Towards the end of 2018, in the midst of renovating our first home I rediscovered the joy of reading. Growing up as a kid I LOVED reading and we would take multiple trips to the library every week.
But then 4 years of college and research papers and tests and homework burned me out on reading and I forgot how fun and freeing it could be until recently.
Sometime in 2018 I joined Goodreads, which is basically the world's largest book lovers' club where you can share your book reviews and list of books you've read/want to read. Every year Goodreads does an annual reading challenge.
In 2018, there were 4,221,025 participants who pledged to read a total of 259,215,346 books. That's a lot of books!!
Well, I decided I wanted in on this "reading challenge" and seeing as how the average number of pledged books per participant was approximately 61 books, I decided I would pledge 60!
Well it's now Dec 31, and I can proudly say my reading challenge was both a big failure, and a big success.
Big failure cause... well...
...I only completed 50% of my challenge. But hey, that's still 30 books I actively sat down to read which totaled to 8,363 pages (an average of 23 pages a day for the year) So I consider that a win!
And NOW as a more experienced reader, I can say with confidence that setting a goal of 60 books was WAYYY too much to take on for my first year (or maybe any year for me!) In addition to the 30 books I read, there were a dozen or so more I started reading, but for various reasons (timing, wrong genre for my mood, or I just didn't really like it) I stopped and called it quits before finishing the book.
Among the 30 books, I feel like I hit a pretty good variety. Some books were in top recommended reading lists (I highly recommend checking out Bill Gates Recommended Reading if you haven't already), some were recommended by friends or co-workers, and a few I just happened to pull off the library shelf and decide to give it a chance!
I read soooo many different genres, from fiction and non-fiction alike. I read some rom-coms, some horror (I LOVE me a good scary book), some self-improvement, and even read some on topics I had no knowledge or current interests in!
At the beginning of the year, I made myself some custom notebooks from Shutterfly (I like being able to make my own covers, I like the style of the pages and they almost ALWAYS have 50% off or get 1 free journal sale going on so you can almost always snag them for a cheap price) which I used for taking notes and writing down my thoughts/tracking my page numbers and writing down other recommend books as the year progressed.
By the end of 2019, almost every page in all 3 journals was full of scribbles!
Look at all those notes/thoughts/ponderings!
Of the 30 books I completed, there were 3 books that above all others, really left an impression on me, inspired me and challenged me to think/speak/be better. So much so, that I think ANY person reading these books, no matter your gender, age or interests, would be a better person after reading them.
I'm planning on giving more in-depth book reviews on each of these later, but for now, here is Lauren's very official list of 3 Must-read books (and 1 supplemental workbook) for 2019!
(Yes, the author explains why she doesn't use WHOM in the title, so don't let the grammatical error scare you off)
Our society has some pretty messed up views of body image and diet culture. It's a safe bet that either you, or somebody very close to you, has struggled with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and/or is just constantly thinking/talking about their weight, diet or appearance.
It's a pretty hot topic of discussion today, with our health seeming to be the worst it's ever been, and yet, at the same time, we've never had so many companies, gyms, or diet programs in existence before. Everybody has an opinion on how big a problem it is, or where the source of the problem is, and ideas on the best solution. Recently there was even a very sincere segment on the Late Late Show with James Corden showing that the topic of health/diet/weight/body image can really impact anybody and everybody.
Anyways, back to these two books!
Both these authors originally started out on online platforms, Heather with her blog, and Megan with her Instagram @Bodyposipanda. Both of them have personal history with different struggles with diets and weight, and it's their personal journey that I think really made these books hit home with me.
The first book "Compared to Who" takes a spiritual approach, talking about what we as Christians should spend our time and energy on, and if a better "body image" is something we should even care about or spend significant time on. It talks about what traits God cares about with his children and [spoiler alert] external/physical appearance or ability is NEVER one of them.
The second book was actually one of the first books I read for 2019, and it really shook me to the core. It's a secular approach, not based in any faith or religion, but I think it is equally as important. Megan digs deep into the history and science of diet culture, and by the time I was halfway through the book, I was pretty mad at myself for how easily I'd fallen prey for so many of the diet industry's tricks.
Changing a mindset you've had for most of your life is a tough journey, and I am nowhere near the end, but after reading these two books I've made some huge changes in my life that have changed my life/friendships/marriage/mindset for the better. Again, I'll dive more into this topic in a later post, but even if you don't think you struggle with body image or diets at all, I'd still recommend these to you, because I know you will learn something, and it might make you look at and approach people in a different light.
and a bonus workbook CHRISTIANS AT OUR BEST
The age of the internet this last decade has certainly complicated how we handle difficult topics. The issue with outrage is probably one of the most challenging.
Should we as Christians get outraged over certain situations? Absolutely. But what IS the right way to address and express our outrage? That answer is a lot more complex and difficult question to answer.
But here is who I think should read this book:
If you're a person with a pulse and you get on the internet, maybe read this book once.
If you're a person that reads news articles, and likes/comments/shares about news and political events and stories, maybe read through it a few times.
If you're a person that interacts with so many stories/political memes that people can identify your political or cultural identity before they can see your faith, you should shut down your online accounts for the first few months of 2020, grab a Bible, get this book AND the workbook, and spend some real honest time taking a long hard look at your heart and WHY you share and say the things you do online.
This is a really personal matter for me. I've wanted to write about this book/topic over a dozen times this year, to share my thoughts and personal pains on this subject. Early 2019 on Facebook I shared an article called "Would Jesus Post Political Memes" and that's really the only politically-related thing I've publicly posted this year (other than this bit I guess). All my other notes and thoughts have stayed in my little notebooks, for my eyes only to reflect and think on. Outrage and the things close to it (news stories, social media, communities, religion, politics, policies etc) is a difficult subject for most of us. I've had people I previously looked up to and/or considered spiritual examples break my heart with how unforgiving, hateful and flat-out unchristian they can suddenly become towards people and groups.
Christians can and SHOULD debate political issues, current events, and headlining news stories. We should discuss topics like government spending, healthcare, immigration, human rights, border security, electing or removing people from government positions, cyber security, freedom of speech, gun rights, welfare policies, tax dollars etc. BUT just like the debate team in middle school, you don't win points when you start attacking the individual.
When we spew hate towards people that God loves and made in his image because they hold opposing views or belong to a different group/culture/political alignment than us, we have traded our gospel-worldview and lifestyle for that of a golden idol/donkey/elephant/flag/country/planet.
The goal of righteous anger is reconciliation with God. Anger that merely inflames and divides without an eye toward this goal is deformed and a sin.
So there you have it, my 2019 reading challenge and the biggest takeaways I had from it. That last book is a bit heavy, but again, I think these 3 gave me the most to dwell on, and these books are probably responsible for 70% of the notes I took in my notebooks!
If you had 1 or 3 books that you read this year that really had an impact on you this year, I'd love to hear YOUR recommendations, and I might even add them to my reading list for 2020!
Happy New Year everybody!