At the beginning of 2015, I made a goal that I would read at least one book a month. I have always been a voracious reader (I have the Babysitters Club series to thank for that!), but have tended towards putting other things above reading in my adult life like, you know, Netflix, or Facebook, or stupid projects that should not be started at 10 pm.
I started to make reading a priority – I made sure I always had a few books either ready to go, or on hold at the library. I got into bed earlier so that I had at least 20 minutes to read every day. Two years in, I can’t imagine how I got by in my reading dry spells- just making that one tiny (and very manageable) goal to finish one book every month has brought me so much daily joy these past two years.
Before I give you my list, I will say this: I give myself very few rules on what I read. I read what I want to read. I don’t read what I don’t want to read. If I’m not into a book, I put it down. No shame. Also, no shame in genre switching like crazy- if young adult fiction captures my attention for two months SO BE IT. If I want to read a Christian self help book followed by a historical fiction, followed by another young adult fiction book, THAT’S FINE TOO. It’s all about balance.
My 2016 Monthly Reads:
The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
Truth be told, I read this in 3 days in Hawaii on our trip in December, but I forgot to record it in 2015. It is a gorgeously written tale of two sisters in Nazi Germany occupied France, who must make terrible decisions to keep the people they love alive. I’ve been on a bit of a WWII kick recently, and I have especially loved reading about the war from the point of view of those who those who formed the resistance in Europe. Other books in this category that I have enjoyed include: The Book Thief, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and All the Light We Cannot See.
Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
I listened to this book on audible, which was read by Edward Hermann who played Richard in Gilmore Girls. He was magnificent, and I highly recommend listening to this book if you can tolerate audiobooks- he really brings the story to life. Louis Zamperini’s story is nothing short of incredible. It is a difficult read, gritty and unbearably sad for most of it. However, the last portion of the book delves into how his faith saved him from alcoholism, PTSD, anger and consuming rage. He was able to forgive the atrocities that were inflicted on him as a prisoner of war, and go on to have a joyful, meaningful life that was characterized by giving back to those less fortunate. His life is a tribute to the saving grace of God- this is an absolute must read.
Pretties, Scott Westerfeld
It’s dystopian teen fiction and it’s good. I feel like that is all I need to say.
Uglies, Scott Westerfeld
I got busy on the reading in January. It’s still dystopian teen fiction and it’s still good.
Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller
In progress (I wanted to savor this book and here I am savoring it right into 2017!)
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Started not finished as I had to return it to library… I’ve put it back on my ‘holds’ list because it was really interesting but really long (hence the interrupted reading). Trust be told, I don’t know if I will pick this book up again.
Yes Please, Amy Poehler
This one I actually did finish! I listened to this book on audiobook, which I think is the best way to read it since it is voiced by Amy Poehler herself, as well as a handful of fun friends (Seth Meyers, her parents, Carol Burnett to name a few). I’ll be honest, I didn’t love it, but I it was an enjoyable read and really fun for anyone who loves Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec. On an unrelated note, I always listen to audiobooks at 1.5 speed, probably because that is how fast my brain works.
The Martian, Andy Weir
If you saw the movie, you have pretty much read this book. If you enjoyed the movie, you will definitely enjoy this book. Andy Weir is absolutely adorable, and it is shocking how scientifically accurate the story line is (not that I would know the difference if it wasn’t, but the internet said it was and I believe most things I read on the internet). This was a fast, easy, fun read.
In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson
Like all of Larson’s books, it’s a journalistic, mostly non-biased, history smack down. I would highly recommend already knowing a lot about the rise of nazism, and about all of the key players in the Nazi party before reading this book. I had to turn to Wikipedia as I went, and it slowed me down. Very interesting, dark read. I’m not positive I would recommend it, but I am glad I read it.
Specials, Scott Westerfeld
See: Pretties, Uglies. It’s still dystopian teen fiction and I guess after reading all three I think it was fine. I’m not positive if this was an agenda pushing book or not, but it was an interesting concept.
Just do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, Kevin DeYoung
This was one of the best Christian books I have ever read- it’s a really quick read and straight to the point. Kevin DeYoung perfectly debunks the cultural milieu of “finding your purpose” and “leading a purposeful life” with wit, candor, and a whole lot of in your face biblical truths. Seriously, he does not hold back. Do not read this book if you are PMS-ing.
My favorite quote:
“We walk into the future in God-glorifying confidence, not because the future is known to us but because it is known to God. And that’s all we need to know. Worry about the future is not simply a character tic, it is the sin of unbelief, an indication that our hearts are not resting in the promises of God.”
The Witches: Salem, 1692, Stacy Schiff
This book is a commitment, because it’s long and super detailed but if you have any kind of fascination with the Salem Witch Trials (which I do), you should read it. It was a total page turner, which is rare for non fiction. Fair warning: You will start telling everyone you meet about this book; they will probably not be impressed.
