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Tag Archive: Book Reviews

Good Reads: A Deeper Kind of Calm & Secret of the Prince’s Tomb

I’d read and loved Linda Dillow’s book, Calm My Anxious Heart, last year. So I decided to add two of her other books to this year’s reading list.

This week I finished reading A Deeper Kind of Calm. It’s a short book packed with much to consider and apply in my own life. While it’s a short book (there are only 5 chapters!), I wouldn’t recommend trying to digest it all in one session. In fact, I read one chapter per day and I felt like that was almost too much to chew on.

Linda has a great way of drawing readers in, sharing personal stories of her own struggles and difficulties and sharing testimonies from others who have walked difficult paths, too. While I liked Calm My Anxious Heart more than this book, it was a good read.

We were so excited that Focus on the Family released another book in The Imagination Station series. And, as usual, it didn’t disappoint.

Secret of the Prince’s Tomb is about the Hebrews in Egypt. Jesse read this aloud in the evenings and we all enjoyed it–even if it did end before we were ready for it to be over with.

Have you read any good books recently?

Good Reads: One Bite At a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler

I love, love, love Tsh and her Simple Mom blog. She’s a huge inspiration to me in so many areas.

I’ve seen her ebook, One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler, many times and had really wanted to read it–someday. Well, over Christmas break, I decided it was someday (maybe the fact that I found out there was a coupon code for the ebook had something to do with that?!) and so I bought it and dove right in.

This book, as expected, is fabulous. I read it over the course of the past week and a half–in little bits in the morning as I was doing my warm-up and cool down on the treadmill before my morning run. I enjoyed the book so much that I had trouble getting off the treadmill every day because I just wanted to keep reading. As I emailed Tsh earlier this week, I guess that’s not a bad problem. 🙂

As you probably well know by now, I love the concept of breaking things down into bite-sized manageable pieces. And Tsh’s ebook does just that. It gives you 52 bite-sized steps you can take to become more efficient, streamlined, and organized.

You know those things you always say you want to do someday? Like planting a garden, switching to natural cleaners, composting, setting up a system for paper clutter, organize your photo collection, learning to cook from scratch, setting up menu plans, planning regular date nights, or regularly turning off technology? Tsh gives you the tools, motivation, and encouragement you need to slowly make those positive changes you’ve hoped to make. And she makes it simple and doable.

Now I have to tell you: Tsh suggests that you pick one project per week for a year–thus the 52 projects. However, I’d suggest to maybe slow the pace down a bit and just pick one project every other week or once a month. That way, you can really take your time and let the changes really sink in before moving onto something else.

One Bite At a Time is available as a PDF, for Nook, or Kindle for $5. If you order the PDF version you can use coupon code HAPPYNEWYEAR and get it for $4. You can download a sample from the book or see the full list of projects covered.

And be sure to check out all the fantastic content from Tsh on her blog, Simple Mom. I promise you’ll be inspired!

Have you read any good books recently?

My Top 7 Favorite Books Read in 2011

Looking for some good books to add to your booklist for 2012? Here are my top seven favorite books from the 60 books I read in 2011:

Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment — I loved this book and would whole-heartedly recommend it to any Christian woman who is struggling with anxiety, fear, or worry. Very thought-provoking. I benefited so much from it that I put two of the author’s other books on my 24 books I plan to read in 2012 booklist.

ReWork — Hands down, this is one of the best business books I’ve ever read. I read it in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down. The premise? Break all the rules of the “experts”. Think way outside the box. Be a teacher: if a business idea works well for you, share your secrets and people will respect you more. Stop worrying about your competition and start being a trend-setter. Keep your company small for as long as you possibly can. Don’t grow until it hurts.

Now, do note that this is not packed with specific step-by-step ideas for starting a business. It’s moreso an outside-the-box business book to challenge the status quo. And since I tend to be a very independent thinker, I loved that. Other people, like my friend Catherine, didn’t find the book as helpful (read her review here).

