Hey!  I am still here.  It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I know.  This move has kind of kicked my butt.  I’ve had lots of things that I wanted to write about floating around up in the ol’ noggin but sometimes it is almost too exhausting to think about writing them out.  So I’ve been on a little hiatus I guess.  But with the dawn of a new year I hope to be more consistent with writing, because its good for me, if nothing else.  

I read an article in the Baltimore Sun this weekend that said the average American reads four books a year.

Four, huh?

Four.

Well, this year I read 88.  (That’s up 16 from last year, FYI.) And yes, I confess–I am feeling a bit braggy about it.  I mean, really, it’s nice to be above average at something.  Reading is something I am good at.  It also happens to be something I love dearly.  Books are so nourishing to me.  They keep me from giving up entirely a lot of times.  And honestly that’s a lot of times what God uses to speak to me.  I. Love. Books.

So I think it’s only fitting to start out the new year with a review of some of my favorites from the past year.  I’m going to start with my favorite Non-Fictions.  Which is why I called this post “I Dare You.”  Because most of the non-fiction books I read this year were not easy to read.  They were hard, beautiful, devastating, challenging.  I know some people who don’t read much (if any) non-fiction, at least not the type of non-fiction I read.  “It’s too hard to read that.  It’s too depressing.  I don’t want to know about those things.”  That, to me, is a cop out.  Just because you ignore things happening right now in the world around you doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.  And shoot, I’m not saying that I go out and save the world when I finish reading one of these books.  But I am challenged, I am made aware, I am pushed to look beyond myself, and it gives me a different perspective, a different motivation.  It changes my world view.  And I think we all need that.

So…I dare you to read these 5 books if you haven’t yet:

1) “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo.  About life in a slum in India.  Katherine Boo went and immersed herself in the lives of these people who live in poverty beyond what I can really comprehend.  It was heartbreaking.  And beautiful, in a way.  Hard to read.  Hard to believe.  But it is the reality for millions of people.  Millions.  Read it.  Try and wrap your head around it.

2) “The Fear” by Peter Godwin  I love books about Africa.  Ever since I visited Uganda 4 1/2 years ago I’m always looking for books about Africa.  I read Godwin’s “When A Crocodile Eats the Sun” and loved it so I was very excited to read his book about life under dictator Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.  It was horrifying.  Absolutely horrifying.  It made me, on the one hand, thankful to live in a democracy like America, where I know no one will burn down my house with my family inside because I voted differently from them.  On the other hand…it made me realize how fragile the line between order and chaos is, because if you think about it, really think realistically about it, you’d better believe that there are people in this country who would gleefully follow orders to torture and kill their neighbors and fellow citizens if given the go ahead by some power-hungry maniac.  Read this and tell me you don’t think it could happen anywhere.

3) “Evolving in Monkey-Town” by Rachel Held Evans.  Dear Jesus, thank you so much for Rachel Held Evans.  She kept me from losing my head many, many times this year as I struggled spiritually.  It’s not easy to be a Christ-follower, surrounded by Christ-followers, and not even be sure if some days you believe in God at all.  It is a very, very lonely feeling.  I follow RHE on her blog, which is excellent, and read her first book, where she talks about her struggles and questions, in spite of growing up surrounded by Christianity.  It made me feel less crazy, less alone.  If you think you have all the answers about God, I dare you to read this book and not be challenged.  If you are all too aware that you don’t have, well, any answers about God, I dare you to read this book and not feel relieved.  

4) “Fire in the Ashes” by Jonathan Kozol.  I first read Kozol’s “Rachel and Her Children” in college and since then I have read most of his other works about the struggles of poor children and families in America.  “Fire” is a look back at where some of the children he has worked closely with over the years have ended up.  It is fiercely hopeful in spite of unthinkable odds.  These are children in America for crying out loud.  If you come away from this unmoved I’d be surprised.  It has inspired me to look into getting my Masters in Social Work at some point so that I can maybe do some small thing to help disadvantaged children and families in my community.  

5) “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness” by Alexandra Fuller. Another Africa book, this is a memoir (a follow up to Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, also good) and I just loved it.  Love, love, loved it.  A beautiful tale of family–a family that looks nothing at all like my own but is still ringed with truth and heartache.  

Other books worth mentioning:

“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” Mindy Kaling.  Cracked me up.

“The Glass Castle” Jeannette Walls.  Amazing family memoir.

“Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother” Xinran.  Honestly?  The stories of what happens to baby girls in China almost makes abortion look merciful.  Don’t believe that?  Read this.  I dare you.  Brutal, tough read.  

“Tiny, Beautiful Things” Cheryl Strayed. Funny, irreverent, poignant, truthful.

So, go on–read some of these.  I dare you.

Fiction in a couple days:)

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