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Friday Book Chats: Books and Place

Many people have studied the connection between music and memory – the ability of music to instantly take you back to another time and place that you associate with a particular song or melody. I’ve found that books can have the same effect. There are certain books that I can’t think of without remembering the circumstances surrounding my reading them—where I was or who I was with or what that season of my life was like.

Today’s Book Chat is all about the books that evoke specific memories for me and hold a special place in my heart because of the times and places they remind me of.

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. I read this book on my honeymoon. I don’t remember why I chose it, only that I’d read some of Kingsolver’s other books before and this one was available from the library. Since hubby tore a meniscus in his knee just two weeks before our wedding and couldn’t walk without a stabilizing brace, we spent a lot of our honeymoon cruise lying around on the ship and on the beaches and fully embracing our new role as married adults – you know, ordering pb&j sandwiches from room service at all hours of the day. I’ll never be able to think of Taylor Greer and her accidental daughter, Turtle, without thinking about snorkeling in Cozumel.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s possible that one of the reasons I love this book so much is simply because of my history with it. I was first introduced to it while on a study abroad trip in England. My friend Bethany read it aloud to me during our time in the Lake District and I fell in love. A few years later, I took a road trip with my best friend from Boston to Pennsylvania with a stop at a wedding in upstate New York. I wanted to read the book to her while she drove, but I’d forgotten to bring it along. We checked the map and found a book store that appeared to be right beside the interstate so we took the exit and went in search of the book. The “bookstore” was at a tiny college bookstore in rural Massachusetts a good twenty minutes from the interstate. Also, they did not have the book. We were stressed out by our detour since we needed to make it to the wedding on time, but it made for a great memory. I love this book that tells the story of Oskar Schell, a precocious nine-year-old who has recently lost in father in the 9/11 attacks on New York City. Oskar finds a key among his father’s possessions and becomes fixated on finding the lock this key fits into.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak. I actually started this book as an audio book which I borrowed from the library in Raleigh and listened to while I was doing long runs for my marathon training. Although I only made it halfway through on the audiobook before I had to return it and later finished reading this the old-fashioned way, I cannot think of it without hearing the narrator’s deep, rumbling voice and imagining the greenways that wind their way around Raleigh’s lakes and streams and woods. This is a fantastic book that tells the story of a young German girl, her adopted parents, and the Jewish fighter they hide in their basement during the Holocaust, as narrated by the omniscient character, Death.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. While the final book of the Harry Potter series would probably have been memorable regardless, this one was especially meaningful to me because it was released while I was in Russia. I had gone to Russia with a team of other girls from college to work with a ministry that was running summer camps for orphans. After just a short time there, there was a salmonella outbreak at our camp and the government shut our camp down, took the children away, and asked us to leave the country. Not only was our trip cut short by a month, but I had horrible food poisoning that left me 15 lbs thinner after just 2 weeks. When we left Russia early I was full of mixed feelings, mostly relief at that point to be going home when I’d been so sick. We flew from Moscow to London. When we landed at Heathrow Airport I high-tailed it to a bookstore and paid an exorbitant 30 quid for  the hardback British edition of HP 7. I read it the whole way home and finished it while struggling through jet lag at 3 am the next day. The HP books are dear to me for lots of reasons, but the memory of how I ended up with this specific copy will always be special.

What books hold special memories for you?

***

I stopped putting up links to weekly Kindle deals because it takes me a lot of time and I wasn’t sure anyone was really using them, but there are a few really great books on sale right now that I want to let you know about.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood Rachel Held Evans ($2.99)

Cold Tangerines Shauna Niequist ($2.99)

So Brave, Young, and Handsome Leif Enger author of Peace Like a River. ($1.99)

Friday Book Chats: What’s on My Kindle

I have a problem. I am addicted to buying books. This has been a problem for a long time now, but it’s gotten especially out of hand lately. Living abroad in a country where it’s difficult to find English books and living in a state of transience where it’s impractical to accumulate possessions has made my kindle a necessity. But reading primarily on my kindle means I have instant access to thousands and thousands of books with just one click.

Admittedly, I almost never buy anything at full price and when I finish a book I always choose my next book from what’s already on my kindle. I have an enormous Amazon wish list which I check every day to see if anything’s gone on sale, and I’m always hunting for deals to share with you. This results in lots of split-second purchases, sometimes on books I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, and sometimes on books I was suddenly seized with the desire to read once I realized it was only $2.99.

Today I want to share what’s on my kindle. This will serve to tell you about books I’m interested in, but also to provide some public accountability when I admit to all of the books I’ve impulsively purchased and not read. Maybe. Also, I’m included a list of current kindle sales at the end of this post…which might be counterproductive, but there are some really good books on there right now!

Books I’m Currently Reading

1. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, Rachel Held Evans. I am about 65% through this book and it is a book I have desperately needed for a long, long time. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it soon.

2. Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, Shane Claiborne. I read this book devotionally in the mornings (and sometimes evenings). It’s a book of common prayer that integrates many Christian traditions worldwide into its liturgy. I highly recommend it.

3. Listening to your Life: Daily MeditationsFrederick Buechner. I also read this devotionally off and on. It’s short passages from various parts of Buechner’s work (fiction and non-fiction) that reflect on spiritual truths.

Books I Haven’t Started Yet

4. STORY STORY: How I Found Ways to Make a Difference and Do Work I LoveKola Olaosebikan. Kola is a blogging/internet friend who recently published this book and was kind enough to send it to me to read and review. This is what I will read as soon as I finish my current book and I am really looking forward to it!

5. Siege and Storm (The Grisha Book 2)Leigh Bardugo. Read book 1 in this YA series a few weeks ago and would have moved straight to this one, but I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t like to read series’ straight through. I love to have a wide variety of genres in my reading, so after finishing a YA fantasy, I want to switch genres for a book or two.

6. Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, Book 3)Leigh Bardugo. Same as above.

7. Mariana, Susanna Kearsley. A historical fiction book/time travel book set in present and 17th century England.

8. The Invention of WingsSue Monk Kidd. There is absolutely no good reason I haven’t read this yet. A highly-praised historical fiction book by a favorite author. It’s about slavery and struggle, but also about liberation and empowerment.

9. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. Bought this in a sale. Not sure if I’m going to like, but it’s on of those I want to have read.

10. The Middle Place, Kelly Corrigan. A memoir of a daughter and a father who bond for the first time when they are both diagnosed with cancer.

11. Interrupted: When God Wrecks Your Comfortable ChristianityJen Hatmaker. Hatmaker asks (and answers) hard questions about the purpose of the church and what the Christian life is really meant to be.

12. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles Book 3), Marissa Meyer. Read the first book in this series (Cinder) and loved it. Bought book 3 because it was on sale, but haven’t read book 2 yet because it’s not on sale. But I’ve got my eye on it…

13. How to Make Money Blogging: How I Replaced My Day-Job With My BlogBob Lotich. Because I’d like to know how to do that. But not enough to read it, apparently. Also got this for free.

14. Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor. Love BBT. I actually read the first 7% of this and then realized that An Altar in the World sort of came first and went back and read that one instead.The 7% I read was already great.

15. The Bible Tells Me So:Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read ItPeter Enns. The title and premise of this book intrigues me. I know that Enns is considered a controversial biblical scholar so I really have no idea if I’ll agree with his conclusions or not, but I’m interested to read his perspective.

16. The Mistborn Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson. I read (and enjoyed) the first book in this trilogy a few months ago and need to move on to the next two books, but as I said above, I’m weird about series and take breaks sometimes.

17. The Secret History, Donna Tartt. Not a fan of The Goldfinch, so hoping this one is better!

18. The Year of Living Biblically:One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, A.J. Jacobs. This is supposed to be an entertaining, interesting read akin to Rachel Held Evan’s similar book A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

19. Courageous Compassion:Confronting Social Injustice God’s WayBeth Grant. Something I want to spend more time and energy thinking about and working towards.

20. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers. Because I WILL FINISH THIS SOMEDAY!

21. Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastards Book 2), Scott Lynch. I read the first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, a while ago. It was like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Oceans Eleven. Then hubby borrowed my kindle to read this series and while he was using it I got distracted and started reading other things and haven’t come back to it yet.

22. The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastards Book 3), Scott Lynch. Same as above.

Books I’ve Read That Are Still on my Kindle

23. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, Nina Sankovitch. I mostly enjoyed this, but I totally forgot to write about it in last month’s What I’m Into Post so it stays until I can do a review.

24. Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-control and My Other Experiments in Everyday LifeGretchen Rubin. Read this month. Will review at the end of the month.

25. Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, Book 1), Leigh Badusco. Read this month (really enjoyed it!) and will review at the end of the month.

26. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp. I keep this one around cause you never know when you need a little reminder.

27. The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5) Tana French. I’m a huge fan of French’s. I’m keeping this one around because hubsters hasn’t read it yet and would like to.

So, yeah….told you I have a problem!

Are you a book hoarder like me? What are you reading right now?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of May 14th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Case Histories, Kate Atkinson($2.99). Fabulous mystery. One of my faves. (First in a series).

Human Croquet, Kate Atkinson ($3.99) This one’s not a mystery and is a little trippy since it experiments a bit with time, but I really think she’s a masterful writer.

The Magicians, Lev Grossman ($2.99) This is like a more adult version of Harry Potter plus Narnia. Oddly enoough, not my favorite, but a lot of people really like it.

Still on Sale:

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My LifeDonald Miller ($3.99)

The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick (author of Silver Linings Playbook) ($1.99). I read this last year and wrote about it here.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart ($2.99)

Me Before You, JoJo Moyes ($2.99) Read with Kleenex!

