Friday Favorites:: Books Edition

Houston Moms "Friday Favorites:: A Weekly Glance at Our Favorite Things" #houstonmoms #houstonmomsblog #momsaroundhoustonAnyone that knows me or has shared more than five minutes of conversation with me, knows that besides my family and faith, my hands down favorite thing in the world is reading. I love to read, and I will read pretty much anything if its appealing and my list of favorite books speaks to the wide variety of genres that I regularly find myself indulging in.

Now why I love each of these books varies by book, the thing that links them all, is that they have each done something for me. Each of these books were read during a time in my life when I either needed to be reminded of why I love reading, or it came to me during a time when I was struggling, grieving, or during a transition in my life. These books, and others that I read, are a way for me to live a thousand lifetimes in one, experience worlds far away and even make believe one, and they provide for me a sense of joy I cannot find in many other places.

While I am constantly reading and finding new books that I love, {in 2020 I found 106 of them} these have, and probably always will, hold their places as the books that mean the most. Because each one of them confirmed to me why I love to read, confirmed the power of the written word, and each touched something deep inside me to bring me joy.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

While these books have taken top spot in my list, it took me a long time to read them. The books were popular when I was in college and the last one came out after I graduated. When The Deathly Hallows came out I went to Target, read the last chapter, knew the ending, said to myself “ok I’m good with this,” bought the whole series, and to this day I reread them every year, listen to them audible continuous, and I have found a community of fellow Potterheads that are definitely my people. These books, from the first time I read them, showed what it means to be accepting, the importance of love, and proved that doing what is right, while not always easy, is always what should be done. Each character in this series is complex and the author created such a compelling story for each, that even if you do not like a character, through the depth of writing, each character became real and alive. That is the magic of Harry Potter {pun totally intended}.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Of all the classics that I love, Jane Eyre, remains my favorite to this day. Even with the grief, harshness, and loss in this book, the prevailing message that remains, is the search for belonging and love. This is Jane’s search throughout the book, it is what drives her from her orphanage to being a governess and ultimately, it is what drives her back to Edward Rochester. Jane Eyre is not a romance novel, but a groundbreaking literary classic depicting a truth that was needed when published in 1847 and is needed now, that status should never be what defines you. Jane proved that goodness, grace, and love for others, even when not perfect, was fundamentally what drove her decisions. And that is why it is a favorite and a book everyone who questions why things happen and how to hold onto yourself through it all, should read.

Until Harry by L.A. Casey

I found this book during a late-night Kindle store search when I could not sleep and wanted something to help me fall asleep. This book did not do that. In fact it did the opposite, it kept me up late a few nights in a row because I had to finish and I had to know if the development of the characters was going to be seen through to the end, spoiler alert, it does! This books tells the story of Lane and Kale, their friendship, their love, the ways they hurt each other, and ultimately how they find peace within themselves and the relationships around them. Until Harry is like nothing else written by author L.A. Casey. It is a story of love, loss and finding yourself in the darkest of times, and finding ways to forgive others and yourself. I laughed and cried a lot with this book. The characters are so well developed through childhood, teenage years, and adulthood and through joy, and grief you find yourself routing for each one and because of tha,t I have it on my Kindle, in paperback, and on audible.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

This is the only book I have ever read that left me crying tears of joy, tears of pain, tears of grief for characters that are fictional, and left me crying for a world that was ripped apart because of war, racism, prejudice, and hatred. From the moment you open this book you know it will not be easy, you know grief will happen throughout, but author Ruta Sepetys does something amazing, she makes you want to read the grief. Her writing is so detailed, so beautiful, and in depth that you feel the cold and hunger the characters are experiencing throughout the book. Set at the end of World War II this book tells the story of 4 individuals Florian, Emilia, Joana, and Alfred each running from something, each with a secret, and who are all eventually lead to the same place, the ill-fated ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff. When I finished this book, at 2:30am, I closed the book, laid my head down on the arm of the chair I was reading in, and remembered why I loved reading so much. Do yourself a favor and get this book and just sit and feel and remember why books are so amazing.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

