It’s time to make my second recommendations for the 2016 Reading Challenge!
What is the reading challenge?
It’s a fun and simple way to read books this new year. Here are the basics of the challenge:
-You will read one book a month from a specific category (details below)
-You don’t have to read them in the order listed
-At the beginning of each month I will give you many ideas for fantastic books within that category that you just might enjoy
-Throughout the month I will post updates on my Facebook page (if you haven’t started following yet, this would be a great time!), sharing the books I’m reading within that category. You can chime in with what you are reading and get recommendations from other readers.
-At the end of the year we will celebrate our success and share our favorites from 2016 (plus have a pretty awesome giveaway…)!
So, are you in? If you’re not convinced yet, here are the categories:
2016 Reading Challenge
January: A Book that Inspires You
February: A Book About Love
March: A Book Set in Another Time Period
April: A Memoir
May: A Mystery
June: A Nonfiction Book on a Topic That Interests You
July: A Book By An Author You Really Enjoy
August: Something You Should Have Read in School But Didn’t
September: A Newbery Award Winner (The Best Work of Children’s Literature for that year. HERE.)
October: Something Scary
November: A Fantasy
December: A Book Set in Another Country
February’s Reading Challenge: A Book About Love
This month’s challenge is also intentionally open and vague. You can read a book about any type of love: romantic, familial, for God, for a cause, of the land, and the list goes on. Here are a few books that I think you might enjoy:
Love and Faith
Wounded by Love by Elder Porphyrios
Elder Porphyrios (now Saint Porphyrios) was an Orthodox monk and priest who died 25 years ago. This is a compilation of his writings with deep spiritual truths showing his love for Christ, meditation on Christ’s love for mankind, humility, repentance, and life lived in service and love of others. Read it with a pencil handy for taking notes. Read it a paragraph or page at a time to be able to meditate and ponder. Read to learn more about the depth and height and breadth of love.
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
A Severe Mercy is the memoir of Sheldon Vanauken that tells the story of he and his wife’s courtship and marriage, conversion to Christianity, friendship with C.S. Lewis, and tragedy. The memoir explores the themes of romantic love, friendship, faith, and the love of God amidst loss. I read the book during a very difficult time and found it incredibly encouraging, despite its sad and serious subject matter. It ultimately helped me find hope and gave me courage to trust in God.
In God’s Hands: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Infant’s Critical Illness by Elissa Bjeletich
Faith and love in the midst of crisis, pain, and fear. The cry of a loving mother to a loving God. Beautiful description and insight for all on the nature of true love.
Classic Love Stories
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
There’s a reason why women have been swooning over this book since its publication over two centuries ago. It’s hard to find a better love story anywhere. Lizzy and Darcy dance around their mutual attraction and admiration for the better part of the book, making for a delightful tension and happy conclusion. If you have read P&P, why not try Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, or Emma?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre tells the classic story of the governess turned mistress of the house. Orphaned Jane overcomes her miserable childhood to find a steady position at the home of Mr. Rochester. Drawn to her mysterious employer, she believes she has finally found happiness when he returns her affection. However, several more twists must play out before our lovers can have their happy ending. If you enjoyed this Bronte sister book, February would be a great time to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte or (my personal favorite) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Most people think of the scandalous affair between the beautiful (and married) Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky as the pivotal relationship in Tolstoy’s classic novel. However, Tolstoy originally titled the book “Two Marriages.” Anna’s affair is contrasted with the love, courtship, and marriage of Kitty and Levin. Reading the novel in this way provides interesting insight into Tolstoy’s themes of love, marriage, faith, and happiness. I read Anna Karenina on the urging of my husband (it is actually his favorite novel), and am so glad that I did.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
My sister-in-law handed this book to me as my husband and I were leaving on our child-free vacation. She has flawless taste in books, so I eagerly began it. I am so glad that I did! Set in 1946 in postwar England, the book consists of letters to, from, or about Juliet Ashton, who is the author of a popular book. Through these letters, Juliet learns more about the German occupation of the British island of Guernsey and of the lives of the island’s residents. She eventually travels to the island, where she changes her life. I knew very little about this historic time or event and thoroughly enjoyed this treat of a book!
