I love stories, and I love written stories especially. Reading is my leisure activity of choice. Inspired by my friends’ blog posts detailing the books they read in 2016, I decided to keep track of what I read this year. I’m doing a reading challenge on Goodreads – I have a goal of 50 books for 2017. I honestly have no idea how many books I typically read in a year, but that number sounded reasonable to me. Instead of one lengthy blog post covering the whole year, I’d like to document what I’m reading each month. If you’ve read any of these books or know a book I have to read, I’d love to talk about it with you! One thing I love more than reading is reading with my friends. 🙂
- The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George, fiction
This might be cheating a little bit because I started it at the end of December, but I did read most of it in January. I was enchanted by the main character’s occupation – Jean Perdu is a literary apothecary; he runs a bookshop housed in a boat and prescribes books for his customers based on their emotional states. He has books for when you need to cry and books for when you need to stop crying. I was drawn in by the story, and found myself alternately amused and heartbroken as it went on. I would love to read more from this author.
- In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume, historical fiction
I was so excited to read this book and so disappointed by it. It’s based on real events – three planes crashed over Elizabeth, New Jersey, in short succession in 1951-52. This book is a fictional account of several families living in Elizabeth during that time. There is a “cast of characters” in the beginning that I think I should have memorized before starting the story. The point of view switches to a new character so often that it is hard to keep track of which person is which and keep all their various story lines straight. It was difficult for me to finish, and although it is very rare for me to give up on a book, I was tempted to do so.
- Here’s to Us, Elin Hilderbrand, fiction
This would be a great beach read. It’s based around a celebrity chef named Deacon and the three women he married during his life. It moved quickly and there were poignant moments. Deacon is a complex, broken character, and you really only hear things from his point of view in the prologue. I liked learning about him from the various people in his life, mixed in with their complicated relationships with each other. It was a fun, easy read.
- Soulmates, Jessica Grose, fiction
Okay this book was straaaange. It’s the story of a woman who tries to fit the puzzle pieces together when her ex-husband is found dead with his new lady at a yoga retreat. It’s supposed to be a satire of the whole “feel-good spiritual culture.” The characters were hard for me to buy into, and there were lots of things in the plot that freaked me out. My sum total experience with yoga is the class at the gym that David and I go to on Sunday afternoons, so I did not have a lot of patience with all the nonsensical decisions made in the story.
- Little Arliss, Fred Gipson, fiction
This is one of the sequels to Old Yeller, which I read aloud to my kids at school. I LOVE Old Yeller and Arliss is one of my favorite characters because of the comic relief he provides. I was a little shocked at his bad behavior in Little Arliss. Of course, his behavior is terrible in Old Yeller too, but I expected him to grow up a little. I couldn’t believe he was still throwing rocks at people when he got angry. This is a very short novel and the plot felt rushed. I wanted more character development for one of my favorite little fictional people, as well as some redemption for him. I’m hoping to read Savage Sam, the other sequel, at some point this year.
- The Power of a Praying Wife, Stormie Omartian, Christian living
I have such mixed feelings about this. There are 31 (very short) chapters with different topics to pray over, and a sample prayer and relevant Bible verses are included at the end of each chapter. I’ll start with the good: I used it all month to pray for David, and it was helpful to have a specific topic to focus on each day in my prayers for him. It helped me to be intentional in praying for him and opened my eyes to some things that I hadn’t considered praying for before. Used as a tool, I think this could be helpful for many wives. Even so, I would hesitate to recommend this book to anyone. The message she seems to send is that your husband has difficult things in his life because you have not prayed over them properly, and if you say just the right words and you are patient, God will do whatever you ask him to do. It also seemed to be written for women who are frustrated with or do not particularly like their husbands, and I happen to like mine very much. I felt that she put too much emphasis on the power of the prayer itself rather than the God you are praying to. Some of her theology was just a bit off. For a new or immature believer reading this book, I think it could lead to disappointment and disillusion when prayers are not answered immediately or the answer is no.
- Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult, fiction
The last book I finished this month was also my favorite. Historically, I haven’t been a fan of Jodi Picoult’s books. I tried to read several of them when I was in college, and just couldn’t get into them. I had almost given up, but then last summer I decided to read Leaving Time and enjoyed it very much. Small Great Things is the story of a black nurse named Ruth, and what happens after a white supremacist’s baby dies in her care. The point of view switches back and forth between Ruth, her white public defender (Kennedy), and the father of the baby (Turk). The chapters from Turk’s point of view often made me feel queasy and were hard for me to read. Toward the end of the book, Kennedy gives a speech to a mostly-white jury about racism and everything that has happened to Ruth because of the color of her skin. Afterward, Ruth says, “I stare at the jury, all lost in thought and utterly silent. Kennedy comes to sit down beside me, and for a moment, I just look at her. My throat works while I try to put into words everything I am feeling. What Kennedy said to all those strangers, it’s been the narrative of my life, the outline inside of which I have lived. But I could have screamed it from the rooftops, and it wouldn’t have done any good. For the jurors to hear it, really hear it, it had to be said by one of their own.” I wonder if Jodi Picoult sees herself the same way, a white author calling for other people who look like her to be aware of the reality of racism and privilege, even when it’s difficult to think about. This was a powerful story for me to read, and since starting it I’ve been increasingly aware of how frequently I’m surrounded only by people who look like me. As a white person, I want my eyes to be open to my own biases and privileges and see the realities of the world we live in. Sometimes the best way to do that is just to hear someone else’s story.
Reading Challenge Progress: 7/50 books completed. See y’all next month!