July 2018 Reads

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I originally had a different post in mind for today, but then the internet reminded me that it's Book Lovers Day, and I had to write a little about the things I've read in the last month. One of my favorite things about this season of life is all the time I've been able to carve out to read just for reading's sake. I haven't read this much for years. And it's been good.  It's been interesting to see how my reading habits have changed, how my voracious reading speed seems only to increase with time.

I used to be drawn almost exclusively to fiction. Growing up, I had this perception that nonfiction was dusty and boring by default, the domain of the *other* part of the library where all the boring grownups hung out. But lately I've been reading a lot more poetry, a lot more about faith, a lot more of the true stories of the world. I laughed a few weeks ago when I realized that my trip to the library resulted in half a dozen nonfiction books and only one novel. And I'm really okay with it.

These days, the fiction that I am drawn to is very character-driven. I want to read stories where the people feel real. I think it's all tied up in my obsession with stories of the average joe human, the reason that I liked studying small town Canadian history so much more than the grand sweeping narrative of rulers and battles.

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So in celebration of Book Lovers Day, here's a summary of what I read in the month of July:

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans (4/5)

I've been waiting for this one to be released for months, and it was definitely worth the wait. I flew through most of the book in an afternoon, thoroughly enjoying RHE's discussion of the genres in the Bible and wrestling with scripture in ways that leave you in awe of how big and wonderful God is. I loved her retellings of different stories from scripture that she has scattered throughout the book (hello, she wrote a screenplay version of the story of Job). I also own this book, so if you live close by and want to borrow it, shoot me a text!

Some Great Thing by Lawrence Hill (3.5/5)

I really like Lawrence Hill's work, and he writes the same way he speaks when you meet him in person. I always appreciate that in a writer, when their voice carries through their work in a very noticeable way. I read this one on a road trip and enjoyed it. Some Great Thing is Hill's first novel, though, and it's not as strong as some of his later writing. I think if I had read this before any of his other novels, I would likely have rated this higher.

Night by Elie Wiesel (5/5)

I've seen this book around, heard people talking about it for years, but only just read it a few weeks ago. It's small but packs a punch in its raw exploration of life in a WWII concentration camp. There's a reason that Elie Wiesel is the household name he has become, and this book will wreck you completely. If you haven't yet read it, do yourself a favor and curl up with it, a cup of tea, and a box of kleenex.

Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood (4/5)

I don't actually like Margaret Atwood's fiction that much. (Does that make me a bad Canadian? Maybe. Do I care? Nope.) But the things that bother me about her prose are actually the strengths of her poetry. Because you can get away without using quotation marks or punctuation or paragraph breaks when it's poetry, and it's all beautiful and reflective. I liked this book because you can pick it up and put it down and still feel like you're getting all these little snapshots of stories. Tbh, I'm probably going to take this one out from the library again.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (5/5)

In summary: lived up to the hype. I've seen Beartown everywhere for the past year or so, but just got to it now. Fredrik Backman knows how to tell a story that sucks you right in. Growing up in a little hockey town, I laughed out loud at the accuracy of some of his descriptions of the game. But fear not, the sport is only a platform for exploring humanity, so if you don't like sports stories you'll probably still enjoy the book. Backman's characters have depth and complicated history with one another, and he knows how to tell a dark story that pushes you through right to the end. Also, massive props to his translator for all the work in making this book available in English. So worth it. This one is also a part of my own library now, so feel free to borrow it and read it for yourself!

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What did you read in July? Have you read any of these ones? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Book Lovers Day, and happy reading.

Ā 

Joyfully,
Alice

8 Books That Changed My Life

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I'm a firm believer in reading as many books as possible. I think that reading expands our little worlds book by book, as we peer into the real (or fictitious) lives of others and learn from their perspectives.

I read these books at various points in my life, as early as in childhood and as recently as this year. But each of these books brought a reminder I needed or shifted my perspective on reading in some way. Most of them were recommended by people I know and love, which makes them even more special.

Holes by Louis Sachar

This book is one of the greatest stories I've ever read, and the nostalgic feelings I have toward it mean that I still enjoy it as an adult. I know several children who fell in love with reading because of Holes, and while I loved reading long before I encountered Holes, it still holds a big place in my heart. Its unconventional timeline gives an element of mystery to it, and Louis Sachar doesn't shy away from hard topics that some would consider to be too big for children (racism, poverty, injustice and abuse of authority, to name a few), and that is what makes it so powerful.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schafer and Annie Burrows 

A few people recommended this to me before I actually read it. My only regret was not taking their suggestion sooner. As a lover of letter-writing and historical fiction, this book was one of the loveliest things I have ever read. From the first page, I fell in love with the characters in it and couldn't stop reading until I reached the end of the book. It's one that has a solid plot and doesn't take a massive amount of emotional energy to read, which is nice sometimes. If you're looking for a book that will make you want to leave your entire life and move to an island in the middle of the English Channel, this is it.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

This book is one of the most beautiful and heartwrenching pieces I have ever read. It's the memoir of Corrie ten Boom of her experiences during the Second World War as a Dutch Christian whose family secretly housed displaced Jews. She and her family were eventually arrested and sent to concentration camps, where her father and sister died. The Hiding Place is a story of faith amid incredible darkness and forgiveness in the face of unimaginable tragedy. It's not a long book, but it's one that inevitably puts life back in perspective a bit and challenges the reader to think about life and faith and endurance in a different light.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief wrecked me, and it did not put it back together. I have never cried so hard over a book in my life. When I read the ending of this book, my brother was concerned something devastating had happened in my life. To a certain extent it had, though I don't think he expected it to be due to a work of fiction. The Book Thief takes place in Germany during the Second World War, and tells the story of an orphaned girl whose foster father teaches her to read. In a world that constantly tries to dehumanize the enemy, this book serves as an important reminder that despite the fight against corruption and evil, there are children on all sides who just want to grow up.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

This is one of the only love stories I will ever recommend to people. This book was recommended to me by a friend who, much like myself, doesn't like to read sappy romance novels. But I sat down and ended up reading it in an afternoon, unable to put it down. It's also a fairly short book, so it's definitely doable for a quick weekend read. It's a story of choosing to live with wild abandon. It's an unconventional love story that makes me unbelievably happy. It's also written by the author of Anne of Green Gables, so if you liked those books as a child (or as a grownup), you'll probably like this too. It's old, but not the dusty kind of old where you feel the need to keep a dictionary on hand as you read it.

