2017 Reading Recap

It’s been a while – sorry about that!  I had several commitments in November and December that pushed blogging way down on the priority list, but fortunately, I was still able to read a good number of books.  I finished book 100 on November 13, and currently sit at 110….which is probably where I will end up, considering there aren’t many hours left in the year and I really need to clean out some closets.

Just for fun, I took a picture of 110 books to get a visual for how many that actually is, and WHOA! I didn’t read these books (most of my 2017 reads were library loans or kindle versions), but that’s a lot of books to fit in one (poorly staged) picture.

110 books

I thought for this post I would quickly list what I read in November and December, then share my favorite books of 2017.

So, without futher ado…

November  

Home is Where My People Are: The Roads That Lead Us to Where We Belong (Sophie Hudson) – a sweet memoir from a writer who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman) – a bit darker than I expected, but I enjoyed this book.

Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home (Amber Haines) – my favorite genre to criticize (ha!), I did appreciate this one.

In this Moment (Karen Kingsbury) – the cheese factor is HIGH in this one.

Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate) – this one is GREAT! You’ll see it again later in this post.

December

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling) – I finished Harry Potter! And actually liked it! About halfway through book 4, I finally began to appreciate it and by book 5, couldn’t put it down.  As Harry got older, the story got darker and I liked it. What does that say about me? Oh well.

I, Eliza Hamilton (Susan Holloway Scott) – I thought that the fact that it was being told in first person would make it less boring than a biography, but no.

The Identicals (Elin Hilderbrand) – several of the book bloggers I follow are big fans of Hilderbrand. This is the first one I’ve read.  I didn’t really care for it. Not my style.

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy (Sue Klebold) – Sue is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the perpetrators of the Columbine tragedy. This book was heartbreaking and un-put-down-able.

The Things We Wish Were True (Marybeth Mayhew Whalen) – I enjoyed this book, which details the events that in occur in a single neighborhood one summer.  It’s told from the perspective of multiple characters and Whalen brings them all to life.  I’ve liked every one of her books.

And now, my favorites of 2017 (in no particular order, with Amazon’s description):

Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate) – BASED ON TRUE EVENTS. “Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge–until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.”

Free of Me: Why Life is Better When it’s not About You (Sharon Hodde Miller) – “We live in a culture that’s all about self, becoming the best “me” I can be instead of becoming like Jesus. This me-centered message affects every area of our lives–our friendships, our marriages, even our faith–and it breaks each one in different ways. The self-focused life robs our joy, shrinks our souls, and is the reason we never quite break free of insecurity.
In this book, Sharon Hodde Miller invites us into a bigger, Jesus-centered vision–one that restores our freedom and inspires us to live for more.”

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land (Monica Hesse) – “The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage. Volunteer firefighters slept at their stations. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, but local police were stretched too thin to surveil them all. Accomack was desolate―there were hundreds of abandoned buildings. And by the dozen they were burning.”

When We Were Worthy (Marybeth Mayhew Whalen) – “When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.”

Beartown (Fredrik Backman) – “a poignant charming novel about a forgotten town fractured by scandal and the amateur hockey team that might just change everything”

Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed (Sara Hagerty) – “Every heart longs to be seen and understood. Yet most of our lives is unwitnessed. We spend our days working, driving, parenting. We sometimes spend whole seasons feeling unnoticed and unappreciated. So how do we find contentment when we feel so hidden? In Unseen, Sara Hagerty suggests that this is exactly what God intended. He is the only One who truly knows us. He is the only One who understands the value of the unseen in our lives. When this truth seeps into our souls, we realize that only when we hide ourselves in God can we give ourselves to others in true freedom—and know the joy of a deeper relationship with the God who sees us.”

Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything (Gloria Furman) – “God’s grand plan for the redemption of his creation has been in motion since before time began. The book of Ephesians lays out this glorious vision, revealing what Christ’s redemptive work means for the people of God and showing us how we should live in light of that reality. Alive in Him draws us into the main themes in the book of Ephesians, showing us how the blessings we have received in Christ empower our obedience and love for God.”

Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi)   “Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.
Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.”

No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God (Aimee Byrd) – “Why are so many well-intentioned women falling for poor, even false, theology? The Devil has been effectively targeting women from the beginning, so why are they often left to fend for themselves in so-called women’s ministries?”

The Mothers (Brit Bennett)  “A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community—and the things that ultimately haunt us most. Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition.”

Completely unintentionally, I ended up with 5 fiction and 5 nonfiction on this list.  It makes me wonder if that’s representative of my reading this year. I’m too lazy to check, but my gut says that it isn’t.

And now it’s time to set some goals for 2018 and get a TBR list ready.  Let me know your 2017 favorites in the comments!

