Books I’ve Read This Winter

The sun has been hiding this winter. I can’t remember a winter like this where we went weeks at a time without seeing the sun. I actually enjoy cold weather in the winter because it’s such a welcome break from the sweltering heat and humidity we get here in the summer. But all the gray, rainy and dreary days without a hint of sunshine really get to me. On those days, it’s easy for me to just cozy up with a good book.


Between my husband taking a fall at work and fracturing his knee cap, a kidney stone for me, and Christmas festivities on top of all that, there was honestly not much time to read. And when I did want to read, pain kept me from being able to focus and concentrate. The one book I did read in December and one I really, really needed was:

Finding Peace: God’s Promise of a Life Free From Regret, Anxiety, and Fear by Charles Stanley


I came across this book at Goodwill and it practically leapt off the shelf into my hands.  This was a book I had put on my summer reading list but it just didn’t happen. This was the second book I’ve read by Charles Stanley (the first was on prayer) and I enjoyed them both. I gave this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads. I think my favorite quote in the entire book is early on in chapter 2:

I want to be very clear and state emphatically to you that until you have peace with God, you will never experience true peace in this life.  This is the most foundational principle in the Scriptures.

I found this book full of good advice.  It covered why we lose our peace, regret, anxiety, and fear, how our thought life affects our peace, living in peace with others, restoring peace in relationships, and learning to live in contentment. This is a book, I’ll return to in the future. It’s on my shelf to stay!


It seems I spent all of January trying to pass a kidney stone, visiting the urology office,  lying on imaging tables, and drinking water, lemonade, and cranberry juice until I thought I’d float away. Again, I only read one book although it was a long one with 600+ pages. It was also one I had put on my summer reading list but never got to:

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving


My youngest son read this book in high school and had told me he thought I would like it. I had put it on my to-read list a while back. I remember my son saying he liked the book, but didn’t care for the main character, Owen Meany.

I gave A Prayer for Owen Meany 4/5 stars on Goodreads. It held my interest and I thought about it a long time after I finished it. I thought the ending was quite clever. It was about eleven year old Owen Meany who hits a foul ball at a baseball game which kills his best friend’s mother. Owen is a very unusual character to say the least.


February was a rainy and dreary month. I had a cystoscopy and laser lithotripsy of my kidney stone on January 31st, so I spent the first eight days of February enduring the pain and discomfort of a ureteral stent, which in my opinion was much worse than the kidney stone. I spent a lot of time in bed and on the couch with pain meds coursing through my body and I read when I could and when I wasn’t sleeping. I read five books in February.

All Saints: The Surprising True Story of How Refugees from Burma Brought Life to a Dying Church– by Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle

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This is a true story and an amazing one at that. This story took place at a church in a Tennessee town not far from where I live. The title and subtitle say it all. I was on the pastoral care committee at my church at the time this story was happening back in 2007 and I remember praying for this church and its pastor, Michael Spurlock. A movie was made about this story and I did not actually know there was a book until I went to see the movie. I bought the book immediately after seeing the movie. I had the pleasure of going to a special showing of the movie this summer (our Bishop rented out a theater for a diocesan showing). And where there is a theater full of Episcopalians watching a movie about a special parish in the diocese, there will be cheering. And crying. And laughter. And standing ovations. The director was there as were many of the Karen people who played themselves in the movie. I loved the movie. Please see it if you haven’t. You won’t be sorry. My sister bought the DVD for me for Christmas and I’ve watched it three times. I’ll admit that a lot of Christian movies come off as a little cheesy sometimes and I thought this one probably would too but it didn’t. I thought it was well done. It made me laugh and made me cry and it touched my heart so deeply. The book went into a lot more detail than the movie. I recommend both. My sister has visited the church and met some of the Karen people. I would love to go visit it too. This story really is proof that God works in truly amazing ways! I gave it 4/5 stars.

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller


It seems I kept coming across this book when it was mentioned on Christian blogs. It seemed to always get enthusiastic reviews. So I eagerly anticipated reading it but it left me feeling flat. I feel like I missed out on something. It just didn’t speak to me. I honestly can’t remember much of anything I read in this book. I only gave it a 2/5 star rating. I wanted to give up on this book so many times but I’m one of those who feels like I always have to finish any book I start (yeah, crazy, I know). So I trudged on through to the end. It seems like people either love or hate this book. I put it in my discard pile but I’m rethinking that. Part of me thinks I should wait a while and maybe try reading it again.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King


I probably won’t be too popular after saying what I have to say about this book. Again, it was a book that I came across time and time again on blogs and it always got favorable reviews. I confess I’m not a Stephen King fan and have never read any of his books. And that’s only because I don’t usually like horror books or supernatural fiction, science fiction, or fantasy books which is what he writes. But I had heard good things about this book and couldn’t wait to read it, hoping I would learn a little something about writing.

I’ll start by saying the book was a huge turn off because he used so much profanity in the book. Stephen King is 70 years old now and I think I figured out he was 53 when he wrote this book. I probably would not have bought this book had I known about all the profanity. If you’re like me and you just don’t like the f-bomb dropped a lot or G_ _ D_ _ _  used in conversation, then you probably won’t like the book either. It did have some good stories and in my opinion the best part of the book was the very end where he wrote about his horrific near-fatal ordeal of getting run over by a car while he was out for a walk. Wow! I think he did give some helpful and interesting writing advice. I appreciated his honesty and the fact that he was so forthcoming in discussing his struggles in becoming a writer. I wasn’t aware that he battled both alcohol and serious drug addictions. It did make me cry a time or two. I only wished he had cleaned up his language. Just my opinion folks. I rated this book a 2/5.

