2015 Books

I have had several people ask me to share the books I read this year, and I actually kept track this time so that I can. Last January I set a goal: 60 books for the new year! I knew it was doable if I made it a priority; I would only have to read a book a week, and a few weeks read more. By May I was on pace to beat my goal of 60! You got this, Kelsey! 

And then…

Becks finished nursing in February/March [I can still hear angel choirs when I type those words…]. This meant that my 10-15 minute chunks to read throughout the day while feeding her were no more. 60 books was still completely doable though.

And then...

Out of no where the new part time position at our church presented itself. This would mean that my "nap time" during which I previously would get a few house tasks done, blog, and read read read was basically no more. If I wanted to balance my time well, I would have to use that time to accomplish what I needed to for that position. It didn't mean that 60 books was impossible, it just meant a chunk of my time would be gone.

And then…

Two big events happened all at once: I became pregnant with our third child and suddenly and quickly and quietly our dear Grandma Pat passed away. What do these have to do with reading? Well, for whatever reason reading and my first trimester do not mix. I am very fortunate with my pregnancies and am not overly sick or nauseas, but reading made me feel blegh and I simply couldn't do it. Couple that with the loss of the person who I shared all my books with, who recommended and shared books with me, and I had to grieve that season and let that go. The month before she passed away, Grandma Pat had given me Gone With the Wind. She couldn't believe I hadn't read it, and it was a favorite of hers. I started reading it shortly before she went to the hospital, and finished it a week after she passed away. And as I finished the last page I wept as I said good bye to her all over again. I had to take a break from reading to give my heart space in that time as well.

But just last month I picked it up again and am back in the game. I don't know what the new year will look like, but I'm going to set my goal at 52 for next year; a book a week. I'll be nursing again at some point, which will give me some time to read, but I'll also have three children. Who knows?! We'll see where I'm at next December.

And now, finally, here are the books I read this year with my brief comments in italics. I also labeled them F or NF for fiction and NonFiction.

1. A Painted House - F 
[John Grisham] 
A Grandma Pat recommendation. Different than other Grisham books. Steinbeck-ish. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend. 
2. AHA- NF
[Kyle Idleman]
Kyle was the pastor at our church in Louisville and I recommend any of his books. He is witty, but it is not "Christian fluff" and it challenges you. 
3. The Opposite of Loneliness- NF & F collection
[Marina Keegan]
This is a collection of stories and memoir pieces written by a brilliant young woman. As with any collection, I enjoyed some pieces more than others. I still remember the one she wrote about her first car passed down to her from her grandmother, and I will definitely use it one day with my students. 
4. Seabiscuit- NF
[Laura Hillenbrand]
I loved "Unbroken" so much that, despite caring less about horse racing, needed to read anything written by Hillenbrand. I was captivated early and her writing did not disappoint. 
5. Scary Close- NF
[Donald Miller]
I did a full review here. Not my favorite Miller book, but still good. I recommend "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" before this one, but it depends where you're at in life, probably. 
6. Bringing Up Girls- NF
[James Dobson]
I have been wanting to read this for awhile. I actually only read 3/4 of it at this point, but it's one I will pick up a lot in future years. Research heavy, but gold. I recommend if you are in the trenches of raising girls… at any stage. He also has one "Bringing Up Boys" if you flipped the opposite coin as Brent and me. ;) 
7. The Mockingbird Next Door- NF
[Marja Mills]
I didn't even know this book existed, and as soon as I saw it I had to get my hands on it, obviously. It's written by a journalist who grabbed a rare interview with Harper Lee, and swiftly became friends with the recluse and her sister, Alice. Eventually Mills moves next door to the two sisters. The best account of Harper Lee that I've read. 

