what i read in march.

This month, I continue my average from February of four books in four weeks and add my 2017 stack to a total number of eleven books! I hope that as I reach one of the busiest seasons of my life (I see you coming, May!), I will only continue making reading good, long, sharpening books a priority. (And what better way to procrastinate homework?) March held: Two memoirs, one novel, and one biography. There were two books out of this roundup that were winners for me – they are compelling, convicting, and stories that I personally connected to immediately. The other two held little substance for me. Let’s dig in!

  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines 

Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts.

For those of you who may not know (who are you? where do you live??), Chip and Joanna Gaines are the TV hosts of Fixer Upper on HGTV. They are strong believers and hard workers. This book read as an easy-going dialogue between Chip and Joanna as they gave us glimpses into their childhood, dating years, newlywed adventures, and into the details of how they have built their career and family. I traveled to Waco over Spring Break and this book brought the details of everything I experienced (like driving by where Chip and Jo met, swinging at Magnolia Market…) to a new level of appreciation. On the other hand, it also spurred me on personally to tackle my God-given desires with boldness. If you love Chip and Jo, you’ll have more reasons why when you get your hands on this book. I am cheering you on Gaines’ and praying that you continue restoring dusty, beautiful things to bring God glory!

 

  • Chasing Slow: Courage To Journey Off The Beaten Path by Erin Loechner 

Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace. We were meant to surrender it.

Chasing Slow is about living an abundant life, saying no to the rat race and certain components of the American dream, simplifying, and also giving yourself grace in the mess. This book is SO aesthetically pleasing with beautiful typography and photography. I am tucking many ideas from this book in my pocket! I started cleaning out my closet (again). I took stock of my priorities. I prayed hard prayers about loving the poor and then did something about it. For this, I am so grateful! But, overall, I found Loechner’s voice to be condescending and life-draining. I found the extras in the book (recipes, added blurbs, a few misplaced stories in my opinion) to be good, but just not fitting. I’ll be recommending and furthering the ideas and a few quotes this book carries to friends for many days to come, but probably not the book itself.

 

  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor 

The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.

My girl Flannery disappointed me with this one. This novel was haunting. Unlike Flannery’s short stories, I missed the redemption song she usually, however subtly, ties into the narrative. There were many paragraphs that blew me away with her imagery and understanding of humanity. O’Connor is amazing at capturing heartbreaking human emotion and transforming that into tangible empathy for the reader to take away. That’s the best I can say about Wise Blood.  (Also, book cover goals. But that’s not the point. 😉 )

 

  • Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior 

More’s life shows that the facts and our wishes can produce great stories when serving things much grander than ourselves, and that the stories we tell ourselves and others matter.

I first heard about Hannah More when I was reading Seven Women by Eric Metaxas last May, and I was shocked about how quietly her story is being told in the 21st century. Hannah was, as the the book title describes, a poet, reformer, and abolitionist living from 1745 – 1833. She was known for her wit and her never-pausing pen. A pen that aided the abolition of slavery in England weeks before she died. More’s life proved the importance of friendships and hospitality, the balance between strong convictions and tolerance, and loving God with your whole heart. She pushed the boundaries, but stood tall in the lines she believed in. I hope to be like Hannah More as a writer, as a citizen, as a friend, and as a woman of God.  Hannah’s story needs to be told and rewritten in our lives today — start by learning about how Hannah glorified God in her life with Fierce Convictions!

Next Up…

You are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (I am making progress!)

What books have you put down this month and what books can you not put down?

what i read in january.

I feel refreshed after a month of getting back into a reading routine and gaining momentum after a two month period of finishing not. one. single. book. In summary, I read 24 books in 2016 with an average of 2 books a month! I hope to kick that number in the butt in 2017, but am pleased about the titles I accomplished and lingered over this past year. You can find all my past book reviews here. 

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  • Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything In Between) by Lauren Graham

Writers: how therapists buy summer homes. 

Lauren Graham is the main star of two of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. This memoir, unlike A Year In The Life, was no disappointment. (Although the endings of both leave the same confused and hopeless feelings. Just a warning.) Graham took us through the beginning of her career, season by season through Gilmore Girls, gave writers some fantastic tips, skirted us through the adventures of her love life, and gave a lovely tribute to Parenthood. It was light and breezy – there wasn’t a real common thread that pulled the whole book together in harmony which at times annoyed me.  I received this one as a gift on Christmas day and had it finished within a week! If you love Gilmore Girls as much as I do, definitely pick this one up. As a bonus, I already had Lauren’s voice in my head as she told her stories and that added to the simple charm of the book!

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  • Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am a woman trying to stand up in my life. I write because to form a word with your lips and tongue or think a thing and then dare to write it down so you can never take it back is the most powerful thing I know. I am trying to come alive, to find the distances in my own recesses and bring them forward and give them color and form.

This book was the best book I have read about writing to date. I have had this one on my shelf for almost a year, but once I gave this book more than a glance, I couldn’t put it down. I decided to not highlight my favorite segments, because I wouldn’t quit highlighting. I love Goldberg’s unique voice, how she faces the struggles, reality, and glory of writing. I’ll keep this one nearby for years to come and pull out an essay or two when I am feeling discouraged and at a dead-end in my projects. Natalie Goldberg is a Buddhist, so at times the book stretched out of my belief system and comfort zone, but it’s important to read a bit from people you don’t understand and overall that didn’t overshadow the heart of the book! I was expecting a boring yet helpful book on writing, and instead was met with a poetic, thrilling, helpful account!

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  • Girl Meets Change: Truths To Carry You Through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong

When God uses change to send us packing, He sends us with the promise of blessing too.

January held some gut-wrenching change for me, and the rest of the year will be no different, so I picked this one up on a whim when I was taking care of my responsibilities at my church library. This book was a helpful companion, and I would recommend it, especially for those who are new to the faith or need a “change of scenery” so to speak! Kristen Strong was a new author for me. Honestly, I didn’t like her style of writing at all, but the heart of the God-given truths kept me going until the last page.

Currently reading…

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp (for the second time)

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend 

Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray

Way of the Heart by Henri J. M. Nouwen

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Friends, what are you reading right now? Do you have a monstrous reading goal marked for yourself in 2017? Tell me what you have recently hated or loved!

 

 

 

 

what i read in september 

How IN THE WORLD is it October already?

October is one of my favorite months in the whole year, and I am not taking it for granted.

Before we wholeheartedly plunge into October, let’s look back at the two books I finished this month. Spoiler alert: I highly esteem and recommend them both. One takes a detailed look at racism, the other invites us into a life of stillness and abundance. They transcend into all life stages and have something to say to all of us!

22. Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper

That I am chosen for salvation in spite of all my ugly and deadly sinfulness, that the infinitely precious Son of God secured my eternal life through his own infinite suffering, that my rebellious and resistant heart was conquered by sovereign grace, and that I am kept by the power of God forever – if these truths do not make me a humble servant of racial diversity and harmony, then I have not seen them or loved them as I ought.

When the three-day consecutive shootings happened this summer, I found myself in a constant tension – wanting to somehow fix an issue that has been raging for decades on decades. Or at least to help people see that it is an issue. But more than anything, I found myself weeping. And I found myself reaching for this book on my shelf. John Piper does an impeccable job of laying the foundation of what racism is, giving a broad history, providing statistics, adding in modern arguments, and relating every turn to the gospel of Christ. It is a book of history, of theology, of inspiration, of rising up. It is about the obstacles in our way, and how we can become a people that eat together and worship together, no matter what side of town we grew up on or what the color of our skin may be.

RECOMMENDATION STATUS: I believe that we all need to take a step back, realize how much we can not understand about racism, and say “I want to begin building bridges. I want to start mending torn places and cleaning wounds. I don’t want to be silent anymore.” For me, this book was my first step. For some, it might be the first step to looking at the problem intellectually without the biased opinions of a Facebook feed. If you are finding yourself contributing to any conversation about racism, I suggest you take the time and make your way through this hefty read.

23. Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

This isn’t about working less or more, necessarily. This isn’t about homemade or takeout, or full time or part time, or the specific ways we choose to live out our days. It’s about rejecting the myth that everyday is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that out worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling.

My first thoughts on this book: Cute cover! I really should read one of Shauna’s books someday! I wonder why the whole world is in love with it. It’s probably terrible. Second thoughts: This is just a more poetic version of The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst and it is a waste of my time. To me, it seemed like a heart-level, get-down-to-your-identity version of The Best Yes. I was pleasantly surprised to see it had lived up to the hype. My ONLY comment of negativity on this book is that she often stated how women struggle with hustle and finding their identity in their work more than men – I see a sliver of truth in it, but on the whole disagree and thought it was unnecessary. Shauna’s writing style is so unique, inviting, and moving. Present Over Perfect gives you the grace to exhale in knowing your worth and the permission to live a life you’ve only dreamed of.

RECOMMENDATION STATUS: If you subtly or strongly find yourself addicted to noise and busyness, you need to meditate on these pages!

Titles I Put Down This Month:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. At first I LOVED it and blitz through the first 80 pages, but I was around 180 pages in and found myself confused and stressed because I hadn’t finished it. I decided that because I have so many types of books that I love on my shelves, I should dedicate my time to them instead of feeling guilty for the ones I’m just not into. I would love to read more World War ll literature in the future, but this one just wasn’t for me. Did anyone have a similar or different experience with it? Have you devoured any great World War ll novels?

