Weekly Reads: 12.30.2013 & the Best Reading of 2013

With a little hesitation bred from a lack of familiarity,  last week I started reading:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami | Weekly Reads at The 1000th Voice

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
By Haruki Murakami

I’m 250+ pages in, and it’s great! Once again, I’m so glad I decided to read this.

Best Reading of 2013

Best Book: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Book I Was Excited About and Thought I Was Going To Love More But Didn’t: Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende – I have not given up on this book for good.

Most Surprising (in a good way!) Book: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (Good because she learned how to create a life for herself despite losses and the norms of her time.)

Book I Recommended Most: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Best Series Discovered: I read two series in 2013-The Little House series and The Hunger Games-neither was a new discovery.

Favorite New Authors Discovered: New-to-me authors Daphne du Maurier, Leif Enger & Melanie Benjamin

Best Book That was out of My Comfort Zone or Was a New Genre: I didn’t read any new genres this year, but I so infrequently read Spiritual/Religious books that 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker fits the bill.

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire & Mockingjay

Book I Read That I’m Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year: I generally don’t reread books. With that said, I’m probably most likely to reread 7 by Jen Hatmaker or A Little House Reader sometime in the future.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Favorite Cover of a Book: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Most Memorable Character: It’s a tie between Joe in The Round House by Louise Erdrich and Merikat in We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Most Beautifully Written Book: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on Me: 7 by Jen Hatmaker

Book I Couldn’t Believe I Waited to Finally Read: In terms of amount of time on my physical bookshelf without reading, it would have to be The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich.

Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book: “Colin was perennially appalled by the threadbare state of other people’s morals.” and “Colin’s only understanding of love was of limitless loyalty, boundless tolerance: Mary had fallen, irreparably in his estimation.” I liked these two from The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling because of how well they succinctly describe Colin’s character. Also, “At peace? Who but the insane would ever be at peace? What person who has enjoyed life could possibly think one is enough? Who could live even a day and not feel the sweet ache of regret?” from Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters.

Shortest and Longest Books Read:
Shortest – Love Poems by Pablo Neruda (90 pages)
Longest – The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (505 pages)

Book That Had A Scene In It That I Was Dying To Talk About: The Little House series had me constantly pondering my thoughts on Mary, and I wanted to talk to everyone about them.

Favorite Relationship From A Book: Laura and Almanzo from These Happy Golden Years

Favorite Book I Read from An Author I’ve Read Previously: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Best Book I Read Based SOLELY on a Recommendation from Somebody Else: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger was recommended to me 10 years ago by my favorite teacher.

Genre I Read Most: It seems to be a toss-up between Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction and Contemporary Fiction. Many books seem to cross over these three genres.

Newest Fictional Crush: None

Best 2013 Debut: We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down by Rachael Hanel

Most Vivid World/Imagery in a Book: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read: Little House in the Big Woods

Book That Made Me Cry Or Nearly Cry: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Book That I Think Was Overlooked When It Came Out: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

And then looking forward…

One Book I Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be My Number 1 Priority in 2014: It’s not a priority, but I’m really looking forward to Actors Anonymous by James Franco.

Book I Am Most Anticipating for 2014: See above.

One Thing I Hope to Accomplish or Do in My Reading/Blogging in 2014: To thoroughly enjoy the books I read.

*Linked up with the Perpetual Page Turner H/T to Love Laughter Insanity*

Book Discussion: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Part 2

read Part 1 here
Book Cover

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
by Jen Hatmaker

Last week I waded casually into the deep pool of thoughts I had about the FoodClothesPossessions and Media sections of this book. I could have (and probably should have) created an entire post about each section of the book. I might still do that someday, but for now, I’m just going to wade in the shallow end by lightly discussing Jen’s WasteSpending and Stress challenges.


During month five, Jen’s challenge was to successfully adopt seven habits for a greener life. It was “a fast from assuming I am not part of an integrated earth,” as Jen put it (page 119). Specifically, Jen was going to begin gardening and composting; conserve energy and water; recycle everything possible; drive only one car; shop thrift, second hand and locally. This challenge really spoke to me, or maybe it was Jen when she wrote,
Waste: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen HatmakerThis comes at a time when I was pondering a similar thought. God made the world for us; isn’t it our responsibility to lovingly maintain and care for it? Aren’t we doing the exact opposite? Nature has always been a place where I’ve felt most connected to God. After all, it was His creation. I’ve become much more focused on the earth, and I’m doing my best, little by little, to be a better steward of the environment. I’ve spent time thinking about some of the areas where I can become greener, including household cleaning and maintenance products. I’ve put countless chemicals into the local water because I’ve used commercial cleaning products, but not anymore. As I use up these products, I’m researching green (and often homemade) alternatives, and I’m switching to them.

One other interesting aspect of Jen’s waste month was the introduction (to me) of the Karpophoreō Project, whose mission is “To bear good fruit in every good deed.” The KP is an organization that teaches homeless people how to tend a garden and pairs them up with homeowners who have space for a backyard garden. The homeowner gets a portion of the harvest, with the remaining harvest being sold at the local farmers’ market by the formerly homeless person. It sounds like such an amazing project.

(If you get a hold of this book, check out Jen’s list on pages 130 to 132 of reasons to buy local.)


