The April Booklist

Autumn is my favourite season.

The weather has just begun to change here in Perth, and while we’re still being dished some deliciously warm days, it’s the days that are a bit chilly and have me chasing a patch of sunshine that are my favourite.
The light has moved again, and the edge of my bed has the perfect strip of sun along it in the afternoons, so that when I curl up there on the weekend I can bury my feet in its warm patch.

I’ve had my eye out on secondhand marketplaces for the perfect armchair for an empty corner of our lounge room, and I’m imagining curling up there with my grey hand knit throw, and hot cups of tea. Summer reading is good, but I’m happy to welcome back the cosiness of Autumn days.

April book roundup:

1. An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon
After last month, I swore I wouldn’t pick up the next in the Outlander series. They’re too long. I get too involved. I live and breathe seventeenth century Scotland and America. My internal voice assumes a highland lilt and frankly, my shoulder is weary of the extra half a kilo I’m carrying around in my handbag with me everywhere. The only problem is, that I was gifted #7 for my birthday last. And it is shiny and gold.
I had to start averting my eyes as I walked past the bookshelf. No. Give it six months. Wait. Read something that doesn’t remove you from real life for so long.
My husband shouldn’t have left me alone. There was no stopping me. I devoured it in just over a week.

Gabaldon is a ferocious storyteller—multiple plot lines are interwoven, frantic and suspenseful. Sometimes I hate her for what she puts her characters through, as much as I’ve hated Shonda Rhimes during a season finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Gabaldon seems just as observant of the nuances of life and love as Rhimes, with the same amount of dry wit.

Thankfully, the next one doesn’t yet sit tantalising me on the bookshelf, and I’m avoiding ‘G’ in the fiction section at my local library until I’m sure my self control is in order.

2. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
I’m a feeler, and perhaps it’s getting worse as I get older and learn to love and embrace all the parts that make me who I am—serial cryer included. Or, Manning has a way with words that seems graced and breathed straight from heaven. The first chapter alone made me weep.
Manning is an alcoholic, a Franciscan priest, and a self-confessed ragamuffin—and though the book was written almost 30 years ago, it still speaks poignantly to exactly where we are in history now. I mean, to think this sentence was written before the age of social media: “The temptation of the age is to look good without being good… The dichotomy between what we say and what we do is so pervasive in the church and in society that we actually come to believe our illusions…”.
Manning speaks to our apathy, to complacency, to religiosity. His words speak to our ego, our people-pleasing, street-corner-shouting, title-addicted, clean-and-shiny Christianity and he bluntly scolds, berates and loves us with his words into real grace.
This is a book that needs to be on every person of faith’s bookshelf.
It was not an easy read.
I read it over the month in fits and starts, highlighting and scribbling in margins, writing out paragraphs into my journal. It is challenging and made me feel free and uncomfortable all at once.
The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying behaviour.” Um. What. Insert stunned emoji here.
I’m still recovering from this one, and I’ll be referencing it for ever.

3. Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
This one I listened to on Audible. I listened as I walked along the ocean, and when I went for runs, and when I was in the car driving alone. It’s another one that made me cry. Not just for the content—twenty years of research into shame and courage and vulnerability is incredible—but for Brené’s ability to lace these stories together, to help us to see, to draw us in to a bigger picture of humanity, and of ourselves. Her ability to write. The way she articulates all the nuance of humanness, and has me saying, “Oh my gosh, me too, me too, me too” and wondering how she managed to construct so many of my fleeting thoughts and feelings into actual tangible explanations. She is profound.

4. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
This is another of Reese’s Book Club picks, the latest in fact, and the third on her list that I’ve read. It’s a beautiful piece of fiction set in 1930’s Malaysia, with a protagonist who accidentally pickpockets and as a result is taken on an adventure of wild dreams, ghosts, childhood love and the refusal to be owned or boxed by any man—amidst a mystery of deaths occurring from a man-hunting tiger. It is a rambling tale full of magic realism and Chinese and Malaysian myth and folklore and descriptions of food, which reminded me of novels like Midnight’s Children and Like Water for Chocolate. Easy to read, I was so immersed in the story, and loved Ji Lin’s sassiness, and Shin’s devotedness. It was a great way to finish school holidays, finding patches of sun and whiling away long hours reading.

