Tag Archives: good books

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. 


Bookworm Problems

Last night I resisted the voice in my head that said I should do homework and curled up with a book instead. Unfortunately, it was very lousy read. I felt super cranky that my evening off was devoted to something so unworthy. A 1 star read. So, I finished another book. A better book. A 5 star book. And I couldn’t sleep. 

I tried for a little bit before restlessly picking up a third book. An average book. I haven’t finished, but I suspect a 2 star read. 

All of this meant that when I finally did fall asleep, it was much later than I planned. And when I woke up, it was much later than I expected. So much for early to bed and early to rise. It all would have worked out so well if that first book hadn’t been so bad!

 


2015 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 3

The Silver Bowl and The Cup and Crown by Diane Stanley

I have mixed feelings mentioning these two. I loved them. The Silver Bowl was adorable, full of danger, wicked curses, a hint of romance, and evil family members. In short, everything a good fantasy novel should have. Its sequel, The Cup and Crown, only adds to the adventure. Our heroine has come of age and now stands out as a butt-kicking, name-taking, epic young lady of magical proportion. It concludes with an ending just bitter-sweet enough to give some emotional pull. And then…the third book happened. I hated it so much I gave it one star. (You will have to read my One Star post to find out why!) So I’m not really sure what to tell you to do with these. Either read just these two and miss one third of the story, or read two excellent fantasy novels and weep as you finish the third, or only read the first because it kind of can stand alone.

The Abolition of Man and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

I waited much too long to read these excellent books. Both are short and profound. They are philosophically challenging and will take many re-reads to fully grasp. The Abolition of Man masterfully summarize the importance of universal values for societies. The Great Divorce is an allegory of heaven and hell and the decisions people make when confronted with them.  I cannot praise Lewis adequately enough so I’ll leave this one short and sweet. Go read them.

5 To 1 by Holly Bodger

The plot takes place in 2054, where India is suffering from an immense gender gap. There are 5 boys to every 1 girl. Tired of being sold to the highest bidder, women in India split from the government and form their own country where boys must compete in a series of tests to “win” a wife. The plot flips between the poetry of Sudasa, the girl to be won, and the prose of Contestant 5, who only wants to escape. On the one hand, it is an emotionally appealing and brief (250 page) story that succeeds where most dystopian novels fail because it doesn’t try too hard. There is no insta-love or cliff-hanger ending leading to multiple, pointless sequels. On the other hand, it is also a serious message about elevating one gender over the other, and the danger of valuing sons over daughters or vice versa. Good truths wrapped in a beautiful little YA novel.

Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis

The inspiring true story of Katie, an average American teenager who discovered a passion for Uganda. A single mission trip quickly became a life calling for 18-year-old Katie, who returned after graduating and ended up adopting 14 girls. This book is inspiring and encouraging. Katie’s passion and joy comes through the pages, and I found myself helplessly grinning as I read it! This is a woman who has found her calling and it is beautiful to behold.  

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

A brilliant addition to the world of well-told stories. I Am Princess X is a pink and purple book that tells the story Libby and May: the dynamic duo. Best friends since 5th grade, they were co-creators of Princess X, a katana-weilding, ghost defeating princess of their imagination. Libby drew the comics, May wrote the plots, and Princess X made them the perfect trio. Until Libby died in an accident at age 13. Three years later, only May is left. Until one day she sees a Princess X sticker on a building. Then graffitied on a wall. And again on a backpack. Princess X is everywhere, made popular by an online webcomic. Only two people knew about Princess X, and one of them is dead. Or is she? This book is full of convenient coincidences and implausible moments but it really is one of my favorites from this year. It is a fairy tale and a thriller and a story of friendship with a superhero feel. Bad Guys are Bad and Good Intentions save the day. What more could you want?

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth Is Missing is a riveting story with a double mystery and an unreliable narrator. Maud can’t remember. She knows her friend Elizabeth is missing, she wrote it down. However, no one believes her, not her daughter, her caretaker, or the police. But Elizabeth is missing. Or is it Maud’s sister, Sukey, who is gone? The years get mixed up for Maud – a woman with dementia – as she recalls the mysterious disappearance of her older sister. Except now it is her friend, Elizabeth, who has disappeared and no one will listen! A very well written mystery that simultaneously echoes the frustration of growing old and the hardship of caring for an aging parent.

