The first list is the order in which I read, and the second list is the order of importance to me along with a brief synopsis and my thoughts on the book.
1. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
2. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
3. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
4. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
5. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
6. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
7. Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick
8. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
9. Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth
10. Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of You Common Cold By Jennifer Ackerman
11. Brain Surgeon by Dr. Keith Black
12. Death to the Dictator by Afsaneh Moqadam
13. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
14. Spectral Relapse (Walking Ghost Phase book 2) by David Daugherty
15. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
16. Ms. Understood by Jen Hatmaker
17. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
18. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
19. Fit2Fat2Fit by Drew Manning
20. The Watchmaker’s Daughter by Sonia Taitz
21. Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
22. Unbroken: A War World II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
23. Dwarf: A Memoir by Tiffanie DiDonato
24. Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Davis
25. A Century of Wisdom: Lessons From Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger
26. Honest Advice for Teachers by Susan Eubanks Stepp
27. The Silver Hand (Song of Albion book #2) by Stephen Lawhead
28. The Endless Knot (Song of Albion book #3) by Stephen Lawhead
29. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
30. Glorious Holy Spirit by Fr. Cedric Pisegna
31. The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Vol. 8 ed. by Lavinia Spaulding
32. Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) by Cheryl Strayed
33. The Servant by James Hunter
34. Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey
35. Leading Leaders by Jeswald Salacuse
36. Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: On Communication
37. Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: On Teams
38. Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
39. Holy Bible
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list. This marks year five of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it. In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more. It’s a wonderful circle. I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.
Parenting: Illustrated in Crappy Pictures by Amber Dusick
Dusick is my new favorite blogger, talking about the typical goings-on in a house with a young child and a toddler. Oh, and she draws crappy pictures to illustrate these goings-on. Not only can I relate to EVERYTHING she writes, her illustrations are hilarious.
If you are a parent, grandparent, or hope to be a parent, you need to read this book and check out Dusick’s blog at http://www.crappypictures.com. This is my new go-to gift for baby showers.
Unbroken: A War World II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken details the life of Louis Zampereli, an Olympic runner who enlisted during WWII, became a bombardier, was hot down during combat, survived 40+ days and drifting over 2,000 miles into enemy hands, was beaten and tortured and starved in a Japanese POW camp, and later became a Christian, forgiving his tormentors.
Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, tells a riveting story of Zamperili’s life and trials as a POW during WWII. To read it is to be in awe of how much cruelty humans can endure as well as their compassion and ability to forgive. I cannot wait till this is made into a movie.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
As the title implies, Cain explores the powers of introverts in a very extroverted culture in America. The research is stunning and often counter-intuitive as to the benefits introverts can bring to the workforce, leadership positions, parenting, and teaching.
Considering almost half of mankind is introverted, whether you are an introvert or extrovert, this book is a must read.
Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey
This is Yancey’s tribute to 13 remarkable men and women from around the world who helped transform his life and his work, rescuing him from “the Church.” Some were Christian, some were not. All lived profound lives that impacted Yancey deeply, demonstrating for him a life-enhancing rather than a life-constricting faith.
While I had heard of several of Yancey’s mentors: Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and C. Everett Koop, others were unfamiliar: Dr. Paul Brand, Dr. Robert Coles, and Henri Nouwen, but nonetheless inspiring. Yancey provided such riveting mini-biographies of these individuals, I find myself coming back to his words time and again.
The Servant by James Hunter
Billed as “a simple story about the true essence of leadership,” it is a quick, easy read that will rock your world as a leader—whether you are a leader of multi-national corporation or just the leader of your family.
The most thought-provoking discussion from this novella has to do with love as a verb. Too often, love is equated with an emotion, a feeling, but loving people is so much more than how we “feel” about them. To love another person is to treat them with respect and dignity, that which is due all humankind. I can dislike someone and not trust someone, but I can still love them.
Honest Advice for Teachers by Susan Eubanks Stepp
This is a collection of letters Eubanks Stepp received and answered for her weekly education column in some media outlet that I never got around to checking on. Hilarious and truthful, this should be a must read for all educators, students, administrators, and parents.
Fit2Fat2Fit by Drew Manning
Manning chronicles his one-year journey from being a physically fit personal trainer to gaining 75 pounds after six months of eating the typical American diet and withdrawing from all physical exercise to losing it again over the next six months. He came up with this experiment after realizing he seemed to be missing something with his overweight clients.
Manning’s insights into the struggles the overweight and obese face, physically, emotionally, and psychologically, we’re fascinating. Though I’ve never been overweight, I especially appreciated his chapter on overcoming the “final 15.” Even I can relate to the struggles of wanting to she’d just a few more pounds or break through the “wall” when running or training for a race.
Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth
Convicted one day that “something is very wrong with the way we spend our time,” Sleeth set out on a course to simplify life and slow down. What she discovered were core tenants of how the Amish live.
Almost Amish is filled with practical, common sense principles, that sadly are overlooked in today’s world of being plugged in 24/7.
1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.
2. Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.
