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The 24th Annual Wesleyan Artist Market – Up Close and Personal!



Wesleyan Artist Market

A Spotlight on Three Artists

Springtime in Peachtree Corners and surrounding neighborhoods is synonymous with a visit to the Wesleyan Artist Market (WAM). What better way to find treasures for our spaces than in person, discovering pieces that speak to us while connecting with the artists who share the vision behind their work?

After COVID canceled 2020 and then went virtual in 2021, WAM is thrilled to be back on campus this year. The market runs Friday, April 29, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, April 30, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission and parking are free for this family-friendly event.

Browse an array of acrylics, oils, mixed media, watercolors, sculptures, jewelry, pottery, glass and more while enjoying gourmet coffee and treats, all available for purchase.

Participating artists undergo a rigorous selection process, so WAM brings you the best. This year, 80 professionals were selected out of over 100 applicants. Also featured will be the works of 14 talented students.

Prices range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. There is truly something for everyone. A percentage of every sale goes to support the Wesleyan School fine arts program.

To preview participating artists and for more information, visit artistmarket.wesleyanschool.org.

  • Elizabeth Ables
  • Kristie Onorato
  • Jennifer Barnard

Elizabeth Ables

Elizabeth Ables

Stand by your mania to make

Nashville native Elizabeth Ables had classmates with star parents like Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Rony Millsap and Ray Stevens. As a teenager she caught Amy Grant performances at local bookstores before moving to Atlanta. Peachtree Corners has been her home for 28 years.

With a Communications and Sociology degree from Vanderbilt and an Education degree from Brenau, Ables has taught at Wesleyan for 15 years. She considers herself more of a creator than an artist, having dabbled in many different media over the years, from fiber arts, fashion design (particularly children’s heirloom clothing) and quilting to painting with watercolors and acrylics.

Ables developed an affinity for ceramics while guiding students through the toil and joy of turning globs of clarified dirt into something serviceable. “I’ve always been drawn to beautiful, functional art. I used to entertain a lot and wanted unique pieces, so I started creating my own. It feeds your soul when you create something that didn’t exist before,” Ables said.

Art imitates life

A sense of peace and tranquility emanate from her work. Ables finds inspiration in nature, gravitating towards layering glazes in blends of blues and greens — colors that evoke the ocean. She never tires of experimenting to get just the right blue, having long admired the striking hue of Martha Stewart’s Araucana chicken eggs, as well as robin egg blue.

Even her textures are inspired by the natural world. When creating surfaces on her vessels, Ables replicates tree bark and other things found in the environment.

A full-time teacher and busy mother, Ables creates her pottery at Spruill Center for the Arts where she also takes weekly classes, squeezing in workshops whenever she can. At Spruill, a community of artists support and uplift one another.

“I do what inspires me at the moment,” Ables explained. “On a cold winter night, I made a cable knit cardigan sweater-type surface on a vase. It looked like a slouchy sweater because that’s how I was feeling when I made it — I wanted something warm and cozy.”

Led by what inspires her, she leans into her feelings and allows art to become an escape. “I create things that I want to see, that make me happy,” Ables said.

The science behind the art

Making pottery requires equal parts patience and skill. An understanding of the chemical processes taking place in the kiln is fundamental. Still, one never knows exactly what color patterns will emerge. A multitude of factors can impact the final look of a piece.

Glaze mixing recipes abound in the world of ceramics. The same glaze blend can produce a turquoise, red or golden hue depending on the weather, the speed at which the piece is transferred from the kiln to a container filled with combustible material and heat variations within.

“When it’s hot outside, it doesn’t cool off as quickly whereas in the winter, it cools off very quickly, giving it a shock,” Ables said. Dealing with glazes is very scientific. “You’re mixing chemical compounds and minerals — magnesium, iron oxide. [One must think:] What’s going to happen when they’re heated to 2000°F?”

A glaze can be pink in its liquid form as it’s being painted onto a bowl and come out of the kiln royal blue — that’s what happens when it gets fired. One can imagine the look of disbelief on students’ faces when Ables explains this dramatic change in color will occur because the glazes undergo a chemical process. “You have to trust me,” she tells them.

Playing with fire

Ables explores different techniques. Raku is a Japanese firing process consisting of removing pottery from the kiln when it’s red hot at 1800°F and placing it into containers with combustible materials. When the materials ignite, the containers are closed, producing an intense reduction atmosphere (the oxygen is removed) which impacts the colors and finishes in glazes and clay bodies. “That’s how you get the brown and blackness. It can also bring out color depending upon the glazes used,” Ables said.

Horsehair can be applied to the surface of pieces when they are removed from the kiln to create markings. “The carbon in the hair sizzles and makes black streaks. It’s a totally organic process. You never know exactly what you’re going to get,” Ables explained. The same can be done with feathers and sawdust.

The Obvara firing process, which originated in Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages, involves a bisqued pot being heated to 1650°F and removed from the heat. The pot is then dipped into a fermented yeast mixture before being dunked in water to rapidly cool the piece.

What’s your clay body type?

