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 | 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 | And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed Book Review_0043You guys. I'm reading The Goldfinch right now and I am loving it! I can't wait to review it on the blog, but it's huge so it might take me awhile. (Yep, I'm definitely over my intimidation of big books.)

For now, I'm continuing on with my book list from the past year. I hope December is brining you lots of time to read!

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini I really love everything Hosseini writes, so I knew I would like his newest novel. This one is again set in the Middle East (although it kind of takes you around the globe) and follows a little boy and his sister as they grow up separated. It's heartbreaking and uplifting in the way Hosseini has mastered, and I really can't say enough good things about it. I will read everything this author writes! (****)

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle Wow! This book surprised me. First of all, the work that Boyle has done in inner-city Los Angeles is just mind-blowing. His experiences, and how transformative they've been for himself and the kids he serves, were just begging to be written down, and I'm so glad he published Tattoos on the Heart. The theme of unconditional love was evident in every chapter and that mixed with Boyle's quick wit makes this book irresistible. (****)

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom This book brings me right back to our little bed and breakfast in Doolin, Ireland. I finished this book on our big trip, and while it was the perfect light, entertaining read for vacation, it left me feeling a little corny. I'm not sure that's the right word--the story really did have me wanting to keep reading (a handful of people in Michigan get phone calls from heaven)--but at the end I felt like I had just watched a Hallmark movie. Uplifted but contrived. (***)

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang Factory Girls opened my eyes to a part of the world I've never really explored. It follows a couple girls who have left their rural Chinese homes to start factory work in southern China. Called migrant workers, these teens are part of a huge population that is continuously growing, right along with the factories that employ them. The story is almost unbelievable and SO incredibly different than any life I've ever known. Note: Chang's style of writing is a bit more journalistic than a typical non-fiction book. It took me a little while to get used to it. (****)

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon This is a beautifully imagined story (no pun intended!) about three people being brought together in the most unusual, but necessary, circumstances. Like The First Phone Call from Heaven, it was a bit contrived for me, but still an entertaining read. (***)

Goodreads | Film is Not Dead

Goodreads Book ReviewsI had a goal to read 25 books in 2014. Whew. That's a lot of reading I'm realizing now. I'm currently on book #17 and while I'm not going to reach my (lofty) goal, I realized that the whole point was just to READ MORE. I'm a huge bookworm (remember when I only wanted to be a librarian?) but I tend to push reading to the back burner when I have lots of other stuff going on. In college? I hardly read at all. Somehow, my multitasking-loving self couldn't fathom picking up another book after class.

So while this year was crazy busy, I'm so happy I made time to just sit with a book and unwind. Holding a good hardcover book in your hands does something for your soul. That's obviously why I wanted to be a librarian.

Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen My family refers to Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, all the time (have I mentioned that my mom is a minister?), so I thought it was about time I finally read this book cover to cover. It was a pretty quick read in the sense that there weren't as many pages as lots of other books but Nouwen digs deep into spiritual life in every one of those pages. A good starting point for people exploring Christianity. (****)

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver For some reason, Barbara Kingsolver's novels have always intimidated me. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible in high school, but every one of her books are so big. Maybe I've grown up and gotten past the size of books freaking me out because I really loved Flight Behavior. It's not the type of subject I would normally go for (kinda science-y … that was my very worst subject in school), but it was so engrossing, and I learned so much about butterflies and climate change, that a couple pages in I couldn't remember why I almost didn't pick this up in the first place. (****)

Film is Not Dead by Jonathan Canlas This book has been on my to-read list since I picked up a film camera last year. It was chock-full of good information that my eager film-learning self hungrily devoured. Plus it had lots of pretty pictures. Canlas is funny and doesn't take himself too seriously, which I also appreciated. (****)

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement My mom does such a good job picking out books for me. This is another one I never would have found on my own, but thanks to her I found a new favorite. The story takes place in Mexico and explores what it's like to be a woman in a city that revolves around the drug trade. It was hard to read at times but so, so important. (*****)