Divergent, Veronica Roth ($2.99)

The Getaway Car: A Memoir About Writing and Life, Ann Patchett ($2.51)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Books You Can’t Believe Are Real

Today’s book chat is a just for fun post. Sometimes when I’m browsing through Amazon looking for good deals some pretty amazing things pop up. Amazing in the sense that you can’t believe that 1) someone actually wrote it and 2) people actually buy it on Amazon. I know there are a few Buzzfeed articles with ridiculous books or book covers on them, but this is my personal list of books I’ve run into that I can’t believe are real.

Don’t forget to check out the list of kindle books currently on sale at the bottom of this post.


Walter the farting dogWalter the Farting Dog
by William Kotzwinkle. Not only does this book exist, but it has several sequels, too. Unlike most of the books on this list, I’ve actually read this one. One of the kids I used to babysit for loved it so I’ve actually read it many times. Walter is a great dog with just one problem. His farts are the worst. They are so bad that dad says he has to go. But the night before he’s supposed to go to the dog pound, robbers break into the house and Walter has to use his special skills to protect the family. It’s kind of funny and charming – if you’re into that kind of thing. Probably not a book I’d naturally gravitate towards, but hey, some people are super entertained by fart jokes.

ZombiesThe Amish Vs. The Zombies by Gregory Zschomler. This book has everything. ““Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~Deuteronomy 31:6  HANNAH STROVAL is restless. She has the wanderlust and dreams of exploring the wonders of the world. She wants out of her restrictive Amish community…bad. Zechariah Miller has loved Hannah all his life, but being tied down isn’t what Hannah wants just now. As Hannah is about to leave on a rumspringa excursion to New York, her mother drops a bombshell on her daughter revealing a long-held secret that rocks Hannah’s universe. But the big city wild life isn’t all Hannah hoped it would be and she brings home an unimaginable terror that pits pacifist against predator and nearly tears her district apart. Hannah, Zechariah, her family and friends must come face to face with life, death and choices that will change them…forever. A Romantic Thriller, coming of age story filled with heartache and hope, faith and forgiveness, loss and love.” – synopsis from Amazon. Not gonna lie, it sounds kind of awesome.

How to date a white womanHow to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men by Adam Quan. Not sure if this book is serious or not, but it does really exist. Make of that what you will. I don’t really have anything else to say about it.

dancing with jesusDancing with Jesus by Sam Stall. This is a board book that I would really love to see in person. It is a set of “easy-to-do” dance moves inspired by “the deeds of the original Lord of the Dance, Jesus of Nazareth.” The book contains instructions and illustrations for such dance moves as “The Water Walk,” “The Carpenter Clog,” and “The Temptation Tango.” Intrigued? I know I am.

who cares about elderly peopleWho Cares About Elderly People? by Rachael Letch. So, I think this is a book aimed at preschoolers to teach them about caring about other people. It’s part of a whole series of “who cares” books. But you have to admit that the author/publisher did not think it through. Because it sounds like a book all about why the elderly don’t matter. Don’t know anything about the elderly. Who cares?

SpamSpam: A Biography: The Amazing True Story of America’s “Miracle Meat!” by Carolyn Wyman. I actually feel like this book would do great in Asia. Or at least in Korea. Spam is actually something of a delicacy here. It’s sold in special gift sets for you to give to family and friends for all the big Korean holidays. The priciest gift sets will include a large bottle of canola oil surrounded by four cans of spam in a beautiful box. Because nothing says, “I love you,” like canned meat.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of lesser-known books. And hey, if you’re an aspiring writer, you should be encouraged by this. If these books could all get published, why not yours? That’s what I tell myself.

Current Kindle Deals

*As of May 1st. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My LifeDonald Miller ($3.99)

The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick (author of Silver Linings Playbook) ($1.99). I read this last year and wrote about it here.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart ($2.99)

The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriary ($2.99) Love all of her books.

Me Before You, JoJo Moyes ($2.99) Read with Kleenex!

Divergent, Veronica Roth ($4.99)

The Getaway Car: A Memoir About Writing and Life, Ann Patchett ($2.51)

Still on Sale:

Cold Sassy TreeOlive Ann Burns ($2.99)

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald ($1.99)

Fall of Giants, The Century Trilogy #1, Ken Follett ($2.99) Follett is a GREAT historical fiction writer. This one is set in the First World War era.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03)

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99). Adorable. One of my favorite YA books.

BossypantsTina Fey ($6.99)

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. ($1.99)

The Maze Runner, James Dashner ($1.99) I haven’t read this, but the movie was mildly entertaining. Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent might be interested.

The MartianAndy Weir ($5.99) Another one I haven’t read, but everyone who has raves about it.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Books Worth Re-Reading

When I was a child I used to reread my favorite books over and over again. In fact, when I asked for specific books for Christmas or my birthday I only chose books I had already read and knew I loved enough to want to own. Of course, as a child I had tons of free time to read and my books weren’t usually very long. As an adult, I rarely reread books, mainly because there are SO many books I want to read that I don’t feel like I have the time to spend on a reread. But every once in a while there’s a book I love enough to reread. These are all books I’ve read more than once, and at least one of those times as an adult.