Feeling Sorry For Cecelia by Jaclyn Moriarty

Jaclyn Moriarty is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA authors. Feeling Sorry For Cecelia follows a teenage girl named Elizabeth and the struggle she feels losing her best friend, Cecelia. However it is not told in the usual way. The plot is laid out in notes between Elizabeth and her mother, letters with her pen-pal, postcards from her best friend, and occasional letters from her self-esteem. It is very well done. The book handles serious issues (divorced parents, changing friendships, relationships, etc.) but does so in a funny, wry style that kept the story bitter-sweet instead of just plain depressing. The book is peppered with a variety of wonderful, quirky characters. PG13 for content, but well worth it if you’re looking for a solid YA read.

 


2015 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

Lots of 5 star books = 3 part blog post! You know the drill.

 

Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers

Did you know there were Mary Poppins books?! Well, maybe you did if you watched Saving Mr. Banks. However, if you have not read them, I bet you don’t know how funny, charming, and totally unexpected the books are! Mary Poppins is a vain, rather cross woman who can do amazing things. There are 4 Banks children (later 5!) and they are a lot younger than you realized. The stories are full of funny, delightful adventures that are often oddly transcendental in nature and message. Odd but good! Thank you Kris for putting me onto the series!

The Conservative Heart: How To Build A Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America by Arthur Brooks

Thought provoking and insightful, The Conservative Heart is a compelling and clearly written statement on what drives American conservatives. It is not just an intellectual movement, but one where people care and it is time conservatives take charge of the dialogue. Arthur Brooks discusses what it really means to help the poor and vulnerable and how to better articulate that. He doesn’t antagonize or name call, but rather, brings peace to hot button issues and expresses the motivation behind what conservatives say. An excellent read for anyone.

Losers Take All by David Klass

Unapologetically YA, but excellent for the genre. It is the story of Jack Logan, an average guy who goes to a sports-crazy high school. When the administration creates a new policy that all seniors must play a sport, he and his friends rebel by creating JV soccer team with one goal: to lose every game possible. Their motivation and zany, creative losses quickly win them fans from across the country! By losing they are winning, but at what cost? The book is creative, fun, and best of all, very balanced. It doesn’t lambast “jocks” and sports but also illustrates when sports go too far. The story reflects “real” struggles that represent the frustrations and varying emotions of teenagers.  Combined with a clean romance and no language, I call this one a win.

Every Town Is A Sports Town: Business Leadership at ESPN, from the Mailroom to the Boardroom by George Bodenheimer

I am not the intended audience for this book. I know next to nothing about ESPN and basically the only name I recognized in the entire book was the one sentence reference to Tiger Woods. Insider scoops and observations about on-air talent went over my head. I probably missed a lot. Yet I thoroughly enjoyed it! I wrote down tons of quotes and observations from it.  The story of ESPN is inspiring and interesting. Best of all, though, ESPN’s growth entirely compliments Market Based Management. The focus on culture, hiring right, finding fulfillment, embracing change, localized knowledge, and the importance of a vision everyone can understand, articulate, and embrace completely echoed what I have been reading/learning in Good Profit (seriously, go read Good Profit). Although George Bodenheimer doesn’t use the same terminology, he states the same principles as Charles Koch. It was very inspiring to read. Especially if you like sports and even if you don’t, you should give this one a try.

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

It is Agatha Christie, so of course it is going to be fantastic, but The Seven Dials Mystery was exceptionally fun. A household prank gone wrong, secret societies, hidden motives, and characters who are never what they appear to be! Christie’s writing is old fashion, intelligent, and as always, wonderfully readable. Definitely one you’ll want to re-read. Big thanks to Tori for this one!

An Algonquin Round Table Mystery Series by J. J. Murphy

Are you familiar with the Algonquin Round Table? I wasn’t until I started this series. In the 1920s, famous writers, critics, actors, and wits including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Ruth Hale, Alexander Woollcott, George Kaufman, and Harpo Marx met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel. If you haven’t heard of them, you really should look them up. Fascinating bunch. An Algonquin Round Table Mystery Series brings the table to life with witty banter and a few good murders. The first book in the series is Murder Your Darling, but my personal favorite is book 3, A Friendly Game of Murder. Dorothy Parker stars as the main character and J. J. Murphy does her justice. Though not the best detective series you’ll ever read, all the books are pretty solid. To quote one Goodreads review, they are “intellectual guffaw.”


