Let me start off by saying that not all of these books are Christian books. When I'm not reading faith-based literature, I read mostly contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and non-fiction/memoirs.
I love REAL + RAW when it comes to reading. If the book makes me sob my eyes out, it's a 5-star for me. If a book stays with me months after reading it, 5-star stuff. If a book inspires me to write + write + write, 5-star stunner. If a book convicts my heart - hello 5-star (I may even read it again!).
The books mentioned in this post have affected me in at least one of those ways. I'll also share my favorite cover out of the bunch! I am someone who most definitely judges a book by its cover.
Blackout by Candace Owens
+ You want the truth? Read this book. Candace Owens is the voice of our generation. She may be young, but even Paul tells us to never underestimate the youth because even they can have wisdom that surpasses the elders. This girl gives it to you STRAIGHT, whether you like it or not. This whole book is dedicated to calling out black America; the black America that is still being enslaved by the Left today. The black America that has the audacity to compare today to the days their ancestors endured. And, boy, she takes no prisoners. She tells them to instead wake up, not get woke. With an Introduction by Larry Elder, this book gave me chills the moment I started it. Any claim she makes is backed up by pages of research and statistics, so calling her bluff isn't even worth attempting. She tackles black America's connection to abortion, faith, culture, media, education, and so on and how the Leftist agenda has managed to derail all paths to freedom for African-Americans. It does not matter what color your skin is, this book will speak to you in ways you never thought. She is merely asking the Left: why have you done everything possible for the last 400 years to stop blacks (and other people of color) from succeeding? She encourages black America to get off of the Democrat plantation and to accept true freedom by disassociating themselves with the Left - the party that has done everything possible to destroy them.
+ Book cover rating: 5 - it's intimidating, powerful, and memorable.
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor + Heather Webb
+ This book is a beautiful, sweet story about a girl named Eloise and a boy named Tom, both from England, who at first were good childhood friends but fell in love writing letters to one another while Tom is away in France fighting in the trenches during World War I. I have always loved the letter-writing format in books, especially historical fiction, but this one really blew me away. The intimacy revealed through these letters made my heart melt with affection. I was rooting for these two till the very end. The writing was witty, cheeky, and clever, which made me love it all the more. I felt that I knew them. The back-and-forth of letters made me ache with anticipation of what was to happen next.
+ Book cover rating: 3 - a little plain, but it definitely had the Christmas theme!
Daisy Jones + The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
+ If you are a fan of Almost Famous and 70s Rock, this book is for you. Written in interview format (hi, yes, I have a type), this story takes you through the resurrection and tribulation of the (fictional, but wish so badly it was real) band, Daisy Jones + The Six. I feel like Taylor Jenkins Reid did a fantastic job portraying the very realistic ups and downs that many bands have gone through - affairs, drugs, jealousy, etc. It's exciting, emotional, and intriguing. The characters are complicated, but relatable. There is also a whole fictional playlist! I cannot wait for the show to come out because the music is going to be amazing!
+ Book cover rating: 4 - pretty cool, but not totally eye-catching
Calypso by David Sedaris
+ I was first introduced to David Sedaris in my comp 101 class my freshman year of college. We had to read and excerpt from "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and I remember laughing out loud and relishing his sarcasm. I was like, wow, is this the male Lorelai Gilmore? Fast forward to this year. When I picked up Calypso, I was hooked after a couple pages. This book is about grieving. Not just death, but the little things, too, that you never thought you would grieve. He touches on the loss of his mother and sister among other things like the fox that used to come into his backyard and eat whatever food Sedaris was preparing outside. I laughed, I definitely cried - for a little too long, I might add - and I learned more about how to appreciate those around you, even the small, seemingly mundane, things that you don't realize mean the world to you. I would say this is a cozy, sentimental read, for sure.
+ Book cover rating: 2.5 - definitely my least favorite book cover probably ever. He references it in the book, so I understand the connection, but it was still 'eh' to me.
Stray by Stephanie Danler
+ This was a powerfully complicated memoir. Stephanie Danler brings us along for the wild ride that is her upbringing, which his centered around all of the places she lived. I've lived in both LA county and Orange County, and have been to Colorado multiple times, as well as New York (once) - these are all of the spots in the book that Danler left her mark on and all are incredibly sentimental to me because those are places I spent time during my childhood, and are considered home in one way or another. Danler's writing is poetic, incredibly quick, and penetrating. I felt so connected to her throughout the book, which is automatically what you think a memoir should be but what many do not deliver on. Her relationship with her mother and father are far from even eclectic - it's tragic - and she survives, but not very well. Her approach to love and relationships with men is totally toxic, which could be seen as an understatement once you've read the book. I am a sucker for neurotic themes, and this book totally sustains me in that area, so if that's your jam then I highly recommend this book. I went through this book as quick as I could but slow enough to savor.
+ Book cover rating: 5 - as calming as the beaches she writes about and that are all too familiar to me.
