reading rainbow

Them: Why We Hate Each Other--and How to Heal by Ben Sasse--4 stars: This book was fantastic. Ben Sasse is a conservative Senator from Nebraska. Sasse details the vitriol that spills from both Republicans and Democrats in today's society--the way politics seems to be placed above all else. If we don't agree, we can't seem to have a relationship with each other. He talks about the way he grew up in small town Nebraska, as the son of a wrestling coach. Every one knew everyone, everyone had lived there for generations, they all rooted for each other in the gym every Friday night. It reminded me a lot of the stories my dad tells of his childhood and how it's something I've never come close to relating to. The fact that our society is much more transient than it was decades ago means that our sense of community is quickly vanishing. He ties this to the fact that we're less likely to look at other people as fellow humans and quickly write them off when we disagree. While he is a conservative, this book is largely apolitical in the sense that he does not push his agenda; it's more of a social commentary of the way politics function in society today through vanishing communities and twitter fights. He dogs on Republicans and Trump as much as he does Democrats. His stories of dealing with the media and producers were eye-opening and disheartening. He ties it all together, explaining that we need to remember that we have a lot more in common than we realize. That we should be able to respectfully disagree and not succumb to rage politics. That we need to love each other above all us and not let political stances skew the humanity of our "opponent." He brings up social media usage a lot, which is a topic I love to read/talk about it. All in all, an incredibly level-headed and common sense book that I wish everyone would read. Even if you disagree with his politics, you should be able to read this book and largely agree with what he says. He's extremely gracious and compassionate. I did glaze over during a few sections of this book when he drones on about his best friends or sports. The material in this book is worthy of more than 5 stars, but occasionally he lost me in his anecdotes. And he uses the word "tribe" WAY too much.

For fans of: politics, sociology, studying the effects of social media on society, sports

Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson--4 stars: This book made me feel deeply understood. I know a lot of people like books, but it's rare to find someone else who lives off books as much as they live off food. Sarah was extremely fortunate to have grown up in a family who treasures and values reading. The stories of Sunday high tea and reading with the whole family nearly made me envious. It's no wonder she loves books as much as she does, and honestly the stories of how her mom turned her into a reader stressed me out a bit! Sarah talks a lot about the power of books in her life, how stories have helped her along in her faith and helped her make sense of the world. I related so much to that. Many chapters give a list of books and why she loved them and why we should read them too. She mentioned many of my favorites, several books I hated, and some I have no desire to try, and some I've been meaning to read for years.  I was a bit surprised that she delved into every Jane Austen book except Northanger Abbey. Can I even trust her?! On the downside, her recommendations on spiritual/faith books were mostly terrible, and she justifies some books I don't believe are in any way beneficial. I can tell we don't agree much on doctrine or theology, and I would not recommend those portions of the book. The rest, though? Amazing. I love that most of the books she listed were classics of all levels and only a small handful of modern fiction. My one other complaint is that she often comes across a bit uppity and pretentious in her writing. I say read this if you love books, but do so with caution.

For fans of: books, book reviews, wondering if Sarah has ever been to Oxford? Such a shame she's not clear on this 

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza--2 stars: Several chapters in, and I almost quit this book. I picked it back up one night when I couldn't fall asleep, and it was just barely interesting enough to keep me going. I love the premise, but I think the execution fell flat. Janey Sweet runs a wedding dress company with her gay best friend who basically fires her because he thinks she's fat. She goes insane trying to lose weight so she can go back to work again. That's literally the whole book. She tries every fad and craze like topless yoga and eating clay and works out with the most exclusive trainers in an effort to be stick thin. She winds up going on a $15,000 fitness retreat which turns into a 5 alarm crisis. I think Janey is obnoxious. She is naive and makes the worst decisions. There was not one character in this book that I liked. They are all ridiculous and nasty and can't think for themselves. There were a few moments that made me laugh, and I liked that it poked fun at diet culture and Gwyneth Paltrow-level crazies, and fitness people, but it was trashy and kind of crude and vapid and just made me feel kind of gross after reading it. It was a good satirical look at why crash diets and such are terrible, but I think it needed to do more in distancing itself from the mentality that you need to be stick thin to have value.

For fans of: those scenes in the Real Housewives of Wherever where they're all drunk and screaming and fighting, Goop, Crossfit, Sophie Kinsella, rich people trying to be thin, Fyre Festival 

The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife--3.5 stars:
This book was so interesting. Legend has it that if the ravens were to ever leave the Tower of London, the city will fall. Hence, the job of the Ravenmaster. Skaife spends his days caring for 6 or 7 ravens--feeding them, making sure they're safe from predators, and occasionally trimming their wings. As a Yeoman Warder who lives and works at the Tower, he also does guided tours and has a one hour long script memorized of history and facts and stories of the Tower. To qualify for this job, he had to complete 22 years of service in the military as well as hold several honors. This book was truly fascinating. I had no idea the ravens at the Tower were a thing, or even that people lived there! Skaife talks about his military history as well as the history of the ravens. Some of it got a little too bird sciency for me, but I found it incredibly fascinating and I genuinely hope I can visit someday and see the ravens for myself. Apparently ravens can be taught how to speak, though I was disappointed to find out he refuses to teach them to say "Nevermore."

For fans of: British history, ravens?, legends of Anne Boylen and such, memoirs

You Who? Why You Matter and How to Deal with It by Rachel Jankovic---5 billion stars: It may be January, but this is going to be my favorite book of 2019. It *sounds* like a self-help book, which we all know I hate, but it's the anti-self help book. The antidote to Girl Wash Your Face, if you will. Jankovic does not mince words. We are NOT enough. We are NOT good enough moms. We are NOT good enough people. Our feelings and heart cannot be trusted, they are deceitful. That's why we have God. We will never be enough on our own. We are not defined by our personality types, our feelings about ourselves, what others think. Our true meaning in life is to obey God and to be faithful. That's it. She is loving but harsh and tells Christian women what we really, really need to hear. If everything we do and think aligns with culture, there's a problem. She dissects philosophies like existentialism and humanism, explains why they are against everything the Bible teaches, and how they have so infiltrated culture and even Christian thinking that we can't even tell. I'm so passionate about this book. Her writing is on fire. This is the book we need.

For fans of: truth and The Bible

The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped Me Answer Life's Biggest Questions by Knox McCoy--3.5 stars: This book was downright hilarious. Knox is the co-host of The Popcast, probably the funniest podcast ever. It's all about pop culture which I have exactly zero interest in, but I love laughing so I listen to it anyway. Well, not every episode, but some of them. He's also the cohost of The Bible Binge, which is equally hilarious and my most-listened-to podcast. Knox wrote this memoir about parts of his life and how pop culture kind of helped walk him through these events. Some of it I understood and related to. Some was, kind of weird? He's had a very charmed life and admits that nothing bad has ever really happened to him. So while he's incredibly entertaining, it felt a little eye-rolly at times. Some of it felt like an excuse to rant about things in the church---some totally valid, and some that I didn't fully agree with. I have a hunch we don't see 100% eye to eye on theology, which is fine, but his crisis of faith at the end that he left super open ended felt relatable on one hand because I've been there, but frustrating as a reader because he concludes everything with zero conclusion. I wanted to argue with him some, but I still loved the book. I laughed every single time I picked it up. His wit is fantastic, and I would love nothing more than to have coffee with him.

