The last month of the year is just hours away from coming to a close. It feels surreal, but it's been a great month and I'm looking forward expectantly to the coming new year. Nine books are in this post today (but one was read throughout the whole year, so maybe that doesn't exactly count?) and they are all fantastic ones.
Here's what I read in December!
Coming Clean by Seth Haines. // "I’ve become dependent upon something other than the God I claim."
This book, while mainly about Seth's journey through sobriety after alcoholism, is striking and poignant for any and all of us. The way he writes is powerful and poetic and incredibly raw. I didn't know what to expect and definitely didn't anticipate connecting with any of the themes, but I loved this one and would recommend it to anyone who has felt stuck in a pattern they know they need to break free from.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. // “Everyone’s got some greatness in them. You do. The girl over there does. That guy on the left has some. But in order to really mine it, you have to own it. You have to grab hold of it. You have to believe it.”
I'm a major fan of Shonda Rhimes, even when I'm cursing at my TV because she's killed off another one of my favorite characters or twisted the plot in a way that is just SO WRONG. She's a brilliant and wicked and wonderfully talented mastermind, and I adored her writing style (like I thought I would). It's funny and exactly like I imagine getting coffee with her in person would be. I resonated with much of her story, of being an introvert afraid to step out of a comfort zone and do scary things, and so appreciated her transparency as she spent a year saying yes to all those terrifying things, to a fantastic end.
Wild in the Hollow by Amber C. Haines. // "Our lives are made of metaphor, and we can recognize Jesus throughout creation and in those who have never heard his name. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1 that no one has an excuse. God is everywhere. Yoga poses and Gregorian chant, buttermilk cornbread, the Grand Canyon, and the picture of a rainbow drawn by the hand of my two-year-old all speak of him if we’re looking."
If I thought Seth's writing was poetic, I don't even know what to call Amber's. WHAT A COUPLE. This book is stunning. Beautiful. Gorgeously written. You can tell Amber is a poet by nature, with eyes that see wonder and art in everything, and with the ability to wrap it all up in words that just give you chills and quiet you with their lyricism. It's an incredible story of redemption and grace and finding the way home again. An absolute must-read. Between Amber's memoir and Seth's, this family feels like a dearly beloved friend of mine.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. // "Because it’s true: more than the highlights, the bright events, it was in the small and the daily where she’d found life."
I've seen this book everywhere, and although I've made an effort not to buy fiction that I typically don't re-read, I bought this one earlier this fall. I couldn't get enough of it. I read it through in two days. Even when the plot seemed slow, I kept reading, eager to find out more of Lotto and Mathilde's story. I should have guessed (but didn't) that this book would be told in two parts-- the fates, then the furies-- ultimately telling the twisted, layered, complex, intricate story of a marriage. This takes the prize for best fiction I read this year, which is not an easy feat considering how many great books I read in 2015. Grab this one ASAP!
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. // "For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die."
Okay. You all know I ADORE Lamott. She's my sassy, blunt, fabulous writer crush. Everything I've read from her just makes me laugh and fall in love and appreciate honesty so much. She's great. But this book wasn't. Every writer obsesses over this one, and I just don't know why. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't great. I've been stuck in the middle of it for far too long and finally forced myself to finish it this week just to get that bookmark out, but I didn't love it at all. Maybe it's because I don't write fiction, so a lot of it didn't necessarily apply to me? I really don't know, I just couldn't connect to it like I could with everything else I've read from her, faith-based, non-fiction, fiction or on Facebook. Oh well. Read it if you want, but you could do so much better when it comes to Lamott.
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. // "What if everything operates by love?' I said to her, 'I mean, what if this God presence . . . is God moving through us and through everything we do? If so, why do we resist it? What if everything horrible that happens, from drive-by shootings to illness, is because we have broken this chain of love, and we don't know how to put everything right again?"
I don't think I've ever loved a memoir this much. Scratch that, I know I haven't. THIS BOOK... I don't even have adequate words for how much I loved it. I couldn't put it down. I devoured it in less than 24 hours, reading it during every spare second, and immediately wanted to read it again once I finished. It's an incredible story of coming to faith, it reads like fast-paced and fantastic fiction, it's lovely, it's about England (where I spent a summer and therefore can't get enough of), it paints amazing pictures of all the layers of questions and seeking and belief that faith holds... it's the best kind of love story, the kind about a girl finding her true self and coming fully alive in a relationship with her Creator and Father. READ THIS RIGHT NOW. Buy it for yourself and all of your friends and read it and savor it and love it like I do.
By the Book by Pamela Paul
This was an impulse Barnes & Noble buy (we all do it, don't judge) and I've loved it. It's definitely a coffee table kind of book, but it's a fun collection of interviews originally published in The New York Times Book Review with authors talking all about books and authors and literature and reading and all that fun booky stuff. It's been a fun book to flip through during my lunch break. I've loved seeing the ways the greater community of writers connects, with authors recommending works by other authors and vice versa, debating the merits of famous works, talking about dead authors they'd want to meet, etc. If you like reading and like hearing about what authors like reading, this is a great book to pick up and keep on your bedside table!
A Cry for Mercy: Praters from the Genesee by Henri J. M. Nouwen. // "Take away the many fears, suspicions, and doubts by which I prevent you from being my Lord, and give me the courage and freedom to appear naked and vulnerable in the light of your presence, confident in your unfathomable mercy."
This book has brought me to my knees and brought me to tears more times than I can count. When I first opened it, I started reading the first prayer aloud to myself, and I was stunned by how much it moved me. Reading Nouwen's incredibly honest and real prayers has been powerful and humbling and I have loved reading through this one. Each page is underlined and starred and I keep rereading lines over and over because I love the way they flow and beckon me to pour my heart out to my Father.
My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. // "You will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside."
I admit I wasn't consistent in reading this every single day, but on the days I did, I found rich nuggets of wisdom that lingered with me and made me think about life and faith in new ways. I'm looking forward to reading through more of this one again in 2016, too. If you're looking for a meaty devotional book, this one is a great choice.
On MONDAY, I'm sharing a recap of EVERYTHING I read in 2015!
I blew my goal of 52 books WAY out of the water and it was incredible! Come back on Monday to see that!