January Books: Turtles All the Way Down and Till We Have Faces

Turtles All the Way Down was recommended to me by Lauren, who told me it was the most influential book of 2017 for her. I can’t say it was quite an impactful for me (easily Daring Greatly) but it was educational and thought-provoking.

The premise is the main girl has debilitating OCD, which affects every aspect of her life. It was rather uncomfortable to read, because I kept wanted to say, “Gahhh just stop! Be normal!” But mental illness is not a choice; nobody wants to be controlled by his or her mind. But tragically millions of people are. Compassion is the answer.

For some reason I can’t get a photo of the cover of Till We Have Faces to load… So sorry about that.

Till We Have Faces was amazing.

It’s a retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, and CS Lewis spins in all kinds of new levels of doctrinal insight and beauty. If you’re unfamiliar with this myth, the super watered-down version is Psyche is extremely beautiful, and the goddess Venus gets jealous, so she commands that Psyche be sacrificed to her son Cupid. But then Cupid falls in love with Psyche, but Psyche isn’t allowed to see his face. Then her sisters come to take her away, and they tell her she should light a lamp so she can see his face when he’s asleep. She does that, and he wakes up, and she is banished forever.

The main character of Till We Have Faces is Psyche’s sister Orual, who is not beautiful. The story is told by her, and it’s her journey of realizing that she doesn’t actually see anything the way it really is. We have to gain experience in order to see clearly, and won’t be able to really see anything until we “have faces,” or come to the other side and look back.

I was overcome with my deepened understanding of the doctrine of mercy after reading this book. Lewis is a master at teaching allegorically.

September books: Daring Greatly and Worth the Wrestle

Great month for books!

DARING GREATLY, by Brene Brown

Just wow. Of all the books I’ve read, save the Book of Mormon, this book has been the most life-changing. I am so grateful for this book. A few key lessons:
1. Being brave is worth it, no matter the outcome.
2. The only opinions that matter are those of people with you on the field.
3. The antidote to foreboding joy (aka horriblizing) is gratitude


This book was also beautiful. The title comes from the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon, when he “[wrestles] with God” because of a question he has. The topic is timely, because the Church has begun encouraging questions more than ever. Although I don’t really have doctrinal questions, I do have questions about God’s plan for me. We can wrestle with Him about that too! He wants us to engage in the wrestle. It’s worth it.

August Book: The Glass Castle

The film of “The Glass Castle” recently came out, and due to my policy of always reading the book first, I obtained a copy and devoured it.

The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeanette Walls about her life growing up with an alcoholic father and a slightly crazy mother. It’s pretty intense, and definitely not light or enjoyable. However, I found it informative, emotional, and in some ways beautiful. Life is hard, but the human spirit is capable of incredible resilience.

The movie was fine. I liked the book waaay better.

July book: To Kill a Mockingbird

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a goal to reread everything I was forced to read in High School. This month I chose one of the first books we studied in 9th grade Honors English, and oh my goodness.

I remember liking it back in 2006, but the world sure was a different place a decade ago. Reading it in 2017 was an entirely different experience, and I think 100% of adults living in the US should read it before the year ends. I don’t think there could possibly be a more timely or important book, besides maybe the Book of Mormon. The issues discussed are SO RELEVANT today!!!! I literally thought racism was a problem of the past the first time I read it. Boy was I wrong.

This is a message that I think we would all do well to remember, brought to us by the ever-insightful Scout: “I think there’s just one type of folks: folks.” We’re all humans; all children of God. The color of our skin means nothing.

Reading this book again was a true joy, and it’s made it to my top 10 all-time faves.

June Book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Hi friends! So I’ve been MIA for the last month because I treated myself to a European trip (my first time!) as a reward for successfully finishing my first year of teaching. It was amazing, Finland was my favorite country, Europe>America, and I literally slept for 12 uninterrupted hours last night. It’s good to be back.

This particular trip afforded me with ample time in airports and on trains, which means I read quite a bit. The book I finished yesterday in the Reykjavik Airport is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance– my dad’s favorite book. I now know why it’s his favorite.

The premise of this book is a father and son on a cross-country motorcycle trip. The father shares his thoughts on proper maintenance of motorcycles, which is actually a metaphor for our lives. He also discusses quality in depth. Really interesting.

I found myself silently sobbing to myself in the airport yesterday, surrounded by hundreds of people that had no idea about the journey I’d just taken. Books are like that. You finish, and it’s hard to believe that no one else knows what you’ve just experienced. Reading is the best.

May book: The Happiness Project

Okay, so I actually started reading this book about 9 months ago, but I finally finished it this month! I guess that kind of makes it sound like a boring book, but it’s really not. It’s well-written, engaging, interesting, and practical. By that I mean it could literally change your life.

The premise of this book (as you’ll see from the cover) is the author, Gretchen Rubin, writes of her experience spending a year trying to be happier. She deliberately focuses on one aspect of happiness each month for a year. Fun read, good stuff.

April Book: Catch 22

Ugggggghhhhhhhh. I did not enjoy this book.

Catch 22 is a WWII novel, set on an island in the Mediterranean Ocean. It’s pretty much the story of Captain John Yossarian, and I don’t even have anything of substance to share. I don’t feel like I’ve been changed by reading this book, and I can’t say that I enjoyed any of it.

In summary: this is your warning. Read it if you so desire, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

March book: Princess Academy

Okay, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read this book! It was first published in 2005, and I feel like I’ve been hearing about it every since. But for some reason I never got around to reading it… Until now!

Brief background: Miri is a young girl living with her father and sister on Mount Eskel. The king’s priests divine that someone from their small village will be the prince’s bride, so all the eligible young maidens are sent to an academy to learn how to be a princess.

What I loved: A ROCKSTAR FEMALE PROTAGONIST. Miri is everything I could hope for in a heroine. She’s flawed but still lovable, she’s got a boy but he’s not a big part of the story, she’s strong-willed and kind. Big fan.

February book: Rising Strong

Brene Brown is quite literally changing my life.

This month’s book was her most recent gift to the world– Rising Strong. It’s a book about getting back up after falling down, which inevitably happens when we’re being brave and vulnerable.

Some highlights:
“The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our lives.”

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole more more acceptable, but our wholeness– even our wholeheartedness– actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”

“Regret is a tough but fair teacher. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life.’

“Connection doesn’t exist without giving and receiving. We need to give and we need to need.”

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”

“The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.”

“The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”

And then this BEAUTY:

So the essence of the book is to be mindful about your emotions, and really think about WHY you’re feeling/ reacting a certain way, rather than letter an experience or reaction define you. She talking about “rumbling with our stories” and getting curious about emotion. I love it.

January Book: The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown

Just finished this AMAZING book by Brene Brown, which explores the keys to Wholehearted living. As you know, I struggle with perfectionism. This book opened my eyes to where perfectionism may have its roots (shame) and how I can overcome it and live more authentically.

Here are some highlights:
*”Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. And the world could stand to be a little kinder and braver.”

*”Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment or receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”

*”Practicing self love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves.”

*”The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

*”Our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together.”

*”Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities.”

*”Tolerance for disappointment, determination, and a belief in self are the heart of hope.”

*”Overcoming self doubt is all about believing we’re enough and letting go of what the world says we’re supposed to be and supposed to call ourselves.”

*”Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Here’s to cultivating hope!