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What I Read: October 2017

I set a new record this month! Unfortunately, it’s a record for the LOWEST number of books I’ve read in a month in the almost three years that I’ve been tracking my reading.  I think there are two primary reasons for this “failure.” First, I have been quite busy and my brain is too tired to read when I get home from work and evening obligations. Second, I feel like I’ve been in a reading slump since mid-September. I haven’t loved the books I’ve picked up lately so I was less eager to keep reading.

So, with that said, here are the four books I read in October.

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle) – I really wanted to love this. There are some beautiful lines of inspiring writing. But I’ve come to learn that fantasy is just a genre than does not and probably will never resonate with me. Oh well.

This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live (Melody Warnick) – I had some apprehension going in to this one because it is set in my beloved Blacksburg. The problem is that the author writes about Blacksburg as the town she didn’t love at all! I actually really enjoyed this one and appreciated the journey Warnick went on to love the place she lives.  It’s fun reading about your hometown since you’re able to picture all the places described in the book.  Also, the last couple chapter made me sob.  I love Blacksburg so much.

The Alice Network (Kate Quinn) – I think this one is being made into a movie and I think it will be a good one.  If you like historical fiction, especially set around the World Wars, you’ll like this book.  Each chapter goes back and forth between two characters and time periods, but it is easy to follow.

If I’m Found (Terri Blackstock) – This is the second book in a Christian suspense trilogy. I read the first about a year ago and really enjoyed it, but I think I’d forgotten too much of the plot of the first book.  I recommend waiting until the third book comes out this spring and reading all three at once.  It’s not award-winning fiction, but it’s a good, fast-paced story that keeps you wanting to know how it ends.

 

And that’s all the books I read last month. I hope November brings me out of this funk. Happy Reading!

Friday Finds: 10/6/17

I hope it’s feeling like fall where you are – it’s almost 90 here, but I’m trying not to complain about it.

Here are a few links and other things for your weekend.

The National Book Award announced its nominees earlier this week. Out of 20 books nominated in non-fiction and fiction, I am both surprised and a little embarrassed to say I haven’t read a single one! I do own Sing, Unburied, Sing (it was one of my Book of the Month picks last month), so I will make reading it a priority. I haven’t even heard of most of them.

I mentioned Free of Me by Sharon H. Miller in my September reading summary.  Sharon wrote a great piece for The Gospel Coalition highlighting the themes of her book. Read this and if it resonates with you, get her book.  I think it’s great.

Melissa Kruger also had a great post on TGC’s site this week: Life in the Shadow of Death.  She’s another one of my favorite authors.

Worth a Listen

Here are a few sermons/podcasts that made me say “Amen” more than once.

Curtis Jones of Bayou City Fellowship in Houston, TX: “The Good Samaritan and Race in America”

Nancy Guthrie at TGCW16: “Three Little Words that Change Everything”

Rockbridge Church (my church!): “Church Works: The Building” and “Jonah: Part 1”

And, lastly, a couple new albums that I’ve been playing on repeat: Where His Light Was by Kristene Dimarco, and Lecrae’s latest release, All Things Work Together.

Enjoy!

What I Read: September 2017

Long story short, I didn’t read a whole lot in September. That’s not true – I read 7 books but never got so engrossed in one that I couldn’t put it down and that is unusual for me. Hopefully I find some winners in October.

Here’s what I read in September.

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The Breakdown (B.A. Paris) – A good suspense novel. A woman thinks she witnesses a murder, then becomes convinced the killer is stalking her. However, the evidence suggests she’s actually losing her mind. What’s going on? I must say I figured out the twist a third of the way into the book but I won’t spoil it here.  Worth your time.

The Pursuit of God (A.W. Tozer) – I can’t tell you how much I’ve been challenged by these short books by great Christian thinkers.  I read this one on kindle and I think it hurt my ability to get as much out of it.  I need to buy a hard copy and read it again.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling) – I just can’t with Harry Potter, you guys.  There is nothing about this series that appeals to me.  I borrowed the entire series from my sister nine months ago and this is only the third….ahhh! My goal is to return them to her (read) at Christmas.  It sounds like torture and I’m sorry.  It’s just not a genre I care about. I don’t even want to watch the movies.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid) – I really enjoyed this book. Please don’t take that as an endorsement of every action taken by the title character…but I loved the way it was written and that, while not a mystery or suspense novel, kept the reader wondering until the last page.

You are Free: Be Who You Already Are (Rebekah Lyons) – as far as Christian-themed memoirs go, this one is pretty good.

