My February 2016 Reads


February, oh, February. Half of my family has February birthdays (and by that I mean my mom and my brother, my dad and I have May/June birthdays) so it's a month of fun celebrations, and apparently lots of books, too! I discovered a brand new library in my town this month, so there will be LOTS more library books appearing in these monthly review posts from here on out. (When you challenge yourself to buy NO NEW BOOKS in 2016, you read lots of library books, okay?)

Here's what I read this month!


Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch

MY RATING: 4/5 stars


The meaning of the Redemption is precisely that we do not have to be our history.

MY THOUGHTS: I have long loved Flannery. Her short stories are powerful and full of dynamic characters, and her prayer journal just made me swoon. Reading a biography about her has been on my list for quite some time, but I wasn't expecting to have SO MUCH in common with this author I love. Girl has got a FIERCE independent streak and some serious sass, and I love that so much. This gave me such rich insight into who she was a woman and an author, and I just loved it. Biographies are my new favorite thing.

IN ADDITION: Read Flannery's A Prayer Journal if you haven't ever read her before!


Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

MY RATING: 4/5 stars


You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.

MY THOUGHTS: A friend raved about this one and it was the nudge I needed to finally pull it off my bookshelf and read it. The story was intriguing in its essence, but I found it hard to relate to McCandless as he broke ties with his family and pursued such a radically independent life of adventure and freedom. I'm far too much of a rule follower and homebody to just pick up, literally burn all my cash, and set off for some undetermined destination like he did, but I admired his courage and free spirit nature. The end is tragic and frustrating (this isn't a spoiler, it literally says on the cover that he dies in the Alaskan wilderness) and I just wished for more closure or a different outcome.

IN ADDITION: I've heard the movie is good too, but I don't really know if I'll enjoy it... thoughts?


Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle

MY RATING: 5/5 stars


To pray is to listen also, to move through m own chattering to God, to that place where I can be silent and listen to what God may have to say. But, if I pray only when I feel like it, God may not choose to speak. The greatest moments of prayer come in the midst of fumbling and faltering prayer, rather than the odd moment when one decides to try to turn to God.

MY THOUGHTS: I read L'Engle's fiction as a kid, but have been wanting to get my hands on some of her non-fiction books for a while. This was a used bookstore find and had been on my shelf waiting for me, and my crazy "buy no books in 2016" challenge prompted me to finally dive in! I loved this one-- any book about the intersections of faith and art in our lives is one that will surely grab me. Her writing is just lovely and many of her thoughts are still sticking with me, which is a true sign of a great book.

IN ADDITION: This is in a similar categeory to Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (a book I really did not like at all, despite a deep love for Lamott) but I recommend it more! 


Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY THOUGHTS: I reviewed this one for #COLLABOREADS here!


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

MY RATING: 2/5 stars


We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.

MY THOUGHTS: This was my least favorite of the HP books so far. It felt SO LONG and SO SLOW and Harry was just grumpy for like the entire book. At close to 900 pages, too, this one just seemed to drag on and on and I wanted somebody to just give Dolores Umbridge a nice hex already to get her outta there.


Garden City by John Mark Comer

MY RATING: 4/5 stars


That’s why Sabbath is an expression of faith. Faith that there is a Creator and he’s good. We are his creation. This is his world. We live under his roof, drink his water, eat his food, breathe his oxygen. So on the Sabbath, we don’t just take a day off from work; we take a day off from toil. We give him all our fear and anxiety and stress and worry. We let go. We stop ruling and subduing, and we just be. We “remember” our place in the universe. So that we never forget . . . There is a God, and I’m not him.

MY THOUGHTS: With my word for 2016 being rhythm, it seemed only appropriate that I read this book about work and rest and the balance of our lives in all of it. It was BEAUTIFULLY designed-- minimalistic, tons of white space, sans serif fonts, simplistic line illustrations as symbols... just so good. The book was solid for sure, but nothing that totally blew me away, despite some high praise I had heard from friends. In InterVarsity in college, we did a series on Sabbath that rocked my world, and my church has done some equally powerful series on Sabbath rest as well, so I think those shaped my view on Sabbath, leaving the points made in this book slightly flat since they weren't brand new to me. Much of this book was a refreshing reminder on the way we were created to create and live and worship, so I do strongly recommend it, and I feel like those with less study of Sabbath might get even more goodness out of it. Do read this one!

IN ADDITION: I just wrote a post for The Rising about why I Sabbath, and would love for you to check it out here!


The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival by Carine McCandless

MY RATING: 4/5 stars


That’s the purity of nature. It may be harsh in its honesty, but it never lies to you.

MY THOUGHTS: I just read Into the Wild (as you can see earlier in this post), so when I stumbled upon this memoir from the sister of ITW's Chris McCandless, I knew I had to read it. I was so unsatisfied by ITW and frustrated by some of his actions and poor planning, and I wanted there to be more to the story. Good news! THERE IS. There's so much more. It's heartbreaking and twisted and such a searing look at the truth of families and how messed up they can be inside...and it makes all of the ITW story of Chris breaking all ties with his family to go adventure make sense. If you read Into the Wild, I strongly recommend reading this one-- it makes the whole story make so much more sense, and Carine's story is powerful, too. Bold, unashamed honesty and truth-telling in a memoir is something I just so greatly admire and respect. This one does that wonderfully.

IN ADDITION: Have you seen the movie for Into the Wild after reading the book? What did you think? I'm curious if I should watch it!


The Martian by Andy Weir

MY RATING: 5/5 stars


Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.

MY THOUGHTS: I LOVED THIS BOOK. It was the first audiobook I've listened to (thanks to a recommendation from Amber and a free credit from Anne Bogel through her awesome What Should I Read Next podcast!) and I just couldn't get enough. I wasn't sure if I would follow well or track with some of the more scientific and technical parts, but the reader was fantastic and it was so engaging the whole time. I could not stop listening to this one and crushed it in like two work days. A must-listen (or must-read)!

IN ADDITION: Can't wait to watch the movie now, especially after seeing more snippets of it on The Oscars!


Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

MY RATING: 3/5 stars


The truth is, it’s hard to get people to like you, but it’s even harder to keep people liking you.

MY THOUGHTS: I read Kaling's first book and gave it the same 3/5 star rating... I just don't find them that funny. Maybe it's my poor sense of humor (quite likely, since many other people find her hilarious) buuuuut this one just didn't really grab me or make me laugh or anything. It was an okay read, but not one I'd recommend unless you're obsessed with her or think everything is funny, I guess!


Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

MY RATING: 4/5 stars


Forever is the most dizzying word in the English language. The idea of staying in one place forever was like standing at the border of a foreign country, peering over the fence and trying to imagine what life might be like on the other side, and life on the other side was frankly unimaginable.

MY THOUGHTS: I first read Station Eleven by her, and LOVED it. One of the best new fiction reads, if you ask me. I wanted to read more by her, and this was her debut novel. Her voice is distinct and I love her twisty plot lines and unexpected stories. This one wasn't as good as Station Eleven, but I read it in one sitting and it clearly kept me hooked, so if you like her style and want more, definitely grab this one!

IN ADDITION: Read Station Eleven if you haven't already!