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12 Best Books I’ve Read This year

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In a normal year, I read a lot of books. Turns out that in a year with a lot of down time from cancer stuff I read even more. (I also watch a lot more Netflix, but this is a post about books, not HGTV shows.) The following is a list of my Top 12 book of the year in no particular order or genre. I’ve also included links for where to buy them or learn more about their authors.

  • A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – Okay, I lied when I said these were all in random order. A Severe Mercy is #1 on this list and was most definitely my favorite read this year. The weaving of love story and God story interspersed with letters from C.S. Lewis is amazing. Part of me wishes someone would make a movie, but I’d be surprised if a movie maker could do it justice.
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova – This was made into a movie and the movie was almost as good as the book. You may think it strange that I found encouragement from this sad, sad book shortly after my diagnosis, but I did. There is a page where the narrator, who is living with early onset alzheimer’s, says she wishes that she had breast cancer instead, because there is treatment for breast cancer and people wear pink and cheer for you. It reminded me that even thought I wasn’t happy with my circumstances, I had an awful lot to be thankful for.
  • The Auschwitz Escape by Joel Rosenberg. It’s not a “true story” but is based on true events. I so love historical fiction, especially WWII historical fiction, and this book was hard to put down.
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This is also WWII era historical fiction, but it’s a love story set in Seattle and revolving around the treatment of Japanese Americans during the war. A perspective I had never read from before and a beautiful story.
  • Crossing the Waters by Leslie Leyland Fields. Fields experience as a commercial fisherman gives her a perspective that enabled me see well-loved Bible stories with new eyes. And her story-telling is superb.
  • Once Beyond a Time by Ann Tatlock. I bought this book because I got a great deal on it, and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. There’s time travel involved and I tend to stay away from “science fictiony” stuff. But this was a well-written story about forgiveness that kept me wondering how it all fit together.
  • Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel. Another one from WWII. It was pretty graphic and sometimes hard to read, but a worthy-of-reading story of survival in almost unsurvivable circumstances.
  • The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan. I love love love this one. I love reading stories of people coming to faith in Christ, and this story of a secular Jew slowly over years and years coming to believe in Jesus as the Messiah is so very good. Not only is the story good, but every now and then when I read a book, I just keep underlining and underlining because I love the way the author forms his or her sentences. This is one of those books.
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson¬†This book was eye opening to me in a similar way that Dead Man Walking was years ago. The injustice, predjudice and discrimination that take place in a political system that is supposed to work from an “innocent until proven guilty” perspective saddens me. I’m thankful that Stevenson took the time to write this book and that he’s doing the very hard work he’s doing.
  • On Writing by Steven King. Oh my goodness! I don’t read Stephen King because I don’t like to be scared. It took about all I had in me just to watch the movie Misery ūüôā But this book on writing made me want to read his scary books and deal with the nightmares they would surely inspire because he is amazingly talented. I read the book to learn more about writing, but I was entertained from page one til the end.
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This book took me a long time to read, and I plan to read it again. There is so much practical information on the craft of writing packed into a couple hundred pages that my brain nearly exploded. I have so much to learn, and Zinsser is a great teacher.
  • Strength Renewed by Shirley Corder. I feel like I know Corder after reading this book. In fact, we corresponded a couple times this spring. This was just what I needed to read as I was going through some hard stuff. Her cancer road was more challenging and took longer to pass over than mine, but I felt a kinship with her as I read. This book is real, open and Christ-centered. Don’t know what to do for your friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer? Buy her this book.
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I Take It Back – The Oprah’s Book Club Book I Won’t Read

I enjoy fiction. But when it’s fiction passed off as truth? Not so much.

A big thanks to a blog reader who pointed out that A Million Little Pieces is a fake. The author promoted the book as his life story, but it is filled with lies.

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When I did a little research, I realized this was quite a big story in 2006. So big that Oprah kicked it out of her book club and had some choice words to say about the author. You can read about that in this New York Times article.

Author Kicked Out of Oprah’s Book Club

Maybe I should be impressed that this dude wrote a lie as truth and passed it off so darn well that his book made more money in 2005 than any other book in the US except for whatever Harry Potter book came out that year. Or maybe I should be disappointed in the¬†publishing industry.¬†How is it that¬†somewhere along the line one of the many pairs of eyes that looks at a book before it goes into print didn’t catch this colossal lie?

The more I read about it, the more I wondered how I missed this when it was news.

Then it hit me. In those early years of the 2000s, I was reading books like this

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and this.

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Books with many words and few pictures were not a part of my toddler-mommy repertoire.¬†My shelves were void of Oprah’s Book Club books.

