How I read so much

A lot of people ask me how I read so many books so quickly, so I thought I’d share about that today!

First of all, let me say that my employment status hasn’t really affected my reading speeds. Currently I’m self-employed making custom gold foil paper goods, but working from home doesn’t really mean I’m reading much more than when I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off as a personal assistant. So with that in mind, here’s how I read so much!

My reading list right now - I love books!

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Looking for a great fiction read? I loved the Bookshop on the Corner!

Reading: The Bookshop On The Corner

The only way I can think to describe this book is lovely. It’s just lovely. The story is sweet and meaningful and about taking risks and caring for people, without feeling like you must go do something crazy in order to identify with this book.

Jenny Colgan’s novel is a book about books: a librarian finds herself without a job as her branch closes down.  Rather than convert to the technology-driven, book-minimizing library of the future, she dreams of opening a bookshop where she can recommend the perfect book for anyone looking, even if they think they’re not a reader.

Looking for a great fiction read? I loved the Bookshop on the Corner!

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Here's my favorite books of 2016!

Best reads of 2016: fiction edition

I love fiction. Nonfiction has its place, but fiction reigns in my reading world. Of the 93 books I read this year, a whopping 65 of them were fiction. While I’m trying to read more nonfiction, mysteries and fantasies have my heart. There’s no clear theme among what I read this year, but I did notice several fantasies made the top five. Here’s what I loved in 2016! 

Here's my favorite books of 2016!

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My latest book obsession: Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Best reads of 2016: nonfiction

It’s that time of year again! My favorite books I read in 2016!

I read enough (and am undiscerning enough in my book choices) that at times I can’t remember what a book I read last January was even about. Thank goodness for Goodreads where I can keep track of what I read, otherwise these annual lists would be impossible.

It appears my reading has gotten even more out of control than in previous years! In 2016, I read 93 books. I fall asleep to books, I take walks listening to books, I play an audiobook while I’m cooking.

Bread & Wine by Shaun Niequist

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What I’m reading: Carry On, Warrior

“Have you heard of Glennon Doyle Melton?” carryonwarrior-1my friend asked me one day last month.

I hadn’t. She followed up by telling me she’s the founder of Momastery, which I’d heard of and assumed was a “mommy blog,” and yes I was a touch judgmental about what I thought air-quotes-mommy-blogs are. My kidless self made some assumptions and have been properly chastised. Turns out it’s much more – and much better –  than I’d thought. My apologies.

So I’d heard of Momastery but I hadn’t ever read anything on that particular piece of the internet. But my friend recommended Melton’s first book, Carry On, Warrior, and then lent it to me with strict instructions to read it. [Don’t you love friends like that, who put the book in your hands because she knew you probably wrote it down and promptly forgot about it? They are just the best.]

Within the first two pages I was sucked in. By page 5 I laughed out loud. On page 8 I cried. The scope of this book blew me away.

In a memoir essay style reminiscent of Anne Lamott or Shauna Niequist, she talks about life. It’s the style I aspire to: honest, raw and funny, all the while telling an everyday story that’s both relatable and awesome.

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In her “Sister” essay, I cried. I don’t even have a sister but I hurt for Sister and imagined myself loving my college roommates the way Melton does.

“Airing Our Dirty Laundry” cracked me up extra because I’d forgotten a load of not-fully-dry laundry just that week and had broken her SAME Wednesday rule.

The threads of faith, family and marriage run throughout, and she rarely talks about one without touching the other two. Even if Christianity isn’t your thing, it’s a great book about life – of facing the hard things and the day to day and living life for real. She describes it this way in the first chapter: “That was going to be my thing. I was going to make people feel better about their insides by showing them mine. By being my real self.” She’s candid about the parts of her that’s messed up and funny without making light of them.

My latest book obsession: Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

That, to me, is the crux of this book. Her faith is real and part of life in the big things and the small things. She talks to God as the best friend you call to tell that ridiculous thing that happened today or about the intensely hard decision you’re grappling with.

Peace isn’t the absence of distraction or annoyance or pain. It’s finding Me, finding peace and calm, in the midst of those distractions and annoyances and pains.

There’s something to the essay style books that read like a conversation for me. They soothe and encourage and push and love me in a way that speaks to my soul.

Melton has also written a more recent book focusing on marriage that I haven’t read yet, Love Warrior. It’s definitely on my wish list this Christmas!

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Do you have anything on your holiday reading list that you’re especially excited about? What should I read next??

