Goodreads | When Breath Becomes Air

One thing I did a TON of during my pregnancy was read. READ, READ, READ. Mostly that meant fiction because I never felt like I had a ton of brain power to get through other genres (even though I usually try to read a variety), and it really helped cut down on the amount of TV I watched. Anyone else find themselves mindlessly turning on the TV or scrolling social media over and over when there's "nothing else to do"? Well, grab one of these books and get yourself out of that habit!

When Breath Becomes Air Book Review

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh | I've totally jumped on the bandwagon of female-driven thrillers (think The Girl on the Train), and I Let You Go is a GREAT next pick for you if you've just finished one too. I've always loved mysteries but never before have I gotten halfway through one, said, "Whaaaaaa?!" and started rereading from the beginning to figure out what I missed. (****)

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi | Warning: This book will probably make you cry. I suppose that's inevitable when the author is penning his memoir on his deathbed. But man, it is so poignant and so ... clear. Kalanithi is just 36 years old, a neurosurgeon and—in an ironic twist of fate—has cancer that he can't cure. He explores his life and faith in the midst of huge trials. (*****)

Rising Strong by Brené Brown | A study on vulnerability and the strength to rise up from defeat, Brown's Rising Strong spoke some truth to me. I think, though, because I wasn't currently struggling with a huge fall, I had some trouble getting into it and relating to her stories. The next time I'm struggling with being brave, however, I'll definitely be reaching for her words. (***)

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt | A beautifully written story about love and loss and moving on. June loses her uncle, who is her favorite person and seemingly only friend. She has a hard time letting go until she meets another important person from her uncle's life who can relate to her loneliness. (****)

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker | Oh my goodness do I love Jen Hatmaker. She makes me cry with laughter (check out her Instagram to see what I mean). I absolutely loved her book 7 and knew I would enjoy For the Love because her writing style is so succinct and witty. She is a Christian author who explores all the ways we compare ourselves to others in this modern world and how we can break free of that life. (****)

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty | This was a super easy and fun read—perfect for the beach, a lazy Saturday morning or late pregnancy! ;) Alice wakes up from a head injury 10 years older and realizes she's lost the last decade of her life. Think about all that could change in that amount of time! (****)

GoodReads | Notes from a Blue Bike

Ohhh, it's been SO long since I shared some of my recent favorite books with you. Some of these I read almost a year ago but they were too good not to write about. Check it out below!

Notes from a Blue Bike Book Review

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George | I'll admit, this one wasn't my absolute favorite from my books last spring, but I did appreciate that it was quirky so I wanted to keep it on the list. It follows Monsieur Perdu, who owns a floating bookstore and is trying get over a lost love. Those two things may not seem connected but he uses literature and his bookstore to heal again. (***)

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam | I never feel like I have enough time, especially during busy season, but reading 168 Hours was an eye opener for me. Vanderkam very simply and gently lays out the truth: There's actually plenty of time in the day; we're just not not using our 24 hours in the wisest way possible. She includes a graph to track your hours for an entire week, which was the MOST helpful for me to see where I actually spend my time (hello, checking social media waaaay too often!). I could—and should!—read this once a year. (*****)

WomanCode by Alisa Vitti | I first heard Alisa Vitti interviewed on The Lively Show podcast where she talked about optimizing your hormones in the most natural way possible. It was intriguing so I bought her book. I've never been super convicted about eating 100% clean or curing any sickness that comes my way through homeopathic methods, but Vitti's book made me think twice about what I put in my body and how it affects my entire system as a whole. It was a little woo-woo at times and way GIRL POWER!, but I learned a lot and have started to implement some pieces into my everyday life. (***)

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider | Simple living is kind of a cliche term these days, but Oxenreider does a beautiful job of proving that life doesn't have to be so hectic. I needed to read this book when I did—in the middle of wedding season and the early stages of pregnancy! It gave me a lot of hope that we could have a family and still keep up with our passions ... and even pass those on to our kids. (*****)

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr | The Enneagram isn't so much a personality test as it is a way of understanding yourself and working to become more mature and balanced within your God-given strengths and weaknesses. It's deep and it takes a lot of thought, but I'd highly recommend checking out this perspective on the Enneagram, especially if you're struggling to understand your true self or a loved one. (****)

An Irish Doctor in Love and at Sea by Patrick Taylor | Anything Irish related is of interest to me because I love that country! This is part of a fictional series by Taylor but you don't have to read every book or even the books in order to enjoy this story. It flips between two time periods—one when Dr. O'Reilly is first starting his career during WWII and one when he is a veteran doctor. And there's a love story that ties the two eras together. (***)

Goodreads | All the Light We Cannot See

A House in the SkyIt's winter in Cleveland, and you know what that means. Lots of time off shooting, which I've filled with reading. On the couch. Under a blanket. With a cup of something hot in my hand. Nevermind that it was 65 degrees on Saturday. I'm still working hard on my winter reading list. In case you need a good book suggestion for a chilly Saturday (or a spring break trip to a tropical spot ... jealous!), here are my latest ...