As the Hatmaker family’s fortune increased (both literally and figuratively), so did their spending. They were a normal, growing American family. Jen challenged her family to only spend money at seven places: Sunset Valley Farmer’s market, HEB gas station, online bill pay (various vendors, such as utility providers still need to be paid), kids’ school, limited travel fund (Jen travels for work), emergency medical and Target.

This was an interesting challenge. It runs so counter to our consumerist society. I don’t think it would be hard for my family to only spend money at seven places for one month if we don’t count Nick’s business visits for work. (He often buys things when he’s visiting the businesses. It’s a sign of goodwill.)


Don’t we all have too much stress? To work on handling her stress. Jen decided to follow the The Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr. This was an interesting challenge in which Jen paused seven times throughout the day (including at midnight!) to pray. The book guided her through the appropriate prayers and intentions at each hour. The most profound statement in this section was

Stress: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen HatmakersSeriously, this was such a lovely and inspiring book. “Challenge” books are so popular these days: from spending a year trying to find happiness to traveling the world to “find” oneself (Where did your inner self go if you have to travel the world to find it?). I’ve never been interested in reading the others, but the premise of this book sounded so intriguing that I had to pick it up, and I’m very glad I did. All of the challenges really inspired me to live with more intention, which is always a good thing in my opinion.

Have you read Jen Hatmaker’s book or anything similar? What do you think? Would living with less be good for you?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. And of course, don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!

(Quotes from pages 118 and 189)

Book Discussion (Part I): 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Book Cover

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
by Jen Hatmaker

I picked up this lovely book hoping it would help guide and inspire me as I try to live my life intentionally. To say it was helpful would be quite the understatement. Jen’s book is full of brilliant insights into living without all the excess and living life full of Christian intention. (If you aren’t Christian, this book definitely isn’t for you. The concepts of simplifying and reducing waste transcend any religion, but part of Jen’s purpose in the book is to show us that this is what God calls us to do.)

In the book Jen undertook a challenge so unusual that she often found herself awkwardly trying to explain why she was wearing the same shirt or only eating sweet potatoes. No, folks, she’s not weird. She’s just on a mission! Her challenge was to focus on seven areas of life (food, clothes, possessions, media, shopping, waste and stress) to learn to live with less and reduce her impact on the Earth.

Jen HatmakerJen Hatmaker: smiling and happy

I could extensively discuss this book over the course of many posts and words, but I’m just going to focus on how this book is helping me live intentionally. I will be splitting it into two parts. Part two will appear next week.


In her first challenge, Jen resolves to eat only seven foods for one month. In her ruminations before starting the challenge, Jen spends a lot of time discussing how much she loves food. Like, seriously, LOVES food. It’s quite clear that she’s a foodie, and her love of food surpasses mine. (I almost always plan my day around food and think about my next meal or snack while eating the current one.)

What does a self proclaimed foodie learn from a challenge like this? Well there’s this:

FoodBy simplifying the food I purchase and eat, I can be more intentional and less wasteful. I don’t see simplifying only in terms of eating a certain number of foods like Jen did. I see it more in cooking from scratch and decreasing the waste prepackaged meals create. Also, learning to focus on the food I‘m currently eating will make it a more enjoyable experience for me.


In month two, Jen challenged herself to only wear seven items of clothing. Within a week she acknowledged that she had spent far more than was necessary on clothing. After 30 days and seven clothing items, Jen concluded:


Wow! She really has me pegged. I’m always so worried that someone will notice if I’ve worn an item or outfit too often. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, but I still have items that I rarely wear. And I sometimes fall in to the trap of buying something so trendy that I quickly grow bored with it. I need to stop doing that. I need to really consider my clothing purchases. How often will I wear it? Does it fit with my overall style, wardrobe or ideal wardrobe? I’m also going to challenge myself to buy more thrifted and consigned clothing than I currently do (which I’d estimate at around 20% of my current wardrobe).


Jen’s challenge during possessions month was to get rid of seven items every day. And she didn’t just take it to Goodwill. She found people who truly needed the items, like refugee families who had just stepped off the plane in America.

Hatmaker FamilyThe lovely Hatmaker family: as she undertook this
challenge, Jen and her husband were working on
adopting their two youngest children from Ethiopia.

This chapter was probably the least influential for me because I embarked on the journey to somewhat minimalism almost three years ago. When I think about all the stuff we used to have and all the stuff we still have, I get a little nauseous. It seems really obscene to me now.


For media month, Jen and her family cut out TV, gaming, Facebook/Twitter, iPhone apps, radio, texting and internet. In the silence, she realized:

MediaAs you know, I cut out THE online forum where I spent a large portion of my free time. It’s been freeing so far. I’ve checked a few long-standing to dos off my list just in the first two weeks (see the header above). As a commenter on that post mentioned, some form of distraction or entertainment is a good thing, but between TV, books and my family, I already have plenty of entertainment. Will I return? I don’t know, but if I do, I hope I can learn to better manage my time there and still focus my attention where it really needs to be.

Looking at these four areas of excess in my life has been pretty eye opening, and I really think it has and will continue to have a big impact as I try to live my life more intentionally. The next three areas of excess will also be high impact, so stick around!

Have you read Jen Hatmaker’s book or anything similar? What do you think so far? Would living with less be good for you?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. And of course, don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins.