reader. 2013 favorite books

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Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg.  It is about stopping and asking to be in awe of God. It is finding wonder in every moment of our life. The amazing moments of creation, friendship, forgiveness, prayer, and rest. This book is a wonderful read. The writing is engaging, thought-provoking, and simple. The chapter about the wonder of prayer really spoke to me. As an exercise, the author limited her prayers to contain only three words for one month. Each time she prayed she had to keep it simple and short. At first it was very frustrating wanting to say more, talk more, somehow be more spiritual. But it allowed her heart and brain and mind to be calmed. That the wonder of God comes in the spaces and in the in between. And when she finally finished her month, she stated she felt like she was reconnecting with an old friend when she was able to pray again. It made me stop and consider my own prayers and my focus when I talk with God. Who would like this? Anyone wanting to deeper their faith and walk with Jesus.

Bread and Wine: a love letter to life around the table by Shauna Niequist  “I hope that when you put this book down, you’ll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level” (shauna). This book is a series of essays, each just a few pages long, that are musings by the author about life, love, family, parenting, food, and community. It also includes a recipe after each chapter to inspire you in your own kitchen. First, if you haven’t read her other books, I HIGHLY recommend them. And this one is just as wonderful! I must have dog-eared 20 different pages to share with Matt as I went through the book. I love her thoughts about living life with friends and family and the how food often represents different stages in our lives. The recipes are so enjoyable to read and covers everything from making your first vinaigrette, to gluten-free meals to fabulous desserts. Her writing is amusing, easy to follow, and brutely honest about the ups and downs of life. Who would like it? Food-lovers. Homemakers. Cooks. Those interested in wanting new ideas in how to promote community living.

The Gardener and the Grill by Karen Adler & Judith Fertig Using food that you are able to grow your self or buy at a local farmers market, this cookbook encourages healthy eating through simple recipes and amazing descriptions in how to make the most of your grill! It includes beautiful photography for you to see many of the dishes and be inspired to make them youself. There is a wide range of recipes including seasoning, basting sauce, appetizers, pizza, meats, and even dessert. Love it. And everyone we have cooked meals for from this book, they have also loved it! This cookbook has changed the way we grill. The binding is already creased and pages smudged because we have used it so often this summer. It has wonderful instructions for grilling almost any type of vegetable or fruit. It encourages the use of natural spices in flavors with very little salt in any of the dishes. I have been able to follow the recipes exactly how it’s written (quantity, cook time, etc) and they have been perfect! Not only are the foods flavorful and healthy but they are aesthetically so beautiful in their presentation. Some of our favorites has been the grilled zucchini pizza (who knew you could put dough directly on the grill and within minutes you have a beautiful flatbread or pizza dough ?!), grilled smores with strawberries, cream-cheese stuffed peppers, and many more. Who would like it? Anyone wanting to learn how to grill using fresh produce and foods. Those desiring new ideas for grilling. It makes a wonderful gift (thank you Rebecca for sending this my way!
Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans This book is the story of the author’s one-year-long experiment about being a “biblical woman”. Her mission is to literally follow what the Bible says regarding being a woman including no gossiping, gentle spirit, not speaking in church, modesty, motherhood, housework, and many more. I loved it. I thought it was witty, thought-provoking, and a wonderful read. The chapters on modesty and motherhood and cooking were hilarious! The essence of the book surrounds the discussion of how to interpret the Bible in regards to it’s stories/commands about women. She does many things tongue-in-cheek (such as camping outside her house during her period as commanded in the old testament), but it’s to demonstrate how Churches can not pick and choose which verses they will interpret to be literal or figurative based on gender preferences. As with all Biblical study, who and what the original author/audience was discussing needs to be understood before applying it to our lives today. I loved how she highlighted the stories of women in the Bible at the end of each chapter (from mother’s and prophets, to prostitutes and foreigners) and what we can learn from them. I strongly agree with the author’s opinion strongly that both male and female are created equal by God and careful consideration should be made before labeling a rule or preference as “Biblical”. Who would like this book? Women (especially those who identifies themselves as a Christian), anyone wanting to spark conversations regarding “womanhood” and what that looks like.

Little Princes: One man’s promise to bring home the lost boys of Nepal by Conor Grennan  This is a true story about a young man and his decision to volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal (out of boredom and wanting his resume to look good). Just when he is ready to return home, he learns the shocking truth that the children have a terrible past. They were taken from their parents by child traffickers and forced to work and fight, and then abandoned in the country. He then tries to do the impossible: find the parents of these children and reunite families. I was surprised how quickly I was drawn into this book. The book focuses on these orphan boys and the culture of Nepal in the middle of a civil war. Rather than being just another heartbreaking book about child trafficking, the author simply wants to tell his amazing story about falling in love with these children. The book has humor, love, and lots of adventure. Who would like it? Memoir lovers, people who are passionate about helping orphans, those who want to raise awareness about child trafficking.

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis  This is the real story of Katie: a 19 year old woman who went to Africa in 2007 and how it changed her life. She starts as a teacher, and then becomes a mother, and then a healer, and then she lives and breathes for these people she now calls her family. I finished this book in one day because I couldn’t put it down. The writing is simple yet so descriptive  rich, and honest as she recalls her experiences living in Africa. Her story is rooted in wanting to live life the way we are meant to = loving one person at a time. However, may I warn you, this book may change your life. It may get inside your head and your heart and make your life messy. Because this book is more than just about orphans in Africa. This book is all about loving unconditionally. It begs the reader to love like Jesus, to love everyone, without strings attached and without an agenda. Who would like it? Those who love to love others.

The Dirty Life: a memoir on farming, food, and love by Kristin Kimball This is the true story of Kristin and her husband leaving behind their life in New York to start an organic farm that would produce enough to feed themselves and their community. She recalls the first year of their farm–butchering animals and eating liver and heart, the struggle of weeding, buying horses, catching pigs, the pain of hard labor, and the sweetness of living simply, making sugar and hay….everything that a self-sustaining farm requires. This memoir was amazing. I saw this book on several must-read lists so I grabbed it from our library. After the first few pages, I found Matt and asked him if he’d move to a farm. Seriously. It romances you to desire home-grown organic healthy food and living. And it also shocks you at the work such a lifestyle requires. At times, the book gets a little wordy in its descriptive nature, but it’s very engaging and witty. At the end of the book, I truly want to go visit their farm. I highly recommend this read! Who would like it? Lovers of farming, eating healthy and well. Anyone looking to learn more about the process of home-grown organic food.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty What if you woke up one day and you have forgotten the last 10 years of your life? You think you are happily married, expecting your first child, and living a simple life. Instead you are getting divorced (but you can’t remember why), have 3 kids (you don’t know any of them), and have a life that you realize you don’t really like. This is the fictional story of Alice who hit her head, now has amnesia, and is trying to figure out what her life is all about. After I picked up this book from the library this week, I read it in one day. It is quick-witted, full of heart, and it gives a unique perspective on a ”second chance” at life. I would recommend it for a great fictional read! The writing is wonderful. I told my husband all about it after I was done and we had good discussion about if it happened to us, what we think our life would be about). Who would like it? Women, especially moms

“Looking for God: an unexpected journey through tattos, tofu, and pronouns” by Nancy Ortberg. I have been soaking up this book, chapter by chapter every week for a few months now. I wish I could adequately describe this book, except I can’t read a few pages without going to Matt and saying “listen to this! listen to this!”. It is an easy-to-read type of book, but with profound thoughts and conclusions. The author simply brings to the surface that a relationship with God is an every-moment life.