Opinions are my own and I didn’t receive compensation for my writing. The links above contain affiliate links, which means I get a few cents (at no extra cost to you) if you book or buy something via that link. This helps me keep costs down and posts up! All images copyright Teaspoon of Nose.

Bread & Wine by Shaun Niequist

What I’m reading: Bread & Wine

Friends.

This book.

I don’t even know where to start about this book.

This book got passed around my friend group like wildfire. I’d heard about it for a couple of years, but never got around to buying it (and let’s be honest, I love my public library but they’re not quick to buy Christian books written in the past 5 years unless they make some “religious bestseller list”). Then suddenly, 3 of my Monday night friends had read it and lent their copies to another three, who were raving about it mid-book.

So I got in line and when someone finished it, I snapped up a copy.

And y’all, it’s just as good as they said.

Don’t you love that feeling? When books are just as good as you heard they were?

It’s like salve to a thirsty soul, it is.

Bread & Wine by Shaun Niequist

Bread and Wine  is a series of essays by Shauna Niequist. The premise sounds amazing as it is: a book about God, community, and food. Three of my favorite things, in order.

I keep trying to summarize it and doing it poorly, so I’ll pull a quote to let her speak for herself:

What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table. The particular alchemy of celebration and food, of connecting people and serving what I’ve made with my own hands, comes together as more than the sum of their parts. I love the sounds and smells and textures of life at the table, hands passing bowls and forks clinking against plates and bread being torn and rhythm and energy of feeding and being fed.

This was the kind of book that I didn’t want to read too much at a time because each chapter spoke to my soul so deeply that I didn’t want to rush my absorption of it. The first six chapters in particular spoke to deep core needs within me, or resonated with a place I’ve been in the past couple years. Even the chapters on areas of life I haven’t yet experienced – motherhood, some types of loss, or some other piece of real life – I deeply appreciated her honesty, her rawness, her clearness on compounding truths of the messiness of life and reality of Jesus in those moments and situations.

So I’ll leave you with the way she closes her introduction, as a taste of the goodness that exists in this book:

When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of the hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere – on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach.

Yes. That is what I want for my life too – that the bread and wine would make me think of Jesus in whatever context. Because that’s real life? A walk of faith that’s daily, in the inconsequential and the profound, in the celebrations and the mourning and the mediocre. It all matters in our lives with Jesus, with community, around the table.

The links above contain affiliate links, which means I get a few cents (at no extra cost to you) if you book or buy something via that link. This helps me keep costs down and posts up! All images copyright Teaspoon of Nose.

Tina Fey's Bossypants. Read it.

What I’m reading: Bossypants

I realize I’m just about the last person in the world to read this, but I have to tell you about what I just finished.

Tina Fey’s Bossypants.

You must go read it, right now, immediately. Or go get the audiobook and have Tina Fey read it to you. Think about it. What’s better than a book written by a talented fun smart person like Tina Fey? Her, reading it to you, with all her inflections and voices and emphases perfectly as she intended them.

Tina Fey's Bossypants. Read it.

They even included the audio from her best Sarah Palin sketch on SNL. (There’s a whole chapter devoted to the Sarah Palin phase of her life. Oprah is involved.)

One thing I liked about it was that she comes across very down to earth. She talks about her job and her daughter and her parents and her boss and her childhood in a way that doesn’t make her life seem overly glamorous nor overly out of control. She talks about 16 hour workdays and changing poopy diapers with the same level of intensity. She owns up to crying at work without making it a big deal, because we have all be there. Even when she dives into the life questions she’s trying to answer at the time she wrote the book (to have another kid? to do more in the movie industry?), she’s as levelheaded as a person can be while discussing their own existential crisis.

Tina Fey seems like the kind of friend I want to go to when I’m freaking out about something. She’d put it in perspective for me in a sarcastic way that feels mean but also makes me laugh, and then we’d have a beer and I’d listen to her tell ridiculous stories about her cowriters on SNL.

Tina Fey's Bossypants. Read it.

It also made me want to go back and watch 30 Rock all over again. Her description of it not being that popular of a show has made me realize the nerdiness/indie-ness of my friends, because most of the people I  know loved it.

I don’t have anything profound or eloquent to say about this book, other than that you should read it. It’s a great mood-lifter book, so if you need a pick-me-up, try this.

GIF copyright NBC, photo copyright Teaspoon of Nose

 

My favorite novels of 2015!