2015 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

Based on the vast number of good books I read this year, I have broken this post into three parts to help readability. As usual, books are not laid out in any specific way, but in the random order ordained by Goodreads (and myself!) See any favorites?

Enjoy!

Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched A Hundred Years of Federalism by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips

Rarely do you find biographies so readable and uniquely connected to everyday life. Contempt of Court covers the trial and lynching of Ed Johnson, an African American accused of raping a white woman in 1906. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, a judge found him guilty and sentenced him to death. The U.S. Supreme Court intervened and eventually went so far as to hold those connected to his lynching in contempt of court. This case was the only time the Supreme Court ever heard a criminal case. United States v. Shipp did more than decide one man’s guilt or innocence. It declared the Supreme Court had authority over a state criminal court case. This both reflected and launched a new age of federal involvement. Very worth reading.

Strong Poison (book 6), Gaudy Night (book 12), and Busman’s Honeymoon (book 13) by Dorothy L. Sayers

These are all books in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. To be honest, I love them all and if you haven’t discovered the brilliance that is Dorothy L. Sayers, you really need to. Her mysteries are intellectual and intriguing and Sir Peter Wimsey is wonderful. However, these three were my absolute favorites. (If you know the series, you’ll realize all these books involve Harriet Vane. She is fabulous.) What is great, though, is that they are all wonderful in equally different ways. Strong Poison involves a cold case, where the murder happened months earlier and now Sir Peter must piece together the clues. Gaudy Night takes place at Oxford and is very soul-searching and academic. Busman’s Honeymoon is everything a fangirl could want for the couple she’s been shipping for 6 books. Oh, so good. I want to go re-read them right now.

The Science of Success by Charles Koch

Easy to understand and filled with helpful principles, this is an “abbreviated” predecessor of Good Profit. It was designed for more internal use and that comes across. Certainly worth reading for a better understanding of Market Based Management and Koch Industries. There are lots of interesting stories and it really is a good grounding in MBM. However. Good Profit is now out. Go read that one.

The Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

If you want to be technical, only The King of Attolia (book 3) and A Conspiracy of Kings (book 4) got 5 stars from me, but the entire series is totally worth it. While the first book, The Thief, feels a little slow, it has a terrific twist at the end. Plus, the series picks up and gets better and better and BETTER. It has adventure, battles, romance, plot twists. The series will break your heart a million different ways, every one of them worth it. I can’t really give plot descriptions without giving something away, so just go read it already. (There are some mature themes, so I recommended for high schoolers on up)

Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti by Chad Eastham

Chad Eastham’s book Guys Like Girls Who… played an influential role in my life in high school. It was great reading him again. Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti is aimed at teenagers and talks about the different ways guys and girl function. It covers a myriad of topics like brain development, emotions, and relationships. Funny, serious, and easy to read, the book is a mix of stories, facts, and zany quips.  Even “outside” of the intended age group, I found it very helpful. Highly recommended, especially for teenagers.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

A dark, twisted children’s book that breaks your heart but is eminently worth it. The story is very reminiscent of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. “Plain” Kate is a woodcarver, left on the streets to fend for herself after her parents die. Her woodwork is beautiful, but many whisper that she is a witch. In order to escape the accusations, Kate makes a bargain with a mysterious man: her shadow in exchange for her heart’s wish. Gypsies, magic, and love all come to play in this lyrical story.

Disclaimer: I do not recommend this book to just anyone, and certainly not the intended age group. Plain Kate involves witchcraft, raising the dead, and sacrifices. While many of these things are treated in a negative light, I know many of my readers will not like it.

 


2015 Reading Challenge – The Mind Blowing Ones

It is the most wonderful time of the year! No, not because the kids are jingle belling (is that even a thing?) or because everyone is telling me “be of good cheer!” (definitely not a thing) but because….drum roll please!

I have once again completed my reading challenge and now can sit back, dust off the blog, and write about my favorite things…namely, good books. And bad books. And maybe, depending how into things I get, all the books in-between. This year I read 162 books. That number does not include re-reads or manga or the loads of kdramas I watch (I really should get credit for those. Subtitles are an undervalued form of reading!)

No, I mean, 162 genuine, brand new, never-before-read-by-Amy books! That totals roughly 49,580 new pages. As usual, it is a mixed grouping of fiction and non-fiction, spanning many genres. Unusual, however, is that I had more 5 star than 1 star reads. Of those 5 star reads, several far exceeded my usual 5 star rating. All 5 stars are good, but these were particularly challenging and/or view shaping for me. Originally I was just going to highlight them in the greater 5 star blog post, but I read so many good books this year that the post became ridiculously long! To balance that I have split “the exceptional few” from the other amazing ones. So keep an eye out for my next blog post with the other 5 star reads!

