Apparently moving cross-country kind of throws you off your groove in every area of life for quite a few months. Even reading. Even for die-hard bookworms.
I suppose I should have expected it. But I filled up my Kindle before we left and rather naively thought I would gets loads of reading done on the way. Unfortunately, between the long bumpy days in the truck and the exhausted night of trying to sleep in cheap motel rooms, that didn’t happen. In fact, I only read 2 books in the whole month of May… I’m not sure that’s ever happened before! Even once we got to Wyoming and finally found a place to rent, life got full fast with unpacking and settling, full-time ministry, exploring the beautiful countryside, and just general busyness…. even then, my reading suffered. So did my blogging, and all my other hobbies.
So now I’m finally playing catch-up and sharing an embarrassingly-belated update on my #Read2016 progress from May through August. Overall, I read almost 30 books in those five months. My default genre is fiction whenever I’m low on energy either physically or mentally, so the majority of those books were novels of some sort. However, I was able to cross several titles off my long-term reading list, and also read a few that fit specifically within this year’s literary challenge. For the sake of conserving space, I’ll share reviews of those more significant books, and simply list others at the end.
Here’s what I explored from May through August (includes affiliate links):
The Force Awakens (Star Wars #7), by Alan Dean Foster
Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel
I’m not a die-hard Star Wars fan, though I do enjoy watching the movies occasionally. After watching the newest movie last Christmas, I was intrigued by some of the unanswered questions and thought I’d give the book a try. I was hoping it might give more behind-the-scenes details than the movie; it gave some but left most of the bigger questions unanswered. I supposed I should have expect that from a movie novelization (rather than a book that came before the movie). However, it was an enjoyable read, and if you like Star Wars and books, then I’d recommend it.
Kalyn Brooke is a blogging acquaintance of mine who shares helpful and fun ways to creatively save money. So I was excited to pick up her book when it came out this past spring! Being in a weird place financially, however, I wasn’t sure how much would actually be relevant for me (I almost never find much I can apply from even the best financial-savings books, just because of what life is like for us right now). However, I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Kalyn offers well-researched ideas and plenty of creative suggestions for cutting costs across the board — from energy costs to groceries, entertainment, phone bills, and even auto care. There’s definitely something in this book for everyone, no matter what season of life you’re in.
Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary, by Ronald Taylor
Category: Regional Interest
Our region of Wyoming is considered the “Green Desert” thanks to the arid climate and high elevation, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover the vast variety of wildflowers that bloomed throughout the spring and summer. And being a curious sort of person, it wasn’t enough to just admire their beauty through a camera lens… I had to know what each flower and shrub was called, and what family or genus they were in. I don’t expect many of you will find this book relevant, but with its color pictures and simple explanations, it was especially helpful in learning about God’s beautifully fashioned plants in southwestern Wyoming and northern Utah.
8000 Miles of Dirt, by Dan Lewis
Category: Regional Interest
Yet another regional book that I picked up to help me learn more about our new home state. We spent many hours this past summer exploring the southwestern part of Wyoming, both on foot and in the car, and this was helpful in giving me an broad overview of the main trails and scenic byways around us. There were some interesting stories and photos scattered throughout the fact-based text, so it read more like a narrative of the authors’ journey across these roads, rather than simply a guide-book for traveling in the area. Once again, it’s probably not something you’d pick up unless you live in (or are visiting) Wyoming, but it was interesting enough to include on the list.
The Complete Guide to Nature Photography, by Sean Arbabi
I’ve considered myself an amateur photographer for a long time, and I’ve especially enjoyed capturing close-ups of plants and panoramic landscapes as we explore different places. After moving out here to “big sky country,” I’ve added intriguing weather and sky shots to that list. I prefer an artistic approach to taking pictures (rather than using precise settings), but I figured a brush-up on some techniques might be useful for improving my skill. This book was helpful as a primer. It included tips on everything from gathering your gear, to setting the stage and choosing composing images, to processing pictures afterwards. There were plenty of example photos to underscore the advice, and lots of practical tips that could be implemented even with limited equipment.
Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels
In my pursuit of reading more of the “classics,” I finally decided to work my way through the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. Up until now, I’d only ever read one of them… and didn’t particularly enjoy it. But then, I never enjoyed fantasy at all until I discovered Tolkien a couple years ago. So in the midst of a busy summer, when I didn’t have much mental focus for anything longer or deeper, I started reading my way through all seven books. I chose to read in chronological order, rather than publication order, and I definitely think that helped. My four-star favorites were The Magician’s Nephew (#1), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (#5), and The Silver Chair (#6). My least favorites — to which I gave just two stars — were The Horse and His Boy (#2) and Prince Caspian (#3). I’m not a huge fan of Lewis: his allegories seemed a little forced at times, and I really didn’t find the stories believable (because even fantasy ought to be realistic, in a sense). But would I recommend them? Absolutely. They certainly gave thought-provoking pictures of spiritual truths for readers who enjoy that sort of genre. And at least I can finally cross them off my to-read list!
Habits of Grace, by David Mathis
Category: Christian Living
This was perhaps one of my favorite books so far this year. It takes a fresh approach to practicing spiritual disciplines, by grouping them all under three main principles: hearing God’s voice, having God’s ear, belonging to God’s body. These three categories are then broken down into specific habits that can help us accomplish those means, emphasizing not so much the particular routine or specific habits you follow, but the purpose and outcome of following those habits. It didn’t offer excuses for neglecting any of the biblically-mandated practices — though it did lift the burden to conform to a societal “norm” — but rather, it clarified perspective of the reasons behind those expected actions. It is a profitable read for any Christian who desires to know God more intimately, obey Him more fully, and experience His grace more deeply. Read the rest of my review here.
Death by Black Hole, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Category: General Interest
I admit to being somewhat of a science geek. I’m intrigued by cosmic mysteries such as black holes, the space-time continuum, and the theory of relativity. In fact, my favorite thing to ask my husband about before we sleep at night… is quantum physics (not that I understand all his explanations!). So when this book caught my eye in the library, I thought it might help me understand a little more about the science of the universe. It was a highly readable and engaging overview of astrophysics! Disclaimer: it is definitely written from an evolutionary viewpoint, however, in many of the essay-length chapters that bias is completely absent. It’s not until the final section of the book (“Science and God”) that it really comes out — and that’s about where I stopped reading. But if you’re curious about “how the universe works” — and if you’re discerning enough to recognize false teaching when it appears — then I would recommend this!
One of the Few, by Jason B. Ladd
Category: Book Published in 2016
It was interesting to read this book after finishing the previous one — a study in opposites, almost, since this highlights the need for a Christian worldview in every area of life. The author is a former Marine fighter pilot who chronicles his personal journey from passive unbelief (perhaps even atheism) to a worldview grounded firmly in the truth of God’s Word. It’s part memoir, part spiritual instruction. Rather than simply expounding on the lessons he learned, telling us what to believe and why, the author takes a unique approach by sharing real-life events from his various roles as a son, a fighter pilot, a husband, and a father, and then drawing very practical spiritual application from those situations. It’s like a book of spiritual object lessons, told from the perspective of a fighter pilot. Read the rest of my review here.
Other books I read: The Clocks by Agatha Christie (♥♥♥); Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (♥♥♥♥); Light from Heaven, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, and Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon (♥♥♥♥♥); A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain (♥♥♥♥); Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers (♥♥♥♥); The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (♥♥♥♥♥); Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies, and Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear (♥♥♥♥).
What have you been reading lately?
PS – Find me on Goodreads to share what you’re reading and follow my progress for #Read2016!