Top five fiction reads of 2015

2015 may have been the year of escapism for me in fiction. Not in the genre specifically; more in the sense that I craved books set in another time, with characters of different ages and ethnicities and life experience than myself. The memorable books had faraway settings or fantastical realities or clear journeys/goals for the protagonists.

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Which is why, as I look back on the books I read, many run together in one long (vague) adventure. Admittedly, I read a LOT of fiction this year. Double the nonfiction I read. So choosing my top five favorites was REALLY hard. Plus, if I’m honest with myself, sometimes its hard to write little summaries of books I read 9 months ago [so much life has happened since then!] without giving away major plot twists. But I love a good story, so it’s worth the attempt to remember the best ones this year.

Here we go, in no particular order:

1. The Rosie Project, Graeme SimsionMy favorite novels of 2015!

The Rosie project was a breath of fresh air. It had the tale of a love story, but delivered in the most unusual of tones. I’ve had a couple friends with Asbergers, so the way Don talked/thought/operated made sense to me. And the way he tackles projects (or should I say Projects) may have driven me crazy in real life but came across positively (almost endearingly) in the story. Reading this became my happy place when life was chaotic.  I can’t say much more without taking away from the fun, so go get it! Plus, it’s set in Australia, which gave me all the feels.

2. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

This is the nerdiest book I’ve read in years, and I loved it. It’s a sci-fi lover’s dream, with references every 2 minutes to be caught if you’ve got ears to hear. It’s the story of a post-apocalyptic planet Earth, where all but the most physical human functioning happens online. People go to school there, meet people there, work there. Like any good gamer story, there’s a quest (literally, they call it a quest), and easter eggs and planets and references for every flavor of nerd there is. Plus a ton of 80’s references, some of which I got but someone a bit older than me would get more of. It’s also just a fun story! I had FUN reading it. I listened to it as an audiobook, which added something to the telling, I think, because a sarcastic Wil Wheaton read it.

3. Dodger, Terry Pratchett

bookshelf2This was my first Terry Pratchett book, but he’s been on my radar ever since one of my British friends couldn’t stop comparing everything he read to Pratchett during our study abroad in Sydney. When this popped up as an audiobook under my library’s “suggested for you” section, I grabbed it. I don’t know how the style compares to his other novels, but this one follows a street urchin-type through a season of his life. But the fun part is that it’s chock full of Dickens references. Main character’s name is Pip, but goes by Dodger. Charlie Dickens is a reporter who meets Dodger and the two have some altercations/adventures. Because it’s been a few months since I read it, I can’t remember all the points of connections, but if I told you it would ruin the fun! My favorite person to show up wields a shaving razor and nearly takes Dodger down for the count. Read it for yourself and see!

4. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter

This book’s plot felt a little random to me. In fact, I almost didn’t include it here. It has a good ending but it’s not a happy book. All the characters start out stuck in a rut, except for one Italian guy who seems slightly crazy. The book covers three countries and several generations. It goes from World War 2 to Hollywood to  reality TV to Cinque Terre. The ending didn’t tie up in a neat little bow as I so often hope, but it felt like a real story, with the amount of resolution and growth you would see if you knew these people in real life.

5. The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey NiffeneggerMy favorite novels of 2015!

I know this book came out years ago. I saw the movie in college, and remember enjoying it but not much more other than it being sad. It’s a fascinating concept. I’ve already demonstrated my inner nerd earlier in this list, so we can gloss over how much I enjoyed the time traveler aspect. I also really liked the fact that they didn’t fret too much about explaining the actual science behind it but instead chose to deal with the real ramifications of time travel. You’ve got to learn to protect yourself, find clothes, not get arrested, feed yourself. I found that aspect fascinating. The moral repercussions intrigued me, but the book didn’t do more than allude to them. It’s breathtakingly sad – one of those books that when I finished it, I carried the sadness around with me for a couple days. Niffenegger kept the tension of a great love story fated to be complex and hard and tragic still beautiful and attention-holding – and not just the “watching a car accident” kind of attention-grabbing. Plus there’s the whole question of to what degree did these two people get to independently choose each other? Because their experience of time is different, each had their initial attraction phase of the relationship during a time when the other was already in love with them. Weird. And so so good.

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How most of these books were actually consumed this year.

This year, I’m hoping to keep up the pace and shoot for 70 books again. This time I’d like to read more nonfiction, and make a bigger dent in reading the books I already own. (So many! I’m currently not buying any more books until I make more progress in reading them.)

You can check out my favorite nonfiction reads this year here.

