One of my goals for 2021: become an avid reader!

Far too often I use the excuse, “I don’t have time” or “There are so many other things I could be doing.” But this year I’m prioritizing my thirst for reading and learning. I’m choosing to make reading a part of my routine. Now that my schedule is a bit more flexible at work, I feel like I have the freedom to read more. Looking forward to dabbling in a variety of different genres this year to broaden my horizons.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry – John Mark Comer

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is five-stars.jpg

Do you ever feel caught in the noise of this world? Consumed by the hurry and fast-paced nature of having to be more, do more, buy more, perform more, and achieve more? If you answered yes, this book is perfect for you.
This past year has prompted me, like many, to reflect more on how I’m living my life. I’ve been forced to reassess whether my routines are in line with a gospel-centered life. This book is a fabulously convicting read for Christians trying to figure out how to do life amidst a world fueled by hurry.
How can I prioritize Sabbath?
What does it look like to live within my means?
How can I be a better steward of my things?
How can I live life without being materialistic or consumeristic?
John Mark Comer tackles these and many more topics about our current culture’s pitfalls and how to be people of faith in American culture.

Atomic Habits – James Clear

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is acs_1007.jpg

This books is an incredible read especially at the beginning of the new year when momentum for change is at an all time high. James Clear focuses on FOUR laws of creating good habits and breaking bad ones based on scientific evidence and a slew of anecdotal references.
The FOUR laws include
1. Make it OBVIOUS
3. Make it EASY and
4. Make it SATISFYING.

By following these four laws he simplifies the process of making/creating/continuing good habits, as well as saying goodbye to bad habits. One of the biggest takeaways I learned was that our systems for change determine our success in achieving our goals. A bad or broken system won’t help you reach your goal, so be intentional in creating systems that lead to success. His writing style is lighthearted, informative, and engaging. I wasn’t able to put this book down, and it made me excited for the possibility of routine change in my own life. Highly recommend this for anyone seeking to achieve new years goals/resolutions or simply needing a swift kick in the pants to make a change.

The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett

A striking portrayal of the complexity of race, family structures, and coming of age. I thoroughly enjoyed this read espeically in light of #BlackHistoryMonth. Brit Bennett did a phenomenal job bringing each multi-faceted, tortured character to life.

This book centers around a multi-generational family saga set between the 1940s-1990s following the lives of two black identical twins, Desiree and Stella Vignes. Born and raised in Mallard, LA, a small town that doesn’t even exist on a map. But wanting more for themselves, the twins run away to New Orleans to find a better life without even telling their mother of their plan. However, once in New Orleans, Stella disappears without a trace. Come to find out, Stella left her life of being black and fabricated an entire life built on the lie that she was white. Years go by, both sisters marry and have children, but the heart tug of family never lets up. I don’t wanna spoil the ending for you, but this book is truly captivating. It explores poignant themes about race, gender, family, and upbringing.

Prayer in the Night – Tish Harrison Warren

This book frames around the nighttime Anglican prayer of Compline. Tish Warren, an Anglican priest, walks through each line of the prayer while also highlighting personal stories that tie into the challenging themes of human vulnerability and God’s seeming absence. By the end of the book, I found a renewed sense of hope and awareness in the power of praying with “other people’s words.”

As someone who was raised in the Anglican church, this book was particularly meaningful and refreshing. However, you do not have to be Anglican to enjoy the encouragement and wisdom that this book offers. For this particular season of life that I am walking through as a healthcare provider amidst a global pandemic, feeling waves of isolation, doubt, and grief, her words of God’s truth were like a salve for my weary heart. I read this book mostly at night and I think that only intensified the depth of her words.

If you’re walking through a particularly heavy season and nighttime is hard for you, I challenge you to read this book. It may even reignite you prayer life and give you hope what all hope seems lost.

The Four Winds – Kristin Hannah

As an avid Kristin Hannah fan and follower, I came into this book with exceptionally high expectations and hopes. I usually love her historical fiction, however this book left me wanting more. The character development was terrific as per usual, however the plot felt lacking and monotonous in my opinion.