Woman Code, Alisa Vitti
If I was not a Christian who thought it was blasphemous to call books that are not the Bible the Bible, I would call this the Bible. All women should read this book- it’s an extremely informative dialogue about how women’s hormones work, interact, and effect our everyday lives. Did you know that the structure of our world is set up to accommodate a man’s 24 hour hormone cycle… which can be an issue given that women have a 28 day hormone cycle? I mean, DID YOU? I didn’t.
Recommended reading before you dive into Woman Code: Taking Charge of Your Fertility. It will give you a basic understanding of how your specifically female body works. Don’t be scared off by the word ‘fertility’ in the title- all women have ‘fertility’ whether or not you are looking to have babies. Being ‘fertile’ is actually a really good indication of your overall health, so it’s important to know what’s going on with your baby maker regardless of if or when you are planning on using it.
The Royal We: Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Did you watch The Royal Wedding and/or attend/host a royal wedding watch party? Is Kate Middleton your spirit animal? Do you have any romantic feelings whatsoever? You must read this book. It starts off pretty slow, but once it picks it up, it gets really good really fast.
The Selection Series (all five of them), Kiera Cass
These books pulled me in and would not let me go. I have a serious soft spot for YA Fiction, so it’s not terribly surprising I got hooked on a series about post apocalyptic princesses, but this series is especially precious. I definitely enjoyed the first three books more than the last two, but overall they were a great, light summer read.
The Honest Life, Jessica Alba
Loved it. You can read my full review here.
Dowry Towers, Stephanie Routt Kotara
My sister’s first novel! It’s wonderful, and I can’t wait to read the next one.
The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
In progress, but you know it went back to the library and I may or may not ever finish it.
Eight Hundred Grapes, Laura Dave
I thought this book was just ok, but that may have been because it got super hype from everyone I know. I think it just didn’t really go anywhere until the very end, and at that point, I didn’t particularly care.
The Best Yes, Lysa TerKuerst
If you are a people pleaser, this book is for you. If you have said I’m too busy to do ____ thing that definitely should be doing (like exercising), this book is for you. Lysa breaks down how (and why) saying yes to everything is detrimental both to you and to the person you are saying yes to- and how to say yes to the right things so that you are best able to honor God with your time. She gets really practical and down in the weeds on some very specific situations where she had to use her ‘best yes,’ and this was so helpful for me! It’s easy for me to read Christian books and take them as completely theoretical- this one will not allow you to do that. You can check out some resources from the book on her website, as well as take the very handy ‘Time Assessment Tool’ (it’s an eye opener!).
Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
A cute, quick read and a great book to listen to on audiobook, since it is, of course, read by Mindy Kaling. This one is a touch more soul searching and serious than her last book.
I Said Yes, Emily Maynard Johnson
As an avid yet mostly closeted watcher of the Bachelor/Bachelorette, I was, admittedly, a little embarrassed to be seen checking this book out of the library. Well, shame on me! This book was great. Emily (I feel like we are on a first name basis now) writes a very truthful and poignant memoir that includes perhaps the best anecdote about a hotdog wrapped in hair that I have ever heard.
Living Well, Spending Less, Ruth Soukup
This book is a hardcore kick in the pants for anyone who likes going to Target a little too much (me, it’s a book for me). It’s got a lot of practical advice about saving, but it’s also packed with spiritual truth about how we are supposed to view money and our things (hint: they belong to God, not us).
The Lake House, Kate Morton
I stayed up way past midnight three nights in a row during the work week to read this book, and I LOVED it. I feel like I can’t say much about it without giving something away, so I will refrain… but I will say that if the subject matter seems too dark for you, stay the course. I can’t read super dark books, and I enjoyed this one.
A Praying Life, Paul Miller
I have so many things to say about this book that it will probably need its own separate post. It has totally changed the way I view prayer, and the way I pray! I loved it. Confession- I read this book from like, November- January. Let’s pretend I finished it in 2016, because that is when I read the bulk of it.
The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom
One of my favorite books of the year- you will fall in love with her characters and miss them when the book is over. As a disclaimer, this book is not for the faint of heart. It deals with some really serious, sad subject matter with grace and beauty.
Grace, Not Perfection, Emily Ley
I’ve been reading Emily’s blog for years, and decided to read her book after listening to her podcast with Jamie Ivey. It’s a really quick, encouraging read about simplifying your life, pursuing your dreams, and using your talents to bless others.
So fun to get to look back at all these books! I’ve got quite a few queued up for 2017, so stay tuned…
And if you’re interested, here is last year’s list as well:
Books I Read in 2015