There is also a list of current kindle deals I am aware of at the end of this post.

The Count of Monte Cristo – I loved this story ever since I saw the Wishbone version on TV in elementary school. I hunted down the book and read an abridged version half a dozen times through elementary school. In college I read the whole 800-page thing and loved it just as much. It’s such a great story of revenge and forgiveness. (BTW, the book is pretty different from the movie, in case that’s your only experience with it, though I think we can all agree that Guy Pierce is the ultimate villain and that Jim Caviezel has the sexiest voice of life).

Pride and Prejudice – I’ve probably read this five or six times. I was in seventh grade the first time I read it and it’s an all-time favorite. I know this isn’t a super original pick, but what can I say, there’s a reason it’s so famous. Growing up with sisters I’ve always found myself attracted to stories about sister relationships. And I also have a thing for the Mr. Darcy types- sort of standoffish and mysterious and somewhat brooding. Which is how I ended up with Jonathan. Obviously.

Emma – I’m not sure why I’ve read Emma so many times (3). I’m not even sure that it’s my favorite Jane Austen novel. I really like P&P and I’m also a big fan of Persuasion. But I like Emma’s personality. And I like how all of her meddling bites her in the butt and Mr. Knightley is still into her, even though he’s seen her in every silly and ridiculous stage of her life. I think it’s a much more nuanced picture of love than your typical romance.

Arcadia – This is a play, but I still think that counts as a book. I think I first read this in high school and then again in college and then Jonathan and I went to see the stage play in New York  for our first anniversary. Like all of Tom Stoppard’s work, this play is incredibly clever and witty. The entire thing takes place in one room, but it moves back and forth between the 19th and 20th centuries seamlessly and confronts the mysteries of science, mathematics, literature, sex, an romance.

The Poisonwood Bible – I already wrote about this in my favorite literary fiction books so I won’t go into lots of detail, but this book is fantastic. It’s a compelling story, but also a fascinating reflection on colonialism and westernization in the name of Christianity.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – I think I’ve read this three times. I also listed this in my favorite literary fiction books and listed Oskar as one of the most interesting characters I’ve read. I just love it. I actually especially love reading this one aloud. Something about the language.

Lord of the Rings – I first read these with my father as a preteen and read them a few more times in the following years. I was a deeply committed fan before the movies made everyone go crazy for them. At this point I wouldn’t say they are my favorite fantasy books, but they will always remain the quintessential classic.

The Chronicles of Narnia – I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia starting as a child until most recently when I read The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy aloud to Jonathan on road trips a few years ago. These books are worth rereading because the stories are timeless and because there is always something new to discover and love about them. In general I really hate allegories, but it doesn’t bother me in Narnia because it doesn’t feel too heavy-handed. These are so short that I can read them in an afternoon, so they are a great go to when you want a quick read. I imagine we’ll read them with our kids some day.

Hamlet – Hey, another play! I really love Shakespeare but Hamlet has to be my favorite. (Again, I’m into those distant, brooding types). Hamlet is just so perfectly, deliciously tragic. And it has everything – ghosts, romance, murder mystery, insanity, revenge, comic relief. It’s something I feel I can always come back to and enjoy.

Harry Potter Series – I’ve read the entire series through twice and read a few individual books more than that. Unlike most people my age who sort of grew up with Harry, I wasn’t allowed to read this books as a kid, so I gobbled them all up between the ages of 17 and 19 (which was how old I was when the final book was published). Harry Potter is wildly popular for good reason. It’s inventive and imaginative and wildly complex and still completely relateable.  I think I will continue to read these every few years for the rest of my life. #HP4Eva!

What about you? What are the books you find yourself going back to even though there are so many new books left to read?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of April 24th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

The Financial Lives of the Poets, Jess Walter ($1.99) I read a different Walter’s book last year (Beautiful Ruins) and really enjoyed it so I’d like to check out this one too.

Cold Sassy TreeOlive Ann Burns ($2.99)

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald ($1.99)

Fall of Giants, The Century Trilogy #1, Ken Follett ($2.99) Follett is a GREAT historical fiction writer. This one is set in the First World War era.

Still on Sale:

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03)

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99). Adorable. One of my favorite YA books.

BossypantsTina Fey ($6.99)

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. ($1.99)

The Maze Runner, James Dashner ($1.99) I haven’t read this, but the movie was mildly entertaining. Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent might be interested.

The MartianAndy Weir ($5.99) Another one I haven’t read, but everyone who has raves about it.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Most Interesting Fictional Characters

Some books are great because of a unique plot that keeps you guessing. Some stick with you because they deal with themes that resonate with you. Some have such vivid settings that you feel you’ve actually taken up residence in the world of the book while you read it. Most good books have at least one of these things, but almost all good books have characters you find compelling.