Go ahead and read it if you want, but I’m removing it from my Summer Reading List. I’m gonna put my 50-cent garage sale copy in the kindling box. It should make a great fire starter.

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Additions to My 2015 Summer Reading List

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What happens when you go to a writer’s conference is you come home with a brain that is about to explode and a new list of books you want to read. (Some people are addicted to chocolate or exercise or alcohol. I’m addicted to books…)

Needless to say, I had to add to my previous summer reading list, and I thought maybe some book addict¬†out there would be interested. (I’ve put a dent in my original reading list by the way. The Kitchen House may be my favorite story of the year.)

So, here it is, the addendum to my original summer reading list.

1. Mercy’s Rain – By Cindy K. Sproles. (I met Cindy at this year’s Write-to-Publish and have had the honor of being published a few times at christiandevotions.us, of which she is an editor. This book was a hard, but good read.)

2. Atonement for Emily Adams – Susan Lawrence (I met Susan at a writer’s conference a few years ago and met up with her again this year. She is an Iowa author and happened to win a 2014 Grace Award for this book. Plus all of her proceeds are going toward building a children’s home in Swaziland.)

3. On Writing Well – William Zinsser (Gotta keep reading for the learning. Can’t just read for fun.)

4. How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It – Dr. Dennis Hensley (I took one of Hensley’s classes and learned tons. An interesting tidbit about Hensley:¬†he has written romance novels under a female pseudonym. I’m not big into romance novels, but I’m gonna have to get my hands on one of those at some point.)

5. The Bridge – Karen Kingsbury (So this wasn’t from the writer’s conference. I picked it up at a garage sale because I liked the cover. Yep. Sometimes I judge a book by its cover.)

6. ¬†A Million Little Pieces – James Frey (Garage sale find #2. It wasn’t the cover that got me on this one, but the title. Sometimes I also judge a book by its title.)

If I spend enough time at the pool with my boys this summer, I might just get all these books read.

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Summer Reading List – 12 Books to Start My Summer

I read. A lot. Probably more than I should. (But the pros and cons of my reading addiction are a topic for another day.)

The subject¬†of Books I’m Reading has come up in multiple conversations over the past few weeks, so I thought I’d share (an incomplete) list of the book-worlds I plan to immerse myself in this summer.

1. Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (WRITING)

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (HISTORICAL FICTION: WWII ERA)

3. Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson with Cecil Murphey (MEMOIR)

4. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (HISTORICAL FICTION: PRE-CIVIL WAR ERA)

5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (WRITING)

6. Hollow City By Ransom Riggs (YA FICTION)

7. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (MEMOIR)

8. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy (HISTORICAL FICTION: WWII ERA)

9. Committed But Flawed: Seeking Fresh Ways to Grow Spiritually by Cecil Murphey (SPIRITUAL GROWTH)

10. This is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World by Kerri Majors (WRITING)

11. I Survived the Nazi Invasion by Lauren Tarshis (HISTORICAL FICTION FOR KIDS)

12. What Your Son Isn’t Telling You: Unlocking the Secret World of Teen Boys by Michael Ross and Susie Shellenberger (PARENTING)

Please free to share more books-to-read ideas with me.

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Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb – A Brief Review

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Disclaimer: I have not hopped on the zombie train. I’m easily freaked out and living-dead-people-who-want-to-eat-my-brains aren’t really my thing. I do, however, think the minecraft zombies are kind of cute in a weird sort of way.

That said, I was browsing amazon the other day looking for books for my boys. They are really into graphic novels (along with almost every other preteen in the world). I came across this graphic novel called Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb and couldn’t resist the $2.99 kindle price.

I like to read (or at least skim) books by new authors before I introduce them to my kids. I read this one cover to cover in a day. Hmmm…nothing like a little preteen zombie fiction for entertainment when you are relaxing by the pool. When I enjoy a book that is a million light years from a genre I would normally read, I know the author is a good writer. So kudos to MJA Ware for writing in such a way to keep this non-zombie gal turning pages.

Should your kids read it? Maybe. If you have a child who is easily scared, or who has a vivid imagination once the lights go out at night, you might want to skip this one. But if not, it is a good read. The zombies are pretty tame; even humorous. (I didn’t like the picture I got of the town mayor zombie, but Grandma zombies, zombies in work-out clothes, and flying chicken zombies made me giggle.) And the three kids who are stuck alone in a zombie infested city hunker down at Walmart and kill zombies with lemonade sprayed out of super-soakers. How fun is that?

The book has a few kind of disturbing parts. But hey, it’s a book about zombies. Is there anything about zombies that is not disturbing?

PS. I just realized if you go to MJA Ware’s ¬†website, you can download the book for 99 cents.

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