Reading Challenge 2016


While I may not have quite achieved my other 2016 goals, I was pretty dedicated to advancing my reading list. In 2016, I read 11 complete books as well as half of two books. In Haley math, that means I achieved my 12 books in a year goal… So here is my celebratory recap:

1. 7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas

In the past couple years, I’ve read three of Mr. Metaxas’ books and I have enjoyed them all. I had been eagerly awaiting this one as I feel his books have been pretty male-heavy. The book gives brief (10-20 pages) summaries of the lives of seven inspiring women including Joan of Arc, Hannah More, Rosa Parks and Corrie Ten Boom. I was particularly taken by the recounting of Sister Maria of Paris, a drinking, smoking, divorcée who became a nun and eventually a saint. Overall, it was a great follow-up to Seven Men (which I read last year) and I enjoyed getting a peek into the lives of several women the world doesn’t talk much of anymore.

2. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories by the famed Bradbury. It gave both a fun and a harrowing look into the effects humans could have on an inhabited Mars. If you like science fiction (and even if you don’t) it’s a good book to keep on hand if you ever have time to kill.

3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My sister got me this novel for my birthday and I was frankly surprised how good it was. I’d heard lots of good things, but the author usually writes sappy love stories with thin plots, which is typically not my style. The Nightingale is anything but. Showing a side of World War II I haven’t really explored, it follows two sisters who choose different paths during the war. One tries to avoid the war while raising her family without her soldier husband, the other thrust herself into it by becoming a spy. Though the stories aren’t real, it was a thrilling and captivating tale.

4. Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin

I threw in a book on strategy this year (which might become a tradition for me in the future) in order to refine my approach to ideas and business. As a professional in a creative industry, these books aren’t super applicable, but I believe are necessary in order to understand how business works (or should work) on a basic level. The book could do with a writer’s touch, but overall delivered a great approach to strategy development that really works.

5. On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae-Lee

I’ve been wanting to read this book for about a year and tried to get my 2015 book club to read it without any luck. It was well worth the wait. Set in a not-so-distant future where labor colonies have been set up in a declining America, the story follows a teenage girl who, after her boyfriend mysterious disappears from her colony, sets out to find him on her own. It is poetic and harrowing and fascinating. It also mentioned bubble tea a lot (who can argue with bubble tea?).

6. Shades of Grey by James Fforde

Not to be confused with 50 Shades of Gray, this book details a society set up in a caste system determined by the colors you can see. These color abilities determine everything, from who you can marry to what job you can hold. With Purples leading the system, the lowest people on the totem pole are Greys. A little confusing at times, this is an interesting take on a totally different way to set up a culture.

Note: my sister-in-law gave this to me for my birthday. Thanks, Laura!

7. John Adams by David McCullough (1/2)

Ever since I was little I have loved John Adams. 1776 was one of my favorite musicals. I own the HBO mini-series. He is my favorite Founding Father and President. Abigail is my favorite famous female. So I figured this year I’d actually confirm that I like ALL of what Mr. Adams stood for. I’ve made it about halfway through the 600+ page book. To be honest, I stopped right when he becomes Vice President because even John thought that time of his life was pointless. However, everything I read leading up to it reminded me of how much I love the Adamses. I hope to finish the book in 2017 and confirm once and for all that Mr. A rocks.

Note: I hate that Hamilton: An American Musical is so mean to John Adams. Give him a break, guys!

8. The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I wouldn’t have read this, but Amazon gave it to me for free and I am so grateful. Told from the perspective of four neighbors, this book details the changes in a community after a terrible accident occurs at the neighborhood pool. It is sweet and chilling and inspiring. I read it in less than a week.

9. Made to Crave Devotional: 60 Days to Craving God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurst

This past summer, I met weekly with two lovely women in a season dedicated to discussing our struggles with disordered eating, reconciling it with our relationships with God, and supporting each other on the journey to a better relationship with food and our bodies. Our meetings were great. The book, however, I found lacking. I chose this devotional because I thought it could be used for any kind of disordered eating and was disappointed to learn it was geared toward weight loss (which was not exactly what we were going for). That being said, I’ve heard that the book version is better suited for what I was wanting. Anyway, it shared some good biblical truths that led to some great discussions.

10. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

If you know me, you know I love Ender’s Game, but I was always hesitant to read the sequel because everyone told me it was “different.” Well, different or not I love this book. It was great to be thrown back into the Enderverse for the first time in years (I do NOT count seeing the film version) and getting to experience a grown-up Ender. Card gets very head-y in this book, but overall is an interesting look at human/human and human/alien interactions.