But this American epic delves into the themes of love, heroism, motherhood, and hope, set during the Great Depression and Dust Bowel Era, a time where our country was in crisis and at war with itself. The land itself seemed to turn against its own people. The story centers around Elsa Wolcott and follows her allow on her journey to finding her voice amidst one of the most devastating eras in American history. Against all odds, Elsa finds a way to remain positive and never lose hope. The challenges of poverty, marital discord, agricultural devastation and loneliness reveal the scrappy, grit of Elsa Wolcott.

Overall, it was a captivating read, but it didn’t meet my lofty expectations for Kristin Hannah. I love a good KH tear jerker, but this wasn’t it.

The Life You Long For – Christy Nockels

Written by wife, mother, singer-songwriter, and worship leader, Christy Nockels invites you to discover your place in God’s heart and let him set the pace for your life. Abandon the notion of hurry and hustle for a life and heart rooted in rest!

With warmth and grace, she shares her story of how she let go of a life of hustle and outside-in identity, because it was holding her back from what God truly wanted for her: REST! There is glory to be had in the mundane moments of life and in the foiled plans that didn’t happened as we’d anticipated.

I absolutely loved this book! It spoke to the deepest parts of my heart and consoled me. We are God’s Beloved sons and daughters, and in Him, we are whole. When we remember in whom our identity lies, we are better able to love and serve those around us. “The most beautiful and effective way to change lives around you is to let God change you. The best way that you can love others is to let God love you.” Christ is in you and you are in Christ and Christ is in the Father. Hold fast to that truth knowing that you are God’s Beloved sealed for good works and glorifying the Father, but cultivating rest is a spiritual discipline that attunes your heart to God’s.

Educated – Tara Westover

A harrowing memoir of one woman’s journey to being “educated”. Tara was raised in the mountains of Idaho by a Mormon survivalist family ridden with brokenness and mental health issues. This story walks through her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as she comes to terms with the differences between her world in Buck’s Peak and the world outside.

I couldn’t put this book down! The stories she recounts about her parents, siblings, and the radical ideologies that her family instilled in her feel other-worldly. It’s hard imagining this happening in our own country let alone within my generation. So many themes at play within this one book, including the instability of memory, the power of knowledge, and the difference between devotedness and delusion. I loved how her voice throughout the memoir felt naive, because it was coming from a place of sheltered uncertainty and general lack of awareness. Her point of view felt raw and real in a way many books I’ve read recently have felt flat.

This book far exceeded my expectations and really helped me see how vital it is to storytell and share one’s own story. But also that education isn’t always learned in the classroom (albeit it’s often important in broadening our understanding), education is also learned through the bitter struggles of life itself.

That Sounds Fun – Annie F. Downs

If you’re looking for a fun, lighthearted read that feels reminiscent of a conversation with a friend, this book is for you. In these pages author, podcast host, and speaker Annie F. Downs masterfully highlights the joys of being an amateur, the power of falling in love, and why you need to get a hobby.

For a girl who is always having to keep her predilection for perfection in check, this book was a warm welcome. I often fall into the trap of not pursuing things because of a deep-seeded fear that I won’t be good at them. But what if rather than allowing fear to dictate my decision, I pursued things in pursuit of pleasure rather than perfection?

This book opened my eyes to the beauty of being an amateur. It’s such a simple mindset change but it has tremendous implications on how we live and savor our lives. I love Annie’s quippy turn-of phrase and how familiar her writing feels as a reader. You aren’t just reading her words, you’re engaging with her as she shares stories and anecdotes like you and a friend would. Excited to pursue more hobbies adventures with the intent of connection and delight!

Concrete Rose – Angie Thomas

This is the prequel to “The Hate You Give” told through the lens of Maverick Carter, Starr’s father. As he maneuvers through boyhood into adulthood, you see the coming-of-age struggles of Black males and how nothing is more important than providing and protecting your family.

Maverick Carter is just your average seventeen year-old trying to survive high school until he finds out he is a father. To his best friend’s girlfriend. In light of his new role as dad, he is forced to grow-up and take on new responsibilities. But part-time jobs just don’t pay the bills. So he resorts to dealing for the King Lords to help his momma pay rent and keep himself out of debt. But at what cost?

