What I’m Reading {Summer 2015}

Please don’t be alarmed by the length of this list. If pregnancy is the kryptonite to my writing, it seems to have the opposite effect on my reading habits. And this list is really what I’ve read from April thru August, not just over the Summer.

I kept my commentary pretty short since there are 29 books listed, but I’d love to hear what you thought if you read any of them or have recommendations! I also didn’t really describe what many of the books were about because this post would have been ginormous, so the links will take you to Amazon if you want to know more about one in particular. (Amazon links are affiliate.)

My Fall plans look like rereading Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, which I haven’t read since high school, in preparation for Katherine Reay’s third novel, The Bronte Plot, due out November 3rd.

What I'm Reading

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: Lovely, complicated story of forgiveness and family that made me want to surround myself with flowers.

Food A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan: Abandoned midway.

Longbourn by Jo Baker: I know Austen fans are split on this rendering of Pride and Prejudice. I fall in to the Nay camp.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple: This had been on my list since Shauna Niequist talked it up last year. An engaging and humorous read.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist: Reread. Loved as per usual.

Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Colllins: The setting of this particular novel is reminiscent of the little towns a wee bit North of where we lived in Idaho (Brandilyn lives very near where Tim and I used to live in Coeur d’Alene), which made for fun reading. I have to be careful though, with this type of novel, since the murder aspect can get in my head.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott: So many authors I respect love Anne Lamott, so I jumped on this for 25 cents at a thrift store. Struggled to get half-way and then didn’t want to waste precious reading time on finishing.

Miracle at Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado: My first encounter with Lucado’s fiction. Kind of predictable, but good characters and a really neat perspective on spiritual warfare.

The Secret of Mirror Bay by Carolyn Keene: I’m a huge Nancy Drew fan and still pick them up every once in a while for a light, quick read. This one is set in Cooperstown, NY which is 20 miles from where my parents live.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Incredibly well-written. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn: What would happen if it were illegal to use an increasingly large number of the letters in our alphabet?… Lots of fun for the English major types.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: First but won’t be my last of Rainbow Rowell.

The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith: Loved everything about this book. I’m a horrible unpacker and avoid putting decor up because it may not be perfect or the best place to put it, so The Nesting Place was like a needed and beautiful kick in my decorating bum.

Rules of Civility by Amor TowlesWas on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. Left me kind of depressed, though it was well-written.

All Dressed Up by Scarlett BergFun, light read that felt like a mash-up of Robin Jones Gunn and America’s Next Top Model.

First Impressions by Charlie LovettAlso on MMD’s Summer Reading Guide. Jane Austen + mystery + antique books = loved it!

Bossypants by Tina FeyI expected to love this one because I think Tina Fey is quite funny. Abandoned half-way. I’ll stick with Mindy Kaling and Ellen DeGeneres.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie KondoI’ve done some simplifying before, but the KonMari method of evaluating everything you own by asking, “Does this give me joy?” really seemed to resonate with me. People get up in arms about the oddities in this book (which do exist, mostly due to cultural differences), however, I think it’s worth looking past. Since reading it in July, I’ve tidied our books (never thought I’d do that), clothes (even the hubs jumped on board!), our files, the kitchen (another one I didn’t think needed any work), my hard-copy photographs, and various boxes from the garage. We’ve taken endless loads to Goodwill. I’m much more mindful of what we own and what we purchase.

The Road to Yesterday by L.M. Montgomery: A nice collection of short stories from an author I love.

Well Fed & Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan: Though we don’t eat Paleo, these two cookbooks have provided amazing inspiration and recipes for cutting back on sugar and preservatives while amping up our protein and vegetable consumption.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee: Our son’s middle name is Atticus. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of TKAM and the Finch family. I’m not sorry I read this (mostly from a literary history and criticism stand point), but it’s definitely not going to be for everyone.

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster: Finally read the book that Dear Mr. Knightley a fantastic read) is loosely based on. Quick and very enjoyable.  The movie, with Fred Astaire, was great too.

All Things New by Lynn Austin: Lynn Austin is a reliably good Christian fiction author. Her novels are always well researched and engaging. Having recently read Go Set A Watchman, the Antebellum setting of this particular novel was timely.

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle: Wasn’t the best mom-memoir I’ve read. (Surprised by Motherhood is one of my favorites.) I wouldn’t be opposed to reading one of Melanie’s other two books – one on marriage, the other on friendship.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Fantasy isn’t generally my genre, but I really enjoyed this book (another from MMD’s Summer Reading Guide).

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer: I apparently had something going for epistolary novels this year… Utterly lovely book written in letters. Wonderful characters.

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker: I don’t want to be too nit picky about this book because I adore Jen Hatmaker. Let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite of the three books that I’ve read (plus her blog). It was good, I think I just had REALLY high expectations.

