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10 Books I Read in March

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In 2019, I’m sharing the books I read each month and what my honest thoughts were on those books. If you love books, you don’t want to miss this post! (You can see all of my book reviews for this year here.)

My Goal of 80 Books Read in 2019

I set a goal to finish 80 books in 2019 and a second goal that 40 of those books will be books I already own. (You can see which books I picked to read from those I already own here).

By the way, I’m truly loving using GoodReads to track my reading. You all were right! It is really motivational to see my progress!

I’m excited that I made more progress on my reading goals this past month, thanks to being able to check out so many great audiobooks for free through the Libby app.

And yes, I know that some people might consider listening to an audiobook as “cheating” a little. Jesse is constantly teasing me about this. But hey, I think that any way you get a book finished is a good thing and I’m going to count it and celebrate it!

a girl at Barnes & Noble

10 Books I Finished in March

I finished 10 books in March — yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

A photo of A Gentleman in Moscow

1. A Gentleman in Moscow

I’ll be honest, this book was nothing like I expected it to be. And I almost quit listening to it after a few chapters because it was just so slow to develop and I was struggling to follow where the story was leading.

However, because it was highly recommended to me and because I have had it on my To Read list for so long, I decided to keep listening. And I’m really glad that I ended up sticking with it.

It turned out to be so different than my expectations, but it was a beautiful story with a lot of richness and depth. The author’s style wasn’t my favorite and I think it would have been hard to stick with had I been reading it (it’s a l-o-n-g book), but there was something about it that just grew on me more and more as I read it.

Have you read it? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

Verdict: 3 stars

A photo of The Middle Matters by Lisa Jo Baker

2. The Middle Matters

I read a pre-release copy of this book because Lisa-Jo asked me to write an endorsement for it. It’s a collection of essays she wrote on various aspects of living “in the middle” — those years you’re just in the middle of the mundane or the messy.

Here’s a little info on it from the Amazon description:

The middle is the place where our lives really live. This is the place where we have grown into the shapes of our souls even as we might have outgrown the shapes of our jeans.

The middle is the marrow. The glorious ordinary of your life that utterly exhausts you but that you might have finally started to understand in ways you didn’t at the beginning. Listen, I’m not asking you to seize the day here; I’m just asking you to actually see it. Even if just out of the corner of one eye. The middle is worth remembering while you are actually living it, because you won’t pass by this way again.

So it’s worth slowing down long enough on random afternoons to really look around at your life and your husband and the human beings you are raising together and let it sink in that you’ve grown up and that it’s good. You are living at the very center of what will be your story. Right now. Let’s stop long enough to read a few lines of these lives out loud. Because trust me when I tell you, sister, the middle is worth reading.

Verdict: 3 stars

A photo of Everybody, Always by Bob Goff

3. Everybody, Always

I got an email a recently from a woman who told me she has followed me online for a long time, but she’s been too scared to write in because she knows I’m a Christian and she’s afraid of what I might think of her since she’s so different than me. She felt I wouldn’t want to associate with her because of her choices, beliefs, and lifestyle.

My heart broke when I read her words. And it made me really stop and examine my heart. Am I oozing with Jesus’ love — for ALL people?

Or am I just loving those people who are most like me, who have the same beliefs or viewpoints, or who I most relate to?

If I’m truly following Jesus, I’m not just going to be hanging out with people who are like me.

I’m going to be spending a lot of time with those who are on the fringes, those who are often overlooked, and those who are very different than me.

If I say I’m following Jesus, but I’m unwilling to love those who are different than me, those who have hurt me, and those who are hard to love, I’m not truly following Jesus.

Thanks to Bob Goff for how he inspired me through his book Love Everybody, Always. While I don’t agree with all of his theology, I do 100% agree with his heart for challenging us to love others much more wholeheartedly!

My favorite quote: “If following Jesus doesn’t lead you to the poor, the lonely, and the isolated, you’re not following Jesus.”

Verdict: 4 stars

a photo A Love Letter Life by Jeremy and Audrey Roloff

4. A Love Letter Life

As I talk about on my recent podcast episode with Audrey and Jeremy Roloff, I actually didn’t know who they were until their publicist reached out to me a few months ago and asked if she could send me their brand-new book, A Love Letter Life.

I Googled their names (yes, I did!) and discovered that they are well known for being on the hit TV show Little People, Big World (which follows Jeremy’s family — and which he grew up being part of).

To be honest, I said their publicist could send me their book, A Love Letter Life, but I didn’t expect all that much from it and wasn’t planning to ask them to be on my show. (I’m super picky about who I will invite on the show and only invite people whose work/life has impacted me in a deep way.)

But then, the publicist sent the book, I read it, and I truly found it very valuable. In addition, I just loved their beautiful love story, their honesty, and how well-written the book was (in fact, I wondered if they had a ghost writer for it, but Audrey told me when she was at our house that they didn’t!)

You can listen to the podcast episode I did with Audrey and Jeremy here.

Verdict: 4 stars

Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson

5. Chase the Lion

You all know I’m a big Mark Batterson fan! I have loved and been inspired by so many of his books and this book was no different!

Chase the Lion is a sort of sequel to In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day — which was a book I loved. (You can read my review of In a Pit here.)

Like all of Mark’s other books, this book is brimming with inspiration and quotable statements (Mark is a master wordsmith!) I also love how he weaves so many facts and interesting tidbits and stories all throughout his books.

My only reason for not giving this book 5 stars was that I felt like some of it was pretty repetitive to what I remember In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day being. In fact, until he said otherwise in the book, I thought maybe he had just re-titled the book since the material seemed so similar.

In addition, some people could take his message to mean we need to push so hard that we completely burn ourselves out to the point of exhaustion. Mark has a crazy zest for life and, what feels like, unlimited energy. So some people could feel like they need to be doing way more than they should be doing by reading this book.

Just remember to keep in mind that we all have different capacities and callings and it’s okay to move at a slower pace so long as we are pursuing our own calling. But still, I feel like there’s so much valuable inspiration in this book and I definitely recommend it!

Verdict: 4 stars

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

I read this book a number of years ago and loved it. Then, not too long ago, I watched the Netflix movie they did based upon the book.

Well, after watching the movie and enjoying it, I realized I couldn’t remember enough about the book to compare the movie and the book. So, in an uncharacteristic move, I decided to read the book again.

Only this time, I listened to it (thanks to getting the audiobook for free from the Libby app). I loved that the audiobook is narrated by multiple voices. It’s so well done.

And I ultimately decided that the book is great, the movie is good, and the audiobook is very well done. So I highly recommend all three.

By the way, this novel is written entirely in the form of letters and telegrams. Considering that this book and Dear Mr. Knightley are two of my top favorite books and both are written in letter form, apparently I’m a big fan of that style of writing! (Do you know of other books written in a similar fashion? If so, I’d love to read them to see if I enjoy them as much!)

Verdict: 5 stars

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

7. How to Walk Away

I’m still not sure what I think of this novel. On the one hand, I felt like it held a lot of richness. On the other hand, it felt like there was a lot of fluff.

It’s the story of a woman who gets badly injured in a small airplane crash and who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair as a result. I felt that there was a lot of value in getting a peek at what it would be like to go through such a horrific experience.

I love stories that help you have a little window into what it would be like to walk in someone else’s shoes… or, in the case of this book, to lose your ability to walk at all.

But on the other hand, it wasn’t from a Christian perspective and it felt like it was missing so much because of this.

However, I felt like the story was well written and believable in most regards (there were a few parts that were just a little too fictionalized to feel true) and I enjoyed it overall.

(Note: This is some language and a few sections that were more PG-13.)

Verdict: 4 stars

How Successful People Think by John Maxwell

8. How Successful People Think

I listened to this short book in less than two days. It has a lot of great nuggets of truth in it and many sections that made me stop and think. (Which was probably a good thing, right, since it’s a book about how successful people think? ;))

It helped me to process through a few situations in life and gave me some good perspective for those. It also encouraged me as a leader that I am approaching many areas of my life with thoughtfulness and intention.

One of my biggest takeaways was to prioritize thinking and spaces in our schedule for thinking. In fact, as a result of reading the book, I blocked off a part of one day each week as my “Thinking Time.”

This Thinking Time is time for me to just be quiet and think through certain areas of my life where I don’t have clarity. It is also time for me to pray, process, and write down thoughts and ideas.

I am already seeing a lot of benefit to this practice and am excited to watch how it impacts the rest of my year!

Verdict: 4 stars

If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey

9. If You Only Knew

This book was a short read written by well known podcaster, Jamie Ivey. It’s her honest journey of letting go of shame and walking into freedom.

