Recap: January Book Summaries

January’s books for the month started out the year well with a lot of five star ⭐ reviews. I read a thriller, two romantic comedies, a fable on finance, two on topics of anxiety and depression, a literary fiction best seller, a book on psychology, and one on creativity. Five of these were on my January Reading List which are indicated below with an * beside the title. The rest were just fun additions I read since I had additional time in the month to read them. I’ve included my ratings indicated by ⭐s below as well as a few notes on each book. My favorites have been added to this list on Amazon.

#1 – Fighting Forward* – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This one is from one of my favorite authors, Hannah Brencher who also wrote Come Matter Here. She writes a collection of stories with tips to help overcome fear and anxiety. She talks about what to do when you don’t even know where to start.

“Because there’s one thing about God and pain: He never plans to leave you just as you are. You’re far too precious to him not to upgrade you, to swap out parts of you for a newer model. When you know stories about the dark, you become a light to others. You get to show the way.”

“…I think God uses the winters and the dark night to do something he cannot do when everything is good and fine and beautiful. He has our attention. He’s on the move.”

One of the helpful stories she shared is to look for ravens and to record them. Counting the ravens is the concept of seeing the ways that God provides for you daily that are unconventional. This can be someone texting you out of nowhere to check in, a nice day outside, a full night’s rest, or just a cup of coffee. She encourages us to record those daily provisions and joys so we can look back and see the evidence of God in those moments. Counting the ravens is our reminder that God is good and he’s there, even when it may not seem like it.

#2 – Tools of Engagement – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have a Libby subscription from the Library so I can read whatever is available for free and I love it. In between heavier books or longer ones, I love to read something that doesn’t require much thought. That’s this one. It was a romantic comedy that was entertaining and not as “typical” as other storylines as it followed two people flipping a house together and the main character, Bethany’s struggle with the constant need for perfection. It’s not one that changed my life, like some others this month but very entertaining for what it was.

#3 – My Name is Hope* – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the fourth book I’ve read by John Mark Comer. I appreciate his insight as an author, even when I may not fully align with what he says. I like that he gives me a new perspective of something I hadn’t heavily considered before.

This book is all about anxiety and depression. It goes through Psalm 42 and Psalm 30 and what we can learn from anxiety and depression in those psalms. He gives tools to recognize where you are, to talk about what may have caused those shifts in your brain, what it looks to repent, to share the struggle with others, and to pray through your experience.

I have personally had my battles with anxiety and depression and found this to be helpful just to consider where it stems from, what I need to acknowledge about my thoughts while going through them, but also to remind myself that even those we consider incredible biblical figures struggled with these thoughts too.

I don’t think this book is for everyone who struggles with anxiety and depression. I would recommend it for those who are mentally fit enough to be able to read this and understand that battling against these issues is a process, and that this book will not “fix” them. It just gives helpful insight and information in the process.

#4 – The Richest Man in Babylon* – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I listened to this on on Audible and then read the book because I know I’ll want to review it again in the future. This is a collection of parables about managing money and building wealth. It was written in 1926, so a bit older but still very valuable. I would recommend reading this one over listening to it as there are quite a few characters, and sometimes I was trying to remember who Arkad was versus Nomasir. I’m sure reading it would have been much easier. It’s a pretty short book and the parables are a great way to learn through stories.

#5 – The Midnight Library* – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was more of a “makes you think” fiction book than the romantic comedy earlier in the month. The main character early in the book decides that she no longer wants to live and enters into this space between life and death. While there, she has the opportunity to move between lives she could have lived if her decisions were different. The story makes you consider your own choices, and if you are living your life for yourself, or if you make choices for other’s benefit. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it at first, but read it in about two days and it was worth all the stars I gave.

#6 – The Guest List – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was another fiction book but was more on the thriller side. There is a wedding happening on an island off the coast of Ireland. While that may sound beautiful and green, it’s more of a cold, dark vibe that you get from the island. The story is told through various guest perspectives and it all surrounds a murder that’s taken place. I don’t often read this type of book, but was intriguing and I read it on the Libby app pretty quickly.

#7 – Man’s Search for Meaning* – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was by far the best book of the month because it’s one I keep thinking about. I had heard this book referenced in different bible studies I’ve done as well as in other books and decided to finally just read it since I’d appreciated anytime it was referenced and what was shared from it. Most of the book is stories about Victor E. Frankl’s experience in concentration camps during World War 2. He is a psychiatrist so the stories are viewed through his lens of learning and knowledge, so he not only shares what happened, but about the way those experiences shaped himself and others.

“But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.”

I listened to this book while also following along in the physical book. I did this because this is the best way for me to pay attention to each word. This book is heavy, yes, but it’s worth the heartache as you read these stories.

#8 – Well Played – ⭐⭐

This one is another romantic comedy. I read the one that comes before it about a Renaissance Faire in a small town and the individual’s stories that take part in putting the Faire together. This one was okay, the first one was better. It felt slow and drawn out and predictable.

#9 – The Practice – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book was different than I had expected. I initially listened to it on Audible and started taking lots of notes so I realized buying the book to come back and reference would be helpful. The format in which it is written is a collection of 219 ideas on creative work. Some appear as lists, others have images, and most are short musings on a topic. This is the part of the list of creative tips on the inside cover of the book:

  • Skill is not the same as talent.
  • A good process can lead to good outcomes, but it doesn’t guarantee them.
  • Perfectionism has nothing to do with being perfect.
  • Hubris is the opposite of trust.
  • Attitudes are skills.
  • There’s no such thing as writter’s block.
  • Professionals produce with intent.
  • Creativity is an act of leadership.
  • Leaders are imposters.
  • All criticism is not the same.
  • We become creative when we ship the work.
  • Good taste is a skill.
  • Passion is a choice.
  • Creative is a choice.
  • Avoid certainty.
  • Pick yourself.

And many more. I found these little tidbits of expanded thoughts so intriguing as I navigated Seth Godin’s writing. Whether your job requires creative work or you enjoy sharing ideas or making things, this book is a short but impactful read for any creative.

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