Ables generally uses standard white clay in the classroom because it’s not too messy, but there are many different options available to ceramicists. Speckled clay bodies have a natural textural component — they look like sand. Ables likes to create a water-colored interior and use a clear glaze on the outside of her vessels made with this clay, highlighting its earthy beauty.

“Spruill stocks eight different clay bodies. I’ve purchased some from Davens Ceramic Center in Chamblee. My favorites are the gray speck, the chocolate brown and raku clay which is less likely to shatter. Lizella red clay is mined in Georgia,” she said.

Creating custom colored clay is also an option, albeit very time-consuming. By kneading powders into white porcelain clay, Ables made 10 clay body colors.

Embrace the imperfections

Shocking clay bodies inevitably comes with a 10% fail rate, sure to disappoint artists who put so much time and love into their work. Still, Ables turns kiln accidents into a learning opportunity for youngsters.

“As in life, sometimes things happen,” she said. “We have to learn to fail and move on. We get the chance to make it again. The fear of failure and risk is crippling. I share with them times I’ve failed with breakage or cracks.”

“We’re not perfect and God created us just the way we are. If you want perfect, go get something that’s commercially created, where they have a form and crank out thousands of them. Make something that’s more personal, that has your fingerprints on it, your uniqueness. That’s what makes it art,” Ables smiled.


A longtime participating artist, Ables has seen the market grow into an incredible showcase for artistic endeavors. Having former students exhibit is especially rewarding.

“The opportunity to be back together this year is exciting. Being surrounded by so much creative beauty, it’s like a springtime party that gets you enthusiastic about life,” Ables exclaimed.

Watch our video podcast with Elizabeth Ables.

Instagram: @Ables.Elizabeth

Kristie Onorato

Kristie Onorato

A heart for art

Kristie Onorato has enjoyed painting for as long as she can remember, but she kept it on the backburner for several seasons of life. Originally from Cleveland, Atlanta has been her home for 20 years. Her move to Peachtree Corners four years ago came with the added perk of a four-minute commute to work.

Onorato has been teaching art since 1992. She’s been at Wesleyan for 11 years. Despite being a busy single mom to two teenage daughters, she’s been able to devote more meaningful time to her artwork over the last six years.

An undergraduate degree in Art Education from Ohio State emphasized Art History, Criticism and Aesthetics. To refine her artistic skills, Onorato took evening classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art and local studios. Visiting museums and ateliers in Europe provided further enrichment.

Onorato holds a master’s degree in Administration with a Visual Arts focus from Parsons School of Design in New York. Her formation and experience enhance her lessons. She gifted her paintings to friends and family for many years before she ever considered selling her work.

So many styles, so little time

As many artists do, Onorato has gone through phases over the years, working in pastels, watercolor, ink and oils. She works mostly with acrylics on canvas now because they dry faster and don’t emit fumes. Experiments with mixed media combine printmaking, her own torn-up artwork collages, glass, broken pottery, sand and different inks, “just to see what can happen.”

Onorato is keen to try new ideas and is continually developing. While some have fully formed a personal style, Onorato can’t imagine committing to any one approach. “I like to play and have fun,” she explained.

The sky is limitless

Inspired from above by both her faith and natural wonders like a breathtaking sky after a storm, she said that sunsets, flowers and people are among her favorite subjects. “How I paint them changes. My work continues to evolve. I won’t get stuck in my ways, but will gladly revisit and tweak old pieces endlessly.”

Impassioned by interior design, ideas that catch her eye in magazines, while visiting showhouses or browsing online are integrated in her works.

A self-professed lifelong learner and educator, Onorato is grounded in her spirituality. “My faith in God informs everything I do. Everyone is created in God’s image, so we’re all creators of some sort. Whether I’m creating images on a canvas, an environment in my home or classroom, or a meal for my family, being in touch with my creativity feeds my soul. Nurturing our creative gifts is a way to show gratitude for them,” she said.

Onorato produces groups of similar paintings, or series. Squirting paint directly on the canvas and using palette knives, she creates pieces that vary in size from small, to 16×20 inches, to 3-foot by 3-foot squares. “It’s fun doing big,” she said.

Floating frames are her preference for the smaller ones. Larger paintings are on deep canvases that don’t necessarily require framing.

Liquitex, Golden and Atelier Free Flow are some of her favorite paints. “I like to try different looks — it’s more about the effect you can get than the brand,” Onorato explained. She sources canvases conveniently from Dick Blick, though she had them shipped from wherever she could find them online during pandemic shutdowns.

Time flies in the art studio

A light-filled room with easy-to-clean floors on the main level of her home is where Onorato paints for hours as the rest of the world seemingly melts away. The home studio allows her to come and go freely. “I set aside days to paint. Once I’m on a roll, I don’t like to stop,” she said. “Everything else tends to fall apart because I’m so into it.”

Completed paintings are stored in her spacious classroom so they’re readily transferable to the WAM.


