Non-Fiction Reading Goals and Thoughts

One genre that I want to enjoy but have trouble with, is Christian non-fiction. It often feels like Christian self-help. Or more like self-help without any questionable language in it.
It’s hard for me to find my sweet spot in this genre because people are in very different stages in their faith and in their personal development. We are all looking for different things in our non-fiction books. Some are looking for practical tips. Some are looking for encouragement. Some may want conviction. Some may want to hear from the experience of someone who is very different than them.
First, I need to identify what I am looking to gain from spiritual non-fiction books. I want to learn and have that a-ha! moment. I want to be encouraged. I have two recent examples of books that were exactly what I needed at the right time.
Last year I read Introverted Mom by Jamie Martin and I felt like someone was holding my hand as I read. I felt understood. But I also was given some ideas to implement. I walked away from it encouraged in who I was and how God made me unique. Quiet, wanting/needing alone time and learning how to find that in a home of little kids, sensitive – and uniquely made! More books like this please!

“When suffering is sharp and profound, I expect and believe that God will meet me in its midst. But in the struggles of my average day I somehow feel I have a right to be annoyed.”

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Another book I read that deeply encouraged me was Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. Liturgy is not something I’m very interested in. That said, I think when someone is struggling in a season, liturgy can be incredibly comforting. I can’t pinpoint what was difficult about the season. It was probably just having so many little people in my house that were demanding things of me around the clock. (Remember, Introverted Mom really encouraged me in this same season.) Or maybe it was a chronic health ailment I was dealing with. Anyway, Liturgy of the Ordinary was so beautiful and profound to me, it was one of those books I couldn’t even write a review of it on Goodreads. Five stars, for sure. But why? Learning to worship God in the most mundane activities was exactly the lesson I needed to hear. Because all I could do was worship God in the small moments. 

“Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.” 

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Besides these two books, I have read many duds. I have read some books that were just ok. Maybe I learned a thing or two. Or I thought, “I’m not sure if I got anything out of it, but I liked it.” I don’t want to use up my time with duds. Or with books that frustrate me! I received some recommendations for several books and bumped them to the top of my reading list. I’d love to hear if you’ve read them or have heard of them.

In His Image is a book that I am reading with a group of women. Jen Wilkin writes about the attributes of God and this particular book is about the communicable gifts – the ones that God possesses perfectly but that I can possess too. These are gifts like wisdom, justice and mercy. The other category, incommunicable gifts, are ones like omniscience and omnipotence, that only God can possess. I like this one because I’ve already learned something: the definition of communicable/incommunicable gifts and I love learning about the attributes of God. It’s like Tozer’s Attributes of God, but easier to read and maybe some more application. 

I’ve owned The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero for two years at the encouragement of a dear friend. But I’ve never worked my way through it. I suspect it’s because it may require some heart-work that I don’t particularly want to do. (But need to do.) More recently, someone who was recommending some “soul care” practices insisted that everyone needs to read this book, men and women. Alright already! Two strong recommendations from trusted sources is enough to get me to give it another try.

I’ve included Prayer by Tim Keller because while I’m not a Keller fangirl, I do like what I have read by him. More recently, I was gifted a devotion of his psalms and I love how he writes the prayers at the end of each day. They are honest and thoughtful. They are eloquent because he’s a fantastic writer. But there is a rawness to them that I appreciate and made me want to check out what he has to say about prayer.

The last book on the docket in this category is Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. This book is about spiritual disciplines. I’ve read Richard Foster’s book on Spiritual Disciplines, but many years ago! I’m interested to see how this book differs. This book also comes recommended to me.

What I Read in March

In the midst of March’s snow days, I discovered a new favorite author, Anna Quindlen. I picked up her newest book at the library and that was that! Quindlen’s books are such a breath of fresh air in this never-ending winter that we find ourselves in. Otherwise, my March reads were enjoyable, with nary a dud! And for an April spoiler alert: I’m reading two different trilogies… among many other great books!

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie BenedictHistorical fiction with an Irish female protagonist: yes! Besides the wonderful Irish culture that I love reading about, this book focused on the Carnegie family. It brought back memories of middle school social studies classes! I enjoyed learning more about the family and what it may have been like to be “new money” during the 1800s. Parts of it fell flat for me (unbelievable love interest, not an empowering lead character) but I enjoyed it as a historical novel. 


