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?

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what i read in august.

Just like clockwork, my reading game is being upped as I settle into my fall schedule!

This month’s titles are definitely diverse! One of these books I have had on my shelf for years (which is super embarrassing because it was the shortest, easiest read ever!) and one I spontaneously picked up at the library because the book cover looked familiar from Instagram.

Read on to see what I thought of these picks.

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18. Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians by Eugene H. Peterson

David with all of his rough edges. He never got around to loving his enemies that way his descendant Jesus would do it; his morals and manners left a lot to be desired. There aren’t narrated as blemishes, however, but as conditions that we share. They aren’t narrated to legitimize bad behavior but are set down as proof that we don’t first become good and get God. First we get God – and then, over a patient lifetime, we’re trained in God’s ways.

This book, written by the translator of The Message Bible, is written in devotional form. I most often abstain from devotionals because they are often more fluff than deeper thoughts, but this one definitely didn’t disappoint. I am glad I didn’t judge this particular book by it’s cover. This book gets you in the Word on your own (with a passage to read before you enter into the chapter), explains it culturally, and Eugene does an amazing job at putting it all under the perspective of God’s Big Redemption Story. I am often overwhelmed by Old Testament stories on my own, so this one was so helpful on the life of David.

RECOMMENDATION STATUS: I would definitely give this one all my support! It drew me closer to God as we peeked into the life of David. So good.

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19. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis 

What is a lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering, whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust had been killed.

I love C.S. Lewis, and this book has so many truth bombs that were thought-provoking and incredibly convicting. I didn’t like it as much as I liked and gleaned from The Screwtape Letters, but it is definitely a worthwhile, overall easy read. If I were to read it again, I would love to read it with a group of believers to get their thoughts on it.

RECOMMENDATION STATUS: Anything by C.S. Lewis is worth looking into, for both spiritual and intellectual growth. But I would start with another one of his books, such as The Screwtape Letters or Mere Christianity, before hopping into this one.

 

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20. Onstage Offstage by Michael Bublé 

All my life I felt too insecure to do a lot of things. I felt restless, and I didn’t know why. My life changed when I became a professional singer. I found my purpose and my calling. When I started to work at this career, I started to find my happiness. I had something to live for. I wasn’t so scared any more. . . . But I still feel like I’m just getting started. There is a lot more I want to do.

This is the book I was referring to that I have had on my shelf for years. I picked it up, read 3/4 of it, tucked my #MBWorldTour tickets and confetti inside, and then didn’t open it until last week. But I finished up the last few chapters and flipped through the pictures again, and fell in love with Michael all over again. It is slightly outdated because he has had kiddos and made several more albums since then, but it still made me appreciate him and his whole journey more. It seems that he is truly in love, and that his family keeps his feet on the ground, and I sure hope it is true.

RECOMMENDATION STATUS: If you love Michael’s music, definitely get your hand on this book! It gives great heartfelt background to why he does what he does.

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21. The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans. There’s less risk associated with animals, less fear of failure, fear of getting too involved. In war movies, a thousand soldier can die gruesomely, but when the horse is shot, the audience is heartbroken.

There aren’t very many books that keep my attention well enough to keep me up past 2 and even 3AM, but this book did that several nights in a row!I tend to love short stories more than novels, and I breezed through the nonfiction portion of the book. Most of the stories and essays had a slightly depressing edge to them, but there were beautiful illustrations and portraits of hope throughout. Marina Keegan graduated at the top of her class at Yale, and died in a car crash five days after graduation. I wish that she was still living, and that we could continue to read her words… I loved these words that she worked hard to leave behind.

RECOMMENDATION STATUS: None of the content was life-changing for me, but her unique story and writing style is definitely worth getting to know if you’re into essay type books and love short stories!

YOUR TURN!

What are you looking forward to reading in Autumn??

 

 

december reads. 

Here it is, friends. 

The books that are bringing my list of 2015 reads to an end. 

 

25. When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper.

“ …it is a good fight because we are not left to our own strength in the fight.”

I cannot say enough good words about When I Don’t Desire God. John Piper is an incredible teacher. This is the first book I’ve read by him. It had been on my shelf untouched for almost one year, merely because I was intimidated by the title and the legend of the author. I was continuously convicted and encouraged in what the fight for joy should truly look like. Piper laid the foundation with Scripture and wisdom, and finished the book with practical ways to increase uninterrupted intimacy with God. I tore up every page with notes and highlights. It drew me back into the Word. If you’re looking for a deeper book to enrich your relationship with Christ in 2016, I would highly recommend you picking this one up. 
 

26. Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri J. M. Nouwen, Donald P. McNeill, and Douglas A. Morrison. 

“By setting out with Jesus on the road of the cross, we become people in whose lives the compassionate presence of God in this world can manifest itself.”

Unexpectedly, I found that When I Don’t Desire God and Compassion correlated well together. Like When I Don’t Desire God, I tore up every page with highlights and it drew me back into the Word. I appreciated its size of 137 pages, but what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. Compassion reminded me that we will never exhaust the Bible or the attributes of God. The Christian life is so much more than what we have molded it to be with our weak hands. It’s about prayer and action. It’s about living in gratitude, within community, in the knowledge that all is grace. It’s about living for the God that could be human so well because He is so divine. I would also highly recommend Compassion

• • • • • 

The 26 books I read in 2015 were some of the best. I’m glad you let me tuck away my thoughts about them here. 

As you can imagine, I’m already daydreaming about the pretty words and the convicting words to come my way in 2016. 

What’s on your reading list for the upcoming new year? 

autumn reads.


22. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, Ph.D.

“To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation–that’s also vulnerability. To let ourselves sink into be joyful moments of our lives even though we know that they are fleeting, even though the world tells us not to be too happy lest we invite disaster–that’s an intense form of vulnerability.”

Daring Greatly is all about vulnerability, and why it’s worth it in the end, no matter the outcome. Brené digs into subjects like shame and insecurity and introduces the relatable term vulnerability hangover. Vulnerability is one of my favorite things to read about and one of the hardest things to apply to my life. I learned a lot from this book, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn practical ways to be authentic and also to learn about the true goodness it brings to the world. 


23. Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

 “Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.”

This book is trendy and popular. It is everything I am not. However, I wanted to leap outside of my reading comfort zone and see what the buzz was all about over Yes Please. I wouldn’t recommend it because of bad language and poor taste.  However, despite the books faults, and if you decide to look over that, Girl. Is. Hilarious. It was a speedy read for me. I love Poehler’s sass, and she did include some stellar life advice that I tucked away to keep – including friendships, relationships, popularity, careers, and the grueling writing life. 

24. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen.

“Liberalism regards Him as an example and guide; Christianity as a Savior: liberalism makes Him an example of faith; Christianity, the object of faith.” 

 If the kids these days were to read this book, they would say that Machen slayed with this one. Christianity and Liberalism was published in 1923. He challenges the Church to not be content with preachers who merely “don’t deny Christ” and instead seek something better. To seek truth and to not falter in it. To follow after Jesus because you love Him for His whole being, not just because He’s a nice guy and blesses people. The predictions that he made about what America would become without proper education, families, and churches is both terrifying and inspiring to do better all at the same time. Machen challenged me to tackle the hard questions with no fear and to let go of sugar coating completely.

What did you read this fall? Any book suggestions for me to slip into the remainder of 2015?