Friday, February 5, 2016

Reading to Write

(FYI: This post was written back in early fall.  These are the books that fed my mind over the summer.  I definitely need to write another post about this fall/winter's good reads!)

I've noticed something.  There are seasons of my life where the words just do not come.  Sometimes it's the incredible pain of living that just hits the brakes on my train of thought, but more often than not it's that I'm not reading.  I'm not letting fresh words wash over my brain.  I'm not delighting in a story.  I'm not feeling the power of others' words in my life.  This makes my own writing seem unimportant and just... well... flat.

Perhaps that's why this may be a writing season.  It's been a spring and summer of words!  Now I know what you're thinking... How on earth do I claim to be a busy mom but still have time to read stuff just for my own enjoyment?  The answer: I'm a nursing mom.  And due to the fact that I have a baby that likes to eat in a distraction-free environment, I'm alone and able to read for HOURS of my day.  It's delightful.  And I'm pretty sure when this sweet baby girl is done nursing, I will go into deep mourning for my totally justifiable reading time.  For now, I'm just enjoying what I've got.

Also, I need to give credit where credit is due.  This summer's ridiculous number of books read is brought to you by Kindle.  Yep.  This book-sniffing, pages-loving girl caved because I just can't manage to feed a baby, balance a book, and turn pages all at the same stinkin' time.  And that's my life, ya'll.  Teacher Man's totally perfect birthday present to me this year was a Kindle Paperwhite, and thanks to Overdrive (our library's ebook resource) I have read far more than I ever have with any of our other babies.  Plus, I can read in the dark with my Kindle... a must for those middle-of-the-night feedings.  If you have a reader friend who is having a baby, get her a Kindle.  You'll be her new best friend.  For reals.

Last summer and this summer, I've gotten some GREAT book suggestions from Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide.  But this year, I need to be honest.  Some of these books, I would rather not have read.  I love great writing.  Clear voices.  Quirky characters.  Unexpected endings. And I get hooked.  When I start a book, I am an unsettled mess until I find out how it ends. But I'm also realizing that I'm an HSP (highly sensitive person), and a lot of the content found in modern narratives affects me negatively.  I'm not saying that evil and raw don't exist.  I'm just saying that I don't want to dwell on it in my "free" time.  For me, there's enough awful in reality that I don't need to manufacture it for entertainment.  And as an HSP, I tend to absorb and use the vocabulary I read.  Sometimes this is great skill; however, certain books have made me wish there was such a thing as brainwash.  Wouldn't it be great to have your brain feel minty fresh?  That said, I straight up wish I hadn't read some of these books.  It just wasn't the best choice for me.

I am convinced that we will be the same people next year that we are this year but for the books we read and the people we meet.  Ugh.  I have no desire to stay the same.  None.  So there's my motivation for reading great non-fiction.  The more I read, the more I understand myself, those around me, and my place in the Kingdom.  Worth. every. minute.

Lies Women Believe  by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
This was my second foray into this book (my first since becoming a mom), and I have to say the first few chapters about lies we believe about God, sin, and ourselves broke me right where I most needed breaking.  When it comes right down to it, I cannot say I'm on board with every word of this book, but there is SO much more right than wrong here.  If you haven't read it, pick it up.

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
I get it.  It's an old classic for a reason.  The concept of remembering God's presence with us in every act is HUGE, and I'm glad I read it.  With so many moments of my days being filled with the mundane, it was a timely read to remember God is in all those moments.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
I cannot believe I'd never read anything by Brene until this summer.  Incredibly insightful, research-based writing about coming to peace with who you've been created to be.  Her words resonated with me, and her research on vulnerability is life-changing.  Her most recent book Rising Strong is now on my must-read list.

