3 Books I Finished Recently

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Welcome to my book update post where I share what books I finished recently + my honest thoughts and star ratings of them.

My Reading Goals for 2021

For 2021, I set a goal of reading 3 books per week —  1 fiction book, 1 non-fiction book, and 1 audiobook each week. I know this is an audacious goal, but reading is something I love and it’s a way I learn, challenge my mind, improve as a writer and communicator, and am refreshed and encouraged through inspiring stories.

I have a few shelves full of books (mostly that I’ve gotten free), so I decided to choose 52 books from off my shelf to read this year (see my list of 52 books I plan to read in 2021 here). I’ll also read other books that I find/am sent that pique my interest. Plus, I plan to go through a lot of audiobooks (I get mine free from the Libby app and just started trying out the Hoopla app).

Here are the three books I’ve finished recently…

Back Roads to Belonging

If you’ve struggled with loneliness or finding community, this book may be a real encouragement to you. The author, Kristen Strong, is a seasoned traveler on the road of learning to belong. She and her husband have moved many times in their marriage and she shares lessons she’s learned from loneliness, from being the new one in a group, from feeling rejected, and how to build deep relationships that actually last.

I would have loved the book to be a little more practical. It felt a little too memoir-ish to me, at times, and there were many chapters where I wished for more concrete ideas and suggestions. But I think Kristen’s story will encourage anyone who feels lonely and longing for belonging.

Verdict: 3 stars

Wonder

I read this book a number of years ago and loved it. Silas and I just finished reading it together for his summer reading project and I loved it even more — especially since the main character has cleft lip/palate and we could relate even more to him because of what we’ve walked through/experienced with Baby D.

This book sheds light on the importance of kindness, empathy, and compassion. And how our words and actions can make such a difference in someone’s life — both positively and negatively.

I wrote a review of the movie back when we saw it the first time in 2017. Here’s what I wrote:

We also saw Wonder (of course!) because you all know how much I surprised myself by loving that book this past year. I thought the movie was good, but the book was definitely better. There were certain parts in the movie where I felt they missed the mark on the depth that was in the book. However, I think it’s a movie that every young person should watch.

One thing I didn’t like was that I felt like they kind of encouraged bullying the bully. At one point in the movie, one of the kids says, “If I looked like {the bully}, I’d kill myself.” (The bully had said this earlier in the movie about the main character.)

When that line was said, there was a little sort of hurrah let out in the theater. Like a sort of, “Serves him right” kind of moment.

And it bothered me because I felt like it was almost giving off a message of, “Be kind, be kind, be kind… except when it comes to bullies.”

Even though someone might be acting like a bully, I still think we need to show them kindness and love. In fact, they probably need kindness and love the most.

That doesn’t mean that we let them bully other people, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to bully the bullies or say really unkind/hateful words toward them. Because there’s probably a lot going on beneath the surface or in their home or that has gone on in their past… they have a story and they need our kindness, too.

But other than that, I really liked so many parts of the movie and am glad we saw it. I guess I felt like the book had more of a “be kind to everyone because you never know what kind of battle they may be fighting” sort of mentality woven throughout it and I felt like some of that was missed in the movie — especially when it came to showing kindness to the bullies. However, maybe that was just my perspective! You are free to disagree! 

Verdict: 4 stars (Note: I edited some of the language in the book while reading the book aloud to Silas.)

The Nature of Fragile Things

This audiobook was set in the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It is the story of the impact that dishonesty can have and how friendships make such a difference in our lives.

On the one hand, the book left me guessing as to where it was going to lead and I found the story engaging. On the other hand, the story felt so unbelievable and dramatic in parts that it kind of was distracting.

I enjoyed learning more about the the earthquake and fires (there was a lot that I didn’t know about that time in history) and I enjoyed some of the development of the story… but ultimately, it felt kind of like there just kept being yet another dramatic event that it almost felt like whiplash. I think I would have enjoyed a slower story line with more character development and more historical tidbits thrown in.

Verdict: 3 stars

Have you read anything great recently? I’d love to hear!

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