Spring reading round-up

The first months of the new year in Michigan are usually pretty cold and grey and dreary. Here are some of the best and most interesting reads from the past few months. I definitely went down the rabbit hole on the topic of hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) and all things Scandinavian. If you haven’t heard of hygge it’s the Danish concept having to do with “the everyday mindfulness that comes from a wholehearted participation in life” (Louisa T. Brits). Being grateful and fully engaged in the present can be tough sometimes, but it’s worth the effort. Here are the best reads from the past few months:

Nordic obsession

How to Hygge by Signe Johansen

This book is full of unique and interesting recipes. If you want to freshen up your repertoire of baked goods or add some new ingredients to your cooking, this will definitely inspire all bakers and cooks who enjoy exploring in the kitchen.

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

Full of infographics and bits of information, this book on hygge is a good overview and introduction for those who love to glean facts visually.

The Book of Hygge by Louisa T. Brits

The most poetic and visually beautiful book about hygge. It is full of quotes and reflections on the central characteristics of this Danish practice. This one is best read curled up with a blanket while sipping tea with nowhere to go. This one is good to savor slowly.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Written by a British journalist who moves to Denmark, this is full of well-researched facts and personal anecdotes. What I appreciated most about this memoir is the presentation of the good and the not-so-good aspects of Danish society and culture. She presents a balanced perspective on this (sometimes) idealized nation.

The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen

Written by a Finnish journalist who moves to the U.S., this is the counterpoint to The Year of Living Danishly. She describes the culture shock and adjustments she makes. This is an organized and thoroughly researched look into the differences between the U.S. and Finland (she uses Finland primarily, but includes other Scandinavian countries too). She organizes her findings focusing on relationships: parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens.

Spiritually strengthening 

Passion Translation: Psalms, John, Acts

The Passion Translation has been so refreshing to my devotional life. It’s vibrant language and fascinating footnotes infuse new energy into reading the Bible.

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

Written a few years ago, this is an excellent book for anyone needing to prioritize and figure out what rest looks like in the 21st century. The last two chapters do a phenomenal job outlining the reality and necessity of working hard without burning out.

Perspective changing memoirs 

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

There are a handful of books I read every year that really impact me and this is one of those. It is heartbreaking, eye-opening, and beautifully written. The personal story is presented alongside thoroughly researched statistics making the personal memoir also a story of a whole community.

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

I laughed and cried through the entire book. We all need to hear stories of individuals who persevered and faithfully pursued their passions without giving up or compromising. An inspiring and entertaining read for those of us who are nosy and love to learn about other people’s lives.

Home and family

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach

This easy to digest memoir and cookbook is full of practical tips for anyone getting started in the kitchen to those who have been cooking for ages. It’s especially encouraging for anyone who has young eaters in their home.

The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine N. Aron

An enlightening read for anyone who has kids, works with kids, or spends a lot of time with kids. It breaks down the characteristics of highly sensitive children, provides insight to help them thrive, and offers advice for each stage of development from age 0-18.

Simply Styling by Kristen Grove

Sometimes you just need to look at photographs of beautiful spaces and this totally delivers plus more. Kristen Grove gives practical and easy to follow advice for discovering your own home style and  how to make a space cozy and personal.

Captivating stories

In the Woods by Tana French

I’m may be a little late to discover Tana French, but after reading In the Woods and The Likeness I’m a fan. Her mysteries are rich in plot and character. If you enjoy a twisty, detective story, check her out.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A poignant and profound novel about a handful of individuals living in Chechnya spanning the decade between 1994 and 2004. It is raw in portraying some of the violence, but the depth of characters and socio-geographical setting make it well-worth the read if you have the patience for fiction that conveys a powerful message with artistic subtlety.

What have you been reading lately? I would love to hear your favorites and what’s been inspiring you.



Best reads 2016




Winter in the Midwest makes me want to cozy up with a blanket, drink tea, and read every spare minute I have. The love of books runs strong in my family. I have distinct memories of visiting my grandparent’s house and smelling the books that lined the shelves of every room. The barrister bookshelf that I inherited from my grandfather is something I will always treasure along with the stacks of books he passed along to me over the years. Even now when my siblings and I are in the same room, we quickly end up discussing the books we’ve been reading. Saying no to the TV and yes to books was absolutely essential for my reading life this year. I hope you find yourself a book you love this season. Here are my favorites from the past year:

Novels that will captivate you 

Still Life by Louise Penny – this murder mystery will keep you guessing and wanting to eat all the food she describes is mouth watering detail.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Stout – a slim, heartbreaking and beautifully written story about Lucy Barton’s relationship with her family and impoverished childhood.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – this WWII historical fiction will make you forget the snowy weather with its adventurous heroines and their exploits in France against the Nazis.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave – set in London and Malta during the early days of WWII, the characters and their stories will remain with you long after finishing the book.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh – almost abandoned this one half way through reading it, but this mystery completely surprised me and that is a great feeling to have as a reader.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – began and finished this in one day. It’s plot and story are unlike anything I’ve read before; as soon as I finished I immediately wanted to reread it.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – an epic, sweeping novel that spans 200 years and several generations of one Ghanaian family whose lives are forever altered by slavery. Each character’s story intensely gripped me as well as the powerful prose. 