This book details the journey Maverick takes in overcoming his father’s delinquent past, coming to terms with his own dreams, and choosing to make for himself a better future. Without giving too much away in regards to plot, this book is a terrific read and particularly poignant to all races. There is so much strife and grit in the telling of his story, and I loved how Angie Thomas brought his character to life. I couldn’t put this book down. However, I liked “The Hate U Give” a little bit more than “Concrete Rose”, so that’s why I gave it four stars instead of five.

The Well-Watered Woman – Gretchen Saffles

It can be difficult to live out and apply the truths of scripture in the culture we live in. We want more of Jesus, but we find ourselves looking to our own lives and accomplishments for our worth and identity.

Gretchen Saffles, creator Well-Watered Women, tactfully displays what it means to experience the fullness of God when we are rooted in Him. She talks about three caveats of the Christian faith walk (the Well of fullness, the Word of freedom, and the Way of faithfulness) and uses growth analogies throughout to bring her vision to life.

I loved all of the stories of growth interweaved into this book. So many perfect examples of faith that can be seen in the beauty of succulents, wildflowers, vines, and more. She shares a handful of personal stories and reflections intermingled with biblical truths to encourage hungry women thirsting to enjoy Him, seek Him, and follow Him into freedom. If you’re walking through a season of uncertainty or questioning, this book is a great resource to turn your eyes back to Jesus. Thankful for these words in this particular season of my own faith walk!

The Guest List – Lucy Foley

On an island off the Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater. Two A-listers bring their old friends, past grudges, and hidden jealousies together for a weekend to remember. What could go wrong?!?! Thirteen guests and one body. Everyone is suspect.

The intrigue. The mystery. The secrets. This book is full of it! It’s been a while since I’ve read a murder mystery novel, so I really enjoyed the plot development. The story is told through a nonlinear narrative, which helps build the suspense and allows you to enter into each character’s psyche.

I gave this book four out of five stars, because of the language and the abruptness of the ending. I enjoyed the character development and how everyone was suspect in the eventual murder. Also, the setting isn’t too shabby. Each guest had plenty of motive and I loved how by the end you realized just how intertwined each character was with the next. But I likely wouldn’t read it again, but it’s a fast, fun murder mystery perfect for the summer time.

Such A Fun Age – Kiley Reid

A striking fictional portrayal of how race and privilege are hard to comes to terms with in our everyday lives. I loved the plot, writing style, and the way this book made me think. The book centers around a young black babysitter and her will-intentioned white employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. Without spoiling too much of the plot, this story opens up the conversation about race, authority, white supremacy, and privilege in a non-confrontational way. Its piercing social commentary seeks to explore the obscurity of transactional relationships and the complexity of growing up.

The social and racial dynamics made me use my noggin, which I loved! It’s not often that a fictional novel can boast that type of thoughtfulness. If you’re looking for an easy read with drama, intrigue, and tact, add this to your TBR list.

The Woman In the Window – A. J. Finn

Talk about a page turner! Finished this one in about 5 days, couldn’t put it down. It kept me guessing until the very end and then my mind was blown! Add this to your summer reading list ASAP.

I don’t typically read mysteries or thrillers, but this one is psychological, thoughtful, and intriguing in all the best ways. The story centers around a woman named Anna Fox, who suffers from agoraphobia after experiencing intense personal trauma. She lives a reclusive life in her large New York City home. And to pass the time, Anna drinks too much, plays online chess, chat with other recluses online, watches old movies, and meets with her shrink. She also spends time spying on her neighbors. But when she accidentally witnesses the stabbing oof one of her neighbors, her world comes to a screeching halt. Did it happen or was it just alcohol-induced hallucinations? Will anyone believe her side of the story? Is she crazy or is she the only sane person in her neighborhood? Find out for yourself when you read this haunting tale!

Try Softer – Aundi Kolber

Originally heard about this book on Emily P. Freeman’s podcast and after reading a short synopsis, I knew this book’s message would speak to me. After the events of the past year, this book was a fresh reminder of why showing self-compassion isn’t just good, but necessary for growth.

Aundi Kolber is a license professional counselor in Colorado who specializes in trauma and body-centered therapy. This is her debut book, and it’s a terrific source of encouragement for those who are used to white-knuckling their way through overwhelm and exhaustion.

