List compiled for Jen K D, but you can use it too, if you want. I'm going for a good fun-quality ratio in each book--so none of these books are just "good for you"--they're all enjoyable.
Shining Through, Susan Isaacs. This book is the most fun ever. The narrator, Linda, is funny and smart, but susceptible to bad choices--the kind you can understand. You get all the drama and gravity of World War II, along with a great office-gossip storyline.
Note, however, that this is Susan Isaacs' best book. So if you want to give her a try, I recommend starting with Lily White. It is, in my opinion, her second best, and that way you get to read both, but the second one is even better than the first, which is always a good way to do it.
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman. The three books are actually called The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. You have to be willing to read YA fantasy novels, but these are so much more than that. It's about religion and its role in society, and science and the meaning of life, and it's very sophisticated. I cried and cried and cried. I can't wait to read them again.
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. He wrote The Remains of the Day, which I haven't read yet, and When We Were Orphans, which I'm reading now. (And by the way, what's with everyone's delusion that he's going to actually FIND his parents after 15 years?) Never Let Me Go was the first of his books that I read, and it was just lovely. He's so clear and uncomplicated, yet so very complex and personal. This is a book with a science fiction plot, but it is in no way a science fiction book. It's not the near future or an alternate reality. It's England, here and now, and it's about what makes us human.
The Midwives, Chris Bohjalian. I've been meaning to reread this, so I base this recommendation on my memory of how good this book is. Again, it's the best of his work. There isn't a lot to say about it; it's a coming of age story about a girl whose mother is a midwife who might or might not be in legal trouble. This author deals often with people whose lifestyles fall just between fringe and mainstream--homeopaths, dowsers, midwives--and his stories are often about people trying to find a place for these things in an "ordinary" worldview.
Which Lie Did I Tell?, William Goldman. Bill Goldman has written some of my favorite books (The Color of Light, The Princess Bride), but you're more likely to have seen his movies. He's a screenwriter, with credits like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All The President's Men, The Stepford Wives, and The Princess Bride. This book is part how-to for aspiring screenwriters, part memoir, part gossip-fest. He's got some very good insights (my favorite: In Hollywood, nobody knows anything. They like to pretend they can tell what will be a hit and what won't, but nobody understands how craft becomes magic), but his ability to tell a good anecdote and very conversational writing style really carry this book.
The Nun's Story, Kathryn Hulme. I will always recommend this, though it's not up everyone's alley. It's a very internal, quiet look at the life of a nun from the time she enters a convent, through her travels to various nursing posts, and to Africa, in the Belgian Congo. It was a movie with Audrey Hepburn, which I also love. Both book and movie are somewhat slow and very straightforward--there is no poetry here, except that the experience is poetry. Even the sparest writing style lets that shine through. I find this book lovely, and though I can't say I have reason to believe it'd be your exact cup of tea, Jen, I have to recommend it anyway.
That's all for now. More later, I'm sure.