Tag Archives: 5 stars

2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 7 (The Re-Reads)

François Mauriac apparently said, “If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.”

Well, I don’t know what the list says about me, but I re-read 58 books over the last year. 30 of them were 5-star reads. I’ve decided to provide a list of them. There are too many for a write-up but I recommend them for a good read!

Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
In Another Girl’s Shoes by Berta Ruck
The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer
The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer
False Colours by Georgette Heyer
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
Arabella by Georgette Heyer
These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer
The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer
Sylvester by Georgette Heyer
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
Frederica by Georgette Heyer
Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer
The Falconer’s Knot by Mary Hoffmann
The Iliad by Homer
The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Bargain Bride by Evelyn Sibley Lampman
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker
Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diane Peterfruend
Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Dear Enemy by Jean Webster


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 5 (Greeks and Romans)

Welcome to my favorite reads of 2019…Part 5! I TAed this past semester for a class on early Western political thought which means I finally knocked off a lot of Greek writers from my to-read list! However, I will be the first to say that I only understood most of these books because I was taking a class while I read them. Accordingly, while these hit five stars and were favorites of the year, I don’t necessarily recommend just picking them up for fun.

The Histories by Herodotus

Basically, the book where we get the story of 300. Full of facts and legends, it really was an interesting read and fascinating as the first “history book” as we know the term today. I found it surprisingly fun as well as historically significant. 

Clouds, Frogs, Assemblywomen, Wealth by Aristophanes 

Arisotphanes was an Athenian playwright who lampooned the Iliad-like honor culture of Greek society. I read 4 of his plays. They are extraordinarily vulgar, extremely astute, and quite funny. And considering 2,000 years have passed since he wrote this stuff, it is incredible that his poop jokes are still funny. I think Wealth was my favorite. 

Phaedo by Plato

 Plato’s account of Socrates last hours before his death. It is a final look at his philosophy towards life and the philosopher’s call. Brief but impactful. 

The Republic by Plato

An incredibly important book for Western thought and the more I study it, the more I realize how much it impacted the world we know today. I kept pausing to exclaim, “But that’s something C.S. Lewis says!” or “That’s straight out of Saul Alinsky!” or “This is foundational to a G.K. Chesterton arguments!” But of course, it isn’t a book a book that depends on Lewis or Alinsky or Chesterton, but rather the common background for all them. That said, definitely a philosopher’s book. It begs for debate, discussion, further analysis but it doesn’t entirely satisfy because it leaves much unanswered. 

Ethics by Aristotle

I actually read this one twice: first at the beginning of the year while in Thailand then for my class. It definitely made way more sense the second time through. Context does amazing things for your understanding. I particularly liked the section on Friendship. Quite thought provoking. 

The Aeneid by Virgil

I did not like The Aeneid as much as The Iliad, but it certainly deserves credit for historical significance. The Aeneid follows the fall of Troy through the founding of Rome. Tons of hilariously bad passages foreshadowing the glory of Rome and Caesar and whatnot. But also tons of familiar scenes that are part of our modern mythos. So, worth a read. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

#IMomSoHard by Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley

Be prepared to learn and laugh about all the intimate, awkward parts of being a mom that no one talks about. I am definitely not the intended audience for this book, not being a mom  and all. However, it still made me laugh really hard and gave me insights to relate better to my friends who are moms. I highly recommend this one as an irreverent and upbeat look at the challenge of motherhood and how to support the moms in your life. 

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet is that guy you know everything about but somehow haven’t met. You have all the same friends and maybe work in the same field but your paths never cross. And everyone says, “Oh my gosh, how do you not know Hamlet?” and all you can do is shrug and be like “IDK, dude. IDK.” Anyway, I’ve finally met Hamlet. And he’s awesome. Wonderfully ambiguous and funny. This is officially my favorite Shakespeare play.

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies focuses on how people respond to expectations and how those expectation motivates them. Gretchen Rubin claims four types exist: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Upholders are motivated by internal and external expectations. Questioners only by internal expectation. Obligers only by external expectations. Rebels are motivated by neither. It sounds pretty simple and in a way it is.The book is not particularly mind blowing once you understand the initial framework. But I actually don’t think the author intends it to be. Perhaps it is just her legal style, but she cuts through a lot of the fluff one would typically expect. It made the whole thing a straightforward and fast read. Quite insightful and practical. 

Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

A sporting story about cricket and the friendship of two, unlikely schoolboys at the turn of the century. Wodehouse’s distinctive comedic style mixes with the boarding school vibe to give a lovely, old fashioned flavor. Psmith is one of the most delightful characters I’ve met in a long time. You don’t even have to know anything about cricket to enjoy this story! 

