My October 2016 Reads

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October, I love you. I don't love your huge holiday (at all) but I love that you bring changing leaves and cooler breezes and a sense of calm. You also brought some quite warm days (I have new tan lines from sitting outside last weekend?) and more stress than I really know how to handle well... but I'm still grateful for you. This year, you also brought a fun Saturday Readathon, so this list is longer than usual, and I'm closer to my (twice-increased) reading goal for the year!)

If you've noticed that I haven't been blogging lately and that all my recent posts have just been about books... it's because life is weird right now. I don't really have words for it, and I'm not really ready to talk about it, so I appreciate your grace (and welcome your prayers) as I navigate a challenging season and make necessary changes to try to care for my weary soul well.

Anyway... here's what I read this October:


Love Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life by Henri J. M. Nouwen

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I am a major Henri Nouwen fan. I've read several of his books (browse through all the reviews of them here!) and always adore the thoughtful, humble, honest way he writes about life and faith. He never pretends to be without struggles, but instead vulnerably shares them and in doing so, beautifully points people to the cross and to Christ. Reading this book of letters was such a fascinating insight into more of Nouwen's life, struggles, feelings, and journey of faith. This book was so thoughtfully arranged and so thoroughly researched-- every letter came with a preface about the context of who he was writing to, what his relationship with them was, where he was and what he was doing in life when he wrote it, etc. It's broken into three sections by chunks of time, and it flowed effortlessly. I never found myself lacking in context as I read these letters, although I often wished I could read the other side of things and see what people had written to him, just because the responses from Nouwen were so intriguing! There were so many segments and sentences that I highlighted and wanted to memorize-- Nouwen has such a way with words and I loved discovering that his voice is truly his voice both in his books and in his conversations with dearly loved friends. This is a gem for all those who have read and appreciated Nouwen, and a great read even for those who haven't and who just want to dive deeper into the background of a the life of a wise and humble believer. High praise for this one! (I received this one from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review-- I'll never be anything but totally honest about the books I read!)


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Selected Poems by Emily Dickinson

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Some days, you just need to sit and read through a little book of poetry. This is always a good one for days like that -- you can't go wrong with Emily Dickinson. This book is tiny so I read it quickly (but still savored it, because poetry is meant to be savored) but loved it.


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Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Shauna, I just love you. I've always loved you. I'm convinced you can write no wrong. This was as beautiful as all of your other books, and so applicable to probably everyone's life, too. Props on writing such a great book on such a relevant topic and making it heartfelt and honest the whole time. This book follows her typical writing style of a collection of essays more than a chapter-based book with a particular flow or outline, but that's what I love about her. The threads weave well throughout all of the pieces, but it's also easy to read in chunks. I did miss a little bit of her typical food-talk, but the focus of this one was different, and I appreciated that. This one just feels refreshing and real.


Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God by Rainer Maria Rilke

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I've heard of Rilke probably a million times, but never read anything. I loved this one. It was a perfect cozy coffeeshop read-- such a beautiful marriage of poetry, prayers, and praise. I'll reread this one many times, without a doubt.


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Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted by Shannan Martin

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I read this one for #COLLABOREADS so check out my review right here!

(I received this one from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review-- I always share reviews of books in total honesty with you!)


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She Reads Truth by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I've long been a fan of She Reads Truth-- their app, their reading plans, their Advent and Lent books, their beautifully designed social media graphics... all incredible. I preordered this one and was so excited to read it. It's full of great stories from both Amanda and Raechel (who take turns with chapters) and there's so much Scripture woven throughout the book in a really intentional and thoughtful way, but I was a little lost on the main theme or focus of the book. I guess if I had to say what it's about, it would be about two women's lives of faith and how Scripture played into it all, but there wasn't a super strong takeaway for me. I kept wishing for their to be a strong message, but I guess in hindsight, the message is really just about how relevant and meaningful and powerful the Bible is in our lives... so maybe that is enough. If you're a SRT fan or someone less familiar with Scripture, I would definitely recommend picking this one up!


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The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I didn't know what to expect from this book at ALL. I had seen Anne Bogel talk about it on her blog (and maybe on the podcast?) and to be honest, the cover design turned me off a little bit. But, I grabbed it from the library and decided to pick it up the other night and was so pleasantly surprised by it. The writing is poetic and beautiful and so incredibly moving-- it's the story of the death of the author's husband, and it's powerful and humbling. It reads like absolutely gorgeous poetry and I didn't want to put it down. I can't relate to anything about the story, but I loved reading about their love and marriage and Alexander's process of healing after loss. It's a must-read memoir.


