Tuesday, November 06, 2018

What I Read | October

A look back at what I read last month. #ASGbookshelf #whatIread

I love those months when I look back and realize how many good books I've read. So good and some that really surprised me. In October, I managed to (finally) close out some that I've been working on all year and pick up a few that have been on my TBR for years! It was a good month on the bookshelf. :)

Must Read

Come Matter Here by Hannah Brencher | ★★★★★
From viral TED Talk speaker and founder of The World Needs More Love Letters, Hannah Brencher's Come Matter Here is the power read you need to start living like you mean it here and now.

Life is scary. Adulting is hard. When faced with the challenges of building a life of your own, it’s all too easy to stake your hope and happiness in “someday.” But what if the dotted lines on the map at your feet today mattered just as much as the destination you dream of?

Hannah Brencher, TED Talk speaker and founder of The World Needs More Love Letters, thought Atlanta was her destination. Yet even after she arrived, she found herself in the same old chase for the next best thing…somewhere else. And it left her in a state of anxiety and deep depression.

Our hyper-connected era has led us to believe life should be a highlight reel—where what matters most is perfect beauty, instant success, and ready applause. Yet, as Hannah learned, nothing about faith, relationships, or character is instant. So she took up a new mantra: be where your feet are. Give yourself a permission slip to stop chasing the next big thing, and come matter here. Engage the process as much as you trust the God who lovingly leads you.

If you are tired of running away from your life or tired of running ragged toward the next thing you think will make you feel complete, Come Matter Here will help you do whatever it takes to show up for the life God has for you. Whether you need to make a brave U-turn, take a bold step forward, or finish the next lap with fresh courage, find fuel and inspiration for the journey right here. - Goodreads description

This! Hannah is one of those writers who makes you feel like she's known you for years and is sitting across a table having coffee with you instead of on the other side of the book. I received my copy at the beginning of the year and have been savoring every page since. In it, I found encouragement to get off the hamster wheel of life and let God have control, to live my life intentionally and authentically and to love others well. This is a book that I'll read again and again through different seasons of my life, but it was oh, so needed by this soul of mine right now. This is a MUST READ. *As a member of the official launch team, I received an advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


Beyond Boundaries by Dr. John Townsend  | ★★★★★
How do you know you're ready to trust again ... and what does it take to be ready? Painful relationships violate our trust, causing us to close our hearts. But to experience the freedom and love God designed us for, we eventually have to take another risk. In this breakthrough book, bestselling author Dr. John Townsend takes you beyond the pain of the past to discover how to re-enter a life of intimate relationships. Whether you're trying to restore a current relationship or begin a new one, Townsend gives practical tools for establishing trust and finding the intimacy you long for. Beyond Boundaries will help you reinstate closeness with someone who broke your trust; discern when true change has occurred; reestablish appropriate connections in strained relationships; create a safe environment that helps you trust; and restore former relationships to a healthy dynamic. You can move past relational pain to trust again. Beyond Boundaries will show you how. - Goodreads description

One of my good friends sent me a copy of this book when I was going through my separation and divorce. I read it pretty quickly then but decided it deserved a more thorough review. I've spent the last six months working my way through it with a pen and a highlighter. This is not so much a self-help book and more about the psychology of why we let in the people who continuously take advantage of our boundaries. Written from a faith-based standpoint, Townsend helps you re-draw those boundary lines and recognize the behavior that we should be cautious of in the future. It is not only for those dealing with issues in romantic relationships, but rather any type of relationship - work, family, or friendship. This book has never been more relevant than in this season of my life.

Other mentions for the month of October:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote  | ★★★★★
Wow. This book has been on my to-read list for years and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. Capote's retelling of the brutal murders of the four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas reads like a novel, and the time and effort he had to have put into the research for this book, blows my mind. He not only tells the story of the two men responsible for the heinous crimes, but he also shares a lot about the justice system and specifically, how mental health plays into the life of a criminal. This was fascinating and I could not put it down.

