On Reading

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Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. {Stephen King, On Writing}

I have been doing a lot of reading lately.

Reading has got to be one of my favorite hobbies, and one that I have neglected this past year. Anyone remember the book reading challenge I was doing? My goal for 2010 was to read 35 books I’d never read before…I failed. This year, I have not set a number, but I think I may have already exceeded last year’s number.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorites so far…

1. On Writing, by Stephen King

I read this book in one day. Nuff said. Ok, I’ll tell you a little more. Part memoir, part writing class; I was hooked from the beginning. A number of people have said this is the one writing book you should read if you’re serious about writing. My thoughts are this is a book you should read, period.

2. One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

Where King’s book is “on writing,” Ann’s book is “on gratitude.” King uses his life experiences and lessons to teach you how to write a better story, Ann is doing the same to lead you to a better relationship with God. The first chapter had me crying. The second chapter really made me think. I can’t wait to see what chapter three brings. What I’m really enjoying about this book is that (In)Courage is going through it as part of their first Bloom book club. What does that mean? Hundreds of other women are reading this book at the same time as you, and you can all discuss it together on the message board. Also, Ann has filmed a short video for each chapter, along with Angie Smith and Jessica Turner, where they discuss the chapter. When else do you get to walk through a book with the author? I would encourage you to join up, we’re only on chapter 2, because it has really been a unique experience.

3. Made to Crave, by Lysa TerKeurst

One of the sacrifices I knew this year would include was related to my eating habits. God is forcing me to look at “why” I am eating, not just “what” I am eating. Then I began seeing people talking about Lysa’s book. I’m so glad I bought this. I’m only in chapter one, and already what she’s said is so applicable to what God is already doing in my life:

With Jesus, if we want to gain, we must give up. If we want to be filled, we must deny ourselves. If we want to truly get close to God, we’ll have to distance ourselves from other things. {Lysa TerKeurst, Made to Crave}

This is just in the introduction! And can you see how it corresponds to more than just dieting? There are so many things in our life that we can turn to instead of God. I would recommend this book for anyone who feels like they’re fighting a losing battle with their temptations.

4. A Deeper Story

Ok, this isn’t a book, but you really need to check out this blog! It is a collection of some of my favorite lady bloggers, and they’re talking about the tough things in life and faith: divorce, death, cursing, self-criticism, hatred, politics, sex, aging. They aren’t pulling their punches and the comments sections are full of life and truth. When I grow up I want to write like them…

::

I didn’t really talk about the fast much this week, so I thought I’d put a little recap up here. Basically, God is teaching me to lay my expectations at His feet. I had a plan for how I thought these three weeks would go; things have not turned out as planned.

When Josh and I committed our evenings to seeking God together, I secretly thought it would foster lovey-dovey feelings right in time for Valentines Day and our 10-year anniversary. Ha! We have discovered that when you invite God into your life to shake things up and draw you closer to Him, He takes full advantage of that invitation. He’s cleaning out the stuff we shoved under the bed. Our conversations have been painful, raw and healing.

The main thing we learned this week is that what you might view as an attack from the enemy could actually be God stirring up the depths to bring the broken, flawed and harmful things to the surface. It’s not fun, but it’s healthy.

What are reading now, or have read lately?

If you’re fasting, what did God do in your life this week?

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46 Comments

  1. bennettaj says:

    You have some good tastes! Ann’s book is on its way to me. I’ve heard a lot about Made to Crave but haven’t yet gotten it. I think my sister has it and I need to ask for her copy! I just put King’s book on my wish list!

  2. Moe says:

    I’m currently reading “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand. What an exceptional book. Wow!

    I haven’t read Ann Voskamp’s book, but she has a great blog and read it often.

    As for God? He’s doing great things this week. From encouraging me, to opening my eyes to the needy and to pray for my brethren.

    1. Melissa says:

      That sounds like a book that my husband would love!! I need to check that out. I read Ann’s blog occasionally. She’s a great writer, but I think I’m a little more prosey than she is. I get lost in her imagery. Haha! Thanks for sharing what God’s doing in your life, Moe! I love that.

