grace + gravity

Books Books Books

In late December of 2016, I got a stomach flu that knocked me out good for a couple of days just before Christmas. Shortly after New Years, I got sick again with a nasty cold. I had exhausted my interests on Netflix, so I picked up a book instead. I was gifted Wild by Cheryl Strayed by my brother's new wife the previous May. I had read bits and pieces here and there, but hadn't made much progress because I simply couldn't find or make the time to sit down with a book and read more than a couple pages. I always ended up falling asleep or remembering something more important that should be done, or simply getting distracted. You all know how it goes.

When I picked that book up, sick, and cuddled into bed for a couple of lonely and quiet days, I felt newly determined to finish it. And I didn't just want to stop there... finishing that book felt so satisfying - a satisfaction I haven't experienced in so many years - that I promised myself to read more. I made a goal to read one book each month through 2017. That's probably more books than I've read in the last five years! I used to be such a voracious reader, and I really have missed it.

The Bad News

Turns out that reading that much is still challenging for me. I'm not a teenager any more: I can't sleep in until noon and then stay in bed reading until the wee hours of the morning every weekend. I struggle to find or make time to sit down and read a book even though I love physical books. The majority of my physical belongings (next to dishes and kitchen supplies) are books. So, only two of the books I finished reading this year were physical books (including Wild, which I counted because I read the majority of it in January).

The Good News

I didn't just read twelve books (one per month), I actually read twenty-three books!! Almost twice my goal! Right down to the final hours, too. I finished my 23rd book on December 31st, to complete my list. There were two months in which I didn't finish any books, but it was for good reasons - not because I wasn't reading. July was a really busy and difficult month. I was reading a physical book that I still haven't finished. In October I started the longest book I have ever read (and will probably ever read), and I didn't finish it until November, so it counted in November. I read a lot more in August and September while I was on my road trip, though. If hours listening to podcasts also counted towards my book list, it would be insane. But maybe that's another list and another post.

How did I do this without reading real books? Audiobooks. They are amazing. I started listening to them in February, while working in AutoCAD at my office desk, and then I took them on the road with me for days when I was tired of listening to all of my own music over and over again. For some reason, it is so much easier for me to listen to audiobooks these days, and I really love doing it! I don't think I ever would have tackled Atlas Shrugged in hardcopy, if I'm being honest...

From left: Hammocks are my favourite place to read; my hatch is my second favourite; in my grandparents backyard; while drying laundry in the desert.

2017 Book List

Okay, so enough with the small talk. Let's get to the book list, right? I'll include a short note if I have a strong opinion one way or another on each book in case you're curious, but feel free to ask if you have questions! There's a bit of everything in here - some sci-fi, some classic authors, some classic books, a little romance, and even some philosophy and self-help.

1. [ JAN ] Wild, Cheryl Strayed

2. [ FEB ] A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

Incredible storyline, beautifully executed. This was a recommendation from a coworker, and it's no wonder why she loves this book.

3. [ MAR ] Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequest

The first few chapters of this book had me fighting tears back while working at my desk in the office, however I found it to be much less relatable as it went on. It was more autobiographical than I expected - about a Christian, a mother, and a self-employed partner in a marriage. I am not any of these things. Still, an insightful book if you can read between the lines.

4. [ MAR ] The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman

5. [ APR ] Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood

I love Margaret Atwood and have read just about everything she has ever published, short stories and poetry included. This book is well written and deviously crafted, but I wasn't as enthralled by the storyline. 

6. [ APR ] The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood

7. [ MAY ] What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim, Jane Christmas

I actually hated this book. After reading Wild, and having Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart on my list, I thought this would fit in nicely. I found the whole story to be superficial, dense and dull, and just so so so nasty. I wrote a pretty extensive review of this book on Audible to warn anyone who might be looking for insight and self-reflection to steer clear of this book. Here's a quick snippet of what I wrote: "The author is a judgemental goon who spends more time ragging on the people around her than recognizing and admitting flaws within herself. It's no wonder she can't stand walking 22 km a day alone, she can hardly stand herself when she has no one else to criticize." That is pretty much what the whole book is, and it does not come to any brilliant conclusions. I wish I could have the 11+ hours I spent listening to this audiobook back.

8. [ JUN ] Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart, Carrot Quinn

9. [ AUG ] The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See

I absolutely adored the storyline of this book. There weren't necessarily twists or anything that I didn't see coming, but it was so well sorted and told that I loved it as if the whole book were a sweet surprise. Such an eloquent ending, excellent character development - I was so swept up in this story.

10. [ AUG ] Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

This book was magical, and I loved listening to it while on my road trip. I'm not usually into the sci-fi genre, but this book was so beautifully and intricately crafted. I was SO disappointed when it was over. I think there may be a sequel in the works, though?

11. [ AUG ] Rising Strong, Brene Brown

As a perfectionist who has spent the better part of a decade struggling to cope with stress, emotions and relationships, I learned a lot about myself reading this book. 

12. [ AUG ] In Bed With Mr. Wrong, Katee Robert

13. [ SEP ] Aleph, Paulo Coelho

Doesn't hold a candle to The Alchemist, but Paulo Coelho is a poet, even when he's writing books.

14. [ SEP ] Nico: A Mafia Romance, Sarah Castille

15. [ SEP ] 600 Hours of Edward, Craig Lancaster

I loved this story. I ended up so emotionally invested in Edward's story and motivations that I felt every up and down alongside with him. The narration (Luke Daniels) of this audiobook was also perfect; it really added to the story.

16. [ SEP ] Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

17. [ SEP ] Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

18. [ NOV ] Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

I don't know if I will ever be able to formulate a true opinion of this book (it's overwhelming), but if you have the time (I found a 54 hour audiobook version), it's definitely a worthwhile read!

19. [ NOV ] The Marriage Proposal, Katee Roberts

20. [ NOV ] Burial Rites: A Novel, Hannah Kent

Meh. It sounded fascinating and enthralling, but it lacked suspense and a climax in general.

21. [ NOV ] Why Buddhism is True, Robert Wright

I loved listening to this, especially at work. The author writes with excellent humour and relatable anecdotes. This is one of those books that will colour every day of your post-reading life. I am still thinking about it.

22. [ DEC ] Don't Let Go, Harlan Coben

23. [ DEC ] Reincarnation Blues, Michael Poore

2018 Books

If you're wondering now what I'm going to read or listen to in the new year, I have a list started for that, too!

1. Wonder, R.J. Palacio

2. The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers, Will Durant

3. At the Existentialist Cafe, Sarah Bakewell

4. Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset

5. The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman

6. The Radium Girls, Kate Moore

7. The Hour of Land, Terry Tempest Williams

And perhaps I will finish Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It's been a slow read for me simply because it has been so powerful. I can only consume small chunks of it at a time, and then I need to rest and digest. I'm in no hurry with it; good things take time, right?


Do you have any suggestions of books I should add to my 2018 list? Books you've read and love, books you think would resonate with me based on what I've read, or books you are dying to get to but haven't had the time? Let me know here or on Instagram!

Photos are my own. Please do not reproduce without my written permission.

First: Kananaskis 2017 | Second:  Reading locations collage 2017


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