Summer 2017 Books

Nowadays, reading can be a challenge for many, because we have an internal debate that was nonexistent even a decade ago: to read or to watch Netflix? Seriously, it’s a struggle. For me, they both always sound so inviting, but one has to win out over the other. My reading patterns consist of either seasons of constant reading or seasons without reading. But whenever I begin seasons of reading I always wonder why I ever stopped. It is relaxing, it is engaging, and it is fun. I wholeheartedly believe that if you don’t like reading, you just haven’t found the right book for you yet.

My “to-read” list is probably about a mile long, but this summer I was able to take out a teeny chunk of it. I’ve been tempted to start a new section of my blog where I review all kinds of entertainment, so why not kick it off with my summer booklist? I’ve read a wide range, from self-help, to novels, to religious books this summer. So sit back, grab a refreshing drink, and see what grabs your interest.

  1. Les Misérables by: Victor Hugo (Sort of…)

I actually already read three-quarters of this book two years prior for AP English, but I finally finished that last quarter this summer! (I know, very long overdue.) Although a long time coming, this is actually my favorite novel. I’ve realized what warms my heart the most within books are redeemed characters, which Jean Valjean most certainly is. The theme of redemption provides the hope that no one has to be enslaved to a certain lifestyle or attitude, and our circumstances are always susceptible to change.

This is also one of the longest books I have ever heard of with the most intricate detail and is not for the faint of heart. But if you want to really invest yourself in a story and characters with great depth to them, if you like the musical or movie and want more detail, if you enjoy seeing a cast of characters of all kinds, then this one’s for you.

  1. The Book Thief by: Markus Zusak

Set in Germany during Hitler’s reign and narrated by Death, this book became popular a few years ago. Unfortunately I was not a part of that trend, but after blowing through it in two days and crying my eyes out, I can confidently say this is one of my new favorite books. Voice and language is what Zusak does best and are the tools that will keep this story embedded in your mind. The characters are easy to fall in love with and the narrative is a powerful page-turner. I would recommend this to everyone, regardless of your reading interests.

  1. Mary Poppins by: P.L. Travers

I grew up with this movie and absolutely loved it, which may be part of the reason that I personally was a little let down by the book. I have always been a firm believer that a movie can never be as great as a book, but have always loved both equally in their separate entities (I’m a very optimistic entertainment-retainer, you could say). This is a lovely book for children, with its imaginative series of events. However, if you’re anything like me, and love taking deep themes and messages away from stories, this book is not the best for that. Something I really enjoyed from the movie was the character development of Mr. Banks and the contrast between the fun and silliness with Mary and the kids, to the serious troubles of an adult man, which really caters to every audience and hits a deeper chord. Mr. Banks’ development was not present in the book and Mary was also a much more serious and stern character in the book (although that character change had to have been a result of Disney.) Personally, I preferred the more lighthearted version of Mary that Julie Andrews portrayed and thought a stern Mary who created imaginative events wherever she went seemed a bit odd. But if you want a light read with lots of silliness and imagination, or a good book for your children, this is a great one.

  1. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by: Don Miguel Ruiz

This was a different kind of book for me, but I wanted to read it because it meant a lot to a friend. I’m really thankful I did, though, because I think it’s crucial to read all kinds of viewpoints and lifestyles, not just those like your own. That’s how we learn from each other and understand each other better.

This book is perfect for those of you looking to better your life and seek personal happiness outside of the major religions. I appreciated the sentiments behind the four agreements, and as a Christian, was able to see some similarities between the two different belief systems, which was super interesting. If finding new ways to personal freedom or seeking to understand other viewpoints interests you, here’s your book.

  1. Mere Christianity by: C.S. Lewis

I’ve always been a Christian who prefers to stick with the Bible and is not interested in other Christian books, but I ended up reading not only this spiritual book, but the next two on this list, which is really different for me. (Not going to lie, during the period of reading The Four Agreements and these three, I basically had separation anxiety from novels.) Lewis is so intellectual that it blows my mind. Everything he writes is so articulate and it makes me think he came out of the womb using words like ‘obsequious’ and ‘taciturn.’ Talk about thorough though, this book is 100% thorough. It’s also dense and not a quick read, so expect to really put your thinking cap on every time you sit down to read. This is not a book to change anyone’s mind about anything, but if you really appreciate sound, structured arguments with solid examples to back them up and/or you want to reaffirm your Christian beliefs, you have exactly that within this book.

  1. Mister God, This is Anna by: Fynn

This is one of my mother’s favorites and so I thought I’d try it out. Sure enough, I opened to the first page and she had ‘Anna’ and ‘Joy’ circled, which are my first and middle names. The author is actually the main character in the book and it appears to be based on a true story, but the difference between the truth and fiction is not certain. The story centers around a wild and confident four-year-old girl named Anna who is taken home to live with a nineteen-year-old man named Fynn and his family. In the time he lives with Anna, Fynn learns about ‘Mister God,’ this important relationship in Anna’s life. This book offers unique perspectives of God that may offer a fresh viewpoint for interested Christians.