Onorato works on commissions and participates in Wesleyan’s annual Artist Market. “I enjoy meeting artists from all over,” she said. “It’s exciting to learn about their artwork and the different shows they attend. I get to see friends and former students. It’s like being part of a big celebration or hosting a party.” ■

Jennifer Barnard

Jennifer Barnard

If you could say it in words, there’d be no reason to paint – Edward Hopper

Jennifer Barnard was born in Charleston, West Virginia, grew up in Decatur, Alabama and has lived in Georgia for 36 years. Her three sons attended Wesleyan. She has since moved from Peachtree Corners to a farm in Cherokee county.

Drawing is how Barnard has always processed the world. As a child, her profound silence worried her mother. “I was born an observer, always watching. I didn’t talk,” Barnard shared.

When she was 13, her grandfather passed away. “I didn’t have words to express my emotions, but I remember drawing his face. It made me feel close to him,” Barnard recounted.

Except for an art class in middle school, Barnard didn’t take lessons. Nor did art figure into her college prep track. Yet she gravitated towards sketching, advancing on her own. “If it’s there, it never goes away,” Barnard declared of her innate talent.

Her professional trajectory led to a master’s degree in Teaching the Hearing Impaired. After several years she also taught as a substitute at Wesleyan. When her boys were more independent, about 15 years ago, Barnard announced, “It’s my turn now,” to her spouse. She loved being a mother but was ready to nurture her talents.

As the boys got older, time increased. Now an empty nester, she can paint all day.

Today, her husband is her biggest fan. Barnard credits him with being supportive and occasionally allowing her to steal away with one of her paintings hanging in his office to sell it at an art show.

Every artist was first an amateur – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Carving out time to take classes in watercolor, pastels, colored pencils, color theory, portraiture, oils, and mixed media, as well as to paint, Barnard built her own curriculum. “I took 10 master level faux finishing classes which introduced me to materials like Venetian plaster, AquaStone and limewash,” Barnard said.

Barnard studied at Spruill Center of Arts in Dunwoody, Scottsdale Arts School in Arizona, Quinlan in Gainesville, The Booth Museum in Cartersville and sundry artists’ workshops.

“I seek those whose work I admire in magazines and, lately, on Instagram. Art is something you can never learn enough about. I’m continually growing and experimenting. I challenge myself to stay fresh,” Barnard said.

Artists and their materials are travel partners

According to Barnard, there’s an interplay between painter and materials. Sometimes the materials tell you what they want to be. Barnard uses archival quality products so her pieces will last. Oils are her first choice, but she switches between acrylics, mixed media, watercolors and pastels, pushing herself in different directions.

“Oils are buttery — fun to mix and layer. You can push and move them,” Barnard said. “Pastels are home — drawing was my first love. Mixed media is fun — I use unexpected elements like stucco finish, limewash, charcoals, layers of acrylic and move them around, spraying with water. A piece emerges from this flow of dance and discovery.”

The subject of her paintbrush is the deep truth that connects us

Drawn to beauty, Barnard finds companionship with God in nature. Her spirituality sprang from an inner quiet. Whether painting people, animals, flowers or landscapes, she listens to her subjects tapping into their unutterable essence. Barnard considers it her job to express this emotional connection as purely as possible.

A family history of breeding horses and her fondness for them make barns a special theme for her. She paints them with oils in a more traditional “modern impressionist” style. The subjects of her mixed media pieces, drippier and more abstract, tend to be figures — ballerinas, females, angels.

Barnard feels grateful to share her art. “What’s genuine in me connects to what is genuine in others. That deep truth is what makes community. It’s so important in this day and time to find what is genuine within ourselves,” Barnard said.

Plein-air painting renews my ‘art spirit’ – Bonnie Paruch

“I love painting en plein air. On location at Lake Lanier, in my backyard, on the coast, wherever. I’ll find places and either paint or do a study that later becomes a piece,” she said

“Paintings can be a combination of what I see in my mind and what’s in front of me. A quilt barn road goes through Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. A map shows all these barns with quilts painted on their sides. I started driving to those and photographing them on road trips,” Barnard continued. “Some, I’ll stay and paint on the spot.”

Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature – Cicero

Ever on the lookout to capture beauty, Barnard has been known to drive to a location, open the back of her car and start painting. The backwaters of her hometown brim with lily pads and attract migrating birds. She was lured there last year, stopping on a road in the middle of the water to render the scene

“Last month I went to Jekyll Island to paint with a friend for three days,” Barnard said.

During COVID, with shows canceled, Barnard took some online classes. She found color study helpful. “You take one color of paint, mix it with others, making a chart of each color,” she said. Barnard completed eight such pages with 30 color squares on each.

Now when in the field, she reaches for those charts to find the exact colors she’s studying and makes note of them. Back in the studio, she refers to her notes to paint with greater accuracy. “The colors in a photograph are never the same as what you see outside,” Barnard explained.

When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people – Edgar Degas

The gap between what she sees and how the observer views her work is invaluable to Barnard. Rather than “explain” too much, she allows onlookers to finish it with their imaginations. “The artist’s unique insight gives art its vitality and an energy that unites people,” she remarked.

