Favorite Fiction for Fall

My goal this year was to read more fiction. (I feel like this is a perpetual goal…) I love reading good fiction because it expands my worldview, makes me think about people and places I don’t normally interact with, and can dig into topics and issues in creative ways that is often difficult for an essay or nonfiction format.

FavoriteI just scrolled through my Goodreads shelf and tallied up 17 fiction books so far! I’m impressed with myself and would say I’m doing pretty well with this goal. With the school year underway and autumn just around the corner, I thought I’d share some fiction reads that will get you thinking about deep topics but with a compelling narrative.

(These are just five of my favorites. For a more comprehensive list, check out my Goodreads shelves or let’s connect on Instagram, where I often share my current reads.)

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward is a masterful storyteller. I read both Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing this year and they both count as favorite reads. Salvage the Bones is the story of a family in the days before Hurricane Katrina. This intense novel tackles family, poverty, and the systemic structures that impact families who are more at risk when natural disasters strike. I was drawn into Esch’s story and felt that Ward handled teen pregnancy and all its complexities well.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I found this novel to be an excellent follow-up to discussions around America’s industrial prison complex. Books like Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson have brought a lot of the injustices around incarceration to light and Jones is able to take the reality of those injustices and dive into them through this novel. The story follows Celestial and Roy, newlyweds who are separated within the early years of their marriage by a false conviction. The book dives into the reality of being separated, of how prison changes a person, and the pervasive injustice people of color experience in the court system.

Untitled designEtta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
I read this book after a string of intense reads (see the novels above!) This magical story of three childhood friends in Saskatchewan was exactly what I needed. The plot toggles between present-day and World War II. I don’t want to give too much away, but keep in mind this genre is magical realism. Hooper uses magical twists in the plot that enrich the entire story but if you’re looking for historical fiction, this will be confusing.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This book received a lot of buzz last year, and for good reason. Ng weaves a deep story of suburban life, image and identity, foster care and rights, and our own prejudices when viewed through the lens of “doing good.” I think what makes this novel worth reading is that you will find yourself or your views portrayed somehow. Each character is developed in a way that brings to light many common ideas and ideologies of success and the American Dream. The themes in Little Fires Everywhere will make you examine your own good intentions and their roots.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I had this book on my shelf for a while and Frank devoured it earlier in the summer. I knew I had to pick it up and I’m so glad I did. Saunders weaves seeds of historical truth with a swirling world of the afterlife. His political commentary is powerful because of the setting and use of character. This is a novel that takes a little getting used to, as the style is written theatrically rather than narratively. If this has been on your to-read list for a while, I’d recommend moving it up. I’m glad I did!

What genre do you have to be intentional about reading? Any other fiction recommendations?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Review: I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

Books and reading have always defined my personality. I was that nerdy kid who would scan my friends’ bookshelves when we were meant to be playing, itching to read new titles and get lost in the story. After grad school, my friends and I started a “Books and Beer” book club, meeting at bars in the hopes of meeting guys who also loved to read. And now, I edit and curate The Red Couch Book Club and am always on the lookout for books that would benefit our community. Yes, books are and always will be part of what makes me happy, what connects me to the world, and what expands my worldview.

IdRatherBeReadingBogel_3Dalt_webI’ve followed Anne Bogel’s blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy for years and love her book recommendations. Honestly, our tastes are quite different and I only read a handful of her picks but I appreciate the way she talks and writes about books.

I’ve been looking forward to her collection of essays, I’d Rather Be Reading since she alluded to it after the publication of her first book about personality types. This collection of anecdotes about the reading life (essays is a bit of a stretch) is cute and relatable. I’ve had stacks of books come in at the library at once; I’ve wondered how I’ll have time in this life to read all the books I want to; On tough days, I’ve often wished for a quiet cabin alone with a stack of books.

