Trilogy, by Nora Roberts. Best vampire books ever. I read these before someone asked me to read The Twilight books and they paled in comparison. The battle at the end was just awesome!!

  49. Jan Ciskowski says:

    Since I’m on vacation, I have been reading a lot of new and different books that I have been given from friends and relatives. I did bring my Nook with me, but also enjoy holding the book in my hand. I have read different books from Patricia Cornwell before but not lately. I was extremely happy when I found that the cruise ship I was on actually had a Library. I checked out her book Flesh & Blood I didn’t get to finish it on the cruise so had to check out from the library. Good and interesting story as always. Still, who would have thought that a cruise ship would have a library?

  50. Vicki White says:

    I joined a book club for two reasons: 1) to have someone to discuss books with and 2) to being reading outside of my comfort zone. As a result I have ready quite a few books that surprised me. Books I thought I’d never get through but I finished them and added other books to my TBR list. But the book that surprised me the most was “The Hunger Games”. Not only was it YA which I probably wouldn’t pick up on my own, it was Science Fiction/Dystopian etc. – definitely a genre I have ready very little of and usually stay away from. However, not only did the book hook me and reel me in, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the books. The descriptions of people and places made me feel I was there, watching it all. The characters were well developed and I cared about them. As someone who has attempted TWICE to read Harry Potter and not been able to get into it, my love for “The Hunger Games” series took my totally and pleasantly by surprise. Thank you to my book club, Books and Brew, for stretching my boundaries.

Leave a Reply