My April 2017 Reads
This month, I started really feeling the pressure of my big 200 book goal -- I fell pretty behind about halfway through the month when life got especially busy, and Goodreads kept telling me I was off track... not helpful! I somehow managed to cram quite a few books into the end of the month to catch up and get back on schedule -- finishing a book about every two days is no joke, people!
I'm officially at 65 books read in 2017 -- we'll see if I can keep up this momentum in May (birthday month!!!).
Here's what I read this April:
As you know, there are affiliate links throughout this post -- they won't cost you a cent, but they will throw a few my way, and I'm grateful for the support of this little blog! Thanks, friends!
Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "In Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy Lamott ventures to explore where to find meaning in life. We should begin, she suggests, by -facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves.- It's up to each of us to recognize the presence and importance of mercy everywhere-within us and outside us, all around us-and to use it to forge a deeper understanding of ourselves and more honest connections with each other. While that can be difficult to do, Lamott argues that it's crucial, as kindness towards others, beginning with myself, buys us a shot at a warm and generous heart, the greatest prize of all." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This is Lamott like I've come to know and love -- sassy, heartfelt, wise, hopeful, snarky... so good. This is a short book (like most of hers are, so not a bad thing) but really just classic Lamott, and so worth a read.
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
THE STARS: 2/5
THE PLOT: "Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?" (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I didn't like this book. Like, at all. I didn't see the point, the appeal, anything. It was boring and uneventful but seemed like it was trying to be suspenseful but just totally failing... this isn't worth reading. I know I've heard good things about Moriarty but if all her books are like this...
The Way of the Heart by Henri J.M. Nouwen
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Interweaving the solitude, silence, and prayer of the fifth-century Egyptian Desert Fathers and Mothers with our contemporary search for an authentic spirituality, The Way of the Heart not only leads us to a fuller encounter with God, but to a more creative ministry with our fellow human beings." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I didn't expect this book to be so short (mine was 112 pages...) but it's full of wise writing like Nouwen always shares... just not my favorite of what I've read from him. It focuses on wisdoms from the "desert mothers and fathers" and was a little different than what I was expecting, but focuses on three stepping stones: solitude, silence, and prayer -- I can totally get behind those. It's really just such a quick read, and not as meaty or rich as other books by Nouwen, so I wouldn't start here if you're new to his writing.
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "In Sterling, New Hampshire, 17-year-old high school student Peter Houghton has endured years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of classmates. His best friend, Josie Cormier, succumbed to peer pressure and now hangs out with the popular crowd that often instigates the harassment. One final incident of bullying sends Peter over the edge and leads him to commit an act of violence that forever changes the lives of Sterling's residents." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I couldn't put this book down. After reading Small Great Things last month and realizing I had misjudged Picoult, I grabbed several books by her at my library's book sale and dove right in. This one is compelling, well-written, incredibly intense and emotional, and just SO GOOD.
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "To Persians, the poems of Hafiz are not "classical literature" from a remote past but cherished wisdom from a dear and intimate friend that continue to be quoted in daily life. With uncanny insight, Hafiz captures the many forms and stages of love. His poetry outlines the stages of the mystic's "path of love"-a journey in which love dissolves personal boundaries and limitations to join larger processes of growth and transformation." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I first heard of Hafez (sometimes spelled Hafiz) through a friend who posted a poem on Instagram, and knew I wanted to read more. These poems are spiritual (not directly to the Christian God necessarily, since the poet is Sufi, although that's how I took them in my reading!) and written with such a beautiful voice that I loved -- they're definitely hopeful and joy-filled, which made them wonderful to read and unlike any other poetry I've read before.
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Just because we grow up doesn’t mean we should lose our wonder at the world, or the people around us. When we do, we lose so much because curious is how God made us to be. Without curiosity a Christian’s life is incomplete. His relationship with God is incomplete. His connections to others are incomplete. He doesn’t know how to interact with the world around him—politics, media, art, entertainment, science, and so much more simply fly past or overwhelm him. Without curiosity he can never discover deep things, deep connections God tucked below the banal surface of life." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I read this one since we were interviewing Piper for our podcast at work and having a discussion about curiosity on our very first episode, and it was a fun, easy read. I appreciated many of his thoughts about the importance of curiosity, creativity, and whimsy, and found myself agreeing almost entirely with what he says in this book.
THE DEETS: Listen in to our podcast episode with Barnabas Piper right here!
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
THE STARS: 1/5
THE PLOT: "Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss--and walk away laughing. Shrillprovocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I hated this book from page one. Hated it. Couldn't handle how inappropriate, crude, and rough it was. Didn't even get through chapter one. Maybe it gets better, but I wasn't willing to stick around to find out.
THE DEETS: I read this one for Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2017 Reading Challenge!