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Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: Mary Oliver... I love you. Your writing is just stunning. This was the perfect book to read on a chilly Saturday with blankets and candles and coffee. I felt rejuvenated, challenged to live my life in a better and truer way, and left thinking about life and my beliefs in new ways. Her writing is poetic and powerful and just so, so worth reading. If you're less into poetry, grab this one from Oliver for sure!


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Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I started the Readathon with this one and soon realized I had never read it (I think I only read 3 of the Narnia books as a kid!) which made it even more fun. I love that the Pevensie siblings were back and that Aslan again played a role-- this quote just sums up all that is beautiful and powerful about the Narnia world Lewis has created: ÔÇťAslan," said Lucy "you're bigger."
"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.
"Not because you are?"
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."


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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This is a much more adventurous tale, with less about the world of Narnia and more about the searching for the 7 lost lords around the world -- not my favorite of the Narnia books (I'm partial to the 4 siblings, and only 2 were in this one, with the addition of their cousin!), but still great.


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The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This one is even less about the 4 siblings, but still exciting and engaging and wonderful. Really, you just can't go wrong with Narnia. Reading them all in order (chronological, this time!) was so good.


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The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This wasn't my favorite of the Narnia series, in all honesty, but I can't deny that the symbolism and metaphors throughout this one were stunning still. It was a great conclusion to the series, just not my persona favorite overall. I think if I had read them with more space in between instead of back to back all in the same morning, I would have loved this one and been able to appreciate the nuance so much more!


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The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This was a random Barnes and Noble grab quite a while ago, but I'm so glad I read it. It was such a fascinating look at the lives of the staff who work at the White House. I knew next to nothing about that world, and it was so interesting to meet these people (many who have been there through several presidents!) and learn about both their work and their lives as well as to hear about the human sides of the most powerful families that live there. I was surprised at how private and loyal the White House staff is as a whole, and found this book so intriguing as a result-- it's not like these people WANT to gush about what they really think of the President or his family, so what they did share was rare and enlightening. If politics interests you at all (or even if it doesn't and you just are curious about what happens behind the scenes in the White House), definitely grab this one! You'll learn a lot. It's well-written and easy/fun to read too, not like a boring or stuffy textbook or anything at all.


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Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This one wasn't really what I expected. I had heard great things about it from several really talented creatives I know, but found that it was so much less about creativity than I expected and so much more about Pixar specifically. It was really cool to read more about how Pixar operates, how their popular movies came to be, and how their staff works, but I didn't find that much was applicable to my own life or work necessarily. An interesting peak behind the scenes, but nothing I found particularly amazing.


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Wreck My Life by Mo Isom

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I first heard about Mo Isom on Annie Downs' podcast, and loved how she spoke about her life, faith, and her story. I saw this one on our massive stack of books at the office and grabbed it, and read through it quickly. Her story is a unique one with many unexpected components, and I was really drawn in by that and wanted to know more about her. I will say, though, I found it much more interesting listening to her talk on the podcast than in writing. So-- I suggest listening to this instead!


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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: This was Oprah's book club pick and I also saw it on a list from Obama of his recommend reads, so I figured it was going to be amazing. It was definitely very good, but I wouldn't quite peg it as the best book of the year. It was powerful, absolutely sickening and heart-breaking in parts, really moving, but also a little slow in parts. If you don't know much about the underground railroad, or if all you know is what you learned in middle school history class, definitely grab this one. It will come to life in a way that will change you and make you want to be a freedom fighter even if it's risky and counter-cultural. We have come far in America, but this kept reminding me how much further we have to go. Definitely a thought-provoking and worthwhile read.


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Our Only World: Ten Essays by Wendell Berry

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I love Wendell Berry. I read his words and it's like I'm seeing the world in a way that is how God intended it to be-- where we are good stewards of this planet, where our priorities are into order, where we care for ourselves and all creation well, and where things are beautiful and thriving. These essays are great ones, and they're a much needed reminder to be intentional about how I live and to advocate for this one and only world we have around us. Grateful for these words, and for the gentle boldness of Berry to share them.


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The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I am obsessed with this book. I'm obsessed with the enneagram. I can't shut up about it. I'm going to write a whole blog post about it. For now, just get this book ASAP and fall down the enneagram personality type rabbit hole with me so we can talk all about it. I can't get enough. Most helpful tool, and BEST book about it!


What are YOU reading lately? Any must-reads I should add to my list?

One year ago on the blog: What I Read in October

Two years ago on the blog: My Soul Feelings: A Friday Freewrite

Three years ago on the blog: Endurance and Perseverance.