What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey


This was the first book I’ve read by Philip Yancey and I think I’m a fan. I loved this book and gave it a 5/5 star rating (and I rarely give books five-star ratings).  I’ve always felt that grace is one of those words that people, especially Christians, use a lot but don’t really fully understand its meaning. Philip Yancey discusses in-depth what grace is and what it looks like in everyday life. And most importantly what it doesn’t look like. I loved the discussions about “ungrace” and forgiveness. This book really made me think and it even changed my thinking on some things. This one has earned a permanent space on my bookshelf and I’ll most definitely reread it.

She’s Still There: Rescuing the Girl in You by Chrystal Evans Hurst


I saw reviews of this book on Christian blogs (where as you can see I get a lot of my reading recommendations). I guess I can sum what it’s about by just saying this. Life is hard and life can be messy and sometimes we lose our way and find ourselves living a life we sure didn’t plan. When that happens we need help and encouragement to find our way back. Crystal Evans Hurst shares her own life experiences and how she overcame her trials. I didn’t know until after I started the book that she is the sister of bible teacher Priscilla Shirer (from War Room). I liked the book okay although it reads more like a blog and had a bloggy feel to it. After each chapter, she has a page of questions to reflect on pertaining to the chapter as well as a list of bible verses. I started out trying to answer the questions, but the further along I got in the book, I found them a little time-consuming and felt way bogged down with all the detailed questions and suggestions. I guess the questions would be helpful to do as a book club discussion in a group setting. I gave this book a 4/5 star rating.


Reading now:

The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr


This is a memoir that came highly recommended in the Stephen King book I mentioned above. I adore reading memoirs and came across it in a bookstore the other day while browsing. I’m only two chapters in so can’t give much feedback yet.


About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
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18 Responses to Books I’ve Read This Winter

  1. Billy Mac says:

    Owen Meaney is one of my favorite books of all time. I have read almost everything by John Irving and I found the friendship amazing, Owen’s unfaltering optimism and strength and the tragic ending extremely moving. Of course, Irving is a unique read and not for everyone. I started with his first book and read them in order and I have recommended it to everyone I know. The other books I will have to check out.

  2. Karyn says:

    John Irving is one of my favorite authors; I’d read Owen Meany and, honestly I don’t remember much about it. I have/read Stephen King’s book on writing – honestly again he is my favorite author because of his STYLE, he sucks me right in. I have NOT read most of his “earlier” books, the ones that really popularized him. Your list is very interesting and I will definitely check out some of your recommendations- especially the One about refugees/immigrants. Thank you for the list and the summaries. I hope you are feeling better. 😕

    • Billy Mac says:

      so you love John Irving Karyn? I knew you were awesome. He IS my favorite

      • Gail says:

        I have a silly reason for procrastinating about reading John Irving.

        But here goes. (You may already know this). There was a biology professor named Amy Bishop who taught at the college my oldest son was attending (and where my youngest son would later attend). On February 12, 2010, she stood up at a faculty meeting she was attending (there were 12 people in the room) and pulled out a 9 mm handgun and methodically started going around the table shooting her colleagues in the head. She killed 3 people and seriously injured 3 others. The only reason she stopped shooting was because her gun jammed. My son was on campus when it happened and let me tell you, that was a very scary day. I’ll never forget the phone call I got from him. He described red and blue emergency vehicles EVERYWHERE. At the time, he still didn’t know what happened but he was calling to tell me that by the looks of all the police cars, that it was something really big. He wanted to let me know that he was alright, should I happen to hear anything on the news. I hung up, googled the university and learned about the shootings. It was horrible.

        I learned later that Amy Bishop was a second cousin to John Irving. (He doesn’t like to speak about it). Apparently, she had written some novels before the murders and she had asked him for publishing advice. It also came out at the time of the murders that Amy Bishop had also killed her brother with a shotgun back in 1986 in Massachusetts. At first, it was ruled an accident and she was not charged. But after re-investigating it after the UAH murders, she was charged with the murder of that brother. She is serving a life sentence in prison for the UAH murders with no chance of parole.

        And that is why I just didn’t want to read any of his books- just because of his association with Amy Bishop. I know I should not hold that against him but for the longest time, I couldn’t bring myself to read him.

      • Billy Mac says:

        that’s as good a reason as any I suppose. An association is an association. But I can assure you that his characters are rarely killers and his trademark is the tragic deaths of beloved characters

      • Gail says:

        I don’t know much at all about him or his books and didn’t know that was his trademark. Some people have speculated whether he would write a book about his cousin. I don’t think he will as I’ve read he doesn’t like to be associated with her. Can’t say that I blame him!

      • Karyn says:

        Last Night in Twisted River is my favorite JI books and one of my favorite all time reads.

    • Gail says:

      Thanks Karyn. When I was in college the very first Halloween movie came out. A friend took me to see it and it scared the living daylights out of me. I didn’t sleep for weeks (or I slept with one eye open). Because of that one movie, I will not watch horror movies or read horror books. If I liked that genre I guess Stephen King would be the guy to read! I found his thoughts on writing some of his earlier books was interesting. It sounds like he never really liked Carrie. Wasn’t that his very first novel? (I’ve seen the movie but never read the book).
      I enjoyed your comments.

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