the much anticipated list

John & I share a love of reading. We could spend the entire day curled up in bed, in our pjs, with a candle or two lit, our legs criss-crossing, and the blankets tangled so that you don’t know which way is up. We get lost in the world of words.

A while back, the magic of the interwebs made me aware of “The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge” in which all 339 books referenced in Gilmore girls had been chronicled and the challenge was to read them all. I mentioned it to John, shared the link, and asked him if he wanted to do the challenge with me. Immediately getting excited at the thought of the challenge, we jumped on board…and then…took a longer harder look at the list. Thus our search for the perfect list began.

We spent much time searching for the best “Top 100 Books” list. We found many great lists. But each list had its flaws. We really enjoyed TIME’s “All-TIME 100 Novels” — but was a bit disappointed after learning that they created the list based on the time-frame of when the magazine began, therefore eliminating books that were written prior to 1923 (e.g. the entire collection of the works of Mark Twain). Various other lists simply did not include some of our favorites or included others that we thought didn’t belong on the list.

So we came up with a delightful solution — we created our own list! Granted, we do not claim that these books are “the best” by any means. Heck — we haven’t even read most of them. Here’s what we did: we each decided to choose our “top ten” in that these ten are some of our favorites or most read. Then we came up with 40 books that we would like to either read or reread. Each contributing 50 books, thus completing our list of 100 books to read. We have a shared google doc and are adding in the “date finished.” I also plan on doing some book reviews here and there, and I hope to do some star-reviews on goodreads. I am not super familiar with that site, but hope to learn more about it.

J is power-housing through the books already. I, on the other hand, am not. I have moved three times in the past four months and have picked up a side gig, so I’m a bit on the busy side. But those who know me, know that I love life that way. Regardless, I do plan on tackling it soon. And also, I’m not counting books I’ve already read, even if I’ve read them recently. I am starting fresh and plan to re-read them all (with the exception of the top ten, perhaps…). I love having my nose in a book, that is for certain.

So without further ado, the list (in alphabetical order, naturally):

J’s top ten:

Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
Brave New World Aldous Huxley
Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court Mark Twain
Da Vinci Code Dan Brown
Denial: History on Trial Deborah Lipstadt
Harry Potter and The Deathy Hallows JK Rowling
High Fidelity Nick Hornby
Ragtime EL Doctrow
Sophie’s World Jostein Gaarder

J’s to read/reread:

1984 George Orwell
Adventures of Pinnochio Carlo Collodi
Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Mark Twain
Brothers Karamazov, The Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Catch-22 Joseph Heller
Catcher in the Rye, The J.D Salinger
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Mark Haddon
Elegant Universe, The Brian Greene
Ethics Benedict de Spinoza
Farenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Edwin Abbott
Free Will Sam Harris
Stranger, The Albert Calmus
Grapes of Wrath, The John Steinbeck
Great Gatsby, The F. Scott Fitzgerald
Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
Handmaid’s Tale, The Margaret Atwood
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams
Hobbit, The J.R.R Tolkien
Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Inherit the Wind Jerome Lawrence
Innocents Abroad, The Mark Twain
Jungle, The Upton Sinclair
Just Mercy Bryan Stevenson
Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Lost World, The Arthur Conan Doyle
Metamorphosis, The Franz Kafka
Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie
Moby-Dick Herman Melville
One Flew Over the Cuckcoo’s Nest Ken Kesey
Origin of Species Charles Darwin
Peter Pan JM Barrie
Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie
Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut
Sophies World Jostein Gaarder
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
Wrinkle in Time, A Madeleine L’Engle
Zarastura Nietzche

E’s top ten:

Furiously Happy Jenny Lawson
Gifts of Imperfection, The Brene Brown
Glass Castle, The Jeannette Walls
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets J.K. Rowling
Love and Respect Emerson Eggerichs
Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl
Million Miles in a Thousand Years, A Donald Miller
Screwtape Letters, The C.S. Lewis
Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, The Mark Manson
Wild Cheryl Strayed

E’s to read/reread:

All About Love: New Visions Bell Hooks
Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama
At Home in Mitford Jan Karon
Bird by Bird Anne Lamott
Color of Water, The James McBride
Color Purple, The Alice Walker
Cosmos Carl Sagan
Cuckoo’s Calling, The Robert Galbraith
Divine Comedy, The Dante Alighieri
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman
Explicit Gospel, The Matt Chandler
Go Set a Watchman Harper Lee
Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, A Flannery O’Connor
Haroun and the Sea of Stories Salman Rushdie
How to be a Woman Caitlin Moran
How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou
If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler Italo Calvino
Jesus for President Shane Claiborne
Little Women Louisa May Alcott
Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis
Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides
Modern Romance Aziz Ansari
Moveable Feast, A Ernest Hemingway
No Baggage Clara Benson
On the Road Jack Kerouac
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Opposite of Loneliness: Stories and Essays by Marina Keegan, The Marina Keegan
Power of Now, The Eckhart Tolle
Quiet Susan Cain
Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert Kiyosaki
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Stephen Covey
Thousand Splendid Suns, A Khaled Hosseini
Tiny Beautiful Things Cheryl Strayed
To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
Tools of Titans Tim Ferriss
Walk in the Woods, A Bill Bryson
Wonder, The Emma Donoghue
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert Pirsig


So there you have it — I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions. I would also love to hear what some of your favorite books are, and what some books are on your “to read list.”


Until next time, love to you, my friends,

emily alma


through the words of a book

Has anyone read (or listened to) “Furiously Happy” since I wrote about it? I sincerely hope so. It’s truly delightful. To reiterate from Jenny Lawson herself:

“I’m fucking done with sadness, and I don’t know what’s up the ass of the universe lately but I’ve HAD IT. I AM GOING TO BE FURIOUSLY HAPPY, OUT OF SHEER SPITE. … I’m going to destroy the goddamn universe with my irrational joy…”

Sometimes, it’s hard to make life “furiously happy” though, right? Sometimes it’s easier to melt into the pages and journeys of someone else’s life. Sometimes, skulking through the chamber of secrets, averting your eyes as you go to avoid the basilisk, as the panic pulses through your veins, is much better than being “furiously happy” in your own life, because you have melted into someone else’s journey — through the words of a book.

I love literature. I love books. My undergrad at Calvin was partially an English degree (Interdisciplinary Science with a double focus in English and Psychology, to be specific).

As Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying, “I have been through some terrible things in my life; some of which actually happened.” I love this quote. It was shared at church today in reference to how we get in our own heads and worry.  I am the queen of getting in my head. Just this past weekend, when out with friends, I had to escape to a public bathroom and google quick meditative techniques. I found two which I think I will use for the rest of my days (yes, they’re that good).

1) Pretend like you’re watching yourself on TV. The article that described this technique did so in much more flowery and descriptive language with great reasoning as to why and how you step outside of your perspective and become instantly calm, etc..etc…and honestly — at that moment — I didn’t care why it worked. All I knew was that I was anxious, irritated, and having a crap-night. And watching myself on TV through a fictitious screen, worked. Plus, it was kinda fun.

2) Take a slow breath. This one sounds super typical & ho-hum average. On the breath in, you say to yourself, “I am.” On the breath out, you say to yourself, “at peace.” Again, complete with great explanations. I also switched out the wordings. Not gonna lie — I was a tiny bit upset with my man, so I said “I am” — “in love” while I held his hand. It actually worked like a charm. What I said was true, but sometimes when you get frustrated with someone, it’s easy to remain frustrated and forget the bigger picture of life and your relationship.

Anyway — back on track #rabbittrails Our pastor did an excellent job of using Paul’s words in Philippians to talk about choosing joy over worry, and choosing joy in our Lord. I am of the firm belief that God also gave us literature and words to bring us joy. And wowzer — do words bring me joy!

I have always been an avid book worm. I was in the Boxcar Children book club and would have three books delivered monthly. They’d be devoured within hours. But I did get a neat cardboard caboose to store the first twelve or so books in. I have been on many adventures with Nancy Drew and solved many a mystery with her as well.

this is not mine…mine must be packed away at my parents’ house somewhere..

My parents have always told me they struggled with the whole “lights off” concept when I was a youngster. They hated scolding me and requiring me to turn off the lights because I wasn’t up late doing naughty things — I was up late adventuring in the pages of a good book. I would sneak my nightlight under the covers and keep on reading. They always knew.

