It’s time to make my first 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
January’s Reading Challenge: A Book That Inspires You
I kept this month’s challenge purposefully vague. Each one of us is inspired by different things. Take a minute and think about what inspires you. Is it faith, beauty, helping others, or stories of people who made a difference? Is it writing, creating, organizing, raising your children, or paying off your debt?
Whatever it is, you can be sure that there is a book about that passion. Here are a few of my recommendations for a variety of sources of inspiration:
Orthodox Faith and Parenting:
The Way of A Pilgrim translated by Olga Savin
The Way of a Pilgrim is a classic in Orthodox spirituality, which tells the story of a pilgrim who longs to learn how he can fulfill St. Paul’s command to “Pray without ceasing.” He begins a journey that takes him to dozens of spiritual fathers and leads him to learn The Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer is a simple prayer that one can learn in a minute, but also a profound prayer that one can pray for a lifetime.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, A sinner.”
Close to Home by Molly Sabourin
I cried, laughed, and said, “That is so me!” at least a dozen times while I was reading this book. Molly Sabourin shares her family’s journey to Orthodoxy, her struggles as a wife and mother, and the depth of our faith in a fantastically engaging book.
Following a Sacred Path: Raising Godly Children by Elizabeth White
Our priest asked each family in our church to read Elizabeth White’s book in preparation for monthly discussions on faith and parenting. White has been a Montessori teacher and a supervisor for her church’s Sunday school program. She brings a discovery-based, Montessori-style approach to the topic of child-rearing that I found quite intriguing.
Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin set out to make her home a place that she and her family were happy in–by focusing on one habit per month. Her experience inspired me to Make Home My Happy Place, a place where we give warm greetings and good-byes, where we spend time with each other, and where our possessions are ones that bring us joy. Excellent writing, laugh-out-loud funny in places, and incredible insight combine to make it a compelling read.
Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup
If you feel like your spending has gotten out of control, like you just want more and more things, then this book is for you. Ruth Soukup shares 12 practical tips that will help you get a handle on your finances and find contentment in your life. An easy, but helpful, read.
Starting (or Improving) a Business
Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine
If you are serious about wanting to earn extra money, I would highly recommend reading Crystal Paine’s latest book Money Making Mom. Crystal is the creator of the wildly successful blog MoneySavingMom.com. It was through her blog that I discovered the world of couponing, which helped put food on our table when I wasn’t sure how we would make it. Crystal went through some lean years herself, as she explains in her book, which forced her to get creative. After a few failures, she started her blog, and now is an incredibly successful, and generous, entrepreneur.
Six months ago I had no idea I would be starting a blog. Seriously. Then one day I was on Abby’s blog (Just a Girl and Her Blog) and saw an advertisement that promised to teach anyone how to start a blog in 7 days. I was intrigued and clicked on it. Through that process, I read Abby’s phenomenal book, Building A Framework, which contains everything she learned during her first year of blogging. It literally walked me through every step of starting, maintaining, and growing a successful blog.
Writing and Creativity
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Confession time: I’ve never read a book by Stephen King. I once watched Carrie when I was in high school and had nightmares for years. With my overly sensitive imagination, I tend to avoid scary or graphic books and movies. However, this memoir came highly recommended by one of my favorite book bloggers–Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy. And, since I do enjoy a good memoir and books about writing, I thought I would take a chance. I’m glad I did. King’s telling of his life and his writings is fascinating. If you are a King fan, or if you just like interesting books about the art of writing, I would recommend it.
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Tharp’s book has been recommend by so many bloggers that I’ve lost count. I wasn’t disappointed. Tharp, a famous and successful choreographer, describes the habits that help boost and ensure creativity. She argues that creativity takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and consistency. The book also contains fascinating examples of the creative habits of the famous, practical exercises, and interesting accounts of her own life and career. If you are a writer, artist, dancer, entrepreneur, or more, you will find something of interest and value in Tharp’s book.
Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeline L’Engle
Madeline L’Engle is one of my all-time favorite writers. Just reading one of her books inspires me in my own writing. This book is a collection of thoughts on the integration of faith and art. I began to write down quotes that I loved from this book, and I literally filled an entire small notebook. Such good stuff!
