Those of you who follow my social media know that I have challenged myself to read 50 books in 2017. At the end of every month I plan to review the books I read so that you all may find a few treasures to read yourself through my process.
The Art Of Fielding: Chad Harbach
Favorite quote: “… a soul is not something a person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love.”
It took Harbach 10 years to write this book, and in those ten years he created a story that takes you down multiple complex paths of life that intertwine in different areas. The novel begins revolving around a dedicated young baseball player, Henry Skrimshander, who despite his small physique and his sub-par batting average, has an exceptional skill as a shortstop. Henry is given the chance to play the game that he loves at a small school in Wisconsin where he begins capturing the attention of the major leagues. While following his journey you will also be introduced to the stories of those around him, and you will soon find yourself just as interested in these lives as your were in Henry’s. The novel, though revolving around the game of baseball, will take you further than the field as you join the characters in love, tragedy, wins, and losses.
Though the book might have been about 100 pages longer than it needed to be, Harbach’s writing style is engaging and will keep your attention until the very last page. Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, I assure you that you will find value in this book.
Conservative disclaimer: This book does include multiple occurrences of sex, vulgar language, and homosexuality.
The Things They Carried: Tim O’Brien
Favorite quote: “What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end…”
Two words come to my mind when I reflect on this book “raw” and “vulnerability.” Though O’Brien wrote this reflection of his time fighting in Vietnam years after the war ended, he can put you right there in his worst memories proving that this war was such an impressionable and haunting memory of his past. He begins the novel by introducing his friends, his platoon, his brothers, by the things that they carried. You learn so much about each person by what they choose is important enough to carry with them in addition to their already heavy load of necessities. The rest of the novel is pure reflection, stories of his life before the war, after the war, and right in the thick of it all. Everything he tells you is so raw that you can only imagine how much his heart must have ripped in the process of getting these words on paper.
Not only is this a heart wrenching collection of true stories, but it is also a beautiful tribute to those who fought beside O’Brien through this horrid war, both those who lived to contribute memories, and those who became nothing but the memories.
Conservative disclaimer: This book, in order to capture the realities of war, contains graphic scenes with vivid descriptions and vulgar language.
Hatch! Brainstorming Secrets of a Theme Park Designer: C. McNair Wilson
favorite quote: “I believe creative thinking is the ‘Maker’s Mark’—the image of our creator.”
Let’s just start by saying that just about everything you think you know about efficient brainstorming is wrong. This book will keep you laughing and entertained the whole time while also teaching valuable techniques to become better at this creative process. It addresses that in corporate America the idea of creative thinking has been warped through generations and, in result, true brainstorming has become a loss art.
No matter your field of study or business, this book can add volumes to your skills in facilitation and overall leadership. The author has plenty of experience in the subject matter, as Disney imagineer, meaning he has helped to design arguably one of the greatest creative empires in the world. Learn why Disney creates such a mesmerizing world and what the meetings behind the scenes looked like in order to make them different than many other businesses.
Present over Perfect: Shauna Niequist
favorite quote: “In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments.”
This book definitely put me in my place in so many of the chapters. Niequist talks about her own struggles with stress and overloading herself, expressing that she was never able to say no, and explains how she got herself out of this exhausting spiral. The book offers so many words of wisdom, but it mostly just encourages less: less spending, less stuff, less wine, and less commitments. Her advice was exactly what I needed, and I have no doubt that it will be exactly what you need as well.
Even if you don’t think you struggle with overload give this book a read. I was the same way, I spent a majority of my time with this book trying to defend that I am not like this, that I can manage my stress well, but that was the point, you shouldn’t have to. Take a little bit of time out of your busy lives to read this book, and learn how to find this time a little more often in your day to day life. She expresses living with a lake-mentality, living your life like you are always on vacation, minimally. It’s definitely worth investing in.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Some books are simply beautiful, and that is exactly what this book is. It inspired so much passion for me while I read it: passion for literature, passion for people, passion for bravery. It was simply inspiring.
It is organized in the form of letters written back and forth mainly following the story of a novelist who falls in love with a little island in England called Guernsey. She becomes absolutely fascinated with the brave people on the island, and particularly with a society of people who calls themselves the Literary and Potato Peel Society. The society is full of stories of the people and their struggle to survive WWII with a freedom of thought in a place overtaken by the Germans.