    2. Keri says:

      Moe, did you know that book is #1 on the NYT Bestseller Non fiction list??? You’re soooo cool.

      1. Moe says:

        I did. With a perfect 5 out of 5 stars from Amazon. Book is the real deal. They are making the movie. Should be good.

  3. Dustin says:

    Melissa, reading new books did so much for my walk last year. I felt like I read so much more last year than I had any other year.

    Right now, I’m reading “Hole in the Gospel” by Richard Stearns. Very challenging pieces on how to put your faith into action. My favorite book that I read last year was “Chasing Daylight” by Erwin McManus. Loved this from cover to cover- talked about passions, trusting God, and seizing opportunities.

    1. Melissa says:

      I have had Richard Stearns book sitting on my bedside table for at least six months now. I have yet to get past the first chapter; not that it’s bad, I just haven’t had the motivation. How has it challenge you so far?

      1. Dustin says:

        To be honest, yes – I’ve had it for 6 months and read a chapter here and there… I think because it’s just so meaty. There is just so much to think about, along with being just a bigger/longer book!

        1. Melissa says:

          Glad I’m not alone in reading it at fits and starts. :) I know that Jason is doing a book club discussion of it on his blog right now. I fully planned on participating and just…didn’t. :) I’m thinking about reading it and going back through his archives to see what others had to say about each chapter.

  4. Levi says:

    I’m reading more than I have in years… because I’m back in School. But, I have a unique opportunity only taking two classes in that I am actually READING all of these books. I’ve read “The Pursuit of God” and “Knowledge of the Holy” by Tozer – both of these are short, to the point and poetic books about the essentials of knowing God; I’ve read “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence – such simplicity has never been so challenging; I’ve read “The Spiritual Disciplines” by Donald Whitney; and I’m currently reading “The Spirit of the Disciplines” by Dallas Willard and “Courage and Calling” by Gordon T. Smith – both of these books are practical yet have big hearts.
    Fasting has been going well – I’ve been more attentive to pray, however, I have not been keeping pace with the “Prayer Points” offered by Glenn Burris. Christy and I have been praying mostly for our friends and family.

    1. Melissa says:

      You just reminded me of the Tozer book I downloaded on my Kindle for Mac the other day. I need to read that too. :) Those are some heavy books, Levi! I really want to check out that book by Brother Lawrence. Which of these books do you think you’d read even if you weren’t in class?

      Josh and I have not been keeping up with the prayer points either, so I’m glad to hear we’re not the only ones. So here’s a question for you, do you think that fasting made a difference in your prayer or that it just focused you more on your need to pray. If you had committed yourself to concerted times of prayer would it have made a difference if you weren’t also fasting?

      1. Levi says:

        Alright, I just finished “The Spirit of the Disciplines” – It was mostly about a philosophy of why spiritual disciplines are practical and applicable, with only one chapter specifically devoted to several disciplines. There was a lot that I really liked, but some things I flat-out disagreed with… I’m trying very hard to be teachable and allow God to show me things I think I know that are wrong.

        What books would I read even if they weren’t assigned? Well, specifically I intend to revisit both Tozer books as they put certain spiritual truths in a certain way that made them really come into focus for me (e.g. the chapter titled “The Gaze of the Soul” in “The Pursuit of God”). But, I would say that the Brother Lawrence “Practice of the Presence of God” is the one that I wish I had deeper in my soul earlier in life. It is SUPER simple, mostly the account of a fellow of his about conversations they had together along with some letters Brother Lawrence wrote to another person. And, he says the same thing OVER AND OVER, but, at least for me, it was the type of simplicity I needed. The repetition served to keep me focused on the main thing, and not “move on to the next thing.” There’s some theological quirks of a 17th century monk, some things that some evangelicals would gape at, but the real heart of this short book is in its demonstration of a man who simply loved his Savior.

        1. Melissa says:

          I’m adding that Brother Lawrence book to my Amazon wishlist! I need the repetition because I’m a fast reader and I find I can walk away missing alot. My comprehension of the overall picture is good, but I miss the smaller details. I think that’s why I can reread my books so frequently. Josh and I read some from “The Pursuit of God” last night. I really liked it, and I’m hoping we read more tonight.

