I have always had a gigantic love for books. As a kid I remember going to the library and picking out dozens of books and reading them within the following two-three weeks before our next library visit. There has always been something so incredibly magical and beautiful about becoming lost inside a story created on the pages of books. However, I ended up having to read so many books on various topics for college (I was literally always reading books and writing essays for all of my classes…my entire four years of college) that over the last several years I have read less and less in my free time. Even after graduating last May and coming back home, I found myself gravitating towards screens for my source of entertainment rather than my books. I had lists of books I wanted to read and yet no motivation to pick them up and get started. So one of my main goals for 2019 has been to read 3-5 books every month. We just finished the third month of the year and I’m happy to say I have met (and even exceeded) my goal each month so far.
And this brings me to the exciting launch of this new blog series! I decided it would be both fun and a good way to hold me accountable if I do a little blogpost at the end of each month (or the beginning of the next one) with a little mini book review of each book I read. It will be a fun way for me to share my favorite new reads and I’d love it to spark discussions and I will happily welcome any and all suggestions you might have for books to add to my list.
Soooo, in March I read six books: In the House of Brede, A Man Called Ove, The Nightingale, Firefly Lane, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Searching for and Maintaining Peace. I read at night before falling asleep, I read on my lunch break at work, I read at the airport and on the plane, I read, read, read and fully became immersed in the worlds each one of these books created.
In this House of Brede
This book took a little bit of time and patience to get into as it has a very slow beginning, but man oh man, if you persevere this book is a goldmine of beauty. It follows the story of a cloistered order of Benedictine Nuns in England in the mid 1900s. Rumor Godden does an amazing job of portraying the down-to-earth beautiful simplicity and yet messy and complicated dynamics found in the rich community life thriving behind the Abbey’s walls. The book spans several decades following Phillippa, a successful businesswoman who ends up giving up her comfortable and high end London life to enter the cloistered Benedictines at the Abbey of Brede. I found I could relate to so many of the insecurities, worries, and struggles that appeared behind the Abbey walls as well as the deeply rooted desire and joy found in living out one’s truest calling. This was one of my favorites I read this month (which is hard to say because they were literally all so good!)
A Man Called Ove
This short New York Times Bestseller book blew me away. This Swedish novel starts off very quirky and is one of the more uniquely written books that I’ve read. I had no idea where it was going or if I would even be able to get past the quirky weirdness of Fredrik Backman’s writing style. But golly when it started to get deep, it went far. Ove is a grumpy old man who wants to live his remaining days in peace, which in his mind means undisturbed by annoying people, and just about all humans fall under the category “annoying people”. He is constantly criticizing and critiquing everything and everyone around him but underneath his rough exterior is a story of a life littered with tragedy and love, pain and beauty, sacrifice and hard-work. The more you slowly learn about his story, the more you fall in love with Ove as you begin to understand the battered heart that lies behind the wall of Ove’s short-tempered and cranky outer facade. I loved this book so much that I made my mom read it right after I had finished it, and she in turn loved it so much that she insisted my dad read it right after she finished it. But really, you should add this one to your list.
Oof this book. Set in World War II this book follows the stories of two sisters surviving the horrors of Occupied France. These two sisters are wildly different and each are affected by the war in drastically different ways. The elder sister is left behind with her children in her french country cottage while her husband is sent to the Front Line. When the Nazi’s take over France, she is forced to house one of the German Officers in her home and survive the harsh and terrifying life the following years entailed. Her younger sister is a fiery passionate woman who hates the Germans and refuses to sit quietly while they take over and destroy her beloved country and family. Her courageous determination to do something for the war ends up leading her to become a legendary war here in France known by her codename: The Nightingale. This is a heavy book that breaks your heart and yet fills it with awe and wonder at the courage people possess in the face of such immense horror. I cannot recommend reading this enough.
I decided to read another Kristen Hannah book right after finishing The Nightingale so I picked up Firefly Lane. A completely different story, this book follows two best friends from the time they meet in the 1970s well into their adult life. Abandonment issues from a drug addicted mother, choosing a career over love and marriage, figuring out the overwhelming transition into motherhood, and deep insecurities over being chosen as second best are just some of the deep issues Kate and Tully face throughout their lives. It was beautiful at parts and overall I enjoyed the story and will be reading the sequel this month, however, to be completely honest, there were parts I was not a fan of and certain reasons why I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book, at least not as a first choice or a must-read.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I watched the movie this past fall and loved it but had absolutely no idea that there was a book that had been written first! When I was visiting one of my best friends in Georgia at the beginning of March, I was chatting about books with her housemates and one of them told me I had to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I actually started reading her copy that weekend and I ordered my own copy the day I got back so I could finish it as soon as possible. Written entirely by letters, this novel is unlike any I’ve read before and I absolutely loved it! Juliet Ashton is a writer who’s feeling a little lost now with what to write about next. She receives a letter from a stranger who introduces himself as a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and through this one letter she ends up becoming first pen pals, and later friends with all the members of the Society eventually leading her to visit the island of Guernsey and write a book on what they endured under German Occupation during WWII. (While it is another WWII book, this one is ten thousand times lighter than The Nightingale, really a night and day different kind of WWII book.) Juliet Ashton is down to earth and just plain hilarious and I found myself laughing out loud at various moments. Although I enjoyed the movie and will probably re-watch it at some point, the book gave the story and characters a huge added layer of depth and richness that the movie just couldn’t quite portray.
Searching for and Maintaining Peace
So confession time, I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for over a year because it was one of two books I was supposed to read as part of our team’s preparation for our spring break mission trip last year….and I never actually got around to reading more than the first couple pages. Sometime in February of this year, I saw this book on my shelf and pulled it out and put it on my bedside table and told myself “you know, maybe you should finally read this soon”. Literally a day or two later the Abiding Together Podcast announced their Lenten Book Study and guess what book they had chosen? Yep, Searching for and Maintaining Peace. So it was decided, I was absolutely reading it this time around. And to be honest, it’s one of those things where I know I was able to get 10x more out of this tiny book reading it now than I would have a year ago because of what the Lord has done in me in this year of transition. I can’t even give it a proper summary because it would barely be able to scrape the surface of giving it justice. So all I can tell you is that you should go read this book yourself. Father Jacques Philippe’s writing style is simple and yet extraordinary beautiful and it just makes so much sense. If you’re looking for a new spiritual read, I can’t recommend this enough and I also highly, highly suggest listening to Abiding Together’s Book series on this book.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the books I read this past month and/or any recommendations for books to read in the future!!