3. Saving more and spending less bring financial peace.
4. Spending time in God’s creation reveals the face of God.
5. Small and local leads to saner lives.
6. Service to others reduces loneliness and isolation.
7. The only true security comes from God.
8. Knowing neighbors and supporting local businesses build community.
9. Family ties are lifelong; they change but never cease.
10. Faith life and way of life are inseparable.
Harvard Business Reviews’ 10 Must Reads: On Communication
This is simply a compilation of the 10 most important articles on communication published in the Harvard Business Review in 2013. I had to read for an MBA class on organizational behavior and leadership, but the principles found within will cross over into all areas of my life, personally and professionally.
Leading Leaders by Jeswald Salacuse
Another MBA course text, Salacuse discusses strategies on how to lead “elites”—how to manage smart, talented, rich, and powerful people. The chapters on “The Art of the Strategic Conversation,” “Leading One-on-One,” Integration” were particularly interesting and helpful in my current position.
Harvard Business Reviews’ 10 Must Reads: On Teams
This is simply a compilation of the 10 most important articles on teams published in the Harvard Business Review in 2013. I had to read for an MBA class on organizational behavior and leadership, but the principles found within will cross over into all areas of my life, personally and professionally.
Glorious Holy Spirit by Fr. Cedric Pisegna
Father Cedric’s book on the Holy Spirit is directed mainly toward Catholics, but is certainly applicable to any Christian from any denomination. He presents the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Holy Trinity, as a real person who dwells within each of us, and through his power can we unlock our potential as God’s children.
This was a very quick and easy read, however, the style was a little disjointed. The one phrase I have really latched on to and ponder quite a bit is, “Face it, Embrace it, and God will grace it.”
The Watchmaker’s Daughter by Sonia Taitz
Sonia chronicles her life growing up as a immigrant’s daughter in New York City, post WWII. Her parents both survived German death camps during the war which had a tremendous impact on her life, though she was a generation and thousands of miles removed from those horrors. Humorous, insightful, and very well written, Taitz tells a remarkable story.
A Game of Thrones, books 1-5 by George R. R. Martin
This epic saga tells the story of the fight for the throne of Westeros. Many families claim the kingdom, but who will win the throne?
With each book weighing in at about 1,000 pages, I devoured the entire series in about two months. Intriguing and clever, I recommend this series to anyone with a lot of time to read. I really want to watch the series now.
Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail) by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed details her months-long hike of 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Mostly alone. As a woman. Carrying a pack that weighed over half her body weight. More than what any other hiker who she met carried. Through deserts. And snow.
Hiking the PCT and Appalachian Trail are on my bucket list so this was a fascinating read for me.
Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
Anderson tells the story of how at 17, she attempted suicide by laying down on the train tracks near her home as a train approached. Miracle after miracle followed, and she lived, even after losing 8 pints of blood, and both her legs were severed. After the attempt, anderson shares her struggles with learning to live without legs and how it ultimately brought her to follow Christ.
This was a very quick, easy read though the material was at times disturbing. I appreciated Anderson’s honesty which lends itself to a remarkable testimony that is her faith today.
Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold by Jennifer Ackerman
Ackerman takes us through how colds are transmitted from one to another, how our bodies respond to the cold virus, cures, and more.
This was a very easy read for a non-medical person. Ackerman did a thorough job explaining the life cycle of a cold as well supporting and debunking common myths and cures. She included sections specific to asthmatics—what we should/should not do and take—which was particularly interesting and helpful to me, being an asthmatic. I will probably be referencing this book time and again when I or anyone in my family suffers a cold.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Based on a true story, this dual narrative follows two young Sundanese children: Nya walks eight hours every day to fetch water for her family. Salva is a “lost boy” refugee searching for his family and wondering how he can bring blessings to his war-torn native home.
This was a quick, easy, gripping read.
Ms. Understood by Jen Hatmaker
Hatmaker takes us on a spiritual journey of rediscovering biblical femininity through the stories of the five woman mentioned in Jesus’ lineage outlined in Matthew 1.
Hatmaker, author of one of my favorite pieces of non-fiction, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, is spot on and deliciously funny in her writing and presentation of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. My husband and I even had a good conversation on whether Bathsheba was merely naive or purposefully manipulative when going to Solomon with Adonijah’s request to marry Abishag.
A Century of Wisdom: Lessons From Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger
Stoessinger shares the stories of Herz-Sommer’s life growing up in Czechoslovakia and then surviving tereseinstadt Camp during WWII. That she was an accomplished concert pianist saved her life. After the war, she emigrated to Israel and then England where she sill lives at — years old.
While some of the stories were interesting, I was expecting more tidbits of wisdom. Instead it was mainly recollections of all the people who knew Alice throughout her life and all the different pieces of music she played.
Spectral Relapse (Walking Ghost Phase book 2) by David Daugherty
Four teens report to Arlington for their compulsory one-month of defense training before heading off to college. Very quickly, things take a turn for the worse, and an event from 25 years ago intersects with the present in a deadly fashion.
