Best Books Read in 2019

Posted on December 30, 2019 by Sarah Brown | 3142 Comments

Happy end of 2019! Time for my favorite reads of the year. I had a wonderful year of reading (finished 106 books!), but I read a little differently than I normally do. Due to an intense year at work, I found myself reading more "easy reads" than more literary masterpieces…fine by me! It did make it hard to narrow down my favorite reads of the year as so many were just easy and fun. But, here are the best of the best:

Favorite Non-Fiction Reads of the Year:

Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson: I love his music and loved reading his Wingfeather Saga a few years ago. While this book is for creatives, I really enjoyed the story from a master storyteller.

Becoming by Michelle Obama: No matter your political leanings, this book is fantastic. Definitely do it on audio.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: If you are wanting to read a book that will help you rethink how you use technology (including your phone and social media), read this one. His ideas aren't new, but he does a great job of putting them together in a fresh way.

Sum It Up by Pat Summit: Wow, this book was fantastic. I followed Pat's career and idolized her as a women's basketball coach when I was growing up. This was the perfect inside look into the life of a legend. Also, a touching look on dealing with Alzheimers.

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley: My 8-year-old son is really into graphic novels, which has intrigued me to read some as well. I've been loving them. This is a look at pregnancy, with interesting info and many laugh out loud moments. Give it a go!

Favorite Fiction Reads of the Year
Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAuntly: A fabulous middle great novel about a girl with a highly unusual gift and her wade into her first year in public school. Loved this one.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt: A middle grade novel about a girl with dyslexia who doesn't know how to read but has been able to trick previous teachers by acting out. With a new dedicated teacher who finally "sees" her, she begins to figure out herself and her dyslexia. So good.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: A tale of World War II, espionage, an unwed pregnant mother, deceit, and going back and forth in time, this book was a favorite and fast read.

How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny: A Chief Inspector Gamache book, you'll definitely want to start with book one Still Life (it's slow and you need to just commit to continuing the series), but this book was my favorite so far. Really loved it.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling: I was lucky enough to read this first in the series to my 8-year-old this fall, and it was everything I hoped it would be. We intentionally waited until he was 8, and I am so glad we did. He caught the Harry Potter fever, and I couldn't be more proud.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor: What an interesting premise on this middle grade read: a young boy growing up in a prison with his incarcerated mother. Great read.

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup: I read a handful of suspenseful books this year, and this is the one that I enjoyed the most and definitely stayed with me the longest. Intense, scary, couldn't put it down, and good.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: This may have been my favorite read of the year. It takes a while to get going, but the characters are wonderful, the setting and story are fantastic, and I just loved how it all played out.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: This needs to be listened to on audio; Tom Hanks narrates it, and there is nothing quite like hearing him say the name "Maeve" over and over. This character-centered book had a great storyline, and I couldn't wait to listen a little more.

Best Books Read in 2018

Posted on December 27, 2018 by Sarah Brown | 12 Comments

Welcome to my yearly post of the favorite books I read this year (make sure to check out past posts from 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014). This year, I had a wonderful year of reading; of the 124 books I read, 23 of those books were 5 star reads for me. This list narrows down those 23 books to the most memorable, but I listed a few extras at the bottom, including a few amazing 4.5 star reads, that I would also highly recommend. Here we go!

Favorite Non-Fiction reads of the year:

Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle: This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, after Boyle's first book Tattoos on the Heart made my favorites list last year. Boyle works with gang members in California who are looking for a way out, and the humanity he paints to this often feared and ostracized group was humbling. Keep writing Boyle - you are a go-to author for me!

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: This book is dense, intense, and very hard to read. At the same time, I was so very thankful I picked up this book - it opened my eyes to the mass incarceration of black men in the United States. While I am sure there are many strong opinions in opposition to her point of view, I thought Alexander presented meticulously researched information in a very straightforward and convincing manner. Very impressed.

The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath: This was a book we read with our entire team at work, and it pushed us to make some significant changes to the way we do things. Talking about the power of creating little moments that catch someone off guard or surprise them in unknown ways, this book is one I go back to over and over. I plan to give the audio version a try in the new year, as I feel like it is time to read it again.

The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie: I spend hours each week either reading to my kids or finding books to read to my kids - reading is the activity I most enjoy doing with them. While books are already a huge part of our family, The Read Aloud Revival gave research-based information that validated what we are already doing, while also giving us tons of new ideas. I have this sitting by my computer and reference it often. 

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga: I absolutely love reading nonfiction books that read like suspense novels and dive deep into one specific topic. This book looks at the deaths of seven indigenous students from one town in Canada, deaths which were the result of racism and an utter lack of support for this people group. Most shocking? This occurred recently, between 2000-2011.

Remember God by Annie Downs: I have read quite a few of Annie Downs books over the years, and it is a lot of fun to see authors grow and push themselves in new ways. I could just really feel Annie's depth of emotion, and I often got the "me too" feeling, even though our situations may be different. She was so gut-wrenchingly honest - it was a breath of fresh air. Go Annie go!

Favorite Fiction reads of the year:

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt: This middle great book was the first book I read in 2018, and it stuck with me all year. A follow-up to The Wednesday Wars (another of my favorite books), this book looks at a boy growing up and figuring out family, friends, grief, abuse, and more. It is touching and gives you hope. Schmidt is one of my favorite authors, and I hope to read more of his back-list soon.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: Gosh, this audiobook is so much fun. I have recommended it to so many people in audiobook form, and so many came back to tell me how much they loved it as well. It is laugh-out-loud funny, and I didn't want it to end. 

Beartown by Fredrik Backman: A popular book on many favorite lists in 2017, I grabbed it this past year and really enjoyed this darker look at humanity and small town life. I was amazed by the way Backman portrayed the many different complicated lives of those from the hockey town of Beartown. This book isn't happy go lucky; however, I just loved the story, the character development, and the manner that they story as told.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang: This middle grade read is showing up everywhere, and I'm not surprised at all! Based on her own upbringing, Yang details the life of a family of Chinese immigrants managing a hotel in America, telling the story from the perspective of the 10-year old daughter. This book was really eye opening about immigration, racism, coming-of-age, and more. It is also fun, hopeful, and just makes you feel good. I hope Yang will write more soon!

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter: This book! Gosh, I just loved it. Based on her own family's Holocaust story, Hunter traces five siblings and their parents in Poland during WWII. Each chapter alternates back and forth from the different perspectives, which adds so many layers to the story. This book also isn't necessarily happy, as the subject matter is so very intense, but I just loved every second of reading it. I also loved hearing Hunter talk about her book on a recent episode of What Should I Read Next - fascinating.

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne: If I had to pick a very top book of the year, this would be it. This is a sweeping novel following a boy from a very young age throughout his entire life growing up in Ireland. It's hard to even put this book into words - it was just fantastic. I finished the last page and wanted to start again. This isn't your light beach read, but it is worth curling up with this expansive novel this coming winter.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: I seem to have a theme in books I enjoyed this year: books that span a long time frame, aren't necessarily happy reads, but left me with a sense of hopefulness in the end. This falls into that category, looking specifically at a young girl growing up in Alaska under an abusive and mentally ill father. Hannah is one of my favorite authors, and I just loved her newest. 

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: I am really into fantasy these days - but don't worry, I'm not recommending a 1000 page, multi-book intense series (though I do enjoy those at times). Strange the Dreamer (and its sequel Muse of Nightmares, which was also a 5 star read for me) follows the lives of a boy and a girl from two very different backgrounds whose lives intersect, as they hope to transcend the violence of their pasts. I was a big fan Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, and I think this is even better.

Other books that came close to making my list? I Will Always Write Back, Small Animals, Educated (didn't include it solely because it's making everyone's list), Everybody Always, The Wrath and the Dawn, Long Way Down, Out of My Mind (try on audio!), The Thing about Jellyfish, Piecing Me Together, The Green Ember, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, Homegoing, Where the Crawdads Sing, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone (re-read), and Frindle (our favorite read-aloud of the year with our seven-year-old).

Best Books Read in 2017

Posted on December 29, 2017 by Sarah Brown | 16 Comments

It has been a LONG time since I've posted anything on this blog - so many reasons for that, but not feeling any guilt over it at all! Jumping back in today to share some of my favorite reads from this past year. I had another great year of reading - finished 115 books! Of all the books I read this year, these are the ones I find myself recommending over and over when friends ask for book recommendations.


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: I loved this on audio and would highly recommend that format. A story of a boy growing up in South Africa as a mixed-raced child during apartheid, I learned so much listening to this story. It is also fun and funny! A captivating memoir that is outstanding.

Falling Free by Shannan Martin: Talk about a book that really makes you look at things differently, Falling Free made me re-evaluate what I deemed as "comfortable" in my day-to-day and how my life could and/or would look different if I actually believed and did some of the things the Bible calls me to do (i.e. helping those in need and loving your neighbor). Martin is a great story teller, making this convicting read very enjoyable.

Deep Work by Cal Newport: Finally found time to read this one after I saw it pop up on "best of" lists last year - I can definitely see why! I find myself thinking about this book all the time as I try to find a balance in my work life. 

Unseen by Sara Hagerty: Oh man, this was an excellent read. I loved Hagerty's first book and had been highly anticipating her second book - it did not disappoint! As a mom of small children, this book really hit home for me in my current "season"; however, this would be a great read for anyone. Probably my favorite non-fiction read of the year.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant: I never would have thought that a book about grief would have made my "top" reads of the year, but I found this book compelling and one of those "everyone should read this" type of books. Detailing the unexpected death of her husband, Sandberg writes a powerful book on how to engage with and talk to those who have lost someone, or how to man those waters yourself if you are currently grieving. 

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle: This is a book I think I could recommend to anyone - young, old, male, female, religious or not. While it is technically a Christian book, the author weaves a universal story of hope. Detailing decades of work with gang members in Los Angeles, I found myself laughing out loud at many parts while also feeling my heart being tugged towards compassion throughout. This book was excellent (and despite my super long TBR list, I ordered his newest book immediately after finishing this one, if that tells you anything).


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: This year I discovered a new genre that I love - fantasy (who knew)! I just LOVED this Court of Thorns and Roses series and pre-ordered the last book to arrive on my Kindle immediately, which I never do, if that tells you anything about how much I wanted to keep the series going. Great story line, great characters, and just a captivating "other world", I found myself looking for comparable other fantasy series to read after finishing this one (check out Daughter of Smoke and Bone!)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: I've dabbled in Jodi Picoult books for years but haven't read one in a while…so glad I grabbed this one! Looking at the death of a white supremacist's baby in a hospital immediately after birth, and the black nurse being charged with the murder, this book opened my eyes to so many things, giving new understanding through the multiple character viewpoints used throughout the book. Really loved it.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: I just checked on Amazon, and I have bought this book 8 times this year to give to people, if that tells you anything! Another genre I would have said that I would NEVER read - romance (I actually didn't know it was considered a romance novel when I started, or maybe wouldn't have read it). Much like Small Great Things, this book tackles some big topics in an amazing way - I just loved it. I have read a few more of Hoover's books since then, and while they were good, this is my favorite.

This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankle: Another one of those "tackling a big topic through fiction" reads of the year, this book tells the story of a young five-year old boy who decides he is actually a girl, and how his family deals with the that decision in his life. As a mom of a five-year old boy at the time, this book hit home in a big way, showing the sacrifice and love of family, no matter what. 

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson: My first novel by Jackson (how did I wait so long?) but definitely a great read. Growing up in Alabama, I loved the Southern charm and "bones in the closet" family lore found in this one. An engaging and easy read with equal parts laugh-out-loud funny and family loyalty, no matter the cost, at the same time. Perfect lighter book.

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong: This might have been my favorite fiction read of the year, which is saying quite a lot, since it is a book centered around dementia. When a daughter returns home to help her father who is slowly succumbing to dementia, she learns so much about herself and her family in the process. This book is funny - I literally laughed out loud many times, while also being equal parts heartbreaking. What I found most endearing was the way the author showed how we are all dealing with our own little bit of crazy, humanizing the father's situation all the more. May not be for everyone, but definitely for me.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool: I read some excellent Middle Grade books this year and am slowing making my way through the Newberry winners list. Of all the middle grade books I read, this was my favorite. A heartwarming story of a young girl discovering who she is (and who her father really is) through small town life in Kansas, this story gives you equal parts mystery, coming-of-age, small town drama, friendship, loyalty, and more. Just excellent. (Other great ones: Wolf Hollow, The War That Saved My Life, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian)

Excited to jump into reading in 2018! What books should I add to the list?

Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

2016 Book Superlatives

Posted on December 27, 2016 by Sarah Brown | 1614 Comments

It has been a wonderful year of reading for me! Trying to just pick out a few superlatives turned into a LONG list I had to sort through, mainly because I enjoyed so many books this year. I was absolutely shocked to see that I had read 111 books this year, especially since I had a three month old at the start of this year, which I assumed would put a big damper on my reading (apparently not).

A few things that really helped my reading this year? I got a Kindle Paperwhite as a baby gift, and it has been life changing for me, especially when I was feeding my son so many times a day. Instead of scrolling through my phone, I read a TON on my Kindle. The other thing I enjoyed so much this year was joining the Book of the Month club. My parents were members over 30 years ago, and I remember when they would get books in the mail. It is fun to pick a newish book and receive it each month; it also pushes me to read things I wouldn’t normally pick out.

Here are my 2016 Books Superlatives; make sure to check out my favorite reads from 2014 and superlatives from 2015.

Book I feel like I could recommend to anyone:
Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf: This book was just so very good and one that I think everyone would love. Young, old, married, single, feeling like things are going well in life, or having a hard time - this book is a great story of redemption, hope, and love. When I think through my list of friends, I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t love gifting this book to this year.
Runner-up: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger 

Most creative Christian read:
Giddy Up Eunice
by Sophie Hudson
: I read a good number of popular Christian books that come out each year, and I find that many times the books seem very similar. I always appreciate when an author really digs into a new topic or presents something with a new perspective. Sophie Hudson really did that with Giddy Up, Eunice; looking at the importance of friendship across a wide age range, this book was not only eye-opening and relatable, but also extremely entertaining (as usual with Hudson’s books).
Runner-up: Guarded by Christ by Heather Holleman

Book that made me feel like I was reading poetry (even though I wasn’t):
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Written in a very lyrical style, this was a definite favorite read of the year. A memoir told of life growing up as an African American in South Carolina in the 60’s and 70’s, this book just painted such a vivid picture of Woodson’s family and of a young girl finding out who she is through that family. Excellent read.
Runner-up: Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy


Hardest to read:
A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold: A very difficult read about a horrible tragedy… the mother of one of the Columbine school shooters gives her account of her family, her son, and the tragedy that unfolded. Being in high school during this tragedy, I remember it well; reading it from the mother’s point of view gave an entirely new way of seeing this tragedy. I think it is so very easy to be judgmental of the killer’s family in a situation like this; however, this book truly gave me a new perspective.
Runner-up: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (slavery) and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (mental illness)

Book I talk about the most with others:
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: This book was just captivating to me. Looking at how social media has refueled public shaming as a form of punishment, the author delves into specific individuals who were slaughtered publicly, telling first hand accounts from these shamed individuals. Seeming shame in such a stark light was incredibly heartbreaking and fascinating.
Runners-up: An Unhurried Life by Alan Fading and Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson: I bought this book three years ago and have been wanting to read it for quite some time; but, at 1280 pages, the mere size held me back from even starting it. This year, I finally tackled this one and am so very glad I did. I enjoy books like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, and this fit right into that category. I didn’t know it was the beginning of a series, which means keeping up with it signs me up for thousands upon thousands of more pages. 
Runner-up: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Book I’m glad I read but would have a hard time recommending to others:
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan: A National Book Award Finalist, this was a difficult read due to the subject matter and unfolding of events. Following the lives of people involved with and affected by a small bomb exploding in a Delhi marketplace, the many lives and their unfolding can only be seen as tragic. I am glad that I read this; however, I would have a hard time recommending this to that many people.
Runner-up: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (slavery)

Book I read this year that everyone else read too:
The Martian by Andy Weir: While this came out in 2014, I didn’t jump on the wagon until early in 2016 with about everyone else. I wasn’t expecting to like this after hearing what it was about, but I enjoyed it so very much. Very thankful I read it before seeing the movie too. I’m glad I jumped on the bandwagon on this one.
Runner-up: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Best Children's reading:
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo: I just adored this book. Great characters, wonderful illustrations, a fun story. I have no doubt why this book was a Newberry Medal winner. This book is worth picking up, even if you’re not in middle school, as it is just a fun and delightful read.
Runner-up: The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars

Book that gave me a new perspective on something that I thought I understood:
The Enduring Community by Brian Habig & Les Newsom: Written by one of our pastors, this book was a phenomenal look at the importance of the local church. The audience for this book is really anyone, but leaned more towards young adults, specifically the college-aged, looking at why investing in and committing to a local church, even during college years, is necessary. Really eye-opening to me about your local church in general.
Runner-up: When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett

New release I was most looking forward to that didn’t disappoint:
She Reads Truth by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams: I was so excited to see the authors of She Reads Truth writing a book this year, and pre-ordered it as soon as I heard about it. The cover is beautiful, but the words inside? Outstanding! I really loved this book - very relatable and easy to read, as well as encouraging.
Runner-up: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Best audio book:
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander: This middle-grade book was fantastic on audio. Told in a very poetic, lyrical type of language, I absolutely loved listening to this. A Newberry winner and a very short listen!
Runner-up: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Most Suspenseful:
Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben: I have had some mixed opinions of Coben’s books, but I really enjoyed this one. I was hooked right at the beginning and just wanted to keep reading and reading to find out what happened. And, with the storyline being about a wife seeing her recently murdered husband in their nanny cam, the premise of the book just got me from the beginning; with us having a baby monitor in our house, I just kept imagining what I would do if I saw something like that in our monitor!
Runners-up: The Likeness by Tana French and Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Most enjoyable literary-fiction read:
One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood: This book really shot up everywhere after Modern Mrs. Darcy started recommending it to everyone. When it went on sale on Kindle, I snagged it quickly, and then proceeded to read it very quickly. The story was a mix of hope and sadness, joy and defeat, longing and ending - a great, more literary-fiction type of read with some excellent characters, a fun plot, and a look into some deep issues.
Runner-up: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Christian book I keep going back to as I loved it so much:
Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst: This was hands-down my favorite Christian read of the year, and I find myself going back to it over and over again. I have so many sections underlined and starred, and I just love how TerKeurst points you towards Scripture over and over…makes for a great companion when doing my quiet time.
Runner-up: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Book that I still don’t know how I feel about:
Fates and Furies by Lauren Goff: I don’t even know how to describe my feelings about this book. While reading it, I felt kind of bored. It was long, not a lot going on, tons of description, characters with really cruddy personalities - I just didn’t get into it. Even with the big “reveal” in the middle, I was intrigued, but more excited to finish; and when I did finish, I thought “I just don’t like this book.” However, I keep thinking about it and feel like I can definitely see the genius in it now. Would I want to read it again? No. But I feel like the author is way more brilliant than I originally gave her credit for when reading.
Runner-up: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book I just didn’t like:
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: I actually read quite a few books that other people LOVE that I just couldn’t get into. This is definitely one of them. I saw this book all over social media and heard friends talk about loving the series; I could hardly make it through this book I disliked it so much. The characters were annoying to me in ways that I just couldn't get over, and the story just dragged for me. No interest in reading any more of these at all.
Runner-up: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

What books did you enjoy this year? Let me know below!




Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

Cyber Monday Glowing Local Coupon!

Posted on November 28, 2016 by Sarah Brown | 9 Comments

Happy start to the Christmas season! Receive 20% off our Individual Praying for your Husband journals from today until December 4. Use code CYBERCHRISTMAS this week to receive your 20% discount. Want to more intentionally pray for your husband this coming year? January 1st is a great time to start, so grab your prayer journal today!

These journals make a great gift for a friend who is newly engaged or married, a friend who is really looking for a refreshing and intentional start in then new year, or a friend who is trying to make Scripture more of a priority in her life!

To find out more about how to use your Praying for your Husband journal, check out this post which gives you all of the details. 

Posted in Christmas, Coupon

Books read in March, April, and May 2016

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

Looking at this list below, it was a very good few months of reading. I should not wait 3 months to update my book reads, as it makes for quite the long list to go through. Some amazing books, some really good books, and then some just-okay books these past few months…a few I would even deem as some of my favorite reads in a LONG time. Make sure to check out my full list of books read so far this year.


Favorite reads in March, April, and May

Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling: This book was life changing for me. I liked it so much I convinced my Bible Study to read it together over the summer. Made me question, and continue to question, how my hurry fits into God’s plan for me, and why I believe that hurrying is going to speed up God’s work and answers in my life. 

Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf: Powerful, powerful read. Made me re-examine my life, priorities, and made me think hard about my marriage. This is a great read for anyone - men, women, old, young, married, not married. Excellent.

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold: I almost had to stop reading this multiple times; the best word I can think to describe this one is “harrowing." From the mom of one of the Columbine shooters, this book was an eye-opening look at parenting, how well you know your kids, tragedy, and grief. I’m very glad I kept at it and finished it.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin: Quite a weighty tome but one I thoroughly enjoyed. The character development and simultaneous movement of multiple stories…superb! Looking forward to reading the next in the series.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: Finished this book in less than 24 hours and immediately wanted to go back and read it again. When I tell people the gist of the book (a young doctor coming to grips with his fatal cancer diagnosis), many friends turn up their nose at it sounding so sad…I’d disagree - sad parts, but extremely hopeful.

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and KG Campbell: Such a fun middle grade reader book. I loved it - wonderful characters, laugh-out-loud funny, and great illustrations.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson: This book was eye-opening. Looking at the ways that social media has reinvented public shaming, the stories and accounts of people ransacked in social media were extremely interesting (and awful). Glad I read this one.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Finished this one in less than a day. Loved it! A big part of the book takes place in Greenville, SC (where I live!) so loved that as well. What a wonderful, easy-to-read story about growing up African American in the South.

Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy: Lyrical and hopeful, the author painted such vivid pictures of her life through the changing seasons. It was a beautiful way to weave a Biblical perspective into the everyday. A wonderful read. 

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger: This was just fun. I really loved the characters and found myself really cheering for the Land family. Just an easy and enjoyable read.

I Want it All by Gwen Smith: This book kind of ebbed and flowed for me, but found myself highlighting big sections and going back to them after the fact. Really enjoyed her idea of holding your words up to a KUT test (kind, useful, true).

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh: Listened to the audio book of this one and really, really enjoyed it. I found the chapter on company culture especially good. It changed my perspective on why I’m working and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson: This was an interesting read - the story keeps re-starting, playing out different scenarios based on the main character making different choices in life. With a plot like this, it is hard to really root for someone, as the main character’s personality changes based on the way her life plays out; but, I found the whole idea fascinating, as such truth in the way our decisions can affect so much in life. 

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger: An easy but weighty read, with an added element of mystery. Really great character development, especially the two brothers and their understanding of life and tragedy. Find myself thinking on this one long after its been done.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom: How have I missed reading this book for so many years? I don’t typically enjoy fiction about slavery, but I could not wait to pick this up every time to read it. Such a wonderful story. 

The Martian by Andy Weir: This book has received so much hype, and I felt doubtful it could live up to the expectations - after reading it, I definitely get it. Such great sarcastic humor throughout that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Other books read these past 3 months (many were excellent!):
• Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Eye-opening look at growing up African American.
• My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock: Taking the example of Eleanor Roosevelt, a young woman decides to do one thing that scares her every day for a year.
• Live Original by Sadie Robertson: Very teen-focused Christian inspirational on living out who God made you to be.
• Take This Bread by Sara Miles: Had high expectations for this one but not my favorite. 
• Curious Faith by Logan Wolfram: Really loved her idea of praying backwards for those that really bug or bother you.
• Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong: A focused look on what to do and how to react to life-change from a Biblical perspective.
• Circling the Sun by Paula McLain: I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, but felt like things started to drag pretty quickly.
• Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs: I adore Annie Downs and loved the beginning of this book.
• In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen: Always love a great Nouwen read; quick and very insightful.
• Wild and Free by Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly: Some of the visuals painted through this book were especially good and really stuck with me, especially the idea of wild horses.
• I Said Yes by Emily Maynard Johnson: I unabashedly admit that I enjoy the Bachelor, which made this a fun read. The last chapter was by far the best one.
• Never Broken by Jewel: Did the audiobook on this one - Jewel’s life is very interesting; she has a very open spiritual practice, making me wish she knew Jesus.
• Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillian, and Switzlier: A re-read of an excellent book about how to enter difficult conversations.
• The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: This received such hype on social media but was a tad too far "out there" for me? Can’t decide if I’ll continue the series.
• The Son by Phillip Meyer: A long read, but overall, I enjoyed it. Interesting look at family dynamics and learned many interesting things about Native American tribes.
• The Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard: The follow up to the Red Queen; a tad more slow, but think I’ll still read the next in the series.
• No One Knows by J.T. Ellison: A suspense thriller that kept me reading. Would be great for the beach or a long car ride.
• Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts: A great and practical guide on how to be there for friends going through extreme tragedy or sickness.
• Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: Jury is still out on this one. I finished the first half of the book and could not figure out why I was still reading; the 2nd part definitely helped redeem the read. 
• The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: Wished this one had rounded out some of the characters more and wrapped up some story lines. 
• All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: A really good read looking at teen suicide and young love; heartbreaking.
• Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan Chittister: Found myself underlining and underlining again. 
    What have you been reading lately?

    Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

    Books Read in January & February 2016

    Posted on March 04, 2016 by Sarah Brown | 0 Comments

    Oh my…it’s been a while. This year has been filled with so many things - and I just don’t quite know where I am with it all right now. I have given myself a big break from feeling obligated to blog or post on social media - because of that, I have been quite absent all around. The Lord is doing some serious work in my heart, and to be honest, I don’t quite know what that means. But, feel like more will be coming soon here on the blog.

    In the meantime, it’s been a slower reading year for me and will continue to be for this season. For one, I can’t stay awake at night! I read about 2 pages and am out like a light…it’s just a season of little sleep and lots of work, so just can’t stay up. And second, I’m giving myself a break from feeling like I have to read all the time - I love it, but sometimes can feel pressure to “keep up the pace” - so just taking it slower this year for many reasons.

    But, I did read some GREAT books the past two months, and I am excited to tell you about them. Make sure to check out the updated Books list and let me know what I need to check out in the next few months:

    Favorite Books read in January & February:

    When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett: Recommended by my pastor, this book was unbelievably eye-opening to how our efforts to “do” missions might actually be perpetuating the cycle of poverty and need, instead of helping. My whole perspective was rocked with this one.

    Fervent by Priscilla Shirer: I really loved the War Room movie and feel like creating the Praying for your Husband journal came out of my desire to pray fervently for my husband. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this continuation of the movie, and LOVED this guide…we are in a battle but have such power within us. Grab this one!

    Frozen in Time by Michael Zuckoff: As a history buff, I loved reading this one about what happened to multiple planes in Greenland during WWII and the continued effort to recover those planes, and their crew, today. Author did a great job going back and forth in time, keeping my interest piqued. 

    Strong and Kind by Korie Robertson: I’m a Duck Dynasty fan so was looking forward to reading this one. I really enjoyed the book - it gave me SO MUCH ENCOURAGEMENT in making decisions right now about how we are going to raise our two boys. The writing is simple and to the point (no fancy, lyrical prose here), but her overarching message was very good for the soul.

    Walkable City by Jeff Speck: This book really blew my mind in some regards, as I just had no idea about how cities are designed and how simple decisions make a HUGE impact on how people use spaces and the businesses that thrive (or die) in those spaces. Living in a highly walkable downtown (go Greenville!), I was pretty fascinated by the info.

    Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: It took me a while to get through this one, mainly due to its more serious nature, long length, and my extreme tiredness. But, so glad I stuck with this one, as it was very good. Really eye-opening look at some race issues going on in America; I had truly never thought about what it means to be “black” in America when you might actually immigrate from another country and not consider yourself “black” at all. 

    Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon: This is teen fiction at its finest - you’ve got love, a tough family situation, difficult circumstances, and the possibility of death. Not necessarily the finest of reading, and I guessed the “twist” pretty early on, but from a “keep your attention” standpoint, it was an enjoyable read that went very quickly.

    The Enduring Community by Brian Habig and Les Newsom: A wonderful book about church…why it’s important, why we shouldn’t choose when and how we go to church, and why being in a messy church situation is actually quite good. Really good look at the church today.

    The Cruelest Month & A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny: More in the Gamache mystery series, I am still really enjoying these. There are slow parts in both books, but definitely a fun series that I’m looking forward to continuing. 

    2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino: This book was highly recommended by a great Internet friend who has good taste in books. I ended wanting to know what happened after the very end of the book, which is a sign of a good read.

    All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior: Being a mom to small kids, I could definitely relate to this one - looking at the happiness and woes of parenting and where that leaves us. Interesting read with good research.

    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Another teen read, enjoyable and quick reading. Liked the twists and intrigue throughout. This would be a good read for teens as they think about friendship and what it could mean.

    Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber: I really enjoyed her first book, and I found this one even better. A great look at how loving those around you and even in your church can often be hard and not fun…but how the Lord calls us to love in so many different situations. (Disclaimer: Nadia is not afraid to cuss…a lot! Refreshing?)

    Other books read this month:

    Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans: I read this right after reading The Enduring Community, and the books are pretty opposite in viewpoints. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I hadn’t read the two books in that order, but I just identified with the argument in Enduring Community much more.

    Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor: Also read this while reading Walkable City, and you could put these two arguments right up against each other too. Great points, but not as much Christian connection as I was hoping for.

    #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso: Did the audio book on this one. I didn’t know anything about her company but was seriously impressed. It felt a tad heavy on cliche business advice, but an enjoyable listen.

    Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: This bestseller was good. I need to declutter majorly, and so many great thoughts on how to do it. I couldn’t get into the “socks have feelings” part of it, but overall good.

    It was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell: A good memoir about a blogger’s struggle with weight gain and then weight loss through her many life changes and tragedies.

    H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald: I enjoyed this, but it was a bad season for me to be reading this one - too serious for when I’m so tired. I think I would have liked this more at a different life stage.

    See Me by Nicholas Sparks: Quick, easy read - great for the beach or just when you need something fun. 

    The Good Girl by Mary Kubica: Easy and quick read on this one too. Not really quite sure what I’d say on this - I read it quickly and wanted to know what happened, but not entirely satisfied with how it all wrapped up?

    What would you recommend for the coming months??

    Posted in Books, What I've Been Reading

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