Eighteen Books Later: My Year of Reading (Week 14)

I am learning so much. I have so much still to learn.

I started this reading challenge fourteen weeks ago but I have only written about one book. So this week I thought I would catch up. If you have read any of these or are looking for your next book to read, let me know. Books are one of my favorite things to talk about. 🙂

The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown: The first book I finished this year. Could not put it down. Brene is a researcher/storyteller and her work is invaluable. This book was like fresh water after a long walk under a desert sun. Brene has found the holy grail of love, belonging and worthiness. If you are a person, you must listen to this. I found it on audible.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: The first true crime novel ever written. Written about a murder in Kansas. This book was dark and a struggle for me to finish (only because of the subject matter) but Capote’s commitment to this story deeply inspired me. His ability to paint a picture with his pen and his commitment to objectivity are noteworthy. If you are an aspiring writer or journalist or just someone who wants to be a great listener, I would recommend you read Capote.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott: This was my first Anne Lamott book. Another deeply refreshing read for this seeker. Anne is funny, thought-provoking and kind spirited. Her perspective on life and love and death and grace and God spoke directly to my heart. If you are looking for a fresh perspective on those topics, you must read Anne’s books. She is one of my new favorites.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: I read this series when I was a kid and again recently with my children. What a beautiful, magical, endearing piece of art. There were moments when the kids had trouble understanding the author’s language but overall we loved this series and will forever remember with joy the reading of these books.

Pure Drivel by Steve Martin: Not only does he act and play music, he writes! Some of my favorite movies are Steve Martin movies. This humorous book reminded me of his movies. I listened to the audiobook version, read by the author, and I think that enhanced the experience. This book was odd, ironic and a great reminder that there are a million ways to see the world.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James: I am aware of some of the controversy surrounding this book. Maybe that is one of the reasons I read it. This was closer to pure entertainment than the books I normally read. It was fairly cheesy and predictable at times, which was distracting, but as someone who is fascinated by relationship, emotion and connection, I found aspects of the main characters’ story fascinating. The development of relationship was what most intrigued me about this book.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: A novel written by another of my new favorite authors. Ann is a fantastic story teller, after reading this book I feel like I have been to the places she described in the story. While fiction/novels is not my current favorite genre, this book was a great adventure story and an excellent example of a writer adept at her craft. If you are in the mood for great writing and a little adventure, I would highly recommend this book

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell: More refreshment, more nourishment for a parched spirit. I could not put this one down either and I made Chaz listen to large portions of it so we could talk about it. If you are a believer needing a fresh perspective on love and grace, God and religion, read this. Rob has a podcast too. My baggage feels ten pounds lighter every time I listen to Rob Bell. Good, good stuff.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: I read this with the kids after we finished Narnia. Beautiful story, beautiful book, beautiful perspective. I read it to the kids but I think I loved it even more than they did. My grandmother borrowed it a few weeks after we read it. I wish I could have captured the look of childlike joy on her face when I asked her what she thought of the book. If you need something thoughtful and heartwarming, I would start here. It is a short book and a joy to experience.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: There is a reason Fitzgerald is considered one of the greats. This book swept me away into a story of glamour, wealth, love and tragedy. Fitzgerald can paint an entire scene in just a sentence or two. I was mesmerized by his words, inspired by his skill, and swept away by his story.

Writers on Writing, a collection of essays originally printed in The New York Times: This book spoke to my little writer’s heart. Each essay was unique but I related to so many of the writer’s thoughts and habits and idiosyncrasies. If you are an aspiring writer and you want to feel a little less crazy for all of the weird habits and fascinations and insecurities you have, you must read this book. I feel so much less alone and crazy now. I will always cherish the nuggets I took from this magnificent collection.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch: Written by the author when he was faced with a terminal cancer diagnoses at age 47. This book was inspiring. Randy was a dreamer and in this book he describes the satisfaction of looking back over your life, at the end of your life, and remembering the dreams you dreamed and pursued and experienced. It so clearly explained why dreaming is an essential part of the human experience and how following our dreams can be good not only for us but for humanity as a whole. I am a dreamer. This book gave me permission to keep dreaming.

Anthem by Ayn Rand: Ayn Rand has been on my list of authors to read for quite some time. She was born in Russia and moved to the United States in her early twenties. This story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. Many of Ayn’s books are thick volumes. This one was short. If you are curious about Ayn’s work or the perspective of a young woman who moved from Russia to the United States between the World Wars, I’d say this is a great place to start.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson: Kind of a cheesy story (haha, get it?) but great life lessons in this short book. My favorite line from the book, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I would recommend everyone read this. We are so easily controlled by fear and fear is what steals so much from us. This book put a fresh lens on an old condition- What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch: I finished and wrote about this book last week. Nina read a book a day for a whole year then wrote a book about it. Books have transformed my life more than just about any other thing in the past two years. It is good to hear I am not the only one who feels that way. Nina offers valuable insights on love and loss and family and the value of a good book. This will end up one of my favorites from this year, I am sure of it.

All the Gallant Men by Donald Stratton and Ken Gire: A first hand account of an American sailor who survived Pearl Harbor. This book was gruesome at times but also informative and intriguing. If you are at all curious about Japan’s involvement in World War Two or some of the military strategy used during times of war, this book would be a great choice. I am fascinated by that time in our country’s history so I really appreciated the perspective offered by this book.

Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue: This was another one of those books that felt like manna found after a long walk through the desert. Mike is known as Science Mike on the internet, he has two podcasts Ask Science Mike and The Liturgists. This book is a giant leap from where I started but a beautiful effort in offering hope and healing to the spiritually homeless and hurting. I admire Mike’s courage and honesty in writing this book. I would highly recommend it to anyone needing a new dialogue about God, grace, love and religion in this age of division and science.

Earthquake at Dawn by Kristiana Gregory: I finished this book this morning. A book of historical fiction about the 1906 San Francisco earthquakes and fires. This book was full of the tragedy and horror of natural disaster and the chaos that follows so much destruction. It also told held stories of how people pull together and care for one another when tragedy strikes. I would recommend this to any adult or young adult curious about life in California in the early nineteen hundreds. The descriptions were excellent, it felt like I was there.

This reading challenge has been a joy, an adventure and a journey through time and space and story. If you need a recommendation or have any recommendations, please speak up, I always want to hear what you are reading or wanting to read.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes,

I think books are like people, in the sense that they’ll turn up in your life when you most need them. Sometimes, human beings need story and narrative more than they need nourishment and food.” -Emma Thompson

Happy reading, everyone. 🙂

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