The Enchiridion by St. Augustine

In The Enchiridion–Latin for “the handbook”–St. Augustine summarizes Christian doctrine in under 144 pages. It is brief, profound, and definitely worth chewing over. He expounds on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love in a way that was new to me. If you are at all interested in reading more by the early church fathers generally or St. Augustine in particular, this is a good place to start. 

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

The only cozy mystery to make it on my 5-star list, Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions is actually a German novel semi-recently translated into English and set in Sicily. The author does a great job conveying life in Sicily through quirky characters, beautiful descriptions, and odd jokes. For being a light-hearted murder mystery, it also tackles many heavy topics. The heroine of the piece, Auntie Poldi, is a depressed, alcoholic divorcee/widow who moves to Sicily with the intent of drinking herself to death. But her family won’t let her. Her sisters-in-law drop in regularly to make sure she is doing okay. Her nephew–the narrator of book–comes regularly to stay with her. The book has some genuinely brilliant quotes, funny scenes, and great characterizations. Oh, and murder. I cannot wait to read more in the series. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

Best reads of 2019…continued. 

Since You Asked… & Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Since You Asked… was Maurene Goo’s first novel and Somewhere Only We Know her most recent. I loved them both. But honestly, I have yet to meet a Maurene Goo novel I did not love. She writes about Korean-Americans and usually references Korean dramas which is the way to my heart. Since You Asked… feels very “first novel” but the snarky heroine, tight friend group, and lack of any overarching plot make up for it. It balances angst with character growth and I found it super heartwarming. Meanwhile, Somewhere Only We Know is the story of a K-pop starlet trying to take a day off and a paparazzi who tricks her into hanging out with him. The K-pop starlet carries the plot with a quirky, driven character and it made for some fun, fluffy reading while still maintaining an undercurrent of emotional punch. If looking for some good YA, I will always recommend Maurene Goo. 

From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism and Christianity by Steve Cioccolanti

I recommend this book with a caveat: a formally Buddhist (now Christian) friend recommended it to me while I was studying in Thailand because I was struggling to understand Eastern Buddhism. (It is quite different from Western Buddhism.) The book does a great job differentiating the two. It perfectly fit what I needed at the time. But I would not recommend this to the casual reader hoping to compare the two religions. The main purpose of this book is to be a very short and to the point primer for Christians going on short term missions with the intention of witnessing to Buddhists in Asia. It might be an “insider’s view,” but it is a very select view with a very specific mission. 

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza (audio book version

This was an absolutely delicious audio book and if you decide to read The Knockoff, I recommend checking it out in the audio format. Katherine Kellgren somehow manages British posh, valley-girl, and start-up tech nerd without once making it feel forced or awkward. Delightful. The story itself is a novel about a middle aged woman who returns to her position as editor of a fashion magazine after a long leave only to find her boss turned it into an app. Now, surrounded by Millennials and baffled by e-mail, this Gen Xer must learn to find commonality with her co-workers and save her magazine. Despite a rather over-the-top villain, I found the story surprisingly thought-provoking and sweet. I really liked it. Very memorable. 

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose

This memoir tells the story of an American missionary who was held in a Japanese POW camp for four years during WW2. While it certainly recounts God’s grace to the prisoners during a very harrowing time, my favorite parts were when Darlene Deibler Rose lets down her hair a little and lets you know what she really thinks. For as much grace as she shows to her Japanese captors, she might suddenly name drop someone and be like “Yeah, that woman was a skank who had 3 amazing kids and I have no idea how they turned out amazing with a Mom like her.” And you would think it would come across as offensive and maybe it does to some. But to me it felt genuine. The personality of the storyteller really shines through. This is an imperfect memoir that feels super genuine and honest because of its imperfections.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

So, Crazy Rich Asians made 5 stars. China Rich Girlfriend did not. Jury is still out on Rich People Problems. We shall see. But I sure loved this one. It is a not-so-subtle mockery of the glitzy, rich life of an elite few and I ate up every word. Like the movie, my favorite part is how the intertwining stories balance the soap opera of Nick and Rachel’s life with the [still soap-opera-y] but more hard hitting drama of Astrid’s crumbling marriage. Of course, it is not perfect. Definitely vulgar at times and more language than I like. But so fluffy and ridiculously over the top I could not help loving it.

 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

I read 319 books in 2019 and quite a few turned out to be gems! Here are some of my favorites.