11. Devotions For a Sacred Marriage by Gary L. Thomas

Neil wanted us to do a devotional for our first year of marriage and it was really neat to be able to read and discuss each chapter together every week. Gary Thomas does a great job in providing encouragement as well as challenges to help make your marriage meaningful and prosperous while rooting it all in biblical truth. Whether you’re a newlywed or going on Golden, it’s a great reminder of God’s plan for marriage and how we can help keep our marriages intact and our spouses thriving.

Note: I’m cheating a bit here, because Neil and I started reading this in September 2015, but I’m counting it for 2016 because this is my blog and I can do what I want.

12. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Yeah, I know. I went back to the Enderverse. Speaker for the Dead reinvigorated my love for Ender and his new crew. Xenocide continues Ender’s story but this time the stakes are much higher. This book really got me thinking about how we’re naturally afraid of people/things “other” than us and what “other” really means. I think it also goes way harder on the science fiction spectrum than the other two books, so if you’ve gotten this far hang on and stick with it. Looking forward to finishing the quartet this year!

13. The Corrections: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (1/2)

As my Booksgiving book this year, I’m technically supposed to have finished it already, but I made it halfway and that’s going to have to be okay. Neil picked it out for me because TIME listed it as of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923 (according to Wikipedia and another source Neil found). I’ll admit I was hesitant. It’s not my typical fare and it’s been harder to get through than most books I read this year. However, I am glad to be reading it. Not only is it stretching me in regards to genre, but it’s giving me an interesting look at American life in the early millennium. About a complicated and broken family set right before the most recent economic slump, its social commentary reminds me a lot of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (one of my favorite plays). We shall see. If anything, I’ll be able to say I’ve read one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923…

What did you read in 2016? Have you ever read any of these? Let me know!

12 Books A Year


2013 marked the first year I indulged in New Year’s resolutions. One of my resolutions included the challenge to read (at least) one book a month. Though I’m an avid reader, this proved harder than I thought. But, two days ago, I finished my last book of 2013.

Books Read in 2013

1. The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien

This was my first foray into the written world of Tolkien. I undoubtedly think Tolkien is a literary master and fantastic storyteller; however, I lost interest in the story once I realized that Bilbo lives because he needs to be in the first three movies.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Believe it or not, I had never read this classic. My being homeschooled in junior high seems to have deprived me of this little gem. I read this book in three days. A beautiful story which argues that pain is worth remembering.

3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I received this as a birthday gift and I couldn’t put it down. This book tells the story of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who investigates the death of his neighbor’s dog. Through his journey, we learn of his troubled family and his unique perspective of the world.

4. As Sure As the Dawn (Mark of the Lion #3) by Francine Rivers

This is the final installment of a trilogy my sister got me into. I typically stay far, far away from Christian fiction, but this series caught me. It’s a must read for Christian females who love historical fiction or romance or seeing God work through people.

5. Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott-Card

Ender’s Game is probably my second favorite book of all time, behind Orwell’s 1984. Ender’s Shadow is a companion novel and follows the exact time frame as Ender’s Game except through Bean’s perspective. It’s just as good as Ender’s Game, providing an outside view of the boy who could save us all.

6. Crazy Love by Francis Chan

I read this as part of my small group. It’s a pretty popular choice in the Christian world, with some controversy, of course. It speaks to how we should love like Christ loves, which should make us look crazy to the outside world. Some good nuggets, but overdone in my mind.

7. The Chosen by Chaim Potok

I found this book at Half Price Books in the sale section for $1 and it has become one of my favorites I read all year. I was introduced to Potok in high school when I read “My Name Is Asher Lev.” The Chosen chronicles the lives of two American Jewish boys during World War II: a Hasidic Jew who is destined to be a Rabbi, but doesn’t want to, and a Modern Orthodox Jew who is destined to be a mathematician, but wants to become a Rabbi. Just read it.

8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I needed a break from the density of The Chosen, so I went with a Young Adult novel. Don’t let the tagline of the soon-to-be-released film based on the book fool you, this is not just a “sick love story.” The book follows Hazel Grace as she battles with not only her cancer, but also questions of life, death, and what it means to love someone. The book could have come across as cheesy if it weren’t for the charming and often darkly hilarious snark that spews from both Hazel Grace and her love interest, and fellow cancer victim, Augustus.

9. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

I found this book abandoned atop a trashcan at my friend’s apartment complex over a year ago. Spurred my recently discovered love of science fiction, I decided to give this one a go. Much more philosophical than I expected, it follows a one-armed mechanic and his super computer “friend” as they try to declare their moon colony’s independence from earth. Filled with questions of government power, free-will, the definition of family, human rights, and what it means to be free, this book took me on a much more cerebral ride than I necessarily wanted. But it was definitely worth it in the end.

10. Matilda by Roald Dahl

I wasn’t allowed to see the movie when I was little, so I never read the book. After reading the book, I have no clue why I wasn’t allowed to see the film, unless it’s because Matilda disobeys her parents (the reason for the banishment of The Little Mermaid from my household). Go figure.

11. A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler

Upon hearing that I needed a December book, my boss dropped this puppy off at my desk. Needless to say, I felt compelled to read it. It’s not really the kind of book I would have read on my own, but it was nice to shake things up a bit and try something new. The book follows the life of the black sheep of the Gatlin family tree as he tries to find meaning in his own life outside of the pressures of his family dynasty.

12. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

This was both the first book and last book I read in 2013. It took me the entire year to finish, but that means I got to sprinkle bits of Bonhoeffer wisdom throughout my year. A German theologian during World War II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer championed the Christian faith, discipleship, and doctrine when the German church did anything but. This lead him to join the conspiracy to kill Hitler, which he was ultimately executed for. A brilliant, humble, Godly, and inspirational man, and a must-read for any Christian.

Phew. If you read all that, I commend you. But I also challenge you to pick up a few books in 2014. I enjoyed the challenge so much that I’ve decided to do it every year. I wonder which 12 books I’ll read next…

Found Friday: November 15, 2014

Found Fridays

As mentioned in a previous post, I am an Internet Explorer. And every Friday I’m going to start sharing fun things I’ve found on the throughout the week. Partly in a celebration of knowledge, partly in the hopes that some of y’all will know what I’m talking about if I bring these up in random conversations. What can I say? I’m selfish.

1. Actors Breaking Character On Set – a neat look behind the scenes of classic movies.

2. Myers-Brigg Accessories – as most of you know, I love MBTI (I’m an INTJ). This site has some fun, although goofy, mugs and things to help you show off your personality type.

3. Dinovember – every November, these parents try to convince their kids that their toy dinosaurs come to life when they are asleep. Adorable.

4. The Art of Book Dedications – I found an article that mourned the dying art of the book dedication and the stories they tell. This led me to this quaint blog of, well, book dedications.

5. Why Lemony Snicket Is Awesome – my sister shared this one with me. The author’s response to his books being destroyed for crafting purposes reminds me why I love his work so much.

6. 20 Things I Should Have Known at 20 – a man gives advice for young adults. A good read.

Viewers Like You (Not Me)


I never really considered what would happen if I didn’t have cable. I just knew I’d save money on monthly bills and a new TV set. I figured that if I could live for four years in a residence hall with only one TV available, then I could handle having no TV at all. So far, it has been almost three months since I began life without television. Although I found it slightly irritating that I happened to choose to forgo television during an Olympic year and I had to beg my friends to let me watch The Tony Awards on their TV set, I’m frankly surprised how little I miss it. The only access to TV I’ve had has been at the gym and in the lunch room at work, and even then, I barely watch it.

Not having TV has provided me with many benefits and a few challenges. First, I have been forced to find my own news.Not having the benefit (or, as I’ve come to view it, the curse) of TV news programming has provided me the opportunity to seek out several sources, mostly online, for information on current events and public opinions. At first, I thought I would miss out on what was really going on in the world, but I realized that I’m actually getting a more well-rounded understanding of the world because I’ve been reading several sources (of differing views), checking my facts, and observing public responses. Actually, I’ve found that I have begun to trust TV newscasts less and online sources more. I feel that I’m becoming more educated because I have to seek out the news rather than have it presented to me.

The lack of television has made me more fully aware of silence. And I’m learning to enjoy it. At home, the TV would often be on in the background as ambient noise or I’d watch TV while eating dinner or just turn it on when I was bored. Now, I eat dinner in my apartment in silence – something I’m actually enjoying. It’s amazing the things you can hear when you listen. For instance, I’ve come to love the calming sounds of a clock ticking. I’ve also discovered my Betta fish, Hamlet, will knock against his glass fish bowl when he’s hungry (usually it’s when I’m eating in front of him…). But ultimately, I’ve come to enjoy getting to know myself in the silent times. I can hear myself think. And I’m learning to listen.

