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 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!