What I’m Reading – December 2014

The title should really be: What I’m reading – September, October, November, December… It’s been a while since I’ve shared the books I’ve been reading. These past few months haven’t been optimal for lots of reading. However, my podcast listening has increased, so I’ll share my favorites at the end of this post!


Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther

This wasn’t my favorite spiritual memoir (a genre I enjoy reading), but it was good. I wish I could add an audible description of my feelings for this book since saying it was decent doesn’t do it justice. So, imagine me saying, “It was decent!” with a positive, cheerful tone and that would give you a sense of my overall opinion.

Elizabeth Esther writes with heart about her experiences growing up in a well-known Fundamentalist cult. I was saddened by her spankings, angered by the dishonesty of her family, panicked by her flashbacks, and pleased by her healing. Esther is skilled at communicating her feelings, which are complicated throughout the book. I enjoyed getting a more casual sense of Esther’s opinions via the interview at the back of the book. There are other spiritual memoirs that had a more personal impact/effect on me (like When We Were On Fire), but Girl at the End of the World was worth reading.

A Modern Girl’s Guide To Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker

It’s easy to get into ruts and routines (at least it is for me!) when it comes to Bible study. This book has been true to its tagline – simply refreshing. It’s tough to beat Jen Hatmaker’s sense of humor + learning new ways to read God’s Word. Many thanks to whoever dropped this off at the thrift store and into my hands.

The Grace and Truth Paradox: Responding with Christlike Balance by Randy Alcorn

This was a departure from the Randy Alcorn I’ve read (Deadline and The Ishbane Conspiracy, both of which I highly recommend!). I thumbed through Grace and Truth at my parent’s house in October and had wished I had my own copy to underline. Alcorn clearly lays out the conflict between grace and truth and begins to make sense of how the two can coexist in Christ. It’s small size would make this an excellent stocking stuffer!

Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal

During college, my dream job was being a food writer or cookbook editor. It was fun to reenter that genre with this collection of essays arranged like a cookbook, starting with and invitation to the table and ending with pieces about dessert. Essays range from book excerpts that have food as the focal point to food history and recipes. I approached the book like a smorgasbord, picking and choosing what sounded good, but you could read your way straight through like a multi-course meal. Some pieces were much more tasty than others and maybe I’ve been out of the food writing circuit for too long but I found an oddly high number of pieces about homosexuality. (I received this title free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.)

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon

A delight. There’s no other way to describe it. Jan Karon has the ability to make everyday life so very interesting. The Mitford series is charming and real without being saccharine. I read the majority of the Mitford books in high school and was doubtful I would remember the characters or the plot lines in this recent addition to the series. Not a problem. Karon gently reminds readers of Esther’s fabled orange marmalade cake, Puny’s propensity for having twins, and the sweet relationship between Father Tim and Cynthia. It’s an easy book to pick up even if you only have a few spare moments to read.

Unwrapping The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

We are going through this beautifully illustrated Advent celebration as a family. James enjoys all the colors and Tim and I have enjoyed the purposeful time to reflect on this season.

Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts. They keep me company on runs, while I’m cleaning, and when I’m home alone because Tim’s at youth group. Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately. (They all kind of interconnect, as you will see…)

Around The Table Podcast with Jacey and Maggie

I’ve been reading Jacey’s blog, The Balanced Wife, for awhile and was really excited when she started a podcast with her buddy Maggie. Plus, the food/community undertones to their podcast is so fun. They chat about a range of topics from food, intentional living, hospitality, relationships. It’s like having friends come hangout in your living room.

The Influence Podcast

The aforementioned Jacey works for Naptime Diaries whose owner co-created The Influence Network. (I’m fairly positive that’s a run-on sentence…). Jacey shares hosting duties of The Influence Network’s podcast, so I started to listen along. The podcast has interviews with inspiring and encouraging women who are making their online life mean something. Topics range from faith, blogging, and creative businesses.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

One of the early episodes of The Influence Podcast was with Jamie Ivey. I learned that Jamie has her own podcast and quickly listened through her entire archives. She’s fun and I love her Southern accent. Every episode Jamie talks to a different guest, discussing “anything and everything” as she describes it. I love hearing what her and her guests are reading. A couple of my favorite episodes have been with Annie Downs and Gloria Furman. I even got a little shout out in episode 24.

Serial hosted by Sarah Koenig

Oh. My. Goodness. Jamie Ivey and a guest were talking about Serial last week and I was so intrigued. I listened to 10 episodes in three days. Serial follows a story – a true story – over the course of the whole season. The story happens to be that of Adnan Syed, a 17-year old convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. Adnan has now served 15 years in prison, but continues to claim his innocence. A family friend of Adnan’s reached out to Sarah Koenig, a journalist and public radio personality, to dig into his case. It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m both excited and bummed that this week wraps up the story.