The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "Meri is newly married, pregnant, and standing on the cusp of her life as a wife and mother, recognizing with some terror the gap between reality and expectation. Delia Naughton—wife of the two-term liberal senator Tom Naughton—is Meri’s new neighbor in the adjacent New England town house. Delia’s husband’s chronic infidelity has been an open secret in Washington circles, but despite the complexity of their relationship, the bond between them remains strong. What keeps people together, even in the midst of profound betrayal? How can a journey imperiled by, and sometimes indistinguishable from, compromise and disappointment culminate in healing and grace? Delia and Meri find themselves leading strangely parallel lives, both reckoning with the contours and mysteries of marriage, one refined and abraded by years of complicated intimacy, the other barely begun." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This was another library book sale grab (because the cover! that watercolored typography!) and it was a fun little fiction read, but nothing amazing by any means. It follows two different women and their stories, but wasn't very fast-paced or super engaging, but I kept going to the end where I really found that it fell flat with how things concluded... Just an average read, really.
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "Starting with that guarantee from the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—this book is a step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? What can we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, that lasts." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: We talked about this one on the podcast at work, and I was surprised to find I genuinely really enjoyed it and found so much of it relevant, meaningful, well-written, and thoughtful. The title led me to believe it would be a little cheesy or "trendy" in regards to social media terms, but it's really a wisely written and rich book with great thoughts about what it means to be a friend, have friendships, be in community, and follow Christ in our lives.
THE DEETS: We got this ARC free at work from the publisher!
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
THE STARS: 3/5
THE THOUGHT: I wrote about this one for #COLLABOREADS!
Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "After nine years serving on the staff of a big urban church in Atlanta, Barbara Brown Taylor arrives in rural Clarkesville, Georgia (population 1,500), following her dream to become the pastor of her own small congregation. The adjustment from city life to country dweller is something of a shock -- Taylor is one of the only professional women in the community -- but small-town life offers many of its own unique joys. Taylor has five successful years that see significant growth in the church she serves, but ultimately she finds herself experiencing "compassion fatigue" and wonders what exactly God has called her to do. She realizes that in order to keep her faith she may have to leave." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: After LOVING Learning to Walk in the Dark from BBT and hearing her speak (still one of the coolest experiences of my life), I thought I would just adore anything and everything she wrote, but this one didn't quite do it for me. It's an interesting memoir about her coming into leadership as a priest in her church and then leaving to become a college professor instead, and there are great thoughts about community and putting down roots and such, but it wasn't as rich or as moving as I was expecting. Granted, this is a very different kind of book than what I've read from her, and as far as memoirs go, it was a good one... I just didn't connect as deeply (nor do I think she intended for the reader to). If church leadership interests you, or you're curious about BBT's story as a priest and beyond, definitely grab this one!
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter by various authors
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "A time for self-denial, soul-searching, and spiritual preparation, Lent is traditionally observed by daily reading and reflection. This collection will satisfy the growing hunger for meaningful and accessible devotions. Culled from the wealth of twenty centuries, the selections in Bread and Wine are ecumenical in scope, and represent the best classic and contemporary Christian writers.
Includes approximately fifty readings on Easter and related themes by Thomas à Kempis, Frederick Buechner, Oswald Chambers, Alfred Kazin, Jane Kenyon, Søren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Christina Rossetti, Edith Stein, Walter Wangerin, William Willimon, Philip Yancey, and others." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I read the Christmas edition of this book back during the Advent season, and loved it. This one was no exception -- it's such a fantastic collection of short writings from MANY acclaimed Christian writers, speakers, and thinkers. I loved the progression of the pieces throughout the Lent season, and loved that it didn't just end on Easter Sunday but continued for a few weeks beyond. This is an excellent companion to any Lent study or just as a standalone book to read throughout the season as well! Highly recommend these.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
THE STARS: 4/5
THE PLOT: "In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: I read this in one sitting-- it's a beautifully told story about two refugees seeking safety and a place to call home, with a slightly Narnia-ish vibe (stepping through "doors" into new worlds, etc). It's an extremely relevant story told in a lovely and moving way -- a must-read.
English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith by Andrea Lucado
THE STARS: 3/5
THE PLOT: "The church wasn't just a part of Andrea Lucado's childhood. It was her childhood. It provided more than happy moments. It provided an invitation to know Jesus. When Andrea arrived in Oxford the year after she graduated from college, she expected to meet God there. What she didn't expect was that God would be much bigger than she'd believed. In this engaging memoir, Andrea speaks to all of us who wrestle with doubt and identity." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This wasn't my favorite Oxford-faith-search memoir (Surprised by Oxford wins that category) but this was a fun little read from the daughter of Max Lucado. It was a little scrambled in my opinion, and it didn't seem to have super strong themes or really convicting stories, but it was enjoyable to read and I appreciated some of her thoughts about doubt and identity, especially for those of us who have grown up in church.
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones
THE STARS: 5/5
THE PLOT: "The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David—every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle. A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation—and at the center of their Story too." (from here)
THE THOUGHT: This Bible (meant for kids, as you can tell) is stunning and wonderful and adorable and heartfelt and precious and so, so, so dear. I read straight through the whole thing last evening and was so blown away by the way the stories of the Bible I've read and studied a million times were boiled down into these perfectly told stories that kids could easily understand but adults could also be convicted and stirred by. It's such an incredibly resource, and one I can't wait to share with the kids in my life, as well as re-read to my own self often! To read the scope of the Bible as a true Story like this brings to much of it to life -- I love this.