August 5, 2017

Favorite Books of 2016

Well, I’m a little late on this post. But, since its National Book Lovers Day, I figured that it’s better late than never! I’m always getting questions about my favorite books, so I’m going to give you the low down on my favs and the ones I liked, but didn’t exactly love.

I already am halfway through my reading goal for 2017, and that blog post next year is going to have some of my ALL TIME favorite books in it! 2017 has been a year of AMAZING books, and some of them I bought just because I liked the cover. Hey, I’m a photographer, so the cover matters. The best part is when the cover is what draws me to the book, but the content is even better.

My goal for 2015 was to read 36 books. I didn’t reach it. I read 30 books, and about 10 I started and put down when I realized that they were not something I wanted to read. For the first time ever, I gave myself permission to stop reading a book.

So, 2016 – my goal was 30 books. I think I read 26. Which, hey – I’m happy with. As with last year, I gave myself permission to stop reading the ones that I felt like weren’t hitting the spot. Some, I have saved for later, and some made it into the Goodwill donation pile.

Also – for the first time in my life, we donated books to Goodwill. BOXES of books. Don’t worry, my family and friends got to come and dig through to see what they wanted, but when we were in the midst of packing and moving – I realized that some books I will probably never read again. So why was I keeping them? So off to the donation pile they went, and my bookshelves in our new house will now only house the things I want to read & the books that I might re-read over and over again. Or, the ones I will give away.

Here were my Favorites : 

Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist :

Shauna is one of my Top 5 favorite authors. She writes in a way that is relatable and subtly poetic. Her books always make me cry, in the best way. This one is about slowing down. Being present. Stopping the endless cycle of busy and rushed and hurried. For this time in my life it was exactly what I needed. I think I have given this book to 7 of my friends and all of them have loved it. The culture we live in is all about fast and busy and more and more. This is about the opposite, and it feels like a deep breath.

Rising Strong – Brene Brown :

Oh, Brene. Kyle knows that if I ever had the chance to sit down for coffee with someone, it would probably be Brene Brown. I absolutely find her fascinating and lovely. Her research on shame and vulnerability changed my life. Start with Daring Greatly and then read Rising Strong. You will not regret it.

Essentialism – Greg McKeown :

THIS BOOK. This is basically the business version of Present Over Perfect. JUST ORDER IT. When I was reading, I thought that Greg (the author) was probably in his 70’s, because he is one of the most wise writers I have read. No, this guy is young. But he is wise and this book will challenge you to not be busy with everything, but to focus on the right things. Hint, hint – the essential.

Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott :

One of the most well-known books about writing. I had heard this book talked about on Podcasts and in blogs of my favorite authors. They did not steer me wrong. It was packed full of good info. One thing that I have remembered is “SFD’s” (Sh*tty First Drafts). Anne talks about how you just have to start writing. So often we wait until we feel like we have everything figured out before we start writing, but when we wait so long – we actually never start. She encourages SFD’s. Just start. You can always go back and fix it, change it, clean it up. For this lesson – the book was worth every $$ spent.

Seven – Jen Hatmaker :

I cannot begin to explain this book to you without writing an entirely separate blog post. So, promise me you will go and read the description on Amazon. Jen is one of my favorites and she is HILARIOUS to read. I always laugh at her books. This book challenged me to get rid of things, to do more with less, to focus on what is important. So. Good.

The Antelope in the Living Room & Sparkly Green Earrings – Melanie Shankle :

MELANIE MAKES ME LAUGH SO HARD. The Antelope in the Living Room is about Marriage. Sparkly Green Earrings is about her becoming a mother. Both are lovely. Both are told in stories about her life, her marriage, her friendships. She is from Texas and I just want to drive to her house and be her best friend. Lighthearted but full of gems. Will make you laugh, maybe cry a happy tear, and is a good read for a vacation or during a stressful time.

Colors of Goodbye – September Vaudrey :

This book is heartbreaking. The Vaudrey family lost their 18 year old daughter unexpectedly, and this book is September’s (the mother) memoir about grief, loss, and joy. I wept while reading. It truly feels like a privilege to read something so personal and so honest. It is beautifully written, and challenged the way that I think about loss. The thing that it did most, was to teach me how to relate with people in the midst of tragedy.

The Complete List of Books in 2016 :

Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist
Colors of Goodbye – September Vaudrey
Loving My Actual Life – Alexandra Kuykendall
Rising Strong – Brene Brown
Bird By Bird – Anne Lamott
Love Warrior – Glennon Doyle Melton
Talking As Fast As I Can – Lauren Graham
The Magnolia Story – Chip & Joanna Gaines
Sparkly Green Earrings – Melanie Shankle
The Antelope in the Living Room – Melanie Shankle
Seven – Jen Hatmaker
Grace Not Perfection – Emily Ley
Univited – Lysa Terkerust
A Mile Wide – Brandon Hatmaker
Unreasonable Hope – Chad Veach
He Speaks in the Silence – Diane Comer
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Heart Made Whole – Crista Black Gifford
A Million Little Ways – Emily Freeman
Breaking Busy – Alie Worthington
Giddy Up, Eunice
The Big Leap – Hendricks
Garden City – John Mark Comer
Essentialism – Greg McKeown
Looking for Lovely – Annie Downs
Moving Mountains – John Eldridge

So friends, there you have it. It sometimes feels that without planning it, the books I end up reading all have a similar theme. This year was no different. A lot of the books talked about rest & slowing down. Focusing on what matters. It was surprising looking over them and seeing this common thread throughout so many of the books. What a good but hard lesson to learn.

This is one of the reasons I read. Because for me, it is so easy for me to keep going and to keep busy. In turn, I forgo rest and quiet but instead end up packing my schedule with more and more. When I read, it is one of the ways that I quiet my mind. For some, it might be going on a run, or a hike, or listening to music. But for me, the best way I know to get out of my head and to quit thinking about the to-do list is to run a bath and grab a book. It is my rest and relaxation and I am forever grateful for authors who pour their hearts out onto pages that in turn teach me something and help me rest.



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