Mind Blowing and View Shaping 5 Star Reads from 2015:

Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies by Charles Koch

Coupled with my own experience with Market Based Management, Good Profit easily stands out as one of the most impactful books I read in 2015. What drove Koch Industries’ expansion from a $21 million company in 1967 to the $115 billion one it is today? Charles Koch writes about forming an MBM culture and creating long term value for society. This book is immensely readable and practical. Good Profit is more than one man’s business reflections. It is an analysis of what success means and how companies can work for the betterment of their “customers, employees, shareholders, and society.”

I love a lot of quotes in this book, but none more than Charles Koch’s conclusion:

“The greatest gift we can receive or pass on is the opportunity to find and pursue our passion, and in doing so, to make a difference by helping others improve their lives. To be truly rich is to live a life of meaning.”

 

Why Not Women? A Fresh Look at Scripture on Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton

A very powerful book about the role of women leaders in ministry. While I am not sure I agree with everything in it, Why Not Women? shook up a lot of things I took at face value and really encouraged me to study the subject deeper. I love how footnoted this book is. Entirely readable but still academic. The authors analyze the Greek passages where Paul talks about women and provide some fascinating analysis into what he actually meant. What I especially appreciate about Why Not Women?, however, is how much the authors focus on Jesus’ radical, culture-breaking treatment of women. They go into the history of women’s roles in Greek, Roman, and Jewish culture and illustrate how different the Christian church was. Whether you agree with its conclusions or not, Why Not Women? is worth reading because it is a book full of grace that goes a long way in restoring the identity and value of women, in the church and out.

(Thank you, Anna, for this fantastic Christmas present!)

 

Surprised By Oxford by Carolyn Weber

To extremely simplify, this is the coming-to-faith memoir of a woman at Oxford University. However, it is so much more than that. Surprised by Oxford is a book that breathes. It questions and answers and leaves unanswered, offering many ideas for the reader to wrestle with in its wake. I love this book for its references to Oxford, places I know and love like St. Ebbes Church and New College. I love it for all the quotes from Wordsworth and Lewis and many other authors. I love it for Carolyn Weber’s conversion experience and her willingness to be honest, vulnerable, and unafraid to express her love for God. Most of all, I love this book because it reminds me of why I love learning. It reawakens joy in me. This is a thick book, 400 some pages, and not one you consume in a sitting! But it is so worth it as a book to sit and chew over and highlight and re-read and learn from.

 

Entrepreneurship For Human Flourishing by Peter Greer

Balancing Surprised by Oxford’s 400+ pages, Entrepreneurship For Human Flourishing comes in at just over a 100 pages. It is a tiny book, easy to read, but very powerful. Peter Greer challenges the distinction between “non-profit” and “for-profit” work in helping third world countries.  He share stories of individuals who used their “for profit” companies to provide jobs, expand education, and bring life to communities. Though this book was good, I don’t feel the need to re-read it like I do the others on this list. I felt it deserved a place among the “exceptional” books, however, because of the overall influence of Peter Greer as a speaker on me. Though I’m blessed to work for an amazing non-profit, I have really changed my views on how I perceive for-profit v. non-profit organizations. One is not “holier” than the other, and as this book points out, for-profit businesses can make an incredible difference fighting hunger, poverty, etc. in ways beyond the scope of a traditional non-profit. This is a great read for students.

 

The Moral Case For Fossil Fuel by Alex Epstein

It is generally agreed that fossil fuels are a “necessary evil.” We’re dependent on them for now, but they aren’t that great and we should find an alternative. However, is this necessarily the case? The Moral Case For Fossil Fuel argues that far from being a danger, fossil fuels make our lives better and are improving the planet overall by making it safer and richer. Alex Epstein uses his background in philosophy to explore the moral case for using fossil fuel. He weighs the advantages, including the environmental ones, of using fossil fuel and contrasts it with the asserted detriments. He concludes that in order to improve lives we are morally responsible to use fossil fuels, and lots of them! Frankly, I love this book. I think everyone should read it. It is fun, easy to understand, and an extremely important voice in our current “war on fossil fuel.”