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the intimacy of reading

The intimacy of reading

I can see the warm light of our living room lamp casting a halo like glow over a basket of books.  I can see the low white bookshelf in my Gramma’s spare room, filled with Angelina Ballerina and other mouse books. I can see the bright yellow cover of my One Year Bible that my mom read out of every night before bed.

Some of my earliest memories are tied to reading and books.Those memories are indicative of a lifelong love of literature. I desire to instill a similar love in James and any future children. We make reading to him a priority, a priority that is easy to keep.

I love the intimacy of reading with James, snuggling as close as his squirmy little body will allow. I treasure the proximity we share as I turn the pages and he grabs and pulls, more intent on eating than absorbing content.

I love watching him engage with the pages, grasping and patting. Sometimes he just stares at the colors, other times he helps me turn the page, eager to discover what’s next. I love watching him learn and grow. When we first started reading together, he was an infant – just a lump of baby flesh in my arms, barely able to stay awake for my recitation of Barnyard Dance.

As he matures, he is more attentive, more aware. He focuses and anticipates the discovery of something new on the next page. Sometimes I point things out to him – the pretty flower, the funny face. Other times I let him discover on his own, waiting patiently for him to find bumble bee or lift the flap to see what’s underneath.

He wiggles and wrestles. He sits and snuggles. He may last through the whole book or he may start crying before we reach the second page.  Even if he doesn’t notice the words or understand the plot, even if he gets distracted or upset, I am always thankful for the time we spend together with a book in front of us.

I wonder if God experiences our time in the Word like I experience reading with James?

I think He cherishes the intimacy developed as we crack open the Bible, lean into Scripture, and rest in His truths.

I think God loves watching us engage with the pages of Scripture, eager to discover what’s next. He is pleased to see us learning and growing.

In our infancy, we are a lump in His Father arms, being bottle fed the words. As we mature as Christ-followers, we become more attentive, more aware.

Sometimes He points things out to us. Sometimes He lets us work things out on our own, waiting patiently for us to discover truth and wisdom.

Sometimes we wriggle and wrestle with discomfort as we read. Other times we sit in silence. We may gobble up chapters or chew on a verse. Sometimes we just sit in God’s lap and cry without having read one word.

Even if we get distracted or upset, God still cherishes the time we spend with Him, His Word in front of us.

What I’m Reading

I’m doing something a little different today to share what I’ve been reading. I hope you enjoy this (my first) video. I will work on my “um” usage in the next one :)

I resisted the urge to write a script for this little book chat, so, naturally, I forgot a few things I wanted to say about the books. If you have questions about any of the books, leave a comment or email me – I’d be happy to elaborate.

Here’s more info on the books I mentioned:

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Pulling Back The Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of A Woman’s Heart by Dannah Gresh and Juli Slattery

Mommy Time: 90 Devotions for New Moms by Sarah Arthur

Can I Ask That? 8 Hard Questions About God and Faith by Jim Candy, Kara Powell, and Brad Griffin

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch

Too Many Hopkins by Tomie dePaola (apparently not in print anymore, but worth tracking down)

Llama Llama Nighty-Night by Anna Dewdney

I mentioned Twitterature in this video – check out my Twitterature posts for short, casual book reviews.

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Read Along The Road ~ Christmas Edition

A list of favorite Christmas tomes that adorn my bookshelves:

Christmas With Anne by L.M. Montgomery.

  • A fellow Anne fan gave this to me a couple years ago and I have read it every Christmas since. Christmas with Anne is a collection of 16 holiday stories, including favorites like “Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves” and others that have never appeared in book form.

Christmas Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

  • I was charmed by Amy’s first book, Cookies: Bite Size Life Lessonsand was so excited to see a Christmas themed follow-up.  Gorgeous illustrations accompany a delicious ABC dictionary of holiday lessons.
GRATITUDE means taking a minute to look around the table and be thankful for all the people and all the cookies.

 

The Greatest Shepherd of All: A Really Woolly Christmas Story by Holley Gerth

  • Grandpa Woolly shares the story of THE Shepherd to his little woolly grandkids – Faith, Hope, and Joy.  The whole Really Woolly line (brought to life by Julie Sawyer Phillips) makes me smile and this book is a prime example why.  Part allegory, part kid’s book, this little gem manages to be cute without being simpering.

Classics

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

  • It just so happens that one of my favorite novels also has plenty of Christmas spirit.  Little Women is wholesome and worth reading no matter what holiday is around the corner, but there’s something special about snuggling up to read the March women’s timeless story during the Winter months.

The Gift of The Magi by O. Henry

  • The twist ending in this popular short story has long lost its surprise, but O. Henry weaves a sentimental tale that continues to resonate with gift-givers everywhere.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

  • Beneath the ethical and emotional transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge lies the subtle comedy of Dicken’s literary genius.  The story is oft adapted, but the original definitely earns its classic status.