Wednesday, March 09, 2022

I have a new favorite author! (Becky Chambers)

author photo of Becky Chambers

I love science fiction. I love sci-fi movies, tv shows, and books: Star Wars, Star Trek (I am an equal opportunity nerd!), Doctor Who. I love time travel stories and space exploration, robots, A.I, and more!

So after hearing lots of people talk about loving the novella, A Psalm for the Wild Built, and reading the description**, I listened to it through my library recently and loved it! Then I decided I wanted to read more from this author. 

I have now finished reading the first two books in her Wayfarer's series and have determined that Becky Chambers is my new favorite author! (I have many favorite authors, it's allowed!) 

Here are my very short reviews Goodreads:

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Finished reading on 2/2/2022

**Official book blurb description** 
"Centuries before, robots of Panga gained self-awareness, laid down their tools, wandered, en masse into the wilderness, never to be seen again. They faded into myth and urban legend. Now the life of the tea monk who tells this story is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of "what do people need?" is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They will need to ask it a lot. Chambers' series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?" 

This book felt like a hug! The definition of a cozy, comfort read! I only wish it were longer and I can't wait for the sequels!

I also did not expect this sci-fi fiction novella to be so relevant to pastoral ministry!

Dex wants to be a tea monk and help people. On their first day of trying to actually do this, a woman comes to him crying because her beloved cat just died. If this passage doesn't speak directly to those entering some kind of pastoral ministry after seminary then I don't know what does:

"Dex realized with a stomach-souring thud that they were standing on the wrong side of the vast gulf between having read about doing a thing and doing the thing. They’d been a garden monk until the day before, and in that context, their expressions of comfort to the monastery’s visitors came in the form of a healthy foxpaw crawling up a trellis or a carefully pruned rose in bloom. It was an exchange expressed through environment, not through words. Dex was not actually a tea monk yet. They were just a person sitting at a table with a bunch of mugs. The wagon, the kettle, the red and brown, the fact that they were clearly well past apprentice age—all of it communicated that they knew what they were doing. They did not.

Dex did their best to look sympathetic, which is what they wanted to be, rather than lost, which is what they were. “I’m sorry,” they said. They scrambled to recall the written advice they’d spent hours consuming, but not only had the specifics evaporated, their basic vocabulary had as well. It was one thing to know people would tell you their troubles. It was another to have an actual flesh-and-blood stranger standing in front of you, weeping profusely as means of introduction, and to know that you—you—were responsible for making this better.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Finished reading on 3/1/2022

I have a new favorite author in Becky Chambers! I loved this story so much! There's this whole found family/chosen family thing going on which was lovely! I can't wait to read everything else she has written!


A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Finished reading on 3/9/2022

I wasn't sure about this one at first. It took a little bit for me to get into it because even though it picks up right after the first book ended, we are now following two characters we didn't get to know much in the first book, and leaving the rest of the crew behind. But before too long I was hooked and I was constantly looking forward to when I had time to listen to the audiobook. I can't wait to read the other two books in this series!

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Top Ten 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To (yet!)

Top Ten 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To (yet!)

  1. The Making of C. S. Lewis: From Atheist to Apologist (1918-1945) by Harry Lee Poe
  2. Living Brave by Shannon Dingle
  3. The Wisdom of Your Body by Hillary l. McBride
  4. Shoutin' in the Fire: An American Epistle by Danté Stewart
  5. The Deconstructionists Playbook: An Anthology edited by Crystal Cheatham and Theresa Ta 
  6. #ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing by Emily Joy Allison
  7. Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence by Diana Butler Bass
  8. If God Is Love, Don't Be a Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans by John Pavlovitz
  9. Five Things Biblical Scholars Wish Theologians Knew by Scot McKnight
  10. Five Things Theologians Wish Biblical Scholars Knew by Hans Boersma
  Connect with me on Goodreads to see what I am currently reading and keep track of the books you are reading, have read, and want to read: Jennifer's Goodreads Profile

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Favorite Memoir-ish Books I read in 2021

Out of the 202 books I read in 2021, 20 were in the Memoir/Biography category. 
Here are 10 of my favorites: 

  1. Wholehearted Faith by Rachel Held Evans with Jeff Chu (the first part of this is more of her theological memoir style, the second part is less memoir from what I remember.)
  2. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd                                                           ["The truth may set you free, but first it will shatter the safe, sweet way you live." See more quotes I loved here.]
  3. Outlove: A Queer Christian Survival Story by Julie Rodgers
  4. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
  5. As a Woman: What I Learned about Power, Sex, and the Patriarchy after I Transitioned by Paula Stone Williams
  6. One Life by Megan Rapinoe
  7. Save Yourself by Cameron Esposito
  8. Leather & Lace: A Gay Man, Lost Love, and a Road Trip With His Dead Sister by Matt Bays
  9. Affirming: A Memoir of Faith, Sexuality, and Staying in the Church by Sally Gary
  10. Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey

I pre-ordered Wholehearted Faith on audiobook and ebook because it is the last book (for adults) by the late Rachel Held Evans. The audiobook dropped into my audible app sometime after midnight on November 2 and I listened to the Foreward, the Introduction, and the Prologue before I fell asleep that night. I listened to chapter one on the way to my church internship that morning. (Which, by the way, if it wasn't for Rachel's earlier writings, I'm not sure I would even be pursuing my MDiv right now and working as a pastoral intern right now.)