I found some parts so thought-provoking and well-written. Other sections felt like they sort of dragged on and were repetitive. She may have purposefully repeated herself in order to drive the message home? I’m not sure, but I personally thought that it could have been edited down more than it was.

In addition, I felt like she took a long time to get into her story and it made me wonder if she was concerned she would get backlash for choices she’s made and struggles she’s had. Honestly, because of how she set it up, I was expecting her story to be much, much worse and was kind of like, “Oh! That’s all she did?!” after she shared.

(I’m kind of embarrassed to even write that that was my thought process, but it’s true! And hey, I’m all about keeping it real and honest around here. So there ya go!)

Verdict: 3 stars

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

10. Option B

Many of you are probably familiar with Sheryl Sandberg. She’s the COO of Facebook and the widely known author of Lean In. This book chronicles her personal journey with losing her husband suddenly and the steps she took after his death to survive and process such an unexpected and heart-wrenching tragedy.

While personally, I’m not sure that it’s a book to give to someone who has experienced such a great loss (I think the honesty she writes with could be incredibly painful to someone who is grieving deeply), I found her authenticity refreshing and insightful. Her words will help me better know how to walk with someone well who is grieving and how to be more mindful of how I talk to them and interact with them.

There is a little language in the book. I also felt like a little bit of her political agenda spilled through. There is nothing wrong with having or sharing a political agenda, but I personally felt like it detracted a little from the book.

Verdict: 4 stars

What have you been reading recently? Any books you think I really need to read soon? I’d love to know!

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  • Jennifer says:

    If you like books written in letter form you might like “Where’d you go Bernadette?” By Maria Semple. I wouldn’t put it in my top 10, but it has very interesting characters, and kind of unfolds as you read it 🙂

  • Siné says:

    If you like epistolary novels, I have heard that 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is a good pairing for Guernsey Loterary and Potato Peel Society. I have also heard that Meet Me a the Museum by Anne Youngson is another good novel written in correspondence. All three books are on my to be read list.

    Your book posts are consistently my favorites. Also, audiobooks totally count as reading. I figure if Anne Bogel says audiobooks count then they must.

    • Judy says:

      I second the 84 Charing Cross Road. Excellent read from a historical aspect and true story drawn from actual letters between a bookstore in England and a script writer in New York during the years leading up to and through WWII.

  • Archie Davis Jr says:

    I like how you read all kinds of books. My professor always challenge me to read a lot of books to learn from others. I might not agree with all the books I read. I learn it is important to learn from others. I am still reading Free To Focus from Michael Hyatt and I am taking my time reading it. It has helped me. Keep up the great work.

  • Charlene says:

    I also had a hard time getting into A Gentleman in Moscow. I started the audiobook, and had to start it over later because I had no idea what had happened in the first hour. But once I paid attention and it got moving, it was very enjoyable!
    I also liked Guernsey as a book and movie, and have the audiobook on hold. I look forward to the refresher!!
    84 Charing Cross Road is a book in letters, if I remember right. It is super short for an adult novel, but was good. It is by Helene Hanff.

    • Katherine says:

      I second 84 Charing Cross Road! Also, Last Christmas in Paris is an epistolary novel set during WWI (it isn’t a holiday book as the title might suggest) and the audio version is also done by multiple ppl, so it is (in my opinion) better than the text version. If you liked Guernsey, I think you’ll also love that!

  • Darcelle Kropp says:

    Can we follow you on goodreads? I’d love to look at all the books you have read.
    Also, I really liked Trevor Noah: born a crime.
    I also love audiobooks. We have been doing a lot of road trips and listening to books with my kids has been so much fun. Do you have a list of books you have read with your kids? We are always looking for good kids chapter books to read

  • Lisa says:

    I couldn’t resist adding a few suggestions to your request for books written in ‘letter’ form. Two of my faves are Love Letters from Cell 92: The correspondence between Dietrich Bonhoffer and Maria Von Wedemeyer and I Love You, Ronnie: the letters of Ronald Regan to Nancy Regan. I like that they are actual letters written by two influential men. I am also a sucker for love letters, so, hopefully you will enjoy these two oldies but goodies.

  • Katy says:

    I’m reading
    Everyday Grace – Infusing all of your Relationships with the Love of Jesus.
    George Muellers autobiography
    And The Story of Buffalo Bill to the kids

  • Jami Boys says:

    I totally count audiobooks, too! And I’ve seen a number of articles that show how listening is just as good as reading for retention and enjoyment- and our brains register the same. 😀 The only thing I’ve found with non fiction is when I want to remember things, so I’ve started keeping a Book Notes journal and I’ll stop the book and writer down quotes and thoughts. It’s really helped!

