It’s March 19th and, according to my Goodreads account, I’ve read 18 books so far this year.
Of course, a couple of those books are reads that I started at the end of 2019, but that still counts as a 2020 read if I finished it this year.
I’ve really stepped up my reading since giving up social media for Lent. It’s amazing how much time I’ve found to read actual books when I’m not reading long-winded Instagram captions all day. And with so many things being shut down in Ohio to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading, I am home on my couch more than ever. Perfect reading time! I still love a good audiobook, but I’ve sat down to read some actual books and digital books too!
Here’s the list so far:
My favorite book in the first quarter of 2020 has been Norman Vincent Peale’s “Stay Alive All Your Life“.
It was written eons ago and has a ton of baseball references that I don’t get, but if you want some serious encouragement to live your best life written by a guy who shows you how (before that was even a thing!) Norman is your go-to. I went super old school with this one. Not only did I read the physical copy, but it was a library book complete with pre-highlighted text, smelly pages, and a worn down cover. Vintage.
Because I was reading a physical book and not a digital one, I had to constantly put the book down to type out quotes in my Notes app. Here’s a fave: “If in your sleeplessness, apprehensions of the next day disturb you, simply remind yourself that God has helped you through every day you have lived heretofore and that tomorrow will be no exception.”
So darn good!
I even got into some fiction this year with Little Fires Everywhere and In Five Years.
I used to be all about the fiction when I was a kid. In fact, I think I read every Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High book ever written. However, after reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens at the ripe old age of 11, I realized I would rather someone just tell it to me straight rather than doing the work of trying to apply a fictionalized story to my life.
I do love the escape that only a fiction book can give. I just need to work on my “picker”. I picked Little Fires Everywhere because Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington created a Hulu series about it and it’s set in Ohio. Overall, it wasn’t a horrible story. It was a little intense, but I liked that it talked about real issues like race, class, adoption, and etc. I didn’t LOVE the book, but I am looking forward to watching the series adaptation.
I picked “In Five Years” because it was a Good Morning America recommendation. Reading the blurb, I was expecting a light, romantic story. Instead it blindsided you with ** SPOILER ALERT! ** cancer, subsequent death and a truly awful ending. I hated it.
Better luck next time on the fiction book picks, I guess.
The Way Home is written by a girl named Lindsey Doss that I met years ago at a church event.
Hers is a true story about how she left her husband, ministry, and family then ultimately ended up going back home (hence the title).
I met Lindsey and Casey in back in 2005 when I visited her mom’s youth ministry a few times. Everyone there was great, but Lindsey stood out as one of the nicest people I have ever met. She and Casey had just gotten married and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so happy.
I haven’t seen her since then, but I came across her Instagram and their testimony a few months ago. Out of stunned curiosity, I bought her book read it cover to cover in one sitting. Because I met her before and she seemed totally picture-perfect, I was engrossed and shocked and could not put it down!
The book is a great read. She talks honestly about her experience and the mistakes she made. And I do think, as a casual observer, you would walk away from the story happy for her reconciliation and perhaps rethink your own desire to escape your life. But, like me, you may also end up a little sad for her in the end.
You’re only getting her side of the story, of course, but it seems that her mom’s ministry was completely toxic and her husband was manipulative and controlling. He didn’t support her at all and she was encouraged by leadership in her church to gloss over his negatives because he is a pastor. Gross. I honestly think if she could’ve gotten herself and her kids the heck out of that town then she would have never felt the need to go back to such a negative situation. Still, judging from her IG, she seems happy and I wish them the best of luck! Theirs is a story that will stay with me for a while.
“I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness” is probably the most thought-provoking book I’ve read this year.
It’s written by a Black thirtysomething Christian woman and I related to her so much that the book actually kind of depressed me. I thought this may happen and is why I didn’t initially want to read it.
Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t need someone telling me that being black in America is hard. I know that. The James Baldwin quote: “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage” is the story of my life and sometimes I just want to be “UN-conscious”.
I want to be uplifted and encouraged and reminded that we serve a God bigger than racism and prejudice. Instead, I was faced with a book that validated all of my feelings about my negative experiences around race and put words to all of the things I didn’t know how to say. Parts of her book had me fired up and wishing I could go back in time and tell people off for their covert racism. It had me wanting to wear a Black Lives Matter shirt to church and swing my box braids at work until they were forced to fire me over my “unprofessional” hairstyle. I wanted to write long Instagram captions quoting her and hoping that *certain* people would read it. But what purpose would any of that serve?
Some things don’t need to be said because they don’t actually improve the situation at hand. And instead of rehashing every slight from elementary school through college to careers to church, I prefer to take Paul’s advice and “think on these [true, lovely, noble, of good report] things”. I am glad I read the book though, if only because it made me feel a little less crazy and reminded me that I am, in fact, still here – despite whoever tried to hold me back because of my skin color.
Another book that made me think was “To Hell With The Hustle“.
It calls itself a “wake-up call to resist the Hustle culture and embrace the slowness of Jesus.” A wake-up call indeed. The author and his wife are radical, but it definitely made me think about how much time I spend “hustling” as opposed to appreciating my “ordinary” life. He makes the argument that “hustle” culture is actually not at all Christlike.
One of the books I was anticipating for 2020 was Dave Hollis book “Get Out Of Your Own Way“.