When “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” came out, my life was forever changed. Literature has been and always will be a driving and life-giving force in my life. Whether it be fictional tales, life-giving advice works, words of encouragement pieces, or educational tools for work — literature courses through me. It’s the best anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and mood-stabilizer on the market, hands down.

So stay tuned for the next post in which I share John & my 100 book reading list! 😉 I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!


Furiously Happy (choosing to be/a book review)

About a month ago I received an email about a promotion that Audible was doing in which, if you submitted a 30-second video clip about why you love Audible, you could potentially win a free car. Considering my rust-bucket of a vehicle was on its last legs, I thought, what the heck, I’ve got the app and have listened to a book, maybe I should give it a shot? So I downloaded a book I had been wanting to listen to, and plotted my way to a new car…so I thought. But what happened was a gift better than a new car — it was a new look on life.

While I never got around to creating a 30-second video on time before the deadline to submit. I did listen to a fantastic book by Jenny Lawson entitled “Furiously Happy.” I laughed, I cried. It was fantastic. Truly. There was one day that my roommate came home and I was sitting at the kitchen table with my phone out, the book playing, and I’m sitting there sobbing because of how moving her story was.

Jenny’s autobiographical comedic tale is her story of triumph and struggle with her mental illnesses. It’s her second book (which I was unaware of and am now listening to the first). It was a game-changer for me.

But why the title? Jenny describes one point in her life where to decides to be “furiously happy” — to have adventures and create amazing moments and memories so that in the depths of depression she will be sustained by those memories of crazy adventures and good times. This quote shows her quirky personality:

“I’m fucking done with sadness, and I don’t know what’s up the ass of the universe lately but I’ve HAD IT. I AM GOING TO BE FURIOUSLY HAPPY, OUT OF SHEER SPITE. … I’m going to destroy the goddamn universe with my irrational joy…”

Ha! How great is that? I’m telling you — I laughed so many times while listening to this book. And I also had a complete paradigm shift. I now choose to live furiously happy.

There are so many great things I could share about this book. But really all I am going to say now is this: Buy it. Read it. Listen to it. Soak it up. Laugh. Cry. Enjoy it. I know I did. You will not regret it.

…but the sad part is. I did not win the car. Haha. And my car’s transmission was on the verge of dying…so I decided to part with Elena the Elantra and welcome to my heart, LaFawnduh (named after Kip’s love from “Napolean Dynamite). LaFawnduh is a 2009 Honda Fit. Here she is getting gas for the first time!

Petting the sea creatures at the zoo.

I’ve had some other pretty fun and happy and furious things happening in my life lately. I just returned from a family trip to Tacoma, Washington. My parents surprised me by buying tickets to visit my brother and his family with them for a week-long trip. It was just the get-away that I needed! We spent a good deal of time relaxing and just hanging out. I had great quality conversations with Ben over some beers, with Kristen while getting pampered with massages, and with mom while shopping. Dad and I even got to bake some pies! And Ayla and I read a million books together. A perfect week in the rainy state of Washington.

Also — I am moving! I moved a few days ago temporarily into my parents’ place because I got my own little place within walking distance of my work and I could not be more thrilled. I will be in the same building as a dear friend of mine. I will have a gas burning stove top (eee!) and have a pool this summer! Could life get any better?! So, in the meantime, so that I don’t have to pay rent there, a security deposit, and rent with my old roomie, I’m crashing with my parents until I can move in on the 20th. #cannotwait

And last but certainly not least…I have started a new diet. Ughh. Not because I want to lose weight but because I want to have a normal…”system.” Haha. I have started the low-FODMAP diet, as recommended by my GI doc.  Click here to learn more about the low-FODMAP diet and click here for the book that I bought to follow as my guide for recipes and a 14-day meal plan that so far, has been fantastic. My amazing friend and co-worker, Emily, has been so supportive and has joined me in doing this diet. She is a great accountability partner, and also happens to be a great cook. So that has been helpful. Essentially, this diet will (hopefully) help solve my gut issues that I’ve had since 2009. Fingers-crossed!

So that’s life as of late. It’s been a crazy-beautiful and furiously happy journey. Thanks for joining in. Hope all is well, my friends.

emily alma