This is a list of some of the most interesting characters I’ve encountered, which is different than saying they are my favorites. Some of these are heroes, but some of them are villains or are otherwise unlikeable characters. What they all have in common is that they are complex, dimensional characters. These are the kinds of characters who aren’t just one thing and their ambivalence is the very thing that makes them so intriguing and memorable. These are the characters that expose the good and the bad in themselves, in humanity, and even in the reader. In no particular order, here is my list of most interesting fictional characters.

1. Ivan from The Brothers’ Karamazov. Ivan is the middle brother, the tortured intellectual, struggling with the moral implications of his philosophical agnosticism. Ivan voices those central questions of existence – Does God exist? How can I love and empathize with my fellow man? Why is there suffering? – and grapples with the answers.

2. Severus Snape from Harry Potter. Snape is set up as a villain from the get-go, but as the series progresses we are confronted here and there with actions that challenge that label. Snape’s motivations are complex and convoluted, but that’s what makes him such an interesting character. Is he ultimately a good guy or a bad guy? Is he self-serving or self-sacrificing? I say he’s both.

3. (and 4) Hazel Grace and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars. Two terminally ill teenagers try to answer the questions of existence. Augustus tells Hazel,

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

This is heartbreaking and endearing and depressing and precious all at once. These two characters stayed with me long after I finished the book–the rawness of their pain, the sweetness of their love and the sadness of their nihilistic conclusions about life.

5. Denna from Name of the Wind.  Denna isn’t an entirely likeable character. She plays Kvothe like a lute. She’s inconsistent. She’s emotionally volatile. She’s kind of a slut. And yet…she’s so much more interesting than most female characters in fantasy. She has this mysterious past and mysterious goals. She’s incredibly smart which helps her to be manipulative, but there is this sense of something truly haunting her. She panics when she’s contained or pinned down and even when that’s frustrating, you can’t help wondering why. And then there’s the matter that everything we know about her is coming from a potentially unreliable narrator, so there’s the possibility that we don’t even know what we think we know.

6. Oskar from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Oskar is brilliant and precocious and hilarious. He has all of these strange phobias and compulsions like only wearing white clothes and carrying a tambourine with him everywhere he goes and becoming fixated on things like finding out what lock a random key will fit into. But he is endearing and unforgettable and I love him.

7. Tyrion Lannister from Game of ThronesI admit that I didn’t finish these books (which I wrote about here) but by the time I stopped, Tyrion was by far the most interesting character. He is cynical and cunning, but he knows how to survive in a world where no one is ever on his side. He sees the intricacies of alliances and betrayals with more clarity than most and while his core ambition is to take care of himself, he has these shining noble moments that soften us towards him, even as he tries to shake those off. He is part of one of the most powerful families in the country, but he is also an outcast and an outsider. To me, he is the least predictable character in this series and that’s part of what makes him so interesting. Sometimes he’s a villain, but sometimes he acts heroically and you are left saying, “How am I supposed to feel?” which I kind of love.

8. Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. Oh Gatsby. Tragic, relentlessly optimistic Gatsby. Gatsby is the most hopeless romantic of all time. He is the great embodiment of the American dream and its failure to deliver. But he is more than just a symbol, he is a complex person who is driven by a singular passion. To me, he is equal parts tragic and fascinating.

9. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. What can I even say? Atticus is the pinnacle of literary fathers. He is the ultimate role model for honor, justice, and courage. His heroism is in his quiet strength and his unwavering convictions of right and wrong. He’s an interesting character, but he’s also an inspiring character.

10. Long John Silver from Treasure Island. Treasure Island was my first love in terms of classics. I read it at some point in elementary school and proceeded to read it five more times. Pirates, deserted islands with buried treasure, mutiny at every turn – what’s not to love? Even with my limited literary experience, Long John Silver captured my attention – he was the villain, but he also seemed to care about Jim Hawkins in spite of himself. He couldn’t change that he was a pirate and villain, but he was also more than that and every time I read it I couldn’t help hoping that he’d change sides.

What are the most interesting literary characters you’ve encountered? Which characters leave you wanting to know more?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of April 17th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett ($3.03)

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell ($4.99). Adorable. One of my favorite YA books.

The Gifts of ImperfectionBrene Brown ($6.99) I wrote about this here.

BossypantsTina Fey ($6.99)

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. ($1.99)

The Maze Runner, James Dashner ($1.99) I haven’t read this, but the movie was mildly entertaining. Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent might be interested.

The MartianAndy Weir ($5.99) Another one I haven’t read, but everyone who has raves about it.

Still on Sale:

The HobbitJ.R.R.Tolkien ($2.99)

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn ($4.20) Not my favorite but lots of people love it.

The Giver, Lois Lowry ($2.99) Still on sale, but for $1 more than last week.

Cinder, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). This is a YA book, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. It is a futuristic sort-of Cinderella story, except Cinderella is a cyborg and there’s a planet-wide pandemic. Just reading the synopsis, this is not the sort of book I would naturally gravitate toward, but it came highly recommended and I was impressed. It’s clever and imaginative and I couldn’t put it down.