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins I know this book gets mixed reviews (especially now that it's going to be a movie!), but DANG I thought it was riveting! I finished this book in two days, which is crazy fast for me, the girl who usually likes to make good books last. I just HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT! If you like suspense and mystery and psychological thrillers, you're going to need to start reading this book ASAP. (*****)

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout This was one of my very favorite reads of 2015. Amanda Lindhout wrote this memoir after being kidnapped and held in captivity for more than a year in Somalia. Her life stories prior to being kidnapped are just unbelievable, and I was fascinated by how she used her experiences and sheer will to survive in isolation for months on end. This girl is clever and brave. (*****)

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume Guys. Judy Blume was my all-time favorite author when I was little. I read Are you There God? It's me, Margaret., like, a lot. So when my mom gifted me this book, I had high hopes for it. The story is fictional, but it's based around these three plane crashes that really, truly did take place in Elizabeth, N.J., in the early 1950s. The premise is interesting, and the story is well-written, but I'll still take my favorite Judy Blume classics over this one any day. (***)

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs This one came from the recommendation of a photographer friend who is an avid reader (hi, Sarah!), and I knew her suggestion wouldn't disappoint. I did NOT expect to really get attached to this story the way I did though. Robert Peace's life was extraordinary: He fought through poverty and major family struggles to earn a full ride to Yale. Post-Yale, he moved back to his hometown of Newark and entered the drug ring. It's not at all as black and white as I just summed up here, and that makes this story is SO, so important. (*****)

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng I picked up this book in a quaint cottage book shop in Northern Michigan. Just thinking about it brings me back to warm summer days and lots of cherry pie. This story is not quite as carefree as warm summer days, but it's riveting anyways. After a girl's body is found in a lake, her family struggles to come to terms with what might have happened to her. It's a little bit mystery, a lot bit moving. ;) Pick it up! (****)

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown It took me awhile to get through this book because, ironically, I was finishing up my busy season when I started it. I probably needed this message most then, you know? McKeown writes about doing less things well by being more selective with our choices and time … even if it seems counterintuitive. I learned a lot from this one, and I hope I can apply some of it this year. (****)

Scary Close by Donald Miller I've been a fan of Donald Miller's since I read Blue Like Jazz in college, and reading this book was like visiting an old friend. Miller's writing style pulls you right in and is always relatable, and this memoir about "dropping the act and finding true intimacy" was funny, heartwarming and hit close to home for me. (*****)

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Oh, this book. I loved it. It was hard, but it was so good. The story is set in France and Germany during WWII and switches back and forth between a blind, French girl's war experience and a German boy's (who ends up being forced to fight for Germany). This was a perspective on WWII that I've never considered, and it was eye-opening. I didn't want this one to end. (*****!)

The Very Picture of You by Isabel Wolff As you've probably noticed, I tend to go for stories of real struggle and oppression. I don't know why; I'm just drawn to them! This book is not one of my usual reads, and while it was a bit fluffy, it was entertaining enough for a ski trip weekend. The main character is a portrait artist who falls in love with one of her subjects, and that subject just so happens to be very off limits for her. A little soap opera-y, but engaging anyway. (***)

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee A young adult read about a Chinese girl and a runaway slave braving the Oregon Trail to escape their unjust life back in Missouri. This book surprised me. First, because I had no idea that it was YA until I opened it and saw the big print (ha!) and second, because I've never read a story quite like this one. It was like a lot of pieces of American history—that I knew about each on their own—all came together to craft this beautiful story. (*****)

Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus I was a little bit leery to read this book because I knew it would be a hard one to process, but I was totally engrossed from the start. It's unbelievable what those three girls went through for 10+ years, and I'm so glad I now know their side of the story. (*****)

Goodreads | The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Book ReviewI'm not sure how it's already August, but if you're still looking for a book to take to the beach or pool, here are some of my favorites from the last few months.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio A young adult book about a 10-year-old boy with a facial abnormality learning to live a normal life. This is one of my favorite books I've read all year. It's incredibly well-written, heartwarming and just … pure. (*****)

Emma by Jane Austen Let me tell you my history with this book: I've started and stopped it so many times I thought I would never get through it. Not only did I get through it, but I LOVED it once I was finally immersed in the story. This is a classic rom-com in the most classic sense. If you haven't read it yet, you must! (*****)

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath Based on the idea that we spend too much time focused on our weaknesses and not enough time developing our strengths, this book also includes a StrengthsFinder assessment so you can learn more about your strengths and how you can apply them to your life. I read StrengthsFinder for a conference I attended recently and it was super interesting. (***)

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi A true story about a group of young women in Iran who secretly meet to read and discuss Western literature. I really liked the idea of this story, but I had a hard time following all the pieces because I hadn't read all the books they were reading. If you've read the books that each chapter is devoted to and you're a literary buff, you'll really appreciate this book. (***)

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton This is a super easy and entertaining read, and I needed something like this in the middle of my busy wedding season. If you're into mysteries and haven't heard of the letter mystery series, check it out now! (****)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba I was completely absorbed by this story from the very beginning. William, who lives in Malawi--a really poor and drought-laden country in Africa--is determined to keep learning even after he has to drop out of school because his family can't pay the fees. After lots of research, lots of tinkering and lots of being made fun of, William successfully creates his village's first windmill at the age of 14. William's done two TED talks since his windmill became international news: #1 and #2 in case you're as interested as I was! (*****)

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver A story about a directionless woman and her journey to find peace with her past and a purpose for her life. Set in the American Southwest, like a lot of Kingsolver's books are, I enjoyed this story but found the main character to be a little frustrating. I just wanted her to get her life together! Regardless, this book is extremely well-written, and I wouldn't expect anything less from Kingsolver! (***)

Emma by Jane Austen Book Review