Ah READING! I love, love, love books. One thing I’m often told by other moms is that they admire that I make time to read so much. But honestly, I’d be miserable if I didn’t, and it isn’t difficult for me to fit it into my schedule, because it is a priority in my life. Reading is the number one way that I care for myself. We always hear that it’s important to make time for ourselves. I have never had a problem with doing so. I’m here to say that if you want to be a reader you can be. I read during my morning time, both my bible and my book club book. My book club book is usually a non-fiction text; most often faith-based. I love how reading these books sets me up for a good day. If I’m going to be out and about I carry my book in my bag, so I grab a few minutes here and there. I read almost every night after I put the kids to bed. The trade off is that I don’t watch much television; I only have a couple of shows at a time. This works for me as I get more pleasure from being a reader than I do from watching most tv. I also listen to podcasts when I am cleaning or when I am working out; which makes me feel like I am reading as well.
About 6 years ago I started writing down the titles of all of the books that I read, because I started to re-check books out from the library. I’d get about a page in and then it would all start to sound familiar; I’d realize that I had already read that book. Since I began that list I have read 278 books, which is not too shabby for someone who works and is a wife and mother. Today I’d like to recommend some of my favorite reads to you. If you are going to build a reading habit, it needs to be with a book that you are hungry for. I always tell me students that are reluctant readers that I truly believe we are all readers; we just haven’t all found the right books yet. Each of the books on this list has fed me; either my mind, soul, funny bone or heart. I hope that you will give a couple a try and tell me what you think.
1. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers: Oh what a tale! This is historical fiction; set in the old west, and parallels the tale of biblical Gomer, who was told by God to marry a prostitute. Makes for an unpredictable and dramatic plot. This novel pulled me in emotionally- all five times I read it. I have had my strongest physical reactions of all time when reading this book; including sobbing like my dog died, and launching it across the room in frustration when a really bad choice was made by a character. However- it is beautifully thematic with the story of what an unrelenting and redeeming love can do in a person’s life. It has been about a decade since my last read of this book, and writing this makes me think I am due for round 6.
2. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist: I love this memoir. It speaks to the topic of hospitality, an idea that I find so important. Hospitality has a pull on my heart. In this memoir the author describes her life and the depths of the friendships she has, which calls out to my deepest being. I feel true envy as she describes the close-knit group of women with which she has formed a cooking club. She connects it all with food, providing simple delicious recipes for each chapter. I have read this book 3-4 times; and look forward to reading it 3-4 more times.
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: Oh my gosh this book! This book impacted me in a whole new way, opening my eyes to the global affliction of being born a girl. This story is set against the last 30 years of Afghan history, and chronicles the relationships between generations. This novel ripped my heart out, in a way that made me a better global citizen. I was so touched by the stories of Myriam and Laila, and found myself moved to tears with sympathy and appreciation for being born in America. I also like this novel because it challenged me in concept and vocabulary in a way that many of my reads do not.
4. Lift by Kelly Corrigan: This is the most tender memoir from a mother to her daughters. I read the entire thing in a little over an hour. If you are a mom, or ever plan to be a mom- I would consider this a must read. Kelly Corrigan has a beautiful way with words, and really captures the essence of what it means to be a mother. When I read it I am jealous that I am not the author. I am a huge fan of all her work. Her most recent book, Tell Me More, is also extremely special. In it she is reflecting on all of the most important things that we can say to one another; including I’m sorry, I don’t know, I know, yes, no and the title phrase. Her life stories are relatable, her writing is beautiful and you will move through all of the emotions of life. I’m reading it for a second time right now, and loving every second of it.
5. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker: Love this book! I have read this book a couple of times, and participated in a small group study as well. The book was written to capture a radical experiment done by the author in which she attempted to reduce excess in her life in seven different areas: clothing, food, waste, technology, possessions, stress and spending. Her journey is honest, informative and inspirational. I was moved to really take a look at my consumeristic nature, and take steps to live more minimally. I feel like this is the kind of book I will need to reread every few years as a reminder to how I’d like to live. Additionally I find such humor in her writing style, which is always a definite plus for me.
6. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Septys: Don’t be confused by the title! This beautiful young-adult novel is a must-read! I have read it to several year of 8th graders, to unanimous praise. They actually sit and listen silently, and then beg me to keep reading. It tells the story of Lina, a Lithuanian teenager who survived Stalin’s takeover of her country during World War 2. Though the story is fictional, the events are true, and the information is mostly new to me. I have read a billion books related to the Holocaust, and had no idea that Stalin had his own reign of terror at the same time as Hitler. (I got kicked out of 11th grade history an awful lot for talking to my friend. Oops.) The book captures the sorrows of the Lithuanians in a beautiful coming-of-age story that instills a great sense of hope to the reader.
7. Carry on Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton: The subtitle of this book is The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life. I love the fresh and honest narrating of this memoir. The author shares her own life story in a way that makes me laugh out loud and be brave and thoughtful about my own life. I connected with so many pieces of this book; especially her connection to her sister, and her musings on her children and female friendship.
8. Defending Jacob by William Landay: The plot of this book is intense, and perfect for all of you who love a crime-drama. In this novel the narrator, a district attorney, is investigating the murder of a 14-year-old boy. His teenage son Jacob becomes a key suspect in the crime. The book takes on so many twists as he defends his son. A captivating and thrilling story that wrenches my guts, Defending Jacob kept me turning the pages frantically to find out what really happened.
9. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger: Far before the fabulous movie, this was a fabulous book, and I soaked up every page. I have always been enthralled by fashion and especially fashion magazines, and even though the protagonist Andy was tormented by Miranda, I lived vicariously through her in these pages. If you want a light read, this book is a joy. Emily and Miranda provide snarky humor that allowed me to laugh out loud, something I value in a book.
10. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty: I cannot capture the essence of this book as perfectly as it’s introduction on the Barnes and Noble website, which reads:
“At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read.
My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…
Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not only the life you have built together, but the lives of others as well. And then imagine that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…”
Yes, it’s that good, so get it and read it. Then read all of Moriarty’s other novels, including Big Little Lies, which was turned into that amazing tv series that we all loved last year.
You guys, my relationship with good books is not something that you have to envy, it’s very much a relationship that you can and should have in your life. Cut back on whatever it is that you do at night, and pick up one of these books. Even if you are only doing laundry and cleaning after the kids are in bed, start with giving yourself just 20 minutes a night. The public library has most of these, and you can check them out online and have them sent right to your local branch. I hope you find as much joy in these good reads as I find in telling you about them! And don’t forget to let me know what you think once you’ve crushed them!