  • Emily says:

    Hey, Crystal, a word of advice offered with respect: I admire this new commitment to spending time with and to practicing loving people who are different than you! But think about how to frame them differently, and not as people “on the fringes”. Describing them as “on the fringes” of society, of church, of whatever, perpetuates their stigmatization, which is the very thing I think you want to work against, right?

    Here’s another way to frame this, that I am 100% stealing from Father Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart (a book I adore and that you could consider adding to your reading list!). People “on the fringes” (he calls them the people “on the margins”) are made “fringe” and “marginal” by the world, not by Jesus. Father G points out that Jesus adored the “fringe” people, and he hung out with them almost exclusively. So if Jesus is our center, and we want to live as He lived, then the fringe, the margin, is our natural center. If we understand ourselves as standing on the margin — our new center — and looking in, it’s more powerfully healing for everyone involved and truer to who we are as believers than if we imagine ourselves standing at the worldly center and reaching out to the margins. How we orient ourselves in relation to vulnerable groups of people matters for them, and for us.

    Something to think about, anyway. Best to you and yours! And happy reading 🙂

    • Yes! I 100% agree with you and I grappled with whether to even share this online because I feel exactly the same way but I didn’t know how to describe the people I was referring to except for the way that much of society might view them. Some of our closest friends are people that many people view as such, but for me, they are just my good friends and it’s hurt me to see them marginalized and ostracized by others.

      I couldn’t come up with any better way to describe what I was referring to in order to share it here so that it would make sense. If you have any better suggestions, I’m all ears. And I’m so sorry if what I wrote upset or offended you.

      • Kate says:

        I am so blessed by the gentle and respectful tone used by both the above commenter and your reply. I am also edified by the insights gained on the topic through the combination of the original post, her comment, and your reply. But the courteous communication made that possible, and that is a gift. Thank you both!

  • Heather G says:

    Daddy-Long-Legs was the inspiration for Dear Mr. Knightly and one of my favorite books of all time. If you haven’t read it, you’ll love it.


    do you have a list of the books you have read already I could print off

  • Shelley says:

    13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do is a good reminder of why we should do the hard stuff when parenting. Talking with Your Kids About God by Natasha Crain is a great book that helps parents put apologetics in everyday conversations.

  • Amy says:

    If you like books written in letters, I think you would like Evelina! It was written right before Jane Austen became an author, and it’s really good!

  • Karen Snow says:

    I’m currently reading “Sons to Soldiers” and learning so much about some Jewish boys fighting for U.S.A. In WW2. It’s actually been amazing so far.

  • Tiffany says:

    “The Truth According to Us” is another fun read, written as letters.

  • Cher says:

    My current favorite book written in letter form (actually as a series of emails) is called ‘Dear Bob & Sue’ by Matt and Karen Smith. It is a hilarious, laugh out loud memoir about their trip through all the national parks. (They also have 2, almost 3, books written after this one, but the first is my favorite)

  • Jana P. says:

    As for epistolary novels, I really was moved in reading “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. It is heartbreaking and harsh, but I was so engrossed by the writing since it was so different than anything else that I had ever read. I enjoyed the movie, but the book was so much richer.

    Also “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein is kind of a log-book/journal of a young female pilot during WWII. I am not usually interested in spy/intrigue, but I could not put this one down.

    Lots of great suggestions in this thread. By coincidence, I just picked up “84, Charing Cross Road” at the library this afternoon. 🙂

  • Dineen says:

    I also 2nd 84, Charing Cross Road. I became aware of the book after seeing the 1987 movie based on the book starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

  • Amy says:

    I have enjoyed seeing what you are reading and your star rating. I have been listening to some of your higher rated ones on my library app! It is great while you are driving. Thanks for the recommendations!

  • Connie Nelson says:

    I just read “ The Mountain Between Us”, it was so good that I devoured it in 2 days ( the movie is a disappointment). It was a haunting love story and it portrayed how he withstood temptation. It was such an in-depth book.

  • Grace T. says:

    Hi Crystal — I just read “When Your Read This” by Mary Adkins. It’s in epistolary form and I really liked it. Read it in one night which I did not plan for LOL.

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