Bookish Radness

My Top 8 All-Time Favorite Fiction Reads

Do I dare even tackle such a list? Now before you think there’s really only eight favorites on my list, I just have to say this is me we’re chatting about! But here’s a start of some novels that have held a place in my heart for at least 10 years. You know it’s solid if it’s remained on the list for at least a decade.

Mark of the Lion Series | Francine Rivers: If you ask me for a book recommendation, this will always be the first series I recommend. Looking for a biography of the 13th President? Read Mark of the Lion. Oh, you want a story about London society after 1912? I think the story of Marcus and Hadassah is just what you need. Just kidding, I’d give you a legit recommendation, but I don’t think I can put into words how amazing this series is. If I ever meet Francine Rivers, I’m just going to hug and thank her for this book. I’ve probably read it 10 times and I only see that number increasing through the years.

Just know it’s a three book series. I did not know this and when the first book ended, I texted my friend who recommended it asking why she would think to suggest a book that just RIPPED OUT MY SOUL. Yep, my reaction was equivalent to all caps plus a bag of chips and toss in some fireworks.

I own a hard copy and the kindle version so I can read it at anytime. I also read it two weeks after I read it for the first time because it’s just that amazing. If I could only have one series the rest of my life, this would be it. (I need to confess, I only read this about 5 years ago, but I’ve read it 10+ times, so I still added it to the list.)

Dracula | Bram Stoker: Vampires? Wha? Let’s just clear things up by saying it is nothing like modern day vampire shenanigans. No, this is a classic that so fantastically demonstrates battling such evil. I’m reminded that in the fight against evil, you will battle dark forces, you will lose people, you will want to quit, but you won’t. The world will be a better place because you didn’t. I haven’t read this one in a few years, but man, what a book! My e-reader friends, it’s free, so no excuses!

Redeeming Love | Francine Rivers: That sneaky, sneaky Rivers lady. Without knowing how it happens, after reading her stories, you’re forever connected to the characters she creates and wish you could meet these people in real life. Redeeming Love was also the first Christian Fiction book I read back when I was in college. I remember my friend Lindsay, from one of my Comm classes during my freshman year (folks, I never remember details, so the fact that I remember the class, the friend and the year should tell you something ;), gave me her copy to borrow and I had the chance to read it over Thanksgiving and I devoured that sucker in about two minutes flat.

Please, read this book if you haven’t yet (which I need to point out that every monthly top seller list Lifeway releases, Redeeming Love is on it. I jest not. And it’s nearly 25 years old. In May, Francine Rivers not only had her latest (which was fantastic, see my review here), but Redeeming Love as well. P.S. IT HAS IT’S OWN WIKIPEDIA PAGE. Need I say more?

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam | Huynh Quang Nhuong: This is one of the first books I vividly remember reading. I read through it so many times, I’ve lost count. Since growing up in Vietnam was so vastly different from growing up in my parent’s house in Orange County, California, I was so fascinated by this man’s life. Every time I read this book I wanted to do one thing: Go on an epic adventure. If my mom ever asks why I’m always fixin to do something crazy, it’s because I grew up on stories like these. It was also my Mama who gave it to me 🙂

Fire By Night | Lynn Austin: Sigh….just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it. I think I might too. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered Dr. McGrath and Julia, so I think this summer I might change that. Not only do I love Julia’s character (and connect with her), I adore Dr. McGrath. The whole series is enjoyable, but this one shines far greater than the other two. Plus it’s Civil War (and still my favorite Civil War fiction novel), so win with that.

The Giver | Lois Lowry: I’ve talked about this one the blog enough, so I’ll keep it short. Without pain, one would never know the true depth of happiness, beauty and love. Lowry so beautifully captures this. Plus it’s coming out in the movies soon!!

The Harry Potter Series | J.K. Rowling: Duh.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee: This was one of those books I actually liked in high school and understood at the age of 16 why it was such an important piece of literature. It’s beautifully written, it’s an amazing story and Atticus Finch is one of the all-time greatest heroes in literature.

