Audio Books for your SUMMER ROAD TRIP {Update!}

As we head into summer vacation season, I regularly get asked for audiobook recommendations, entertaining books to listen to on long drives.

Last summer I shared audio books the whole family will love (click here to see a very long list of books people of all ages will enjoy.)   I somehow failed to mention the Wrinkle in Time series, maybe I thought I’d talked about it enough online since I yelled at people all year to read the book before seeing the movie? (Really good advice, the book and the movie are two totally different things…) I read Madeleine L’Engle’s first three Time books (one, two, and three) dozens of times as a child, and listened to them with my kids a few years ago – the narrator is wonderful, and the stories stand the test of time (I can only vouch for the first three, I didn’t learn that there were more in the series until I was an adult. I’ve never read the 5th, and thought the 4th was really weird.)

This summer I’m sharing Audiobooks for Grown Ups: I’ve listened to and loved all of these, and think they’ll make your road trip fly. I organized them by topic/interest area, so you can skim through and find the categories that look like the most fun for you.

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Ree Reads: May Book Reviews

I’m reading 9-10 books a month these days, well on my way to reaching 100 books in 2018 (want to read more? Try these tips!) With so many books to cover, I decided to make these reviews shorter, or only review the real winners each month. I’ll have to start next month, because May was ALL WINNERS. Non-fiction wise, I have a refreshingly different Christian book, a Pulitzer Prize winning presidential biography, and an inspiring feminist memoir that read like a novel. Fiction-wise, I started a new audio-mystery series, continued another, listened to a delightfully soapy book I wanted to read before the movie comes out, and FINISHED the last of the books-I-previously-abandoned from my failed April reading challenge. I fully recommend all of these books (with one exception), how can I not tell you about them??

May Books

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Ree Reads: April Book Reviews

The reading challenge I set for myself in April was a TOTAL FAIL. Sigh. I did read a lot of great books, but my plan to go back and finish books I’d tried to read and quit was….maybe not that great a plan?

Two readerly goodies that I’m excited about and that may be relevant to your interests because FREE BOOKS. (Disclaimer: I tend towards being a book collector more than a book reader, and both of these free book opportunities are probably not helping with that… I am supposed to be reading the books I own before buying or borrowing this year, maybe that self-given challenge is going to fail too? #sorrynotsorry #freebooks!)

#1 Do you know about Amazon First Reads? If you’re a prime member, you get a free new release kindle book each month. I have an Amazon account, but we shop and buy and have Prime on Matt’s account, so I don’t get any Amazon emails, and missed out on quite a few free books when we first signed up for Prime. I’m finally in the habit of checking the Amazon First Reads page at the beginning of every month and choosing my free book. They have 6 to choose from, and there’s almost always one (or more!) that sound really good to me. There are several great choices this month, I chose this one, which sounds delightful.

#2 Have you heard about the free audiobook summer program at This is for you if you enjoy YA or have a teen in your life whom you’d like to encourage to read more. SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens (aimed at getting teens to read, but open to everyone). Beginning April 26 2018, SYNC will give away two complete audiobook downloads a week – pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. You have to download the overdrive app (that’s where the books are stored once you download them), but it’s easy and FREE and they have a great variety of interests represented over the course of the summer.

(This isn’t a sponsored post  – not that I’m against sponsored posts, a blogger has to make a living, and the links below are all my affiliate links as always… Both of these programs are free, I’m not receiving compensation for sharing them – I just thought you’d be interested and I love to share!) Now on to my…

Book Nerd Failure Confession: I’m not afraid to quit a book I’m not enjoying, but I have a stack of books that I thought I’d quit because my attention span was spoiled by the internet, or because I tried them on audio and they weren’t a good listening fit for me. So I checked out a giant stack from the library, all books reader friends have loved and encouraged me to go back to, and gave myself the challenge of finishing them.

Guess what? I read ONE of them. ONE. It took me FOREVER to finish it, and then April was nearly over. I picked up 2 or 3 more (and drove around town with one in the car for a week), but… I’m thinking maybe I quit because I didn’t like them? It’s like I thought we were just on a break, but now it seems I  need to break up with them forever. Sorry books. Maybe I’ll put a list at the end of this post and let y’all tell me if there are some I’ll be sorry I missed?

In spite of my fail, I managed to read 13 books this month (thanks, audiobooks!). Read on for quick reviews of the books I did manage to finish this month (and to chime in on the books I’m breaking up with!), including a mystery series I’m loving on audio, a Christian book from a new-to-me (and super helpful) perspective on Jesus, two heart-breaking non-fiction books, a fun read-aloud and the one book I managed to go back and make myself finish.