The Boy With Wings by Berta Ruck

Written in 1915, this novel contains multiple levels. At its most basic, it is the romance of a Welsh girl and her aviator boyfriend. At another level, it is the story of how war came to England from a woman’s perspective. And finally, at an even deeper level, it is a work that provided social identity to women in a rapidly changing era. I honestly think it should rank as a classic and I cannot believe there are only two reviews of it on Goodreads (and one is mine!) I did not necessarily like the story, but I am amazed by how it captures emotions I still feel–and don’t always know how to express–over a hundred years later. The writing’s very timelessness makes it beloved.

Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians by Martin Luther

Martin Luther writes about Paul as one writes about a mutual friend. It brought passages I thought I was pretty well familiar with to light in new ways. I found it a wonderful reminder of the power of justification by faith alone and the work overall uplifting, thought-provoking, and encouraging.

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is obviously a very familiar name in financial circles and in EntreLeadership he talks about what it takes to to succeed as a leader, manager, and entrepreneur. This is a pretty foundational read and full of relevant advice and experience. He comes across curmudgeonly at times and I personally would never want to work for him, but I sure enjoyed learning about how he structures incentive and such. This was particularly good as an audio book. 

Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors

I really love Katie’s first book Kisses from Kate and her second memoir did not disappoint. For those not familiar with her story, Katie did a ‘gap year’ in Uganda…and  ended up staying and adopting 13 orphan girls. Katie experiences more pain and suffering daily than I think most of us ever will fully know. But the point isn’t the magnitude of pain, but the commonality of wondering where God is amidst the pain. Katie opens up about her heartbreak. She writes of losing children and watching friends die, of unanswered prayers and unexpressed doubts. She writes of the gospel and the prophets and patriarchs and in doing so reveals the many cries of God’s people within the Bible. Although different in scope and nature, it reminded me of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Powerful, strengthening, and inspiring.

On Fairy-Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Very little about trees as trees can be got into a play.” A lovely essay about truth and fairy tales and creation and…oh, everything worth thinking about. I want to memorize every word. (Though admittedly, this is an area I’m interested in so I was predisposed to love it.) An excellent read following Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy L Sayers. The two works touch on the Christian’s role as creator, but in very different ways.

In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand by Tyrell Haberkorn

I recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in human rights violations and the way a nation can zealously uphold human rights in name while simultaneously violating them in reality. While this book centers on Thailand specifically, the author does an incredible job describing a universal reality. He describes the class attitudes that uphold the rights of some but not others. Interspersed with theory and facts, he tells compelling stories of human rights violations in Thailand. Throughout he holds that human rights violations did not appear and disappear with each coup d’etat, but rather existed consistently throughout them all. Besides containing a great combination of stories, data, and theory, In Plain Sight was very well written. I read it in one sitting. Great topic sentences! Engaging and well worth the time. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My Favorite Books

With 76 5-star reads this year, you better believe it was hard to choose favorites. I narrowed it down to 46 by dropping all my re-reads. Then I removed any Mary Stewart novels and Greek/Roman classics because–per my scheduling post–those will get separate posts later. But still. This was hard!

However, without much ado, I give you my favoritest favorite books of 2019 (in no particular order.) 

Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel by Jane Austen & Anne Telscombe (aka Marie Dobbs)

Jane Austen wrote the first 11 chapters of Sanditon before dying at age 41. And they are brilliant. Chapter 3 begins, “Every neighborhood should have a great lady.” Genius. But alas, never completed. Instead, in 1975, Anne Telscombe finished the story. And her conclusion feels way more like Georgette Heyer than Jane Austen. It is a completely different tone and suffers horrendously from hindsight, with characters enthusing about gaslights and other inventions just about to make it big. But you know what? It does not matter. This was still one of my favorite reads from 2019 because it was genuinely entertaining. Unfortunately, or perhaps fittingly, the mini-series based on the story and released this past year did not take well and will not be completed with a second season. 

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer 

Beauty and the Beast…with an epic twist. You know the story. An enchantress curses a prince to live as a beast until he finds true love. But did you know the first girl failed to break the curse? And the second. And the third. And so on. Each time he fails, Beast goes crazy and destroys all he loves. But it resets. New girl. New chance. All the memories. Except now he has only one reset left. Meet Harper. She lives in the bad part of town and has cerebral palsy. Then she saves an unconscious girl from a sword-swinging weirdo and gets dragged to a fantasy kingdom to break a curse. But she’s not sticking around.
I’ve read loads of Beauty and the Beast retellings and this is hands-down my favorite. It is dark, gritty, and hopeful with very memorable characters. That said, I have no interest in reading the rest of the series. YA authors really need to quit it with the cliff-hangers.