Multiple works in progress

A barn loft under construction will soon be the site of Barnard’s art studio. The space will allow gathering with other artists to paint and hold classes. Currently, she paints in a bonus room on the second floor of her home.

“I’ll have four paintings going at the same time on different easels around my studio. Oils take long to dry so I do those in the morning. Then I flip to progress some mixed media pieces because they dry faster,” she said. “I can go for four hours straight, moving from one painting to another.”


Barnard has showcased her work at the Wesleyan Artist Market since 2008. “It’s a great place to find art. When they first started, an art company would come in. Now it’s a regional show. People come from all over the Southeast,” she said. “I love being able to explain what my inspiration was and tell people where I painted each piece.”

She finds the kind people at Wesleyan and the yummy snacks are part of what make the show fun. ■

Patrizia hails from Toronto, Canada where she earned an Honors B.A. in French and Italian studies at York University, and a B.Ed. at the University of Toronto. This trilingual former French teacher has called Georgia home since 1998. She and her family have enjoyed living, working and playing in Peachtree Corners since 2013.

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Arts & Literature

High Museum of Art Presents Exhibition of 19th-Century Black Potter from the American South



Coming this spring, from Feb. 16 – May 12, 2024, the High Museum of Art will be the only Southeast venue for “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina.” 

The exhibition features nearly 60 ceramic objects created by enslaved African Americans in Edgefield, South Carolina, in the decades before the Civil War. 

These 19th-century vessels demonstrate the lived experiences, artistic agency and material knowledge of those who created them.

The works include monumental storage jars by the literate potter and poet Dave (later recorded as David Drake, ca. 1800-1870) as well as examples of utilitarian wares and face vessels by unrecorded makers. 

“Hear Me Now” will also include work by contemporary Black artists who have responded to or whose practice connects with the Edgefield story, including Theaster Gates, Simone Leigh and Woody De Othello

The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


“We are honored to present this exhibition, which recognizes the innovation of Edgefield potters—a practice all the more remarkable given that their work was created under the most inhumane conditions of enslavement,” said Rand Suffolk, director of the High.

“It’s an important story, one that not only dovetails with the High’s longstanding recognition and display of Edgefield pottery but one that should also resonate with our regional audiences.” 

In the early 1800s, white settlers established potteries in the Old Edgefield district, a rural area on the western edge of South Carolina, to take advantage of its natural clays. 

Hundreds of enslaved adults and children were forced to work in the potteries, bearing responsibility for the craft, from mining and preparing clay to throwing vast quantities of wares and decorating and glazing the vessels. 

By the 1840s, they were producing tens of thousands of vessels each year. The stoneware they made supported the region’s expanding population and was intrinsically linked to the lucrative plantation economy. 

The history of slavery is widely understood in terms of agriculture, but these wares tell the story of what historians call “industrial slavery,” where the knowledge, experience and skill of enslaved people were essential to the success of the enterprise.

White enslavers and factory owners often marked the wares with their names, therefore claiming the expertise of the enslaved as their own. Only some of the enslaved makers have been identified so far, and more than 100 of their names are highlighted in the exhibition. 

One identified maker included in the exhibition is Edgefield’s best-known artist, Dave, later recorded as David Drake, who boldly signed, dated and incised verses on many of his jars.

“Hear Me Now” features many of Dave’s monumental masterpieces, along with a video featuring Dave’s newly discovered descendants Pauline Baker, Priscilla Carolina, Daisy Whitner and John Williams, in which they reflect on his work and their family connections.

Among the other exhibition highlights are 19 face vessels or jugs, which served as powerful spiritual objects and were likely made by the Edgefield potters for their own use.

Their emergence in the region roughly coincides with the 1858 arrival in Georgia of the slave ship The Wanderer, which illegally transported more than 400 captive Africans to the United States.

More than 100 of those individuals were sent to Edgefield, where they were put to work in the potteries. Growing evidence suggests that their arrival brought African-inspired art traditions, religion and culture to the area. 

The face vessels resemble nkisi, ritual objects that were important in West-Central African religious practices to facilitate communication between the living and the dead.

“Hear Me Now” examines the continuing legacy of Edgefield with works that respond to and amplify Edgefield’s story.

“Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina” will be presented in the Special Exhibition Galleries on the Second Level of the High’s Stent Family Wing.

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Arts & Literature

Beatrix Potter Exhibition Coming to the High Museum This Fall



This October, the High Museum of Art will present “Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature.” The interactive exhibition encourages visitors of all ages to explore the places and animals that inspired Potter’s popular stories, such as “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” 

More than 125 personal objects will be displayed, including sketches, watercolors, rarely seen letters, coded diaries, commercial merchandise, paintings and experimental books. The exhibition will also examine Potter’s life as a businessperson, natural scientist, farmer and conservationist. 

The exhibition is organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum and is the latest in the High’s series celebrating children’s book art and authors. 

