Jan + Feb 2017 book report

Here’s what I’ve been reading recently:

The Secret River

(fictionalised historical account – first time read – recommended for anyone interested in learning more about the darker side of Australian history)

The Barefoot Investor

(non-fiction – first time read – recommended for Australian friends looking for some basic money advice)

The Girl with Seven Names

(non-fiction – first time read – an intriguing account of one girl’s escape from North Korea)

Better than Before

(non-fiction – reread – recommended for those wanting to reboot their 2017 resolutions and make habits that suit their personality)

The Total Money Makeover

(non-fiction – reread – the American equivalent of The Barefoot Investor, I was interested to reread this to see how similar it is to TBI… very similar!)

The Triple Package

(non-fiction – reread – one of the more interesting books I read last year)

All the Single Ladies

(non-fiction – first time read – one of the NYT’s recommended books from 2016 – it felt a little repetitive at times but still recommended!)

The Broken Way

(non-fiction – first time read – Ann is amazing and this is not a book for breezing through – if you’re only reading one book from Ann, I think I would still recommend ‘One Thousand Gifts’ first)

The Year of Living Danishly

(non-fiction – first time read – easy breezy enjoyable read, would make a good vacation book)

Present Over Perfect

(non-fiction – reread – recommended! The first time I read it I enjoyed it, but this time I soaked up every single word – very timely for me)

The Sound of Gravel

(non-fiction – first time read – intense and confronting, but recommended for anyone interested in Mormon fundamentalism (if anyone shares my same weird obsession!))

These Happy Golden Year

(fiction – reread some 20 years after I first read it – I’m just one book away from finishing the Little House series and I don’t want it to end!)

The Rest of God

(non-fiction – first time read – HIGHLY recommended for both the content (powerful, applicable) and the style, it was such a pleasure to read!)

 

 

On Sabbath

 

I recently read ‘The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath’ by Mark Buchanan. I underlined so many passages in my Kindle, then copied out some of the most thought-provoking in my journal and now I’m typing a few up again here on the blog. Third times a charm, or something – certainly I need to remember these words over and over again as I seek some more Sabbath in my  week.

So here they are – all words by Mark Buchanan:

“In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest he invites us to enter more fully so that we might know him more deeply. ‘Be still and know that I am God’. Some knowing is never pursued, only received. And for that you need to be still.”

“Sabbath imparts the rest of God – actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God – the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness.”

“The root idea of Sabbath is simple as rain falling, basic as breathing. It’s that all living things – and many unliving things too – thrive only by an ample measure of stillness.”

“Sabbath-keeping requires two orientatons. One is Godward. The other is timeward. To keep Sabbath well – as both a day and an attitude – we have to think clearly about God and freshly about time. We likely, at some level, need to change our minds about both. Unless we trust God’s sovereignty, we won’t dare risk Sabbath. And unless we receive time as abundance and gift, not ration and burden, we’ll never develop a capacity to savour Sabbath.”

“Exodus grounds Sabbath in creation. Deuteronomy grounds it in liberation. Exodus remembers Eden, Deuteronomy Egypt. In Exodus, Sabbath-keeping is about imitating divine example and receiving divine blessing. In Deuteronomy, it is about taking hold of divine deliverance and observing divine command.

Exodus looks up. Deuteronomy looks back. Exodus gives theological rationale for rest, and Deuteronomy historical justification for it. One evokes God’s character, the other his redemption. One calls us to holy mimicry – be like God; the other to holy defiance – never be slaves again. One reminds us that we are God’s children, the work of his hands, the other that we are no one’s chattel; not Pharaoh’s, not Nebuchadnezzar’s, not Xerxes’, not Beelzebub’s.

One is invitation. The other is warning.”

“Slaves don’t rest. Slaves can’t rest. Slaves, by definition, have no freedom to rest. Rest, it turns out, is a condition of liberty.”

“Get this straight: The rest of God – the rest God gladly gives so that we might discover that part of God we’re missing – is not reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done. It’s sheer gift. It’s a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfilment of our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.”