This book had a lot of controversy surrounding it, as it involves end of life choices and the assistance of ending one’s life. The plot centers on two characters, Louisa a young woman looking for a job and a purpose in her life, and William a successful businessman who becomes a quadriplegic after being hit by a car. Louisa is hired by William’s family to help care for him and while the two clash at first, eventually a friendship grows, which turns into a deep love. The climax comes when Louisa, after trying so desperately to help Williams find value in the life he has, learns he still plans to end his life. The tear and gut-wrenching ending comes, when she flies to be with him at the end. It is not the ending any reader wanted, but it is the ending that, because one becomes engrossed in the lives of the characters, had to be. Through it all, even the unbelievable grief of watching the love she just found die, Louisa finds herself, her voice, and her strength. I read this book during a time when I found out infertility would result in an early in life hysterectomy and I had to find myself and my strength in the middle of grief, pain and loss. I needed the tears from reading it to help me heal and I needed Louisa, quirky and socially awkward Louisa, to help me find myself again. So I owe a lot of thanks to this book.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Another World War II book makes my list, but this one is nonfiction, it is raw and at its core.  The story of Corrie ten Boom’s life under Nazi rule and in Ravensbrück concentration camp is, for her and the reader, about redemption and forgiveness. Her story and her words have taught me more about both of those than almost anything else I have ever read in my life. This story is about doing all that you are able for those in need, even at your own expense, not because you get anything out of it, but because you know it is the right things to do. I read this book first as a teenager and then again in college and continue to read it again now as an adult. As I look back on all the times I have read it, and while I did not know it at the time, this book was developing in me a sense of justice, strength, and compassion that has helped to shape me into the Pastor that I am today. While the story of what Corrie, her family, friends endured brought me tears many times and hurt me to the depth of my soul, it was her story at the end that showed me the importance and beauty of forgiveness. If you want a book that will test you, teach you, and guide you to be a better person, this is the book that does all three and so much more.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This is the only book I own a first addition of, props to my husband. It is framed in a shadow box and when Hurricane Harvey posed a threat to our house in August of 2017, this is one of the few possessions I put in our go bag in case we had to leave the rising water. But first editions aside, this is the first non-children’s book I remember reading. I was 11 when I found this book on the bookshelf at my house and what drew me to it was the cover. I remember the moment I found this book because it had the cover with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in their epic leaning over kiss scene from the movie and I thought I had stumbled across something very adult and felt very grown up for 11. I will be the first to admit that even though this book is one of my favorites, it glosses over the horrors of slavery and can be hard for many to read because it never draws attention to that. But for me, I love this story because it is the story of perseverance and strength. Not the strength or perseverance of Scarlett O’Hara, she is an ignorant and at times a cruel woman who is focused on herself throughout most of this novel. No, for me the strength and perseverance that pulls me in every time I read it, is not Scarlett’s and it is not the perseverance of the South {I say this as a proud Southern}; it is the strength and perseverance of the innocent caught up in a world not of their making and their ability to keep going, to stay strong, and in doing so holding on to their morality and humanity through it all. How I read this book as an adult is from that lens and I encourage anyone who reads it, to read it from that lens too.

Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

Whenever I am asked what the first book I remember reading or what book got me hooked on reading, the answer is always, Nancy Drew. The teenage sleuth and I engaged in crime solving early in the morning, during school, late at night, we solved crimes on the porch, in the hayloft, in the car, and any place I could find a spot to sit and read. I still have my great-grandmother’s old books and a whole bunch of the ones republished in the 90’s. I even branched into Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys adventures. These books showed me the joy of getting sucked into a story and now they are a comfort and hold memories far beyond what is on the pages. These books are a reminder of a time when I was young and wondering what my “thing” would be and unsure of what I could do to escape when I was overwhelmed and scared. They showed me that I can always pick up a story. After picking up these books I knew books would always be a part of my life and knew I found the thing that I could escape into when needed. These book started it all for me and I am unbelievably grateful to my Yiya for handing me my first one and changing my life forever.

So Yiya, this post is dedicated to you and the impact you had on my life. You not only handed me the book that started a lifelong love of reading, but you let me curl up on your bed and couch with a book anytime I was at your house. Thank you Yiya, for this and so much more.

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Whitney Peper
Whitney P. was raised in the Houston area, the third oldest of six children. After high school she attended and graduated from Texas A&M earning a degree in Communications and Political Science where she met her husband Tim. After college, Whitney worked as the Communications Director for a private school in Austin before returning to Houston in 2008 to work as a corporate fundraiser for non-profits before her the call into ordained ministry. Whitney resides in Katy and is an Associate Pastor at St. Peter’s UMC overseeing Care and Special Needs ministries. Whitney and Tim adopted their first child Jase {March 2013} in 2013, and he is living his best dinosaur loving life. Besides her work and family, Whitney’s greatest passions are reading, discussing and celebrating anything related to Harry Potter, traveling near and far, and training for half-marathons. Whitney has a personal blogOur Color Filled Life.


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