You are what you read.

Our lives change when our habits change.

This year I decided to continue my resolution from 2016 to read at least one book each month. It was an easy decision because I truly enjoyed the time I spent learning new things from each of the books I finished last year. In 2016, I read (or listened to) eleven books. (If you missed it, you can see the list of books and read my thoughts about each of them here: New Year, New Books: 2016.) So far this year I’ve finished sixteen books!

I recently discovered this quote that perfectly summarizes how I feel about books:

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” —Charles William Eliot

It really is kind of amazing how you can create such a strong personal connection with a character or author just from reading. I learned so much from the books that I read as a child. I still cherish those books and the memories made with the characters. Whether or not I realized it at the time, I now know those books had an impact on my life and helped me decide what kind of person I wanted to be.

Books change our lives.

Last year I was listening to one of my favorite speeches by one of my favorite speakers, Matthew Kelly, who says, “Books change our lives. Books change our lives because what we read today walks and talks with us tomorrow. What we read today forms the tomorrow of our lives. We become the stories we listen to.” In the last year and a half I have truly made an effort to read books that I think will help me grow and become a better version of myself. Since I started this yearly resolution I’ve grown closer to the people in my life who make the same effort. We share our books and talk about the experiences we had while reading them. I am so thankful for those people because they inspire me to grow. I hope someday I’ll inspire others the same way.

Here are the books that I’ve read this year:

  • January:
    • Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by: Charles Duhigg
      • This book “explores the science of productivity,” and how changing the way you think can change your life. The author shares stories about four different groups of people and explains how changing the way they thought about things directly impacted their situations for the better. It was an interesting read and there are valuable lessons to be taken from this book. I will say that had I read the physical book and not listened to it through Audible, I think I would have struggled with finishing it in a timely manner.
    • After You: A Novel by Jojo Moyes

      • This book is the sequel to Me Before You, which I read last spring. If you read my last blog, you’ll recall that I had mixed feelings about Me Before You. In this book the author does a great job of seamlessly continuing Lou’s story. After You is written in such a modern and realistic way that it was easy to get lost in the story. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who read Me Before You.
  • February:
    • No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy
      • This book was really inspirational. The author shares strong statistics that prove the power of setting goals. He also shares good examples of goals that anyone can set for their professional and/or personal lives to then strive for and work hard to reach. My favorite statistic from this book is “Only 3% of adults have written goals and plans. This 3% earn more than all of the other 97% put together.” Studies show that those who set goals are more likely to achieve them, and those who do not set goals for themselves work for the people who do. Shout out to Amazon Prime for including this motivating audiobook in Audible Channels.
  • March:
    • The Moonlit Garden by Corina Bomann
      • Want to go on an adventure? Read this book! This was one of those books that you end up reading until midnight (or later) because you simply cannot wait any longer to know how it ends. The main character travels the world, meets new people and learns about the history of different cultures around her. If you have an active imagination, a love of history and passion for music you will enjoy this book.
    • The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
      • Anyone who was raised in a small town knows that when it comes to the lives of the community members, there are very few things, if any, that stay private. This book slowly exposes you to a tangled web of secrets from the lives of four people in a small town. The author shifts from one viewpoint to another, allowing the reader to see things from different perspectives throughout the book. I finished this book pretty quickly because the more you read, the more entangled you become. Much like The Moonlit Garden, I couldn’t put this one down.
  • April:
    • I’ll See You in Paris: A Novel by Michelle Gable
      • I actually started reading this book earlier in the year but (obviously) started and finished a few other books before I went back to this book and finished it. Once I read further into the book and let myself be pulled into the story I quickly finished it. This book is similar to The Moonlit Garden because the author takes you back in time to learn about the lives of a few characters 60 years ago in Paris and how their choices impacted the modern day characters of the book. I was excited to later learn that the author actually based some of the characters in this story from the past on real people. I love history and I love Paris so I was bound to like this book.
  • May:
    • Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert
      • This book was easily one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. I couldn’t stop reading it and I haven’t been able to stop telling people about it since I discovered it. You can practically feel the intensity of the relationship between Jason and JPII oozing from the pages. I wish I would’ve been able to read this book while I was in high school or college. Pope John Paul II was someone who influenced my relationship with God, even from across the ocean. His messages and encouragement were more important than I realized when I was younger. It’s amazing how much of an impact he made on the world and this book does a wonderful job of telling his story, though I am sure there is still so much to learn about him, his life and his legacy. I am eager to continue learning about him and the lifestyle that led him to become Saint John Paul the Great. This book is also available for small and bulk orders here:
  • June:
    • The Letter by Kathryn Hughes
      • I couldn’t put this one down. There’s a reason this book is a #1 bestseller. I wasn’t completely sold on it in the beginning but as I continued into the story the more entranced I became. This book fits in with a few others that I have recently read that entwine two different stories together from two different decades. The cover claims that this book is “guaranteed to break your heart.” While this story definitely has its ups and downs, I wouldn’t say it broke my heart.
  • July:
    • Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake Series)by Rachel Caine
      • To my surprise, this story begins in Wichita, KS. When the beginning of this story set so close to home I was bound to be hooked. This one is SUPER suspenseful. I actually started it, then let my Kindle read it to me while driving, and finished it as soon as I reached my destination. I often feel like stories today are predictable – but this one had me stumped. I was so enveloped in the story I actually felt like I needed to hide from the characters of the book in real life! This book offered an interesting perspective on the many ways that a person can be tracked, watched, and followed through technology today. I finished this book in about 24 hours because it was so suspenseful. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out in December!
  • August:
    • My Heart Will Triumph by Mirjana Soldo
        • MyheartWillTriumphI started reading this book on a plane while traveling for work and I was trying to hide my face because I had tears streaming from my eyes! Happy tears, of course, but I didn’t want everyone around me to feel awkward sitting next to a crying girl – ha! A friend (more like family member) sent me this book after she and her family read it. I have yet to receive a book from her that hasn’t changed my life.