This month: Readerly goodies (#freebooks!) My reading FAIL Challenging books from diverse perspectives A fun new-to-me mystery series/palate cleanser


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Ree Reads: March Book Reviews

Well, I hit an all-time high in March. Thanks to great audio books and the 8 hour drive to and from my sister’s new home in Illinois, plus several books I COULD NOT PUT DOWN, I read eleven books this month. YAY!

I loved all of the non-fiction I read this month for very different reasons, but if I had to name a favorite I’d probably go with the one that has stuck with me the most. I listened to this at the very beginning of the month, and I’m still thinking about it.

I also thoroughly enjoyed all the fiction I read, including some totally discussable reads that would make great book club choices. But if I’m being honest? My favorite reads in March were light and fluffy, with hardly any substance at all: a new cozy mystery series that I’m practically obsessed with.


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6 Easy Things You Can Do to Read More

In 2017 I tried to read 100 books (only made it to the 60s). This year I set the goal at 100 again, but really I’m just trying to read more than I did last year: 2 books a week is probably an unreasonable goal for me anyway.  I have several reasons for aiming high with my reading goal:

  1. Reading is a life long love. My first best friends were Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Pevensie. I lived with my nose in a book. High school and college dampened my book-love with their years of forced-reading. I wandered away from reading again when I had small children, because of years of, well, small children. Picking up a good book is a gentle reminder of the comfort and friends books have been my entire life.
  2. I worry that the internet is making us all dumb. As a teenager I read Shakespeare and Jane Austen for fun, as an English Lit major I read long books, boring books, ridiculously hard books. I surfaced from those small child years into the smart phone years. and I realized that my attention span had been reduced to 144 character chunks.
  3. My phone is the main enemy to my reading life. The first year I tracked my reading on Goodreads I read 46 books, without even trying. Having an audacious reading goal encourages me to put down my dang phone.

Would you like to return to your childhood love of reading? Increase your attention span and avoid the dumbing down of soundbites, tweets, and everything else the internet lulls us with? Need an alternative to your phone?

6 Easy Things You Can Do To Read More

Read a series

Finding a series you enjoy takes the “what should I read next” out of reading, letting you speed from one book to the next. Here are some I’d recommend:

Make reading part of your daily schedule

I’ve set aside certain times just for reading. This works differently in different seasons, but I like to read first thing in the morning (usually Christian growth) and at night before going to bed (fiction.) Right now I’m trying to sit down and read for a bit after work, while the boys do their homework (if I’m not reading at this time, I’m messing around on my phone…)

Try Audiobooks

Read while you’re driving, cooking, getting things done. Even housecleaning (not my fave) is more enjoyable when listening to a book. I have different taste in Audiobooks than in physical books, so it took some time for audio-reading to click for me.

My favorite audiobooks are memoirs (Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Shonda Rimes’ Year of Yes, both read by their authors, are fantastic), light self-help nonfiction (I adore Gretchen Rubin’s books on audio), and gentle mysteries (like the Maisie Dobbs Books.) I can’t listen to anything scary or suspenseful, but if a book seems long and slightly boring, I might try it on audio (I’ve listened to quite a few classics, Middlemarch last year, and working my way – sloooowly – through Anna Karenina right now.)

I listen to anything I can get from the library for free through the Overdrive app, but we also love Audible. With a membership, you get a free audiobook every month, plus they have a daily deal that regularly features something on my to be read list. Audible has a great deal right now, try it out for free for 30 days, and get 2 free audiobooks.

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Keep a book with you at all times

I hardly ever get to the school early enough to actually read, but I put a book in my car every day, just in case. If I end up waiting for a kid’s practice to end, waiting for a friend to show up for lunch, waiting for an appointment, I’d rather be reading than scrolling on my phone.

Track your reading

This may work better for some personalities than others, but seeing my list of books grow week by week is motivating for me. I use Goodreads, but you could also just keep a list in the back of a notebook. I find it super satisfying to add books to my list, and see that number climb. When I’m tempted to just mess around on my phone, it helps me to think of my reading goal, and how good it will feel to add a finished book to my list.

Mix it up & Put it down

Maybe more than any other strategy, changing up the kinds of books I’m reading helps me read more. I alternate fiction and non-fiction, but I’ve also learned to follow up a heavy book with something lighter. If I finish a super long book, I need to have an easy, quick book waiting. I’m finishing up a longish book with heavier themes right now, and I have another kind of meaty book I’ve been dying to get to. But I know I need a break, so I have the second book in a fun series waiting for me, almost like dessert.