  1. Jesus > Religion by: Jefferson Bethke

Like The Book Thief, I made quick work of this one. Not only was the title intriguing, but I’ve been watching Bethke’s YouTube videos for a couple years now and knew I would love his style of writing. Compared to C.S. Lewis, Bethke is almost the opposite writing style—very simplified but straightforward, with many emotional and real-life examples to back up his points. His points don’t require a ton of concentration, but may stir up some disagreement among Christians, as he focuses on how we are living/where we’re failing as a church versus how we should be living.

  1. The Good Earth by: Pearl S. Buck

As I write this, I still have 50 pages left, so this may be “cheating,” but I’m going to give my review from what I know of most of it. This is an incredibly intriguing novel that deals with Chinese culture and Buck received the Pulitzer Prize for it back in 1932. I never read nearly enough ethnic literature, so I’ve enjoyed this excursion (added to the fact that it’s my first novel in two months). It focuses on Wang Lung and his family as they battle through multiple famines and family hardships. This is a great book to help expand your cultural knowledge (within reason, as it is still a novel) and would also be awesome for a book club—my copy even has some great discussion questions in the back!

I hope you enjoyed this review post! There were a lot of ‘firsts’ within this group of books and the eclectic mixture ended up being really cool. So I hope you all could find one you’re interested in taking the time to read and I will try my best to keep reading and reviewing books whenever I can! I definitely have a reading list that will keep me busy.

~Annah

Summer 2017 Goals

After two weeks, it’s finally hitting me that it is now summer. The season of calm, the season of recharging and the season to be reminded to listen carefully to what God has to say about my life. I’m sitting here basking in the hazy, warm breeze drifting through the living room while listening to new music from Harry Styles (basically the next Paul McCartney). Ah, there is nothing like the warm blanket of weather and new music to put me in the summer spirit and my heart is happy.

I then received and began reading a lengthy email from my advisor. The email brought up a lot of things—mostly things that stress me out… my future, my career goals, the average fears of college students. But at the end she wrote about how summer is the best time to listen to God’s calling for your life, be patient, and continually spend heavy, lengthy time with him. It tugs at my heartstrings because it makes me remember what’s most important, which is nothing I or my loved ones have been worrying about.

With that being said, these are my real summer goals. These are the things I am sure of and what I really hope for my summer. These are not goals that anyone else wants for me, but the genuine desires of my heart in this season.

My first goal was going to be “find part-time work” apart from Biggby, but if I’m honest, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. But I’m still praying about it.

The first couple days back at Biggby I was miserable. I just kept thinking ‘God, why am I here? This is dumb. I can’t gain anything from being here again. I’m not even a good barista, I keep messing up and my coworkers have to pick up the pieces for me. I want to be anywhere but here, I still feel tension with one coworker, and this job is a source of negativity for me.’

Since then I’ve been a little stuck. I still mess up now and again when I work, but I feel much more comfortable and back into the rhythm of things. My coworkers, boss and I have shared many laughs and all of the regulars have been so sweet and happy to see me again. But also I just want to be really transparent right now. There’s this person I met last year who I have prayed almost daily for and that person has been on my heart a lot because I know they don’t have many stable people in their life and most days are just “okay.” I’ve never been sure if that person truly cares about me (one of my biggest fears is apathy from people I love), but when I came back and saw them the first time, this person that seldom shares their true emotions was so genuinely excited to see me and it really had an impact on me.

I don’t know what God’s plan is for me in this season career-wise; all I can do is continue to pray. But I do know God works in mysterious ways and the fact that I’m back home and this person is coming back to work at the same time is very interesting.

So after this footnote/goal revision, here are the summer goals I am certain of:

  1. Spend time with Gracey.

Gracey is my sixteen-year-old dog and I have been with her almost the entirety of my life. To some this may sound silly, but for me I am incredibly serious. I love this dog so much and I know her time is drawing to a close, so I want to give her all the pets and treats I can.

  1. Cook for my parents at least once a week.

Yes, yes, I know this has not happened yet. *Cue eyebrow raises and pointed stares as we sit down for a meal.* But the point is my parents are really cool humans and have helped me through everything, so I want to try to give just a little bit back. (And maybe learn some cooking skills for the coming school year.)

  1. Show my family how much I value them.

Not only do meals show appreciation, but I also hope to hang out with my siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents more. Whether that involves game nights, good talks or serving in any way I can, now’s a good time to exemplify my love for these beautiful humans I have the privilege of living alongside.

  1. Spend time with God.

This has kind of already been emphasized, but it can never be emphasized enough. I would be nowhere without this cool dude. I’m hoping to turn to him before more and more things, whether a difficult talk with a friend or just a stressful day of work.

  1. Write a significant chunk of my novel.

My future, my career, so many uncertainties… But what is not a question? I’M WRITING A TRILOGY. So now is the perfect time to invest into something I am certain of. Get ready to fall in love with my characters, because I’ve only developed them a little and already love them. It will be an exciting adventure that will hopefully shed light on the broken and forgotten people around the world. My goal is to also write something my grandma will love.

Also this may mean I write less blogs than normal. But that just means you’ll have something in your hands you’ll love way more sooner rather than later.

~Annah