I want to care more about WHAT I'm reading than I do about HOW MUCH I'm reading. Because at the end of the day, I want to prioritize quality over quantity, and I want the books I read to make me better, wiser, more aware, more knowledgable, more empathetic, and more well-rounded.
I'm a big fan of a reading challenge. There's something about checking off those boxes that makes reading even more motivating and exciting, and I love that the challenges always push me beyond my normal reading comfort zone, too.
Here are my initial thoughts of what I'm PLANNING to read for Modern Mrs. Darcy's challenge this year -- all books are ones I currently own too since I'm buying NO BOOKS this year!
This year, I've already read over 100 books, and people are constantly asking me "HOW DO YOU READ SO MUCH?!" so I thought it would be fun to share the best tips and tricks I know.
These are the things that bring me back again, the things that restore a sense of calm, the things that remind me of what is good, of what is true, of what truly matters when things start to feel out of control.
So, funny story... last month, the topic for Amber and Annie's Speak Up vlogging link-up was restoration. In all the craziness of getting ready for my trip and for moving, I wanted to record it before I left, so I rushed to get that done.
Well, I did it, and I loved it...but once the whole thing went live, I realized I had the topic TOTALLY WRONG. I recorded a great vlog on redemption...yeah, not the same as restoration.
Every month this year, I'm gathering up all of the books I've read (my goal for 2015 is 52 and I've tackled more than 30 already!) and sharing quick little reviews with you. This post is a few days late because the nasty stomach flu knocked me out cold for a few days, but here are the books I read this May!
Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott. // "Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grow from charred soil. The sun rises."
Anne Lamott. I cannot say enough good things. This book was one I read in a short afternoon at one of my favorite cafes, and although I found myself recognizing a lot of passages from previous books I've read by Anne, I still loved it. I've always been a major fan of the totally honest, transparent style of prayer and writing too (why get all flowery and formal when you can just be totally real with God?) so I loved her way of highlighting her three essential and simple prayers: help, thanks, and WOW! This is a great little book that I heavily underlined, laughed through while reading, and would pass along to many friends.
The Dinner by Herman Koch. // "My mind was already made up. I did what I thought I had to do as a father: I put myself in my son's shoes."
This book was an interesting one. As a New York Times bestseller, I assumed the quality would be high. With a Gillian Flynn (author of Gone Girl) review on the front saying "Chilling, nasty, smart, shocking, and unputdownable," I assumed it would be similar in nature to Gone Girl. It wasn't, at all. I honestly found it pretty boring and slow. I really didn't get much out of it, didn't really find it particularly enjoyable, and wouldn't really suggest you read it. So that's that.
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. // "'I can promise you none of these things. No sphere of usefulness: you are not needed there at all. No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them. No atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God.'"
Oh, C.S. Lewis, how I love you. Your words challenge me, open my eyes to new perspectives and ways of thinking and believing, and constantly push me to make my faith more real and more my own. This book was a beautiful fantasy, what Lewis calls in the preface an "imaginative supposal" of what Heaven and Hell might look like. It was a great afternoon read (in my Eno in perfect weather, no less) and one that will linger in my thoughts as I think of what might await us someday. As always, I highly recommend ANYTHING Lewis writes, because he's the best.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. // "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
I've been trying to make an effort to read more classic literature and major award-winning books, because they're rich and good and so worth reading. This was one of them-- I've heard of and loved quotes from Plath for a while, but had never really read any of her work. I didn't know what to expect with this one. It took a while for the story to really get going and I wasn't really satisfied with the ending, but there was a lot in the middle about the breakdown of the main character that was fascinating and horrifying and gripping. It wasn't a favorite of mine, but I'm glad I read it.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. // “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.”
My sweet friend Amber sent this book to me as a beautiful birthday gift, with a note inside that said "this has been my very favorite book for some time. I hope it sits as beloved in your heart and on your shelves as it does mine." I read it in one evening (you're very productive when in a big empty house after the baby you're watching falls asleep) and truly loved it. It's a rich story of a brave girl in a turbulent time in America's history, and the love seeps through the pages in a sweet (it's all about honey, so literally, it's sweet) way. It's no secret why this book is a bestseller.
All The Birds, Singing: A Novel by Evie Wyld. // "I reached the doorway of my house and looked out. It was still there, whatever it was, the feeling like something had hunkered down in the valley, waiting and watching and ready to stoop."
This book was an interesting one. I honestly don't think I would ever recommend it to anyone. I found it at Barnes & Noble in a section of "Great New Writers" to discover and it was labeled as an award winner, so I thought it would be good. Straight up, it wasn't. I couldn't get into it, couldn't connect with the main character, couldn't keep up with the flashbacks and flash forwards and random characters and overall strange lack of emotion and character OF the main character...it was just a dull, flat, uninteresting read to me. It totally baffles me how The Boston Globe is quoted on the cover saying "The writing floods every age with menace" when I found the TOTAL opposite to be true.
In case you missed my announcement with Amber of Mr. Thomas and Me last week, we have launched a new kind of book club for book lovers: #COLLABOREADS. (READ ALL ABOUT IT HERE OR HERE.) Choose a book currently on the NY Times Bestsellers list and get to reading! We will host a link-up on both of our sites at the end of the month for you to share your thoughts on your book with all of us! PS: I've chosen "All The Light We Cannot See" and am SO excited to dive in to it!
I'm the girl who could get lost in a bookstore for hours, skimming my hands along the spines on the shelf, inhaling the sweet smell of new and old paper, soaking up the words on the page, wanting to take them all home and wrap up in their stories.
I'm the girl who sends friends books for their birthdays, because I want to share the words that have struck me as beautiful.
I'm the girl who adds to her Amazon wish list after every blog post of book reviews or Pinterest pins of "must-reads".
Because I'm this girl, I had this idea: create a place where people can read books, share their thoughts, and connect with other readers as well as what others are reading. I knew as soon as this idea took seed in my brain that I needed Amber on board.
If you don't know Amber, she shares incredibly rich goodness with the world on her blog Mr. Thomas and Me, and she has a heart of gold. She's brilliant and beautiful and this idea would still be just that if it wasn't for her. She took my idea and built a fantastic structure around it, and I'm so excited to introduce it to you today!
Meet #Collaboreads: a book lover's link-up.
Here's how it's going to look:
- We will pick a random criteria for your book. (It'll look something like: published the year you were born or mentions a city in your state or historical fiction about an era you really don't know.)
- You find your book. (at your local used bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, the library, whatever works for you)
- Read. (You'll have a month.)
- At the end of the month we'll review(ish) our books. (Amber and I will both have places for you to share your links in our posts.)
- Repeat steps 1 - 4 every month.
That's all. Short and sweet and wonderful.
Also-- the hashtag for this is #collaboreads! Use it anywhere and everywhere. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, anywhere else... it's the way we can all see each other's posts and connect and build a community around our love for words!
Because we'll be reading different books, we decided to make the review process a little more stream-lined. So, we made a little mnemonic for the suggested (completely suggested, you're allowed to do it differently) way to do your review:
What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?
How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?
What other books are like this one?
If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now?
You know you judged this book by the cover.
What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages?
Stars. How many out of five do you give this book?
Would you recommend this book to a friend?
We cannot wait to see what books you find and hear what you think about them. We can't wait to get to know you. We can't wait to click on the #collaboreads hashtag on Twitter and Instagram and see all of your posts fill up the feeds.