My Top Ten Books for 2013

One of my personal goals from 2013 was to read at least four books a month.  I’m pleased to say I met and exceeded that goal.  I love to read – all kinds of books, from children’s to non-fiction.  But, like many of you, once I had kids, my reading petered out to almost non-existent.  Part of the problem is that I have a bad habit of staying up all night to finish a book I really love – especially fiction.  That habit is just not feasible with a full-time job and two kids – a tired mom isn’t a well-functioning mom!  Every time I succumbed I’d kick myself when I was groggy the next morning!

I did come up with a few successful strategies this year to combat my lack of reading:

  1. I didn’t finish books I didn’t like – this is a big one for me, but instead of plodding through something I wasn’t enjoying, I decided not to waste my valuable free time and I just stopped reading.  (I admit I might have skipped to the back to see how it ended!)
  2. I’m careful about when I read books I know I’ll have to finish – a good fiction book I want to enjoy?  I save it for a vacation, plane ride or the treadmill.  And then I don’t bring it back upstairs – on the treadmill it stays until I have time to walk again.  This actually worked pretty well and there were only a few nights last year I stayed up into the wee hours reading.
  3. I keep a book in the car – I spend quite a bit of time every week in the car pool line or at swim or gymnastics practice.    This was also handy for times that I was waiting at the doctor’s office.
  4. Borrow books from the library first.  This way I have a time limit to finish them – and if I really loved the book, I might decide to purchase it – but that is typically only for books that I wanted to read over and over, or cookbooks.
  5. I keep a book in/ near the kitchen.  When I prepare dinner, I can read a few pages while stirring sauces, chopping veggies, etc.

Thanks to tip #1, I enjoyed all the books I read in 2013 (full list is in my Amazon bookstore HERE), but here are my top ten favorites:

1.  Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist – I loved this book.  I found her series of essays on cooking, family and community inspiring and delicious to read. Her conversational tone of writing makes you feel as though you are a trusted friend sitting with her enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine.   As someone who loves to cook and loves to entertain, Shauna helped me remember that the point of cooking for others is the bonds it creates, not the perfection of the occasion.  So important.  As a bonus, all the recipes I have tried were delicious and easy.  I enjoyed it so much I purchased it soon after borrowing it from the library.  I’m looking forward to reading her other two books in 2014.

2.  Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach.  Another great book full of tasty recipes and wonderful tips.  Drawn from her wildly popular blog:  Dinner:  A Love Story, Jenny weaves her history of family dinners into the book beginning with a family of two, and ending with her current family of four.  All the recipes I have tried have been winners, and I love that she uses fresh, whole ingredients as often as possible, but admits that not every dish will be a winner for every family member.  Jenny also does something I have done with my kids for years – she has a “fancier” name for it – deconstructing dinners.  I just call it separating ingredients – regardless, it works!

3.  Power of a Positive Woman by Karol Ladd.  Looking for a great book to assist you with daily quiet times?  I love this book for focusing my mornings on enhancing the seven qualities that create a positive mood for myself and my family.  A positive mood can be life-changing both for you as an individual as well as for those around you.  This would make an excellent book for a small group or bible study.  Right now I’m working through her book Power of a Positive Mom and enjoying it even more!

4.  The Slow Down Diet by Marc David. I can’t tell you how much I love the principles of eating in this book (except for the last chapter – that one didn’t do much for me!).  It’s a great book to have on hand and read a chapter or two once in a while to help remind yourself that slowing down, consuming quality ingredients and enjoying your food will do more for your health and digestion than any fad diet currently in fashion.

5.  29 Gifts by Cami Walker is a wonderful reminder that giving to others will come back and bless you ten-fold.  Walking through her struggles with MS, Cami shares the wisdom given to her by an African medicine women.  Figuring she has nothing to lose, she follows the prescription and the results change her life and her attitude.  I keep this book on my bookshelf to read once a year and remind myself that giving to others is the best medicine for a happier life.

6.  Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott.  As my favorite childhood book, I’ve been itching to read this to my kids – I tried a few years ago, but they were still a bit young to follow along.  This year we tackled it again (and my daughter went on to read the sequel on her own) and all three of us were captivated by the story.  Having recently lost her father (who was her sole caregiver), Rose was sent to live with her Uncle along with her many Aunts and Cousins.  For a child used to a quiet, contemplative lift, this is quite the challenge.  Of course, the writing (and some of the beliefs) are a bit old-fashioned, but the story is still interesting and charming.  It will definitely stay on my list as a childhood (and adult) favorite.

7.  Divergent by Veronica Roth was a fun, quick  read.  As a Young Adult novel, the writing is geared towards a pre-teen/ teenage audience, but the topic is thought-provoking for anyone.  In this book, society is divided into five factions – each one focusing on a particular virtue – honest, selfless, brave, peaceful and intelligent.  The main character, Beatrice, discovers that she is actually divergent – has the traits of three of the factions.  She must keep this secret and decide where she best fits in society.  The story follows her decisions and some of the ramifications.  This is a series, and I have the next one on hold at the library – I’m curious to see how the plot continues.  If you enjoyed the Catching Fire or Matched series, you’ll probably like this one too.  Divergent will also be coming out as a movie in 2014, which is one of the reasons I included it – I personally always like to read the book before the movie!

8.  Sister by Rosamund Lupton.  If you enjoy a fast paced thriller,  this would be a good choice.  The main character Bee finds out that her carefree sister Tess is missing.  When she turns up dead by apparent suicide, Bee refuses to believe she killed herself and defies her family and local police to discover the truth.  What she uncovers is suspenseful with a nice twist at the end.  Great beach read.

9.  Fragile by Lisa Unger.  This thrilling novel examines the ties that bind us, how well we know our loved ones, and how far we will go to protect them.  Without giving too much away, the main character Maggie must ask herself those questions about her son and husband.  At the end, the reader is left thinking about her discoveries and how she dealt with them – an excellent choice for a book club.

10.  The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman.  I found the theme of this book both hilarious and thoughtful.  The main character, Brett, has what she feels is the “perfect life.”  However, when her mother dies, to gain her inheritance, Brett has to fulfill the life list she created when she was a teenager.  Along the way to reaching her goals, Brett discovers that maybe her life wasn’t so perfect after all, and her dreams as a teenager were actually better than what she created for herself as an adult.   I think we all from time to time think about how our life is different from what we once imagined, and it’s interesting to consider how things would turn out if we’d followed a different path.

So what were your favorite books of 2013?  I’ve already started my list for 2014, and would love more suggestions, so please share in the comments!

Is reading more one of your goals for 2014?  But feel like you NEVER have the time? If you want to create a healthy life that you love – and that includes time for what is important to YOU, contact me for a free Clarity Session – we’ll discuss your goals and dreams and you’ll leave the call understanding your most important goals!

Shared on Inspire Me Monday , Friendship Friday and Modern Mrs. Darcy