I’ve also learned that grown ups don’t have to finish books they aren’t enjoying. I don’t have to quit forever, I can always come back if I want to. Most of the books I’ve abandoned over the past few years I’ll probably read eventually, they just weren’t what I needed at that exact reading moment (my goal next month is to go back and finish some of my abandoned books from the past few years.)

Have you tried any of these things, and did they help? Why are you interested in reading more, and what’s helped you?


Photo used in images by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Ree Reads: February Book Reviews

Every month I do quick reviews of the books I’ve read: Because I love to share good things and because the only thing I like better than reading books is TALKING about books.

This was a GREAT reading month, partially because of good books, and partially because my poor kids had influenza, so I was stuck at home for over a week.

We have a wonderful non-fiction book I think you all should read, an excellent book club read, a sweet story from an author I’ve loved in the past, another book from an author whose works I make myself wait to read until I really need happiness, and the latest in two fun mystery series (one of which I actually read in January and somehow missed in last month’s post.

February Book Reviews from Her Royal Spyness, Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Music Shop, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions



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What I’m Reading: January Book Reviews

Every month I do quick reviews of the books I’ve read. I LOVE to read, but have very specific tastes and am a highly sensitive reader, so for years I just read non-fiction and middle-grade novels (with Hunger Games and the like, large portions of YA entered territory too stressful or graphic for me.)

I like and can highly recommend nearly every thing I read, because I (finally) learned how to pick good books for myself.

It took me years to learn what I like and don’t like in books, and to make peace with why I read and what I like to read (as an English major, I wish I liked more “important” and less “fluffy” fiction, but I’ve decided to let myself off the hook for that. Who decides what is fluffy and what is important anyway? And why is so much that is labeled “women’s fiction” also considered fluffy, even when it is about important subjects?)

I am still trying to stretch and grow as a reader, and we all need to push against the attention span our brains are being trained into by the internet and social media. But I had nearly quit reading because I didn’t feel OK about reading what I wanted to read, and when I did, I didn’t know how to find it.

So: If you’re looking for negative reviews, you usually won’t find them from me. I only read things I’m relatively sure I’m going to enjoy. I have a limited amount of time to read, and I don’t want to waste it with something that isn’t for me.

I’m also nearly always reading at least 3 (often more) books: An audio book, a non-fiction, and a fiction. This month I returned to a beloved audiobook series, read a FANTASTIC Christian memoir, finally finished the non-fiction book I’ve been reading over many months, and fought my way through a great fiction book that wasn’t as much a-book-for-me as I would hope (but it was good and I think many of you will enjoy it more than I did!)

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Separated from the Stars (Madeleine L’Engle, speaking through the years words we need now more than ever.)

“If we look at the make up of the word disaster, dis-aster, we see dis, which means separation, and aster, which means stars. So dis-aster is separation from the stars. Such separation is disaster indeed. When we are separated from the stars, the sea, each other, we are in danger of being separated from God.

Sometime the very walls of our churches separate us from God and each other. In our various naves and sanctuaries we are safely separated from those outside, from other denominations, other religions, separated from the poor, the ugly, the dying. I’m not advocating pulling down the walls of our churches, though during the activist sixies I used to think it might be a good idea if we got rid of all churches which seated more than two hundred. But then I think of the huge cathedral which is my second home in New York, and how its great stone arms welcome a multitude of different people, from the important and affluent to waifs and strays and the little lost ones of a great, overcrowded city. We need to remember that the house of God is not limited bo a building that we usually visit for only a few hours on Sunday. The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are – or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently. Where, even with the light streaming in rainbow colors through the windows, we can listen to the stars.” – Madeleine L’Engle

One of the best gifts I gave myself last year (it is, as they say, the gift that keeps on giving) was Madeleine L’Engles Glimpses of Grace: Daily Thoughts and Reflections.  I grew up on L’Engle’s fiction, and her nonfiction writing has been one of the best discoveries of my adult life. I’m making my way through her Crosswicks journals, but when I heard about a daily devotional type book of her writing I knew I had to have it. Her gentle language and wise thoughts are the perfect end to my every day. I could share half of what I’ve read, and every day gives me something to think about (usually something lovely and something that points me to God – though in a very different way than I’m used to.)

Here’s to hoping for a world in which we are less separated from the stars, and from each others.

Madeleine L'Engle _The House of God is not a safe place..._

My Best Reads: 2017

It was a GREAT year for reading! I didn’t make my goal (100 books in 2017), but I did read  23 more books than I read last year. And I might make it to 72 books read by the actual end of the year, if I finish everything I’m reading right now.