Nonfiction that will inspire you to live more creatively and boldly

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – an inspiring read for anyone who is a creator or maker (and after reading this, I believe we all have creativity in us) and struggles with just doing the creative work.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown – everyone should read this at least once in their life. It’s powerful for self-knowledge as well as for being a better citizen, friend, spouse, parent.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – the perfect book to begin a new year with. Full of solid research, personal anecdotes, and practical suggestions this will inspire you to think differently about everyday life.

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin – after reading The Happiness Project, I became a major Rubin fan. You don’t have to read Happiness to enjoy this one. It’s practical and helps you better understand yourself which is so freeing. If you’re more auditory, skip the books and subscribe to her podcast for weekly inspiration.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – if you read one book in 2017, please let this be the one. It’s a book that everyone should read at least once in her life. I was lost for words after finishing it and still can’t form full sentences to describe it.

Books with solid practical advice to live more intentionally

Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker – an engaging, practical, and helpful book to minimize the stuff that doesn’t matter and maximize the things that do as parents.

Simple Matters by Erin Boyle – I’ve been accused to reading things that reinforce my own belief system and this is one of them. Simple is always better in my mind and Boyle writes and gives practical advice about living a life with minimal stuff to embrace the moments that matter most.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown – anyone who feels like her life is bursting at the seams should read this book. It gives you permission to say no so you can say yes and vision to step out of the everyday and see a bigger picture of your life.

Money Mastery by Billy Epperhart – maybe I’m the only one with a major gap in knowledge when it comes to building wealth. After paying off our student loans, we finally have freedom to save and this book is full of practical advice and wisdom about money.

The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees – more freeing than the capsule wardrobe philosophy, this book teaches you how to discover your own style and encourages you to have patience to wait for quality clothes that fit and match your style.

Parenting books for every season

The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl – one of the easiest to digest parenting books I’ve read. They explain big ideas in clear language and include a short list of ways to be more intentional and the end of each chapter. 

The Soul of Discipline Kim John Payne – an in-depth look at parenting throughout all the developmental phases from young children to adult children. It describes the role of parents in three stages: guardian, gardener, guide and these metaphors hold up well throughout the whole book. I plan to return to this one throughout the years as my kids enter each new season.

Poetry for the soul

Felicity by Mary Oliver – she’s been a favorite poet of mine since college when a professor introduced me to her in 2007. This collection is especially poignant and rich.

Roots to the Earth by Wendell Berry – a beautiful pairing of poems with woodcut designs. It’s gorgeous to read and look at.

Encouraging reads for your spiritual life

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence – it’s amazing how the life and wisdom of a monk from 400 years ago still speaks powerfully today. If you ever wonder whether you’re living a big enough life for God, be encouraged with this book that even the small things matter to him. 

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald – a must read for everyone in this age of nonstop information and motion. It brings conviction and encouragement to prioritize things in the right order.

Visually stunning and beautifully written

Le Road TripGardens of Awe and Folly, and When Wanderers Cease to Roam by Vivian Swift – let’s just say I fell in love with Vivian Swift this year. If you’re not a big reader and just want something beautiful to look at and read snippets of, this is the best coffee table book you will actually go back to again and again.

Happy reading, friends. I hope you all find yourselves encouraged, inspired, or lost in a book in 2017!

SSFS_Clip_Art_Pack_Laurels_Free (12)


2016 Reading Challenge

For the first time in over 3 years, I have time and energy to read novels like I used to. Inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge, I’ve assembled my list. Here’s to being (overly) ambitious! And hopefully, reading some good literature this year. Now, I have to decide which one to do first. What’s on your reading list this year?

  • A book published this year: What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi


  • A book you can finish in a day: See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid


  • A book you’ve been meaning to read: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff


  • A book recommended by local book seller: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates


  • A book you should have read in school: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf


  • A book chosen by a sibling: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


  • A book published before I was born: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood


  • A book that was banned at some point: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou


  • A book you previously abandoned: Dead Souls by Gogol


  • A book you own but never read: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka


  • A book that intimidates you: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A book you’ve read at least once: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier