We made it through the whole year! My goal for 2016 was to read fifty books. I accomplished that a little over halfway through the year but kept going because I am a bibliophile. My final total for 2016 was 81 books! You can read more about December's reads below. If you want to read previous months' book reads, click the appropriate link: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November.
1. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
I have heard a lot about the Gaines' but haven't watched any of their shows. I knew that they were Christian, have a popular store in Waco, and Joanna is a great designer. I am always interested in decorating ideas and thought it might be that type of a book. It really wasn't, but I usually enjoy a good biography and this was pretty close to that. I enjoyed hearing about their story, how God intertwined their lives and has provided for them as they've dreamed and created and risked. I found it to be an encouraging read that might inspire one to pursue their own dreams.
2. These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon
This was the third book in The Mitford Series. Father Tim and Cynthia are recently married and learning the ins and outs of combining two lives at a more mature age. We continue to learn about the lives were were previously introduced to as well as a few new ones. Father Tim is tasked with finding a chaplain for the new Senior living center and becomes entangled in the well-being of a girl who lives in the rough part of town. It is more of the same enchanting, small town adventures I have come to expect and enjoy.
3. The Mitford Snowmen by Jan Karon
I happened to see this short story at the library when I was in there and had to pick it up. I like reading Christmas-themed books in December. It was a fun little story about the business owners on Main Street having a snowman building contest which turned out not to actually be a contest until the mayor happened along and declared herself the judge.
4. Esther's Gift by Jan Karon
I saw this other Christmas-time short story at the same time and, of course, checked it out as well. Esther Bolick is known for her orange marmalade cakes and has over the years given them to people for celebratory occasions. She has decided to make seven for various people for Christmas but decides she'd like to know how much it costs her to make one. She gets her husband involved and is shocked to find out the total. She then wrestles with just how generous she should be. There is a recipe for her famous cake at the back for the adventurous.
5. Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen
I joined Jennie Allen's FB group, The Village, because I was interested in learning more about the new book she was trying to write in three weeks. I have not read anything else by her but the subject for this one was something I was quite familiar with feeling and was curious as to what she would say about it. I managed to be one of the lucky ones to receive an ARC of the book, available January 31st.
I really enjoyed the format of the book. At the end of each chapter is a related verse along with an exercise to complete that asks you to admit where you are weak in a particular area and then reach out to or share with others. I like that it pushes the reader to apply what they have just read to their lives.
I really enjoyed the subject of feeling like I'm not enough and feeling the need or desire to strive or perform for others or God. She uses some stories from the book of John in the Bible to show us what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples and us. I felt that she shared a lot of truth and wisdom and I felt encouraged and freed to rest securely in my identity in Christ. I gained a better understanding of what it looks like to abide in Christ. I think this is a wonderful book for anyone who is tired of feeling like they are not enough but not realizing that this is God's invitation for us to draw nearer to him.
6. Starry Night: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber
I searched for available Christmas themed e-books at my local library and this was one of my options. I have read a couple of books by Debbie Macomber and have enjoyed the reads. This one was no exception. Chicago Herald reporter Carrie Slayton is longing to get off of the social column and into real news reporting. Her editor tells her that if she can interview author Finn Dalton about his best-selling book Alone then she can have practically any section of the paper she desires. Carrie agrees to the deal before learning that hundreds of reporters have tried and failed to find the elusive Dalton. Carrie is determined to be the one to find him and starts the hunt.
She finds him but finds much more than a homely reclusive man. She finds a stubborn, very masculine man that is determined not to grant her or anyone else an interview. While stuck in Alaska with Finn for two days in his cabin, his animosity slowly changes to amity and then attraction. Though the attraction is palpable, Finn is determined not to let her in. It was a fun, light, romantic read for the Christmas season.
7. The Bible
I decided to read through the Bible again. It took me about two years to read the entire thing. I tend to get bogged down by the dryness of the middle of the Old Testament (Numbers, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles) so I chose to read through the book in no particular order, switching between Old and New Testament books. I kept a list and crossed each one off as I finished it. Luke and Acts were my final two books. I always enjoy reading through the books that aren't in the regular rotation.
Last year a friend of mine talked about a practice she does toward the end of a year. She goes through each book of the Bible and writes down a verse from the chapter that coordinates with the coming year (last year all of the 16th chapters). Some books don't have sixteen chapters so then she would just pick a verse from the book. I tried it last year, choosing the 16th verse of some books with few chapters and sometimes using the 6th verse if the 16th didn't exist. I really enjoyed reading through them and seeing what was highlighted for the year. I wanted to do it again this year so I have done it for all of the 17th chapters (or verses). When I had options, I tried to pick ones that resonated with me form this year or that I wanted to be relevant for the coming year. It's a neat exercise if you are interested in reading the Bible in a new way.
8. No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending by Esther Fleece
I had the opportunity to receive and Advance Reader Copy of this book, officially available January 10, 2017. I was very curious to read it because I often struggle with feeling like I cannot be honest about how I am feeling with the world around me. I have often responded "Fine" when asked the generic "How are you?" by acquaintances. I was interested to see what Ms. Fleece had to say about ending the pretending.
This book focuses on learning the practice of lament. Many of the Psalms in the Bible are laments by people who are struggling and wondering where God is amidst the difficulty. In fact, there's a whole book titled "Lamentations". In this book, we learn about Esther's tumultuous childhood and the effects it has continued to have on her life despite her desire to forget the past and move on. She learns that the best way to find healing is to address the wounds and a wonderful way of doing so is through learning to lament our hurts. Lamenting involves speaking honestly to God about the hurts in our lives, trusting that he is still good, still loving, still for us, and believing that he will bring about justice on our behalf. Through the process of being honest about our negative feelings, we will find healing. The process is painful but it's better than staying stuck in bitterness and hurt.
I gained some useful tools and insight into acknowledging, addressing and finding healing for my hurts in God. We all experience pain in this world and we have a choice in how we will deal with it. Will we believe that God can use our pain for good and healing or will we choose to believe the lies of our enemy that God is not loving or present or trustworthy. I recommend this book for anyone who is feeling stuck or wallowing in hurt and desires healing and freedom, hope and new life.
9. The Mommy Shorts Guide to Remarkably Average Parenting by Ilana Wiles
I have followed the Mommy Shorts blog off and on along with @AverageParentProblems on Instagram. I thought it would be fun to read a book about her experiences with parenting and those of her blog followers. It did not disappoint.
In the book you will find a humorous but fairly accurate view of parenting - starting with pregnancy through the first few years of raising two children (because that's as far as she's gotten in her parenting journey). It would be a good read for future parents that will hopefully help them prepare for parenting but understand that perfection is impossible. It's also a fun read for parents in the trenches because they will be able to relate and laugh at the ridiculousness that is parenting at times. If you need a laugh, definitely check out the book (but avoid if you're not a fan of spicy language).
10. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
This was another of the holiday books I read in December. I have read a couple of David Sedaris' other collections of essays and they were interesting. This one was a compilation of memories of winters past along with random holiday-related essays such as one very crazy holiday newsletter and an account of neighbors trying to one-up one another in the giving department in very twisted ways. I cringed through some of the stories. It was rather crude in language but that's not unexpected if you've read other works by Sedaris. I probably wouldn't recommend it to many though his experience as an elf in a department store during the Christmas season was rather eye-opening.
How many books did you read this year? Did you have a favorite that you would recommend? I don't think I'll set a goal for books in 2017 because I want to cut back on commitments so that I can enjoy my current season without feeling like I have a long to-do list waiting for me. I did enjoy the challenge that pushed me to make time for reading, though. It is such a refreshing task for me.