I listened to chapter 2 on my way to my preaching class that night where I was preaching my very first sermon!

I listened to chapter 3 on my way home. Then between that night and throughout the day on November 3, I finished listening to the audiobook and highlighting so many passages in the ebook. I wanted to savor and devour this book at the same time. I wanted to cry, a lot.

Rachel's words continue to inspire me and resonate so deeply with me. Her heart for the marginalized is God's heart for the marginalized. I follow Rachel as she followed Jesus, with her whole heart. And my heart still hurts that she is no longer with us on this earth in physical form. Reading this book brings up my grief and my thankfulness for her life and work, for what God has done and continues to do through her words.
"For better or for worse, there are seasons when we hold our faith, and then there are seasons when our faith holds us. In those latter instances, I am more thankful than ever for all the saints, past and present, who said yes and whose faith sustains mine. They believe for me when I’m not sure I believe. They hold on to hope for me when I’ve run out of hope." - Rachel Held Evans

"My desire is that you face all your questions, all your conundrums, all your contradictions, boldly. I cannot guarantee you will retain the faith you inherited—I know that mine is not exactly the faith that my parents helped to instill in me—and honestly, a static faith or an unchanging one isn’t and shouldn’t be my prayer for you, because as we learn and as we grow, faith should evolve." - Rachel Held Evans


This is what I wrote right after I read Leather and Lace by Matt Bays:

I see some of my own story in Matt's. It's not the same exact story, obviously. I am a gay woman, for starters. But there were some things that resonated deeply. Like this quote: "hiding from yourself makes things all the more difficult to find. Nearly impossible. [...] Looking back, it's easy to see the truth. But when you are in an all-out war to be straight, you’ll forage for any clue that points in that direction. [...] I spent years complicating what would’ve been easy to know. But I didn’t have the tools to be honest with myself or others."

And this:

"My walk out of evangelicalism happened over a very long decade. At first, it was like coming out of a coma. Then once I was awake, there was sifting to do—fear to let go of, educating myself, new friends to find, and ultimately, the breaking away. When your entire life is defined by something this powerful, it becomes an amputation with ghost pains that can last a lifetime. Standing at the precipice, something was calling me forward. But leaving the place where I had lived for so long—that I was entirely familiar with—was a terrifying leap. Because there are some leavings we cannot get back to. While walking out on them, we are also abandoning a part of ourselves. And there is something sad about that. Because nothing in our lives is exclusively one thing or the other. In each segment, there is good and bad. Love and loss. And inhabiting the new places we’ve never been demands that we find out who we are there, what we will become, and how we will live." (Matt Bays)
So, what were your favorite memoirs you read this past year?

Saturday, January 08, 2022

2021 Reading Recap: Book stats, Graphs, and Charts!

2021 marked the tenth year that I tracked every book I read. The first year I did this I set my reading goal at a modest (for me) 52 books for the year because one book a week sounded pretty manageable. And the reason I decided to start tracking my reading was to help motivate me to read more than I already did.

2014 was the first year I started using a spreadsheet to help me collect and analyze more data than Goodreads allows. (Yes, I am an Enneagram 3, why do you ask?) Then, in 2019, I discovered that had a spreadsheet template with some built-in charts and graphs, beyond what I was already tracking. So I used theirs in 2020 and 2021 while modifying it to my liking. Here is a link where you can get their 2022 reading log template.

Now on to the nerd stats:

Number of books read: 202
Number of pages read: 43,364

Mode of reading:
Audiobook (76), Ebook (104), Print (22)
- Interestingly (to me, anyway), my audiobook format switched places with ebooks this year, (as compared to the last two years), probably due to an increase in ebooks read for seminary in 2020.

Compared to 2020:

Book Genres:
As in 2020, I read more nonfiction than fiction, whereas in previous years this was more of a 50-50 split.

More specific genres and categories I tracked:
C. S. Lewis Studies: 8 (these overlap with various genres)
LGBTQ Studies: 22
Seminary: 56 (these overlap with Bible & Theology, obviously)

Theology: 71
Bible: 26
Memoir/Bio: 19
Fantasy: 52
Science Fiction: 17
General Fiction: 6
General Nonfiction: 11

Male/Female Authorship:

This might be the first time I've read slightly more women authors than men! 

Books Read Per Month:
Read vs. Re-reads:
First time read: 172
Re-read: 30

(This seems back to my normal amount from last year where 46% of the books I read were re-reads.)

According to Audible, I listened for 19,114 minutes (318.5 hours) which is up from 279 hours in 2020. It means I averaged 52 minutes of listening per day. Of course, I wonder if that takes into account the times I'm listening at 1.5x speed or 2x speed. But it doesn't really matter. The top genres graphic confirms that I tend to listen to fantasy and sci-fi more on audio and other fiction. And if I'm listening to non-fiction it's probably a biography or memoir.

I intend to post about my favorite memoirs and other non-fiction in separate posts.

Feel free to tell me about your reading year in the comments or in an email back to me. 

If you are interested in reading progressive type theology books and discussing them with me and other people, click on over to this page where you can find out more about that and join the fun