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The 6 Books I Finished in May

Want to know what books I finished in May? 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.)

6 Books I Finished in May

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! And I’ve been ahead on my goal for the last month!

I finished 6 books in May— yay! Here’s what I read + my honest thoughts on each of the books:

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

1. 84, Charing Cross Road

Okay, I hate to start off with this one, but it was the first book I finished in May and we might as well get the review out of the way.

A number of you suggested I read this one since I said I like epistolary novels. (That’s a fancy way of saying a novel that is written as a series of documents, such as letters. Don’t worry! I didn’t know the phrase until some of you taught it to me earlier this year!)

Sadly, I just didn’t like this book. I loved that it was true and there were a few interesting parts, but it just mostly fell flat for me.

Going into it, I had high hopes for it and it didn’t live up to those. In fact, I kept hoping it would get better and it didn’t.

The good news? It was a super short read so that’s why I decided to go ahead and finish it even when I wasn’t really feeling it.

If you are looking for a good epistolary novel, I love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Dear Mr. Knightley.

Verdict: 2 stars

2. Scoot Over and Make Some Room

Something big is stirring in my bones right now. I don’t know where it’s going to lead to and I don’t know what it’s going to look like exactly.

But I know this: God is calling me to step into some uncomfortable places and be willing to stand up for those who have no voice. To stand with those who have been misunderstood and reach out my hands and open our hearts and home in ways we haven’t before.

He’s asking me to step outside of my neat and tidy and comfortable bubble. To jump into unknown spaces and say yes to walking out the Gospel in our local community.

I don’t know what all this is going to look like, but I am excited to share as this story unfolds.

Thank you to @heatheravis for bravely leading the way and being a voice for those who don’t have a voice. Your book challenged me in really profound ways.

One of my favorite quotes from this book was, “Jesus consistently created space for those who spent their lives being pushed aside.

Note: While I really liked many parts of this book, I didn’t love it as much as I loved Heather’s first book, The Lucky Few. Thus the 3 star verdict. 🙂

Verdict: 3 stars

3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz

I began listening to this book at the recommendation of my sister and a few others. I almost didn’t keep listening because I had trouble getting into it at first. I’m so glad I stuck with it and finished it in May because it was a truly beautiful and heart-wrenching story… and it’s TRUE!

While it’s tagged as a “novel”, it’s actually based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It’s both sickening and heart-warming and I felt the author did a good job of bringing both tensions into the book.

It made me think a lot about what it would be like to live in the conditions that those who were in the concentration camps went through. While I can never imagine the horrors, I still found myself pondering what I would do. Would I be willing to risk my life for others? What kinds of choices would I make if my life 100% depended upon those choices?

A number of reviews on Amazon talk about how they felt like this book lacked depth and character development. While it could have had more depth, I looked past that because the story and the fact that it was true really drew me in. Also, I found the section at the end where Lale and Gita’s son shared his perspective to be so interesting and thought-provoking.

Note: As expected in this sort of book, there is some crass language and some sections that might be triggering to some people.

Verdict: 4 stars

4. Start with Why

I was over halfway through this audiobook a few months ago when I had to return it the library through the Libby app. So I was thrilled when it came back up in my holds again so I could finish it in May.

This book has so much wisdom in it for anyone who is a leader of any sort — especially when it comes to leading a business. Simon Sinek really challenges you to rethink how you approach leadership.

Often, it’s our tendency to want to give people what instead of giving them why. For instance, we tell people, “Here’s what you’ll get when you buy this product…” instead of giving them a compelling reason for why they should consider investing in us and our products.

As Sinek encourages, when you give people a why to believe in you and your company, you don’t even have to convince them to buy!

Some of the reviews on Amazon talk about this book being repetitive and I agree that I thought it was somewhat repetitive. I’m giving it 4 stars because of how it influenced and impacted the way I’ll be approaching my business from here on out, but many reviewers suggest just watching the TED talk instead of reading or listening to the book.

Verdict: 4 stars

5. Dear Bob and Sue

Alrighty, this might brand me as super corny and with weird sense of humor, but I really loved this book! In fact, it was one of my favorite books I finished in May.

It’s written as a series of letters to Bob and Sue from their friends, Matt and Karen Smith.

Matt and Karen are a couple who set a goal to visit every single one of the US National Parks. I found their wit and sarcasm to be laugh out loud funny and their letters to be very interesting. Also, their teasing and poking fun at one another to be so much like Jesse and me.

Needless to say, I loved the book… which shocked me considering I never once would have thought of myself as someone who would find a book of letters about visiting National Parks to be something I wouldn’t just tolerate but would enjoy.

And guess what? They inspired me to want to visit all the National Parks, too. Or at least start visiting some of them — something I haven’t done in years (we visited some of them growing up but it’s not been on my priority list for vacations since Jesse and I got married).

I told Jesse that after we finish our goals to visit all 7 continents and 50 states, maybe we can set another goal to visit all the US National Parks! 🙂

Verdict: 4 stars

6. Killing Lincoln

If you’ve been listening to The Crystal Paine Show, you know that Jesse and I both recently read this book. (Well, he read it first and his review of it on the podcast intrigued me! So I ended up downloading it on Libby.)

While I thought I was pretty familiar with the Lincoln assassination, this book brings history to life. I learned so many intriguing details that I never knew before. Plus, having more historical context made the story so much more compelling.

