Tag Archives: books

2013 book report

Today is a snow day. It is a literal winter wonderland outside. I briefly considered showing up at school with all three children ANYWAY and just dropping them off, but I think we can make it a little longer. #famouslastwords #imtired

Before January completely takes of and 2013 is forgotten, I want to record the books I read last year. This list is taken directly from my Kindle files, so it’s missing the hard copies I read… but this is the jist of my efforts. Y’all know I love to read. It’s a fast and furious passion. Books are often finished in a day or maybe two, even if they are absolutely terrible (seriously- some of the plots that get pushed through to publishing are just absolutely ridiculous). Doing more than half of my reading digitally has helped me to curb my greatest vice: reading ahead to the end FIRST and then settling in for the long haul.

I hope we can still be friends. 

It’s an awful habit, I know… but I am so much calmer if I know where things are headed. I pay more attention instead of trying to read fast to get to the resolution. At any rate, it’s much more difficult for me to do on my Kindle than with paper, so I consider myself on the road to recovery. I do still very much prefer hard copies of books, but the Kindle allows me to store digital highlights (which I love) AND “go to the library” without my children in tow (lovely).

I will spare you my pages and pages of highlights from all of the books, but suffice it to say that while there are ridiculous things being published there are still, in fact, absolute masters of language and storytelling out there. I’ve included just a few examples for you below the list of books and authors. The books in red were my absolute favorites, for various reasons. The few I remember being angry I had to keep reading on principle alone I marked, as well.

[Thursday, I want to talk about this essay… so read ahead if you can.]


Books read in 2013

  1. Gone Girl, Flynn
  2. Same Kind of Different as Me, Hall & Moore
  3. Dark Places, Flynn
  4. Outliers, Gladwell
  5. Beautiful Lies, Unger
  6. Bad Things Happen, Dolan
  7. The Other Wes Moore, Moore
  8. The Tipping Point, Gladwell
  9. Imperfect Birds, Lamott
  10. Dinner: A Love Story, Rosenstrach
  11. My name is Memory, Brashares
  12. Fragile, Unger
  13. Wait For me, Naughton
  14. Homesong, Crews (eh)
  15. The Girl From Long Guyland, Reznik (eh)
  16. The Secret Keeper, Morton
  17. The Storyteller, Picoult
  18. The Time Keeper, Albom (blah)
  19. The Kitchen House, Grissom
  20. These is My Words, Turner
  21. One Thousand White Women, Fergus
  22. The Light Between Oceans, Stedman
  23. The Dead Don’t Dance, Martin
  24. When Crickets Cry, Martin
  25. Chasing Fireflies, Martin
  26. Maggie, Martin
  27. The Mountain Between Us, Martin
  28. The Four Corners of the Sky, Malone (absolutely hated this)
  29. Sweet Mercy, Tatlock
  30. The Sisterhood, Bryan
  31. When I Found You, Ryan Hyde
  32. Where the River Ends, Martin
  33. The Art of Racing in the Rain, Stein
  34. The Devil in the White City, Larson (crazy scary)
  35. The Red Tent, Diamant
  36. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Joyce
  37. A Land More Kind Than Home, Cash
  38. The O’Briens, Behrens (blah)
  39. Alice I Have Been, Benjamin
  40. The Silver Linings Playbook, Quick
  41. The Birth House, McKay (eh)
  42. The Virgin Cure, McKay (eh)
  43. The Last Original Wife , Frank (eh… bad run here of blah books)
  44. When Mockingbirds Sing, Coffey
  45. Firefly Lane, Hannah
  46. Wild, Strayed
  47. War Brides, Bryan
  48. Falling Together, de los Santos
  49. The Peach Keeper, Allen
  50. Beautiful Ruins, Walter
  51. Every Shattered Thing, Ramirez
  52. The Engagements, Sullivan (no)
  53. American Rust, Meyer
  54. The Woman Upstairs, Messud
  55. The Lost Husband, Center
  56. Mockingbird, Erskine
  57. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman
  58. Me Before You, Moyes
  59. Orphan Train, Kline
  60. The Thirteenth Tale, Setterfield (amazing, classic)
  61. Little Bee, Cleave
  62. True…Sort of, Hannigan (best ever)
  63. The Husband’s Secret, Moriarity
  64. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Jackson
  65. The Space Between Us, Umrigar
  66. The Rules of Inheritance, Smith
  67. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Janzen
  68. The Rosie Project, Simsion
  69. The Girl You Left Behind, Moyes
  70. The Last Letter from Your Lover, Moyes


  1. Eleanor & Park, Rowell (perfect in every way)
  2. Someday Someday Maybe, Graham (loved)
  3. Before I Fall, Oliver (eh)


Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen :: “But my friend wasn’t Catholic! I thought he had to be buried outside the fence!” exclaimed the ex-soldier. “Yes,” said the priest. “But I scoured the books of church law. I couldn’t find anything that said we couldn’t move the fence.”

Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave :: A story is a powerful thing in my country, and God help the girl who takes one that is not her own.

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield :: Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else’s story.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman :: “You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud :: But who I am in my head, very few people really get to see that. Almost none. It’s the most precious gift I can give, to bring her out of hiding. Maybe I’ve learned it’s a mistake to reveal her at all.

The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel by Matthew Quick :: You need to know it’s your actions that will make you a good person, not desire.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin :: Sleep cures tired, but it has no effect on fatigued.

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus :: The white man builds his forts and houses, his stores and churches—his flimsy fortifications against the vastness and emptiness of earth which he does not know to worship but tries instead to simply fill up.

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner :: Sometimes I feel like a tree on a hill, at the place where all the wind blows and the hail hits the hardest. All the people I love are down the side aways, sheltered under a great rock, and I am out of the fold, standing alone in the sun and the snow. I feel like I am not part of the rest somehow, although they welcome me and are kind. I see my family as they sit together and it is like they have a certain way between them that is beyond me. I wonder if other folks ever feel included yet alone.

Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore :: You never know whose eyes God is watchin’ you through. It probably ain’t gonna be your preacher.

Do you have any recent favorites?



buckle up

We are headed south to the Mother Country for the next week.

Texas, I’m comin’ for ya.


Someone please get me this shirt for Christmas.

I’m a medium. 

The last time we were in a vehicle for 20 hours (which, ridiculously, was only two months ago) each way, Curt and I were deciding what we’d like to do over the next few days of “vacation” (P.S. “vacation” is a dumb word when you have 3 young kids… it’s a TRIP, not a vacation). He asked what I wanted MOST and I answered, “Read. By myself. Read by myself alone.”

It was quiet for a moment until he looked over at me and said,

“You are so unpredictably boring!”

Coming from a man who calculates odometer accuracy for a good time, this stung a little.

On the other hand, I certainly never claimed to be the poster child for excitement. I used to be cool. I climbed big rocks with little ropes and I sang on big stages and I travelled the world with a backpack. Now I’m completely content to catch a re-run of M*A*S*H on tv and make homemade popcorn. I know things have changed.

On the OTHER HAND (Fiddler reference there),  I took a naked child to a doctor’s appointment AND recess duty because she puked all over the van, her clothes, and her carseat on the way INTO town, I watched Lazarus the Calf come back from the dead, and I taught Gus Man how to crack eggs for pancakes.

I’m all about adventure, People.

It just looks different now.

All that to say, I’m a little nervous for our upcoming travel conversations. Any question prompts for me? Can you make me more interesting?

And because my life always come back to books, I need to ask you:

Have you read True (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan?



It is absolutely one of the top 10 books of my life. I would describe it as a modern-day Charlie Brown story: good kid with bad luck changes the/her/my world. It’s Young Adult fiction, but do not assume that means it’s simple or beneath you or childish. It’s amazing and funny and heartbreaking. She has broken characters that are stunning and true. The language and expression took me by complete surprise… I could see every thought and understand every emotion. Hope and Loyalty and Faith all play heavy here… you can see why I am a fan. Do yourself a favor and read it whilst I’m on the road, ok?

I have Someday Someday Maybe and The Eyre Affair on audiobook for my graveyard driving shifts. We have a tractor show on the calendar, a date night in San Antonio, and a cow show in Ft. Worth. There are also a handful of college roommate hugs and one ‘meet me at an exit on the highway as we pass through town’ in the works.

I cannot wait.

I’ll yell when we get there.

Please pray.

2012 reading highlights

I love words. I dream words. When I read, I think, “MY LANTA, that was an incredible sentence.” I do.  One of the perks of reading on a Kindle is that it keeps all your highlights online so you can pull them back up at a moment’s notice… like, perhaps, when re-capping your year through books.  These are the special truths I found in pages this year.

Now, a few superstars are missing. I read some incredible words the perfectly old-fashioned way… but those quotes shall remain in the books, like the should-have-been photos of the lovely day when you forgot your camera. Those specials are for re-reading and re-finding another day.

I hope you find some laughter and widsom and beauty below.

What was your favorite book this year?

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

(The boy had a skinny, tiny-eyed face like a rat. She was twenty-five before it occurred to her that she could have insulted him back, but the rule of life was that the boys got to decide which girls were pretty; it didn’t really matter how ugly they were themselves.)

Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess {Expanded Edition} by Brooke McGlothlin, Stacey Thacker

Ephesians 3:20-21:   “God can do anything, you know―far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. . .
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” C.S. Lewis
Why do we seek Him? Is it so He can perform for us, take care of all our needs, bind up our wounds, raise our dead? He is that God. He sees us. But if we only follow Him because of what He does, there will come a time when we feel like He doesn’t. And then we must choose if we will turn away or follow through the times when life hurts too much because of who He is, the God who bends down to listen (Psalm 116:2), and gives up His all to give us life.
We are mistaken if we believe our good parenting moves God in any way to act on our behalf. And while it’s not wrong of us to long for the salvation of our homes, it IS wrong for us to believe God brings salvation in response to our behavior.   Everything God does, He does for Himself.   “Thus says the Lord God: ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy Name.’” (Ezekiel 36:22)
I’m pretty sure God allows suffering and challenge in our lives to bring us to a place of raw dependence.   I’m NOT saying my child, or Tracey’s, died just so we could be more like Jesus. But I AM saying it would be a waste not to let them make us more like Jesus . . .
He had been able to repress every disrespectful word; but the flashing eye, the gloomy and troubled brow, were part of a natural language that could not be repressed,—indubitable signs, which showed too plainly that the man could not become a thing.
In the book of John, the disciples saw a man who had been blind since birth. They asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-3). I believe in a God who is sovereign over all—sovereign from the first second that James existed, growing inside me, and sovereign over every decision I made for him, the good and the possibly bad. Instead of living in the “what-ifs” and “should haves,” I have to move on. I have to trust that through James’s life, the works of God might be displayed.
Having a team of therapists has benefited James because when there is an issue, each member of the team looks at it from a different perspective.
Outlander: with Bonus Content by Diana Gabaldon

A man killed with a musket was just as dead as one killed with a mortar. It was just that the mortar killed impersonally, destroying dozens of men, while the musket was fired by one man who could see the eyes of the one he killed. That made it murder, it seemed to me, not war. How many men to make a war? Enough, perhaps, so they didn’t really have to see each other?
There comes a turning point in intense physical struggle where one abandons oneself to a profligate usage of strength and bodily resource, ignoring the costs until the struggle is over. Women find this point in childbirth; men in battle.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

