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 bookriot.com 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

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Favorite Fiction Books I read in 2021

I met my ridiculous reading goal of reading 200 books again in 2021. I actually read 202. Here is the link to my super nerdy post with charts and graphs from my reading spreadsheet tracker.
Anyway, out of those 202, 75 were fiction, and out of those 75, these were my top 10 favorites. Well, I left off the C. S. Lewis books I re-read this past year which are obviously still my favorites (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, which I re-read again in December). 

Here are ten of my favorite fiction reads from 2021:

  1. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  2. The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
  3. The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  4. The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  5. The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  6. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
  7. The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster
  8. The Neil Gaiman at the End of the Universe by Arvind Ethan David
  9. Lumberjanes, Vol. 11: Time After Crime by Shannon Watters
  10. Lumberjanes, Vol. 14: X Marks the Spot by Shannon Watters
This was my second or third time reading through The Lord of the Rings trilogy, this time I listened to them on audiobook. The only other re-read was the short story, The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster. It was originally published in 1909 and it amazes me that a story from over 100 years ago basically predicted the Internet and so many of the things we use it for today!

The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig was my favorite new fiction book I read in 2021. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a new fiction book this much. It might have been Dark Matter or Recursion by Blake Crouch. I love the premise and I love the way it unfolds. I just loved it from start to finish!

This is the blurb about the book from Goodreads: "Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices... Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?'

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe, there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place."

The other book I want to highlight is Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, first published in 1970. A dear friend of mine told me this was one of her favorite books and recommended I read it and I loved it so much! It is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. This allegory/fable reminds me in some ways of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Here are just a few of the quotes that stood out to me:

"Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight – how to get from shore to food and back again, for most gulls it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight."

“He spoke of very simple things- that it is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form.

"Set aside," came a voice from the multitude, "even if it be the Law of the Flock?"

"The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other.” 

So, what were your favorite fiction books you read this past year?