The Real Thing: Lessons on Life and Love from a Wedding Reporter's Notebook by Ellen McCarthy
In a world where committed relationships are not the norm, this writer's perspectives on love and marriage are enlightening.  After interviewing hundreds of engaged and married couples, she shares the fascinating pearls of wisdom gleaned.  An easy, breezy read that inspired me to give even more to the man I love.  Disclaimer: This is not a Christian book, and couples from all walks of life were interviewed.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Loved the concept.  Bill and a friend take on the Appalachian Trail together in this memoir.  For those of you who love camping and roughing it, it will make you laugh out loud and then be thankful that you are reading this book in the A/C of your semi-sterile home.  However, the language of this book made me wish I'd had the self-control to leave it unfinished.  Ugh.. ever become way too obsessed with the adventure going on in your book?  If you're an HSP, you'd probably better leave this one in the woods.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
It took me two summers to finally get through the whole thing, but it was well worth it.  A year in the life of a family who seeks to grow or know the farmer behind every. last. thing. they put in their mouths.  Incredible.  I learned a ton about what I'm eating, why I need to consider change, and the richness that's in store for those who are willing to support local agriculture.  Great writing.  Fascinating research.  Hilarious anecdotes.  A must for foodies.

The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst
I look back fondly at last year as the year of burnout.  Pregnant. Struggling with chronic back pain. Three kids. And tons of commitments.  I needed to read this badly.  I needed Lysa to remind me that every "yes" means that I am saying "no" to something else I could be doing with my time.  Right now, those "no's" in my life allow me to do what only I can do in this world, and that feels pretty awesome.

Okay, are you read for the fiction?  I thought I should write down the non-fiction first because, ya know... I'm pretty proud of the fact that I actually had the focus to read something without plot twists.  It's pretty stinking amazing, especially if you know my addiction to a good story.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Yep. I'm the last person on the planet to read these books.  Let me start by saying that I was raised in a conservative home.  I'm sure I could have petitioned to read these, but I just wasn't that motivated.  Fast-forward to my present-day life with a 6 year old who is reading me out of house and home. I have a strong suspicion my little reader is going to want to pick these up, and for all the reasons that I've been given to not give these books to my children, I've encountered others who have said the opposite so I felt that I just needed to read them for myself.  I know why everyone's addicted.  Really.  Because I lay in my hospital bed in labor with Emily, reading book 6 because I was NOT going to wait for the ending just because I was having a contraction.  So much great content, but books 4-7 are definitely for older readers... especially HSP readers.  Intense.  Artful.  And OH MY WORD... I don't know how you all waited for years for the series to finish.  I binge read these like I was watching a good Netflix series.  We can argue about whether it's appropriate for children to read books about wizards, and I don't think there is any book (minus the Bible) that everyone has to read.  In my opinion though, I think the good far outweighs the questionable in these books.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I'm not a sci-fi reader, but if it's about a used bookstore, I'll read it.  I actually liked this book a lot. Not sure I can really say much about it without ruining the plot twists, but it was a great read.  Modern Mrs. Darcy says that this book is "Harry Potter meets National Treasure." Can't say it better than that.

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett
Great book!  Even though I could only get a paper copy of this book, the writing kept me engrossed so that every awkward page turn while feeding a baby was totally worth it.  If you're an Austen fan, you're gonna love this one!

Still Life by Louise Penny
This is the first of the Inspector Gamache Mysteries, and it hooked me!  Set in an idyllic little town in Canada, the vibrant characters and great writing had me guessing until the very end.  Loved this one so much that I immediately read A Fatal Grace, the second in this series.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
Okay, now I know what all the fuss was about.  Fantastic book, weaving true stories of life during World War 2 on the British island of Guernsey with a fictional plot that will have you blazing your way through the pages.  Read this one in 3 days.  I have 4 kids.  That NEVER happens.

Lizzy and Jane  by Katherine Reay
I was almost halfway through this book when I realized that it was Christian fiction, and I say that as a compliment.  Reay is a wonderful storyteller, and her references to Austen only made me love this book more, even though the main story line had nothing to do with Pride and Prejudice.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
For whatever reason, I did NOT like the ending of this book, but it was still one of my favorites from this summer.  Reay is an author to watch, and I'm waiting excitedly for her new book to be released this fall.

Should this list have included more John Piper and Francis Chan?  Probably.  And after my pastor's message on Sunday morning, I made some new commitments to my husband concerning what I will be picking up in the future.  I'm way too much of a sponge.  And I'd rather look up from a book smiling or inspired than embarrassed, no matter how many bestseller lists it's on.  But even amongst the disappointing picks, I feel like I found a few new treasures and have been inspired so now it's your turn.  What have you been reading that has fed your soul or inspired you to action?  Absolutely itching to know!!!

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