Each chapter served as a great introduction to readerly problems but I wish Bogel had continued. Rather than listing all the problems of bookshelf organization or remembering all the books that shaped her life (several times, in several chapters), I wish she had kept the thoughts going and linked those observations to a broader takeaway. It would have taken those anecdotes and turned them into actual, timeless essays.

I finished this book with the realization that I actually wouldn’t rather be reading. Instead of connecting with the plights of loving to read, I was confronted with all the ways one can miss out on life because of reading. It compelled me to step back and recognize that for me in this phase of life, reading is an essential tool but it’s not a way of life. I love reading because it helps me understand and connect with the world around me but unless I’m actively engaging in that world, reading falls a bit flat.

If you’re looking for a sweet gift book, this is a great option. If you’re looking for essays on reading, might I suggest finding a collection by your favorite author?

What about you? Would you rather be reading? How do you balance a love of books with real-life experiences? 

I received this book free from the publisher via Baker Books Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Review: All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo

One of my favorite genres is essay collections. Whether narrative or expository, a well-written essay is incredibly powerful. It’s also a genre that is overdone and I’ve read my fair share of mediocre collections, making me cynical of the style as a whole.

_240_360_Book.2632.coverWhen I heard about Patrice Gopo’s debut collection, All the Colors We Will See, the reviews were high. I knew I had to check out her collection and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Gopo renewed my love of this genre.

This stunning collection of essays about identity and culture drew me in and has become one of my favorite reads of the year. Gopo grapples with the big ideas of raising multicultural children, finding her own place in American culture, and reflecting on her role as a mathematician-turned-writer. And yet, she invites me into this conversation beautifully. Her own reflections helped me dig into my own labels and identity and how those impact my worldview.

If you’re looking for a collection to make you think about what identity means in today’s culture, I couldn’t recommend All the Colors We Will See more highly. And, if you’re looking for more backstory, check out my interview with Patrice over at SheLoves Magazine!

Do you read essays? What are your thoughts on the genre?

I received this book free from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Made Like Martha Guest Post + Giveaway

Before becoming a mother, I was an efficient do-er. I was often the first to get my grades in at the end of the semester; I’d plan my days around productivity and quiet time; I felt pretty in control of my schedule. And then kids happened… And I quickly learned that the best-laid plans of productivity go by the wayside for a myriad of reasons. Being a mom has taught me to hold my to-do list loosely, to go with the flow, and to remember to live in the moment. Some days, this happens more gracefully than others.

When I heard about Katie M. Reid’s book, Made Like Martha, the title resonated with me. Martha has always been a woman I’ve connected with and I feel like she’s gotten an unfair reputation as a frenzied worker. But really, she kept things together. Made Like Martha reminds us that God has created “Modern Marthas” as do-ers. The question is how do we worship and work, without losing focus? Katie delivers a grace-filled look at how we can use Martha as a role-model, rather than a warning.

I’m honored to feature a guest post of Katie’s here. Read to the bottom for an opportunity to win your own copy of Made Like Martha, which releases tomorrow!

Sabbath Rest for Those Who Get Things Done
by Katie M. Reid

PerfectioninUsMadeLikeMarthaKMReidI knew I should be more intentional about Sabbath (a day set apart for the Lord and recuperation) but I thought it had to look a certain way too. Since it hardly ever looked “that way,” I often felt restless about getting rest “right.”

Some friends of mine are more purposeful when it comes to Sabbath. Some don’t go out to eat because that causes others work on the Sabbath. Others implement no screen time on their day of rest. Some mandate a nap (yes, please!). Some do yard work. Some sleep in. Some go adventuring. Some are physically active, others avoid it all costs. Some brunch at a leisurely hour. And some are required to work on Sundays, so they pick another day to chill.

Have you felt unsure about what a day of rest should look like?

Fielding questions about Sabbath now:
“Can we go out to eat?”
“Should I do housework?”
“Should we allow technology?”
“Do I need to connect with God for hours in order for it to count?”