The Trial by Franz Kafka

It took me several tries to get into The Trial but once I did, I devoured it. It tells the story Josef K., a respectable bank officer suddenly and inexplicably arrested and tried but never told what for. It illustrates the falseness of a “justice” system without the rule of law and the character’s own false optimism that it will all get cleared up. I loved it. But then again, I also loved The Metamorphosis which some people do not so consider yourself warned. 

Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose

Speaking of courtrooms…Twelve Angry Men is a classic American play (and movie, actually) about the meaning of “innocent until proven guilty” and how one man’s conviction can change the hearts of a whole group. Some plays you need to see performed to really feel the pathos. This is not  one. The words jump off the pages even with just a casual read. It is a rallying cry for the American justice system. I found it moving and inspiring. Definitely an instant favorite and as relevant for 2020 as 1954 when first written. 

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

Do you ever hear so much about a book that you feel like you’ve read it already? That’d be me with The Weight of Glory. I’ve heard so much about the sermons and essays inside this volume that a part of me was surprised to discover it still unread. It was marvelous. I read through the titular piece three times before moving on. I highly recommend this collection of sermons and essays as thought-provoking reading you can take all at once or slowly and one at a time. (And if you understand the essay on Transposition, do tell me, because I did not.)

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Speaking of books to take slowly…it took me 2 years to complete The Cost of Discipleship. I could not rush it. Everything I read needed to be chewed over and sifted. I found it thought-provoking. Challenging. Encouraging. Motivating. Most of all, I relished reading doctrine. The book was a breath of fresh air. The downside of taking such a long time to read it, however, is that I’m not sure I can pin-point what all impacted me or which quotes I liked best. It impacted me gradually and I fell in love with all the quotes. Guess I need to add it to my to re-read list for 2020. 

Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine by Dorothy L Sayers

I love C.S. Lewis and appreciate the emphasis on his writings displayed by many Christian writers and academics today. But if I may be so bold, Christians really need to start paying more attention to Dorothy L. Sayers. Letters to a Diminished Church is a collection of essays on what it means to be made in the image of God the Creator. And it is so good. Sayers writes with biting wit and clear truths and reveals profound ideas. She touches on ancient history, Medieval allegory, and modern psychology. She unhesitatingly jumps from author to author in fleshing out her ideas, including references to Lewis’s Space Trilogy. While I love her book The Mind of the Maker, I strongly recommend starting with Letters to a Diminished Church. Like with The Weight of Glory, the essay format means you can take it as slow or fast as you want without losing the ‘thread’ of the thought. 

Edge of His Ways by Amy Carmichael 

“Thank God courage is as ‘infectious’ as discouragement.” Edge of His Ways is a daily devotional with a different writing of Amy Carmichael–usually a letter or journal entry–highlighted each day. Amy is one of my personal heroines and if you are not familiar with her story, I recommend checking her out. This devotional is encouraging, inspiring, and challenging. The copy I read had a very feminine, floral cover which is a pity because I think it is an equally excellent devotional for men and women. If looking for a short, encouraging daily read, I highly recommend. 

Thailand: The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide by Alexa West

Last, but never least, Alexa West’s amazing Thailand: The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide. If you are traveling to Thailand, you should get this book. If you are traveling anywhere in Southeast Asia, you should see if she has a book about that country. (She probably does.) This goes double if you are a solo traveler and triple if you are a solo girl traveler. Reading Alexa’s book feels like getting advice from a trusted friend and it never once steered me wrong. Some of my favorite experiences last year while living in Thailand came from her suggestions. 


2019 Reading Challenge Recap Schedule

I set a reading goal of 119 books for 2019. Then I hit my goal in March. I went on to wrap up the year with 319 books! I know not everyone has the time or inclination to read as much as I do, so I always post my favorite and least favorite reads from the previous year. But with so many books, it got a little unmanageable this time around! I’ve created this post as a road map for the next two weeks. You can: 

Option 1: Read all the posts! They’ll come out daily. Make sure to subscribe to my blog if you don’t already. 

Option 2: Take a look and see what interests you. Check back in on those days. I also recommend subscribing so you don’t forget 😉 

Barring anything unforeseen, here is what to expect on this blog over the next few weeks:

January 4: 2019 Reading Challenge: My Favorite Books

January 5: 2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

January 6: 2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

January 7: 2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 3

January 8: 2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

January 9: 2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 5 (Greeks and Romans)

January 10: 2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 6 (Mary Stewart!)

January 11: 2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 7 (The Re-Reads)

January 12: Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 1)

January 13: Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 2)

January 14: Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 3)

January 15: Cozy and Popular How?!: My 1 Star Reads from 2019 (Part 4) 

January 16: 2019 Reading Challenge: Jane Austen Related