Today, I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for Quick Lit. I thought I would share what I’ve read so far this year. I didn’t have any concrete writing goals for 2017, but I sort of informally decided that I wanted to read all the unread books on my shelves. I’ve kept within that parameter…sort of. Maybe half-and-half? I just can’t resist the pull of the library holds shelf, guys! (And “What Should I Read Next?” does not help one bit.)
When my dad was visiting after Ruthie was born, we got to talking about how many books I own that I haven’t read yet. (It’s around 20-25. I recently sold and donated a whole bunch that had been languishing on my shelves for years.) He said, “Oh, you should be able to knock out 20 books in just a couple months!” Ha! I wish I was one of those people. Still, in the middle of this baby and childrearing phase of life, I’m pretty happy with my 20-30 books a year. Moving forward into the second half of the year, I’m hoping to spend more time in the evenings reading (as opposed to aimlessly browsing the internet). We’ll see how it goes.
I’ve read some truly great books so far this year, but Bel Canto takes the cake. It shot right onto my list of all-time favorites. So, we’ll start there.
1. Bel Canto: If someone had just told me the premise–an opera star is invited to sing at a party for a wealthy Japanese businessman, and the party guests are all taken hostage by South American rebels–I might not have read it. But it came so highly recommended, and I was blown away by State of Wonder, so I couldn’t resist. And it was so much better–and different–than I ever expected. The writing is wonderful, the story is compelling, and I just wanted to flip back to page one and begin again.
2. My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible: My friend Melissa finished My Name is Lucy Barton while she was visiting in February and handed it off to me before she left. (I can always count on Melissa for great recommendations, and she’s super generous about passing her used copies on to me.) This was my first experience reading Elizabeth Strout, and she’s no slouch—a Pulitzer winner, after all. And I really did think the writing was excellent. The story is quite sad and melancholy, and even a little disturbing at times. What struck me about it was the sparse writing; there is no extraneous detail. It’s a phenomenal case study in clear and consistent voice. I got Anything is Possible from the library, and finished it in less than a day. I hesitate to offer a blanket recommendation of it, because I know many won’t care for some of the content. But again, I just could not get over the phenomenal writing. I’ll be coming back to these two books for quite some time.
3. Essentialism: I started reading Essentialism a long time ago, right before we moved to Michigan; I’ve wanted to pick it up and finish ever since. I found the first few chapters to be challenging and even paradigm-shifting, but the second half of the book really dropped off. Most of the examples and ideas focus on the business world, and I found it difficult to make connections to my own life as a stay-at-home mom. I also think it could be a whole lot shorter, ironically. Still, a worthwhile read, especially at the beginning of the year or anytime you’re looking for a reset.
4. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: A delightful book about the unexpected relationships that come into our lives and how they change us. A good mix of happy and sad. Books and a bookstore play a prominent role in this story, so it’s ideal for book lovers (and, frankly, literary snobs). It’s a quick read that I really enjoyed.
5. The One-in-a-Million Boy: I loved this story. It reminded me of A Man Called Ove: I cried and I laughed out loud, and a lot of the story is about how meaningful connections and friendships can develop among people from different generations. I love exploring how those friendships enrich our lives and communities in meaningful ways. (Side note: I’m wondering if stories about people with special needs and their quirky behaviors is a new subgenre of fiction. I’m thinking about The Rosie Project, Mockingbird, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and now this as well. Do you know of others? Please share them!) The writing isn’t sappy or overtly romantic; it’s straightforward, but beautiful. Several phrases and sentences really struck me, and I’ve come back to them many times.
6. At Home in the World: I’ve been reading Tsh’s blog for years but somehow, this is the first of her books that I’ve read. It’s a memoir of the year her family (including 3 young children) spent traversing the globe. Because of our budget, Evan’s work schedule, and three small children, we aren’t doing much traveling these days. I picked up this book for some armchair traveling, but it was about much more than living vicariously through someone else’s adventure. It’s more about reconciling a love of home with a love for travel, and how our restless feet can be a blessing whether we’re stuck in one place or not. (If you read The Art of Simple, I think you’ll find her writing here familiar, but also better than what you’d encounter in a run of the mill blog post.)
7. The Road Back to You: Well, I finally did it. I read a book about the Enneagram. I haven’t been able to pin down my type just from taking online exams, so I have been eager to read this. This book is surprisingly funny and enjoyable. I was shocked—shocked!—to discover that I’m actually a Type 9. I feel like my whole perspective on my life has been shifted.
8. Shalom Sistas: I loved, loved, loved this book. It is one I will probably come back to again and again, because it’s making me rethink the practical ways I engage with the world and my relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t release until October, but I’m telling you—if you’re a woman and a follower of Jesus, you’ll want a copy.
9. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: I don’t know if I’ve ever read a novella before. This is heartwarming and sad. Because we are currently watching a family member succumb to dementia, this was was particularly meaningful to me. I loved A Man Called Ove and have wanted to pick up another Backman book. I’m glad I did.
Other books I’ve read this year: Gift from the Sea, A Family Shaped by Grace, Bossypants, El Deafo, The Little Book of Hygge, Young House Love, Styled, Design*Sponge at Home, The Inspired Room, Domino: The Book of Decorating. (Obviously, buying a house directly influenced my reading for a little while there!)
I’m always up for more book recommendations, so please send them my way!!