Good questions. I’m glad you asked. Here are my off-the-top-of-my-head responses (for what they’re worth):
“Yes!”
“Definitely not. Let’s just say it’s not allowed. Like ever!”
“I dunno know. I try not to, but it doesn’t seem to stick.”
“Grace Darling, so much grace.”

Much to my surprise, my family is hungry every Sunday—of all the nerve! No grace for that. J/K! #kindof (insert sheepish and conflicted emoji face).Thankfully, we’ve uncovered the beauty of leftovers, a.k.a. Operation Fend For Yourself.

Sometimes our kids have soccer games on Sundays. Although we enjoy cheering them on, we miss our afternoon nap on those days.

Sometimes our day of rest (whether it’s Sunday or another day) is filled up by our own choosing, but other times, unexpected things disrupt our ideal.

It can be hard to rest on the inside when there is a flurry of activity happening around you—self-induced or otherwise. Like the crowds that pressed in on Jesus and vied for his attention, you can’t always retreat from the hustle and bustle.

We need time to recharge (Jesus did that after all). But beach vacations (my favorite way to unwind: staring at waves, hearing the caw of gulls overhead, sipping iced tea with lemon, reading a book, not being interrupted…insert contented sigh) are few and far between. And if we wait to spend time with Jesus until the conditions are ideal, we never will.

Instead of being annoyed that your day of rest is not as serene as you’d like, why not connect with God in the midst of it?

Rest can look a thousand different ways. Let’s ask God for wisdom to rest in ways that focus on Him and refresh us. Yes, we need shuteye. Yes, time away is important. Yes, a break helps us recharge, but the peace of Jesus’s Presence is carried within us at any and all times—waiting to be enjoyed.

Rest is not something to search for, but Someone to be with.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” -Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)

What are some of your favorites ways to rest?

KatieReid_MeetKateKatie M. Reid is a wife, mom to five, and a fan of cut-to-the-chase conversations over iced tea. Katie is also a speaker, Bible study facilitator, and author of Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done (which includes a 5-week bible study for individuals and groups). She encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life at katiemreid.com. Subscribe to Katie’s site and receive resources to help you breathe deeply and walk freely.

You can win your own copy of Made Like Martha!MadeLikeMartha_sidebar

Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done releases tomorrow! Katie’s publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah has generously offered to host a giveaway for one copy. All you have to do is subscribe to my newsletter, The Compost Heap and leave a comment here telling me you’ve signed up. If you’re feeling chatty, tell me why you connect with either Martha or Mary more and why. I’ll randomly select a winner on Thursday, June 12, 2018.

As a member of the Made Like Martha launch team, I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

The Compost Heap

 

Review: Inspired by Rachel Held Evans

It’s easy to dismiss the Bible and Christianity, isn’t it? I was about to say “these days” at the end of that sentence but I have a feeling that every generation has grappled with interpretation and misinterpretation of this ancient text. Of course, I want the story of God, in whose image I was created, to reflect me and my values. And everyone, from the Attorney General to atheists to theologians interprets this text through their own lens.

_240_360_Book.2605.coverIt’s a fine line between asking questions to dig deeper and questioning with a framework of cynicism. One is productive, the other can be frustrating. In her newest book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again Rachel Held Evans does her best to remove the cynicism and ask the questions for what they are: To learn and grapple, often without a specific outcome.

I’ve read every one of Evans’ books and this one is the most inviting in this divided world. She reimagines stories in modern settings, helps us see familiar characters in a new light, and links these ancient narratives to modern lessons.

Evans provides deep research and insight while loving the questions themselves. You won’t find answers in this book but you’ll learn that asking questions is a vital part of engaging with this text and tradition.

If you’re looking for a book that helps you experience the Bible through a fresh and forgiving lens, Inspired will give you hope and encouragement.

What books have helped you see the Bible from a fresh perspective? How do you balance the ancient text with modern interpretation?

