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 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.