So, four months in of mini book reviews and I’d love to know if you’ve read any of them?
Or if you have any recommendations.
I haven’t quite decided what to read in May, and I’m on a self-imposed book-buying hiatus because there are too many unread new books on my shelf.


The March Booklist

Can you read in the car?
When I hear from people who tell me that reading in the car makes them carsick I feel incredibly grateful that this is not something I experience.
Since I was a little girl, reading in the car was one of my favourite things to do.
Our family car was a restored turquoise blue Holden HR, with column shift and vinyl bench seats.

During long trips south I remember spending hours in the car reading.
Whether it was during summer, with the windows wound down and the wind in my hair, or in winter when dad would lean forward and de-fog the front windscreen with the back of his hand, my legs would be curled up on the seat and I’d read as I leaned against the door.

When we went down south recently, I took my Kindle, with Outlander #6.
I read cosied up in camping chairs, curled up on our air mattress in a sleeping bag, and on the big long drive, interspersed with chatting and dreaming and playing ‘eye spy’. I hadn’t allowed myself to start this one for months, because I know how much Outlander draws me into it’s world—and out of the real one. But I figured we were holidaying, so I could afford some immersive fiction. Big, huge, immersive fiction that took me two weeks to read. So this months list is a small one!

March book roundup:

1. Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
Sarah is by far one of my most favourite authors. She’s deeply spiritual, without being weird—she’s discerning and real, and a storyteller after my own heart. This glimpse into her faith journey is freeing. She’s wrestled and questioned and allowed intellect and spirituality to collide, without squeezing out Jesus, and without pretending she has all the answers. Sarah voices my own faith wrestles, and the way I’ve explored religion, Christianity and the church. It’s deep and profound, but so simple and I think the heart of it echoes the ache we all have, for Jesus and for His Church. There’s something to be said about learning from those who’ve gone before us. It gives us permission to go there too.

2. A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
I will unapologetically, bravely and boldly stand up and say I love this series of books. I love it in the same way I loved the Twilight series, and Harry Potter before that, and The Famous Five before that. I love that they feel never-ending, that the characters evolve and grow, and so do their relationships. I loved being immersed in 1700’s North Carolina, I love the fictional retelling of the American Revolution, and I love Jamie Fraser. Unapologetic.

What are you reading?
What’s on your to-read list?
Do you ever feel like there are too many books and not enough life to read them all?!
It’s a sad thought.

Keep reading.


The February Booklist

So, the second of (hopefully!) twelve booklist instalments.
My goal is to read a book a week this year. And to blog a little review each month.
You can find the January Booklist here.
I’d love you to leave a comment if you’ve read something that you think I’d love—recommend away!

This month hasn’t been super conducive to reading, but it also could be that I found that three out of four books a little bit harder to get through.
Also, it could be that I’ve spent lots of time working on a print devotional book that’s taken time away from reading too. And I may have spent too much time watching Gilmore Girls.

I am loving reading intentionally though.
Less scrolling, more reading.

I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book. – J.K. Rowling

So here’s the February roundup:

1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Kya Clark is one of my favourite characters of all time. This book is poetic, very descriptive but immersive and beautiful. There is the perfect amount of tension in the plot, has the sweetest coming of age element, and it’s heartrending, mysterious, and beautiful. I flew though this book in twenty-four hours, and loved it.
Not disappointed by this Reese’s bookclub recommendation in the slightest (and let’s be honest, I had high expectations!). And, get to reading it fast, because I heard whispers that Reese is going to make a movie from it too!

2. The Library Book by Susan Orlean
I probably should have read this before I read Where the Crawdads Sing—it was a brilliant book, but not quite the thrilling read that I’d just finished! I do love the literary journalism genre and this book had echoes of Capote’s In Cold Blood. It brings to life the story of the Los Angeles Public Library and the fire in it that destroyed more than 400,000 books. Woven through that is a love letter to libraries in general.
It took me back to my own trips to the public library when I was a little girl, with my mum. I’m pretty sure I read through the entire children’s section three times, and I remember the day I discovered the Young Adult shelves. The library was one of my favourite places on earth, and the way Orlean describes library experiences evokes serious nostalgia.