Your turn: what’s the best thing you read last year? What should I add to my list?

all images copyright Teaspoon of Nose

Top five nonfiction reads of 2015

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2015 was a year for the books.

No really. I read a ton of books.

This past year, I had a goal to read 70 books. That’s a lot, more than one a week. I knew some of it would be in spurts – on vacation I average one a day, while during busy work weeks I wouldn’t touch one. But I did it! I actually read 75 books.

Some random observations on the year’s reading habits:

  • Since finishing up my job in ministry, I read a LOT less nonfiction. This is mostly because I did a lot of theology/Christian thought reading for work, and without that being part of work time I fell off the wagon. One of my goals for 2016 is to read more books related to faith.
  • Did a lot more light reading and less classics. Partly because I’ve hit much (not all, but a lot) of the A-team of classics, but more because life was chaotic and full and I needed my entertainment to be entertaining over thought-provoking or educational or controversial. This is also true in my choices of TV and movies of 2015 [which don’t merit a blog post, I’m just throwing it out there].
  • Audiobooks are my jam. At least 26 books this year, no kidding. That’s essentially all the fiction reading I’ve done since switching jobs in June while not on vacation. There’s an app that connects with my local library which makes it ridiculously easy. Now I listen to audiobooks while driving, working out, or cleaning. It also gives you a different feel than reading them – the inflection, the voices. It’s great.
  • These are the books I’ve finished in 2015. There’s 3-4 I’m in the middle of right now, but they count towards 2016.

My favorite nonfiction reads of 2015!

Alright, that’s enough of that. Now to the favorites of 2015!

In no particular order:

1. Travelling Mercies, Anne Lamott

I want Anne Lamott to be my friend. My mom and a couple friends have told me for years that she’s amazing, but I’d never picked up one of her books before this year. This is the first of her works I read, but picked up a couple more later in the summer and everything else she’s written is on my “to-read” list on goodreads. Travelling Mercies felt like a great one to start with because she spends the first half telling her story. I love character driven books/movies/TV in fiction, and in real life it’s very important for me to know my friends’ stories: who they are, where they came from, what has shaped them into the person in front of me. This book felt like I was sitting down with someone over a cup of tea and hearing their story. She makes no apologies for her story while still naming the hard places, the bad and the good interwoven. The second section is a set of essays about experiences in her life and faith. Again, she makes no apologies for her own junk, both past and present, but acknowledges the junk as junk. The way she talks about it exemplifies to me the way that in Jesus, we have been redeemed fully and wholly, but we are still imperfect people living in a broken world and we will always live in the tension between those two truths.

My favorite nonfiction reads of 2015!

2. Who is This Man, John Ortberg

I first heard about John Ortberg through InterVarsity, when he was the speaker at our National Staff Conference in 2014. The talks he gave were based out of this book, so naturally I had to give it a read. Ortberg explores what would be the historical significance of if Jesus really hadn’t come -if the teachings of Jesus were spoken, the people Jesus touched were never impacted, and  if the crazy beliefs of these Jesus-followers were never lived out. He traces how many cultural values we have now wouldn’t exist if not for Jesus’ radical mark on this world. Not just beliefs held by the religious right or Christians or any of that, but basic human beliefs and systems. Things like care for the mentally ill, physically disabled, or orphaned. He also talks about the way that Jesus’ death and resurrection is a three-day story. We talk about Friday’s death and Sunday’s miracle, but not much is said about the darkness of Saturday. The day after the disaster but before the triumph. He draws out the ways that Saturday is just as important to the story, and how many of us are living in Saturday – the hardships are present but we haven’t yet had relief, redemption. I’m summarizing (poorly), but its a great book. It’s a great one if you’re wanting to explore the significance of Jesus (not just organized religion, but how Jesus has impacted the world), or if you’re deep in a Saturday situation in your life.

3. Work, Play Love, Mark Shaw

I’m not going to say much about this one only because I wrote a whole blog post about it after I read it. It’s a great book, and I picked it up at a time when I was wrestling with calling and work and life. It’s worth a read, and as a bonus (for me at least) doesn’t treat the subject somberly or too intensely, but with vivacity and belief that answers to these questions can be sought joyfully.