“The High is committed to serving family audiences and connecting them to the power of children’s book art, which can inspire creativity, engender empathy and teach important life lessons,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “We are delighted to share the wonderful illustrations and stories from Potter’s famous tales with our youngest visitors and explore the author’s life story, which was marked by a love of learning and dedication to preserving nature for future generations.” 

Beatrix Potter (British, 1866–1943), Appley Dapply going to the cupboard, 1891, watercolor on paper, Victoria and Albert Museum, given by the Linder Collection, LC.29.A.1. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, courtesy of Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd. and the Linder Collection.

Born in London, Helen Beatrix Potter was passionate about animals and the natural world from an early age. This passion sparked her career as a world famous author and illustrator. Her interest in nature also influenced other aspects of her life, leading to significant achievements in art and science.

“Drawn to Nature” connects elements of her creative practice, from building characters and observing nature to telling stories and conserving the environment. 

“Beatrix Potter’s singularly creative life offers insights for all ages. This exhibition, part of the High’s longstanding dedication to families and intergenerational learning, is designed to welcome everyone to ask what it means to see with imagination and care for our world, together,” said Andrew Westover, exhibition curator and the High’s Eleanor McDonald Storza director of education. 

The first section of the exhibition focuses on how Potter developed the characters that inspired her most famous stories, including “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny” and “The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck.” 

Beatrix Potter (British, 1866–1943), Drawings of a bridge scene and hares at play, 1876, watercolor and pencil on paper in stitched book, Victoria and Albert Museum, Linder Bequest, BP.741. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, courtesy of Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd.

She modeled her characters on animals familiar to her, and her stories were informed by careful observations of nature. “Drawn to Nature” will include many of her original character sketches and more insight into how she built richly imagined worlds. 

The exhibit also explores Potter’s scientific observations and will feature a cabinet of curiosities alongside her realistic nature drawings.

“Drawn to Nature” will reveal Potter’s abilities as a storyteller, illustrator and entrepreneur. From her mid-20s, Potter translated her close observation of animals and nature into detailed pictorial storytelling. 

She also sold holiday cards featuring her drawings and designs. These letters and illustrations became the basis for her stories, and in 1902, she signed a publishing deal.

Another section of the exhibition features sketches and finished artworks from her books, including “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin” and “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.” This section will feature a dedicated reading space to sit and enjoy Potter’s children’s books. 

In the exhibition’s final section, watercolors, personal items and drawings will demonstrate Potter’s love for England’s Lake District and her work to conserve its landscape and local farming culture. 

Beatrix Potter (British, 1866–1943), Drawing of a walled garden, Ees Wyke (previously named Lakefield), Sawrey, ca. 1900, watercolor and pen and ink on paper, Victoria and Albert Museum, Linder Bequest, BP.238. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, courtesy of Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd.

Following her permanent move there, she recognized how much locals and visitors treasured the region. When she saw modern development threatening what made it unique, she used her privilege and position to help protect the area. 

She built up flocks of Herdwick sheep, which were in danger of dying out, and ensured the landscape would be protected forever by England’s National Trust. Upon her death in 1943, she left the charity thousands of acres of her own land and 14 working farms. 

“Above and beyond the delight that Potter’s book characters and illustrations bring to our lives, her creativity as a businessperson, scientist and conservationist can inspire all audiences,” said Westover. “It’s a privilege to share her stories and invite everyone to rediscover a beloved author and her enduring legacy.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Alliance Theatre at The Woodruff Arts Center will present “Into the Burrow: A Peter Rabbit Tale,” a musical written by Mark Valdez and inspired by Potter’s stories. 

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Arts & Literature

Summer Reading Recommendations



Photo by Tracey R. Rice

A summer day spent lounging by the pool, relaxing at the beach or chilling on the deck at home is best enjoyed with a good book. We’ve gathered some suggestions for a summer read from friends and neighbors around Peachtree Corners.

Simply Lies by David Baldacci

I am addicted to his novels, and he is such an amazing person with a foundation that encourages kids to read.

Lorri Christopher

Lorri Christopher, City Council Post 5 / At Large

I love the We Are Legion series by Dennis E. Taylor. That is a series of four books that explore interesting concepts about survival in space. The details in the book really take the reader into the sci-fi realm. If you like to nerd out about space, this book is for you.

1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell are great reads. They demonstrate the importance of keeping the government in check as citizens. They are frightening at times because of how some of the book’s ideas are coming true today. 

Another great read is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. This book is also frightening to read at times due to its predictions. It speaks on how the pursuit of pleasure can lead to a lack of humanity. It also shows the direction we, as a society, might be moving towards.

Dane Scott
Dane Scott

Dane Scott, Dane Scott Racing

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki

This is a feel-good read and is a great introduction into Historical Fiction for anyone who has been thinking about giving it a try. It’s based on the very true life of Marjorie Post and how she became one of the most powerful businesswomen, and one of the richest people, in America in the early 20th century.

Although there are certain to be some liberties taken throughout the book, TMLOMP still hits all the key moments and markers in Marjorie’s life that make her such a fascinating person. One of my top reads of 2023 so far!