Cress, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). The Lunar Chronicles, book 3. This is part of the same series as Cinder.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Mindy Kaling ($4.99). I thought this book was hilarious. Then again, Mindy Kaling is like my spirit animal. But still. Loved it. Love her.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: Books I Own But Haven’t Read (Yet!)

Usually I write about books I’ve read, but today I’m going to write about books I haven’t read.

Most readers keep some sort of “to-read” list, mental or otherwise, for books they want to read in the future. I’d be willing to bet that most readers also have at least a few books on that list that have been there for years without ever being read. I have my fair share of these and there are lots of reasons why I’ve never gotten around to reading those books. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting sidetracked by other books that turn into whole series and keep me busy for a while. Sometimes I have trouble getting ahold of a particular book. And sometimes I’m simply not in the right mood.

Today I’m going to share some books with you that go one step beyond “I’ve been meaning to read this but haven’t yet.” These are books that I not only have intended to read for a long time and never have, but books that I actually OWN and still have not gotten around to reading.

In fairness, I will say that I very rarely buy new or full-priced books. We have a large library, but most of our books were handed down, given as gifts, purchased from a library sale where each book cost $1-$2, or purchased with a gift card. Also, I haven’t had most of these books here in Korea with me during the last two years and I’ve done most of my reading on my kindle while living abroad. But still, I owned most of these books for at least a year before moving and never read them.

These are all books that I still genuinely hope to read, especially before adding new books to our collection.

There is a list of Kindle books on sale this week at the bottom of this post. I do also occasionally tweet or post one-day deals to my Facebook page, so be sure that you are following me there if you are interested in those alerts. You can also follow me on Goodreads if you are interested in more book reviews and reading updates.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Jonathan read this book a few years ago and really loved it. David Mitchell is one of his favorite authors and from the time he first told me about it I was interested in reading it at some point, but there just always seemed to be other things I wanted to read first. When the movie version came out a while later, I was completely mesmerized by it. It’s honestly one of my favorite movies. I think it’s fascinating and beautiful and brilliant. So now I really want to go back and read the book which I believe is even more nuanced than the movie. This book has a very unusual structure. There are six stories that happen at different points in time that are only very loosely linked to one another. The book alternates stories by chapter in such a way that you read the first half of the first story, then the second and third on up to the sixth, and then the second half of the stories are told in reverse order, starting at six and going back down to one. In other words, the whole first story is in the first and last chapters of the book. After loving the movie so much I want to read this eventually and see if and how it changes my perspective.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver is one of my all-time favorite writers. I think she is a fabulous storyteller and her interest in biology and botany makes her subject matter and approach to her novels unique. I have loved every book of hers that I’ve read. This one is set in Appalachia and follows three separate story lines that are tied together around the theme of human love. This book was well-received by critics for it’s rich sense of place and its perfect marriage of narrative, ideas, and drama. Characters include a reclusive wildlife biologist, a city girl turned farmwife, and a pair of elderly neighbors locked in a feud.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of Henry Townsend, a former slave who is now a farmer and his relationship with William Robbins, the most powerful man in the county. After Townsend dies unexpectedly, his wife, Caldonia, struggles to hold onto all that he has built. This book is lauded for it’s straightforward look at the moral ambiguities of slavery. I suppose this is one of those books that feels weighty – worth the read, but also worth being in the right frame of mind to read it – which is why I haven’t picked it up yet.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I’ll be honest, before moving to Korea I wasn’t hugely interested in books or movies that were set in Asia. Most people have settings or cultures they are more drawn to than others, and Asia in general wasn’t at the top of my list. But I’ve been hearing about this book for years and I bought it from the annual library sale thinking that owning it would encourage me to go ahead and dive in. Unfortunately, it didn’t (yet!). Set in nineteenth century China, this book tells the story of Lily and Snow Flower whose friendship begins when Lily is only seven years old. The two women send secret messages back and forth to one another in a secret language, using silk fans and handkerchiefs to communicate with one another about their isolation and loneliness, the rituals of footbinding and arranged marriages, and the agonies of motherhood.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I’ve heard so many good things about this book. I even listened to the first 30 pages or so of this as a free sample from Audible and was hooked, but didn’t have my copy available at the time to continue reading. Dr. Marina Singh heads off into the wilds of the Amazonian jungle in search of her colleague, Dr. Annick Swenson, who disappeared while doing research for a valuable new drug. I badly wanted to read this when it first came out, but wasn’t able to get it from the library. Then I bought it at a big book sale, but somehow owning it made reading it feel less urgent. Since I didn’t have to return it, I adopted the attitude that I could read it anytime, and that resulted in my never reading it. Out of all of the books on this list, I think this is the book I would most like to get to this year.

Other books I could list off the top of my head are: A Visit to the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson.

Do you absolutely love any of these books and think I’m crazy for not reading them yet? Do you have any books that have been sitting on your shelf unread for years?

