Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday centers on recommendations.  This is a tricky subject because of times when people recommend books to me, interest ends with the conversation.  I either forget to follow through or know it’s not something I would like.

Nevertheless, I do follow through every once in a while and here is a list of some my favorites.  (Interestingly enough, a high number of books on this list are fairly progressive Christian nonfiction.) Continue reading

100+ Books in Less than a Year

Back in high school, I got an account on Goodreads and started keeping track of the things I was reading.  Curious about how many books I read each year, I began organizing my collection into shelves.

In 2011, I read 75 books.  In 2012, the count went up to 87.  Things shifted when I went to college–only 55 and 57 reads in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

This year, though, is the highest total yet.

Some people set reading goals.  I don’t.  I just read.  I read and read and read and read and… well… can’t really stop.

As of right now, I’ve read 104 books in the past twelve months.  This includes audiobooks, assigned reading, and Kindle e-books.  It does NOT include books I’ve read twice–because, yes, I managed to listen through Harry Potter twice in the past six months.

Originally, I planned on making a big list of all 104 titles.  But then I realized that the amount of YA chick-lit I’ve been consuming lately is borderline embarrassing.  You really don’t need to know how fast I can read Stephanie Perkins and Kierra Cass novels.  (In case you were dying of curiosity, it’s less than 24 hours per book)

Instead, I’m going to list the best books.  The books that reached into my heart and found a home; the ones that made me feel; the stories that, months later, still have me thinking.

Here we go…

  • Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

  • His Grave Assassins trilogy by Robin LaFevers

  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

  • Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen

  • The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

  • Paper Towns by John Green

  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare

  • The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn

  • Who is This Man? by John Ortberg

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  • Coming Up for Air by George Orwell

  • Bleak House by Charles Dickins

  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

  • Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon

  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I recommend anything on this list.

However, if I could get you to read any of these books, I’d point you to The Danish Girl.  It’s been getting attention lately due to the recent biopic starring Eddie Redmayne.  I haven’t seen the film yet, but the book is incredible.  I used it to write my senior seminar paper this spring and fell in love with it.  It helped me better understand the transgender experience–a perspective on which I’ve been woefully ignorant my entire life.  The novel is about courage, love, and an exploration of self-creation.

I also highly recommend The Silmarillion by Tolkien, which was insanely hard to get through, but SO worth it.  It gives Middle Earth so much more depth and meaning.

For non-fiction, I LOVED Who is This Man? by John Ortberg.  The book is a collection of essays examining the figure of Jesus from multiple perspectives.  It looks at the impact Jesus had on different areas like science, history, forgiveness, the treatment of women, etc.  I got a lot out of this book and loved thinking about Jesus on an intellectual front, rather than a spiritual one.

My to-read list is endless, but I’m always open for recommendations for things to read in 2016!  What are some of the best books you’ve read in the past year?  Tell me about them in the comments!

On my bookshelf

When I’m not running around doing campus ministry or diagramming sentences for Grammar & Language or working the circulation desk at the library, you can usually find me with a book.  (Actually, now that I think about it, I have a book in all three of those situations… but I digress).  I’m taking less credits than usual this semester, which means I have slightly more free time.  So, in true English major fashion, I’ve been filling my time with books!

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately.

1. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel, a widely acclaimed work based on the actual murder, in 1831, of a progressive mill owner. It follows Mary Barton, daughter of a man implicated in the murder, through her adolescence, when she suffers the advances of the mill owner, and later through love and marriage. Set in Manchester, between 1837-42, it paints a powerful and moving picture of working-class life in Victorian England.

(Description from Goodreads)

The perks of being in a Victorian literature class is that I’m assigned books I’d read for fun.  I just finished Mary Barton this afternoon (a week earlier than the syllabus called for) and loved it!  Gaskell vividly describes life for the lower classes of Manchester, makes a complicated argument for the solution of class disatisfaction.  About halfway through the novel, Gaskell changes pace and I found myself unable to put the book down, wanting to know what happens to all the characters.  I found the end a bit unsatisfying, but am willing to forgive Gaskell for that.

2. The Selection series by Kiera Cass

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself–and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

(Description from Goodreads)

I downloaded the first book for cheap on my Kindle for reading material at the gym and then proceeded to read the entire series in a week.  The trilogy definitely has weaknesses–it feels like a cheap knock-off of The Hunger Games, characters are pretty two-dimensional, and it’s not that well written.  Despite these things, though, I adored the trilogy.  It’s like The Hunger Games meets reality t.v. meets fairy tales.  They’re not perfect, but make for excellent brain candy.  And, oh my goodness, the covers are SO PRETTY.

2. Enchantress by James Maxwell

Ella and her brother, Miro, are orphans, their parents killed long ago in the ongoing struggle against the mad Emperor.

From the day Ella witnesses an enchanter using his talents to save Miro from drowning, she knows what she wants to be. But the elite Academy of Enchanters expects tuition fees and knowledge. Determined, Ella sells flowers and studies every book she can. Meanwhile, Miro dreams of becoming one of the world’s finest swordsmen, wielding his nation’s powerful enchanted weapons in defense of his homeland.

A dark force rises in the east, conquering all in its path, and Miro leaves for the front. When the void Miro left is filled by Killian, a charming stranger from another land, Ella finds herself in love. But Killian has a secret, and Ella’s actions will determine the fate of her brother, her homeland, and the world.

(Description from Goodreads)

I haven’t finished this one yet.  It’s my current gym salve.  (By that, I mean it takes my mind off the pain of the gym and gives me something to do.)  Book one of a trilogy, the only reason I happened upon this one was because it was a featured daily deal on the Kindle store.  It’s not particularly well written, not very original, and the characters feel really flat.  But Maxwell creates a very compelling world that I want to know more about.  I’ve avoided reading Goodreads comments on this one, not wanting to spoil my enjoyment.  Because, so far, it’s definitely been an enjoyable read!

4. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

(Description from Goodreads)

This was my brain candy this past weekend.  I downloaded a copy on my Kindle from the local library.  Again, it’s your typical coming-of-age YA novel, but enjoyable.  Schneider’s writing reminds me of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.  It was a fast, fun read.

~~~

Have you read any good books lately?  What were they?  Do you have any recommendations?