In 2013 I read a sad amount of books. Want to know how many? Just go on and guess. Two… I only read two books. Seeing as I actually do like to read, two books in one year was a pathetic accomplishment. At the beginning of 2014 I made a goal to read eight books. I surprised myself by reading not eight, but twelve. My mom gave me a Kindle last year for Christmas, which made it easy to read whenever. I just kept it in my purse and was able to pull it out whenever I had a few minutes of downtime. A 60-hour round trip to Africa didn’t hurt, either! Here’s what I read:
1. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
Summary: Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept.
Out of 10 Stars: 5
I would describe this as “just fine.” It was trying to be like Gone Girl, but wasn’t nearly as captivating.
Favorite Quote: “It’s a known fact that in certain contexts people’s great strengths become their epic failings.”
2. It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig
Summary: Dallas and Melissa detail not just the “how” of the Whole30, but also the “why,” summarizing the science in a simple, accessible manner. It Starts With Food reveals how specific foods may be having negative effects on how you look, feel, and live—in ways that you’d never associate with your diet. More important, they outline their lifelong strategy for eating Good Food in one clear and detailed action plan designed to help you create a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation, and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food.
Out of 10 Stars: 6
I read this shortly after completing Whole30. It was interesting, but extremely science-y. I would have enjoyed more real life examples, and probably should have read it before Whole30.
3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Summary: Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
Out of 10 Stars: 9
I loved this book and want to be Mindy’s BFF after reading it. Even though I didn’t watch The Office religiously and have only caught a couple episodes of The Mindy Project, I still enjoyed reading about the behind-the-scenes details. Plus, it was hilarious. I read it on my Kindle, mostly doing cardio at the gym, and I embarrassingly laughed out loud a number of times.
Favorite Quote: “It’s always been incredibly challenging for me to put pen to page, because writing, at its heart, is a solitary pursuit, designed to make people depressions, drug addicts, misanthropes, and antisocial weirdos (see every successful writer ever except Judy Blume).”
4. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Summary: In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
Out of 10 Stars: 8
I got this as a birthday gift after it came highly recommended by many friends. I felt like I started a little bit slowly, but after I got about 1/4 of the way in, I was really into it. It was such an inspiring story and was definitely the first “history” book that I’ve enjoyed. I saw the movie over Christmas vacation and loved it as well!
5. The Reason for God by Tim Keller
Summary: Timothy Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, addresses the frequent doubts that skeptics and non-believers bring to religion. Using literature, philosophy, anthropology, pop culture, and intellectual reasoning, Keller explains how the belief in a Christian God is, in fact, a sound and rational one. To true believers he offers a solid platform on which to stand against the backlash toward religion spawned by the Age of Skepticism. And to skeptics, atheists, and agnostics he provides a challenging argument for pursuing the reason for God.
Out of 10 Stars: 8
My LifeGroup read this book as part of our Bible study. Like most of Keller’s work, it is a dense read but full of rich truth. I think it’s a must read for any Christian who wants to defend their faith.
6. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
Summary: What would cause an eighteen-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because they think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person and didn’t even speak the language? A passion to follow Jesus. Katie Davis left over Christmas break of her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved by the people of Uganda and the needs she saw that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, is in the process of adopting thirteen children in Uganda and has established a ministry, Amazima, that feeds and sends hundreds more to school while teaching them the Word of Jesus Christ.
Out of 10 Stars: 6.5
I read this while I was in Uganda, which I think was a good idea and a bad idea at the same time. It was a good idea because I could visualize and understand everything that Katie was talking about. It was a bad idea because I felt that the book painted Katie to be some sort of savior and the only person who was doing good things for orphans in Uganda, however, I was seeing all around me that that wasn’t the case. I d0 think that Katie is doing amazing things and am almost envious of her life in Africa. Inspiring, for sure!
Favorite Quotes: “And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakeable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters.”
“My heart had found its joy as I served the beautiful people the world calls ‘poor’ but who seemed so rich in love to me.”
“I’m not here to eliminate poverty, to eradicate disease, to put a stop to people abandoning babies. I’m just here to love.”
“My heart loves in so many places. With so many people. But God whispers to me that I really have only one home, and that is with Him.”
“I believe there is only one truly courageous thing we can do with our lives: to love unconditionally. Absolutely, with all of ourselves, so much that it hurts and then more.”
7. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
Summary: American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born. 7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.
Out of 10 Stars: 9
I loved this book! It really makes you think about the “excess” in your life. Plus, Jen Hatmaker is hilarious and I want to be her BFF.
Favorite Quote: “Would Jesus overindulge on garbage food while climbing out of a debt hole from buying things He couldn’t afford to keep up with the neighbors He couldn’t impress? In so many ways I am the opposite of Jesus’ lifestyle. This keeps me up at night. I can’t have authentic communion with Him while mired in the trappings He begged me to avoid.”
8. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
Summary: When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?
Out of 10 Stars: 7.5
I give this rating with the disclaimer: I’m a psychology major and a prospective nursing student. I read this book at the beach and flew through it – I thought it was great! Susannah Cahalan’s case was so interesting and really makes me wonder about the authenticity of mental health diagnoses.
9. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
Summary: Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . . Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.
Out of 10 Stars: 6.5
This was another beach read. It was an easy read, but not a page turner. I did enjoy the story but thought it was a shame that it really only picked up towards the very end. Worse than that, I’d say that most interesting part of the book was the afterword. Still, I found Liane Moriarty’s writing to be pleasant and went on to read another of her books later in the year.
Favorite Quote: “They could fall in love with fresh, new people, or they could have the courage and humility to tear off some essential layer of themselves and reveal to each other a whole new lever of otherness, a level far beyond what sort of music they liked. It seemed to her everyone had too much self-protectivve pride to truly strip down to their souls in front of their long-tern partners. It was easier to pretend their was nothing more to know, to fall into an easy going companionship.”
10. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Summary: After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
Out of 10 Stars: 2
I’ll just go on and say it, I hated this book. I think that goes to show that you can’t always trust the NY Times best sellers list. It was so painfully slow, and I never thought the story became interesting. I had to force myself to finish it.
Favorite Quote: “If a lighthouse looks like its in a different place, it’s not the lighthouse that’s moved.”
“Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.”
11. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Summary: Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over…
Out of 10 Stars: 6.5
Enjoyable, but not terribly notable. I can’t really even think of anything to say about it…
Favorite Quote: “It felt like yesterday and it felt like a million years ago.”
12. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Summary: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Out of 10 Stars: 3
Oh boy, another time the NY Times list let me down. This book started out with great promise. It felt truly magical and the writing made me feel like I was experiencing the circus firsthand. But then… it just fell flat. The story dragged on, certain elements were repeated endlessly, and the pace never picked up. I’ll be honest, I read 85% and read the end of the plot summary on Wikipedia. I will say, however, that the movie has potential to be fantastic. I’ll be excited to see how they make the circus come to life!
Favorite Quote: “I do not see as well without her. I do not hear as well without her. I do not feel as well without her. I would be better off without a hand or a leg than without my sister.”
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What was the best thing you read in 2014? What’s on your reading list for 2015?