I love setting a yearly reading challenge for myself and 2016 was no different, but if I’m completely honest I did not think I was going to meet my goal of 35 books! I was trying to focus more on relationships (my word for 2016) and wanted to take time to invest in new friendships (and old!) and I’m so glad I did because when my father passed away unexpectedly I was so loved and cared for by these friends- so many prayers, gifts and sweet messages flooded in. Thank you friends. Then I realized that grief was hurting my body physically (so many thoughts on this in another post) and I needed lots of rest. Reading become a sort of medicine to me…
…I craved alone time and knew this was part of my journey. I started reading books about grieving, heaven and loss of a loved one… It became too much and I needed reading to actually be an escape. I picked books that would distract me from the stress of dealing with funeral plans, to escape the intense pain, to escape the trauma of watching my dad die and to escape the huge hole missing in our family. I read 17 books within 9 weeks and it truly felt like salve for my soul, I was able to relate to stories and to go out on an adventure within those books while staying in the safety of our home.
I’m incredibly grateful that I was in tune with how my body needed to heal and process, I also started attending a Grief Share class and got new books from them (and homework!) which helped me continue to grieve and opened up so much insight into this kind of pain. I really am able to say that reading was part of my healing the last few months and I would encourage each of you friends to invest in yourself with reading for pleasure because the benefits are incredible to your body physically as well as emotionally. I’m excited to share my favorites-
Here’s my list in no particular order:
- Dracula by Bram Stoker: I was actually embarrassed to read this at first, I was hesitant that it might include some sexual scenes that would make it hard to read (or recommend!) I also feared it might be more of a horror-ish type book that I would not be able to finish. I was so WRONG- the book starts as a journal/diary written by a lawyer/soliciter who is traveling to Transylvania to visit the Count, he shares that he needs a signature on several papers because Dracula is purchasing a few homes in London. From here the lawyer is trapped in the castle and you learn Dracula’s plan is to attack London and produce more vampires-eek! This was brilliantly written and my favorite novel of the whole year.
- No Easy Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela: I read this book when I needed to put my “suffering” into perspective. Grief can blind you to other peoples hurts beyond your own hurts, I wanted to read about someone who was brave, disciplined and used his position to help people. I was amazed at Nelson’s commitment to freedom for his people in South Africa and loved learning about how he worked out and educated himself for years while in prison.
- The Women in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: wow what I wild read- I really enjoyed this book even though I read so many mixed reviews. Several people compared this book to Girl on a Train and as it is similar I felt like it was creative enough to stand alone. I read Ruth’s first book and loved it as well (number 8 of this post) My one complaint about this book is how the main character was hard to relate to because she used alcohol very irresponsibly and since I don’t drink I was a little on the outside of her thoughts like “how many drinks have I even had today” ? I have never had the problem and never will, BUT I have had something similar “how many more cups of coffee can I have and still be able to sleep” ha ha ha 🙂 not too similar? Well if you decide to read this- keep an open mind and let yourself get lost in the story.
- The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman: I think I saw this on another “to read” list online and took a chance! It’s a very interesting story of two brothers who live together in Brooklyn, NY and also work together. They are opposite personalities but their wives seem to really get along well until they make a decision that changes their families forever-this secret ruins their friendship and also the lives of some of their children.
- Waking the Warrior Goddess by Christine Horner: A good friend is battling breast cancer and I’ve been helping her research natural methods to beat it! Someone recommended this book to me and I LOVED it so much- it was hard to get through if I’m honest (lots of scientific research style) but the overall information is a “must know” she gives you 30 easy things you can do to help your body reverse breast cancer or prevent it- things like daily flax seeds, the most important hours of restorative sleep and ideas to detox your body etc. I’ve been adding in a few of these at a time- my next one is to add daily green tea!
- Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequeis: This book came at the perfect day, the perfect week, the perfect month of my life! My sweet sister Becka sent it to me for my birthday in August and I soaked in every word like I was a sponge. I had some major re-adjusting of my priorities and this book helped define what I was feeling, why and encouraged me to put what was first, first. I slowed down my business and focused on family. I”m so glad I did, just 10 weeks later my dad passed away and I had another HUGE readjustment in life. This is a must read too.
- Teaching from Rest by Sarah McKenzie: As a homeschool mom of boys, I serisouly needed this book! Unshakeable Peace in homeschool, yes please. This book is a quick read that reminded me what’s important in my homeschool day, ideas to create some variety (like The Loop) and ministered to my little mama heart. I started following Sarah on Instagram after reading this book and she’s a huge fan of reading aloud to your children and lots of books in general- it’s like we are already friends!
- In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware: I don’t usually pick up scary books but this cover just called to me (well done book designer!) and I’m so glad I went with my gut feeling- this was amazing. A young writer gets a strange invite to a bachlorette party… at a disclosed house in the woods during winter. eek. I couldn’t put this down and even though I thought I had it figured out, it still had me guessing until the end. Great job Ruth!
- The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman: I love when a book brings you back to the time and place you read it, this book brings me back to a summer vacation with my boys to Branson, Missouri. I have found memories of soaking in a hotel bath to this amazing story about secrets, sadness and justice. Prepare yourself for this one, it’s extremely hard to read if you’ve experienced a miscarriage or loss of a child. Even though I had a miscarriage almost 10 years ago it still tugged at my heart a little bit- but it’s so well written and the idea of living on a small island manning a light house seems so picturesque to me!
- Wild & Free by Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan: Oh this book made me cry so many times- it gets right into your very heart. I read this on vacation last May and I kept asking myself “do I feel free”? and I cried as I realized I didn’t. I felt trapped in many areas and felt like I was about to drop all the balls I was juggling. This book started my journey to more Jesus and more freedom. The book is written by two authors (Jess and Haley) and they each write every other chapter, then comment on each others chapters like friends would do in a real conversation. I assumed these girls were “good old church goers” with a pretty squeaky clean past like me… no, they share their fare of regrets, pain and shameful pasts. But the good news is that with Jesus everyone is free- we are called to be our wild selves, to fully live our true selves. I loved this book and was so inspired to take another step toward the wilder me!
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: I hesitated to read this for two reasons: the length and the popularity of it. Don’t get me wrong I love a fantastic read- but the hype about it online seemed a bit over the top and anything with 450+ pages me want to cry… not happy tears. Aren’t you glad I pushed through and can recommend this incredible WWII story about two sisters living in a small town in France and how they each survive the war a different way- through their own set of convictions. That would be me and my sisters- we couldn’t all four be more opposite- but we would all have our own story to tell and so do these sisters! Take the plunge, this is an excellent vacation read- thrilling , suspenseful and some undercover spy work in Europe (all the heart eyes!) -read it!
- The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan:TT I literally read this almost a year ago and still remember how witty this little novel was! Anytime you have a modern romantic novel about a prince it sounds like the perfect read during those long and dark winter nights. This is loosely based on the story about prince William and Kate, besides the curse words (do the british swear a ton more then americans?) and promiscuity within the friends, I would give this 5 stars!Now that you have a huge book list for yourself, don’t forget that I post about all my books on instagram under the hashtag #lizzylovestoread and follow me www.instagram.com/lizzyloveshealth for behind the scenes in my daily life and lifestyle tips.