A running list of what I’m reading…
2015 So Far…
Friend & Foe by Adam Galinsky & Maurice Schweitzer
It’s pitched as a book about the tension between cooperation & competition. But from the opening anecdote, it’s a book about manipulation and deceit. No thanks.
Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz Weber
Hands down the best book I’ve read this year. Bolz Weber somehow fuses swear words with deep conviction, and a living faith that is messy, real, and transformative. I don’t agree with all her theological conclusions, but I love how boldly she shows how awesome Jesus is. Also, she’s a kick-ass writer.
Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey
Surprised me in so many ways. The title suggests that the author is angsty and wrestling with her faith, but what comes through instead is her quiet, growing confidence in God. Love, love, love this book.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Bold encouragement! I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book that did so much to cheer me on about the writing process. Her bit about ideas being sentient beings searching for humans to inhabit is totally creepy – skip those pages – but her take on enjoying your creative gifts instead of being tormented by them is well worth your time.
Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn
This felt like being invited into the authors’ lives and given answers to all my questions about what to do when a friend is in crisis. A gracious blend of honest storytelling and practical suggestions. There are pages where I underlined every single word.
Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang
The book by the guy who became a YouTube sensation after he walked into a Krispy Kreme and asked for an Olympic rings donut. This book is deeper and wiser than I expected. The author has FANTASTIC insights about how we process and respond to rejection. Highly recommend.
For The Love by Jen Hatmaker
Funny, quirky & honest essays.
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
My newly adopted daughter recommended this to me. It is grim and harrowing, but I’m so glad I read it.
Last Call by Jerry Herships
Interesting memoir from from a guy who moved from professional comedy into ministry. Loved the irreverent tone and the details about how he build a church of unlikely people who hand out sandwiches and communion in the park, the gather in local bars for worship.
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
I’ve never seen more growth in a writer from one book to another. It’s hard to believe that the author of the snarky, derivative takedown about living Biblically penned this gem of a memoir about searching for a place to call home in the church. Loved this book and have so much new respect for the author.
Adopting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck & Regina Kupecky
Keck & Kupecky’s books are the gold standard for navigating the waters of adoption. Read them before you’re in the trenches.
It’s been awhile since I’ve updated this. I’ve been busy reading :) Here are some quick thoughts on the memorable titles:
New Life, No Intructions: A Memoir by Gail Caldwell
How on earth did this woman make a hip replacement such a compelling story??? I don’t understand it, but it’s fabulous.
Jesus: A Pilgrimmage by James Martin, S.J.
This is a huge book, both in size and breadth. I liked it more than expected. It’s on my read-again list.
Famous Baby: A Novel by Karen Rizzo
Loved it. A glimpse at what it’s like to be raised by a mommy-blogger.
The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones
Ugh. Not the subject matter, but the content. Just ugh.
Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan
The most helpful book I found on dog training, with surprising gems that apply to human life, too.
A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor
Made me cry. In a good way.
Where the Wind Leads: A Refugee Family’s Miraculous Story of Loss, Rescue, and Redemption by Vinh Chung
I LOVED this memoir! It’s a harrowing tale of immigration that turns midway into a charming tale of a strong family building their own happily ever after.
Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception by Joseph T. Hallian
So interesting! We are completely delusional. Who would have guessed this would make such a compelling book?
The Moment Maker: You Can Live Your Life or It Will Live You
The worst sort of Christian nonfic – a narcissist telling us how we can all be more like him. Ugh.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Love, love, loved this novel. Highly recommend.
Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of a Faith with a Future by Elizabeth Esther
One of my favorite memoirs so far this year.
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
Kind of grim and weird…but still inspiring.
Glitter and Glue: A Memoir by Kelly Corrigan
This was a slow read, but I love her writing and storytelling. A great addition to your beach bag.
The God-First Life: Uncomplicate Your Life, God’s Way By Stoball Weems
I really enjoyed this reminder that life is just easier when I put God first, with some new ideas about what that looks like.
Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album by Ken Caillat
Fascinating story. A few too many odd mentions of the author’s daughter (a current recording artist), but otherwise a fabulous glimpse into the retain of this famous album.
