The Empty Bookshelf Challenge

Dear friend and awesome author, Susie Finkbeiner introduced me to the Empty Bookshelf Challenge this year through her blog. This was started by Jon Acuff and I think it’s absolutely brilliant!

If you’re following me on Goodreads, you may have seen the list I’ve been building over the past six months. You are supposed to empty a shelf in your house and fill it with the books you’ve read from December 31, 2013 to December 31, 2014.

I did have empty shelves on Dec.29th,  but they
were quickly filled after unpacking my books.

I don’t have a house, I just have a room with not a lot a shelves in it so I thought I’d just keep a list running on Goodreads instead.

So here at the half-way point of this challenge, I can tell you that I have read a lot more than I did the year before… mainly because 2013 was the year of the  undergrad thesis. Sure I read a lot for that, but it was journals and historical documents and my own writing. Bleh.

I have LOVED having the freedom to educate myself again and have been reading many varied things as a result.

So I thought I would break down some of my favorites from the year so far.

Letters and Life–Bret Lott
A dear friend introduced me to the world of Lott telling me that she luffed him. Not love, luf. It’s much deeper.

Well I luf him now too! This book is a wonderful collection of essays on Lott’s musings on being a writer and a Christian. I loved his essay on precision–wonderful subject to think on while drafting a novel. Reading it to the student writing group I am a part of produced some great discussion.

His essay on Flannery O’Connor is a great tribute to the short-story goddess. The friend who introduced me to Lott told me upon reading it that everything he says about O’Connor can be said about him. I have to agree. He has developed the wonderful talent to get out of the way of his writing and let is stand on its own legs.

Great writer with some great thoughts!

Fool–Christopher Moore
There is a stigma that the works of Shakespeare have come to own. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s just something I’ve observed. We look at them like this hallowed tombs that cannot be touched by any writer before or sense.

Poppycock! And Christopher Moore has written the book to prove it!

Fool is a retelling of King Lear from the perspective of the fool. Moore presents the tale to a modern reader as Shakespeare did to his audiences. Bawdy humor mixed with wordplay and obvious symbolism. His sensitivity to what Shakespeare was trying to do is carried through to perfection–to entertain. This book is witty, thought-provoking and just fun.

Idiot Psalms–Scott Cairns
Switching up my regular intake of fiction with some poetry, Like Lott, I found Cairns at Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing and LOVED his work.

Idiot Psalms is a collection of musings on life and God and scripture. Throughout the collection are sprinkled the Idiot Psalms. Written in the style of the biblical Psalms, Cairns explores the trials and trivialities of every-day-life. My personal favorite is Idiot Psalm 3 which he wrote during an English division meeting at the university at which he teaches.

These are just a few examples of what I’ve taken in the last six months. I’m excited to pick up the pace and read more in the back half of this year.

What book have you read this year that stick out in your mind? Please share! I’d love recommendations for the next six months of reading.

Friday Favorites: Guilty Pleasure Reads

Hopefully you’ve received and opportunity this summer to go to a beach or a pool or at least somewhere you can relax in the sun. One of my favorite things to do on a warm summer day is to relax in the shade of the little pergola next to our pool. It is a wonderful work, writing, and reading space that I have really come to treasure in the time we’ve lived here.

And honestly, summer is the time for beach reading. Something I also call candy reading. Those books that you can read in a highly distracting environment and still take in. It’s easy and simple and sweet. These kind of books may also be known as guilty pleasure reads.

So now I expose to you some of my top favorite candy reads. The unintelligent stuff I enjoy with slight embarrassment that you may actually like as well. If you’re looking for a semi-good book for the beach or pool-side, here’s what I got:

1. Anything by Sophie Kinsella
No, it’s not literary by any means, but Sophie Kinsella (of Confessions of a Shopaholic fame) has numerous
romantic comedy novels that are truly funny. Her heroines are sweet, snarky, and super relateable. I always find myself smiling like an idiot as I read the hi jinx of these sassy characters and hope you might as well.

Some of my favorites include Can You Keep A Secret, Remember Me, and I’ve Got Your Number.

