Reading in 2016: Books 1-6

Reading has been off to a slower start this year, probably because I'm working on four classes at the moment that have been consuming a lot of my time (mostly in the best way possible). But it's off to a start nonetheless and I'm counting down the days until a public library is at my disposal (48 to be exact). In the meantime, I'm working hard to stay out of English bookstores and read what I have, especially on my Kindle. Because I'm taking a class called Writing for Children, I get to read lots of children's books (everything from picture books to chapter books and middle grade and young adult novels), which is a ton of fun! I will list some of these as books read in 2016, but don't worry, I won't list all the picture books. :)

#1: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. This is one of my all-time favorite books. It's about family and longing for love but not feeling "good enough," and the deep-rooted struggle between good and evil. The way that Steinbeck personifies evil in one of the characters is so, so powerful. "We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is." 

#2: Cress by Marissa Meyer. Young adult reading at its finest. I started the Lunar Chronicles series last summer, and Cress is the third installment. Winter, the final novel in the series, just came out in November and I'm looking forward to reading it soon. If you like cyborgs, the inter-galactic/-planetary fight between good vs. evil, and wolf-men controlled by the Lunar queen, well--this book is for YOU. (This is totally not my normal genre and there are some wonderfully cheesy lines which probably would have captivated my middle school heart, but hey--it's fun and I occasionally get a great laugh!)

#3: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. A nearly life-long butler goes on a solo trip and reflects back on his years of service in one of the greatest houses in England. As he does so, he questions what it means to be great, and if this life of service was really worthwhile. I didn't find this to be a particularly enthralling read, but at the same time I really enjoyed it because I find the "upstairs, downstairs" life of servants and lords and ladies fascinating. It brought to mind Downton Abbey, and what it means to be a person who is on the other side of a life of luxury.

#4: For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker. My first question: Can Jen and I be best friends? I love her voice throughout this book, a refreshing and sometimes hilarious read about how to infuse more of the grace of Jesus into our own lives and our relationships with others. It's got light, funny parts about Spanx and getting older perfectly mixed with practical applied-theology chapters that make you think. All you girls/ladies/women out there reading this: buy this and read it. You can thank me later.

#5: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. This book is an upper middle grades novel about an adopted girl who is very special: she counts by 7s, knows everything about her backyard garden, can easily diagnose medical problems, and prefers learning Vietnamese over making friends at school. After tragedy strikes her family, she learns how to make friends, rely on other people, and find love in unexpected places among unexpected people. This is a really special read and I can whole-heartedly recommend this book to middle grades kids and their parents.

#6: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This is an easy read, but it reminds me why "children's literature" is not just for children. Had I read this (or any books for that matter...I was a book hater!) as a child, I know I would have instantly loved it. This story is heartbreaking and beautiful and told through the eyes of a silverback gorilla. There's so much about art and the lives of animals that could make for cross-curricular teaching and learning. This is now one of my very favorites!

Currently reading: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp.

Happy weekend and happy reading!