My January 2017 Reads

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I set the bar high with my reading goal for 2017 (150 total!) which averages to a little more than 12 books a month. I was afraid the start of the new year would bring a bunch of busyness that would keep me from tackling that, but don't you worry. I made it through 12 and then some!

It makes SUCH a big difference that I've started putting my phone on do not disturb and plugging it in across the room at 9 pm every night until I leave for work in the morning -- my evenings aren't spent mindlessly scrolling, and I can get so much reading in before bed, and also in the mornings too! You'd really be surprised how much those little pockets can add up to being entire books read so quickly!

Here's what I read this January:


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Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes

THE STARS: 2/5

THE PLOT: "An illuminating look at the surprising upside of ambiguity—and how, properly harnessed, it can inspire learning, creativity, even empathy." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: This book is all about the power of not knowing, and that was such an intriguing concept to me when I first saw it. I'm someone who is very Type A, very perfectionistic, very much a planner, so things that I don't know or things that are out of my control are challenging, so I was really hopeful that this book would be enlightening and helpful in navigating the unknown... but I wasn't really thrilled by it. I found it to be pretty dry and not very relatable to my personal life, although the examples shared and the anecdotes and statistics included were varied and diverse. I didn't really feel like this book had a strong point or a really clear focus in the end, and it kept rambling on and going down rabbit holes that left me uninterested and skipping ahead to try to get to something that was more exciting to me. 

THE DEETS: I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review!


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An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

THE STARS: 5/5

THE PLOT: "In An Altar in the World, Taylor shows us how to discover altars everywhere we go and in nearly everything we do as we learn to live with purpose, pay attention, slow down, and revere the world we live in." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I adored this one. I know I've said before that certain books feel like a breath of fresh air, but goodness, this one really did. It brought faith to life in the most elemental, sacred, simple, beautiful ways -- even things like folding laundry and digging up potatoes in the garden can be holy acts of worship, and Taylor writes about it in a way that just makes you feel like ahhhhhhhhh. Life is good and I am grateful. It's rich and it's so pure and just feels counter-cultural in all the ways I desire and long for in the craziness of my life. I read this one slow and savored it, because it's one you just need to savor.

THE DEETS: I read this one for the 2017 MMD Challenge -- it fulfills the "a book in the backlist of a new favorite author" category! (I read Learning to Walk in the Dark in Nov. 2016 -- review here!)


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The I Factor: How Building a Great Relationship with Yourself Is the Key to a Happy, Successful Life by Van Moody

THE STARS: 2/5

THE PLOT: "More than self-worth or self-respect, beyond even character and perception of purpose, the I-Factor is about managing yourself—your whole life—well." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: The subtitle of this one is "how building a great relationship with yourself is the key to a happy successful life" but it was other positive reviews that actually sold me on giving this one a shot. As soon as I got it, though, I read that the author was on Joel Osteen's board, and I had a feeling I wouldn't end up enjoying this one as much. I was right. It reads very much in line with the "prosperity gospel" themes, with a lot of that same language. It did have a lot of Scripture included and was clearly a faith-based book, but much more so in the "you can be successful if you just love yourself!" kind of way than a "strength comes from the LORD" kind of way. I didn't really like this one much at all -- just not the style that really encourages or motivates me at all.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

THE STARS: 5/5

I read this one for #COLLABOREADS this month, so find my thoughts HERE!


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The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

THE STARS: 2/5 

THE PLOT: Read the summary here if you're interested.

THE THOUGHT: So this was a little freebie thrown into my last Book of the Month box (RIP subscription... I miss you already!) and I read it one morning in approximately 20 minutes (it's the SHORTEST book!) and just didn't like anything about it. The very first paragraph is about a sexual act that the main character does with lots of men for under the table money, so I was super uncomfortable from the very start. I kept reading purely because it's like 62 pages and I was curious, but nothing about it was likable for me. It didn't really go anywhere, didn't really have much suspense (which I expected a lot of from Flynn) and it just felt really thrown together and unfinished. Wasn't a fan at all. 


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The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

THE STARS: 4/5 

THE PLOT: Voskamp presents the gospel in a fresh way for desperate Christians in need of a renewed revelation of the grace of God. No matter how broken or sin-sick you are. (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I had heard many rave reviews about this one, and I'm (mostly) a fan of Voskamp's writing, and this one didn't disappoint. There were times it felt too flowery and too rambly, but mostly, I really loved the heart of this one and the stories she wove. I recently listened to a podcast with Voskamp and it helped that as I read this one, I was hearing it in her voice in my head! I think I'm a little bit over her long-winded ways of writing, but there were still many incredibly nuggets from this one, and lots of great word-play like she's known for that I did love.


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A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014 by Wendell Berry

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: Many of these poems are drawn from the view from a small porch in the woods, a place of stillness and reflection, a vantage point “of the one/life of the forest composed/of uncountable lives in countless/years each life coherent itself within/ the coherence, the great composure,/of all.” (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I just love everything I've ever read from Berry, and this collection of Sabbath poems is no different. It's more nature/agriculture/environment focused than some of his other collections, but powerful and beautiful and organic and rich nonetheless. I loved these poems and flagged many of them for future re-reads!


Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: "In 'Simply Tuesday,' Emily P. Freeman helps readers
- stop dreading small beginnings and embrace today's work
- find contentment in the now--even when the now is frustrating or discouraging
- replace competition with compassion
- learn to breathe in a breathless world" (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I had seen this one all over social media when it came out, but hadn't ever gotten my hands on it until it came across our massive book stack at the office. I read this one over a sunny lunch break out by the canal, and found it to be meaningful and refreshing. Great thoughts were shared here that were calming and centering, and I'm glad I started this new year with this one.


Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: "My single goal with this book is to lead your thirsty soul to the only source of lasting fulfillment: Jesus. He is the living water, a limitless supply that will not only quench your thirst but will fill you and then come pouring out of you into a thirsty world. 
Because of Him, you are loved. You are known. You can take a deep breath. 
Because you have nothing to prove." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I really, really loved this one. I've heard of Allen from IF:Gathering, but hadn't read much from her, and I was really impressed with this book. My standards for Christian book by female authors are high (so not a fan of things that are fluffy or cliche) but this one really hit home for me. It was relevant, meaningful, intentionally written (loved the great use of white space to slow down as I read, the reflection questions, the Scripture passages to stop and pray through), and really beautiful. I highly recommend this one to women who have ever felt like they aren't enough -- because this book will remind you that in Him, you ARE.

THE DEETS: I received this one from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review!


Talking as Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: "In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I only recently watched Gilmore Girls for the first time, so I didn't have the same longtime nostalgia as many fans, but I watched (and mostly hated) the revival and was curious to read more of Graham's thoughts on it all. I also LOVED Parenthood and was curious to read her thoughts on that show too, and she didn't disappoint! I've read a handful of celebrity memoirs in recent years and this one was the most fun and the most like what I really wanted out of a book like this. If you've seen and liked her shows, you'll like this one!


Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner

THE STARS: 5/5

THE PLOT: In Chasing Slow, Erin turns away from fast and fame and frenzy. Follow along as she blazes the trail toward a new-fashioned lifestyle—one that will refresh your perspective, renew your priorities, and shift your focus to the journey that matters most. (from here)

THE THOUGHT: This book. I love, love, love this one. It's beautifully designed (seriously, all the heart eyes for white space and fun typography, always) and so thoughtfully written. It will be at the top of my favorites list for quite some time, I'm certain.


Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-- and the World by Rachel Swaby

THE STARS: 3/5

THE PLOT: Headstrong delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. (from here)

THE THOUGHT: This is a fun read-- not too intense, not too heavy, really short little features on awesome women (that I've mostly never heard of, sadly) and how they changed the world as we now know it. It was great to read about these ladies and how they overcame adversity and persevered to really make an impact in their fields, even if they weren't credited or acknowledged or even really allowed to do so. Girl. Power.


Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

THE STARS: 5/5

THE PLOT: "After the Battle of Okinawa, Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan's wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry's unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter's children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors 'live right on.'" (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I could not have loved this book more. I read it slowly because it's absolutely a book that must be savored, and I already can't wait to read it again. Beautiful doesn't feel like a strong enough word for the writing of this one. My friend Rebecca wrote a great blog post about where to start reading Wendell Berry, and I'll echo her words on why to read this one: "If you are a good woman, know a good woman, want to believe in good women, read Hannah Coulter. She’s mighty and strong, and yet so tender and human."


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The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

THE STARS: 5/5

THE PLOT: "Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert's runaway best-seller shows both the basic logic of the Enneagram and its harmony with the core truths of Christian thought from the time of the early Church forward." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: Rohr is the most common name associated with the enneagram, and I was looking forward to reading his take on the whole personality type system. This book is dense, but it's brilliant and helpful and so, so good. I didn't read this one cover to cover (mostly just all the really fascinating introductory material, the chapter on my type, and all the really really intriguing deeper theories and thoughts about the subtleties of the types found toward the end!) but it's one I highly recommend, for sure.

THE DEETS: I wrote a post on where to start with the Enneagram, if you're curious about it!


The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

THE STARS: 4/5

THE PLOT: "The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. ... Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves." (from here)

THE THOUGHT: I had no idea what to expect when I picked this one up, but I really loved it. I kept wanting to immerse myself in the story of this immigrant Bangladeshi family and be part of their experience in America that is hardly anything like my own. This isn't a story with a lot of drama, or with a lot of plot twists, or really a lot of big events either, but it never felt slow or boring to me. It's beautifully written, deeply meaningful, rich, and so, so well done. Highly recommend this one.

THE DEETS: I read this one for the 2017 MMD Challenge -- it fulfills the "immigrant story" category. 


What was the best book you read in January?

One year ago on the blog: Five Finds Friday // January 29

Two years ago on the blog: What I Read this January

 

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