I did not realize I read so many non-fiction books in a row… 

8. Ford County Stories- F collection
[John Grisham]
I had never read any Grisham until this year, but Grandma Pat loved him and recommended him. I'm glad she did. I was impressed with this short story collection as it reveals his ability to create such a wide range of characters. 
9. The Winter of Our Discontent- F
[John Steinbeck]
Not my favorite Steinbeck, but still excellent [because STEINBECK!]. I felt like his voice in this book is very different than most of his others, but his characterization and plot development were very true to nature. It's twisty ;). 
10. Let's Pretend This Never Happened- NF, memoir
[Jenny Lawson]
Umm, there were some parts of this book that I really wanted to pretend never happened. However, there were parts that had me laughing loudly, out loud, no matter where I was. She is a bit crass and there is a lot of language. It's not for everyone. Check out her blog first to get a feel for her writing and see if it's for you. 
11. Nourished- NF
[Johnson & Randolph]
I wrote a review here.  I didn't find this book super engaging or inspirational. I got it through the BookLook reviews I do, and probably would have put it down otherwise. 
12. Alice in Wonderland- F
[Lewis Carroll]
I borrowed a really great, old copy from Grandma Pat. I felt like I was on drugs the entire time I read it. It's so weird. 
13. Landline- F
[Rainbow Rowell]
This book was different and clever [what do you expect from an author named Rainbow?]. It kept me engaged. 
14. Women are Scary- NF
[Melanie Dale]
Full review HERE. I recommend to women who are at a place where they are hungry for female friendships. 
15. The Worst Hard Time- NF
[Timothy Egan]
This book is haunting and well written. It is heady, and slowed my pace way down, but I highly recommend it, especially if you find the Dust Bowl era interesting OR don't know much about that time period. If you know someone who was living at the time, grab ahold of them and this book and do yourself a favor and have a discussion with them about it. I learned some interesting things from Grandma Pat. 
16. You & Me Forever- NF
[Francis and Lisa Chan]
I'm pretty sure this is the best book I've read about marriage… and having an eternal mindset. 
17. Orphan Train- F
I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the flashbacks better than the present day story. [And this is another interesting piece of history you can study. Grandma also told me stories about the Orphan Train coming to U. Star after we read and discussed this book]. 
18. A Time to Kill- F
[John Grisham]
I had already seen the movie, but it had been SOOO long I didn't remember details, but it made me picture the main character as Matthew McConaughy which is not a bad thing. A great court room/legal drama. 
19. Unoffendable- NF
[Brant Hansen]
Full review here. Very conversational and funny. I recommend this book because I think we all struggle with anger and our own "offendability", and I think if Christians want to be more like Jesus we should love better. I have a friend who used this for a small group study and it worked really well. 
20. Travels with Charley- NF
[John Steinbeck]
This was a fun little book. If you like travel memoirs, great writing, and the companionship of a dog, you would like this book. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. 
21. Just Like Other Daughters- F
[Colleen Faulkner]
This novel is about a mother and her adult daughter with down syndrome who falls in love and wants to get married. Not the best writing, but a unique story with some twists. Some parts are predictable. 
22. The Undertaker's Wife- NF
[Dee Oliver]
Full review here
23. Every Bitter Thing is Sweet- NF
[Sara Hagerty]
This had been on my list for a long time. I'm glad I read it.  The tag line of the book is "Tasting the goodness of God in all things." It is beautifully written…almost too beautiful. What I mean by that: it's very poetic and almost "flowery." The best writers know you need a little break from line after line of super intense, poetic/lyrical writing, and she doesn't really offer that. However, the story is very powerful. 
24. Yes, Please- NF, memoir
[Amy Poehler]
Meh. It was funny, as you would think it would be by Poehler, but to me her humor doesn't transfer as well to the page as other comedians I've read. I found "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me" to be a MUCH better book in this same genre. [And even though Lawson was super crass…even more so than Poehler… I thought her book was funnier and a better read]. 
25. Not a Fan- NF
[Kyle Idleman] 
Brent and I were actually still in Louisville when Kyle preached this series, and it was one we won't forget. Super challenging. I recommend. 
26. The Memory Keeper's Daughter- F
[Kim Edwards]
This was the first time in awhile I've read a novel I simply did not want to put down. I've recommended it to several people who have said the same thing. 
27. To Kill a Mockingbird- F
[Harper Lee]
Well, since TKAM has its own TAB on my blog, I think it's safe to say you know how I feel about this book. :) I wrote this post when I read it again this year in preparation of the next book's arrival! 
