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I read a ton of books this month, you guys. Like, a ton. Part of that is due to the fact that my family went on vacation in the beginning of July: when I go to the beach, all I want to do is sit by the pool and read. Summer also helps: I have nothing going on except for practicing, reading, working for my mama, and going running. I'm just such a fan of books that inspire me. My bookshelf at home is half of that (with a healthy section for Lord of the Rings) and half music/music reference. I keep discovering more and more authors and books that I love and that do my soul good. I firmly believe that Jesus places things like that in our lives in order to encourage us and spur us on to the work He created for us. As a matter of fact, I don't know anyone who doesn't like inspiring books, and to that end, I'd love to share with you what I read this month. I plan to do a post at the end of 2015 about the year in books, but July was such a bookish month that it deserves its own post, right? Right.

Here we go!

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Who doesn't love Amy Poehler? Seriously. I read her book in about two days (I bought it in Falmouth and saved it for our vacation). It's a super easy read, and absolutely hilarious. Besides, I love reading about people who have worked hard for something that they loved to do and achieved success in it. While I admit that that isn't all there is, there's something so inspiring about it. Amy talks to you like a friend -- and I know we all want to be besties with Amy Poehler.

Simply Tuesday (Advance Reader Copy) by Emily P. Freeman

I wrote a review of this book here, in which I talked at length about how encouraging and wonderful it is. For now, suffice it to say that it is a breath of fresh air that never fails to inspire and encourage me. Emily admonishes me to sit down on the inside, to embrace my smallness, and to give all my glory to my Father in Heaven, as Jesus did. It's definitely one of my Favorite Books Ever.

The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter

I bought this book in Blackwell's, the premier music shop in Oxford. It's a book about Oxford, set in Oxford, sold in Oxford. How could I not buy it? Plus, it's the account of some of my favorite people ever. The Inklings were a group of friends that gathered in C.S. Lewis' rooms in Magdalen College in Oxford. They would get together to read one another's writings and critique them. The first versions of The Lord of the Rings were read to these men -- be still my heart. Since Lewis was the center of the Inklings, the book mainly revolves around him, but it also features Charles Williams, who wrote a lot of spiritual novels, as well as Tolkien (see below) and C.S. Lewis' brother Warnie Lewis (who seems like he must have been a hoot). It describes a lot of their lives, literary, academic, domestic, and otherwise. I never thought I was a biography girl, but I LOVED this. It's a peek into lives full of learning and books and philosophy and the creation of entire worlds. It was beautiful.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

It's a classic, but I had never read it! Guys. It's so good. It's a tragic love story, but so much more: it's also a tale of twisted revenge and a grudge held for so long it consumes everyone in its path. When it was first published, many criticized it for being too rough, but the roughness of the Yorkshire heaths and of the characters captures the imagination. Emily Brontë has a wildly imaginative mind, but she wrote what she knew: she grew up in the wild Yorkshire heights. This book made me miss England, and it kept me spellbound. I cannot believe I hadn't read it till this month.

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter 

After I read The Inklings, I learned that Mr. Carpenter had written a biography of my main man. You better believe I got right on that. Tolkien's life was, by all accounts, very quiet, but this book shows us the inner life of this master linguist. Tolkien was truly brilliant, with a love for nature and language and Northern-ness, and he created an entire universe out of his own head. This book was a step into his world, and I grieved a little bit when it was over. Again, I never thought I'd be a biography girl, but this one was a treat.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

I read this in about three hours of one day. Seriously. I've had it sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years, and I've never read it (I know, I know: Sara, you're basically the president of the C.S. Lewis fan club. All I can say is that Mom was shocked too)! I now regret not reading it before now, but as with much of C.S. Lewis, I'm sure this book will only get better -- and more convicting -- as I get older. In it, the protagonist goes on a journey from Hell to Heaven (Lewis' ideas thereof). As is his usual style, Lewis puts eternity into everyday words, reminding us that for the redeemed, Heaven is in all our life, while for those who are not, the entire road has glimpses of Hell. Full of conviction and slaps in the face of my heart. I couldn't put it down. Profound and deep and utterly understandable. I am forever altered by it.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

Myquillyn, otherwise known as The Nester, is Emily P. Freeman's big sister! I discovered her work through the ministry these two sisters run with their dad, hope*ologie. They do a monthly podcast that I listen to voraciously. Myquillyn is a decorator who has a deep passion for creating beauty in the home. She authors a blog called Nesting Place (hence the title of the book), where she encourages women that it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. Recently I've recognized in myself the desire to make my own home beautiful, so I bought this book. I did not expect to be encouraged as much as I have been. Myquillyn's words are not only applicable to decorating, but to all of life, because she reminds us that perfection is not the goal. In fact, perfection makes us unapproachable (ouch). She encourages us to see the beauty in what is rather than complaining about what is not. This book is like a bright beam of light, and it's full of gorgeous photos of a beautiful house -- and she isn't afraid to show us its mess.

Le petit prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

My French friend Marine recommended that I read this French children's book in the original language. In her words, "C'est magique." This is the classic French children's story. I wanted to improve my fluency in the language, so I went to Barnes and Noble and bought it. This is another one that's sat on my shelf for a few months, but I started picking my way through it in earnest late in July. It can be slow going, since I encounter words I don't know at least once per paragraph. But it really is enchanting, and sometimes it even makes me laugh out loud. It's been a long time since I read something that genuinely made me laugh out loud. You go, M. de Saint-Exupéry.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

In my tradition of rereading Lord of the Rings every summer: Volume Two of the trilogy. For anyone who hasn't read these amazing books, I will say this: The Two Towers is the hardest volume to get through, simply because there's a lot of journeying that goes on. Moreover, Tolkien is highly descriptive: that bothers some readers, but I love it -- it brings Middle-earth to life. His descriptions of its natural beauty are so evocative that they make my heart ache. The reader's patience with Tolkien's long-windedness is always rewarded with gripping story and gorgeous imagery. Curious about why I'm so obsessed with these books? Click here.

*****

I would love to hear what books you read this month. I take recommendations. My to-read list is constantly growing, but I'm always on the lookout for new reads!

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