This year I’ve taken my reading obsession public and joined Modern Mrs. Darcy’s annual Reading Challenge. And because I’m a crazy-book-obsessed-aholic, of course I decided to do both lists: Reading for Fun and Reading for Growth. It’s the first time I’ve ever systematically thought through what I will read throughout a year. But I have a secret weapon: instead of using the list to determine what books I’ll read, I first went to the books I have on my For Later ‘shelf’ on my library’s website and reverse engineered them to fit all the categories in the Challenge. Sneaky? Perhaps. Gets me through my To-Be-Read list? Absolutely. And that’s what it’s all about, right?
I’ll share more about my complete selections for the Reading Challenge in another post (as well as how I’ve finally taken the Bullet Journal plunge!) but for now, here is what I’ve been reading to kick off 2017.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brusker Bradley
I don’t usually read YA novels but I picked up this book without knowing that it fell in that category (it’s one of my favorite generes, after all). Of course, I quickly realized what I was reading thanks to the writing style and the giant Newberry Award medal on the front cover (ha!). The story kept my attention but it had slightly too much implausibility for me to truly give myself over to it. For a young reader wanting to learn about World War 2, this book would be a great place to start.
The Shape of Mercy: A Novel by Susa Meissner
I was first introduced to Meissner’s work through this other book which I really enjoyed, so when I saw the Challenge category of “three books by the same author” I thought she would be a good candidate for that slot. This book won all sorts of awards and it was a quick read with some deeper themes. It did seem, at time, like the author tried a bit too hard to write beyond light fiction and make the book be more meaningful. I did like reading about a time and place in history that I haven’t spent much time exploring.
This month I’m helping lead a fitness challenge for our organization and one of the requirements is to read a book about nutrition, exercise, accountability, or community (four factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle). I choose QBQ! because I had started reading it last year and didn’t finish and because it’s super short (115 pages!). Don’t be fooled by the brevity of the book – it addresses personal accountability head on and doesn’t leave much room to hide. I love that it presents a simple formula to practice personal accountability through the questions we ask ourselves. Simple, short, but powerful.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
This book is one of Morton’s first works and it shows. The story kept me engaged but seemed to drag on at times. It reminded me of all those nightly news shows that take five minutes’ worth of information and drag it out to fill a 45 minute time slot. I like how each chapter switches points of view and places in history (Beatriz Williams uses the same technique and I’m a big fan of her books) and I figured out the signature “twist” earlier than I have in her other books. At 552 pages it’s a commitment but it reads quickly thanks to a fast-paced story that keeps you wanting more.
Heartbreaking. Triumphant. Tragic. Victorious. All those words and more. I’ve read so many books about World War 2, both fiction and non-fiction, but I never fail to be impacted by reading another person’s account of their struggle to survive (or to save others) during those awful years. Set in Poland during the height of the Nazi Occupation, Mazzeo tells the impossible true story of one woman who helped save over 2,500 children from the Jewish ghetto. Unbelievably believable. Read it.
A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Kelbold
This book was one of my “bonus picks” from my interview on What Should I Read Next. I finagled as many extra recommendations out of Anne as I could. 🙂 Since one of my “Three Books You Love” was about the Columbine tragedy, it’s no wonder I resonated with this book as soon as she mentioned it on the podcast. I was completely unprepared, however, for what this book really held. Told in first person, this memoir/tell-all//rallying cry can basically be summed up in two questions: “How did this happen?” and “How did I not know this was going to happen?” Klebold lays herself bare as she examines the days leading up to the tragedy, her son’s role in the shooting, his suicide, and the aftermath that haunts her still to this day. She has become an advocate for mental health and writes boldly about the need for education and awareness. Highly, highly recommended.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Completely outside my reading “box,” this book was pleasantly enjoyable to read. It’s written as a series of interviews, diary entries, and conversations, all centered around the discovery of enormous, metallic, robotic body parts of some sort of being that are hidden all over Earth. I don’t usually like epistolary books but the story was actually enhanced by this writing style as it helped me stay detached as a reader, much like the detachment between the robot and the scientist who were working to discover its purpose. I enjoyed it more than I thought it would, but the last chapter? Grr. I immediately went to Google and searched “What happens in the last chapter of Sleeping Giants?” To say it’s a cliffhanger would be a gross understatement. Good move on the part of the author. Awful news for the reader….but apparently there’s a sequel so all hope is not lost.
Unashamed by Christine Caine
Every once and awhile I’ll give one of these types of books a try – Christian, self-help, spiritual memoir. As with most books that fall in this category, the first third has some great insights, the second third starts waning, and by the final pages I’m just wanting to be done already. I did like some of Caine’s comments about the power of shame and how it is at the root of so much pain and rejection in our lives. More than anything, though, reading this book made me want to revisit Brené Brown’s works and read the works of a true expert on this topic.
How about you? What books have you been reading lately? Do you have any plans for your 2017 reading journey?
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