December book report and 2016 reading wrap up

Here’s my final book report for the year: what I read in December and my favourite reads across the whole year…

December reads

The Mothers: A Novel

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It

Little Town on the Prairie

80,000 Hours: Find a Fulfilling Career that Does Good

Dept. of Speculation

The Little Paris Bookshop

2016 Favourite Reads

Good bye 2016, hello 2017! Amidst the ups and downs of the year that’s been, a major personal highlight was all the reading I managed to squeeze into 2016. I love to read and have always read a lot, but this year I made an extra effort to always have a book on the go and, instead of automatically turning to social media, to use the quiet moments amidst a busy day to read a few pages.

I think I did most of my reading during my daily commute, and another good chunk while travelling. My dream pre-bed ritual involves half an hour or more of leisurely reading, though that actually happened very rarely this year (why is it so hard to get oneself to bed at a reasonable hour?).

The stand out book for me in 2016 was ‘When Breath Becomes Air‘ by Paul Kalanithi, a young neurosurgeon who wrote the memoir as he battled stage 4 lung cancer. I’m not sure how to describe it, except to say that it was powerfully moving and beautifully written, unforgettable in many ways. I sobbed through the final chapter, written by his wife Lucy, and will certainly reread it again in 2017.

My other top non-fiction reads (in no particular order):

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth Tucker: A powerful and shocking story about domestic violence – in the author’s marriage, but also in the wider church. 

The Triple Package: What Really Determines Success by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld: A fascinating read on the three common traits among America’s most successful minority groups: a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control.

Smarter, Better, Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg: Hugely practical and an absolute pleasure to read – which, let’s admit, cannot be said of all social sciency / self help type books!

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller: My favourite Christian read in 2016, and most likely the best book I’ve read on prayer.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson: An epic exploration of a fascinating time in American history, told through the eyes of three different people. Wilkerson’s level of research and detail in this book is amazing.

I also read a number of stand-out fiction books this year, again in no particular order:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: A rare venture for me into sci-fi territory, but what a great read! Incredibly thought-provoking on how we, as a society, treat those who are different.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd: Another insightful (and at times, horrifying!) peek into American history, this novel is a fictionalised account of two young girls: a young white girl and her young black slave.

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler: I thought the premise of this novel was very clever. Don’t google it, just read the book!

The Laura Ingalls Wilder ‘Little House’ series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: There is something incredibly soothing about these classic books, even rereading them now as an adult. My hot tip – dig out some of your childhood favourites in 2017.

If you’re after further holiday reading ideas, you can find the rest of my 2016 reading list here. Now, what should I read in 2017?

October + November book report

Since I’m waaay behind on both months, I decided to combine them for the joint book report. Here’s everything I read in October and November:

Little House in the Big Woods

Farmer Boy

Little House on the Prairie

On the Banks of Plum Creek

By the Shores of Silver Lake

The Long Winter

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

The Happiness Project (reread)

Commonwealth

The Warmth of Other Suns

The Gifts of Imperfection

Rising Strong

I did lots of good reading in October and November and could write a lot about each book listed!

Perhaps the overall highlight was discovering that the Laura Ingalls Wilder books were FINALLY available as e-books, after religiously checking online every few months since I very first got my Kindle back in 2012. I first read the Little House Series when I was in Grade 2, a whole 20 years ago, and I have to say that rereading a beloved childhood favourite is truly delightful way to unwind and relax after a stressful day at work. I’m through the first six, with three left to complete.

I also jumped on Brene Brown train for the first time with Rising Strong and The Gifts of Imperfection, and picked up So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed after not one, but two Averill girls recommended it to me.

In October I also discovered the By the Book feature in the New York Times, a discovery which has added countless books to my ‘must read’ list. It was on recommendation from one of the featured authors that I picked up both The Warmth of Other Suns and Commonwealth.

