Top Book Recommendations and Some Superlatives.

I just realized in reviewing my reading list for 2015 that I read not 60 but 61 books in 2015! And don't worry, I won't list all of those books, but I want to recap a little bit of my reading themes for the year and give you some of my favorites as recommendations to add to your 2016 reading list. 

Being overseas for all of 2015, I had limited access to books of my choosing. I couldn't be too picky, and I was highly dependent on the library at our church (which, strangely enough, had tons of excellent fiction and non-fiction available) as well as any books I picked up at English bookstores on our travels. I didn't have a Kindle and hated reading on my iPad, so I stuck to reading mainly physical books. Because there wasn't a well-stocked English library around the corner, I couldn't really plan out my reading for the year and ended up with a much more flexible reading lifestyle. I basically read whatever I could get my hands on!

I also read books related to a class I took this summer, History of Children's Literature, which was really fun and pushed me to read some books I otherwise wouldn't have picked up (namely graphic novels).

In all, I read 47 fiction books and 14 non-fiction books. 16 of the fiction books were "children's lit" (using quote marks because Harry Potter starts to feel much more adult-geared than child-geared around book four, and The Chronicles of Narnia are timeless, don't you think?), and other than the first two of the Harry Potter series, I don't think I re-read anything.

All that said, here are a few of my superlatives given to my favorite books from this year!

In the category of non-fiction...

Book most likely to inspire you to swim upstream culturally: Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider

Book most likely to inspire you to clean your closets and reconsider what things really bring you joy: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Book most likely to encourage you to glory in the Tuesdays (i.e. the most ordinary days) of your life: Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

Book most likely to help you understand yourself (if you're an introvert) or those beloved introverts in your life: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Book most likely to move you to jumping head-first into creativity this year: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

In the category of fiction:

Best book to listen to on audiotape (the accents are incredible!): Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Best books to spark "What if...?" conversations regarding society: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Most beautifully written fiction about the American Southwest: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The best book to binge-read (i.e. over spring break, on a trip, etc.): 11.22.63 by Stephen King

The books most similar to Aesop's Fables with endearing, heartbreaking storylines: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang and Fup by Jim Dodge

Most beautifully written story that crosses continents and makes you believe you are in the Brazilian Amazon: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I'd love to add some of your favorite to my 2016 reading, so please, leave a comment with a favorite (or two!) and let me know what you loved reading in 2015. Happy New Year, and happy reading!

Books forty-nine to Sixty: End of the Year Round Up!

At the end of 2014, my goal for the new year was to read 50 books. And while I figured I'd get there in a year's time (given the amount of time I had to read + the library I had access to...and my tendency to buy books at any--and every--English language bookstore I stepped foot in...), I am very happy to report that I read 60 books in 2015!

Some of you read double that, and some of you just read one book a year....so I'm not judging you, promise. But the fact that I read 60 books since last January (not to count the books I read when we arrived in Spain in Fall 2014) is pretty remarkable for me. I read a decent amount of books in high school and a ton in college as an English major, but this past year has changed the way I approach reading and learning. I am finding reading a pleasure and a joy, not a chore. And there's so, so much I want to learn and know. And I can't wait for 2016, where my next goal is 75 books. 

So here's a (very) quick end of the year round up. I haven't logged any of my reading since September (oops!), so here you go:

#49 Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis {The next book in the Narnia series--I intended to finish the whole series this summer, but then...I didn't.} / #50 My Wish List by Gregoire Delacourt {A woman wins the lottery: does she tell anyone, or keep it a secret? Wonderful, quick read.} / #51 Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong {A good book to help you process and think about how to positively approach change, and what God might be telling you through it.} / #52 Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman {SO GOOD, GO READ IT. I really love Emily Freeman's writing style, and I loved reading about how to embrace the smallness of my own life.} / #53 Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (2nd installment in the Lunar Chronicals) {An adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood: just add equal parts man-turned-wolf (fangs included) and teenage romance, and you're good to go.} / #54 Ready Player One by Ernest Cline {This would make for a fantastic book club read. (Not that I'm in a book club, just saying.) What happens when the world falls apart, and people begin to live their lives physically hooked up to a cyber world?}  / #55 Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver {The sequel to The Bean Trees, and another beautiful work by a new favorite author.}  / #56 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger {I've always been curious about this classic. It's weird. And because I'm watching every episode of Gilmore Girls right now I couldn't help but imagine the protagonist was Jess.} / #57 When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson {A detective/crime novel...which after starting another novel in the same genre and abandoning it, and not being super crazy about this one, makes me think this genre might not be one I love. Take this one or leave it.}  / #58 Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert {True confessions: I hated Eat, Pray, Love. But Elizabeth Gilbert has won me back over with her TED talks, Big Magic, and her podcast by the same name. This was one of my favorite books of the year.} / #59 Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather {A bit slow--in my opinion--but still beautifully written, Cather portrays the American West in the mid-1800s and the dedication and perseverance of a Catholic bishop.} / #60 State of Wonder by Ann Patchett {I heard about this book in Big Magic and found it at a bookstore, and I can safely say I've found another author whose writing I want to devour. Another total favorite.}

That's all folks! Coming soon: looking back at my reading list last year, with my top ten favorites. Or top fifteen. Or twenty.

Until then, Happy New Year!

books forty to forty-eight: the end of "summer" reading. / Quick Lit.

Hello, hello! It's that time again: I'm linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy to share the books that I've been reading this month. And since in my world, summer is just about to end, I'm going to consider this the last summer reading post. Did I follow my summer reading list? Not really. Am I OK with that? ...Yes. :)

Book Forty: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. If you're wondering if I have already posted about reading the whole Harry Potter series this year, you're right. Except I started my read-a-thon with the third book, because I read book number one (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone...this one) fifteen years ago. But my History of Children's Literature class had this book listed as required reading (darn!), and I was thrilled to re-enter Harry's world and consider the story in light of what I was learning in class. 

Book Forty-One: Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. Also required reading this summer for my course was Locomotion, a book written in free verse poetry by Lonnie, an African-American boy who is grieving the loss of his parents in a house fire. He is living in foster care and has been separated from his sister, and writing is his way of expressing himself and processing his hardship and loneliness. He says, "Writing makes me remember. / It's like my whole family comes back again / when I write." Beautifully written.

Book Forty-Two: Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I'll be honest: I was skeptical about this Young Adult novel, the last of our required books for my class. And then I started reading this dystopian re-telling of the classic Cinderella tale, and I was immersed in this page-turner. It's Cinderella meets cyborgs meets Starwars and a little bit of Station Eleven. I'm going to read Scarlet, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles Series, this fall (though my professor said it was her least favorite). The storyline in Cinder continues and intertwines with another retold and twisted version of another classic fairy tale. (Reading the back of the books in the series to John in my nerdiest voice was admittedly fun as well.)

Book Forty-Three: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. This was $1.99 on Kindle one day and I couldn't pass it up. It was a hilarious read; reading it in public (on trains, at a cafe) meant that I was laughing a lot and no one else could be in on the jokes, but that's OK. It was fascinating to read about how Kaling got into comedy, how she scored her gig as a writer, actor, and producer on The Office, as well as a peek into what fame looks like for her from day to day.

Book Forty-Four: A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman. I loved this book and would highly recommend it. Again, it was $1.99 on an Amazon Kindle deal, and was recommended left and right on Twitter. As I'm trying to determine what God is calling me to next job-wise, and as I feel the constant stirrings of creativity bubbling up, this book was such an encouraging read. God calls us to be artists, no matter whether we are accountants, moms with little ones at home, teachers, or painters--and "being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive." And so as I reflect on all of the passages I highlighted, I'm left thinking a lot about what it is that makes me feel alive, to serve others and ultimately to give glory to God.

Books Forty-Five through Forty-Eight: The Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; and Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis. So, here's another I-can't-believe-I'm-admitting-this thing...but I've never read all of the Chronicles of Narnia. Especially since I studied English literature, I feel like that's a sin. But hey, I'm redeeming myself now! I'm currently reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader and expect to finish the series in the next two weeks, before we leave Valencia (since I'm borrowing them from the apartment we're living in!)

That's it for this month's Quick Lit! I'll be posting from a different country next month, and we'll see how much I get read in the midst of moving and family/friend time. I hope you are enjoying the books you're reading at the moment, too!