I've read a ton of books so far this year and I'm making good progress on my 2015 reading list. This is the first year I've mapped out and prioritized books to read and I wasn't sure whether I'd feel hemmed in by it or glad. So far, it's a mixture of both. There are a few books on the list I'm not really feeling and if I hadn't included them here, they'd probably linger on ye olde To Read list for the ages. I suppose if it turns out I really enjoy them, I'll pat myself on the back for following through.
For the most part, though, it's been really helpful to refer back to this list. I derive so much satisfaction from checking books off. I like being intentional in what I read, especially when there are so many books to choose from. This list has given me focus and that's not a bad thing.
Here's where I stand six months in.
A Book I've Been Meaning to Read:
Nonfiction: The Beautiful Struggle- Ta-Nehisi Coates
I've been following Coates's writing for a few years now and am glad I finally had a chance to read his stunning memoir. Brilliant writing. I cannot wait to read his new book Between the World and Me, which is out today.
A Book Published This Year:
Fiction: The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkins
It didn't enthrall me the way Gone Girl did but the presence of two potentially unreliable (and frankly, unlikable) narrators hooked me in. I did figure out the twist about a hundred pages from the end. However, I enjoyed sifting through the characters' memories and experiences and trying to figure out exactly what they'd seen and done.
Nonfiction: Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church- Rachel Held Evans (in progress)
A Book in a Genre I Don't Typically Read:
American Born Chinese- Gene Luen Yang
I've never read a graphic novel before but I saw Yang speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing last year and resolved I would give this a try. I'm so glad I did!
A Book From My Childhood:
A Wrinkle in Time- Madeleine L'Engle (plan on re-reading this in the next couple of weeks)
A Book That Was Originally Written in Another Language:
One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Book "Everyone" Has Read But Me:
Seabiscuit- Laura Hillenbrand
A Book By a Favorite Author:
Fiction: The Lake House-Kate Morton (Out October 20, 2015)
Nonfiction: Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God- Lauren Winner
A Book Recommended By Someone With Great Taste:
I was on the crew team for a couple of years in college so I was positively enthralled by this story, not only for its historical value but going down rowing memory lane. Even those without crew experience should find this story interesting. Written in the vein of Unbroken, The Boys in the Boat takes us back to the Depression era and the years leading up to WWII, all the more notable because of where the 1936 Olympics took place. The book centers on Joe Rantz, which is a wise choice in that the narrative keeps moving and provides the book its heart. We still learn about his fellow rowers in the process and see how they become a true team and where that eventually led them. Highly recommended.
I've read six of the ten books Laura selected, which surprised me. I re-read To Kill A Mockingbird for last week's discussion and will possibly join in on Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston) next month.
Out of Sorts: On Being Comfortable With Unanswered Questions- Sarah Bessey (Out November 3)
I first heard about Lessons in Belonging from the author herself while hanging out at the Festival of Faith and Writing last year and immediately knew I needed to read it. I was right. Lessons in Belonging deeply resonated with me as I continue to sift through my relationship with faith, doubt, and all things church. Erin's honesty is compelling and while I didn't agree with all of her conclusions, she gave me good food for thought at every turn. Her thoughts on community and belonging were especially insightful. Recommended for anyone with a complicated church history or who is looking for a place to belong.
God Help the Child- Toni Morrison
I'm not sure how this happened but I've never read Morrison before. The story drew me in from the start but I am not quite sure what to make of it. This would be excellent to discuss in a book club. There are compelling reflections on beauty, skin color, and family, to be sure.
Spinster- Kate Bolick
Veronica Mars #2: Mr. Kiss and Tell- Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
I just love Veronica Mars. These books are pure fun and I can't wait for the next one!
Fairest- Marissa Meyer
What makes a villain a villain? Could Queen Levana have turned out differently if she'd had a different family or upbringing? This slightly longer novella would argue yes. Overall, Levana is emotionally stunted, which is good to keep in mind as you see the choices she makes and why she reacts the way she does. Or just think: spoiled teenager. It will still be true once she has left her teenage years. This made me all the more excited to read Winter!
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives- Gretchen Rubin
I loved Rubin's first two books but I tried to keep my expectations in check before I started this one. While it was interesting to learn about the Four Tendencies, the overall tone and content of the book was disjointed. In her previous efforts, she could move seamlessly between research and personal anecdotes. Not so much here. It would have been much stronger if it had been more firmly a memoir or a book about habit formation.
Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home- Amber Haines (Out July 28)
Mademoiselle Chanel- C. W. Gortner
An interesting and sympathetic look at Chanel's life. The author has taken certain liberties- it is a fictionalized tale, after all- and the result is one I'm sure the House of Chanel is pleased with and yet it strays fairly far from the truth, in terms of the less savory aspects of Chanel's life, such as her relationship with the Nazis and her failed attempt to spy on their behalf. Still, it's an enjoyable read. If you want the real story, read Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear- Elizabeth Gilbert (Out September 22)
Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone- Tara Owens (in progress)
Additional Books by People of Color
Birmingham Revolution- Edward Gilbreath
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness- Michelle Alexander
One Church, Many Tribes- Richard Twiss
Just Mercy- Bryan Stevenson
I commend Stevenson for the good work he's done through the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal practice dedicated to serving the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden. And I commend him for the good work he's given us here. The book is part memoir, part treatise on the state of the legal system. We follow the story of Walter, a man on Alabama's Death Row who proclaims his innocence, and meet Stevenson's other clients as he built his practice in the 1980s and the subsequent areas of injustice they've battled to this day, including death penalty sentences for children and the treatment of the mentally ill. This book is a game changer, a must-read.
Half of a Yellow Sun- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Bad Feminist- Roxane Gay
Worth reading for the essay on The Help alone.
Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal- April Yamasaki
Cutting for Stone- Abraham Verghese
Intern: A Doctor's Initiation- Sandeep Jauhar
An inside look at medical residency and the world inside hospitals. I was a medical social worker for several years so I was not surprised by much of what Jauhar encountered, although some improvements have been made since he completed residency. There's still much to be done! The book might have been stronger had Jauhar not waffled so much about his chosen career and calling but still, I'm glad he decided to lower the veil for those who do not work as doctors or nurses.
I also read The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop (poet Saul Williams), Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Misty Copeland), The Buried Giant (Kazuo Ishiguro), The Precious One (Marisa de los Santos)
What are you reading this year?
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