Book by Book: My January 2018 Reads


What. A. Month. I set big reading goals for the year, found a bunch of nostalgic books from my childhood, went to the library a ton, and flew through SO MANY books. I don't even know how I do it, honestly. (Okay, these tips help, though.)

I'm doing a few new things with these monthly book review posts!

1. Kristin and I are hosting our Book by Book link-up the first Tuesday of every month-- basically, we blog about our books, we give you a place to link up with us, and everybody who is blogging about books can find each other and read all the things and all become friends. Any bookish post is fair game -- just add your link at the bottom of this post!

2. I'm giving away one book each month that I read in that month -- you'll see a banner above the chosen book each month. All you have to do to enter is comment on the blog post with whatever the prompt is, and I'll pick a winner that Friday and announce it back here! Fun for everyone.

3. I'm still sharing affiliate links (nobody should be surprised by this) so all links take you to Amazon!

4. I'm giving short and sweet recommendations for each book-- hope they're helpful as you're deciding if a book might be for you or not, but don't take them as total truth! You might love something unexpectedly.

5. I'm including the books I started this month but abandoned, but I won't review them fully. Just want to make a note more for my own records than anything!

Without further ado-- here are January's reads!


to enter to win this book, comment on this blog post and tell me one thing you want to simplify! i'll pick a winner on friday, feb. 9 -- check back then to see if you won!

to enter to win this book, comment on this blog post and tell me one thing you want to simplify! i'll pick a winner on friday, feb. 9 -- check back then to see if you won!

A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living by Emily Ley

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY REVIEW: I have followed Emily Ley on Instagram for a long time, and while her style is VASTLY different than my own, I appreciate her heart and business focus so much. I love her emphasis on simplicity in all areas of life -- personal, home, work, faith, eating, etc. This book is beautifully organized, with incredibly high-quality and genuine photos throughout that make it feel more like a coffeetable book than just a normal read. I appreciated that there were journaling prompts and places for to-do steps and reflections throughout this book, although it almost felt too pretty to write in! I left with so many new ideas about how better to organize and prioritize things in my life, without feeling pressured to spend a lot of money on silly solutions or make massive overhauls to my systems. I can imagine this book being extremely helpful for mamas, homeowners, women balancing home and career lives, and really anyone craving simplicity and calm.

MY RECOMMENDATION: Perfect for mamas balancing all kinds of things at home/work.

THANKS TO: BookLook Bloggers

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY REVIEW: This book was FASCINATING. A memoir of the author’s bizarre and extreme sensitivity to all kinds of light, requiring her to live in total darkness. I read this one feeling shocked and a little stressed imagining what I would do if that happened to me! It was a little slow in parts but thankfully part two about her periods of remission brought a little more interest and hope to the story... This one is super interesting and I learned a lot about something i never even knew existed!

MY RECOMMENDATION: If you're somebody who likes shows like House or Grey's Anatomy, check this book out.

Zion by T.J. Jarrett

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY REVIEW: I had picked up this little book of poetry at Parnassus in Nashville this summer and forgotten about it, but I’m SO glad I read it now. This book addresses race, cultural tension, relationships, and politics in a way that is moving and so beautiful. I flagged several of these poems to return to again, because the language is rich and I so loved soaking up the snippets of stories told here so powerfully.

MY RECOMMENDATION: If you're looking to diversify your poetry reading (or get into it at all)-- grab this one.

For Once in My Life by Marianne Kavanagh

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY REVIEW: This was a fun read! It was a random library grab solely because I love unique typography (cover design MATTERS) and I read it in two sittings. The back cover teases it like this: “Everyone has a soul mate... but what if you never find each other?” It’s a back and forth kind of love story that (while predictable, mostly) kept me curious about if these two soul mates would ever meet, and when, and how.

MY RECOMMENDATION: Read this if you like quirky love stories like 500 Days of Summer.

Finding Selah: The Simple Practice of Peace When You Need It Most by Kristen Kill

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY REVIEW: Selah is one of my very favorite things. It was my word of the year in 2015 and it still resonates so deeply in me, this idea that we are to rest in Him, to pause and praise, to stop and listen. Kristen Kill writes about it all beautifully here, and this book reads like rich poetry. It’s absolutely lovely and it’s inviting and it’s a gift.  

This book chronicles seasons of Kristen's life and her family, while weaving in this idea of finding peace and rest and moments of worship in the midst of the chaos. Even though my own life looks different from hers, there was much about this book that resonated with me. The way Kristen writes is so soothing that even reading this book felt like selah to me.

MY RECOMMENDATION: For anyone needing more peace and rest in their lives.

THANKS TO: BookLook Bloggers

The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life by Louie Giglio

MY RATING: 2/5 stars

MY REVIEW: Here it is: the book that broke my streak of reading only women and people of color this year... haha! . Throughout this book, he focuses on different lines of his overall definition of worship: “Worship is... our response, both personal and corporate, to God— for who He is! and what He has done!” — it’s helpful, honest, easy to understand, and a short read with great discussion questions included too (perfect for reading with friends or a small group). While helpful for many, I’m sure, I didn’t personally find much about this book to be new or terribly exciting.

MY RECOMMENDATION: This book from Louie Giglio is an excellent resource if you’re curious about worship and what it means (it’s so much more than singing at church!)

THANKS TO: Blogging for Books

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

MY RATING: 2/5 stars

MY REVIEW: I gotta be honest... I didn’t love this collection of poetry. It felt overly simplistic and young to me mostly. There were some deep (and at times hard to read) themes, but I just tend to prefer more complex and nuanced poetry. Didn’t hate it, loved a few, but not my style as a whole. Also, trigger warning for rape and sexual abuse.

MY RECOMMENDATION: Skip this one and read The Sun and Her Flowers instead.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

MY RATING: 3/5 stars

MY REVIEW: Okay, this one was much better (in my opinion) than Milk and Honey. It felt a little deeper, more hopeful, and the themes were a bit lighter and not as intense (although I would still give a trigger warning for rape and sexual abuse references). I really loved the long form poems in this collection— moving and beautiful. Glad I gave both collections a read today! Still not my preferred style of poetry, but powerful and worth reading nonetheless.

MY RECOMMENDATION: If you like tumblr and teenage angst and tweetable poetic lines, read this one.

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY REVIEW: Such poignant and lovely stories about love, such nuanced glimpses at race and relationships and the ties that bind us— so, so good. Highly recommend.

MY RECOMMENDATION: Anyone who love stories and essays that feel like movies or works or art, and loves love in all its forms.

Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter (box set) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

MY REVIEW: Finished this box set of classic, nostalgic gems— such lovely little reads. So many memories of my mom reading these aloud to me as a kid, and still so much about the stories I didn’t remember at all. These books inspired me to dig out more of my childhood chapter book favorites and I’m on a roll now! It’s like my man C.S. Lewis says— “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” Read kids books, people!

MY RECOMMENDATION: Read these again if you loved them as a kid, read them for the first time if you want some fun and easy fiction reads that tell great stories of family and place, and read them with your younger daughters/friends/sisters, etc!

PS-- These were my "Cozy reads" for #BookByBookBonusPoints! (see graphic below) :)

The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY REVIEW: I remember reading this out loud with my mom when I was younger, and the story is still just as wonderful many years later. Such a great story of bravery, sisterly love, a little fantasy and magic, and a whole lot is heart. This is a chapter book perfect for late elementary/middle school girls and one I would highly recommend!

MY RECOMMENDATION: For young girls (middle-late elementary to middle school) who love stories of adventure, bravery, a little magic, and sisterly love.

Fierce Faith: A Woman's Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety by Alli Worthington

MY RATING: 4/5 stars

MY REVIEW: This is SUCH a helpful and relevant book chock-full of applicable advice on how to fight fear and anxiety through faith. I loved Alli's first book Breaking Busy and knew that this one would be no different (props for alliterative titles too, girl!) -- it was fresh, helpful, fun to read, both light and deep at the same time, and really just a powerhouse book for women.

Each chapter addressed a new question that I think every one of us worries about at some point, and included such easy to remember lists of tools and reminders for how to fight back and find freedom. If you aren’t a person who loves lists, this might not be the book for you, but I know so many of Alli's strategies here will be game changers for me personally!

MY RECOMMENDATION: If you feel burdened by fear, worry, or anxiety, and want helpful strategies for getting unstuck, this one is for you.

THANKS TO: BookLook Bloggers

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY REVIEW: If the concept of hygge has caught your attention, you will LOVE this one. I seriously feel like I’ve found the culture that matches my soul COMPLETELY and I want to move to Sweden tomorrow. I’m obsessed. Everything about lagom— the balance of not too much but not too little— is beautiful and enticing and so smart. This book is such a fun one— chock full of pictures and facts and stats and stories, it reads more like a magazine almost! (Shared a few vids in my story.) I want to buy this one ASAP (thanks, library, for having it!) and just love it.

MY RECOMMENDATION: If you love hygge and want more like it, grab this one!

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY REVIEW: I loved this book so much. I’m so sad it’s over. What a good story— of high school, moving, grief, love, drama, connection— this one was perfect start to finish. The mystery of who the anonymous emailing/IMing guy was kept me guessing, I loved the characters and could so relate, it captured the nuances of high school so well... gah. So good.

MY RECOMMENDATION: If you like YA novels (like John Green's books, etc), grab this one and then get What to Say Next too (by the same author) -- both are SO great.

The Dream of You: Let Go of Broken Identities and Live the Life You Were Made for by Jo Saxton

MY RATING: 5/5 stars

MY REVIEW: I loved every word of this book. It’s been a while since I’ve truly wanted to savor a book and not just fly through it, but this one was one to read slowly and soak up. It was absolutely the book I needed to read in this season, and I’m so grateful for Jo's heart and wisdom and love in this one. The way she wrote the letters that opened each chapter, the way she brought stories from Scripture to life in fresh ways, the way she shared her own story... all beautiful and deeply meaningful to me. All the love for this one.


THANKS TO: Blogging for Books

Books I abandoned this month:


Add your links here if you blogged about books this month-- and be sure to browse around the other links and find new bookish friends! For bonus points, challenge yourself with one of the reading prompts below!