What I’m Reading

Writers are most often big readers. I’m no exception.

I went through a rather large reading drought when my children were small, but with the dawn of this new chapter (pun intended), I’m happy to say that I have found my way back to reading.

When I began to make reading a priority again, it was a struggle. Three years ago, I had to set a challenge for myself of reading 10 books in one year. And I barely made it. Pretty sad stuff from a “reader” who used to devour books as a child.

The problem, I later identified, is that I put too much pressure on myself to make my reading “worthwhile.” I read non-fiction exclusively, and focused on a lot of personal development books, which, don’t get me wrong, are important to have, but added a lot of work and guilt to the life of this already overworked, guilt-ridden special needs mom. That’s why my new year’s resolution for 2021 was simply, “read more fiction.” I am happy to report that I have already tripled the number of books I read last year, and the joy is back!

Once and awhile, I thought I’d let you in on what books are on my nightstand, what I think of them, and how they’re inspiring me. I’ll tag and subtitle these posts “What I’m Reading.” (That way, you can easily identify them and skip them if you don’t care. I’m thoughtful like that. Haha.)

On to my first batch of books…

Photo by Jennifer Donnelly on Twitter

Stepsister & Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

YA Fiction

Yes, youth fiction for upper elementary and high school readers. I told you I am reading for joy these days! These books were absolutely fantastic, and I recommend them for teens and adults alike.

Stepsister is a reimagining of the Cinderella fairy tale, told through the eyes and experiences of her stepsister Isabelle, the “ugly stepsister” who sliced off her own toes with a hot knife to make the glass slipper fit.

This story is heart-wrenching and inspiring. Donnelly perfectly captures the heart pain of every young woman who has failed at one point or another to fit into the box that others have for her. The pain of walking in a glass slipper with no toes is no match for the emotional pain she already experienced every single day of not being enough.

My favourite quote from Stepsister:

History books say that kings and dukes and generals start wars. Don’t believe it.
We start them, you and I.
Every time we turn away, keep quiet, stay out of it, behave ourselves.

Poisoned is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale, giving insight into both Princess Sophie’s and the Evil Queen’s personalities, fears, and insecurities. This story illustrates that the truest, deadliest poison isn’t the poisoned apple; it is the hurtful words from others that we let sink in, and the lies we believe about ourselves that prevent us from living the lives we were born to live.

My favourite quote from Poisoned:

Monsters can’t chase you unless you run.

Dagmar Geisler Children’s Books

Non-Fiction for Children (approx age 3-8)

Photos by me. Hence the glare. Sorry.

Dagmar Geisler is the illustrator of this series of non-fiction books for kids. I refer to the books as hers, because the author frequently changes, but the beautiful art style stays the same, and ties these books together. Some of the books are authored by Geisler herself, while others are authored by child psychologists, or child advocacy agencies. The books are translated to English from German.

It’s hard to write good non-fiction for small children that isn’t in story/narrative form, so I must give kudos to the authors and most importantly, illustrator Geisler for making these books engaging and interesting. They talk about a number of topics from bodily autonomy, to understanding emotions, to navigating social situations. (I see they also have books on puberty and how babies are made, that I haven’t read yet. Definitely putting those on my list!) These are important topics that parents have traditionally had to explain to their children alone, so these books are a wonderful resource for parents and caregivers. They can be used as “reference books” just as much, or even more often, than being read cover-to-cover. They are a great jumping off point for discussion.

Many of the books also contain a note to the adults and an appendix of further reading and resources.

I have really liked every one of these books so far. I only have two small complaints:

  1. Sometimes they are a bit wordy/awkwardly worded. I suspect this is from translation. However, I have mostly been using these books for illustrative purposes, and talking to my children about the pictures in my own words, so this issue isn’t a big deal.
  2. Autism-friendliness. As you know, I have a little guy on the Spectrum who is a literal thinker, and a big copy-cat. A few times the illustrations and wording made me nervous to share with him, because they could mean trouble for me down the road.

    For Example: When talking about the emotion of “shame” in My Feelings and Me, the illustration is a picture of a child blushing after being caught colouring on the walls. Will my kiddo take away the concept of shame from that picture, or will he only remember the brilliant idea of colouring on walls? I didn’t want to take a chance, so we skipped that page.

Overall, I would say that these are good “borrow books” from your local library, while individual ones from the series could be a good buy for your family if you find yourself dealing with the same topic frequently with your children.

Photo by markbatterson.com

Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson
Adult Non-Fiction, Christian Living

I’ll be honest, when I first started this book, I didn’t think I liked it. 
I was annoyed because it seemed to just be a collection of catch-phrases, and because Batterson repeats himself quite a bit from chapter to chapter.

However, as I kept reading, I grew to appreciate it.  The repetition and expansion of the message really cements it, and the catch-phrases that I didn’t think I liked became much more than phrases, they became inspiration.

Which is good. Because that was the whole point.

I read this book early in the fall, right before launching this blog and committing myself to putting my ideas for a book to paper. I was still on the fence, and hoping this book would be a good fire-starting kick-in-the-pants… and once I got deep enough, it was just that.

Batterson uses stories from the Bible about David’s Mighty Men to illustrate truths about dreaming and acheiving one’s purpose. This book is excellent at reigniting and fueling passion, and I now consider it a must-read before embarking on a project.  No matter what your dream is, this book gives you plenty of motivation to go for it!

I have six pages of single-spaced quotes from this book that I wrote down for myself to remember. So picking just a few for this post is hard, but I’ll try:

The size of your dream may be the most accurate measure of the size of your God.

When Jesus walked out of the tomb on the third day, the word “impossible” was deleted from our dictionary… What impossibility do you need to repent of?

The opposite of love is not hate.
The opposite of love is fear.
True love leads to fearlessness.

Sometimes faith can be measured in dollars. 
There comes a moment in every dream journey when you have to put your money where your dream is.  It might be a $50 date, a $100 application fee, a $500 plane ticket, or a $2,000 lease. 
Think of it as a down-payment on your dream. 

And finally, the kicker:
I ask would-be authors one critical question: Are you called to write? 
If the answer is no, don’t waste your time. 
If the answer is yes, than anything less is disobedience.

What have you been reading? Let me know in the comments below, or on one of my social media pages.

© 2021 Ashley Lilley – First time commenting? Please read my Comment Policy.

4 thoughts on “Donnelly, Geisler, & Batterson

  1. I grew up not reading much as a child, but now it is part of my life. I am in two book clubs. One is a Christian book club, and the other is a non-Christian one. Both are valuable to me. I have to admit, I thought all Christian books were all poorly written and boring. Boy, was I wrong. I too used to only read self-help books, but now I enjoy fiction. Historical fiction with a strong female l character is my favorite. I still like non-fiction, but it is good to get out of my comfort zone. I am going to order Mark Batterson’s book, as it may be the inspiration I need currently.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to read a fair amount as an older elementary kid, but my lack of consentration slowly made it impossible to read even short stories (e.g. one Chicken Soup chapter). Just starting to get back into reading chapter books again. Mostly non-fiction, research kinda of books on mental health topics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be tough getting back into it, happy for you!
      Have you considered listening to audiobooks instead? You could put it on and listen while you do chores, arts & crafts, etc… Some people say that they can pay attention longer when their hands are busy.


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