          “My name is Mirjana. I’ve experienced visions of the Virgin Mary for over thirty-five years. I cannot say it more directly than that.”

          This book will touch your soul, move you to tears and bring you to your knees in prayer. The author, Mirjana, takes you through her life journey and starts by reflecting back on her 16 year old self when she saw Our Lady for the very first time. Her descriptions of these Marian apparitions are so intense and I feel blessed to be able to read the messages she was given. I couldn’t stop wondering how I hadn’t heard about these apparitions sooner. How could these events be happening in our modern day lives with such little attention from the media? I would challenge believers and non-believers alike to give this book a try. I think we can all learn something from these lessons – especially in the chaos of the world today. If nothing else, I gained a new respect for the rosary and a better understanding of the power of praying the rosary.

  • September:
    • P.S. from Paris (US edition) by Marc Levy
      • P.S. From Paris - Marc LevyDoesn’t the cover of this book just make you want to snuggle up in your lazy chair and listen to the rain fall while reading a good book? As September slowly but surely brought cooler temperatures, you could be sure to find me with my nose in a book. This was my Kindle First choice from August. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, I’m a total sucker for Paris and love stories. This one made me laugh and smile without being overly cheesy. Since then I followed Marc on twitter (heads up: most of his tweets are en français) so I can keep an eye out for more fabulous books from him in the coming year.
  • October:
    • Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel by Mark Sullivan
        • You might’ve already heard about this book. It actually made some headlines earlier this year. This was my Kindle First choice from April. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I read a lot – so I love being able to choose a book for “free” (as part of my Amazon Prime subscription – no such thing as a free lunch, am I right?) at the beginning of each month. This book is “based on the true story” of Pino Lella, a teenager growing up in Milan who is forced to enlist as a German soldier during WWII. This was another one of those books that I read, and listened to, because I could not wait to finish it. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that this book had already been downloaded over 250,000 times in just 5 months and will soon be made into a movie that I cannot wait to see. I laughed. I cried. I gushed about it to my family and friends. If you love history, you have to read this book. Romance? Read this book. Suspense? Read this book. Mystery? Okay, you get it. Read this book.
  • November:
    • A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang
      • A Beautiful Poison - Lydia Kang - book cover on my Kindle FireThis book was my Kindle First pick for July and once I started reading it I was upset with myself for not reading it sooner. I chose this book because of the decade that the story is set in and the New York location. I love everything “Gatsby” and this book fit right into that style. I was hooked from the very beginning! It is a beautifully written story. It’s very suspenseful while seamlessly bringing together numerous characters through one plot. I could not put it down and I also failed to solve the mystery before it was revealed by the author. I would definitely recommend this book to a friend. As you can see, it pairs well with hot tea and sweatpants.
    • Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
      • Pretty Girls - Karin SlaughterMy sweet friend Katie recommended this book. She sums it up pretty well, so I’ll just share what she told me: “It’s super dark, but once you get past that, it’s my favorite book that I’ve read in a long time.” I usually try to steer clear of books that I think might give me nightmares (which I already have plenty of) so I’m not sure I would have chosen this without her recommendation. By the time I realized how dark it is I was already at least a third of the way into the book. I feel like I’ve said this a lot – but this book had me COMPLETELY HOOKED. There was no way I was going to stop reading it. I don’t think I had any nightmares related to the story so if you’re a baby like me – read on! What starts out as a love story, transforms into a tragedy and then into a thriller that will have you attempting to read faster than you ever have before. I couldn’t agree more with the review on the cover. This book is: “stunning… certain to be a book of the year.”
  • December:
    • Beautiful Hope by Matthew Kelly,‎ Fr. Mike Schmitz,‎ Archbishop Jose H. Gomez,‎ Pope Francis,‎ Dr. Allen R. Hunt,‎ Sr. Miriam James Heidland,‎ Fr. Jacques Philippe
      • Ahhh, the holiday season. My favorite time of year! With December comes Advent and with that comes the Best Advent Ever program offered by Dynamic Catholic. This year I wanted to follow along by reading their book of choice while watching the daily reflection videos. As you can see, this book has multiple authors. Each chapter is written by a different person who shares a unique experience from their life. This book is meant to be read slowly, once a day, throughout the four weeks of Advent then reflected upon. Even though Advent is over, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has been feeling discouraged or frustrated. Beautiful Hope was refreshing. Simple yet powerful. How lucky are we to have faith strong enough to move mountains? This book came just in time to celebrate Christmas with grateful heart and a beautiful hope for the new year.

This post got a little lengthy but THANK YOU for following along with me throughout the year! I think I might try to find a different way to reflect on my books in 2018. Maybe a new post for each month. If you have any books to suggest, please leave your recommendations in the comments. Happy new year!

4 Replies to “You are what you read.”

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