2. Odd Thomas–Dean Koontz

Koontz’s market is usually middle-aged men, but I picked up this novel as a kid in high school and loved it. (It was recommended to me by a middle-aged man, if that helps…) Odd, Koontz intriguing main character with a supernatural ability, has a GREAT voice. The novel is told through his perspective. Though the Koontz thriller is a mass-market commercial phenomenon, there is a fabulous sense of symbolism and subtle foreshadowing that no book-snob should dare turn their nose up to. Also, there is an ending that you probably won’t see coming unless you are a careful reader. And if you are a careful reader, you will be so impressed at how he leads up to such a pay off.

Apparently there is a movie adaptation of this on Netflix. I haven’t seen it, but I’m leery because I don’t recall it ever going to theaters… Book is most likely better.

3. the Percy Jackson series–Rick Riordan
So I pretty much read like a middle school boy. I love that books marketed to this demographic always have action, start to finish, as well as a decent amount of humor. You got to keep this rowdy bunch entertained, right? And I find myself in that ADD, keep me stimulated all the time camp.

Enter Percy Jackson! This modern exploration of Greek mythology is brilliant. Told through the eyes of Percy Jackson, a regular boy who discovers he is a demigod, we get to explore Camp Half-blood (Pretty much Hogwarts for the children of gods) and even venture on a quest across America. Great storytelling, wonderful characters, and a simple, fast-paced read. This seriously is one of my favorite series ever. Five books in all. Start with Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief.

There is a movie adaptation of this one too. Just ignore that.

4. Blink–Ted Dekker

So any time I’ve mentioned that I don’t like Christian fiction here in Bohemia, it has been shortly followed by a recommendation of Christian fiction…huh. Well this is no exception. Blink is a fabulous, action packed, sci-fi thriller, laced with a love story. Seriously love this book. You can also find a second edition under the title Blink of an Eye.

Seth is a brilliant, but directionless young man who develops the mysterious ability to see multiple outcomes of the future, only a few second before it happens. He and a runaway Saudi princess cross paths and must depend on one another to decide the fate of the future. (How’s that for cheesy back-cover-copy synopsis!)

Could not put this one down and I know you won’t be able to either.

There is not a movie adaptation of this one. There probably should be…Unless it is the same quality of the ones listed above. Then no. No one should touch it!

5. Teen Idol–Meg Cabot
Travel back to high school with one of my childhood favorites. This was a fluff read that totally changed how I viewed my relationships with people when I was in middle school. That said, don’t expect anything profound. Instead, just enjoy some of the good parts of those awkward years through this wonderful little story.

Teen Idol is about a girl Jen in her junior year of high school. She writes the anonymous advice column for her school paper and has become the confidant of most of the students in her small Indiana high school. Teen heartthrob Luke Striker comes to town to research a role, undercover, at her high school. And only Jen knows his secret. Great book that can be read in one sitting…a whole day sitting at the beach.

Hope these recommendations are helpful for any of you looking for the brainless but fun book to take to the lake!

Building the Summer Book Pile

I start out each summer feeling very ambitious. I have a mental list of everything I want to accomplish during the summer and somehow magically none of the things on that list get done.

Well this year, that will not be the case!… perhaps.

I know I want to finish Part I of my novel. I’m about ten chapters out from this, so I’m thinking a chapter a week… we’ll see if my characters are feeling the same pace.

I also want to redecorate my bedroom and go through all of my boxes in the storage area in my parents basement. I think it’s odd that I haven’t lived at my parents for three years, and yet I have seemed to accumulate a lot of crap in that window of time. Consolidation must happen or I will end up on hoarders. 

As I thought over this summer, I began to think less and less of these things I wanted to accomplish and more and more about what I wanted to read.

So I thought I’d clue you in to my reading list for the summer. I’m pretty excited about it!

  • The Daylight War – Peter V. Brett
  • Byzantium – Stephen R. Lawhead
  • Green Economy – Bill McKibben
  • I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella
  • The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
  • The Equation – Oliver Learnt 

This is my list so far, but it will continue to grow in the next couple days. Feel free to comment with what you are planning to read over the summer as well as recommendations! I love to hear about a new book every now and again… or all the time!

          – Lex