Lindsay Schwartz
Lindsay Schwartz

Lindsay Schwartz, Director of Marketing, Music Matters Productions

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver 

Barbara Kingsolver eloquently details the importance of eating and shopping locally, especially for food in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She weaves the personal stories of her family with the health, economic and environmental realities of local agriculture. An engaging and informative read!

Joe Twiner
Joe Twiner

Joe Twiner, Executive Director, Peachtree Farm

For Middle School readers, my favorite read of the year so far is The Midnight Children by Dan Gemeinhart. The Midnight Children tells the story of a lonely boy who finds himself in the middle of a mysterious situation.

What I love is how he is able to make brave choices and change his life for the better. It has adventure, humor and suspense — perfect for middle schoolers.

My favorite High School read of the year In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner. Two teens, both children of poverty and opioid culture make an impressive scientific discovery. Through a combination of luck and brilliance, they are offered a chance to escape their circumstances — but that means leaving family behind.

I love these two characters; they have to make adult decisions early in life. There are no obvious right answers here; real life is hard, but these two have a strength of character you will love.

Bonnie Baker
Bonnie Baker

Bonnie Baker, Library Media Specialist, Greater Atlanta Christian

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I first picked up Dale Carnegie’s masterpiece when I was 12 years old. There isn’t a better book on working with people! I now use its principles to help advocate for my organization’s work that benefits the poor around the world.

James Flanagan
James Flanagan

James Flanagan, Executive Director, Catholic World Mission 

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

…or any of the Anne Rice novels!

James Chien, Chef, Eating Americana

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

This is a WWII Historical novel with several male and female protagonists who have their own agendas for becoming involved in a spy operation. I am finding it hard to put down.

Jennifer Howard
Jennifer Howard

Jennifer Howard, City of Peachtree Corners

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I believe Towles’ best book is A Gentleman in Moscow. It’s an incredible story set in a luxury hotel in Moscow about a former Russian nobleman sentenced to live there after the Bolshevik Revolution.

As a starter to feasting on his three full-length novels, I recommend The Lincoln Highway. It’s a modern-day Odyssey that spans just 10 days in the summer of 1954 rather than the 10 years traveled by Ulysses.

Starting in a farm town almost in the geographical center of the U.S., a young man and his brother travel along the Lincoln Highway to retrieve his small inheritance stolen by a “friend” from his reform school. While not a short book, it flows quickly and has fascinating characters, action and plot twists.

Steve Hughes
Steve Hughes

Steve Hughes, Chief Financial Officer, Skitter, Inc.

What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski

This middle grade novel is about an eighth grader who uses social media posts, passed notes and other clues to find out why a formerly popular girl is now the pariah of her new school. 

I loved this book because it was a fast-paced, fun and clever read. I’ve now given it to my 12-year-old daughter because I know she’ll love it and I think it’s important that she read it. The message is one I think girls need to hear and understand long before they reach high school.

Meant to Be by Emily Giffin

This is a delightful yet deep romance about a son of American royalty who falls in love with a beautiful girl who comes from a troubled past. The story centers on whether their relationship will survive the glare of the spotlight and the tragedy that seems to run in his family.

I loved this book, as inspired by the real-life story of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette, because I was able to experience both the intrigue and angst that comes with being an American celebrity, and I also enjoyed imagining what could’ve been, had their lives not ended so tragically.

Shannon Balloon
Shannon Balloon

Shannon Balloon, Wesleyan Artist Market

Red Notice by Bill Browder

This book is an incredibly compelling and timely book that tells the true story of a hedge fund manager in Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Bill Browder witnesses firsthand the corruption of a young Putin regime and ultimately becomes his number one enemy.

A financial caper, crime thriller and political crusade, Red Notice is an absolutely fantastic read that will inform you about events that led to modern day Russia.

Scott Hilton
Scott Hilton

Scott Hilton, Georgia State House of Representatives

Perfectly Wounded by Mike Day

An excellent book about the service members who protect our country and suffer the consequences of doing so.

Cliff Bramble
Cliff Bramble

Cliff Bramble, Bramble Realty

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird is a book that nearly everyone reads at some point in school, and everyone should read it (at least twice). It’s based on a real trial from Harper Lee’s childhood. While the theme is based in the 1930s, some of the messages are still applicable today. I especially loved the symbolism of the mockingbird throughout the story.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The perfect YA romance series for your summer reading list. Love triangles, competition and dystopia combined. Plus, it’s a five-book series that will keep your TBR [to be read] full all summer!

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

The book Confessions of a Shopaholic is a great read. While there is a movie, the book is very different. It’s an easy read, funny, romantic and well-written. And there’s a full series to follow!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This book is one of my all-time favorites — amazingly written and brings tears to my eyes. The movie will also not disappoint; it’s completely book-accurate and just as amazing. A beautiful story, exceptionally written.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Heartless is a romantic and heartbreaking YA fantasy. Full of plot twists, this book will keep you guessing. It also includes some hidden lessons that can apply to real life. You’ll definitely want to read it again and again!