          When I was in the DCP at Life I found that I heartily disagreed with some of the books they required us to read. A couple of them made me flat out pissed off. I guess it’s good to read books like that every so often, because it forces us to discern what we’re reading and focus our beliefs.

          1. Levi says:

            FYI – the brother lawrence and the tozer stuff are available for free in PDF form online.

            1. Melissa says:

              Thanks, Levi! Where can I get them?

              1. Levi says:

                Brother Lawrence – http://www.jesus.org.uk/vault/library/lawrence_practice_of_presence.pdf

                Tozer
                Pursuit of God – http://www.jesus.org.uk/vault/library/tozer_pursuit_of_god.pdf
                Knowledge of the Holy – http://www.mtzionnashville.org/2009/ministries/tozer_KnowledgeOfTheHoly.pdf

                And a bunch of others at this site – http://www.jesus.org.uk/e-books
                I’d recommend:
                St Augustine: Confessions
                St Bernard of Clairvaux: On loving God
                GK Chesterton: Orthodoxy
                Thomas a Kempis: Imitation of Christ
                Kierkegaard: Provocations
                Brother Lawrence: The practice of the presence of God
                Ignatius Loyola: Spiritual exercises
                John Milton: Paradise lost Paradise regained
                Watchman Nee: The normal Christian life
                A W Tozer: The pursuit of God

    2. Keri says:

      Second Melissa’s thoughts-those are some heavy, heavy books! I really want to read Willard’s work on Disciplines.

  5. jasonS says:

    I keep waiting for my life to slow down so I can read more, but it might be time for plan B. :) Sounds like some good material you’ve read! Thanks Melissa.

    1. Melissa says:

      Plan B, that’s another book I have that I haven’t read yet. :) Haha! What would you read if you did have time, Jason? What kind of genre do you prefer?

      1. jasonS says:

        When I do read, I read leadership, productivity, Christian living, and that kind of stuff. I’ve really been drawn to start reading fiction again and poetry because I love writing both and want to do more of it.

        1. Melissa says:

          I saw that you were starting to write poetry on your blog, that’s so cool! I have never really “gotten” poetry. Last year I bought a “beginner’s” book on poetry to ease my way in, but it was one of those books that fell to the wayside. Maybe I’ll get to it this year. Who’s your favorite poet? Do you have any suggestions for me?

          1. Keri says:

            Poetry is super deep. I love it, but I have a hard time reading it on my own. I need a group to get through it. he he he

            Melissa, do you read Michael Perkins blog? He writes some cool poetic stuff, too.
            http://theperkinsblog.net/

            1. Melissa says:

              I do! I love his blog. That’s actually where I got the idea for the handwritten post I did last month. :) Maybe we need to start a poetry book club, Keri.

          2. jasonS says:

            I’m most definitely not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. More than anything, I just like how I can express things differently through poetry. I just won Maureen Doallas’ book of poetry from Katdish so I’m excited to read that. I read poetry in my lit classes in high school and college, but never really developed ‘favorites.’ Anyway, I think you should totally jump in! :)

            1. Melissa says:

              Oh, no. That’s too scary. :)

              I never studied poetry or anything in school and I am afraid of doing it wrong. Plus, I feel like if I wrote poetry people would think I’m trying and then I’d feel embarrassed…too much truth? I can be vulnerable and honest in prose, but I don’t want people to make fun of me when I’m trying.

              Maybe I’ll just write a little bit over here in a corner of my journal where the light of day never shines. Then after a few years I’ll let people peek in. That’s what happened with writing. I’ve been journaling consistently since I was 8-ish, I didn’t start my blog till I was 28. So in 20 years I’ll show my poetry. Haha! :)

  6. Craig says:

    Steven King – too scary. Ann V. soaking it up. Lysa Terkeurst – on the list. A deeper story – for reasons you may or may not no – it is a place I do not tread.

    And you – I read you :) and…

    I’m really glad I read you today.