No TV means no instant entertainment, right? Wrong. It means I can finally do what I’ve always looked forward to after college: read for fun. Oh, how I missed reading! I have a reading list 25 books long and growing every day. And TV was standing in the way. Before, I would just plop myself in front of the TV when I was bored, numbing my mind with pointless programming that I didn’t care to watch anyway, telling myself I could read later, that I was too tired to read right now. But now, it’s basically the only thing I can do when I’m by myself (other than coloring and impromptu show tune singalongs – but those are for “special” occasions). I think I’ve read about seven books since moving into my apartment. And that is awesome. I’ve been able to make a dent in my list and open my mind to new ideas as well. I thought that I’d miss college because I’d miss learning, but I had forgotten how much I could learn from books, and I’m happy to have remembered.

In all seriousness, I plan on getting cable eventually (and a TV with a DVD player so I can finally watch movies on something other than my laptop). Till then, I plan on getting as much out of this television-free period of my life as possible. Who knows what’ll happen?

Note: Some people might think that not having a television is ludicrous for someone working in the advertising industry. First – I had an ad professor in college who refused to let her kids watch TV so it’s not unheard of. Secondly – I watch commercials on YouTube for fun, so there!

Lessons Learned From Lemony Snicket


While the rest of my generation was locked in their rooms living off of Dunkaroos and 3 hours of sleep trying to read the latest Harry Potter book, I was pouring into the lives of three Baudelaire orphans and the series of unfortunate events that befell them after the most curious death of their parents. Carefully documented by the mysterious Lemony Snicket (AKA author Daniel Handler), the series filled my childhood with odd characters and bizarre eccentricities, a word which here means a man of indeterminate gender, an elusive and secret organization, and a ghastly child protective system. I began The Bad Beginning when I was 11 and finished with The End as a junior in high school. I cherished those unfortunate years and can assuredly say that they helped define who I am today. I learned a lot from Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, and owe my extreme love of words (and rather large vocabulary) to Mr. Snicket himself, but the following is a list of the top twenty lessons I learned from Lemony:

20. If Pasta Puttanesca is ever on the menu, order it.

19. Teeth are always good substitutes for knifes and other sharp objects.

18. It’s better to be “out” than “in”. See: Parsley Soda.

17. It’s hard to think with hair in your face.

16. The Dewey Decimal system should never be used to design the floor plan of a hotel (nor in a library if you can help it).

15. When you meet someone new, always check for tattoos.

14. Triplets are insulted if you call them twins, even if their triplet is dead. To be safe, assume everyone is a multiple.

13. Spiral notebooks are the shizz. See: the Quagmire Triplets.

12. Klaus Baudelaire might have been the coolest savant ever.

11. The law is never helpful because “Justice” is far too gullible.

10. Best Assassins: Leeches

9. How to successfully disguise yourself as an office plant, how to hide children inside a fountain, how to escape a forced marriage, and how to elude impromptu brain surgery.

8. If it’s written with alliteration, don’t go near it. See: the Miserable Mill, the Grim Grotto, and Lachrymose Lake. All bad places.

7. Best Location For A First Date: on a cliff on the side of a slippery slope. What happens on the cliff, stays on the cliff.

6. It takes a village to permanently scar a child.

5. If you have a relative named Montgomery Montgomery you should probably go live with him, then purchase a really expensive security system and some super huge body guards. Actually–scratch that. Change your names and move to a different hemisphere. Oh, and bring the snake.

4. Adults are stupid. Never become one.

3. The Volunteer Fire Department is really part of a secret organization.

2. Horse Radish is the culinary equivalent for Wasabi. A very useful tool for cooking or random trivia games.

All these things are true and very helpful indeed. But of all the things I learned from my time with the Baudelaires and the many people they loved and lost along the way, there is one thing that is more valuable than the rest. And that is this:

1. Life isn’t fair. So, be satisfied with unhappy endings and unanswered questions. Mourn the loss of friends and celebrate the gain of new ones. Use the talents God gave you and always help those in need. Explore all options and never give up hope. After all, life is just a series of unfortunate events and it’s up to us to find the light in the darkness, the calm in the storm. When you find it, you’ll know.

The world is quiet here.