The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman
A novel about a New York man named Jonah who has visions similar to his Biblical counterpart. Intriguing at points with great character development early on, but lost steam in the middle. Worth the read, but prepare to hunker down.
The Women of Duck Commander by Kay, Korie, Missy, Jessica & Lisa Robertson
A collection of vignettes about how life used to be difficult, but everything is perfect now. They are smart to protect their family, but should have skipped writing the book.
The People Factor by Van Moody
The best book on friendship & professional relationships I’ve ever read.
Unremarried Widow by Artis Henderson
Well written memoir of a woman who lost her new husband in combat. I read it in one evening, totally captivated.
Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
Set in the world of professional ballet, this is a quiet story of intense people going after what they want in a variety of ways. I was drawn into the plot even as I struggled to understand some of the characters’ motivations. That’s one of the most interesting facets of this novel, actually–the way some of the characters are so much more aware of what they want and go after it, trampling those who are less sure…and how those less sure emerge from the experience, changed.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
I couldn’t imagine being interested in a book about a woman who devotes her life to the study of moss. Total credit to Elizabeth Gilbert for painting such vivid characters. STRANGE story – but a good one.
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett.
Her usual excellent writing, but very little emotion.
Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Dana
Every line of this memoir is hilarious. Great writing. Plot petered out at the end, but worth the read.
You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Hands down the best book I read this year. This is a gripping novel about a therapist who works with couples. She writes a book called “You Should Have KNown” to help couples identify problems before they marry…and then her own marriage turns out to be smoothing different than she’d ever known. Masterfully plotted…and filled with surprisingly good advice on relationships.
Stitches by Anne Lamott
Her best since Traveling Mercies. Loved it.
The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle
A page turner. It’s a novel about a teacher-studen affair, so it’s not a happy book. I wondered how the author would land this story filled with heartache, but she does a great job. A satisfying read.
Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
Novel about the Hungarian Gold Train. I prefer stories that follow people, rather than things, but this was interesting. Very similar to Nicole Krauss’ Great House, but less obtuse. Red Hook Road is still by favorite by this author.
Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
I expected to hate this book. Whenever someone is anointed the new great thing in Christian evangelism, it’s rare to see the book deliver. But I was stunned and thrilled to discover that this pastor, this writer, totally delivers. I will now stop complaining about the lack of well-written Christian memoirs. Such a great read.
The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
This is a posthumous collection of astonishing reflections by a Yale student. Her observations are wise and incredibly poignant. So sad to realize we’ve lost such a great writer.
Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work by Tim Gunn
I adored this book. So much good, simple advice. I was surprised by how blunt he was about people he’s seen misbehave and his candid comments about why it’s important to be a good person as you pursue your dreams and career.
A Guide for the Perplexed: A Novel by Dara Horn
This is a weird book. The best part is the story of twin sisters and the creation of a program that captures everything we do. The weird jumps between centuries were less interesting, although I appreciate the intricate architecture of the book.
How to Love: A Novel by Katie Cotugno
I raced through this story in two evenings. I don’t know what makes YA books read with so much more urgency than adult novels, but the pace was fantastic. Very enjoyable.
The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
Entertaining & inspiring anecdotes; a little glib and “isn’t this so easy.” But interesting ideas to think about, in terms of starting small rather than risking everything.
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro
Her personal stories are the best part of this book – I love her memoir writing. Strangely, my writing ground to a halt as I read this book. Not sure what that’s about.
Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller
Compelling story of growing up with hoarder parents. I was especially intrigued by her description of the mixed feelings of loving parents who consistently let you down. A good reminder that people and relationships are so complex. This goes in the “will read again” pile.
Where the Peacocks Sing: A Palace, a Prince, and a Search for Home by Alison Singh Gee
Got off to a tremendous start with vivid descriptions of an unusual childhood, cultural differences, and the high life of expats in Hong Kong. Goes a bit off the rails mid-book, though, as the author doesn’t quite deliver on the questions she sets up in the beginning about what makes a place home. Can’t quite put my finger on what happened, but I ended the book wanting more than she gave.
Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James
A fun return to the characters from Pride & Prejudice, who are wrestling with a murder on the grounds of the Darcy Estate. This was a fun change of pace.