Self-Care (Especially as a Mother)
The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner
“Once I freed myself from the bondage of perfection and embraced a lifestyle that made time for my passions, I was happier in all of my pursuits and responsibilities.” Yes, yes! Turner’s book completely resonates with my experience this year. Making time for my priorities and interests (in my case reading and writing) has helped me become a better wife, mother, teacher, and person. If you feel like your life is too busy for “me” time, or that you don’t even remember the passions and gifts you used to have, The Fringe Hours is a must-read.
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine
In Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, Crystal offers practical tips for the overwhelmed–specifically for moms, though the principles could apply to other populations as well. I found two principles particularly helpful. First, Crystal points out that when we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. Secondly, Crystal offers some simple solutions to help tame the clutter monster and eliminate household stress, which allows us to focus more on completing tasks that bring us closer to achieving our goals. This is an easy read, as the writing style is very straightforward and simple. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, though. There are many gems inside.
168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think is the reason that I started The Orthodox Mama. No, it isn’t a book about how to start a blog. The book did convince me, however, that despite the fact that I am a working mother of three young children, I really did have more time than I thought. And, I should use that extra time to pursue my passions–in my case writing. Through keeping a time log, evaluating my priorities, and identifying my core competencies, I was able to begin focusing on my goals. We find time for what we prioritize. So, with the help of Vanderkam, I decided to follow through and make time for writing. You can see my full review of the book HERE.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Pollan’s book had been referenced in several books on healthy eating, so I decided to go to the source. I am sure glad that I did. Pollan’s simple motto is: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Simple, yet it has changed the way that I am viewing our family’s food. If you are curious about how the Western diet is literally killing us, or if you just want to know how to eat more healthily, you’ll want to read In Defense of Food.
100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake
I have been thinking more and more about the food that I am feeding my children, and I am considering making a change. This book helped me feel that it was very possible to feed my family, real (unprocessed), healthy, organic food. It isn’t a book filled with lots of facts and research (although there is some), but is instead a practical guide that includes 100 great recipes. If you’ve ever considered changing your diet to a more natural one, you should definitely check it out.
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
Karen Le Billon is married to a Frenchman, and they decided to spend a year in France near his family. While there, she realized that the way her children approached food was completely different than French children. Her daughters (5 and 3) were picky eaters, snacked frequently, and didn’t like to try new foods. French children, however, happily ate strong cheeses and a variety of vegetables. How did they do it? Le Billon shares 10 “rules” of the French approach to eating that helped her daughters. I would recommend this book even to people without children!
Inspirational Young Adult Literature
Wonder by Raquel J. Palacio
Wonder beautifully tells the story of Augustus, who was born with a facial deformity, as he enters public school for the first time in sixth grade. Chapters are told from various characters perspectives, which adds depth to this moving book. This is one novel that you will want to read with your child, simply so that you can experience it together. A fantastic book that builds empathy for people who are different
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
A Long Walk to Water is based on a true story and tells of two young people in Southern Sudan. The novel weaves the stories of Nya–who has to travel a long distance each day just to get drinking water for her family–and Salva–whose family is killed by the violence rocking the country. A beautiful work that shows the power of people to help each other in difficult times.
Counting by 7s by Holly Sloan
Counting by 7s has been compared to Out of My Mind and Mockingbird, two books that broke barriers by having protagonists who suffer from various physical or mental disabilities. In this book, Willow, a twelve-year-old genius who struggles to relate to people, has to learn to face the world after her parents die in a car accident. Despite its grim beginning, the book is a hopeful vision of the power of love and understanding.
What I’m Planning to Read This Month
Here are the books on my nightstand (or library hold list) for January’s Challenge:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The subtitle says it all: Or, why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun. I’m super excited for this one!
Two Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by Madeline L’Engle
I just recently discovered that there is a Madeline L’Engle book I haven’t read yet. I must certainly remedy that! The book tells the story of L’Engle’s marriage, including the death of her husband. I am looking forward to seeing all of the insights she has into marriage, life, and death.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Malala’s courage has inspired me, as has her zeal for education. I am excited to read this autobiography and learn how this young woman was able to stand up to the Taliban and continue her education in the face of danger.
I am so excited to see what books you have found that inspire you! What book will you read for this month’s challenge? Leave a comment letting me know!
P.S. I will be giving updates on my progress through these inspirational books this month on my Facebook page. You are welcome to respond with your thoughts on the books you are reading, too!
(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a book after clicking through a link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Orthodox Mama!)
(Linked to Quick Lit.)