Anastasia Lamas
Anastasia Lamas

Anastasia Lamas, Wesleyan School, Class of 2027

The BFG by Roald Dahl — for kids

This is one of my favorite books to read aloud. Roald Dahl’s magical way of telling a story is so engaging, and his made-up words are hilarious to try and pronounce. 

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig — for adults

Haig has a wonderful way of putting emotions and feelings into words. I loved how the main character continued learning life lessons as he lived through so many historical eras.

Lacey Unger
Lacey Unger

Lacey Unger, 3rd grade teacher, Simpson Elementary School

The Power of Full Engagement by Dr. Jim Loehr

Most people I know wish they could have more time in their day. Dr. Loehr and his work at the Human Performance Institute helps us instead get more day in our time. 

The Power of Full Engagement teaches lessons learned from performance psychology and human performance that can help anyone from the c-suite to the street do more of their best work and live more of their best life, regardless of how much time or work they have. This should be required reading for life!

Travis Dommert
Travis Dommert

Travis Dommert, talent professional and speaker, TravisDommert.com

10 Favorite Top Picks for Business Leaders

Suggested by Travis Dommert

  • Essentialism: The disciplines pursuit of less by Greg McKeown — in a culture of more (and overwhelm), we need a new skill set: the disciplined pursuit of less, but better.
  • Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, Karry Peterson, et al — gold standard in skills training for anyone who needs to get along with other humans (That’s all of us!).
  • Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain by Dr. John Ratey — mind-blowing research that shows the impact movement and exercise has on our mental health.
  • The 100X Leader by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram — a powerful leadership book built on the idea of becoming a leader worth following who is 100% healthy and multiplies.
  • The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson — terrific insights from successful salespeople from the Great Recession.
  • Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell — seminal book about extraordinary achievement.
  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle — fascinating look at the science of skill-building and what it takes to become great at something.
  • Never Finished by David Goggins — deep look into the mindset of Navy SEAL warrior David Goggins after he became famous.
  • The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath — profound look into why we only remember a tiny fraction of our lives and how to make powerful memories.
  • Living with a SEAL by Jesse Itzler — fun book about Sarah Blakely’s husband hiring a Navy SEAL to train him for a month; it’s nuts!

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune 

This is Carley’s newest book, and it is the perfect summer read. I fell in love with this author after reading her book Every Summer After last year and have been waiting for this one to come out. She did not disappoint!

This book captures the summer lake setting perfectly and I love the two timelines of each character as the story unfolds and the reader gets closer to figuring out what separated them to begin with.

Clara Rooks
Clara Rooks

Clara Rooks, Marketing Communications Manager, Explore Gwinnett

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

In this complex young adult novel, two teenagers struggle with the many realities of becoming an adult, as well as the challenges they face from all who inhabit their lives. From stages of grief to the difficulties of forgiveness and the many layers of family sacrifice, Sabaa Tahir truly delivers a fresh take on American realities from an outsider’s perspective.

By looking directly at humanity through a multicolored lens, Tahir creates a reading experience that you’ll not soon forget.

Judith Boneta
Judith Boneta

Judith Boneta, 8th Grade Language Arts teacher, Duluth Middle School

Picking a single book that shaped my life would be an impossible task. I have learned over time to enjoy the discovery of new and old titles to keep the adventures fresh.

  • Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger is a fantasy series that follows a strong female lead who discovers she is not human.
  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks is realistic fiction story about 12-year-old Zoe who receives a letter from her biological father who is in prison.
  • Canyon’s Edge by Dusty Bowling is a novel in verse about a young girl’s struggle for survival after a climbing trip with her father goes terribly wrong.
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang takes place in the 90s and is based loosely on Kelly Yang’s experience growing up as an immigrant in America.
  • Rescue by Jennifer Nielson is a World War II story of espionage and intrigue, as one girl races to save her father and aid the French resistance.
  • Also, Alan Gratz, Marsha Skrypuck and Jennifer Nielson are all wonderful authors of historical fiction.
Allison Anderson
Allison Anderson

Allison Anderson, Elementary Media Specialist, Greater Atlanta Christian School

Know Own Change by Josh Clemons and Hazen Stevens

Every year people talk about what makes us different: race, economics, nationality and even gender. The leaders of the “One Race” movement frames up a spiritually inspired path to reconciliation through Christ.

Know Own Change is a spiritual change management book that can have an impact individually on your walk with God and as a society if his followers stop sitting on the sidelines, asking and watching and instead start doing His work to change this world right here at home.

Karl Barham
Karl Barham

Karl Barham, President, Transworld Business Advisors

The Effective Leader by Ronald E. Cottle 

Someone gave this book to me, and it caught my attention because the author has over 60 years of leadership experience. During that time, any leader most likely would have gone through many different trials and challenges, and I’m interested in hearing about the wisdom he has gained.

Many leadership books have been written and a lot of them focus on business. This book goes beyond leadership in business and includes other key areas of life including marriage, family and finances.

Phil Sadd
Phil Sadd

Phil Sadd, City Council Post 1 / District 1

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Reading is incredibly important, particularly in a world where mis- and dis-information spread like wildfire with just a simple tweet. Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian world where reading is banned and social bonds between people have become almost nonexistent.

