Curling up with a good book—whether I'm wrapped in a blanket on a cold winter's evening or lounging in a Pawley's Island hammock—is, to me, one of life's most profound pleasures.
Just the anticipation of knowing I've got some reading time ahead—whether it's to satisfy a hunger for learning or just to escape into a well-told story—offers a boost to my mood and spirit. Every new book is like a gift box, and I never fail to experience the thrill of opening it and discovering its treasures.
One of my favorite ways to connect with someone, and turn them from a stranger into a friend, is to talk to them about the books they're reading—especially the ones they love—and the books we love in common. So that's what I'm going to do more of here at Heartspoken!
I've reviewed several of my favorite books for you over time (See Heartspoken's Reading Room), but I thought you might enjoy getting a glimpse of what I've been reading in the last few weeks (everything…not just my favorites) so you'll know me a little better too.
Books: powerful connection tools
If you're an avid reader like I am, you know reading contributes enormously to the practice of wholehearted living. I believe it's because books are such powerful connection tools.
Books connect us to others and to ourselves. They help us plumb the depths of human emotion and experience. They expand our horizons and make us armchair travelers to other worlds and cultures, past, present, and future.
Books connect us to God/Spirit when we read the works of faith leaders, spiritual giants, and simple, faithful pilgrims like ourselves. Books connect us to nature as we travel with naturalists and nature writers to experience the world through their eyes. We become more observant as we savor the joy of seeing what they see and cultivate our own observation skills.
How I choose books
I choose the books I read for a variety of reasons. Besides reading new books by favorite authors, I peruse recommended reading lists and use book reviews to gauge whether I'll enjoy a book or not. Bloggers I follow might recommend books from time to time, and of course my friends and I often share favorite titles. My sister-in-law is in a book club, and the books they choose are often ones I enjoy too.
My Goodreads.com network is a great place to get reading ideas, and I appreciate their comments and ratings of the books they read. If you'd like to connect with me on Goodreads so you can see what I'm reading (and sometimes reviewing), CLICK HERE, but if I read a book that fits Heartspoken's theme, I'll post it on this blog too.
Sometimes a book just calls to me from the depths of a box, a dusty library shelf, or a pile of books at a rummage sale. I loved this reflection from the pages of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, and Annie Barrows:
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”
Do you think books have a secret homing instinct? I'm inclined to believe a few of the special ones really do.
Several books at a time
I have to be in the right mood for the right book, so I always have several going at the same time. This may not suit you at all, and you should pay attention to what gives you the most pleasure. I know many readers who never start a new book until they've finished the one they're on. I was interested to learn researchers have found the most prolific readers usually have the habit of reading more than one book at a time. While we all might wish to read faster, don't let it undermine the quality of your reading experience.
Early mornings are my time to read spiritual books (e.g., inspiration, theology, bible study, devotionals, etc.). This nourishes my soul and primes the pump for my best-lived day. Since I'm freshest in the morning, that's also when I'm most likely to read business books or books that require more concentration or attention. Evenings and bedtime are when I enjoy my fiction and “escape” books.
I don't always finish a book!
One of the gifts I've given myself as I've gotten older is permission not to finish a book that isn't calling to me. It may be a bestseller. It may be an important topic. It may be truly unique writing. But if it is not entertaining me, inspiring me, or edifying me, I've decided life is too short, especially when there are so many books I want to read that I'll never finish in my lifetime.
Timing is everything. There are some books that have spoken to me at a particular time in my life that wouldn't have resonated earlier or later. Be open to putting a book aside for another day when it doesn't particularly appeal to you now.
My book ratings
It's very difficult to compare books fairly with a simple five-star rating, because the process is so subjective! I occasionally hate a book that a dear friend loved. That's perfectly okay.
I may give five stars to a brilliant book that changes my whole approach to living, but when a book in a less serious genre entertains me or whisks me effectively away into a romance or mystery, I may give it high marks for its genre too.
To complicate things, Amazon and Goodreads describe their star ratings differently.
* 1-star Goodreads: Did not like it Amazon: I hate it
** 2-stars Goodreads: It was okay Amazon: I don't like it
*** 3-stars Goodreads: Liked it Amazon: It's okay
**** 4-stars Goodreads: Really liked it Amazon: I like it
***** 5-stars Goodreads: It was amazing Amazon: I love it
My own ratings, when I give them, will align more with Goodreads. The truth is, if I hate a book, I'm unlikely to even finish it, much less go to the trouble to rate it.
What I've read this summer
This post is getting quite long enough, so later I'll put short reviews of my favorites of the books below in a separate post, but here's a complete list of what I finished during June, July, and August 2016, with embedded links in case you'd like to buy them on Amazon. Remember, if you order through my affiliate links, you pay no more than you would otherwise, but the small commission I'll get from Amazon will help me defray the cost of this free blog.
- Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel, by Laura Dave. Fiction 4 stars
- The One In A Million Boy by Monica Wood. Fiction. 5 stars
- Ask Gary Vee by Gary Vaynurchuck, Nonfiction/Business. 2.5 stars
- A Scandalous Matter by Margaret Locke. Fiction/Romance. 4 stars
- The Finest Mask by J.J. Brown. Science Fiction/Alternative History. Very short. Kindle only. 4 stars
- This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Eviston. Fiction. 2 stars
- The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Fiction. 5 stars
- The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks, PhD. Nonfiction, 4 stars.
- The Lake House by Kate Morton. Fiction. 4.5 stars
- Hebridean Altars : The Spirit of an Island Race by Alistair Maclean. Nonfiction. 4 stars. I reviewed this, along with Celtic Daily Prayer, in a Heartspoken post a few weeks ago: CLICK HERE.
- Almost Like Being In Love: A Destination Wedding Novel by Beth Vogt. Fiction/Romance. 4 stars.
- Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman. Fiction. 4.5 stars
- Walking A Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool by Dr. Lauren Artress. Nonfiction. 4.5 stars
- So Far From God by Ana Castillo. Fiction. 4 stars.
Yes, I'm an eclectic reader.
I want to know what you're reading!
Since you're reading this blog, I know you and I are, in some ways, kindred spirits. That means at least some of your favorite books have the potential to become my favorite books too. Please let me know, in the comments below, about any books you've read lately that took your breath away or made a difference in your life somehow.