Next Up:

Miracles by Eric Metaxas

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen

I am considering getting through as many new books as I can in October and only rereading my favorites in November, because I haven’t reread one of my favorite books since I was a little kid!

Whether it’s with new titles or old favorites that greet you like a friend, here’s to reading during the most gorgeous, coziest time of the year.

 

 

 

what i read in april.

What an eclectic mix this month!

I am so glad I read all three, but I don’t know if I’ll be reading them again in their entirety:

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10. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’ Connor

He felt he knew now what time would be like without seasons and what heat would be like without light and what man would be like without salvation.

These stories were heartbreaking. What I love most about these quirky, weird, redemptive stories is that in almost every single one there was a hopeful character as well as a cruel cynic. As I looked back nearing one hundred years since some of them were written, I could see the racial “improvements” that have been made since that time. It was hard to read at points for that reason, but I’m glad I hunkered myself down and made myself read them all.

My favoite stories for both feels and exquisite writing were: The Geranium. A Stroke of Good Fortune. The River. Parker’s Back.

Would I recommend it to you: See Flannery by Brad Gooch.

550 pages.

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11. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

Maybe I’m building my own damn Chocolate Factory.

If you’ve ever read Yes Please by Amy Poehler, it’s like that. But better, in my opinion.

I loved this book, and I blitzed through it in a matter of days.

Shonda has such an amazing mind, and the most incredible sense of humor. I disagreed with most of her moral statements, but I knew I would. I loved getting to know her beyond Thursday nights (where all her shows air weekly these days). It was both inspiring and hilarious.

I laughed out loud countless times. Which, by the way, almost made up for all the tears she has provoked cruelly in me during these past 12 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.

Would I recommend it to you: If you have ever watched Grey’s Anatomy, or any other of the wacky, stunning creations from Shonda, you must read this book. If not, I just don’t think any of it would be appreciated or make enough sense when it comes to the parallels between Shonda’s breakthroughs and her character’s.

300 pages.

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12. Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor by Brad Gooch

As for biographies, there won’t be any biographies of me because, for only one reason, lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy.

As I read this biography and read about how her contemporaries described her, I keep repeating just one word in my mind when it comes to Flannery: fascinating. Her works were so unusual, especially for a devout Catholic at the time. She was deeply invested in her faith, and extremely hard at work on her craft of writing until her last days of life. I loved being able to place her work in the context of her life (reading about her college years in Iowa were especially fun!), and to see the parallels of her experiences to what she wrote in her stories. It was also fascinating to read about all of her friendships throughout her life. Many friendships took places through letter writing, while others were invited over to the family farm to sit on the front porch and discuss theology. What I love most about Flannery is that she knew she was different, she was too quiet and stubborn for most people’s liking, she was well aware of the expectations set up for her by her friends and family, yet she wasn’t afraid to stand out and just do her thing as she felt called to do it. She died young from lupus at the age of 38. Biographies are so rich, and Brad Gooch did an impeccable job with this one.

Would I recommend it to you: Flannery is not for everyone. She’s weird, and everyone told her so when she was living. But she also was super talented, fearless, and had deep faith. This is what makes her words worth reading. If you ever do read her complete stories or any of her other fiction, though, please use Flannery by Brad Gooch as your companion along the way!

374 pages.

Did you read anything inspiring, hilarious, or quirky this month? Have you started any summer reading lists yet? I hope you’re carving out time in this crazy life to slow down and read. It’s worth it. 

what i read in march.

March was full of starting and working through several thick books (as well as returning a few books that I didn’t deem worth my time back to the shelf) — this led to this tiny book being the only one I completed, but what is lacking in volume it gained in meaning. Wow.

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9. The Life of the Beloved by Henri J.M. Nouwen

“What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about, and doing from hour to hour.”

As you may know, I read a book that included Henri J. M. Nouwen last year, and fell in love with his theological roots and whimsical writing style.
This book was different than I expected upon seeing it’s reviews over the world-wide web, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The story on the book is this: Nouwen wrote it to his secular friend who pleaded with him, “Why don’t you write something about the spiritual life for me and my friends?” This, as you can imagine, leads to a meaningful journey, but ends in a way that surprises the reader, and delights and challenges the Christian. Henri freshly introduces us to the way of the Christian through these four words: taken, blessed, broken, and given. It was a book that both led me to big truths, and also gave an idea of how I was to begin to implement those truths in my life. What a humble, yet stunning, reminder of who we are to be to the world.

Would I recommend it to you: for the love of all things holy and beautiful, yes.

149 pages.

Stay tuned, some of the other titles I’ve opened this month could be in one of my next reviews! —>

The Complete Stories of Flannery O’ Connor
Flannery by Brad Gooch
It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke
Seven Women by Eric Metaxas
No Baggage by Clara Benson
Undaunted by Christine Caine
How God Became Kind by N.T. Wright
…and others! Can’t wait to read more!