Goodreads makes a fun “Your Year in Books” page, so you can see all 69 of my books if you’re interested. (Fun fact: I started using Goodreads to track books last year just so I could get a “my year in books” page!) But I’m sharing the best of the best here.

My Top 3 Books of 2017


The Hate U Give


The Hate U Give: This is listed as YA and advertised with a “ripped from the headlines” flavor, but both of those things can be misleading. It’s a good story, well told. And the characters felt like actual people you could meet, living actual lives I now understand and have compassion for. So good.


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


When Breath Becomes Air: I was afraid to read this, knowing the author died before it was finished. But it is much more about life than death, and it is the best written book I read this year (except for maybe Jayber Crow.)




The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson


The Almost Sisters: This book might not be for everyone, but it was definitely for ME. Such a fun book, and about so much more than it is about. I can’t remember when I enjoyed a book this much, I wanted it to go on forever. I finished my library copy in 2 days and immediately handed it to my best-book-friend so she could read it without waiting on the hold list. We both loved it.



Best Book to Read With Your Kids

A Wrinkle in Time (I’m BEGGING YOU: Read this yourself and/or with any kids in your life before the movie comes out this spring!)

Runner Up: When You Reach Me (recent Newberry winner, a super fun mystery/sci fi read, and an homage to my beloved Madeline L’Engle)


Favorite Audiobooks

Nearly half of my 69 books were audiobooks, it’s the biggest way I have increased my reading, especially once I figured out what type of book I prefer in audio (light fiction and narrative non-fiction.)

At Home in the World (I’ve had it on Kindle since it came out, but hadn’t made time to listen to it: Got it on audio from the library, read it fast, and LOVED it.)

Gretchen Rubin’s Books (The lastest is The Four Tendencies, but Better Than Before is my favorite, and one I’ll probably listen to again early in 2018.)

Young Jane Young (If you liked Be Frank With Me or Where Did You Go Bernadette, you’ll like Young Jane Young.)

As You Wish (this is a MUST LISTEN, it would not be half as enjoyable as a real book.)



Other Reading Highlights

My first (and probably only) Stephen King, and the longest book I read this year.

I discovered several authors who are new favorites (Sarah Addison Allen, Wendell Berry, Joshilyn Jackson)

I discovered a new series that I love, the third book will probably be my first read of 2018.

I read a classic I can’t believe I’ve never read (and started another).

My 10 year old read a book for school and told me that I HAD to read it because I would LOVE it (which thrilled me of course, and he was right. Of course.)


Since I didn’t do a dedicated December post, the books I read this month are:


At Home in the World

The Last Anniversary: My first Liane Moriarty, it won’t be my last. This would be a great beach/vacation read, I read it on the plane home for Christmas.

To Be Where You Are: The latest in the Mitford series, which I’ve been reading for years. I’ve known these characters longer than anyone in my daily real life.


Wonder: Loved it, cried big fat tears. Haven’t seen the movie yet.

Frientimacy: I read this as part of my preparation for a speaking opportunity at a retreat, but it was good for me personally to have a framework to think through friendship struggles and how I can grow my relationships.


And as we close out 2017, here are the books I’m reading right now.

What I'm reading right nowI should finish at least 2 of these by the end of the week…

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors (LOVING IT.)

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown (I forgot to bring that to Texas with me, otherwise I’d be finished already.)

Tell Me Three Things (YA that’s been on my TBR since last year, I’m listening to it on overdrive.)

I’m also slowly listening to Anna Karenina, but it’s daunting with Audible telling me I have 30 hours to go…


I’d love to hear what your top three books of the year were! And if you had any reading goals, did you make them?


Best Books 2017

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What I’m Reading: October Book Reviews

October Book Reviews: Jayber Crow, The Four Tendencies, Young Jane Young, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, First Frost, As You Wish, Someone Else's Love Story

I am in the middle of about 6 books right now. Seriously, I need to stick with one at a time. But I’m usually listening to one, and reading a fiction and a non-fiction. At the moment I had so many non-fiction books I want to read I started a bunch and read whatever I feel like in the moment.

When I realized it was time for my October books post, I thought I might just have one or two books to talk about, since I’m in the middle of so many. I was happy to see I managed to read SEVEN in October. Not counting the six I started and haven’t finished yet. Yay for good books!

Unfortunately not all of my October reads were actually good books, I struggled to get through a couple of these but there were also some real winners, including one I’m all but bullying other people into reading.

I only finished two non-fiction books this month, both on audio, and both of which I enjoyed and can’t really name a favorite because they are so different from each other.

For my fiction winner, I have to go with my first Wendell Berry book. I am still starry eyed about his writing, and this story.

Read on for more good books!

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