For fans of: The Popcast, pop culture, laughing

One Day in December by Josie Silver--4 stars: Ok, THIS BOOK. I wanted to rate it 5 stars. In many ways, it's worth more than 5 stars. But some of it was 1 star. And thus I am torn. Laurie is riding home from work on the bus one day in London, when she locks eyes with a guy at the bus stop. They share instant chemistry and she nearly runs off the bus while he tries to get on. The bus drives away before either can commit to a decision. She spends a year searching London for him, only to reunite when she meets her best friend's new boyfriend. And it's him. Dun dun DUUNNNNN! This book follows their lives over the next ten years, following them in and out of relationships as they can never quite put that moment on the bus behind them. I love stories like this. I love stories of chance meetings and how people come in and out of our lives. I could not put this book down. I was completely sucked in, desperate to know what was going to happen next. But....the characters. The plot. The writing has you rooting for infidelity more than once, and I will never be ok with that. There is a lot of promiscuity and sex scenes---nothing very graphic, but it got so old. I could go on a little more, but I don't want to ruin the story. I loved the plot but wish it had been written a little differently at times. If you can look past all that, it's a great book to get sucked into. I was genuinely bummed for several days after finishing it, because I missed the story, as much as it frustrated me.

Also, another reason why I was so pulled in. I have a bus story of my own. The first scene of the book took me straight back to a moment in college I hadn't thought about in years. It was 2008, the same year as the moment in the book, and it also took place on a bus. It was pouring rain, and I was on a crammed bus leaving campus, and I locked eyes with a guy across from me. Please keep in mind this was pre-James, and I was 19 and flirtatious and boy crazy. We kept making eye contact. He got off the bus before I did, and that was that, though I always looked to see if he was on the same bus as me, but he never was again. Until months later, we wound up in the same political science class. We immediately recognized each other from that day and sat near each other. We eventually became sort of friends and chatted in class, but he was very quiet and so was I. I still have no idea why he was in that class, since it was an intro class in political science, and he was graduating that year with a degree in political science. I met James around this time, and then bus guy graduated and went to law school and that was that. UNTIL. Two years later, I was walking out of my departmental graduation ceremony to find him standing at the back of the room. He gave me a huge hug. I was so shocked I don't think I ever really got a sentence out. I never saw him again, but I did find out he's now a lawyer and politician. Spoiler alert: my story ended very differently from the book. I love all the weird ways our paths cross with other people.

For fans of: chance meetings, the movie Serendipity, that awful story in Love Actually with the love triangle, I Thought I Saw Your Face Today by She & Him---the perfect soundtrack for this book

I'm really good at picking out books for me and recommending books for friends, but for some reason, I've struggled with kids books. Gracie has a jammed bookshelf with books we've been given, I bought, and my childhood books. She's REALLY into being read to, so I've been requesting stacks of library books and asking friends for suggestions. My mom friends sent us and recommend some amazing books, so I thought I would start sharing some of our favorites, in case you're in a similar boat. I think I'm going to make this a regular thing, because Kid Lit is a new passion of mine, which should surprise no one.

Mice Skating by Anne Silvestro: This book is my favorite. It's about a mouse who loves winter and wants to enjoy it with her friends who would rather hibernate. She knits them hats and teaches them to ice skate. It's full of cheese puns and the illustrations are top notch. 10/10 would recommend. For the record, the puns go straight over Gracie's head, but they delight me every time. 

The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith: The illustrations in this book are weird and it's basically just a lot of rhyming words, but Gracie LOVES it. It's short, cute, and silly, so I'm fine with it. I've heard rumors that it's also a song, but I refuse to look it up because I do not want to walk down that road for the same reason Baby Shark has been banned from our house. It's a great book to get kids interested in stories because it's funny.

Love Monster by Rachel Bright: Shoutout to my dear friend Toi for recommending this one. It's so cute and Gracie loves it. It's about a monster who looks everywhere for someone to love him and comes up empty, until....OH MY GOSH I AM JUST REALIZING SOMETHING HERE.....he finds another monster to love on a bus. Apparently love on a bus is a theme in this post! Perfect for Valentine's Day!

What are you reading? What do you read to your kids? I'm currently in the middle of a novel about the Donner Party and it is GRIPPING. Gracie and I have been reading a lot of the My First Little House Books---the brainwashing to get her to fall in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder starts early around here!