3. Birthing the Sermon-Women Preachers on the Creative Process edited by Jana Childers
Each chapter in this book is an essay by a woman preacher, inviting readers in to her creative process, and then the chapter ends with a manuscript of one of their sermons. They’re American women from a variety of denominations and backgrounds, and many of them have decades of experience in ministry.
I found it so interesting and freeing reading about the different ways all these women prepare their Sunday messages—the way they engage with the scriptures, the way they mull over what they’ve read, the way they pray or listen out for guidance from Heaven, the way they approach the actual writing process (a few quoted Anne Lamott, so, obviously this book had my creative writer-heart!). Their inspiration, routines, disciplines and preaching methods were fascinating.
One of my favourite quotes (this book has been underlined and I’ve made marginal notes—it’ll be one I go back to time and again!). “As to the content of my sermons, I often preach sermons to raise the consciousness of those who feel they have an exclusive right to Jesus and to empower oppressed people to take their place at God’s “welcome table”.” – Yvette Flunder

4. Fasting by Jentezen Franklin
The title is self explanatory, but this book explains the hows, whys and power of fasting as a discipline of faith. I flew through it—it’s simple, easy to read, and made me realise again the importance of relinquishing food for periods of time, both for spiritual, mental and physical health!

So, that’s my February reading wrap-up.
I need more fiction (and less Netflix) in my life, gahh!


The January booklist

Maybe it’s that I’ve finished uni now and haven’t been given a list of books that I have to read and then analyse and then write an essay on. Or it’s just that, sometime last year, I remembered my love of reading; it’s been my escape, my joy, my favourite hobby since I was a little girl.

So, in a post-university effort to keep learning and growing and escaping and finding joy, I’ve committed to myself to read more. Read instead of scroll, read instead of watch, read in place of procrastinate (more accurately is probably read to procrastinate).

And, to keep me a little accountable to this intention, I thought I’d share a monthly booklist.
A wrap up.
Also, you can find me on Goodreads if you want to get ideas for your own to-read list, and see what I’m currently reading.
I love reading non-fiction, but definitely need some can’t-put-down novels to break them up in between.

So, here’s the January round-up:

1. A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.
By Brian D. McLaren

Some Christians in my circles might see this book as a bit controversial, and the emergent church movement a bit threatening, but honestly? This book was a breath of fresh air, and just what I needed. McLaren looks at a whole host of factions of Christianity and pulls out the good, looks at what we can learn from each other, and doesn’t whitewash past ugliness.
I read this book slowly and it’s now covered in post-it notes and underlined.
It created the most in-depth discussions between Daniel and I, over long drives and at night before falling asleep. They always started with, do you think Jesus would…?
Do you think the modern church is…?
I didn’t agree with everything in this book, but I found it so freeing to allow myself to think outside of my Western Church experience, and I find it a comfort that there are people in the world who are pushing back at religiosity.

2. Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

This reminded me a lot of Eleanor Oliphant—Britt-Marie is another character who is endearing and quirky, and so is the host of other characters. She expresses her fear that no-one will notice if she dies, and some of the ways she thinks about this fear, her loneliness and ultimately her desire to be loved, were so incredibly sad and beautiful. I flew through this book in less than 24 hours.

3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This book wasn’t quite the page-turner as Britt-Marie Was Here, but easy to read nonetheless.
I felt that some of the characters weren’t quite as developed as I wanted them to be, and it was a bit slow-moving. It raises questions of what it takes to be a mother, and how the consequences of our decisions can spark unintentional future fires. The plot was enough to keep me reading, and it definitely speeds up towards the end.

4. The Vertical Self: How Biblical faith can help us discover who we are in an age of self obsession
by Mark Sayers

I wrote in an earlier post that this book is cultural commentary and self discovery gold. And to think it was written even before Instagram!
It’s a must-read for anyone with social media (so, everyone) and is a not so gentle reminder that our worth and identity does not/should not come from the culture we’re immersed in, from movies and television, from social media, from elevating performance over character. Read my post about Instagram and you’ll get an idea of what rumblings it caused in my inner world.

What did you read in January? Have you read any of these books? I would love to hear your thoughts!