As mentioned before the people, the relationships, the words, and the story itself, is simply beautiful. You will fall in love with all of it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be looking to make travel plans to Guernsey at the end, not yet ready to say goodbye to your new fictional friends.
Talking as Fast and I Can: Lauren Graham
favorite quote: “Because here’s the thing: I was fine on my own, and so are you. But it can be hard when you feel so ready for happy couplehood, and you seem to have missed the train.”
It’s such a relief to me when celebrities use their platform for good, to encourage those who admire them. Lauren Graham offers so many beautiful words of advice to those who choose to read her book. The best part to me was realizing that Lauren Graham is so much like some of my favorite characters that she has played through the years. She takes on these roles so well because she truly is the witty Lorelai Gilmore and the Strong Sarah Braverman that we all come to love. She is true to herself and to her characters, realizing that both has such an influence.
This is truly the book for anyone who is still mourning the end of Gilmore Girls. Relive every season as she watches them all for the first time and tells you the funny and moving stories that were going on behind the scenes of each season. Spend a little time in a book written by a lady who has spent years discovering who she is, and who she still wants to be, and is willing to share this wisdom with you.
I chose to listen to the audiobook rather than actually reading the book and I would strongly suggest this to anyone. It makes it seem like Lauren is in the car actually talking to you, and it’s almost as magical as Stars Hollow during the first snow of the year.
The Zookeepers Wife: Diane Ackerman
favorite quote: “All our senses feed the brain, and if it diets mainly on cruelty and suffering, how can it remain healthy?”
This book follows the story of a Zoo Keeper and his wife who make the difficult decision to become an illegal host to many jews escaping persecution in Poland during WWII. The couple’s zoo was destroyed in the bombings, and they make the decision to fill the spaces with jews. It began just with their friends, and eventually they become a safe place to hundreds of jews passing through to get to safety.
This story is true, and it needs to be heard, however, I hate to admit that I think the wrong woman was given the opportunity to write it. While the story itself had so much potential to move readers, the author, who was clearly well researched on the topic, tended to show off the research in ways that removed the reader from the impact and emotion of the story being told. The book made awkward shifts from narrative, to non-fiction, to diary entries. Many spoilers occurred in the middle of the book that might have been better off saved for the end, and the bunny trails of the story often took me away from what I was truly interested in and chose to read.
As mentioned before, the story itself is one that needs to be heard, so I advise everyone to at least see the movie that will be coming out this year. These two people are truly heroes.
The Magnolia Story: Chip and Joanna Gaines
favorite quote: “I always thought that the ‘thriving’ would comes when everything was perfect, and what I learned is that it’s actually down in the mess that things get good.”
This book, written by Chip and Joanna themselves, tells the story of how they got to where they are now. It gives you so much perspective on them both as people and a couple. The stories they tell are both beautiful and funny as they share stories both personal– how Chip proposed, and what their wedding was like– and business–the houses Chip bought without discussing it with Joanna and how his determination and her eye for design carried their success.
The book was refreshing to read, especially in a time in life where I feel a constant waiting for things to fall into place. It was a great reminder or how God works for those who love and honor him. It was not only a story on relationship and business, but also a subtle testimony.
Even if you’ve never watched on episode of Fixer Upper it would be worth your time to read this book.
The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes: Anna McPartlin
Favorite Quote: The very last line. Do yourself a favor and read the whole book.
When 44-year-old Rabbit Hayes is delivered the news that her days are limited, her family rallies around her in determination. This story takes you on an emotional journey as you join Rabbit both in the present and in her memories during her last days with the ones she loves. The author introduces you to everyone important to rabbit and lets you spend a little bit of time in these many different perspectives as they all deal with the tragedy in different ways.
While the story is heart-wrenching, the author offers more than enough comical relief without taking away from the emotion that the book deserves. Every character is well-developed, and they will all have a little piece of your heart by the end of the book. The author is also a screen writer, and it is very evident through her excellent use of dialogue.
This book will have you laughing, shaking your head, groaning, and ugly crying, but it will ultimately leave you with a need to hold those you love closer than you ever have before.
Conservative disclaimer: this book wrestles with a lot of different views on religion. It also posses quite a bit of sex and vulgar language.