I read this when I was younger and it had a major impact on me to this day because its social commentary continues to be relevant as time goes on.

Ruwa Romman
Ruwa Romman

Ruwa Romman, Georgia State Representative

This Chair Rocks by Ashton Applewhit

Outlive: The Art and Science of Longevity by Peter Attia

Younger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge

I’m predominately a non-fiction reader and I’m back in grad school studying Gerontology, so my selections may seem boring but could be of interest to readers who want to learn how to be pro-aging instead of anti-aging. After all, who doesn’t want to be a pro at aging?

These well-written, lay-person-friendly books comprise some of the latest research on how to live longer, healthier lives and prevent diseases commonly associated with aging.

Now for a shameless plug: one way to start living your best life is get moving, stay active and sign up for the Light Up The Corners Glow Run at The Forum on August 12th! 

Amy Massey
Amy Massey

Amy Massey, founder, Light Up The Corners

For science-fiction fans (or even those who may not think themselves fans), two of my all-time favorites are Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. These are both classics in the genre. Rama is particularly fun as a crew from Earth explore a huge unknown object that has approached our planet. Ender is a young man trained by the government to help fight a hostile alien force trying to take over the planet. Pure escapist fun!

A second suggestion for a book I enjoyed reading recently is Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s been on the best-seller list since it was published and is a compelling and very well-written story. Truthfully, it is not an easy read from an emotional standpoint. Just when you think that things can’t get any worse for Demon, they do. The characters are well-defined and the story provides insight into some of the real-world problems afflicting the Appalachian region.

Dave Huffman
Dave Huffman

Dave Huffman, Peachtree Corners Festival

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro is a great fiction novel about the impact of a lie; the book is told from multiple points of view and weaves back in forth in time. 

Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoors — Set in India, it’s a thriller that dives deep into the underworld of New Delhi’s crime syndicate. This will most certainly be seen on streaming platform before long! 

Whatever Happened to Ruthy Ramirez? By Claire Jimeniz is a great beach book. Humor, mystery, drama all in one. 

Lisa Anders
Lisa Anders

Lisa Anders, Executive Director, Explore Gwinnett Tourism + Film

One of my favorites for light reading is G.A. McKevett’s Savannah Reid series. There are many books in this series and if you order on Kindle, the older books are free. 

In the first book, Just Desserts, we meet the main character — blackbelt and gun-carrying Savannah living in a plush suburb of San Carmelita, California. She’s a voluptuous private investigator who was born in Georgia to a mama who dropped in to have babies and dropped out once the babies were born. All the kids are named after Georgia towns, and their sweet Grandmama is Savannah’s moral compass who raised all these kids.

Savannah is busy being a super solver of crimes while frying up the best-fried chicken ever. Walk into her kitchen anytime and she will have her brain at work on solving the latest murder as she whips up something sweet.

Nancy Minor
Nancy Minor

Nancy Minor, Agent, The Nancy Minor Team

Exodus by Leon Uris 

Exodus is one of the best-selling historical novels of all time and one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It is not light reading and will take readers on a very emotional journey. 

This novel goes well beyond what Hollywood portrays in the movie and does so with a much more accurate lens of the events it covers. It not only broadens the reader’s knowledge of history, but also deepens their understanding and background of current world events.

While Exodus sheds light on one of the greatest human tragedies, it also highlights hope and perseverance. I highly recommend it be on everyone’s book bucket list.

Zhenia Kaplan
Zhenia Kaplan

Zhenia Kaplan

The Broker by John Grisham

The Broker is a suspense novel that weaves mystery, corruption and possible murder as you navigate through the legal system, the politics of pardons and the influence of the CIA. This page turner keeps you guessing who will win in the end. Perfect reading for the beach or sitting by the pool.

Lisa Proctor
Lisa Proctor

Lisa Proctor, Sanford Rose Associates – Lake Lanier Islands

The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede

When the U.S. airspace was closed on 9-11, 38 passenger planes were forced to land in a small town in Canada on Newfoundland Island. The townspeople welcomed the weary travelers — over 6,500 people from all over the world — into their homes for four days. The acts of kindness, humanity and goodwill in this true story will touch your heart.

Imaginable by Jane McGonigal

The author is a future forecaster and game designer who works at the Institute for the Future in California. She led simulations in 2008 that predicted what would happen if there were a global outbreak of a respiratory virus with uncanny accuracy to what actually happened with COVID-19. That’s fascinating since many news stories claimed that COVID-19 was “unimaginable” or “unthinkable.”

These simulations can be used in your own life to imagine the future and you are able to “see” the future using the exercises she provides. When the future arrives, you feel prepared because you’ve already thought about what you would do if the “unimaginable” actually happened. Not only is it very interesting to read about the psychology and neuroscience being used to solve world problems, but there is a direct application to your own life.

Tracey R. Rice
Tracey R. Rice

Tracey R. Rice, Tracey Rice Photography

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