(Note: There is a quite a bit of language in the book and I was disappointed because it somewhat hampered my excitement about the book. And I know some disagree with me, but I always find four letter words in books bothersome because I feel like they are unnecessary and crude.)

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By a Relentless God — If you’re a Christian, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If there’s one book outside the Bible that you read this year, read Crazy Love. It challenged me to pull out of my complacency as a follower of Christ. I’ve stayed in my comfort zone for a long time out of fear — fear of failure, fear of what others would think of me, and fear of stepping out in faith and doing what God has been calling me to do.

I read one chapter each morning for two weeks and then would spend time reflecting and praying about it during my morning run. There was much I processed during those times — and I will be processing it for many weeks and months to come. God used this book to change my outlook on many things and to light a fire of love in my heart to live a life sold out for God. I want to follow where He leads, at any cost.

Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time — This book is jam packed with practical ideas for prioritizing your time and life so that you make the most of your days. One of my biggest takeaways from the book was the challenge to start the day out by doing the things you like least first, you’ll get them out of the way so you can enjoy your day more and be more productive and fulfilled. Read more about some of the things I gleaned from this book here.

Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Achieve Tomorrow’s Success — If you want to make the most of your days, Today Matters will give you practical, step-by-step help and inspiration. The author makes a case for why today is your key to success and outlines 12 decisions and disciplines you should implement into your life and work toward mastering in order to achieve greater fulfillment and success in life.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think — We all have exactly the same amount of time: 24 hours in each day, 168 hours in each week. We all get to choose how we’re going to use those hours — whether wisely or frivolously. Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours, is based upon the premise that, if we were to step back and look at our week as a whole, we have more time than we realize. And we are probably squandering more time than we think.

This book gives real-life, practical examples for becoming a better manager of your time. It profiles a number of different individuals in different situations and shows how they are using their time well or specific ways they could improve their time usage. This book is not about stuffing our lives more full with longer to-do lists and more responsibilities, but about focusing on a life well lived. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants to better steward their time or find more fulfillment in how they spend their 168 hours.

Kisses from Katie — This book rocked my world and left me profoundly moved and challenged. It has caused me to step back and examine how I’m living my life and whether I’m truly giving in a way that costs me something dear. I’m still processing much of what I read and praying about specifically what I am supposed to do in response to the burden it placed upon my heart, but I am left forever touched. If you want to be motivated to live a life out of your comfort zone, read this book.

What were your top reads in 2011? I’d love know!

Good Reads: Getting Things Done by David Allen

I was expecting to be overwhelmed with guilt by Getting Things Done–feeling like I had to set up all these new processes and procedures in order to get my life in order. However, I was really encouraged to realize that I’ve unintentionally set up processes and procedures for many areas of my life that are working quite well.

Everything in my office has a place and everything in it serves a specific purpose. I have a process for mail, a process for email, and a process for dealing with paper clutter and stuff clutter.

So I was excited to realize that there’s no need to overhaul something that’s already working well most of the time. Instead, I just need to work on tweaking and refining these processes so that they serve me even better.

That said, reading this book helped me to realize very clearly that my paper planner system is no longer working well for me and that’s likely one of the reasons my head has been spinning so much recently. My home management binder has been great for a daily to-do list and overview, but, with the increased business responsibilities on my plate in the last few months, I need to be able to have a running to-do list of business projects and I also need to be able to schedule out projects, to-do’s, and reminders days, weeks, and months ahead of time.

Since my husband manages a busy law firm and has to schedule out and keep on top of all sorts of client stuff and court appearances, he’s been helping me think through what would work best for me. I think I’m going to try a paperless system using a combination of Google Calendars and the Reminders app and To-Do app.

I’ve resisted the paperless approach for so long, as I’m such a visual, write-it-down-on-paper gal, but I think perhaps the time has come to break out of my rut and go paperless. I’m at least going to try and will let you know how it ends up going!

Two Key Points I Picked Up From the Book:

Write Everything Down

I think one of the biggest reasons I’ve felt like my brain is overloaded recently is because I’ve not been dumping enough information out of it. I’ll think of something I need to remember and, instead of writing it down on my to-do list, I’ll tell myself, “Don’t forget that.”

