How is it possibly December already? The past few months have been a blur around the Heath house, and as you can tell from my Fall Book Stack, I haven’t had much free time to read. I ended up combining September, October, and November into one post, mainly so my monthly stacks wouldn’t look so pathetic. And the Divergent series is deceiving— it makes it look like I read a lot more than I did.
Still, there are some great books in this stack and I can’t wait to tell you about them!
FALL BOOK STACK: SEPTEMBER
Divergent Series: Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant by Veronica Roth
This series has been around for awhile. I pull it out from time to time when I need a bit of an escape, and it never loses its charm. I am still not a fan of the last book; that doesn’t seem to change, no matter how many times I read it! But the character development is fantastic, and I fully admit to having a book crush on Four. That never changes either! 😉
I wrote a short review on the first book last year in this post if you want to check it out: https://kellycallenheath.com/my-july-book-stack/
Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot
This is one of my most often read books, a gem of Elisabeth Elliot’s writing that seems to speak to me in familiar and necessary ways each time I pull it out. It is a compilation of articles from her monthly newsletter over the years. Each one, in different ways, reminds her reader to trust and obey. If God is in charge (He is) and if He has a plan (He does), then He can be trusted and we have no need to worry. We must simply walk forward in obedience and “Keep a quiet heart.”
I use this book as a devotional. There are 104 “chapters,” if I counted correctly. Some are only a couple paragraphs; the longest entries are four pages. All are rooted in Scripture and contain great insight into the heart of the Father and the response required from those desiring to obey Him. In the introduction, Elliot shares a verse of a prayer she wrote in college that sums up the book well:
FALL BOOK STACK: OCTOBER
The Thing Beneath the Thing by Steve Carter
I bought this book after listening to a podcast in which Annie F. Downs interviewed the author, Steve Carter. If you’re interested, you can listen HERE. I immediately ordered the book because the concept was fascinating to me. What is the thing beneath the thing? Our natural instinct in life is to focus on the things that frustrate, hurt, or anger us. It is much easier to blame another person or situation than to look beneath the surface for what is really going on. But what might happen if we are willing to dig deeper? Isn’t there always a “thing beneath the thing” that triggers us? What if we were willing to figure out what that thing is and why we react to it the way we do? We might just pave the way for healing, opening the door to so much more that God desires for us.
Carter does an excellent job walking his readers through this process. The content is easy to understand without being too shallow. At the end of each chapter, there are “Dig A Little Deeper” exercises to help the readers apply the principles. And Carter uses Scripture throughout to both encourage and convict his readers as they journey through the process of finding the thing beneath the thing in their own lives. This one is definitely worth a read.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
I love when my kids get assigned books I haven’t read! My 6th grader, Noah, had to read this book for English this year, and after the first two chapters, he said, “Mom, you need to read this book! You’re going to love it!” He was right.
Fish in a Tree is a sweet story about seeing beyond the surface and the value of true friendship. Hunt starts with Ally, a sixth grade girl with a learning disability, and then mixes in a few other friends, each different in their own way. There’s a mean girl (seems like there’s always a mean girl in middle school) stirring up drama, of course. And a delightful teacher, Mr. Daniels, who steps into the story and completely changes Ally’s life, among other things.
Yes, it’s a bit simplistic, and there are some elements of the story that are unrealistic. But beneath that, this book is overflowing with the things we want our middle-schoolers to know: It’s okay to not be like everyone else. Sometimes the things that make us different can be the best things about us. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Being kind is better than being popular. There are a lot of different ways to be smart. And on top of that, it’s a good reminder to us adults that a little extra investment on our part can truly make all the difference in the life of a young person. This would be a great read-aloud for younger students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia/learning disabilities, both at home and in a classroom setting.
FALL BOOK STACK: NOVEMBER
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek has been on my Reading Challenge list for two years! I love historical fiction, and this covers a topic I knew nothing about— the Kentucky Pack Horse library service during the 1930’s.
I really wanted to love this book, and eventually I did. But I’ll be honest; there was a point in which I almost put it down for good. The character development was good and all the elements were there for a good story. I guess with all the awards and accolades, I just expected to be more engaging. The plot moved extremely slow, and for a long while, I wasn’t sure exactly where Richardson was going with it. I found myself getting bogged down in all the adjectives and descriptive sentences. Here’s an example:
“Pressing down on its pumpkin crown, I released the latch, and the small, bubbled filigree pair case opened. I peeked inside the inner case and noted the black hands on the porcelain dial, then snapped it shut and stuffed it back down into my coat.” (p. 79) It’s a beautiful description, for sure. But I found myself wanting her to just say “I checked the time and hurried on my way” so we could get on with the story!
That said, I am glad I decided to finish it. I enjoyed learning about that part of our country’s history, and I fell in love with the characters along the way. It was not quite what I expected, but still worth reading!
Well, friends, those are the books in my Fall Book Stack 2021. I have a couple books I’m trying to finish for December, and then it will be time to wrap up this year’s Reading Challenge!
It’s also time to start looking ahead to 2022. Do you have any recommendations for next year’s Reading Challenge? I’d love to add them to my list! What’s on your nightstand?