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
I actually read this book in one sitting and stayed up until one in the morning just to finish it! If you enjoy a clean, well-written romance and some good Jane Austen allusions, you will definitely want to read Dear Mr. Knightley. Sam is a young woman who has been in foster care for much of her life. When an anonymous donor offers to pay her expenses to graduate school in order to study journalism, she can’t say no. The only catch? Sam must write “Mr. Knightley” letters about her experience and progress. Life lessons and love follow. An easy, clean romantic read.
The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle
If you are looking for a realistic, hilarious view of marriage, this memoir by Melanie Shankle is for you. I laughed out loud over and over as I read Melanie’s account of her courtship, wedding, and early years of marriage. I remembered my own cringe-worthy mistakes as a newlywed and was reminded of how much I love my husband. Seriously fun and funny!
Love of Family
Tea and Crumples by Summer Kinard
I’ve often been skeptical of Christian fiction, but Kinard’s writing caused me to put my skepticism behind me and just enjoy her wonderful story. Tea and Crumples tells the story of Sienna, a young woman opening a tea shop. Sienna uses her spiritual gifts of hospitality and love to create a warm community in her shop. Customers become regulars who know and care about each other and about the staff, giving Sienna the support she needs when her life changes dramatically. Sienna is still mourning the loss of her daughter at nineteen weeks gestation when another tragedy strikes. She relies on her community and her faith, as well as the God-given grace of calming daily rituals embodied in the tea she brews. I give a full review of the book here.
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
I just finished reading this book, which had been recommended to me by a friend of mine who is a nurse in palliative care. The End of Your Life Book Club tells the story of the author and his mother, who share conversations about books they have read during her treatment for pancreatic cancer. Through the books they read and the conversations they have, he comes to learn more about his mother as a person and to admire her even more. I love books about books, and this certainly fits that genre. I came away with a dozen books that I want to read soon. I also was inspired by Will’s mother, Mary Ann–her amazing life of service and her perspective on death and dying. A beautiful book about the love between a mother and son.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Another classic that every woman should read, Little Women follows the March family daughters as they grow into women. The love the girls have for each other and for their parents always inspires me. If you haven’t read Little Women yet, do yourself a favor and buy it right now!
Young Adult Books
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Carly has been placed in foster care after a traumatic experience that she has blocked from her memory. At first she hates being with the Murphys who appear too good to be true. However, she eventually realizes that Mrs. Murphy is actually as kind and loving as she seems. Could this finally be an adult that she can trust? Or, should she go back to living with her mother, who is, after all, her real mom? Mullaly Hunt’s portrayal of family, foster care, and second chances is realistic yet hopeful and inspiring. Several boys and girls in my classes named this their favorite book of the year.
Shadow by Mike Morpurgo
There are a few good books out there for young adults about the war in Afghanistan, but this may be my favorite. Extremely readable, engaging, and filled with action, Shadow helps Western readers gain an understanding of both the conflict in Afghanistan and the plight of those seeking asylum in Europe. The book centers around one English boy’s friendship with an Afghani asylum seeker in his class. When his friend Aman (along with his mother) are put into prison and face deportation, Matt and his grandfather learn more about Aman’s desperate journey to leave Afghanistan and the dog who helped them find their way. A book about friendship, generosity toward refugees, and the love between a boy and his dog.
What’s On My Nightstand
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
This is the only Jane Austen book that I have not read. I will remedy that dreadful mistake soon!
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Um, how could I not know that The Princess Bride was actually a real book? I’ve loved the movie for years and now have to go check out the book immediately.
A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott
My former roommate from grad school days recently told me that I had to read this Louisa May Alcott book. Once again, I had thought that I had read every single Alcott book, so I was delighted to find one that I had never even heard of!
What books did you read for January’s challenge (a book that inspires you)? And, what will you be reading for February’s? Leave a comment to let me know!
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