Eat Feel Fresh by Sahara Rose Ketabi  | ★★★★★
An absolutely stunning cookbook and resource on the ayurvedic lifestyle from Ketabi, with a foreward from Deepak Chopra. The first part of the book takes an in-depth look at Ayurveda and how to determine your dosha then select the foods that you should be eating that will most agree with and rebalance your body. I've followed a basic ayurvedic diet for some time now, but for someone who has no idea where to start, this would be a great resource. Ketabi breaks down what foods are best for each dosha, including giving a chart about the alkalinity/acidity scale of most common foods, which is extremely helpful. The recipes all look delicious and very easy to follow. The photographs in this book are gorgeous and the pages where there is primarily text have this beautiful mandala design on them. Because this was an ARC, I only have the digital edition, but I am placing an order for the hardcover book because there is so much information in it and I want to be able to highlight and make notes. This will be a staple in my kitchen for many years to come. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Day by Day Through the Gospel of John by Lance Wubbels  | ★★★★★
This is a daily devotional that walks through the book of John over the course of a year. In addition to sharing the scripture passage of the day, the book features an excerpt of a notable work or sermon from great Christian thinkers like Charles Spurgeon and Alexander MacLaren. This is a lovely pairing of the gospel and practical thoughts for the modern day. I look forward to digging into this, come January.  *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Clean Enough by Katzie Guy-Hamilton  | ★★★★★
I've been a follower of the clean-eating movement for years, but sometimes, it's difficult to find or make a meal consisting of only whole foods. Katzie breaks it down and makes clean-eating simple again. She shares practice, real-life recipes (even desserts) that are easy to make and look delicious. This book is sectioned up in a way that makes it easy to navigate and she includes a glossary of her favorite clean ingredients that I found helpful. The photographs are simple and pleasing to the eye and complete this lovely cookbook. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal  | ★★★★
In this book, Rosenthal breaks down the faulty American healthcare system, from corrupt insurance company CEOs to the pharmaceutic industry having their money in the deep pockets of politicians, she gives specific stories and lots of researched facts to support her claims. She also shares how other countries do things differently and the pros and cons of each case. It is a scary reality that you are faced with when reading this book. After working in healthcare for fifteen years, I witnessed a lot of what Rosenthal writes about and I can imagine it has only gotten worse in the five years since I've been out of the field. The one thing I didn't care for about this book was the way in which she painted physicians, making them out to be money hungry and charging patients and insurance companies more out of greed. While I'm sure there are cases where doctors do this, most of the physicians I worked with were not one percenters and struggled to get insurance companies to cover basic medical necessities, let alone pay more than operating costs for specific charges. At over 650 pages, it's a very long and detailed read, but a timely and necessary one.

1,000 Books to Read Before You Die by James Mustich  | ★★★★
This was a great resource to have and I could have flipped through it for ages while selecting all the books I need to add to my TBR. Now, if only I could find a few more hours in a day to devote to reading...  *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan  | ★★★★
I adored this one. A bookstore that is open 24 hours a day? Yes, please. Quirky characters, a plot that keeps unfolding, mystery, and a great audiobook narrator? I love it all. There were a few dry spots, but they weren't worrisome enough to keep me from thoroughly enjoying this selection.

Beneath the Surface by John Hargrove  | ★★★★
As one of the last trainers to be in the water with the orcas at Sea World before OSHA pulled the plug citing safety concerns, John Hargrove shares the heartbreaking stories of the life of a captive killer whale. He started with the organization at the age of twenty, quickly rising through the ranks to take one of the most-coveted and dangerous of positions as an in-water orca trainer. He recounts his experience both during and after his time with Sea World, the condition in which the whales were kept, the secretive breeding practices kept by the organization, and the reaction when his friend and fellow trainer, Dawn Brancheau was killed during a show with one of the orcas, Tilikum, at the Orlando park. This was very well written and captures the struggle that Hargrove (as well as the rest of the trainers) faced when weighing the desire to care for and ensure the safety of these captive whales and no longer wanting to be associated with a money-hungry organization like Sea World. His book is the prelude to the documentary Blackfish

This is the Day by Tim Tebow  | ★★★★
I love Tim. Never one to shy away from his faith, he uses his platform to share how God can work through your story, no matter who you are. In his latest book, he encourages you to live your purpose and go after your dreams by allowing yourself to see what God sees in you. He shares the stories of different people he's come to know in his life, and how their lives have changed because of what God was able to do in their respective circumstances. This is an uplifting and inspiring book that tells you this is the day to pursue what you've always wanted in life. Don't wait another moment to pick up a copy. *As a member of the official launch team, I received an advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel  | ★★★★
Anne Bogel is one of those people I want to be friends with in real life. Her personality screams, "If you love books, you can sit with us," and I would love to get a chance to raid her bookshelves. Her latest work is a collection of stories - confessions, rather - of a book lover. From how she first came to love books, to practical advice about how one should organize their shelves, to the wonder of how books happen to find you when you need them, she shares all the joys of what lies between the pages. This was a delightful book and one that could sit on your nightstand and be read like a daily devotional of sorts. *As a member of the official launch team, I received an advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker  | ★★★★
The newest offering from minimalism guru, Becker, does not disappoint. He takes you step-by-step through each room of your home and assists you in decluttering. I love his thoughts living a simple life and getting down to the bare bones of what we truly need to be happy in life - then how to get rid of whatever is keeping that from happening. If you want (or need) to pare down your belongings, but struggle with the emotional weight of letting go of the items that hold memories, Becker's practical "benefit vs burden" mentality can help you.  *As a member of the official launch team, I received an advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo  | ★★★
I didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but there you have it. I read it from cover to cover in like, five minutes. It is a dark fantasy novel that involves humor, a love triangle - in which one member is the hot, creepy bad guy - and a lot of action. There is not much literary merit here, but it is entertaining.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury  | ★★★
A complete coincidence that I would read this on Halloween day, when I learned that Bradbury had written a novel about trick-or-treating and time travel, I was on it. He examines the origins of the holiday while he tells the tale of a group of boys who go searching for a missing friend. It was fun, but definitely not up to the standard Bradbury set for himself with other works like Fahrenheit. Great read, though, with all the necessary ingredients for a spooky Halloween story.

