I recently discovered that, rather than driving downtown to Lothlorien (that’s what we call the Indianapolis Central Public Library – it fits, see?) …
…I can order any book I want, from any library or university in the Indianapolis area and have it delivered to the library three miles from my apartment. So now my house is a wreck and I’ve successfully finished more books this month than I did in all of 2014. In case you’re on the lookout for your next book, here’s my thoughts on what I read.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Reading Neil Gaiman feels like being in a dream. It makes sense as long as you don’t think about it too much and you don’t wake up. Reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane made me feel like I was a kid back at the old farmhouse we used to rent in the middle of nowhere, wildly imaginative and sometimes unable to differentiate between my nightmares and reality. Every kid believes (at least a little) that the monster under their bed is coming out of their dreams to get them. This book is about what that would look like through a child’s eyes. I loved it. (Also, if you haven’t read Neil Gaiman before, this would be a good introduction. It’s a quick read.)
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere is fabulous and dark and intense. I felt like I was being held under water or right at the crazy edge of sleep while I read it. (It’s about a man who journey’s to London’s other-dimensional underworld and has to fight his way back to his real life, so the feeling fits.) I made the mistake of reading this too soon after The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Coming back to the real world after reading Neil Gaiman is hard emotional work, so space out his novels if you can.
Gap Creek by Robert Morgan
I like books about strong women, so I really thought I would get into this one. It’s about what the author thought his great grandparents’ life would look like when they were first married at the turn of the century. The voice of Julie, a hardworking, uneducated girl from the Carolinas, is impeccable. The plot did keep me reading, but I really wanted Julie wax philosophical about what everything that happened to her meant, and I guess no self respecting, hardworking, uneducated girl from the Carolinas has time for that. I also felt when she found religion the narrative got a little preachy.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Alice is young, newly married, pregnant, and hopeful about the future. The next thing she knows, she’s waking up on a gym floor ten years later. She’s hit her head and lost a decade of her life. The novel follows Alice as she pieces together the events she’s forgotten, like why she’s getting a divorce and how she lost so much weight and became supermom. I think this novel addressed a lot of fears for the future women my age have about identity and how to measure success. I really enjoyed it.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I was absolutely delighted with this novel! It’s written entirely in letters and telegrams between the characters, which took me a minute to get into, but once I was in I was so in. It’s about characters from different parts of the British Isles piecing their lives back together after World War II. It should have been really sad (I did cry a bit), but the various characters made it colorful and hilarious. I spent an afternoon reading this in the bathtub, turning into a prune and giggling like I’d lost my mind.
Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider
Blue Bike is less a “how to” and more of a memoir about how Tsh, the author, moved through the mental and spiritual work of defining her priorities for her young family. She talks about what’s important to her – education, traveling, meaningful work, etc. – and then tells stories about how she and her husband worked out how these things fit in their life. It was relevant and thought provoking to me as a young woman trying to figure out how to “adult” successfully while sticking to values that sometimes feel out of place in my culture. (I also like reading about people that started about where I’m at and somehow arrived where I want to be – out of debt, in a fulfilling career, spending money in a socially conscious way, and with a tight-knit family life – with their dignity intact. It makes me feel like maybe I won’t crash and burn before I get there.)
Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
Bread and Wine is a collection of essays about hospitality and relationships. I really liked how Shauna emphasized building community over perfectionism, and I felt like I could relate to a lot of her stories. She inspired me to sit down at the table with my husband for dinner more often and drink more wine. I feel that both have had a positive effect in my house. 😉
Pastrix by Nadia Boltz-Weber
This book was balm for my soul and a kick in the pants. I feel like there are so many parts of me, the biggest, most important parts, that don’t fit into Christian community. I’m a raging feminist who believes in same sex marriage and swears when she prays. I drink too much and lose my temper and fail to love people daily. I think Jesus cares about who makes my clothes and how I respond to racial injustice. “Tough shit,” says Nadia, the alcoholic-turned-Lutheran-pastor. (Seriously, the first word in this book is “shit”.) God calls us, even the unsavory bits, to community. Nadia’s honesty about her failures and rejections gives me courage, and perhaps a more realistic idea about how church should be – messy, hard work, and a constant lesson in humility.
That’s it for January guys! If you have any suggestions for what I should be reading, let me know!