The Warmth of Other Suns is up near the top of my favourite non-fiction reads in 2016, a fascinating, well-researched and engaging story of the mass migration of African Americans from the South to the North during the 1930s onwards.

Commonwealth was equally impressive and would be high on my favourite fiction list!

Previous book reports here.

 

September book report

Here’s a very quick run down of what I read in September.

Mountains Beyond Mountains

All the Light We Cannot See

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Little Women

I really enjoyed all four books, but reading Little Women once again was a highlight. There is something so calming about curling up in bed at the end of a long day and stepping back in time a little to catch up with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy!

August book report

Question: What makes you want to read a particular book? Why is it that some books grab us, and others, even with a glowing review from a friend, don’t interest us in the slightest?

Author Gretchen Rubin shares monthly book recommendations on her blog, but believe the more someone tries to explain a book to her, the less likely she is to want to read it, so she never writes much about the books she recommends herself.

Will and I joke about the fact that as soon as one of us says ‘Oh you’ve got to read this book’ or ‘I think you’d really like it’, somehow it makes it completely uninteresting to the other person.

Anyhow, here’s what I read in August, and why I chose it in the first place:

The Happy Marriage

This book was mentioned in a list of upcoming African authors, and since I live on the continent, I havee tried to read more from local writers. However I struggled getting into this one and it’s only half finished. Perhaps I shouldn’t include it on the list?

Cutting for Stone

The author of Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese, wrote the forward for When Breath Becomes Air, a hauntingly beautiful true story I read earlier this year . I poked around to find out what Verghese had written himself and found multiple rave reviews about Cutting For Stone. However it wasn’t available on Kindle, so I forgot about it. Then, I was ordering another book on Amazon and needed to spend a little more to qualify for cheaper shipping, so I added this to the order. Hilariously enough, about a week after it finally arrived, I was walking through our local supermarket, which has a very large collection of books, and saw it sitting there in front of me. I could have purchased it in Nairobi for about half the price of getting it shipped!

Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the setting in Ethiopia and the beautiful story it tells.

Present Over Perfect

I chose this as I’ve read the rest of Shauna Neiquiest’s work and had caught snippets of Present Over Perfect on her blog and social media accounts. I enjoyed it, though I think I need to read it again at a later date. I’m very much in a season of actively choosing to take on more, juggle the hustle, dig deeper and go, go, go – which isn’t the season for the rest of my life but it is for right now – and it’s a very different season to the one Shauna writes about so well in Present Over Perfect. In saying that, I still soaked up a number of great gems.

A Praying Life

I’ve been reading this slowly over the last few months as I work through it in a Bible Study with some dear friends. We were going chapter by chapter until we realised just how many chapters there are (they are quite short though!). A fantastic, very honest read on prayer, probably the best and most practical book I’ve read on the subject.

Smarter Better Faster

This book had been referenced in a few others I’ve read recently. I can’t remember exactly, but I probably purchased it on Kindle after falling down the ‘Here’s-what-others-bought’-or-‘Recommended-for-you’-rabbit-hole. A great read on productivity in that social-sciencey style that I really appreciate – a good story, some interesting research, a nice general concept to pull it all together. I underlined a gazillion things and then even wrote down some quotes in a notebook for application to real life.

The Power of Habit

I enjoyed Smarter Better Faster so much I went on to read another book by the same author, Charles Duhigg. Once again, great writing style, interesting material (I’m such a habit nerd!) and some practical ideas to apply to my own life.

How to Become a Straight A student

After ‘returning’ to school late last year, I’ve found myself not only a Public Health student, but a student of distance learning and studying. I somehow stumbled across Cal Newport’s blog and a number of his ideas really clicked (and helped tremendously when I was revising for my exams in June), so I order this off Amazon with Cutting for Stone in preparation for school starting again in October. It covers a lot of the same things I had read on the blog, but I also gleaned some new ideas to study smarter. Now I am wondering if there is anything more nerdy than studying how to study? 😉

Previous book reports here.