meLauren Ossolinski, this year’s featured artist at The Harding Academy Art Show, practices yoga.  That being said – “if you asked any of my friends to describe me, ‘zen’ is not a word that would come up!” she admits cheerfully.

Katie Crumbo loves to brag on her friend Lauren, “a terrific person who can laugh at herself, a thoughtful soul with a quick sense of humor.”

Katie also loves Lauren’s paintings of Cape Cod, where Katie grew up and Lauren spends each summer: “her rendering of Cape beach scenes always makes me feel nostalgic – she captures the color and light so beautifully.”

Lauren grew up in Nashville, and she laughs when she thinks about her young self, graduating from Harpeth Hall and hightailing it out of Nashville to Southern Methodist University.  She thought she’d left this town for good.  After time in Washington D.C., Memphis and Indianapolis, she moved back to Nashville with a husband, son and daughter in tow to be closer to family.  She doesn’t regret it for a second.

Lauren has an independence of spirit that she’s brought back to Nashville.  “I loved being a kid,” Lauren says, “but since my first job out of college as an advertising copywriter, I have loved being on my own – having my own apartment, navigating a new city, paying my own bills.  Figuring it out. Painting was never my grand plan – I was way too practical to dream I could be an artist.  But it has been a surprising and amazing third career for me, after advertising and motherhood, and it is so much fun.”

She enjoys listening to audiobooks while painting, including recent favorites The Andy Cohen Diaries and Americanah.  (She considers Andy Cohen a genius for thinking of The Real Housewives series, her favorite guilty pleasure.)  She’s always reading outside of the studio as well and is a huge fan of Barbara Kingsolver.

picbaconIf you’d like to see Lauren’s paintings or talk with her about books, you can find her at The Harding Academy Art Show, celebrating its 40th anniversary April 30 – May 2.  The show has grown “from a modest gathering of artists to one of the largest exhibitions of fine art in the southeastern United States…. As an invitation-only show, it has launched the careers of many significant Southern artists,” says co-chair Abby Slagle (sharing the job with Melissa Frist, both of them current Harding parents).

Today, Lauren shares her thoughts on reading, painting, and books that have stayed with her over the years.

From Lauren:


The longer I’ve been painting, the looser I get with the details.  Figures don’t have eyes and noses, flowers don’t have petals – it’s more about the idea of what I see, and hopefully that translates to the person looking at the painting.

The same is true for books.  I read a good amount.  I am often reading one book before I go to bed, and listening to another audiobook while I paint or walk the dog.  Usually I can keep them straight, but over time I find that only a few stick with me.  I will remember that I really liked a book, or I really hated a book, but if I’m honest, I don’t remember all the details.

Maybe it’s age, or teenagers, or I’m not as bright as I like to think I am, but it’s true.  So the idea of reviewing one book in detail is not really up my alley.

What I do feel comfortable doing is giving a list of books that have stuck with me over the years, managing to break through all the clutter.  (And the older I get, the harder that is!)  Some of them have really taught me something, or made me think about a place or a time I might have never considered.  They may be a little longer or a little heavier to read, but I am so glad I did.  These are the books that I would say are at the top of my all-time favorites.  Here they are in no particular order:

Unknown-16The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving (I just read this for the 2nd time because I couldn’t remember all the details – surprise. But it was even better the second time.)

Snowflower And The Secret Fan, by Lisa See

Devil In The White City, by Erik Larson

Unknown-21The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson (This book won practically every award given for fiction a couple of years ago – with good reason.  It is remarkable.)

Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver

Saving Fish From Drowning, by Amy Tan

Americanah, by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

Unknown-18The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen (This is not the feel-good hit of the year, but it offers a lot of insight into an incredibly dysfunctional family.  I really liked it. )

The World According To Garp, by John Irving

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

And then there are the lighter reads.  In some ways, it’s even harder to stand out in this category.  I can devour stacks of paperbacks on a good beach vacation, but I will rarely remember them a month later.  Many of these books probably fall in the “chick lit” category, but I also added a couple of memoirs, and my new favorite – young adult fiction.  (My kids are starting to worry.)  Here they are:

Unknown-17The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

The Middle Place and its sequel Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

Unknown-19The Storyteller (this is by Jodi Picoult – and I have soo many people roll their eyes when I say this – but I thought it was really interesting.)

The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson (The author is an associate professor at Sewanee!)

The Night Circus, by Elin Morgenstern

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (My daughter and I listened to this audiobook on a couple trips to Atlanta and it was so good, we were tempted to keep driving around the block when we got home so we could hear the end!)

I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson

I also have a list of books I thought I would like, or know I’m supposed to like, but I didn’t.  For example, I was so excited to buy (in hardback) Jonathan Franzen’s second novel, Freedom, because I really loved The Corrections.  It received a lot of critical acclaim, and I trudged through the entire 572 pages.  In the end, I was disappointed.  I felt the same way about The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer, another book that had a lot of buzz, but for me, was not really interesting at all.

Over the years, I have found that Oprah and I really don’t like the same kind of books, and that you can’t always trust Amazon reviews.  Why some mediocre books get big publicity, while other really good books go unnoticed is a mystery to me.  Luckily, in addition to this blog, I have several well-read friends who are my go-to for recommendations.  And I am theirs – as long as they don’t need too many details.

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To see more of Lauren’s art and to learn more about her, check out her website at

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