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4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Mindy Kaling

Confession: I read 70% of this while working at InterVarsity’s camp in my downtime. But I’d borrowed it from someone, so when camp ended I returned it. It seems everyone else in Durham County was reading it because the library’s hold list was months long. But thank goodness, I snuck it in right under the wire. And I’m so glad, because Mindy Kaling is funny. No one should be surprised by this, but it bears saying anyway. She talks about everyday things, like how she grew up or her relationship with her mom or her thoughts on getting married or non-sad things that make her cry. And its wildly entertaining. She’s the type of writer where I can kind of hear her saying it. Part of me wishes I held out for the audiobook. Maybe next time.  This year I read several comedian books (are they memoirs? are they essays? does it really matter?) and hers was far and away my favorite. Silver medal goes to Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat. Also laugh out loud funny.

5. One Summer: America, 1927, Bill Bryson

You should’ve known a Bryson would be on this list. Bill Bryson is my favorite author. The way he can meander from the trivialities of life to matters of global significance effortlessly always draws me in. Plus he’s hysterical. One Summer covers all things political, cultural, and athletic that went down that summer in the US. He explains a bit of why he chose 1927 sprinkled throughout the book, but it boils down to the fact that Bryson can separate the threads that make up any time or place until they show a intricacies that make you appreciate it’s beauty, hilarity, or significance all the more.

My favorite nonfiction reads of 2015!

That’s the best of this year! Be sure to also check out my top 5 fiction reads of 2015.

Now the real question is, what nonfiction should I check out this year?

My favorite nonfiction reads of 2015!

all images copyright Teaspoon of Nose

 

Work Play Love by Mark Shaw

Book review: Work, Play, Love

You guys. YOU GUYS. Earlier this year, I read a really great book about calling and life and following Jesus, and you should all go read it.

I work with college students, am married to a law student, and find myself squarely in young adulthood, so I am constantly having conversations with others about calling, career, life balance, having fun, pursuing love, planning for the future, and all those things that are the constant concern of twentysomethings.

If those things are crowding your brainspace, you should definitely  read Work, Play, Love, by Mark Shaw.

Work Play Love by Mark Shaw

For one, this book doesn’t pretend to offer concrete answers to those questions. Which, on some level, is infuriating. But then I think about the fact that I just asked a book written by a some random dude who (however well-qualified he or she may be) doesn’t know me, my passions, my personality, or my life to tell me (or my friends or my students) what to do with my life/job/fun/relationships. And when I think about that, I’m glad he doesn’t narrow it down to some formula.

Another thing I like is that he deals with an incredibly serious subject in a very lighthearted way. It’s refreshing. The whole college student/grad student/young adult searching for meaning and purpose quest is so important, I mean that sincerely. A big part of my job is walking alongside undergrads as they seek to answer that question, and I’m a big believer is making conscious decisions and chasing them rather than floating along until something mediocre happens to you. But that conversation can get so overwhelming, so grave in nature, that it can lose some of the beautiful amazingness that accompanies the fact that we live in a world where we’re not automatons and get a choice in how we spend our lives! He uses drawings and goofy diagrams to connect with his audience, unashamedly using silly imagery and casual language to illustrate deeply significant points. He speaks of determining our areas of work, play and love as things to delight in, to celebrate and enjoy in concert with each other, not as separate spheres with varying levels of success or enjoyment.

Third thing I love: he’s 100% Biblically based, and makes it easy to follow his interpretation and application of scripture without beating you over the head with anything. He does a great job of connecting the ways that relationship with God brings us life to the full, not a boring one-dimensional legalistic existence. Each chapter is based on some passage of scripture or Biblical character, starting with the character “lady wisdom,” built on the characteristics described in Proverbs. A bit cheesy, yes, but it makes Proverbs feel less like a list of advice and more like something that’s livable, valuable and even enjoyable. His point with the lady wisdom metaphor is that “wisdom is decision making that leads to human flourishing.” I want that for my life and my students’ lives and my friends’ lives.

Let me leave you with another quote that I think sums up the message of the book:

…Wisdom work has three defining delights: First is learning to delight in whatever I am doing at any moment. Second is learning how to delight in whomever I am doing all of this with and for. And finally, wisdom work is about delighting in all of the above because God is at work everywhere around me and in me, making all things new.

Yes yes yes. I want my light to be full of delighting in whatever I’m doing, whoever I’m doing it with and for, and wherever I’m doing it because God is at work around me and through me. That sounds like a worthwhile way to live life.

I’m still processing what it looks like to actually live my life this way. Easier said than done, for sure. But I’ve found a level of freedom in just thinking this way, so I’m excited to pursue what this may be like to actually live it.

That’s my take on Work, Play, Love. If you find yourself thinking about the intersection of your profession, fun, and community, you should read this.

I wasn’t asked to write this book review, and all opinions are my own. 

all images original to Teaspoon of Nose