I realized when I was updating my list of books I've read this year that a) I've managed to keep up a one-book-a-week reading pace this year, which feels like a massive accomplishment with a baby and b) I haven't shared what I've been reading in awhile! So here goes.
To be honest, I didn't plan to read a book a week in 2016. My goal was to read 50 books last year and I fell short - reading 27 I think. I'm pretty sure I set a goal to read 30 books this year, knowing that might even be a stretch now that I'm a mama. But! It's like anything else. When you MAKE time for something, it's totally doable. I have to make the conscious choice to crack open a book while I'm eating or lounging on the couch after dinner, instead of scrolling. I have to choose to leave my phone on the floor at night and not on my nightstand, so I read to fall asleep instead of checking my likes on Instagram. All those little choices and pockets of time add up to a lot. Fifteen books' worth, in fact!
Here's what I've read so far:
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson // I thought this was such a cute story. There was something so endearing about the older characters (grandparent age) and I'm a sucker for any book set in the English countryside. I did feel like the end was a bit rushed, but overall I'd highly recommend this for a quick + charming weekend read!
Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly // my younger brother gave me this book to read, and it was super good. It's a fictional story written in the 30s about a young man pursuing God above all else. This description in the foreword is perfect, "J. Blue was the man whom the ambitious Jay Gatsby might have become had he steered by a higher truth than the sound of money in Daisy Buchanan's voice." It's a truth that makes you think and reflect and I'd highly recommend it.
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton // My love for Kate Morton runs DEEP. I've read all her books (except her newest one) and they are all amazing. Again - set in England and/or Australia - and all having to do with some sort of family secret/mystery. This one was no exception. Like all of Morton's books, the last few pages will leave you breathless and you'll close the book and be all, "WHAT?!" So good.
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline // This was the February pick for my book club. I'd seen it everywhere but hadn't picked it up yet, so I was excited to read it. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and I especially love stories about turn-of-the-century America. The concept of the orphan trains is fascinating to me - I'd read a bit about them before. That being said, I wasn't overly impressed by this book. It was fairly predictable, and I really didn't care for the present-day storyline of Molly and Vivian. I also though it was written for the YA audience, so when I found out it was adult fiction I was even less impressed, as the quality of the storyline, characters and writing seemed more suited to YA.
My Name is Hope by John Mark Comer // My sweet friend Val sent me this book after I shared about my struggle with postpartum depression. It is a really, really great book on biblical truths when it comes to depression and anxiety. It really sparked a lot of soul-searching and healing in my life. That being said, there were a few parts that I didn't love. Comer makes the claim that depression is a symptom, not a disease. And one section said that depression was a result of being separated from God by sin. While I agree with this - I do think it's possible to be depressed because you're not walking with the Lord - I think it's important to make a distinction. One reason I hesitated for so long to see my doctor about PPD was because I thought I just needed to pray more or be more grateful. In my experience, I don't believe I suffered from depression because I was far from Jesus. So read this section with a grain of salt and don't let it make you feel guilty for getting help, taking medication, etc. But this book DID point me to several passages of the Bible that brought a lot of comfort and healing and for that, I'm grateful.
The Dust That Falls From Dreams by Louis de Bernieres // To be honest, I picked this book up off the library shelf because of the beautiful cover. When I read the flap I was hooked - it was set during WWI, which is an era I've not read much about. But as I said, I love historical fiction so much, especially war fiction. And this book did not disappoint. It's a sweeping novel that spans decades, is beautifully written and will make you laugh as well as cry. If you loved The Nightingale, you'll love this - and vice versa.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes // This was my book club's January pick and although it's not a book I would have picked up myself, I really enjoyed it. You can read my full review on my friend Rachel's blog right here!
Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick // I'm pretty sure 95% of my copy of this book is highlighted. Y'all THIS BOOK. It's so good. It is my #1 recommendation for anyone that struggles with negative self-talk and anxiety. It walks you through scriptural turth that you can use to turn those thoughts on their heads. I think everyone should read it. It truly changed my life.
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers // I received this book at my book club Christmas swap two years ago and I'm ashamed to say it sat on my shelf for those two years. The cover made it seem like one of those lame romance novels at the Dollar Tree. But that could not be farther from the truth. This beautiful story is a re-telling of the story of Isaiah, and it is beautiful. Suspenseful, moving, just beautiful. It's staying on my shelf for many more reads.
For The Love by Jen Hatmaker // If you haven't read anything by Jen Hatmaker, you should get on that. She is one of my favorite authors - funny and whip smart. I've talked a lot about 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, which rocked my world. For The Love was no disappointment. It's a book for every woman - one to laugh at, cry at, underline and re-read over and over. If you love Shauna Niequist, I think you'll love Jen Hatmaker.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll // This was the March book club pick, and again it was definitely not one that I would have chosen for myself. I was automatically turned off by the comparison to Gone Girl - I hated Gone Girl. As it turns out, I don't think the comparison to Gone Girl/Gillian Flynn is accurate whatsoever. In the beginning, I really wanted to quit this one. The main character is a straight up jerk in the beginning and was very, very hard to like. It was all name-dropping expensive brands and whining about her perfect fiance and her life in NYC. But there's definitely more than what meets the eye for Ani, and by the end I was glad I'd read it. Also, I have so much more respect for the author/story now that I know it was based on the author's true experience. If you read this, expect to hate it at first. You have to push through for it to get good.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence // I read this one for the Nancy Ray Book Club and am so glad I did! A sweet, quick little book that will leave you thinking and desiring a deeper relationship with God - and the tools to make it happen. This is one I'll go back to again and again.
Zorro by Isabel Allende // This was my takeaway from last year's book club Christmas swap, and I won the jackpot! I'm a sucker for stories set in Spain (check this one out if you are, too) and I've loved the movie The Mask of Zorro since I was little. I loved this take on the mythical man - it fleshes out his younger years and is told from an interesting point of view. A sweeping read with really great characters and lots of action. As my friend Maria wrote in the inscription - "bandits, pirates and a masked man - what more could you ask for?"
The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee // This was the April book club book and I won't give too much of my opinion since book club hasn't met yet, but I didn't love it overall. It had okay character development but I didn't click with any of the main characters. I felt really depressed reading about the three expat women and their lives, which isn't a feeling I love to feel when reading for fun. That being said, I thought the ending was powerful and I have to admit I shed a tear. I blame the mama hormones.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah // YOU GUYS OH MY GOSH. I just finished this last night after reading a whopping 200 pages yesterday and I can't stop thinking about it. This is one of those stories that sticks with you, where you wish you could keep up with the characters long after the last page. It's a love story, it's a war story, it's a story of brokenness and hope and betrayal and survival. It. Is. Incredible. Put it on your short list now!
What are you beauties reading lately? I just started The Truth According to Us and am also reading my sweet friend Val's book The Finishing School during my daily quiet time. Always on the hunt for new reads, though!