  1. Them sounds amazing! We need 1000 more books just like that. I've also got The Wondering Years on my list. I just started listening to the Popcast and have been binging old episodes. I'm the most out of the loop ever person in regards to pop culture and I still find it hilarious.

    Check out Hotel Bruce and Spoon for kid's books. Actually, all of Amy Krause Rosenthal's books are pretty fantastic. She has another one called Chopsticks (the sequel), a quirky one called Alpha's Bet, and an impossibly sweet life lessons book called Sugar Cookies which Patrick wasn't super into, but I loved. Patrick also loves Wonky Donkey and we made the mistake of looking up the song. It's...strange. And now it's going to be in my head the rest of the day.

  2. That Ben Sasse book looks amazing!!!!! That "You Who?" book looks really interesting and very powerful, too. That's awesome that you got to read the Ravenmaster book! It kind of bugs me that I had no idea there were famous ravens at the Tower of London when I visited London years ago-I would have loved to see them. I hope you are able to visit the ravens someday! Also, I'm pretty excited that you're going to start giving Kid Lit recommendations-we've just started venturing into checking out books from the kid's area, and there are some great books and some not-so-great books out there (I always go through whatever books my toddler wants to check out before any of them leave the library with us). We recently picked up a book called "The Best Tailor in Pinbaue," which was a really interesting story based in Brazil and tailors. It was a bit serious/social commentary-y, and not every kid or adult is into that, but I liked it and my toddler seemed to as well. Mainly, we just re-read the Beatrix Potter books or my toddler finds random geeky books to read about superheroes or Star Wars or The Legend of Zelda. (though I have been eyeing the My First Little House books, too-I know that boys probably don't get into Little House, but I find them delightful and I'm all about the early Little House brainwashing haha)

  3. The "You are enough" message cannot and does not fit at all with the message of the Gospel (in fact, neither us nor the whole entire fallen world is enough!) and the anti-self-help book sounds amazing.
    I never want to write about the books I read...mostly I just read books because "they are there" not because I particularly love them. But reviewing baby books sounds like fun. My "minimalist" self has been pretty purposeful in only getting books for our shelf that have a good reason to be there (and any books that we are given that I don't particularly like...well those ones I let Cyrus actually touch because if they eventually get mangled, I'm okay with that. Sorry, but some baby books are excruciating. Plus he loves turning pages on books himself so it's good for him to have a few books that I don't love, haha!)

  4. I love kid lit! My favorites will forever be the Frog and Toad books, plus Owl at Home (by the same author). They're classics but I still read them and love them!

    Also, this is probably too old for Gracie right now, but I just randomly listened to the audio version of The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy. I LOVED it, such a charming story about identity and choosing who we're going to be in the world, with such great characters and amazing vocabulary. I could totally see you loving this once Gracie is a little older (or just listening to it yourself! It was so fun!).

  5. Currently I'm reading Anne Lamott. She gets me every time! I don't agree with all the theology in there, and she's definitely, 100%, a smells-like-grass, would maybe probably live outside naked kind of girl. BUT, Jesus permeates all parts of of her life. She inspires me. In a world where Christians stay in Christian circles and live for Sundays (or Sabbaths, if you're an obscure adventist), she inspires me to live Christianity like Jesus did. Also--definitely just borrowed Book Girl from my library after I read your review. So excited!

    1. Anne Lamott and I definitely don’t see eye to eye on theology, but I enjoy her writing too!

  6. Love your review of Book Girl. I agree with the theology part; I appreciated the C.S. Lewis and a few other recognizable (and trustworthy) theologians but there was far too much mysticism references for my comfort. And haha, I love your Oxford comment; it DID get annoying. I am curious which of her book recommendations you have read and hated? I expected to add a whole bunch of books to my TBR but I only added a small handful because her descriptions were concise enough to let me know if one book was for me or not (I actually took a few OFF my TBR list after reading her descriptions).


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