It was the first story she’d ever trapped on paper, and to see her thoughts and ideas turned concrete was curious. It made her skin seem unusually sensitive, strangely exposed and vulnerable.
I want them to press through the anxiety and stress of placing their creation in front of an inevitably critical audience. And when the repast doesn’t earn rave reviews from all the mealtime judges, I want them to learn that their worth should never be tied to success or failure.
Early on, I realized that even though the role of Enforcer doesn’t come naturally to my laid-back personality, I couldn’t let it bother me that the kids didn’t want to work; the fact was, they needed to work.
Nothing was being asked of him that he couldn’t do. Plus, I’m always there to help—probably too often and too much. It really boiled down to the fact that he only wanted work based on his terms. Isn’t that how we all want it to be?
In our society, children are generally not required to do meaningful work to help their families. Going to school, pursuing their extracurricular activities, and staying out of major trouble is considered their function. In the old days, boys (and girls) had chores and roles that were vitally important to the survival and functioning of their family unit. These roles gave children a sense of self-worth, vitality, and importance. They knew that they were an integral part of the survival of their family and that without their contribution, it would suffer.”
Cleaning methods are a frequent bone of contention between parents and children. A parent’s insistence on “the right way” can add another element of conflict to the housework issue. The answer? Avoid this by focusing on the “good-enough” job. A 10-year-old’s skill with the vacuum cleaner will increase with practice … if he’s not derailed by arguments over too-high standards or demoralized when a parent redoes the work.
No, in life, like in school, the best time to do our best work is the first time. It is what is asked of us, it is how we are gauged, it is the expectation for the job at hand, and if we can’t perform at that level, we may be asked to step down. Or worse, we will be an inhibitor to a company or a ministry. The Lord is clear in Scripture on the topic of work. In Proverbs 21:5 we are taught, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” …
The stronger my faith (resting in what is known rather than seen), the more I listen, the faster I respond, the less I complain and push back … the deeper my intimacy with God, the more often I’m called to serve, the greater my peace and contentment. The lesson for me, and the one I’d love for all my kids to grasp? Be the go-to, uncomplaining, submitting, teachable worker. In a counter-intuitive sort of way, peace and freedom accompany that path of surrendered obedience.
A dollar lost is more compelling than a dollar earned.
Dan Myers’s book Biblical Parenting, which I thought sums up our job well: In a nutshell, the answer to child-rearing is to love one’s children, use good common sense, and be guided by the Bible, not worldly standards. For parenting, “Do as I say and not as I do,” is not sufficient. You must be the person you would like your children to become. Jesus, Matthew 22:37–39, said you can do this by (1) loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind and (2) by loving your neighbors as yourself.… Remember that the goal of parenting is not to provide a successful childhood but to grow your child into an adult who is a good person.
Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler. —HENRI J. M. NOUWEN
people tend to participate more eagerly when they help set the agenda rather than simply executing ideas that have been pushed upon them.
Parents must stand united, not “against” the children, but in leadership “before” the children. It is the obligation of parents to make sure children feel loved and respected. It is not the obligation of parents to ensure children feel happy. —Dottie Jones
Work is the vehicle through which God cares for creation (see Genesis 2:15). The satisfaction that comes from accomplishment, from demonstrating responsibility, from making even a small difference in our world is written into our DNA. My role as the parent is to love these kids, nurture them, and teach them how to embrace what they were created to do.
Home to Woefield: A Novel by Susan Juby

The personality I’ve got naturally is not your all-occasions variety.
She smiled. Her teeth were extra white and probably not from bleaching but from inner purity or something.
I debated whether to tell them I had long since abandoned my writing career and moved into radishes and fraud, but decided the timing was wrong.
I’d promised everyone that we would put up proper fences and build a barn before winter, but I didn’t have enough money and I knew when I made the promises I was not being entirely truthful. Lying had become habitual since I became a farmer.
Oh My Stars: A Novel by Lorna Landvik

From what I can see, miracles are built from love, and as far as love is concerned, I am a true believer.
Esben was convinced that because she did things she didn’t want to do and did them joyfully, her Christian heart was beyond reproof, whereas Leola was of the mind that if the thoughts were rotten, everything that sprung from them had to be tainted too.
She sang along with two songs she had learned from the past night’s concerts, but when they started improvising again, urging Violet’s participation, she declined, choosing instead to sit back and listen. As exhilarated as she was, she was bushed; they had traveled less than sixty miles today, and yet Violet felt she had crossed several borders.
It’s funny, the family heirlooms we pass down to kids—bone china, jewelry, cash, real estate—but we can’t bequeath them the really important things, like friends. The really important things they have to find themselves.
“Acting your age” as an eighteen-year-old meant acting like an adult; we weren’t coddled and didn’t have the luxury of stretching our adolescence into our thirties, as seems to be the trend now.
Of course you don’t get to be my age without learning that “Why?” is the million-dollar question—the who-what-where-when-and-how questions reporters try to answer are a piece of cake compared to the why. If you’re able to explain the why, you’re able to explain everything, and when’s the last time you were that smart?
For parents, there’s nothing sweeter than seeing your child fight her demons and win.
Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay

There is an ancient rule: actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea—“the act does not create guilt unless the mind is also guilty.” That is why we do not convict children, drunks, and schizophrenics: they are incapable of deciding to commit their crimes with a true understanding of the significance of their actions. Free will is as important to the law as it is to religion or any other code of morality. We do not punish the leopard for its wildness.
Life goes on, probably too long if we’re being honest about it. In a long life there are thirty or thirty-five thousand days to be got through, but only a few dozen that really matter, Big Days when Something Momentous Happens. The rest—the vast majority, tens of thousands of days—are unremarkable, repetitive, even monotonous.
The Talk-Funny Girl: A Novel by Roland Merullo

