Books of 2016

2016 was equal parts wonderful and hard, full and lonely. I finished grad school, we decided to stick around Fay town, and I started my first "real" job (!!). Through it all, lots of reading. 

Books of the year originally started in 2013 as a way to read more and keep myself accountable to something I loved doing. The idea was to read the number of books that correlated with how old I was that year. 21 books for my year of being 21, etc. You can read about previous years here and here

I've always been passionate about books and reading. Now more than ever, I see the importance in it. Reading teaches us to take on another's perspective, to agree or disagree. To engage in a story that's different than our own. Reading helps with that connection and I think it helps us build bridges in ways that most other things can't. And in a life that's so saturated with technology and ads and quick fixes, a physical book slows me down. For that, I'm grateful.

I've kept up my annual reading challenge but decided to bump up my goal to 40 books this year. 

 

I read several classics and finally worked my way through a few books that had been sitting on the shelf FOREVER. I'm slowly purging books and only keeping ones that I love! I still love thrifting books but I find the books I'm most excited to read most often come from the library.

All of that said, my 2016 list! In order they were read..

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
2. French Women Don't Get Fat
3. The Interestings
4. The Alchemist
5. The Secret Garden
6. Scary Close
7. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
8. When Breath Becomes Air
9. The Things We Keep
10. The Kitchen House
11. Still Alice
12. For the Love
13. The Color Purple
14. Me Before You
15. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
16. The Nightingale
17. The Shootist
18. Two Across
19. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
20. Carry On, Warrior
21. The Language of Flowers
22. Olive Kitteridge
23. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
24. My Berlin Kitchen
25. The Dinner
26. The Westing Game
27. Number the Stars
28. But You Did Not Come Back
29. The Nest
30. The Dirty Life
31. The Boston Girl
32. A Man Called Ove
33. Calling Me Home
34. The Bell Jar
35. A Little Life
36. The Other Wes Moore
37. The Girls
38. The Astronaut Wives Club
39. Homegoing
40. Daring Greatly
41. Present Over Perfect
42. The Underground Railroad
43. Into Thin Air
44. News of the World

Favorites: Homegoing, The Nightingale, Calling Me Home. GIMME ALL THE HISTORICAL FICTION. 

Honorable Mention: A Little Life (still reeling from this book), The Underground Railroad, The Kitchen House

2016 was a solid year for reading and I'm already eager to get rolling on my 2017 booklist. Did you read any really great books this year? Will you set a reading goal for next year? Find me on goodreads and let's be friends!

Happy reading!

Every Body is Beautiful

Surely I'm not the only one who struggles with self confidence and body image. The moments where I feel insecure and start checking off the list of ways I don't fit in or look "good enough". Surely I'm not the only one who so quickly buys into the lies of, "if I just lose this" or "just do that". The just monster is a moron and a liar. 

And yet, this body is the only one I've got. It's the one that God knit together nearly 25 years ago, with such precision and design. This body is where the holy spirit resides and chooses to live in me. And yet, I'm so quick to want to trade this body, to turn it into something else.

I'm realizing that there's a difference between wanting to look a certain way and wanting to treat your body WELL. To honor it and be grateful for the places it takes you. To feed it good, whole, nourishing food. To respect it. 

So I'm slowly learning to practice gratitude for this one single body I get. To say thank you for carrying me and allowing me to do new and hard things. To walk and move and jump and dance. 

I did something scary. I signed up for a month to try pilates and barre classes. I'm two weeks in and I'm absolutely hooked. Each class I see a bit more about my createdness and the strength that I have. And in acknowledging the createdness, giving worship back to the creator. I'm learning to slow down and breath more and keep my focus centered. I'm forced to forget everything else that's happened in a day to concentrate on the single task of moving and breathing. I'm honoring my body in ways I haven't in a long time. And friends, it feels so, so good. I'm becoming more comfortable in my own skin because I appreciate it more. 

I know that fear and shame are so very loud. But they aren't the only voices. Let's shout truth and love over one another even louder. Every body is beautiful. 

The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad won this year's National Book Award and for very good reason. 

"Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood - where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor - engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven - but the city's placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share."

It was a read I'd been looking forward to for quite some time and I was extremely excited to reach the top of the queue at the library. This book was incredibly well written and heavy in a way that takes your breath away. He does an incredible job of intertwining history with a story that sucks you in. It's grotesquely accurate in it's portrayal of our history as a country and it scares me to see how much we've regressed. Whitehead had the idea for this book 16 years ago but waited until he felt like he could do it justice. It's more relevant now than ever before. 

“The whites came to this land for a fresh start and to escape the tyranny of their masters, just as the freemen had fled theirs. But the ideals they held up for themselves, they denied others.” 

Books, especially this one,  are helping me to find the right questions to ask and to dig a little deeper into my discomfort. To realize the responsibility I have in this day and age, and to feel the weight of it all. To be challenged and pushed forward. 

I'll finish with these words by @athousandbooks:

"It's interesting to see what's happening in literature in 2016 juxtaposed with the current political climate. Books addressing the scourge of slavery like Homegoing and The Underground Railroad are bestsellers, plays like Hamilton are sold out, and yet deep down I think many of us have a sense that despite changes to laws, the collective mindset concerning race remains stagnant. Why is that? I don't think it's wrong to read these books on the beach or set them next to steaming cups of coffee and lunch or melt ice cream on their covers, but as we illuminate, let's also remember the dark tragedy of it all. When literature emits pain like heat, may we as readers feel its prick and do our best to remember the oven is still on."