Monday, February 10, 2014

10 Must-Read Books On My Shelf

Posted by Devin
Valentine's Day is this Friday and, as always, I am super excited about it. I love Valentine's Day! It's so fun making special treats for my boys and giving each other love notes and spending a little extra alone time with Jake... it's the best! But I also know that there are a lot of Anti-Valentiners out there who don't love this holiday as much as I do. And so, for all of you, I have decided to post a list of 10 great reads that are currently on my bookshelf. Because really, there's no better way to ignore Valentine's Day than by cozying up with a good book. ;)
But seriously, I am always on the hunt for a good book, are you? I love to know what people are currently reading and what their favorite books are. I may not be the know-all/end-all of literature, but I LOVE to read and have read A LOT of books... so I'm just going to go ahead and make the leap and say this qualifies me to recommend a few to all of you. ;) Each book on this list was more than simply entertaining and engaging; they all taught me, moved me, changed me in some way. I hope you find something here that you would like to read as well! And they are actually all on my shelf, so let me know if you need to borrow one!
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

You are going to see by my list that I am a lover of the classics. Don't worry, if you don't love the classics, there's something here for everyone. I'm not sure exactly how the literary world categorizes it, but I consider To Kill A Mockingbird a modern classic. Written by Harper Lee (the only book she has ever published) and released in 1960, the book is set in Depression-Era Alabama. The story is centered around a 6 year-old named Scout Finch and covers some very serious topics, the foremost of which is racial inequality. Despite it's serious nature, Lee manages to bring humor and warmth to her novel. You are left loving and caring for the characters she has created and moved by the events that unfold around them. If this book wasn't already on your high school English syllabus, I highly recommend you give it a read now! And then see the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck. It's excellent as well.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind  by William Kamkwamba

I graduated college in 2003 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. With an education in the sciences, I found this story to be fascinating and absolutely remarkable. The book is an autobiographical account of author William Kamkwamba's life as a child and young adult in his poverty-stricken and drought-riddled village in Malawi. With very little education, materials, or support from others, young William manages to bring hope for a better way of life to his community when he defies all odds and builds himself a windmill. This is such a great story of human triumph when all you have to help you along the way is a good mind and sheer determination. I found my engineering projects in school to be super difficult and I had all the support in the world. I was blown away by William's ingenuity and drive. You don't need a background in engineering to appreciate what this story has to offer! 
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

As a busy stay-at-home mom to four little boys, I sometimes feel desperately out of touch with the rest of the world. International travel, or even watching the nightly news for that matter, are not things I get to do very often. So I appreciate books that give me a glimpse of the way other people live in different cultures and the issues they may be struggling with. A Thousand Splendid Suns is one of these books. The novel follows the lives of two Afghan women and, although fictional, the reader is given a sense of how society functions in this part of the world, particularly in regards to the roles of women, as well as the political movements taking place there. Heartbraking and moving, this is ultimately a story of friendship and love between these two women as they endure the hard reality of their daily lives together. Want a better appreciation of the freedoms we enjoy every day? This is the book for you.   
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill

What can I say about Corrie ten Boom and her amazing family that has not been said before? This book documents the true account of this family as they lived in the occupied Netherlands during World War II and worked to save the lives of hundreds of Jewish people as they aided and sometimes even hid them in their home. Humble and simple people with an extraordinary faith in their Christian beliefs, the ten Booms serve as beautiful and faithful examples of what love for and discipleship to Christ really means and how it can bring light to even the darkest of places. Every time I read this book, I am inspired to be a braver, stronger, and more faithful person that I was before. If you haven't read this book, you must pick up a copy soon. You won't regret it. 
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson

This title may be familiar to you as it has recently been made into a major motion picture. Although I will not be seeing the movie due to it's R rating, I still have to recommend the book as a must-read. I live in a country where I enjoy the comfort and freedom to live my life as I choose. These freedoms are protected by people who I do not know, doing things I don't know much about, each and every day. Lone Survivor is the incredible true story of United States Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. The book documents his childhood, his training to become a Navy SEAL, and his service in Afghanistan. The culmination of his story is a particular mission there, from which Luttrell was the only survivor. If I had only read the portion of this book detailing the training these men go through to become SEALs, I would have been profoundly impressed and grateful for what they do. But when you hear about the ultimate sacrifices Luttrell's colleagues made in the line of duty, you are left with a much deeper appreciation for the men and women in our armed forces and their families. 
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

When it comes to Les Miserables, I feel like I'm pretty knowledgeable. I've seen the 1998 movie, I've seen the 2012 movie, I've been to the musical at The Palace Theatre in London, I've been to the musical at Gammage Auditorium here in Arizona... but honestly, for me, nothing compares to the book itself. The intricacies of the story line and the way the characters lives weave together simply cannot be wholly portrayed in a staged production. If you don't know much about Les Mis, where have you been?!! And if you do know about it but haven't read the book, read it! Some of you may be saying, "But it's 830 pages long with small print!" You won't be sorry if you give it a try. It's brilliant.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As a child, C.S. Lewis was my very favorite author. For some reason, however, it wasn't until recently that I picked up one of his books written for adults. What was I waiting for?!! As usual, C.S. Lewis is absolutely inspired in his work on Mere Christianity. Want to know more about the fundamentals of Christianity? Want to undertand Christian beliefs and ethics? This book is a great read for Christians and non-Christians alike. Mere Christianity is considered to be a classic example of "Christain apologetics", in other words, it aims to show a rational basis for the Christian faith. As a person prone to rational and scientific ways of thinking rather than emotional, this book was totally fascinating to me. It is filled with so much thought-provoking material, as soon as I was done reading it I knew I would have to read it many times to soak it all in. Can't wait to read it again!
1776 by David McCullough

A little disclaimer here: I read this book as a part of a book club and although I found the material riveting, there were many people in the group who struggled through this read and felt it was too dry. If you are a history enthusiast or just a person who loved school for the sake of learning, you will love this book. If you are not, then you may want to stick to the audio tapes or a documentary series on this subject. 1776 is written by David McCullough and chronicles the events of the American Revolution. As an American citizen, I can't help but feel that this is important information we should all be familiar with. The details surrounding the events of the American Revolution are both captivating and surprising. When I was done reading this book, I kept thinking "It is an absolute miracle that this nation ever came to be!" If you are a little fuzzy on your history lessons from this time or just want to know more about the shaping of a nation, check this book out. It will fill you with pride and patriotism. 
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

You know how people like to ask "If you could meet anyone in the world past or present, who would it be?" Well if they asked me who I wouldn't want to meet, I'd probably say Ayn Rand. LOL! The lady was intense and I'm quite sure she'd chew me up and spit me out. BUT... I do appreciate her novels and what I have learned through her philosophy of Objectivism (I have made that a link if you would like to read a description of Objectivism. It would take me too long to explain it here and Rand would probably roll over in her grave if I attempted it, hehehe.) I first read Atlas Shrugged as a young adult, just out on my parents' house and starting to form my own opinions about politics, economics, and society. This book was eye-opening to me and helped to shape my ideas today. Do I agree with everything Rand believes in? Absolutely not. But I do think she is a valuable and unique voice to be heard and learned from. Plus the story line is fantastic and I couldn't put this 1000 page book down until I was done! Beware the self-indulgent speech in Part III Chapter VII, though, it's a doozy. Did I just call Ayn Rand self-indulgent?!! Eek! I really don't want to meet her now.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I wanted to put the entire works of Jane Austen on this list, but I thought that may be a bit much. I am a huge Jane Austen fan. I have read all of her novels multiple times and really wish she had had time to write more than her 7 completed works. Since I thought I had better stick to just one Austen novel, I had to go with Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite novels ever (Sense and Sensibility was a close second). Austen is incredibely whitty and intelligent in her portrayals of British society in the early 19th century and the lessons she teaches in her books are still completely applicable today. Of course, the theme of Pride and Prejudice is a romantic one (as all of her novels are), which makes me love it all the more.  In a day of immodesty and excessive sexual content, we could all learn a thing or two about romance from Ms. Austen who can make a single glance or sentence spoken more exciting than most of our modern day movies can pack into two hours. If you really are going to be spending this Valentine's Day alone with a book, I would say this would be the one to pick!

So did any of your favorite books make the list? Have any great recommendations for me? You know I'm always looking for a good book! Happy reading, everyone!

Linking Up With: Show & Tell Wednesday, Fluster Buster, Moonlight and Mason Jars, Tidy Mom, Just Us Four, Practically Functional, Tatertots & Jello

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At February 10, 2014 at 8:53 AM , Anonymous Erin @ Strawberry Mommycakes said...

We have the same taste in books! To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice are two of my very favorites and even though I hated Ayn Rand in high school, I still think about her books....I'll have to reread them. Have you read Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier? That's my go to book. I found a first edition in my grandpa's house and I just read it for about the 100th's amazing! Also, if you like 1776, you should consider reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. It's about Gettysburg.

At February 10, 2014 at 3:48 PM , Blogger Tara and Devin said...

I have never read Rebecca or The Killer Angels before, thank you for the suggestions! I will definitely have to give them a read. :) Thanks for checking out my post, Erin!

At February 15, 2014 at 12:21 AM , Anonymous Shannon said...

I've read seven of the books on your list. To Kill a Mockingbird is the book that solidified my love for reading in high school. Two of my favorite books are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. If you enjoy mysteries, I just finished Still Life by Louise Penny and really enjoyed it.

At February 17, 2014 at 12:55 PM , Blogger Rhonda Hobbs said...

Thank you Devin for listing these. I've enjoyed reading these over the years and one I haven't was "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind". A completely different genre "Living A Beautiful Life" by Alexander Stoddard. Young, not much money and 5 little children at home, this beautiful book lifted my spirits and helped me picture a more peaceable and thoughtful, detailed oriented lifestyle.

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