My Year, As Told By Books //2016

I didn't read as much as I would have liked to this year. I read a lot, but I wish I would have read more. 

This was an interesting year for me. At the beginning of 2016, I was preparing to move into a house with six other people from ages 8 months to 25 years old. (Read about that here.) I was going back to the same school that I left with a different major and different plans. I was really optimistic about all that 2016 could hold for me. While it wasn't the best year of my life, and it was one of the heaviest years the world has seen in a long time, it wasn't the worst for me. Now that we're at the end, I'm about to enter my last semester of college. I'm writing more than I ever dreamed I would, and I'm proud of who I am. 

I could write about 2016 for a long time, but I won't do that. Instead, I'll tell you about the books I read. Through these books, you can learn what I learned, where my mind went, and more. At the bottom, I listed a few more details about my year, from my favorite albums to the cities I visited, and my favorite blogs I wrote. 

Garden City, John Mark Comer
I read Garden City with a friend in the spring. The subtitle of the book is "Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human." God used Garden City to lead me to the truth of my calling as a writer. I learned about rest, and finished the book with a greater understanding of what it looks like to live a full life in our world today.

Father Fiction, Donald Miller
I don't really like to read books that highlight hard parts of my life. But, if I didn't, I would never feel challenged to move past them or to heal. A large part of 2016 has been spent healing. I've had to deal with my past in new ways, navigating what it looks like not to give it power in my life today. Father Fiction definitely played a role in that. It's a book for those that don't have fathers, or who have parents that made big choices that left their kids feeling unloved. It was hard to read, but I needed it. It's a little book with the big message that we are not alone. I felt understood, little less crazy, and maybe even a little stronger after finishing Father Fiction. 

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
I read Big Magic on the way to Spain this summer. I'll always connect the weight of this book on my lap to the long flight across the world.
 Elizabeth Gilbert is a badass woman, and Big Magic is a badass book. I'm learning that it's important, as a writer, to read books about writing from experienced writers. In Big Magic, Gilbert talks about the art of story and the process of sitting down and giving stories life. She tells of her experiences, but successful and unsuccessful, and provides encouragement for anyone who loves words. It's not a Christian book, but I got to read it through a Christian lens, which was a really fun process. All in all, it made me excited to create and get my stories out there. Words rule. 

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
This book was read in the midst of my time in Spain. I would carry it in my purse, taking it with me to tapas and reading it as I sipped red wine and watched the people of Salamanca live their full lives. The Glass Castle is potentially the saddest book I've ever read, but it was wonderful. This summer I made a point to read biographies, because I want to study the art of story in every way. There was nothing revolutionary about The Glass Castle, but it's one of the most well written stories I've ever read. It inspired me to write more honestly and gave me some bravery to tell my stories unfiltered. 

Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers
So, I ran out of books in Spain which left me with two options: reading a book in Spanish (no thanks) or reading a book I've already read off of my phone. This was the third time I've read Redeeming Love and I loved it as much this time as I did the first. Though it's not the best writing, the story itself is one I need to remember constantly. We all need to be reminded of the extravagant love the Father has for us. I'm thankful that Redeeming Love does that.

Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig
In the midst of school, an internship, and two jobs, I didn't read much this fall. Reasons to Stay Alive is the only book I finished during the semester, but it's probably the best book I've ever read on what it's like to live with depression and anxiety. I've been battling depression for ten years, and I'm no stranger to it's twists and turns. Reasons to Stay Alive a book that helped me, as a depressive, feel more understood than I knew I book could. Haig balanced hard truth with humor, which is my favorite thing. If you are depressed, or if you want to better understand what life is like for someone who is, Reasons to Stay Alive is the first book you should pick up. After I read Reasons to Stay Alive, I felt a little more okay with my battle with depression. Maybe we always feel a little better when we know we aren't alone.

Currently Reading:
The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling
I will never, ever tire of going back to Hogwarts. This series feels like coming home, and I've been plowing through them during the break. I'll even admit that Harry's journey has given me perspective on myself in the midst of my healing, which is kind of fun. Also, J.K Rowling is a genius and her writing is incredible.

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
I won't say a lot about The New Jim Crow, because due to my goal to read all of the Harry Potter books before school starts back, I haven't gotten far into it. However, the few chapters that I have read have already shifted my view of our world. In the current political climate of our country, we need to be educated. We need to read books that challenge the way we've been raised. If you're anything like me, you probably need to read The New Jim Crow.

I also read:
Far From the Madding Crown, Thomas Hardy
The Chronicles of Narnia (1, 2, 3, & 4), C.S. Lewis
Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell*
Agnes Gray, Anne Bronte*
Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
Lilith, George MacDonald*
An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde*
Kidnapped, Robert Lewis Stevenson*
Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey
Night, Elie Wiesel
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford
If You Feel Too Much (Expanded Edition), Jamie Tworkowski

*These books were read as a part of a British Victorian Novel class I took in the Spring semester. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend any of them.

My favorite albums of 2016, in no particular order:

  • 22, A Million- Bon Iver
  • Coloring Book- Chance the Rapper
  • Sunlit Youth- Local Natives
  • Johannesburg- Mumford & Sons
  • Let a Lover Drown You- Penny & Sparrow
  • Cleopatra- The Lumineers

Top Five Cities I Visited in 2016: 
I visited about 20 new cities, and I don't think I disliked any of them. This year I got to travel more than I ever had, studying abroad in Spain and using almost ever break from school to visit somewhere new. I didn't mean for most of this list to come from Europe, but it did. I'm not sorry. 

  1. Paris, France (It's worth the hype.) 
  2. Salamanca, Spain
  3. Santander, Spain
  4. Rome, Italy 
  5. Los Angelas, California  

My favorite blogs (Click the title to read):

  1. Dear Friend, You Are Not Alone
  2. On Being Single
  3. This is My Story, World Suicide Prevention Day
  4. It Takes Courage to be Hopeful
  5. Alan Rickman

2016 was good to me for the most part. I experienced so much, from living in Spain and living with babies and maybe even starting to write a book, I'm ending this year with a lot more stories to tell than I had at the beginning. I'm thankful for what I saw, for what the Father so graciously taught me, and for all the words I got to read. I'm proud of who I am on the other side of this crazy year. 

Here's to the New Year, and the books we'll read along the way.