After reading Rachel Hollis mega popular books “Girl Wash Your Face” and “Girl Stop Apologizing“, I was afraid her husband’s book would be more of the same – self-aggrandizing and full of shameless plagiarism. It’s not that I hated Rachel’s books. The books are fine (if you don’t mind plagiarism.) It’s her humanistic nonsense that if you’re not super successful in your endeavors, it’s because you haven’t worked hard enough. And her insistence that she “built her business with nothing but a Google search” that drives me insane. Her husband was a Disney exec and that’s quite the cash flow and financial cushion to fall back on, sister.
But anyway, speaking of her husband, I was interested in his story because he worked in corporate America and had a huge job then just up and quit to run his wife’s now-budding business. He is relatable and honest and doesn’t pretend that he invented any of the ideas he discusses. Nothing groundbreaking here and he does pat himself on the back pretty hard for being an “ally”, but he talks about how he came around to supporting the idea that you can change the trajectory of your life. It’s worth the read.
Perhaps not worth the read for me? Emily Ley’s When Less Becomes More: Making Space For Slow, Simple and Good.
I follow Emily Ley on Instagram and I’ve read all of her other books, but “When Less Becomes More” is my least favorite. It’s mostly musings of an out-of-touch woman who is so privileged, she thinks her kids being content playing with only a fraction of their toys for a couple of weeks (while they build their dream house, by the way) is “flabbergasting”.
Her overall her message is “I worked tirelessly for 11 years to build my business, BUT now that I’m super successful, make tons of money and have a team of people I can pay to do everything, I’m going to slow down. And I think everyone else should too.” (Incidentally, this is the exact reason I refuse to read Thrive by Arianna Huffington.)
As a non-drinker, I did like what Emily Ley had to say about Mommy wine culture. It’s truly out of control. While drinking bottomless glasses of wine every day is painted as cute and fun, for many women it’s better described as alcoholism. I admire Emily’s gutsiness calling that out when I’m sure many of her readers are in fact “wine moms” and thus were probably VERY offended.
I also like what she said about finding church and community and how a relationship with Jesus is truly all we need.
Overall though, I could’ve skipped the book. And I should have known better after I read her “Grace Not Perfection” book that had great stuff to say about embracing imperfection, but was also filled with perfectly styled professional photos of her perfect family, perfect house, and perfect office. It was very ironic. Couldn’t relate to that at all and couldn’t relate to this book either.
I am surprised by how much I liked “Love Your Life Not Theirs” by Rachel Cruze.
Initially, I wasn’t interested in this book because I figured she’s Dave Ramsey’s daughter and therefore doesn’t live in the real world. BUT after finally reading it, I recommend it! It is similar to Dave Ramsey’s famous “Total Money Makeover” book, but more geared toward 20 and 30-somethings and really digs into how comparison and competition can fuel awful financial choices. And, yes, like her dad, she is anti-debt of any kind except a 15-year mortgage. That can feel out of reach for those of us who are just starting out #adulting, but already have student loans, car payments, credit card debt, medical debt, and/or a 30-year-mortgage
She even goes against the idea of using a credit card all month then paying it off at the end. She acknowledged that it’s better than payments, but points out you’re still living your life in the rearview mirror this way: paying for meals you’ve already eaten, trips you’ve already taken and clothes you already bought.
Her solution is to budget and save for the things you want and then pay cash for everything, all the time. Radical advice in 2020, but #GOALS nonetheless if you want to live debt free. Personally, you won’t see me with a cash envelope, but I am ALL in on living a #DebtFreeLife and conscious spending after reading books like this. I even put a pair of jeans at Target back on the shelf yesterday. They were on sale, but I’m not going to “it’s just $20” myself out of thousands of dollars in impulsive spending anymore.
In that same vein “You Need a Budget” was a great, informative read about personal finance.
He really breaks down “zero-based budgeting” and he talks about how to get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. I love the “age your money” concept. It means you keep ahead of your expenses by saving money in advance for current and future expenses.
He does try to get you to buy his “You Need A Budget” software. I signed up for the free trial but ultimately canceled. I found it to be too complicated and I didn’t have the energy to deal with it, plus it wasn’t free so, no thanks! I’ll stick with Mint.com.
The last book I’ll mention here is Joel Osteen’s “The Power of I Am“.
Regardless of what you think of Joel Osteen personally (especially after his non-response to Hurricane Harvey), if you need some positivity in your life, I highly recommend listening to his books. Which book? Any of them. He is very repetitive and has basically the same uplifting stories in each one, but sometimes we need to hear positivity on loop. We need to hear over and over again that we’re going to make it. God is in control. We are blessed and highly favored.
It’s all about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. So instead of saying “I am sick, I am tired, I am lonely, I am unwanted, I am [insert negative thoughts], say I am well, I am energetic, I am attracting great friendships, I am being pursued, I am [positive thoughts].
The summary of The Power Of I Am says, Whatever follows the words “I am” will always come looking for you. So, when you go through the day saying:
“I am blessed”…blessings pursue you.
“I am talented”…talent follows you.
“I am healthy”…health heads your way.
“I am strong”…strength tracks you down.
Don’t you just feel better reading that? His books are like a breath of fresh air.
I didn’t intend to talk about any of these books individually – and I didn’t even get to all of them. But, I hope you got some good ideas for your own “want-to-read” list.
My goal for the year was twenty books (because it’s 2020, duh), but I recently upped that number to 50. That is far more than I’ve ever read in one calendar year, but I’m feeling super ambitious, so I might as well go for it!
I hope you’re staying safe, healthy and sane! Let me know what you’re reading…