You might be wondering about the books I talk about every 27 seconds and why they aren’t on this list. Well, I figured it was a given that anything Narnia/Lewis or Middle Earth/Tolkien related are in their own category of greatest all-time anything. I mean, I have a monthly series about them internet, so of course they are my favorite of favorites. (If you want to join in The Inklings series, check it out here)

Alright, there’s the fiction list! I feel I can breathe a little easier now ;). What do you think? What are some of your favorites to add?

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Bookish Radness

7 Books to Read in Your Early 20s

I’ve noticed recently I’m not one of the “young guns” anymore. Between having to use more facial products than ever before, to my knees having the ability to predict the weather, I’ve fully embraced this new life stage. I’m not saying I’m nearing retirement (only in my thirties internet), but professional athletes my age are close to throwing in the towel and some of my co-workers were in college after my 10 year reunion (how did this happen people?!).

I look back at college fondly, but of course there’s plenty of wisdom I could have used. Since college, there’s been some incredible books that have shaped much of who I am, so I want to give any of you young folks a head start with this list of eight books you should read in your early twenties. You know, ones that will stick with you. Unlike that Introduction to Philosophy book you pretended to have read by highlighting random paragraphs each chapter. Not that I did that. I would never…

Of course, if you aren’t in your 20s, I still think you should read these! 🙂

So here they are (in no particular order) along with a favorite quote:

1. Crazy Love by Francis Chan. There are few books out there that have caused a paradigm shift in my thinking. I never use the word paradigm, but for this book, it’s fitting. It opened up my eyes to so many convicting truths and moved truth I knew in my head into action with my heart.
“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust in Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice I talk about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien about every 14 seconds (not really, but just go with it). Why? They were geniuses. Lewis’ collection of World War II radio broadcasts on the fundamentals of Christianity are fantastic. He wrote them while his country was at war and being bombed nightly by the Nazis, so the truth in some ways, hits a little deeper.
“Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

3. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. Simply put: Read this book. I’m pretty sure I highlighted something on every page. It’s an easy read (which is awesome considering the topic) and you’ll gain tons of insight. And if you don’t consider yourself someone of faith, I still recommend this one. I’d love to know what your thoughts are after reading it. Such a great book!
“Once you realize how Jesus changed for you and gave himself for you, you aren’t afraid of giving up your freedom and therefore finding your freedom in Him.”

4. Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy. Tony Dungy is an incredible human being and just when I thought he couldn’t be more awesome, he did 4 Questions. He and his wife, Lauren, live out an inspiring story (full of some heart breaking moments) and it’s an incredible example of what it means to live your life fully following and trusting in Jesus.
One of the most important truths I want to impress on you is this: You were created by God. You’ve probably heard that before – maybe so often that it has lost its meaning. So take a minute to let it sink in. You were created by God! Before you were ever born, He knew who you would be. You are designed with a unique combination of abilities, interests, and passions that has never been before and will never been seen in anyone again.”

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry. Curve ball right? I know it might seem random, but I love this book. We were created for a beautiful and adventurous story, but too many people lose sight of that. So why this book? I love how it reveals this, displays it and stirs your heart.
“Now he was [starving]. If he had stayed in the community, he would not be…If he had stayed, he would have starved in other ways. He would have lived a life hungry for feelings, for color, for love.”

6. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. The lessons from ten Boom’s life have inspired people around the world. Her family hid Jews in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. They were turned in and sent to concentration camps (her Dad and sister would both die in them). Yet, they trusted the Lord in every situation. They were a light in the darkest of times. She is a beautiful example of courage and faith. This quote was said by her sister before she died in the Ravensbrück death camp: “We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” Wow.

7. Quitter by Jon Acuff. The vast array of sources young college-age dreamers have now is amazing (no really, when I was in college, email addresses were barely becoming a thing. I got my first email address then and thought I was so clever creating lapdogghizzy@hotmail.com. One of my many awesome choices at the wise ol’ age of 18. I’m sure it’s available if you’re interested in taking it over. I won’t mind). One source you should grab first? Quitter. Full of humor and advice from someone who has been there, this book will guide you in the path you want to go and hopefully save you from mistakes along the way.
“Your gift is never nothing.”

Honorable mentions include The Soul of Politics by Jim Wallis and Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner. Both were written in the 90s (gasp!), but have solid principles and were the first books to really open my eyes to social justice and Christians’ impact on culture.

Alright wise readers, what would you add to this list? Have you read any of these?