Written by a co-worker of mine, I’m really impressed with this series. I enjoyed this book even more than the first, Walking Ghost Phase, and I finished it in less than 48 hours. Great cliff-hanger ending (thanks David!), but now I can’t wait for the next book.
Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
Book number four of L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series, tells the story of Sandy and Dennys, the Murray twins, as they find themselves in a foreign land in a different time—in the middle of the story of Noah and the Ark.
This has always been my favorite of L’Engle’s books. Perhaps because it’s based on a Bible story, with great artistic liberties thrown in, but I think this is her best writing.
Brain Surgeon by Dr. Keith Black
Black, a world-renowned neuro-surgeon, describes his life battling brain tumors from researching the causes as well as new cures and everything in between.
This was a quick, easy, not-too-technical book to read. Not only were Black’s adventures in the operating room interesting to read, the prejudice he encountered growing up as a black teen in the south in the 50s and 60s was inspiring. I was particularly moved reading about how Black’s father, an educator himself, went above and beyond in providing remarkable opportunities for his son as well as the remarkable opportunities Black sought out for himself in his youth.
The Silver Hand and the Endless Knot (Song of Albion books #2 and 3) by Stephen Lawhead
I read the first book, The Paradise War, last year and finally finished the trilogy. In the time-between-times, men from our world end up in an “other world” and must learn to live, fight, and ultimately reign or the both worlds could come to destruction.
The stories were interesting. My only criticism of Lawhead is that his descriptions are quite verbose. I can only read so much description of a forest or ocean before it gets boring. I also skipped most of the songs the bard sang, and it didn’t make a difference to the overall plot not having read them.
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Alex and Conner are magically transported into “The Land of Stories” book, and thus begins the adventure of their life. In a land where fairy tales live, the twins must find the eight treasured items to make the Wishing Spell work so they can get home.
Colfer, better known as Kurt Hummel from “Glee” did a fine job on his first young adult novel. It was a fun easy read, and I look forward to reading the others he’s working on.
Dwarf: A Memoir by Tiffanie DiDonato
DiDonato wrote of her experiences growing up as a dwarf and the bone-lengthening surgeries she endured to add some 14 inches to her stature.
Reading about the bone-lengthening procedure was interesting. After her story made national news, she received a bit of flack from the dwarf community, but I appreciate her desire to simply be more independent. I’m not all that tall, but I never realized how many things I can do like reach a faucet and turn door knobs easily that shorter people cannot.
The Best Women’s Travel Writing ed. 8 Lavinia Spaulding
This book consisted of short stories by about two dozen women chronicling their worldly travels. Some were interesting, but more were largely forgettable.
Death to the Dictator by Afsaneh Moqadam
Moqadam, a pseudonym as are the identities of the others in the book, presents the devastating price a young man, Mohsen, paid after casting a vote for Mousavi during the 2009 Iranian presidential elections. Ahmadinejad declared himself winner, and the world protested, often in violence.
I honestly hardly consider what goes on in the Middle East, but this book opened my eyes a little wider to the threat and fear of persecution the common people endure on a daily basis living under such a dictatorship.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
This is a story of two women whose lives collide in a remarkable and fateful event one afternoon on a beach in Nigeria. Years later, their worlds collide again in England.
I can’t tell much more without giving away a huge chunk of the plot. It was a rather ho-hum book for me, but it was a quick easy read between the heavier and more intense books I’ve been reading.
Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde by Rebecca Davis
This is Davis’ memoir of a period of time she lived with a former Hasidic Jew turned jujitsu master, pot-smoking, bacon-eating atheist. Davis had just broken up with boyfriend of four years when she found this apartment via Craigslist.
Her stories of living with Cosmo, the Jew, were mostly interesting and sometimes humorous. However, her recollections of her promiscuity, drug use, partying, and her knocks against God left much to be desired.
Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
Lamott describes how these three simple prayers have changed how she communicates with God. This book, thankfully short, left much to be desired. Lamott basically listed all the ways you can pray–help my friend with cancer, help my son with his financial problems, help the tornado victims, etc. That’s pretty much all it was for the other sections as well.
Besides the simplicity and redundancy, Lamott, in what I assume was an attempt to not offend anyone, kept referring to “your higher power” even though she professes to follow Christ. Call it what is is, and don’t tip toe around the Truth.
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Price family heads to the Congo in the 60s as missionaries. The mother and four daughters just hope to survive the year while the dad is on a crusade to baptize everyone. Things don’t work out well.
Being to a man whose family really were missionaries in the Congo (formerly Zaire) in near the same area Kingsolver put the Price family, I’m not impressed with Kingsolver’s portrayal of missionaries, and her description of the flora and fauna of the area was quite flawed as well. The only thing I really liked about the book was the writing style, but other than that, it was a disappointment.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Mr. Fairbrother dies suddenly of an aneurysm in the sleepy little English town of Pagford, leaving a vacancy on the town’s council. This highly coveted spot leads to the undoing of many town-folk.
This book was a big disappointment coming from the Harry Potter genius. It was painfully slow in setting the scene and character development, only getting interesting for the last 10% of the novel. I would not recommend this to anyone. Save your money and your time.