She proposes that by TRYING SOFTER (showing self-compassion, quieting the inner critic, setting emotional boundaries, moving through our emotions) we more wholly become who God intended for us to be. Our bodies were created to think, process, overcome hardships, and grow. This book gives tangibles ways and resources to do just that. If you are feeling overworked, undervalued, overwhelmed, exhausted, or numb, take heart and read this book. We all could use some of this wisdom moving forward into post-pandemic life.

The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides

Mysteries are such a great genre to read in the summertime, and this book is no exception. I will say the ending and climax came on fairly suddenly, but I was very surprised by the ending. Great book to read if you want a page turner and love a good psych ward setting!

Alicia Berenson, a famous painter, is charged guilty for the murder of her husband photographer Gabriel Berenson. Due to a plea of diminished responsibility, she is admitted to a secure forensic unit called The Grove. Theo Faber, a forensic psychotherapist, successfully applies for a position at The Grove with the hope of treating Alicia. He is placed in charge of Alicia, who has not spoken since the day of the murder. This mystery centers around Theo’s relentless pursuit and treating the “Silent Patient”. It’s a pretty disjointed story of love, loss, revenge, and psychosis, but it comes together by the end.

Couldn’t put this book down! Highly recommend if you love a surprise ending and some fictional psychotherapy at work.

The Midnight Library

This book is nothing short of enchanting. TBH I actually really disliked the beginning because the scene is set around a depressed female who is questioning whether or not to end her own life. But her journey or self-reflection shows the main character just how sacred life is and that despite the struggles, pain, and grief, life IS worth living.

The main character, Nora, is a thirty-something woman who is regretful about her life and feels alienated and unneeded in this world. In the depths of her wallowing, she comes across the Midnight Library. In it, each book represents a portal into another variation of what her life could have been. As she reads the volumes, they allow her access to different versions of her life – relationships she could have stuck with, careers she could have pursued. She has to come to terms with what SHE wants for her life, and it’s a beautiful journey of self-discovery. 

She also quickly finds that it’s not what you do or who you do it for in life that’s important. What matters is living life to the fullest. Loving deeply. Living selflessly. Acting courageously.

The Great Alone

A daring story about love, loss, survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature. I absolutely loved this book! I can see what all the hype is about: 1) Kristin Hannah wrote it! 2) The storyline is a stay-up-all-night-reading kind of plot. After reading The Four Winds, I was truthfully worried to read this one. But this brought me back in love KH’s storytelling.

Set in 1974 Alaska, the Allbright family sets off for a new life off the grid to experience the last true frontier. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. After losing his job, he makes an impulsive decision: to move his family to Alaska. 

And 13 year old Leni, is a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the chaos of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship. She is desperate to belong and to have a friend. Thankfully she finds a friend and confidante in Matthew Walker.

In this portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. 

Breaking Free from Body Shame – Jess Connolly

Every female who is a follower of Christ should read this liberating book! Rooted in gospel truth and bursting with hope and freedom, Jess Connolly tactfully goes to combat with the lies the enemy has led us as women to believe. Our bodies are good. Our bodies are not an indicator of our faithfulness. Our bodies are not meant to be esteemed by worldly standards. Our bodies are created to glorify our God.

If you yourself are struggling with body image or body shame, take heart & read this book. I’ve never been more empowered to go to the war with the enemy’s lies about my body. There is hope and freedom to be had for us as females, we need only pray for redemption and revival both in ourselves and in our culture. 

Let me leave you with this quote: “If by grace through faith you are a follower of Jesus, you are a daughter of the Most High God. You were made with intention and creativity, celebration and excellence. Your body was made and pronounced good by the ultimate creator, judge, Savior, and hero of the world. He mourns the mess of sin and brokenness that we live in, but he doesn’t leave us – He brings redemption and restoration to these bodies of ours. And he promises us a day when our earthly shells will be a distant memory, a shadow, a vapor that used to be. Your body is good. The world is wrong. The enemy is a liar. Rest and restoration and revival are yours for the taking. Let’s get after it.”

Woman Code – Alisa Vitti

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is with-love.jpg