2014 Reading Challenge – My 5 Star Reviews

As far as literary merit goes, this year may go down in history as my worst in quantity and quality reading in a decade. (Did the 11 year old Amy read more non-fiction 2004 then I did in 2014? Alas, it is a possibility) The lack can be blamed on a crazy schedule. My lofty goal of 250 books rapidly dropped to 100 new books as my hours fluctuated from 40 to 60 June through November. I mainly read fiction. From Sophie Kinsella to Lloyd Alexander, this year proved eclectic within a certain genre but not very scholarly.

However, I did discover some true gems this year and so, without further ado, I present Amy’s 5 Star Reviews From 2014 (In the random order ordained by Goodreads…and me)

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

A fabulous fantasy/medieval/magical series following an eclectic group of friends (including Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper, and Princess Eilonwy), I loved this series. True heroism and sacrifice are imbedded in each of the 5 books. Though I gave the majority of them 4 stars, Taran Wanderer andThe High King easily deserved their 5 stars. One of those books that brings to mind C.S. Lewis’s wise words: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Out of the Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope by Christopher Yuan and his mother Angela Yuan

Discovered this book when Christopher Yuan came to speak at my college. I highly recommend it. There is so much grace found within its pages. The authors are vulnerable and willing to tell their own stories of brokenness and healing. Without compromising the truth, Out of the Far Country brings a mercy-drenched, grace filled perspective to a frequently damaging and hurtful topic.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Usually when I listen to audio books, I end up loathing the book. The speed reader in me grows bored, I feel compelled to finish, and in the end leave more frustrated than enlightened. Not with The Book Thief. I have tried reading it for years and could never get past the first few pages. Listening to it on audio, I fell in love. I understand now why this book is so beloved. I didn’t mind Death as a narrator. I enjoyed it, though he is horrible at spoilers. You would think that would slow the novel down, but it doesn’t. It wets the appetite for more. I like words and this book positively dallies in them.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

I’m not a manager so I don’t know if this book succeeds in its attempt to enable a more creative work environment. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s perspective about creativity and productivity, as well as the history of Pixar’s journey from Steve Jobs to Disney to the problem of sequels. I loved reading about the beginnings of my childhood friends (Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Nemo, etc.) Interesting from a historical perspective and a creative one. By the time I finished I wanted to go do something “different and zany” which is always a good feeling.

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton

A simply beautiful book for grade to middle school readers about a boy who goes to live with his father, step-mother, and four half-brothers when his Mom goes to jail. Despite the mature sounding plot, this novel strikes a tone of discovery, loss, family, and friendship.  It is innocent yet sorrowful. There are funny moments, sibling rivalry and of course….Freaky Fast Frankie Joe’s Delivery Service.

Assault and Flattery: The Truth About the Left and Their War on Women by Katie Pavlich

I knew the minute I saw that this book was coming out that I would love it. When I got it in August, I read straight through in maybe two hours. Then I reread it. And started it for a third time within a month. Though occasionally she grows a little caustic for my taste, the majority of this book appealed to me. She correctly points out the double standards given to women (and men) based on whether they have a “D” or an “R” by their name. I enjoy Katie Pavlich’s writing. She is a rare journalistic and political role model for young women.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Have you ever read a book and immediately loved it? The loving may have nothing to do with actual literary quality, but the minute you finish you know you have met a best friend. If you don’t know love Helene Hanff, you have never read anything she wrote. 84, Charing Cross Road contains the 20 year correspondence between an American authoress (Helene Hanff) and a British bookseller (Frank Doel). It is short – under a hundred pages – yet immensely endearing. Heartbreaking, amusing, beautiful and sad. And real. Perhaps that is the best part, it is the true letters exchanged by the two. Not a “romance” as advertised, but the story of a genuine love of books and humanity. (The Duchess of Bloomsbury, also by Hanff, is just as satisfying and stands as a sort of real-life sequel)

Q’s Legacy by Helene Hanff

The story behind Helene Hanff’s writing of 84, Charing Cross Road and her subsequent experience after its publishing. The book nearly left me speechless. It roused my fernweh. I adore Helene Hanff’s love of England. Her love of books. Her quirky, crisp writing style. Q’s Legacy was a nearly perfect 5 star read. It filled and yet sparked an ache for more. Marvelous.

Check out my 5 Star Reviews from 2013! – https://fernwehscall.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/2013-reading-challenge-my-5-stars/