I’m curious: when you are contemplating buying a book / reading a book / or passing along a book title to a friend, what elements are needed to call it “a good book”?
As a child I loved to read, and now as an adult I love to read. There are a few things that have contributed to this (growing up in a home where reading was enjoyed + encouraged; being a naturally curious person), but I also believe it can be pursued as an adult by finding books on topics you naturally enjoy. I’ve seen the latter come to fruition with my husband, and it’s so neat to see.
So let’s discuss what makes “a good book”?
Do you want to get lost in the story line, or relate to an experience? Do you want to change something about your life, or learn something? How about the emotional aspect: do you want to learn, cry, laugh, or simply keep your mind off something pressing in your life?
In April I published a post of book titles worth sharing, and to me these are all “good books”. But the longer I thought about this shared list and my heart behind WHY I wanted to share them with you, the faster I realized this post deserves a follow-up on why I enjoyed these books.
Here is one of our bookshelves. We have a smaller one in my girl’s shared bedroom and another large bookshelf in our basement playroom. Eye spy a bedroom pillow on the floor! My three older children have been enjoying a few living room slumber parties, hence the pillow off to the right. This blog really shows my real life! :)
But what about the idea of quitting a book? Sometimes I read a book and before I even make it half-way I decide to put it down. To continue reading feels like a poor use of my time — and this is coming from someone who happily underlines sentences, circles paragraphs, and adds personal notes or exclamation marks in the margin. I find immense value in a good book! I love to read and grow, but I am not reading to waste my time.
WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR IN A BOOK:
With this in mind, “a good book” is one that challenges me to think differently; to grow in wholeness in a topic.
A good book is one that sparks imagination, takes me on an adventure, sparks creativity and/or contemplation. When I read, I desire to learn something, to be changed in some way. Can you relate?
Reading, the gathering of words and the lacing of emotion & thought, has the ability to grow us intellectually. I can’t think of a single topic or life lesson that can’t be traced to originating from a book.
Do you invite reading into your life? I read at various times of day: in the early morning, after lunch, while dinner is simmering, in the evening. Sure, sometimes I fall asleep. No, I don’t often read for long stretches of time. Yes, I read aloud to my children and we prioritize books over electronics. But despite the short windows of time or heavy eyelids, I keep trying.
The visual this gives my children, that reading is exciting and enriching, is important to me! So, keep trying I do.
One of the greatest gifts we can provide our children is the ability to read (and read well), for through reading comes an ocean of ability. Naturally, I love this concept… our children will rarely “choose books” when both screens and books are offered as activity options. Because of this we moved our television from the living room to our basement play room, and now the focus in our living room is our large bookshelf. And my plants (ha, ha).
8 RECENT BOOKS ON MY DESK + WHY I ENJOYED THEM:
Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship by Ruth Chou Simons
– This book was a book club read, and is packed full of stories, practices, scriptures and Ruth’s watercolor art. From the back of the book (why re-write what’s already perfect?): “You are in the process of becoming. Every day is an opportunity to be shaped and formed by what moves your heart…drives your thoughts…captures your gaze. Is it any wonder that where you direct your eyes and your heart matters in your day-to-day?” This book promises to work hard at directing your spirit to Christ.
Mere Motherhood: morning times, nursery rhymes, and my journey towards sanctification by Cindy Rollins
– The laughter and tears and head-nodding certainly abounded with reading the memoir, Mere Motherhood. This was another book club read. Cindy writes, “[Motherhood] is a walk of joy that often includes tearing off the old dragon skin one painful layer at a tie, made all the worse because you didn’t even know you were wearing dragon skin. No one ever does.” If you want to tuck yourselves under the wings of a gracious mother-wonder who speaks scripture over story, as balm to the reality of motherhood, pick up this book and begin immediately.
The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
– Hygge, prounounced “hoo-ga”, is the practice of inviting comfort into your home and life. Written from the perspective of the Danes, famously the happiest people in the world, this small-but-mighty-book packs a lot to think about! I enjoyed it as a fun read to pick up over the course of a few weeks. Adoringly illustrated, inside you’ll find all sorts of ideas for inviting comfort into your gatherings, meals, clothing, home decor, including a few ideas for hygge outside the home, on the cheap, and even during the summer months. The simple practice this book punctuates is very appealing to me as a “feeler”. When life as a mother feels all-consuming, how can I (at appropriate times) soften the workload? I enjoyed this book very much.
Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover
– An eye-opening story of a young girl raised in the mountains of Idaho with a mother who practices midwifery, a father who is undiagnosed with poor mental health, and the deafening silence of her parent’s presence. Tara and her many siblings were raised without any formal education and very little heath care, yet the path she finds herself on to becoming educated is fascinating and inspiring. A highly-recommended read.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story Between Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis by Patti Callahan
– Where historical fiction meets memoir, this is the love story between an American poet and a British writer (and lay theologian). I particularly enjoyed reading some of Joy’s thought processes as she struggled to sell her writings, mother her two boys, and grow in knowledge of her faith. Rather quickly we are offered a window peek into the life of C.S. Lewis, and from there I was hooked.
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
– This book is a re-read for me. Sally’s writing has always inspired me to think thoroughly with how I mother, parent, and treat my friends. In Own Your Life, Sally reminds us as Christians we have agency over our lives. We have the ability to see beauty and purpose (even in our ordinary days), map out our life purpose, rest in the Transcendence of God, become whole by applying the fruit of the Spirit, and love well. I particularly love Sally’s reminder that the Lord gifts us with the Sabbath, and that every good work she has ever accomplished has been fueled by filling her mind & heart with the Word of God.
Big Dreams, Daily Joys by Elise Blaha Cripe
– For years I’ve admired Elise’s successful ability to try new things, track the progress, and get things done. When I read her writing I am motivated and challenged to “show up & work hard”. In this book, Elise complies nearly 60 “pep talks”, offering her wisdom, humor and (honest to goodness) practical suggestions to implement right now. A few chapter titles that resonated with me: Stop reinventing the wheel, Determining your priorities, You’re in charge; not the computer, and When to do when you have too many ideas. I was thrilled to finish this book, and I have no doubt I’m going to reference Elise’s book for years (and projects) to come.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
– My husband and I read this book with our small group at church. While it’s a meaty book, full of research and practical application, the author walks you through some of his thought processes, which I very much enjoyed. Inside you’ll learn about the four practices of Jesus Christ: silence & solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and slowing. Comer invites us to adapt these practices while sharing insight and how-to resources. As someone who constantly feels the pull to “hurry up!” and “accomplish more so I am validated”, I loved this book. Since finishing the book, my family has been practicing a weekly Sabbath, and I can honestly say it’s given us “new life” to the life we’ve been given.
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How would you answer the question, “What makes a good book”? What are you reading, and what’s on your “next up” list?
I hope to see you in the comments.
It’s pretty fantastic having you around, forever silently beckoning me to be a reader too.
Leaders are readers.
Yes, sir! ;)
Maggie, you have asked some really hard questions, haha! I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days and have been trying to come up with an answer. I hope you’re ready for a novella because I think that’s what you’ve invited ;)
I’ve always been a reader and it’s really hard to describe what I love about reading. I read much more fiction and am completely drawn into good stories that are well told (I’m stealing a little from Anne Bogel, the Modern Mrs. Darcy, with that line). I recently recommended Jayber Crow to you and I’m going to use that book to help me describe what I love about reading.
– I like it when I feel like an author has peered into my soul. Although very different people, Jayber Crow and I are kindred spirits about things that I didn’t know other people even recognized. I can’t describe how many times my eyes grew wide and I shouted YES!! EXACTLY! while reading this book. Jayber’s doubts about life and his feelings about authority — all while still being a mild mannered and kind soul really spoke to me. Also – the feelings that Jayber shares about gardening and what it adds to a person’s life were so in line with my own thinking.
– I like it when an author has taught me something about life. There’s a scene in Jayber Crow that I think of constantly as a mother. I don’t want to give too much away in case you decide to read the book, but it describes the last moments a mother has with her child and the mother’s lifelong regret: that she was annoyed by the child’s constant chattering. And it was just a mild annoyance that we all have as mothers, but that’s what this mother remembered. So when I’m feeling that annoyance with my own children, somehow I always flash back to that scene, take a deep breath, and smile into that feeling and do my best to enjoy the moment rather than feel frustrated.
– I like it when an author has given me hope. I struggle with religion and faith. Like a lot. Jayber Crow does too. Yet, throughout his life, Jayber finds ways to feel comfort and hope during this struggle. And through Jayber’s story, I feel like the author has given me tools to find comfort and hope as well.
– I like it when I feel like a book should be returned to every decade. I borrowed this book from the library but I ordered my own copy as soon as I finished it. And I kicked myself for not buying my own copy from the beginning because I would have filled that baby with notes and exclamation points and underlines. And then in ten years when I read it again, I can see what continues to resonate and what new things bubbled up for me. It’s one of those books that offers so much wisdom and insight into our lives that it’s hard to unpack it all without some lived experience of it. So I’m planning to read this again in several years and see what else I can uncover.
I hope this wasn’t too much and that it sort of answers your questions about what I love in a book. Thanks for the thought-provoking questions!
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