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAlmost every book-focused instagram account I follow posted a picture of the gorgeous bright blue cover in early 2018. When I saw it just sitting on a bookshelf at the library, I snatched it up! I loved the story, the characters, and of course, the incredible writing. Best of 2018, for sure. Also, it was interesting to have read Just Mercy last month and then read a novel that dealt with racial injustice. It made the story that much more powerful for me knowing that the plot of this story is a reality for many people in our country.


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea by Ruta SepetysA YA World War II book. I liked it but I wasn’t wowed by it. It received quite a few awards so my expectations were higher. I do enjoy when I learn something from historical fiction. In this case, I learned about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship filled with refugees that was torpedoed. The story rotated between four narrators, which I would have enjoyed had the chapters not been so SHORT! Some chapters were just a page or two. It made the story feel like I was jumping around a lot and not investing in a character as much. Had I read this as a teenager, I probably would have loved it, but it just fell a little short for me.


Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Firefly Lane by Kristin HannahI quickly abandoned Winter Garden by the same author (not my taste) and plunged into this older best seller. I can’t say that the quality of the writing was that great, but I did enjoy it once I got into it. Great if you’re pregnant and want a good cry. It focused on the friendship of women through the decades. There is a sequel but I don’t think I’ll be picking it up.


Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie SpenceI love when I can say, “I’ve never read a book like this before.” It was very true of Dear Fahrenheit 451. Written by a librarian to her books, it’s adorable, funny, and had lots of great recommendations. It’s a quick read and great if you feel a bit stuck between books. As a caveat, it does have a lot of (unnecessary) language.


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James BrownGoodness, this was a long read. There are two components to this book: rich history of the early 1900s in the West and so many details about rowing. I loved the history. I wouldn’t have wanted less information about the rowing, though. It was a wonderful, inspiring read. Reminiscent of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken


Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Oh dear, I found a new favorite author! Where has Anna Quindlen been all my life? Our protagonist is an older photographer who leaves New York for a small town. I won’t say more. It was so lovely!




Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

Alternate Side by Anna QuindlenBe prepared for reviews on every one of Anna Quindlen’s books!!! I’ve got them on hold at the library. I love when the setting of the novel is so crucial to the text that it is like a character. This is very true for this novel, which takes place in New York. This is the story of an upper-class family but also a story about race. Reviews on Quindlen’s newest novel are mixed but I loved this book.


Glory over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Glory over Everything by Kathleen GrissomI was very surprised that I enjoyed this book as much as I did! I loved Grissom’s The Kitchen House and I did not expect that a second book would live up to the first. Jamie was one of my least favorite characters in The Kitchen House but it was interesting to see his character develop. I liked how the format was similar to The Kitchen House, with one than one narrator. Also, I liked that Grissom didn’t feel find it necessary to check back in on every character from The Kitchen House. She introduced new characters that were just  as wonderful and interesting.


And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik BackmanGorgeous novella by the wonderful Fredrik Backman about an elderly man and his grandson. I’m a huge Backman fan and absolutely floored that his books are translated and still read like poetry. 

What I Read in February

Hello Readers! While I haven’t been writing, I have been busy reading (and visiting doctors for this pregnancy!). I finished my least favorite book of the year so far, as well as some other incredible books that took me by surprise. We may already be into spring, but here’s an overview of what I loved and hated in February.


Why Did I Even Read These Books:


Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

those who save usPass! Why this book was on my kindle, I couldn’t tell you. But I found myself on a treadmill without headphones, so I pulled this up on my kindle app. I should have abandoned it early on, when I got to some graphic scenes that added nothing to the novel. I appreciated that the author wanted to tell a World War II story from the perspective of a German woman. There were aspects that I found interesting, but I didn’t like any of the characters. I was glad to be done with it.


Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward

sing unburied singA supernatural road trip story with a lot of drugs and horrible parenting. What about that description makes people love this book so much? It came highly recommended. I hated it. I don’t even want to talk about it. I know there is some good stuff in here – there must be if people are loving it so much – but it’s not for me.