28. Go Set a Watchman- F
[Harper Lee]
The fact that I just typed Harper Lee's name under TWO books on this list still makes me smile. I know this book was HOTLY debated. Here was my full take after my first read [in less than 5 hours], in which I discover Harper Lee does not, in fact, poop gold. I hope to read it again this year and maybe add some additional thoughts. 
29. What the Dog Saw- NF/ essay collection
[Malcolm Gladwell]
This was my first intro to Gladwell and I definitely want to read more. I was so intrigued by his range of topics, his insight, his writing, and his sheer brilliance. I don't agree with all of his thoughts, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have added a couple of his others to future lists. 
30. Gone with the Wind- F
[Margaret Mitchell]
I've seen the movie several time, and it is very well done, but this book was so fun to read. I'm so glad Grandma Pat recommended it to me. It is definitely a commitment if you're going to read it, but you'll be glad you did [Brent, I think, would rather have needles stuck in his eyeballs than read a book this long]. Have you read the sequel? What say you? 
31. Interrupted- NF
[Jen Hatmaker]
I actually read/am reading this with the church staff. If you want to be challenged about your faith, and if you're really living the Jesus way, I recommend this book. And Hatmaker is funny, so there's that. 
32. For the Love- NF
[Jen Hatmaker]
I need to write a full review for this book, but I find myself having a hard time. I struggled with it. It is at times hilarious, and at times compelling. However, it is SO disjointed and all over the place and I feel like her message of Jesus could be so much stronger if she didn't spend the next ten pages writing about leggings. I'll leave it at that for now. 
33. Handle with Care- F
[Jodi Picoult]
I had sworn off all Picoult-- she's just not my favorite-- but a friend loaned me this and I picked it up. It read it quickly, as it captured and kept my attention. It's told from several different points of view, and I didn't like several of them. I hated the main character and it didn't really redeem itself. I'm still at a loss for how I feel about this book. 
34. Creating Community- NF
[Andy Stanley]
I read this as I started thinking about small groups at my church. Really informative. Probably not one you're going to pick up and read for fun, though ;) 
35. Small Victories- NF collection
[Anne Lamott]
Lamott has been a long time favorite of mine, and a lot of this book's stories were repeats from me. [I actually didn't quite finish it for that reason]. At times her voice is a little too…hard? much?… for me, but overall I do like her writing. I recommend "Traveling Mercies" if you've never read anything by her. 
36. Building a Discipling Culture- NF
[Mike Breen]
I'm not quite done with this, as we are reading it together in our small group. Gives practical look at Discipleship and ways to live it out. 
37. Tortilla Flat- F
[John Steinbeck]
This was a quirky, quick read. An early Steinbeck, which was a treat. Not my favorite of his, but engaging. 
38. The Invention of Wings- F
 [Sue Monk Kidd]
I really enjoyed this book. Pre-civil war, slave-era novel, and I didn't find out until the very end that the main characters were based on actual historical figures. I enjoyed her writing and the story. 
39. Just Show Up- NF
[Kara Tippetts & Jill Buteyn]
This was a short read, but offered so much practical advice and tips for entering into and "showing up" during the suffering of those we love. I recommend it if you've ever wondered how to be there with someone who is going through something hard, or if you have ever wondered what you can do for someone during that time. 
40. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime- F
[Mark Hadden] 
I'm not quite half way through this. Told from the perspective of a 15 year old boy with autism, it's sort of a murder mystery…about a dog. But it's really about the boy. It's unique. 

I started "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean [NF] but didn't finish it. I just couldn't get into it at the time. 

40 books. 
17 Fiction.
23 Non Fiction.

It was a pretty good list. I think I read better books in 2014 though.
My favorites, of this list, would be: A Painted House, Seabiscuit, The Worst Hard Time, You & Me Forever, Orphan Train, AHA/Not a Fan, Unoffendable, Travels with Charley, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, What the Dog Saw, Gone With the Wind, The Invention of Wings 

What did you read this year that you recommend? 

Check back tomorrow for the list I've compiled for "I would like to read this" in 2016! 


Jillian said...

Just finishing up Love Does by Bob Goff. It is fantastic! Highly recommend 😊

*carrie* said...

Thanks for sharing your list. I know I should've been more detailed with mine, but oh well.

There were at least half a dozen titles we both read this year!

I jotted down The Memory Keeper's Daughter--thanks for suggestion.

Torrie said...

I second you exactly on For the Love--some really powerful ideas, but the disjointed writing really threw off the groove of it for me (and I didn't find it nearly as compelling as 7, which I devoured).