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
+ Where do I even begin? This is THE book that ALL Christians should read. Complete and total conviction of the heart comes with every turn of the page. John Bunyan was a man appointed by God to write a eloquent, pure, truth-rendering story of Christian, a pilgrim on his journey to the Celestial City, leaving everyone and everything behind but the bolder on his back. All of us followers of Jesus can see ourselves in Christian and the many characters he meets along the way, both seemingly innocent and evil or naïve and selfish. It is heartbreaking and exciting. It is telling and inspiring. It is IMPORTANT. This book was originally written in old English, considering it was written in the 1678, but don't worry, there are more modernized versions. Be sure to get the extended version, too! It tells the story of Christian's wife, Christina, and her celestial journey. This is a must-read. It's heavy, much like the bolder on Christian's back, but my goodness, it is NECESSARY. We all have that bolder - give it to Jesus, just like Christian did.
+ Book rating: 5
+ Book cover rating: 5 - It's a painting of Christian as he approaches the Celestial City gates. Can't get much more beautiful or hopeful than that.
Writers + Lovers by Lily King
+ If you are an aspiring writer, newly single, and/or grieving, look no further, because this is the book for you. Lily King introduces us to waiter and aspiring writer, Casey Peabody - it's summer in '97 in Boston, Massachusetts, and it is grossly humid. Her mom just died, her landlord can't stand her, she's getting over a recently heart wrenching break-up, and she just cannot seem to get a publishing deal. Thankfully, this book is in no way like a romcom or chick flick. There's actual depth to this story. It doesn't overwhelm you because, to me, it's a pretty realistic depiction of a person going through a lot of emotional pain at the same time as experiencing one rejection after another with her book. King takes you through the publishing process, which I loved, and the grieving theme throughout was beautiful to me. I am a big fan of grief because it's the rawest emotion; it's all emotions wrapped into one. There's a reason there's a step-by-step process. There are scenes in the book where Casey is at odds with the way her mother died, questioning her, angry with her. That's the kind of stuff I want to read about. Why? CAUSE IT'S REAL. Overall, a cozy read despite it taking place during the summer. It's angsty in an adult way and Casey's character is clever and likeable. A great read!
+ Book rating: 4.5
+ Book cover rating: 5 - Easily one of the most beautiful book covers I've ever seen. No joke, I would hang it up on my wall if I could! It's a still like painting of flowers, fruits, a cookbook, and other household items on a blush colored table cloth with a black backdrop. So moody and calming.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
+ I have never cried so hard and so often while reading a book. If you want your heart ripped out of your chest, read this book. SO. WELL. DONE. A WWII novel set in the countryside of France during the Nazi occupation, Hannah takes you on a journey through the life of sisters Vianne and Isabelle and the terrifying reality they encounter as the Nazis slowly but surely start to take over France. Many of the Nazis take a liking to the little village they live in, Carriveau, and some make themselves a little too comfortable there. Little by little, their freedoms are stripped, and with Vianne being a rule-follower, and Isabelle, a total rebel, a division is created between them. Each take on a life apart from the other until they are reunited again - but only after they both had been through literal hell. This is a serious page-turner. I don't want to give too many details because the shock-value in this book is powerful. I still think about this book and I read it over a year ago. It's a pretty long book but it's worth it!
+ Book rating: 5
+ Book cover rating: 1 - Kristin Hannah book covers have never impressed me. Thankfully, I did NOT judge this book by its cover!
The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman
+ If you haven't read this, what are you even doing? It is essential that you devour this book asap, whether you are single, dating, or married. This will prepare you for life with your spouse or future spouse. It is crucial that you work on yourself FOR marriage way before you even meet someone, and then continue working on yourself toward marriage, then IN marriage and beyond. In the book, Dr. Chapman, who is a pastor in North Carolina, takes us through the 5 love languages: Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Words of Affirmation. Each language has its own chapter where he dives deeper into the meaning of the language, how it looks, and gives real life scenarios from couples he's counseled and the success they had after identifying their own love language(s). After one of the worst fights me and Hector had, I laid in bed all day and read this book cover to cover, absorbing every word. Then, I had us both take the quiz in the back to determine what our love languages are. It turns out, mine is Words of Affirmation and Quality Time; his was Physical Touch and Quality Time. None of these surprised me, but what was most helpful were the real-life ways shared by Dr. Chapman that could eventually make us fluent in each other's love languages. I can say with confidence, and with God's help, that since that day things have been much better between us. It takes two to tango, but the simplicity of Dr. Chapman's words and stories made it seem so possible - and it is!
+ Book rating: 5
+ Book cover rating: 5 - My grandma bought us the hardcover version, which is white with goil foil accents. It looks vintage and is a great coffee table book!
There ya have it, folks! My favorite reads of 2020! I hope you enjoyed my review of these books and will consider checking them out. I'm going to be better about book recommendations down the road. Now that I have an outline for how I want to do it I think it'll be easier for me to organize. I am not going to write about every book I read because that doesn't make it a rec, it makes it a review, and I'm not a book review blog. If it's not 5-star then I won't recommend it, obviously. I am also SO against reading books I don't like. I will not force myself to read something I find boring or badly-written. So, you can always count on me recommending books I LOVE.
Anyway, that's all for now. Thanks for reading!
P.S. if you end up reading any of these books, let me know! Give me a shoutout, message me, however you wanna let me know, do it, because I love discussing books!
Sincerely + with love,