All the Missing Girls (Megan Miranda) – I don’t think I had the mental energy for this book…or maybe the style wasn’t for me. It’s a murder mystery/suspense novel but the story is told backward, so you start with the last day, and back up to the day the crime was committed. I want to try a different novel by this author before I decide whether it’s her or me. 🙂

Free of Me: Why Life is Better When It’s Not About You (Sharon Hodde Miller) – this is my favorite book of the month.  It actually releases tomorrow (October 3).  Miller uses Scripture and personal experience to challenge us to raise our gaze to experience the freedom of self-forgetfulness.  This is an important book.

So there’s my relatively short list.  I’ve read 93 books so far this year and hope to reach 100 this month. I’ll be back in the beginning of November with another update.

Happy reading!

Something for your Sunday

I needed this today: “Hope for the Unhappily Single”

“If we are married in this life, it will be for a brief moment, and we won’t regret that brevity ten thousand years from now. We really won’t. No one will say, ‘I really wish I had been married’ — much less, ‘I really wish I had been married for five or ten more years on earth.’ That would be absurd when those years seem like seconds compared with all the gloriously, thoroughly happy time we have when our marriages end at death.

“We need to think about that as we weigh the intensity of our desperation to have it now. We need to ask whether we have made marriage a qualification for a happy and meaningful life. Am I undone and miserable by the prospect of never being married? Do I think of myself as incomplete or insignificant as an unmarried believer? These questions might reveal red flags that warn us marriage has become an idol.

“Ultimately, we will all be single forever, and it will be gloriously good. We will all be finally married forever, joined together forever with our Savior and First Love. We’ll know well then that the marriages here on earth truly were small and short compared with all we have in Christ.”

Friday Finds: 9/29/17

This may be the weekend in which fall arrives in Virginia! It’s been hot as blazes this week, but the weekend forecast finally shows low 70s, which is wonderful considering I will be outside much of the day tomorrow.  College Gameday is going to my beloved Blacksburg so I will be watching closely for views of my hometown (and, later, tuning in to see the Hokies upset the Tigers…hopefully).

Here are my notable “finds” of the week:

If you need some reading recommendations, there are several good books on this list. I like that they are all on the short side — sometimes 400 pages is intimidating — even for me!

These articles have an interesting take on solitude and being alone: “The Pursuit of Loneliness” and “The Importance of Being Alone.” I’d love to hear what you think.

So Hugh Hefner died this week and while I really don’t want to give him any additional attention, the response on Twitter has been fascinating.  He was clearly a polarizing figure for obvious reasons, so it was no surprise for some to hail him as a hero and others to make him the villain.  What I appreciated, however, was this post by Emma Gray of the Huffington Post — I think it’s worthwhile because it shows the way the Sexual  Revolution is actually anti-feminist (and does so from a non religious perspective): “The Contradictory Feminist Legacy of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner”. And, since I’ve already brought it up, did you hear about how he bought a spot in the mausoleum next to Marilyn Monroe? He’s basically a stalker/sexual predator even in death . It’s disgusting.

I also found this rather old article by Jen Wilkin and really liked what she had to say – I guess this is Christian feminism…? No matter what you call it, let’s raise strong girls who can’t be easily manipulated: “On Daughters and Dating: How to Intimidate Suitors.”

If someone wants to buy me this poncho, I wouldn’t be sad.

And, last but not least, I have a sad story. I spent the better part of an hour last night looking for a new pumpkin recipe to try. I couldn’t find one! It seems people are all about pumpkin and chocolate combinations this year, and that is one flavor profile I cannot get behind.  What about you? Fan or no? And do you have a non-chocolate pumpkin themed recipe to share? I’d love one!

Have a great weekend!

Friday Finds: 9/22/17

This has been the longest week! A relatively good one, but a long one nonetheless. I have a pretty busy weekend lined up, but hopefully I’ll find a few hours to rest – I need it.

Here are this week’s finds.

For those of you craving a fall drink and don’t love the Pumpkin Spice Latte, Starbucks has a few new drinks to try. My sister tells me the Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte is pretty good.  I’m personally looking forward to trying the Maple Pecan Latte.  It sounds delicious!

I am beyond excited about my summer plans (already, I know).  In June, my sisters and I are attending The Gospel Coalition’s Conference for Women in Indianapolis. I cannot wait to hear some of my favorite teachers in person – including Jen Wilkin, Gloria Furman, and Melissa Kruger.  And speaking of Jen Wilkin, here is a great article she posted this week: “Think Fake News is Scary? Try False Teaching.”

Some of you may know, but I love personality typing systems. I’ve recently learned about the enneagram and find it fascinating.  Here’s a link to a great podcast I listened to yesterday with Annie Downs and Beth McCord (it’s podcast episode 53).  Beth is an enneagram coach and you can take an assessment on her website here.  I still can’t figure out which number I am – I’ve narrowed it down to a couple, but haven’t convinced myself of either one.  On the podcast, Annie recommends a couple books that I want to get my hands on.

That’s all I’ve got….enjoy your weekend!