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma
A really weird book, but I liked it. I wasn’t sure why I cared, but I did. Worth checking out for the beautiful writing and innovative story. Kudos to the author.
Stage Performance by Livingston Taylor
I read this because a musician friend said it changed the way he viewed playing and responding to an audience. Turns out it’s filled with pearls of wisdom that apply to the rest of life, too.
Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron
I thought this book was a memoir. As a novel, it got off to a slow start, but I’m glad I kept reading. There were so many lines that made me stop and underline, put down the book, think. Love it when that happens. I didn’t think I’d want to know more about Saint Francis, but I loved what I learned in this book.
The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Loved it. Read it on the beach, in the car, on my couch late one night when I couldn’t sleep…it’s that book. I didn’t think I was interested in the history of diamond advertising, and yet there I was, captivated. Sullivan does a masterful job weaving the stories across decades. I’ll be re-reading in dissection mode, trying to figure out how she did it.
The Buy Side by Turney Duff
Turney is a friend from High School. I was excited to read his story for all the obvious reasons (don’t we all love a glimpse into the lives of people we used to know?) but this would have made my best-of pile even without the personal connection. Turney is a GREAT writer, and has a fascinating story. The best compliment? I don’t know anything about Wall Street, and I was captivated.
Love Story by Nichole Nordeman
I love her songs, and her prose is just as good. The book is structured around a few well-known Bible characters at pivotal moments in their struggles. But the best moments are when she shares her own.
Why Can’t I Be You? by Allie Larkin
This book captures the longing we all have to connect and develop real friendships. Allie Larkin is so funny. She creates a world you want to jump into.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
I was surprised how much I liked this book. She makes important points about how often women shortchange our careers in anticipation of the life we want but don’t yet have. “Imagine how many more choices you’ll have when you do have a husband and kids,” she says, “if you’ve held your focus on your career while you waited?”
All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellani
The day I finished this book, I went back to the bookstore for copies to give away. A spectacular tale of family, with vivid characters, a suck-you-right-in plot, and gorgeous writing.
Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro
Gorgeous writing. I appreciate the lens through which she sees the world around her. This book is like having coffee with a friend who knows you really well. I kept it on my nightstand for two weeks after reading the last page, just because looking at it made me happy.)
The Invisible Girls: A Memoir by Sarah Thebarge
This one’s a heartbreaker, but in the best way. She shares her story of being diagnosed with breast cancer in her twenties, weathering the harsh treatment along with the disappointing reactions of her friends. Then she meets a woman from Somalia on a bus, along with the woman’s five daughters. Her descriptions of the woman’s struggles to survive are the best part of this book.
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Turns out we tend to narrow our focus when making decisions, ignoring how most things in life aren’t nearly as either/or as we make them out to be. Love the strategies it offers.
Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
I love her candor. She admits that she’s not interested in perfect decor & has a hilarious riff about how the pressure to “make a room reflect who she is” is way too much to handle. She focused instead on on relationships, and how her home life was fostering them…or not. Then she explored ways to create more love, fun, joy, memories, etc. Fun, but not intimidating.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
She went a little easier on her characters than in past books, and I appreciated it. I love the way she writes.
What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell
I liked this more than expected, with one caveat: as a writer, Bell needs to step up to the plate and reveal what these provocative ideas mean to him. His writing is quite cerebral, but all the artful phrases don’t land anywhere because he doesn’t share about himself. He hints at an intense spiritual crisis, but never tells us what that looked or felt like, or how he’s working through it, or even what it looks like for him to look to his faith in mundane circumstances. It would be interesting to read an “applied faith” book from him.
You Tell Your Dog First by Alison Pace
I’m a longtime fan of Alison Pace’s fiction, so it was great to get this behind the scenes look into her life as an author and a dog lover. Her escapades are funny and so relatable. I love her family and want to attend dinner at their house. She shares about navigating life’s big questions and how the right dog can bring such amazing joy to your world. Reading this was like having coffee & catching up with a friend
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
The little girl at the center of this story was so vivid and real, I felt like she was with me for days afterward. One of my favorite novels.
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Left me unable to breathe. Holy crap, this is an intense book.
Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancy
This book was offered as a free Kindle download after the Boston Marathon Bombings. I needed it. It was nice to have someone else explore these questions – to be led through possibilities – even when I didn’t synch up with all his conclusions.
News From Heaven by Jennifer Haigh
I love her writing. It’s dark and sad, which I don’t usually like. But she looks at life with such unflinching candor by creating characters that are real, with stakes that matter. I’m always surprised by how much she makes me care.
Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
I picked up this book to see how she treated such a distinct place as a setting. I was amazed by how real the characters were, and how she made sure that they inhabited this place, rather than it controlling them. Also a beautiful study of marriage. Loved it.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My agent suggested this to me awhile back and I was unable to read beyond the first few chapters. Now I understand why. The writing is brilliant, and the approach captivating and unique. But it’s relentlessly sad. Not at all suitable for spring in New England, when I first tried to read it. But an incredible read for summer (with lots of sunshine and vitamin D supplements).
Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman
I liked this book even more than I expected. I love Waldman’s way with words, but her characters tend to be tough. There’s some of that here, but the story is just so huge and encompasses so many perspectives on these two families in Maine…it was delightful and gut wrenching at the same time. (If I were her, I’d have a giant poster of this book cover on the wall of my living room so that when I got discouraged I could say, “Hey – I wrote that!”)
Great House by Nicole Krauss
This novel is like a jigsaw puzzle – pieces are strewn out among the stories of several different, barely connected characters. The challenge is that the pieces are all shades of grey. There is almost no tonal distinction between the voices, and little, if any, emotion. The writer in me is glad I read it, though. Makes me think about new ways to weave together motivations, memories, and choices.
Father of the Rain by Lily King
I wanted to see if it was possible to write about a narcissist as a fully-developed character rather than just a villain. King pulls it off. Highly recommend.
How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley
Crosley is the real deal: she has a unique, engaging perspective on the places and situations in which she finds herself, and each essay made me want to keep reading. Especially loved the closing piece about a romantic breakup. I read an interview where she said that she was especially proud of that one, and she should be.
Redeemed: Stumbling Toward God, Sanity, and the Peace that Surpasses All Understanding by Heather King
I would read Heather King’s shopping list – she’s that good a writer. My copy of REDEEMED is filled with dog-eared pages and miles of underlining as I noted things I hope to come back to and think through a little more. Plus, she’s DANG funny, which is always a nice quality in a memoir about piecing one’s life back together.
The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
I met Randy at a gathering of Boston authors who Tweet, and the minute she handed me her card I fell in love with her book cover. The story inside is just as gorgeous. Two sisters, struggling to make a life for themselves and figure out what “family” means after their father murders their mother. The characters in this book are so real I feel like they might email me with an update.
Consider the Lobster & A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
I went through a bit of an obsession with DFW after his suicide. He wrestled with the big questions of life and faith and meaning so publicly, and yet also wrote compelling, funny bits about everything from professional tennis to random crowds gathering to eat seafood. I’m not sure anyone else will ever be allowed to publish in such a voluminous, footnoted writing style, but it’s a powerful glimpse into a wild mind. (But by way of complete candor, were he still alive and working on his craft, I’d be frustrated by his lack of editing.)
Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
I’ve been a fan of Joshilyn Jackson since I heard her speak at the 2012 Festival of Faith & Writing and she made me laugh so hard I hiccuped. No other Southern writer so makes me long to trade in my New England-y “Thanks, God!” (which I say often, because I believe in giving credit where credit is due) for a full-on, drawled-out, “Well thank the Sweet Lord Baby Jesus!” Such is the power of her literary awesomeness.
Lottery by Patricia Wood
I adored this book. I read it in a day and immediately felt compelled to recommend it to everyone…both because they’ll love it and because then I’d have people to talk to about this amazing main character and his perspective on life. Should be assigned reading for everyone :)
The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier
I think I loved this book because part of me identified with the main character: when I’m hurt or scared, my core instinct is to retract into myself–to eschew emotion and follow whatever semblance of intellect and logic I can cobble together. But most of us don’t really want to be alone, at least not forever. I liked how this story unfolded.