    God Bless and Keep you and yours

    1. Melissa says:

      I agree, Stephen King is scary, but “On Writing” is not. I highly recommend that to you, Craig. :) I get why you would not go to Deeper Story, it is really more focused towards women and I commend you for that decision. Maybe you should start a site like it for men…I know of some very talented male writers (many of them in these comments) who should be highlighted in something like that. :) Just a thought.

  7. Keri says:

    Oh, guess what? I just got an email from the library that “On Writing” is waiting for me at the hold shelf! So, looks my weekend will look like yours last weekend! :) Honestly, I don’t read a TON of non-fiction because I find the genre very repetitive. Someone will take ONE idea, one sentence, and write about for 200 pages. Just because you have a profound thought, doesn’t mean you should write an entire book about it. Okay, sorry-venting! I find that the best non-fiction books are the older classics. Been holding onto The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis and I really need to just read it already! As for fiction, some of my all time favs are Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns (I would read this one every year if I had the time and emotional guts to get throught it) and Anna Karenina.

    What you said about the painful, raw and healing conversations…wow! That is brutally honest and I appreciate your sharing that, Melissa. Marriage is such hard work. I’m finding that at this point (we’re nearing the 11 year mark), there is a lot of stuff under the bed. :( So easy to put it there when life is so crazy and hectic. But, I’m finding that there is a lot of mold growing over that stuff. We need to clean it out! I pray that God would bring wisdom, restoration and renewal to your relationship. That He would place new lenses over your eyes with which to see eacother, from His perspective. I can’t wait to meet you guys someday! :)

    1. Melissa says:

      Yeah! I can’t wait to hear what you think about it. I loved it. :) And, yes, I totally agree with you on the non-fiction thing: “Just because you have a profound thought, doesn’t mean you should write an entire book about it.” Haha! True.

      But…people aren’t reading Lewis, Tozer, and the others. I think that’s why I failed on my challenge last year. I was reading all of these books that people said were life changing, and I was bored. I wanted more meaty reads. I love fiction; I do read Pride & Prejudice, David Copperfield, Scarlet Pimpernel, Count of Monte Cristo and more at least once a year. I guess my fiction tastes need to translate more to my non-fiction tastes. Haha! You must read the Great Divorce! It is one of my favorites by Lewis.

      Thank you for your prayers, Keri. Interestingly enough, as difficult as it has been, we’re both so joyful about it. God is weeding out what needs to be fixed to prepare us for what He has ahead. It’s exciting! And I pray the same for you and Mike in your relationship. :)

  8. Brandon says:

    Great post! I have read a lot of books in my life, but here are 2 of my favorites!

    1) Do Hard Things
    2)Guerilla Lovers

    Have you read any of these?

  9. Tony Alicea says:

    I love that you and Josh have been hitting those deep heart issues. So much beauty is going to come out of that!

    It’s funny that you mention your challenge because I’ve challenged myself to 35 books this year as well. I’ve read 4 so far and working on 2 more. I hope I didn’t jinx myself.

    As far as books, I’d HIGHLY recommend “The Art of War” by Steven Pressfield. It’s about overcoming your creative battles but seriously if you read it through spiritual eyes, that book is about spiritual warfare. Definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read.

    1. Melissa says:

      I think part of my problem in my challenge last year was that I wanted to read 35 books I’d never read before. C.S. Lewis said, “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” Now, I’m not sure if he’s talking about a newly written book and an older book, or if he means a new-to-you book and a familiar one. I’m taking it to mean the later. I guess either way I agree with him. :) I got bogged down on new knowledge and bored. I wanted a familiar old friend to chat with. I’m a huge re-reader. So, that’s partly why I failed. The other reason, I think, was all of the craziness of 2010: my grandma passing away, followed by Josh’s grandma passing away, followed by the birth of Silas, followed by traveling for my brother’s wedding, followed by… you get the point. :)

      So, all that to say, “Good luck on your challenge!” And I am definitely planning on reading “The Art of War.” I was actually debating between “On Writing” and that one, but King won out. I am even more eager to read it after what you have to say with relating it to spiritual warfare. Thanks, Tony!

