What I Read So Far This Year

January and February are typically months when I go into hermit-mode, as my friend Ellie calls it, and read, write, and think a lot. This year, because we were planning for our wedding, I didn’t get too much quiet unstructered time to myself. It was worth it, of course, and our wedding was a magical, joyful evening surrounded by our kids and some of our close friends.

Even in the midst of finding a dress, deciding on decorations, helping Alan find a suit, shopping for food and making the meal–as well as carrying on with everyday life, I still managed to read several good books.

The Blue Zones of Happiness by Dan Buettner didn’t bring with it many surprises: the happiest people spend plenty of their lives outdoors, with other people, doing work they find satisfying, make enough to live at least modestly on, eat healthy food, and don’t have to worry about health care access, retirement, etc. It is worth reading to hear the stories from happy people in different parts of the world. I borrowed my copy from the library.

 High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard is full of truth to change your life, set you on a good path, challenge the heck out of you, help you develop clarity and purpose, and give you stories of real-life high performers and how they live. I first heard about him through the Rachel Hollis podcast Rise and quickly subscribed to his podcast as well. I bought my copy because I plan on reading it again and again! 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling is, like all the Harry Potter books, a treasured favorite. I own the audio version and love the way Jim Dale narrates and brings all the characters to life. This is my second time through the series and I love it as much as ever.

 My Twenty-Five Years in Provence by Peter Mayle was the first book by this author I’ve read. It is funny, fascinating, and for someone who has never been to Provence, it helped me feel like I was there too. I borrowed it from my library.

The Courage Habit by Kate Swoboda. I heard Kate interviewed on The Unmistakeable Creative podcast last year and purchased this book because she had such a charismatic and magnetic persona that I wanted to read her book and have some of that rub off on me. Honestly, the book was a bit dull. Maybe she speaks more dynamically than she writes or maybe it just wasn’t the right time for me to read it.

The Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny. My favorite aspect of her Inspector Gamache series is the characters in Three Pines. Heartwarming, hilarious, endearing, and sparkling with humanity these people keep me coming back for more.

She could do away with the “mystery” element altogether because, at least with these last few, they tend to be rather incidental and weak. Her husband passed away a few years ago and may have something to do with the lack of attention to the mystery. But her Three Pines characters are alive and well, so I will continue reading the series as long as she writes. I borrowed this from the library.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett took me to a hot and heavy jungle in the middle of cold January and kept me interested throughout. I felt plenty of empathy for the main character who doesn’t seem to be able to hold on to happiness. She is strong, independent, and stubborn, but is also selfless and hampered by her past. It is so well written and the story is unusual and imaginative–you should definitely read this! My paperback came from a local used bookstore.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This was my second time through this book, this time on audio. Alan and I listened to it separately and then would discuss it every few days, which was fun for me. It’s all about living a creative life, choosing curiosity over fear, being practically-minded yet holding space for the otherworldly element of inspiration that one can’t control, but can encourage. I purchased the audio version and highly recommend it!

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. My used bookstore copy of this book has been sitting on my Unread Bookshelf for over two years, so it was definitely time to pick it up. Like State of Wonder, it is set in a hot climate–Vietnam–during the war there in the 60s and 70s.

The main characters are photographers who are there to capture the war. Two of them become obsessed with gaining notoriety with the right shot and get themselves into dangerous situations. There is a love triangle and definitely some gore and violence because it’s a war.

Her writing is beautiful and vivid, and you will be transported to the steamy Vietnamese cities and jungles where this all takes place. I didn’t like the two main characters, mostly because they’re shallow and selfish, but the fact that it is so well-written makes up for it.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Who hasn’t read this book? Well, I hadn’t up till February when I listened to it on audio. Divided into three sections, where she spends 4 months each: Italy, India, and Indonesia, it is her honest retelling of her adventures during her years’ experiment overseas.

During this year, she ate to her heart’s content in Italy and immersed herself in Italian, healed from a divorce and a breakup, learned to meditate and connect with the divine, formed new friendships, and so much more. Alan and I listened to it separately and discussed it–like we had our own book club! Definitely, if you haven’t read it yet, put it on your list.

 The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith. I LOVE Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and the other refreshing and endearing characters in this series. Like the Louise Penny books, this is supposed to be a mystery series, and it is. The author does a good job with the mystery side of things, but I love the people in the books: their day-to-day conversations, interactions, problems, entanglements, and the way they live their lives.

I relate so well to each of them in all their wonderful humanity, yet the pace of life is very different from ours. I am always thrilled when a new book is added to the series. Oh, and you must listen to this on audio. Lisette Lecat narrates and she is phenomenal with making each person’s voice and personality shine. Highly recommended!

The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli. This one was a bit of a letdown and I think the reason is I do not like stories about rich, spoiled, entitled people. Rich people problems don’t interest me in the least. The writing is good and most of this book is set in a hot climate, like her debut, but I just couldn’t appreciate it. But maybe you will feel differently? I borrowed my copy from the library.

Alright, so those are the dozen I’ve read so far this year! I’ll be sharing what I’m currently reading in an upcoming blog post. So what did you read in January and February?