Current Kindle Deals

*As of April 10th. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

The House at Riverton, Kate Morton ($1.99) I love Kate Morton’s books. Part mystery, part love story, totally worth the read.

The HobbitJ.R.R.Tolkien ($2.99)

What Alice ForgotLiane Moriarty ($6.61). One of the best books I read last year (read my review in this post). This is the cheapest I’ve ever seen it.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn ($4.20) Not my favorite but lots of people love it.

Teach Us to WantJen Pollock Michel ($2.99) This was an excellent book about desire, ambition,  and longing and the role they play in the Christian life. Read my thoughts here.

Still on Sale:

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett ($5.94) Which I wrote about above!

The Giver, Lois Lowry ($2.99) Still on sale, but for $1 more than last week.

Cinder, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). This is a YA book, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. It is a futuristic sort-of Cinderella story, except Cinderella is a cyborg and there’s a planet-wide pandemic. Just reading the synopsis, this is not the sort of book I would naturally gravitate toward, but it came highly recommended and I was impressed. It’s clever and imaginative and I couldn’t put it down.

Cress, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). The Lunar Chronicles, book 3. This is part of the same series as Cinder.

A Prayer for Owen MeanyJohn Irving ($3.36) A classic. Many people list this in their all-time favorites.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Mindy Kaling ($4.99). I thought this book was hilarious. Then again, Mindy Kaling is like my spirit animal. But still. Loved it. Love her.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way. 

Friday Book Chats: My Favorite Spiritual Memoirs

I’ve only discovered spiritual memoirs in the past few years and it was a revelation to me when I did. Somehow, I hadn’t realized this genre existed. Not only do I find these books meaningful for my own spiritual life, but discovering these books was like discovering my tribe. For the first time I found people who were writing the kinds of things I was writing – people who were working out their faith through their stories – and this inspired me to pursue writing more wholeheartedly.

If you aren’t familiar with the spiritual memoir genre, it is characterized by non-fiction stories and vignettes like a regular memoir, but these focus on some aspect of the author’s spiritual life or journey. Some are conversion stories, some are about struggling with doubt, going through dark periods, or cultivating particular spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual memoir is a genre that some people love and others hate. My husband, for example, is not a huge fan of the genre (which is a pity for me since that’s what I write). He says he doesn’t want to read about the spiritual struggles of someone who is just like him. He would prefer to read something inspirational from someone he looks up to or to read  something that is teaching him facts or sharing information, not just sharing reflections on personal experiences.

I, on the other hand, have found spiritual memoirs to be transformational. I am moved by the ordinary stories of ordinary people who manage to see the spiritual woven throughout the physical world and who make me feel like, “If they can do it, so can I.” When I read about Mother Theresa it’s easy to think, “She’s so far beyond anything I could ever be,” but when I read about Addie Zierman, I think, “She’s a regular person who is a lot like me sharing some great insights about how I could live a more intentional life.”

Today I want to share my favorite spiritual memoirs. Opinions on books are always subjective, but this genre is particularly subjective because the subject matter is so personalized. I might read a spiritual memoir that is really well-written and has some great insights, but that doesn’t resonate with me as deeply simply because the author’s background isn’t all that similar to mine. My favorite spiritual memoirs are those that I see myself in. The ones that I connect with and that also challenge me. These are the books that have stayed with me – the ones that make me believe my story matters.

You can find a list of Kindle books that are on sale now at the bottom of this post.

17934779When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman. This book is one of the biggest reasons that I am still writing this blog. I stumbled on Addie’s blog just after her book launched and this launched me into a whole world of authors and bloggers who I connected with on a deep level. Addie’s story of growing up at the height of evangelical youth culture – when Christianity was all about being “on fire” and faith ran on an emotional high- was so eerily similar to my own that I sometimes questioned whether I was reading my own diary. She writes candidly about what happens when a faith that was measured by emotional fervor seems to burn out and how faith can mature into something real and meaningful, even when we are no longer “on fire.” It was this book that made me believe I had a story worth telling. Addie is also one of the most gifted non-fiction writers I’ve ever read. Her prose is beautiful and precise. She is a role model of mine both as a writer and as a person.

Faith unraveledFaith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions by Rachel Held Evans. This book was right up there with When We Were on Fire  in terms of how closely it paralleled my own life experiences. Evans’ story about coming from a fundamentalist evangelical “it’s us against the world” background and learning to be ok asking questions, even if you don’t find answers right away resonated deeply with me. I love that she actually articulates some of the really hard questions of life and faith in this book and doesn’t try to smooth them over with Bible verses or trite Christian phrases. My biggest takeaway was something Evans said at the very end of the book – that there is a difference between questioning God and questioning what you believe about God. I’ve read Evans’ blog off and on and sometimes find her tone to be aggressive or abrasive there – I suppose she is more confrontational and perhaps a bit more liberal than I am – but I have loved all of her books and look forward to reading her newest one, Searching for Sunday, when it’s released later this month.