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer  | ★★★
I dove into the deep end when I began this book. The plot was interesting and it immediately grabbed my attention. About halfway through, though, it fell apart. I don't know if the story was split in too many directions or if there were too many characters to follow, but the writing lost its depth. What could have been an amazing book left me feeling indifferent by the end.

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand  | ★★★
Hilderbrand is really good at writing about relationship dynamics. She perfectly captures those little nuances that allow you to sense the tension in a strained marriage or a spat between friends. She doesn't need to spell out the details, you're there and you feel it. This book is yet another example of why she has sold millions of copies. When a group of family and friends gather together on Nantucket for a wedding and the maid of honor winds up dead, the investigation pries into the dark closets of all parties involved. Drama ensues. This book would have gotten four stars from me, except the ending... I won't give any spoilers, but I was very disappointed there couldn't have been a better or more exciting ending than what is written.

The Man Who Smiles by Henning Mankell  | ★★★
Mixed feelings about this book. It is a piece of crime fiction that was translated from Swedish and I got a lot of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vibes when reading it. This one didn't keep my attention as well as Larsson books though. The plot was intriguing but there was a whole lot of dialogue where not much was happening to keep the story moving. Even though it was only 325 pages, the book felt very long. 

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng  | ★★☆☆
Heng's debut novel is reminiscent of Huxley's Brave New World or even Westerfeld's Uglies series in which the social hierarchy is genetically modified to promote perfection. In this case, mortality is seen as a weakness and only those most deserving have the power to live forever. There were good bones here, but the story wasn't fleshed out as nicely as I would have hoped. In this day in age, where we are obsessed with anti-aging, even this book felt superficial to me. I wasn't able to connect with any of the characters and was left with a lot of unanswered questions - one of the biggest being how it was decided who would receive the advancements to become immortal. I did enjoy Heng's writing style and world-building and look forward to seeing what else she has to offer in the future. *Advance copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros  | ★★☆☆
Oy. This is a collection of vignettes that tell the story of Esperanza Cordero and life in the house on Mango Street. Let's start with what I enjoyed. There were some REALLY good lines. "You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky." There are maybe four or five good lines that I highlighted or wrote in my quote book. That's the good. The bad, Cisneros doesn't use quotation marks, which is really annoying when it comes to reading the dialogue. Also, the fact that this book is all vignettes leaves you wanting a little substance. There wasn't much to hold my attention or make me connect with the characters. I am in the minority because I disliked the book, but there just wasn't enough to pull me in.

What did you enjoy reading last month?

The post What I Read | October first appeared on A Simpler Grace. If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it with your friends! Don't forget to join the ASG Tribe!


  1. Looks like some great reads this month! I am going to add Come Matter Here to my list, it sounds like a good read and might make up for one I set aside this last month that didn't speak to me real well. I just finished Everything, Everything which is a YA read but I thought it was pretty good.

  2. Nice month of reading; I'm glad you enjoyed most of them. In Cold Blood is one that I'm definitely curious about. Hopefully I can read that sometime in the near future.


  3. Wow you read so much this month! I've heard good things about "Come Matter Here." I'll have to check it out! And the Beyond Boundaries is so good!

  4. Girl, you are a reading machine! I cannot believe how many books you've read this month! I am a MUCH slower reader! I need to step up my game!

  5. I've heard so many good things on Hannah Brencher. I've followed her on social media for years and watched her TED Talk!

  6. Okay the book about trick-or-treating and time travel seems really fun! I want to read it next year around Halloween!

  7. Come Matter Here is SO GOOD. There are passages that I could relate to on every single page - especially when it comes to my anxiety and depression. Hope you enjoy it!

  8. You should try In Cold Blood. I was expecting it to be harder to read than it actually was.

  9. Come Matter Here is SO GOOD and it was very helpful in my struggle with anxiety and depression. You should definitely give it a read!

  10. I am constantly reading. I have no fewer than ten books going at one time, so I'm able to whip through them pretty quickly. :)