Getting Things Done strongly encourages you to get stuff out of your brain and onto paper or your computer or handheld device. If you capture and store the information in a trusted system, it not only guarantees that you won’t forget it, but it also frees up brain space! Plus, instead of having to remind yourself ten times about something you need to remember, you can just write it down once and forget about it until you need to deal with it.

Follow the 2-Minute Rule

As I’ve confessed before, I tend to be a procrastinator. Getting Things Done encourages you to immediately do any project that can be done in less than two minutes.

Instead of thinking repeatedly about how you need to make that appointment, just pick up the phone and make the appointment. Rather than leaving an email in your inbox and looking at it multiple times, just answer it as soon as it comes in.

I know that following this rule would help me keep on top of all those little jobs much more efficiently and effectively. Instead of continuously putting off little jobs or writing them down onto my to-do list, I should just do the job and get it done.

I thought some parts of Getting Things Done felt overly complicated and some parts I felt like the pace of the book was dragging along too slowly. In addition, since my copy was the 2001 version, the technology referred to was outdated (anyone remember Palm Pilots?), but overall I felt this book is well worth reading if you are struggling with feeling overwhelmed with life–especially if you are a professional or own your own business.

Have you read any good books recently?

(Note: The Amazon.com links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

Customizable Printable Reading List

If you were considering making your own list of books you want to read after I posted my list of 24 books I plan to read in 2012 yesterday, you can download a customizable printable Books I Plan to Read list.

Type in the books you want to read, save the file, and then you can print it. Or, just print it blank and hand write your list. It would be fun to then save this list at the end of the year to refer back to in a few years from now to see what you were reading and what interested you in 2012.

24 Books I Plan to Read in 2012

At the beginning of 2011, I made a list of 24 books I wanted to read this past year. I broke the list down by month and chose two books to read per month.

This plan worked very well for me, and while I didn’t follow it exactly, it motivated me to read more and read some great books that I likely wouldn’t have picked up and read had they not been on my list. I still have 2.5 books on the list to finish before the year ends, but I’m hopeful I’ll actually be able to cross all of them off my list by December 31!

I also finished quite a few books that were not on my list. All in all, I ended up reading 56 books in 2011 (see the full list here), plus the books I read aloud to the children (see the full list of books we read aloud in 2011 here). It’s amazing how committing to read at least a chapter or two each day personally as well as a few chapters per weekday aloud to the children really adds up over time!

Since the 24 book list idea worked so well, I decided to stick with it again this year. After surveying my bookshelf of books I really want to read (yes, I have three entire shelves of books on a bookshelf in our basement with books I haven’t read yet and really want to read!), I narrowed the stack down to 24 books.

Here’s my list of 24 books I plan to read in 2012:

January:

How to Write a Book Proposal

A Deeper Kind of Calm: Steadfast Faith in the Midst of Adversity

February:

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches

Rekindling the Romance: Loving the Love of Your Life

March:

Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero

Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence

April:

The Three R’s

Between a Rock and a Grace Place: Divine Surprises in the Tight Spots of Life

May:

One of Us Must Be Crazy. . .and I’m Pretty Sure It’s You: Making Sense of the Differences That Divide Us

The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself

June:

Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life

Without a Word: How a Boy’s Unspoken Love Changed Everything

July:

The Simplicity of Homeschooling: Discover the Freedom of Learning Through Living

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

August:

Satisfy My Thirsty Soul: For I Am Desperate for Your Presence

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

September:

The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your Man–on Purpose and with a Plan

The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun

October:

Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up

Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families

November:

Whispers of His Power

Pocketful of Pinecones

December:

The Shelter of God’s Promises

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You

Later this week, I’ll be sharing a downloadable list you can print and fill out with the books you want to read this year. I’ll also be sharing a list of audiobooks I’m planning to listen to and my top five favorite books I read this past year.

What books are you hoping to read in 2012? I’d love to hear!