FoundFound: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (still on sale for Kindle $3.03). This book is so beautiful. Boyett is a poet and it shows through in her beautiful prose. This is a story for tired Christians who need to experience God in the ordinariness of life. After the birth of her son, Boyett finds that she has lost prayer, something that was always a staple in her life before, and she sets out to rediscover it. What she discovers is that sometimes prayer doesn’t look the way we expect it to. This book particularly resonated with me as a fellow evangelical who grew up and feeling burdened by the need to pray more, read more, do more. This book will probably be especially meaningful for those who feel they’ve lost themselves in parenthood, but even as someone who is not a mother I could relate so well.

PastrixPastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber. This book was profound to me in many ways. I read this after listening to an interview that Bolz-Weber gave a few months ago for Krista Tippett’s “On Being” podcast. I admit that it’s not for everyone, but I am not the kind of person who has to agree with everything someone else says in order to appreciate the truths they share. Bolz-Weber is the pastor of an unconventional Lutheran church in Denver, Colorado called the House for All Sinners and Saints known for such things as the blessing of the motorcycles and the chocolate fountain in the baptismal on Easter Sunday. She writes beautifully about how she came back to faith by believing that there was a place in the Church for someone like her—covered in tattoos and recovering from addictions. One of the most beautiful bits of her book to me was when she talked about falling in love with the liturgy. She says she loved it, “because the liturgy has it’s own integrity. It doesn’t depend on mine.”

bread and wineBread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist. It was hard for me to know whether this book counted as a spiritual memoir, though I’m not exactly sure what other genre it would fit into. This book is about food and hospitality and about the table as a place for building community. As someone who genuinely loves food, it was moving to me to read these stories of good food and shared meals being a way to honor God for the gifts of the earth and to love the people who share our lives. While Niequiest’s other books Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet fit more cleanly into the category of “spiritual memoir” this book about food and hospitality is my favorite. It is a feast in every sense of the word.

Leaving ChurchLeaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. I had been looking forward to this book for a long time and I was not disappointed. Taylor’s story of her call to the Episcopalian priesthood and later her decision to leave the priesthood and become a professor was full of beautiful thoughts about how the world and the church need not be enemies – separate entities that are necessarily opposed to one another. She writes beautifully about the ways she encountered God and grace outside of the church as well as inside it. Among many great quotes, here was one I particularly enjoyed since it describes my current faith journey so well, “I wanted to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything.” I am currently reading the book she wrote after this, An Altar in the World, and am very moved by it.

I have a few honorable mentions in this genre – books that I thought were quite good and well-written but that didn’t make my top favorites list because they didn’t resonate as closely with my own experience. They might, however, resonate with yours and you should check them out.

Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future by Elizabeth Esther. Esther grew up in a legitimate Fundamentalist cult. This book was heartbreaking and hopeful and impossible to put down.

Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner. The story of Winner’s conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. I wrote more about this here.

Shauna Niequist’s two other books which I mentioned above, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. A classic. I think this was my first foray into the world of spiritual memoirs.

Do you have any favorites that I should know about? (For the record, Mary Karr’s Lit, BBT’s Learning to Walk in the Dark, Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss are already on my list!)

Current Kindle Deals

*As of April 3rd. I use the US Amazon site. Prices may vary on other sites.

New On Sale:

Cress, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). The Lunar Chronicles, book 3. This is part of the same series as Cinder, mentioned below.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett ($5.94)

Mere Christianity, C.S, Lewis ($4.99)

The Giver, Lois Lowry ($1.99)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Mindy Kaling ($4.99). I thought this book was hilarious. Then again, Mindy Kaling is like my spirit animal. But still. Loved it. Love her.

Still on Sale:

Cinder, Marissa Meyer ($2.99). This is a YA book, the first book of the Lunar Chronicles. It is a futuristic sort-of Cinderella story, except Cinderella is a cyborg and there’s a planet-wide pandemic. Just reading the synopsis, this is not the sort of book I would naturally gravitate toward, but it came highly recommended and I was impressed. It’s clever and imaginative and I couldn’t put it down.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Every Day Life, Gretchen Rubin ($1.99). I just purchased this one myself. This is by the author of The Happiness Project.

The Bible Tells Me So; Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, Peter Enns ($1.99). Again, just purchased this on good recommendations. I’m really curious about this one.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel ($5.99). Price has gone up a bit, but still a pretty good deal. Get it, get it, get it!!!!!! Read my review here.

A Prayer for Owen MeanyJohn Irving ($3.36) A classic. Many people list this in their all-time favorites.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed ($4.40) You can read my review here.

Mistborn– The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson  ($4.99) This is the first book in Sanderson’s Mistborn fantasy trilogy. Just finished this. It’s great. I wrote about it here.

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd ($3.99). There’s a reason this book is so popular. It’s great.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use a link to make a purchase a small percentage of your purchase will go towards supporting this site. This does not affect the price of the items in any way.