From what I could tell, it was very well-researched and historically accurate. I appreciated that it didn’t seem politically motivated/biased but just very facts-based. If you enjoy history, this is a must-read/must-listen.

A big thank you to Jesse for inspiring me to listen to this one! Of all the books I finished in May, this was one of my favorites.

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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  • Julia says:

    I just finished Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life by Louis Zamperini with David Rensin. It was submitted to a publisher 2 days before he passed in 2014. It was an easy read with short chapters on different topics like hope, his conversion. I recommend reading it!

  • Michelle says:

    Don’t feel bad about not liking 84, Charing Cross Road, I didn’t feel like that one lived up to the hype either. Guernsey is one of my favorite books of all time and I read it about once a year. Just a beautifully written story. I too love epistolary novels as they are a great way to tell a story. Try The Last Christmas in Paris! It was new last year and ranks up there with Guernsey as a great story.

  • Terry says:

    I read Dear Bob and Sue a few years ago. It was a freebie on Amazon and I loved it! I enjoyed the “laugh out loud” and reading portions to my hubby. I might have thought it was funnier then him since he didn’t know much about the book….I just couldn’t resist!

  • Danae says:

    Have u ever heard of the “the archibald project”? If not u should check out there website. I really enjoyed there podcast (sadly there r not making any new ones right now) and there blog!!!

  • Kendra Mills says:

    If you enjoyed Killing Lincoln, you will love the other Killing series book! My favorite is Killing Jesus! I grew up in church so i have heard a lot of the bible stories many times over the years. This book was amazing with the historical details. Stories that are familiar, but with the added historical side of customs, why people did what they did back in that time made those well-known passages come alive. I’ve actually listened to it twice now and probably will again in the near future. I hope you get to listen to it soon!
    I only started using the Libby app last fall the Killing series was my first taste of audiobooks and I’m a huge fan!

  • gayle says:

    I had two very interesting books in the last year. The Children’s Blizzard is the true story of a terrible storm that swept thru the mid-west in the late 1800’s killing many children who were sent home from school(walking). Amazing story of life on the prairie before we had up-to the-minute weather information. Sounds gruesome, and some of it is, but also just so interesting. Love true/amazing stories. The second is The World’s Strongest Librarian, the amazing story of Josh Hannagarne who has severe Tourretts Syndrome. His amazing parents helped him to (mostly) feel normal, as well as someone else who helped him overcome most of his tics. Sad, funny, religious, interesting. Josh is a voracious reader and works in one of the world’s largest libraries, so he has very funny/interesting insights to that also. Thank you.

  • Emily says:

    I recently read The Tattooist of Auschwitz and absolutely loved it! Shortly after reading it, I found a four-leaf clover, and all I could think of is how the prisoners could have used that as “currency” in the concentration camps. I’m reading Bad Girls of the Bible right now, as well as Secrets In Summer. I’m getting “homesick,” though, for Philip Gulley’s Harmony series, so I plan to start those books again soon.

  • Kate says:

    Crystal, responding to your comments about the Auschwitz book, have you read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom? It’s by a Dutch Christian lady whose family bravely hid Jewish people in their home in the 2WW. After the authorities discovered them, Corrie and her sister ended up in a concentration camp. It’s incredibly moving and inspiring. Sorry if you’ve already talked about this book and I haven’t seen – it is very well known here in the UK but it’s possible it’s not so well known in the US? Thanks for all your reading posts! Loving the show too. Kate x

    • Nerissa says:

      I haven’t read this book yet, but I recently read Tramp for the Lord by her and it was so good.
      I’m currently reading How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen. It’s a harder read for me (I find myself rereading parts a lot (mom of 4, 3 boys = lots of interruptions!)), but so interesting. It’s about theories that can apply to work and home life, that explain how to make good choices.
      I love your reviews. Thank you!

    • Yes! I read it multiple times when I was a teenager… and I rarely re-read books so that tells you how much I loved it!

  • Elsie says:

    Thank you…I’ve added some new books to my TBR! I’m especially curious to check out Start with Why for my business/blogs. I try to read one or two professional development books each year. Last year was Deep Work and Building a Storybrand, both of which are fantastic.

  • Gin Tadvick says:

    Loved Tattooist! Read The Librarian of Auschwitz on Libby recently. I liked it but wasn’t as in to it as The Tattooist. I have a thing for WWII and Holocaust books. (Several of my grandmother’s family members disappeared into the camps). Two of my favorite books of the period are “Beneath A Scarlet Sky” and “From Sand and Ash”.
    If you loved Killing Lincoln, I would recommend listening to “A Team of Rivals”. Part of this book was used for the movie, “Lincoln”.
    Currently reaching yet another Lady Darby Mystery and listening to “The Lost Girls of Paris” and “Along the Way” (latter with my husband).

    • Someone recommended The Librarian of Auschwitz to me recently so it’s on my list and so is Beneath a Scarlet Sky. Thank you for recommending A Team of Rivals!

      • Jill says:

        Have you heard of the FB group Potato Peel Pie Society Book Community? Best book recommendations ever over there. Just finished The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace; Laddie; Beyond Ourselves. I’m currently working my way through The Count of Monte Cristo, Letters of a Woman Homesteader, Born After Midnight, and Jayber Crow. Please, let there be reading in heaven!

  • AmyS says:

    Thank you for recommending Dear Bob and Sue. I am enjoying it so much and found it free on Amazon! I bought a paperback copy from local used bookstore for my husband who loves travel writing.

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