  10. LS says:

    1. you already do write like them. . . {wink}

    2. ‘The main thing we learned this week is that what you might view as an attack from the enemy could actually be God stirring up the depths to bring the broken, flawed and harmful things to the surface. It’s not fun, but it’s healthy.’

    the truth in that statement is beyond measure. . .and scares the living daylights out of me. it reminds me of job and the line my counselor repeats weekly, “anything that can be shaken, He will shake.” praying for you and josh and desiring that same stirring and shaking in my own heart through this fast. . . .

    1. Melissa says:

      Thanks, Lauren! I have been keeping you in my prayers as well. And I don’t just say that, I mean it. :)

  11. Danielle says:

    Ann’s book and “Made to Crave” seem to be “it” books right now in the blogland that I surf through. :)

    I’m reading Ann’s book and fiction-wise I’m loving “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” I kept seeing it around but every time I read about it, it just didn’t seem that interesting. Well, I was wrong and it IS!

    Just finished a fabulous autobiography of Patricia St. John, author of “Treasures of the Snow.” Sadly, I don’t think the book is in print anymore.

    1. Melissa says:

      I know, right? Sometimes that turns me off a book, but I’m actually finding the two books worth the hype. :)

      I have never even heard of that fiction book. I must check it out now. Thanks for the recommendation.

      1. Danielle says:

        She is the author of children’s books mostly. Great read aloud books! Check them out for sure!

  12. newsong40 says:

    Hey Melissa, I love that you’re reading more than one book at once. Whenever I tell people I do that they get this weird, blank look, like I said “sometimes I put my head on backwards just for kicks”! I try to explain “Well, you know how sometimes you’re part way through a biography but it’s just getting a bit heavy and you think ‘I need some fiction now’, or you just need a little skinny book to slip into your purse when you know you’re going to be waiting in line somewhere that day…” Their blank looks just get blanker and blanker!

    So I’m reading a biography of Beau Brummell – just because it looked up at me from the bookshop shelf and said ‘hey, why not try me?’ – Culture Making by Andy Crouch, CS Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my purse book), Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ (cos someone suggested Hemingway in one of those ‘what should I read to improve my writing?’ conversations), and various other things I dip in and out of.

    Just ordered ‘Never Let Me Go’ online, because I saw the movie last night and it’s stunning, and going to order the Stephen King book you recommended now.

    Thanks for sharing. Love your blog!

    1. Melissa says:

      People give me that look when I say I like to reread my books. I didn’t realize that was strange, why else would you buy them instead of checking them out from the library? :) What an interesting collection of books you are reading. I’ve never heard of Beau Brummell (gotta check that one out on Amazon), or the book by Andy Crouch. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is one of my favorites, I love that scene where Eustace sheds his dragon skin. I read “The Old Man and the Sea” when I was in high school, and I remember liking it.

      Thanks for sharing all your current reads. :) I love discussions like this.

      1. newsong40 says:

        :) me too!!
        Beau Brummell was an Englishman who lived int he early 19th century and was one of those people who just happened to be in the right places at the right time, with the right personality that he totally captured the imagination of a generation. He’s known for being the best-dressed man in London, and his style dictated the fashions for decades. He was a friend of the Prince Regent (ie effectively the King), and was the life and soul of every party. What attracted me about the book was that the introduction reveals that Brummell went from having it all – feted by the richest and most powerful in the land – to dying alone and impoverished in exile in Paris. It’s a fantastic example of ‘What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ I’m reading it to remind me that those people I might be envious of now might not have the answer after all. (and it’s very well-written!)

        1. Melissa says:

          That sounds so interesting! Thanks for the recommendation…my Amazon wishlist is getting dreadfully long! :)

  13. I fianlly started Made to Crave this week. It’s been screaming at me like a tale-tell heart so I thought I’d better get started. :)

    1. Melissa says:

      Ooh! Tell me how you like it! I’m actually thinking about doing it as a study here, going over a chapter a week. I find it to be applicable for so much more than just food.

      1. I’m only a little way into it, but it’s wonderful! She just really “gets it”! More than once it’s already been as if she can read my mind. I think it’s really going to kick my butt. That’s probably why I waited this long to start reading. I know a gal leading a Bible study on it as well. But it’s in another town and not convienient for me to attend. Maybe I’ll have to start one? YIKES!

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