I received this book free from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Two Books to Read for World Refugee Day

For as long as human history has been recorded, we have known about refugees. The Abrahamic faiths are built on an idea of fleeing and finding homes in new countries. But just because something has been happening for millennia doesn’t mean we can’t actively be trying to love our neighbors and find better solutions to an unsafe world.

Lists, resources, and petitions abound for current refugee situations. If you want to do something that helps immediately, I suggest you find an organization you trust and respect to see how you and your family can best partner with their efforts.

But if you’re looking for a slower understanding about America’s history of immigration, I wanted to suggest one of the most impacting books I’ve read on the Christian response to modern immigration.

41L1Pnj4JgL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang was published in 2009 but remains pertinent, nearly a decade later. Soerens and Yang work for World Relief, an aid organization whose goal is to empower refugees and the countries they come from.  The book is a combination of stories and statistics and the writing is engaging. If nothing else, Soerens and Yang helped me confront my own ignorance about the history of immigration and how America has actually treated refugees, especially in the last hundred years. (I wrote a more detailed essay about Welcoming the Stranger over at SheLoves last year.)

51sOre9OlEL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you’d rather read a fiction book that makes you think, I just finished Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran. Published last year, this timely novel follows two women: Soli, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and Kavya, an Indian-American struggling with infertility. Their paths cross when Soli is put into an immigration detention center and her son is put in Kavya’s foster care. There are a couple plot leaps but overall, this book humanizes the families who are impacted by immigration policy. I also appreciated that this was written and published well before the current practices. It’s a reminder that we have a very broken system in dealing with those who cross the border without documentation.

If you need a place to start looking for resources, I thought I’d list a few places to start. There are many organizations doing really good work, so I’d recommend finding one you feel comfortable giving to and trusting with your resources.

The Justice Conference, World Relief, and We Welcome Refugees created this fact sheet that gives a quick overview of the “zero tolerance” policies. Check out their websites for what they do and how you can get involved.

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Again, I trust you are able to research and find an organization that best aligns with your own beliefs. But I’d encourage everyone to read more deeply than Twitter or the News. On this day, as we remember refugees from around the world, I hope we all take the time to dig a little deeper into these very complex issues.

What resources have helped you understand the refugee crisis over the years? How do you stay informed? Any favorite organizations you support?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Review: NKJV Reader’s Bible

Now that we’re a full week into summer, I’m slowly finding a routine. My favorite part of school being over is a slower start to our mornings. The girls are still up before 7:00 but we don’t have to be anywhere for a while. I’m enjoying a cup of coffee while still in my pajamas, reading a poem or two, and starting to read a chapter from the Bible.

_240_360_Book.2523.coverA couple years ago, I set a goal to complete the Bible in a Year and when I was done, I wasn’t really sure what to do next. My big goal had been achieved and it felt a bit strange to just start right back in Genesis. But I’ve missed the daily rhythm of reading from the Bible and was having a hard time finding a good fit.

I’ve been using the same New Living Translation Study Bible since college and love it. But when I saw Thomas Nelson’s Deluxe Reader’s Bible, my interest was piqued. I haven’t read the New King James Version since my first Precious Moments Bible and I’ve enjoyed rediscovering this poetic translation.

IMG_9363I also enjoy the “reader’s version” formatting. This means it reads like a book: One column formatting without verses. The chapter titles are printed at the top of each page and the chapter number is printed in the margins but otherwise, those key markers are unobtrusive or missing altogether. There is no commentary, concordance, or references.

As the description reads,

The NKJV Deluxe Reader’s Bible is an invitation to get caught up in the story of Scripture, as history, poetry, and prophecy come to life on pages designed for people who love a good book.

This Bible is ideal for someone looking for a clean, simple reading experience. It has helped me remember that the Bible is literature and reading it as such has deepened my experience. I needed a refresh when it came to this familiar text and a different translation combined with a beautiful format was exactly what I needed to reignite my morning routine.

What is your favorite Biblical translation? How do you refresh your morning routine?

I received this book free from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.