There are some kinds of sorrow that words can never reach, certain kinds of things you can never hold in the box of your thoughts, certain kinds of pain you can’t soften in other people.
All that bruise and confusion, all that guilt and shame and buried anger: I wanted to go back and hunt it down and close the hurt-museum for good, though I discovered you cannot really do that. What you can do, what you have to do, is not pass too much of it on. If you can stop that trouble from flowing through you onto your children and husband and other people, or even if you can dilute it, then it seems to me your life ought to be pleasing to whatever kind God it was who made you.
The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Before I realized I was crying, a tear dropped from the tip of my chin onto the baby’s cheek. It ran in a thin line to the edge of her mouth, and her red lips puckered in surprise. I laughed, and the tears ran faster. The open forgiveness in her eyes, the uncensored love, terrified me. Like Grant, my daughter deserved so much more than I could give her. I wanted her to carry hawthorn, laugh easily, and love without fear. But I could not give her this, could not teach her what I didn’t know. It would be only a matter of time before my toxicity would taint her perfection. It would leak out of my body, and she would swallow it with the willingness of a ravenous infant. I had hurt every person I had ever known; I wanted, desperately, to save her from the dangers of being my daughter.
If it was true that moss did not have roots, and maternal love could grow spontaneously, as if from nothing, perhaps I had been wrong to believe myself unfit to raise my daughter. Perhaps the unattached, the unwanted, the unloved, could grow to give love as lushly as anyone else.
Maybe she would be scared, and maybe I would feel overwhelmed, but we would try again the next week and the one after that. Over time, we would learn each other, and I would learn to love her like a mother loves a daughter, imperfectly and without roots.
Earl, for example, comes into Bloom asking for flowers that will make his wife “happy”—but when pressed, he realizes it isn’t happiness at all that he’s looking for, but rather connection and communication. So many people walk around with a vague feeling of discontentment without ever understanding what it is that’s making them feel dissatisfied. Through her conversations with her customers, Victoria helps them become clear about what it is they want in their lives. The bouquets she creates for them are physical manifestations of these desires, and when customers leave her shop with flowers in their hands, they do so believing change to be imminent. In my experience, it is this belief that has the power to transform lives.
severe attachment disorders were thought of almost like a life sentence. Study after study illustrated that early relationships between caregivers and infants actually shape the circuits of the brain and lay the foundation for later developmental outcomes—from academic performance and interpersonal skills to physical and mental health. But new research out of the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University shows that the brain retains its ability to change far into life. Learning to securely attach at any time in one’s life—to a caregiver (as Victoria does with Elizabeth) or even to a partner (as Victoria does with Grant)—has the ability to “rewire” circuits in the brain. This is hopeful research for those like Victoria, who are determined to overcome the trauma they have experienced and learn to love themselves and others.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I was raised among books, making invisible friends in pages that seemed cast from dust and whose smell I carry on my hands to this day.
“Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not for the merits of who receives them,” said my father.
Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck

no matter who was around me, no matter how helpful and loving people tried to be, I was still going to end up facing my fears alone.
It is a frightening thing to love someone you know the world rejects. It makes you so terribly vulnerable. You know you will be hurt by every slight, every prejudice, every pain that will befall your beloved throughout his life.
We go around like Queen Elizabeth, bless her heart, clutching our dowdy little accessories, avoiding the slightest hint of impropriety, never showing our real feelings or touching anyone else except through glove leather. But we were dazed and confused when the openly depressed, bulimic, adulterous, rejected Princess Di was the one people really adored. Living with Adam, loving Adam, has taught me a lot about the truth. He has taught me to look at things in themselves, not at the value a brutal and often senseless world assigns to them. As Adam’s mother I have been able to see quite clearly that he is no less beautiful for being called ugly, no less wise for appearing dull, no less precious for being seen as worthless. And neither am I.
He’s got that way of believing his opinion is the truth, but he’s not disagreeable about it. He’s too sure he’s right to bother being disagreeable.
I think you learn more if you’re laughing at the same time.
Isola exaggerates, but only enough to enjoy herself.
All those people I’ve come to know and even love a little, waiting to see—me. And I, without any paper to hide behind. Sidney, in these past two or three years, I have become better at writing than living—and think what you do to my writing. On the page, I’m perfectly charming, but that’s just a trick I learned. It has nothing to do with me.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

A miracle contradicts the will of earth.
Fair is whatever God wants to do.
Rules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles

I had the house salad—a terrific concoction of iceberg greens, cold blue cheese and warm red bacon. If I were a country, I would have made it my flag.