Good Poems for Hard times, edited by Garrison Keillor

I first saw this book one summer when I was working at a camp for kids. My co-leader would read this book during the quiet time each day, and she often would share the poems she particularly enjoyed with me. I got my own copy several months later, and every poem is exceptional. It's one of those books that make you want to pack it everywhere. It's got a mix of old classic poems and contemporary poetry, and Garrison Keillor chose a stunning assortment for this book.

Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

When I read the title of the first chapter ("Jesus Made Me a Feminist"), I knew I was going to love this book. It's one of those books that wandered into my life at just the right moment. Sarah Bessey's reflections on the experiences of women in Christianity are honest without being bitter, and she keeps her focus on Jesus through it all. As someone who has wrestled with many of the things she addresses, this book is an incredible encouragement to hope in Christ, to find identity in him above all else. She brings the historical context of scriptures into all of her discussion, which makes my little historian heart happy. It could go much deeper into the analysis for Jesus as a feminist, but it was the right book at the right time in my life and for that, I will always be grateful.

Come Matter Here by Hannah Brencher

I only recently read this book, but I can say with confidence that it is one of the best books of the year, and there are few pieces of writing which will make the kind of impact on me that this one has. I had the privilege of being on the launch team for this one and received a copy early to hype it up to the world, and there is really nothing negative I can say about Come Matter Here. Hannah Brencher has a knack for nailing down exactly what I need to hear, and this is no exception. The book talks about planting yourself where your feet are, and challenges the reader to lean into Christ and good community even if life feels like it's falling apart. It's exactly the book I needed in this season, bringing me to laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time) over the beautiful and hard things that life throws at us.


What are you reading these days? Which books have changed your life? Let me know in the comments.

Joyfully,

Alice

Announcing the Real Talk Tuesday Newsletter

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Today's post is a little news-ier than usual, which is quite exciting for me. The past week has been big in all kinds of spheres of my life. Friday was my last day of work at the museum, which has me feeling about eighteen different things all at once. I'm really going to miss the team there, even though moving on right now is a good and healthy thing for so many reasons. For now, I get to write a lot and explore what life looks like now as primarily a freelancer for the foreseeable future.

And today I finally get to officially announce the arrival of a couple of things that have been stirring in the background over the past number of months, waiting until the right time to be launched out into the world. The time has finally come, and I'm thrilled (and also a little terrified!) to see what comes of them.

Here's a bit of context: Tuesdays, in my experience, are the hardest days of the week. Everyone expects that a Monday is going to feel the way it does, with the lingering feeling that the weekend shouldn't be over yet. But Tuesdays sneak up on you. They tend to be the days when things break and people are unusually grouchy. Tuesdays are when strange things happen and you're not quite sure why things are as hard as they are, because it's not a Monday but there is still so much week left.

By the time Wednesday rolls around, you're halfway there and the end is in sight. Thursdays are almost Fridays, and nobody hates Fridays. But Tuesdays... man, they'll get you every time.

I don't want to hate Tuesdays, but I find that they're usually pretty rough. And I know I often need a reminder that it's just one day, that even the most Tuesday of days will not last forever. That's why I'm launching the Real Talk Tuesday Newsletter, designed to be a bright spot in your email inbox first thing every Tuesday morning, with what will hopefully be timely reminders that things tend to turn out better than they might seem to early on in the week. Starting this coming week, the first Tuesday of July, you can receive a little piece of my heart direct to you.

So here's what this newsletter will NOT be:

  • An overly perky, flowery piece that tries to convince you to forget all your problems. That's not who I am, and that's not usually helpful for most of us anyway.
  • A lecture designed to make you feel bad about yourself or like you're not trying hard enough. There's enough of that in the world, and demeaning advice doesn't ever do any good.

Here's what you can actually expect:

  • Practical conversation about the ways that life has been hard in the last week.
  • Simple reminders that point to the things that are good.
  • Probably some really bad jokes.

And here's something else I'm really excited about: the launch of this newsletter is also the launch of a seven day devotional on joy! In case you hadn't already noticed, God has made carrying joy into the lives of my people a huge part of my personal mission. It's a large part of the story behind the name of this website and has been a huge theme of the past several years of my life. God laid this devotional on my heart about a year ago, and I've been slowly working on it since then. Now it's finally ready to be seen by the world, and I couldn't be more excited to share it with you.

When you subscribe to the Real Talk Tuesday newsletter, you will receive a copy of it for FREE. My hope and prayer for this devotional is that people would read it and be encouraged to meet Jesus in the middle of whatever chaos life has brought their way. So if a weekly pep talk and a free devotional sounds like a winning combination, this is the deal for you. Follow the subscription instructions on the side or bottom of the page and you will receive Seven Days on Joy and Real Talk Tuesdays in your inbox starting this week.

So here's to Tuesdays, and to choosing joy in spite of it all!

Ā 

Joyfully,

Alice