Great February Reads:


Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy by Bryan StevensonI wish I could give this book to everyone who struggles to see injustice in our judicial system. I know they wouldn’t read it, though. It’s difficult to read. And yet, there is some hope. I felt grateful for people like Bryan Stevenson who have dedicated their lives to helping the oppressed and making their plight known. Our family is passionate about justice, so this was an obvious read for me, but I do recommend it to anyone.


Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments by Rainbow RowellCute, fast read. Add this to your “beach reads” list! I needed a light read after Pachinko, which was certainly “epic” and a struggle to finish. Rainbow Rowell writes both YA and adult novels, and this was one of her most popular adult novels. I started and abandoned one of her YA novels already – too much teenage angst for me!


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineA must-read! It is laugh-out-loud funny and also heartbreaking. Such wonderful writing. I turned to Gene again and again to tell him what was happening in the book because I was so excited about it. This is one of the best books of the year for me so far.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Reading a graphic novel was a first for me! I can’t remember the last time I was so touched by  a memoir. I thought the graphics might be distracting from the story going into it. However, at no point did I wish it was a regular book without the graphics. They enhanced the story. The way Thi Bui weaves history into her memoir, with hand-drawn maps, helped me to understand the history of Vietnam. I wish books like this could be included in history curriculum in schools. It was so much easier to grasp hold of what was happening and how it impacted people than our standard history books.


Other Books:


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleI read this book in second grade, which if you’re wondering, is too young (in my opinion). I remember nothing about that first read. There are Christian themes in here! Who knew!? I will most likely read this book along with my children as they get older, but I do wonder what age would be appropriate. Gene read this as well and we both finished it and said “huh”. He thought it was similar to C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, which I haven’t read before. I’ll probably pick them up sometime this year since he loved them.


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin LeeI loved the first third of this book but grew more frustrated with it as it continued. It had everything to do with the characters. Since it was an epic novel that spanned generations, the second and third sections of the book focused on different characters in the family. They grew increasingly shallow. The first section was about a female and the later parts were focused more on the males in the family. This was probably a huge component as well. The males were more educated and more opportunities before them, even though they were minorities (Korean) in Japan. I definitely recommend, but know that the novel changes and focuses on different characters.

Thoughts on Reading People by Anne Bogel

I did not expect to enjoy Reading People by Anne Bogel as much as I did. I’ve done personality tests galore over the years and always felt that the results felt short to truly capture me and explain what to do with said results. Even though I have taken countless Myers-Briggs tests, I couldn’t tell you what personality type I was before now. Bogel did an incredible job simplifying various personality tests, explaining them, and even giving helpful takeaways and recommendations on books or websites that can offer additional insights.

The personality frameworks and topics covered are: Introverts vs Extroverts, Highly Sensitive People, The Five Love Languages, Kiersey’s Temperaments, Myers-Briggs, MBTI Cognitive Functions, Strengthsfinder and Enneagram. I was familiar with all of them except Kiersey’s Temperaments, which I did find difficult to understand but grew more confident with as I reread the chapter. I thought that I would find the book redundant, but it was certainly not. Bogel even suggests jumping ahead to chapters that interest you more but I actually read it straight through and I learned something from each chapter.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who has felt unimpressed with personality quizzes they have taken before. I would also recommend it to the personality-quiz junkie who never passes up a chance to learn more about themselves!

Anne Bogel is a fairly new name to me – I only knew her from her website, Modern Mrs Darcy, where she writes about books and hosts an annual reading challenge. She also has a fantastic podcast, What Should I Read Next?, which I highly recommend to anyone who needs help finding new books that fit their reading profile. She’s an excellent host on the podcast and I promise, it is not dry at all! In fact, it’s one of my new favorites! Just be sure that you have either your phone or planner nearby that you can jot down some of the titles she suggests!

Interested in more books like this?

Another recent read (end of December 2017) for me was The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, which asks the question, “How do I respond to expectations?” and then explains the four tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. I found this book very enlightening as I discovered that I’m motivated externally and how knowing this, can help me to create structure or “external motivations” in my life to help me achieve my goals.

Coming soon… my review on The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron. Anne Bogel set me on a journey to learn more about my personality type and how I relate to others and I’m continuing this journey through the Enneagram! I’ve been reading through this book and listening to Ian Morgan Cron’s podcast, Typology as well. I can’t wait to share more about the impact this has been having on my life!


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