My Top Ten Audiobooks of 2017

my favourite podcasts

Audiobooks changed my life this year.

Staying home full-time with young kids who never sleep is not very conducive to reading. And until this year, I’d never had a device on which to listen to audiobooks. So for the last several years, most of my reading happened in five-minute snatches while I was on the toilet. I read about a book a month that way. It was something.

Everything changed when Lydia dropped my old phone, and I finally had to replace it with a new one that had enough space for apps. I downloaded Overdrive and signed up for Audible, and my world opened up. My first audiobook felt like a miracle.

I hardly picked up a paper-and-ink book this year, but I did get to read a ton of audiobooks. Here are ten of my favourites, in no particular order.


Born a Crime – Trevor Noah. This was probably my best read of 2017 in any genre. Those of you who have watched Trevor Noah on The Daily Show already know he’s smart, funny, eloquent, and charming, but it turns out, he’s got a hella fascinating life story, too. He grew up in South African during and immediately after Apartheid. To make things especially interesting, he was born to mixed parents at a time when it was illegal for races to mix (hence the title). He’s a terrific story-teller, and his childhood is filled with wild moments, from his mom throwing him out of a moving car to him accidentally burning down a White family’s house. His reflections of race and racism are illuminating and nuanced. I admire and respect him more than ever. He does a terrific job narrating his book, too — his voices and accents are on point. I dare you not to love him by the end of it.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson. This woman. She can make me laugh until I cry. This is The Bloggess’ second memoir (her first was hilarious, too). Her discussion of mental illness is both needed and weirdly hysterical. She is a strange, strange, wonderful human being. (Major language warning. I’ve never hard anyone use the word vagina as much as Lawson does.)

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. This memoir is Glennon’s second book and it is just phenomenal. It’s a brutally honest retelling of her life story, with a focus on her marriage’s sudden tragic implosion a few years ago, and the difficult path of healing. The book tenderly and bravely explores sex, love, marriage, God, family, and faith. I found her story of self-discovery gripping and inspiring.


Jane Steele – Lyndsay Faye. This book was complete delight. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre, I think you’ll get a kick out of this novel. It follows a young Victorian orphan girl who, like Jane Eyre, goes to an awful boarding school and later becomes a governess. She’s clever and brave and self-aware. And also? A murderer. With a heart of gold, of course. (She only kills horrible men.) From the start she’s aware of her similarities with the famous fictional heroine. I promise, it’s better than it sounds. It reads like an authentically 19th-century novel and all of the characters are stunningly three-dimensional.

A Man Called OveFrederik Backman. A completely heartwarming story from a Swedish blogger. Ove may be the most endearing grumpy old man you’ve ever met. You will fall in love with every single character. I cried both sad and happy tears. The writing is vibrant and lovely. (And the narrator is great.)

The Inspector Gamache Series – Louise Penny (Dead Cold; The Cruellest Month; The Murder Stone; The Brutal Telling.) Read by Adam Sims. If you enjoy a good murder mystery, Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series is perfection. (I’ve read the first five). Lovable characters, thrilling plots, deep exploration of human nature. I am amazed by the depth of Penny’s characters. (If listening to the audiobook, ONLY accept versions read by Adam Sims, who is spectacular. Ralph Cosham, by contrast, is just AWFUL. I returned my copy to Audible after hearing him read the first chapter.)

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. This novel won the 2017 Newbery Award. It is wonderful. It involves a poetry-reciting swamp monster, a tiny dragon who thinks he’s gigantic, and a kindly old witch who accidentally enmagics an abandoned baby girl by feeding her moonlight. As the girl grows up under the kind witch’s care, her magic becomes increasingly dangerous, and the witch has to make some difficult decisions. It’s a refreshingly original fairy tale with unusual protagonists, full of both whimsy and solemnity. I will happily pass it along to Lydia when she’s a bit older (maybe 10-ish). (Note: I didn’t really care for the narrator. I’d recommend reading the print version.)

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, read by Dan Stevens. I love a good detective story, but this was my first romp with Hercule Poirot (Why?!). It was delightful! It plays with all the conventions of murder mysteries, and still managed to completely surprise me. Also, I have to highlight Dan Stevens’ (<–Yes, him!) amazing performance. He does all the accents flawlessly (there are both men and women from numerous countries in this book, and he nails all of them.) The story is thrilling and clever and just so much fun. I will definitely read more. (I did later read And Then There Were None, which was also terrific, but a little dark for my taste.)

Cinder; Scarlet; Cress; Winter (aka The Lunar Series) by Marissa Meyer; Read by Rebecca Soler. Ignore the cheesy-looking covers of these books and have an open mind. This series was a ton of fun. If you enjoy young adult dystopian sci-fi, this series is for you! Each book is very loosely based on a fairy tale (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White), but set in the future (and some of it in outer space). Cinder is a cyborg and her only friend is an artificially-intelligent android, for example. Cress is a computer engineer and hacker working from a satellite orbiting the earth. Very addictive. Impressive world-building. And Rebecca Soler’s narrating is perfect.

The Life-Changing Magic of KonMari Folding: Why (And How) You Should Fold Everything Vertically

How and Why to Fold Your Clothes Vertically. This will transform your wardrobe! From The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpIn my last post I discussed some of my favourite ideas from Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I love Kondo’s method of vertical folding so much that I wanted to devote an entire post to the subject.

What Is Vertical Folding?

I had to head for the Interwebs to get help understanding Kondo’s suggestion to fold things so that they “stand on end.” What did she mean by that? I needed a visual.

After watching this video, followed by this one, I finally understood.

This is how I would sum it up: first, you fold an item into a long, thin, vertical rectangle (usually by folding it in thirds vertically). Then you fold that rectangle in halves or thirds horizontally, from the bottom up, until you end up with a tidy little package. Then you can stand it up on end in the shape of an upside-down v.

Here’s what that looks like, roughly, for a shirt:

How to fold a shirt vertically (i.e. the konmari way)If it helps, watch this video.

In the first row you can see me folding he shirt into a long, vertical rectangle; in the second row you can see me folding it horizontally into a neat little packet. Then voila! It can stand upright on its own!

Each item will be slightly different in terms of how many times it must be folding to achieve that shape. The garment’s size and the fabric’s bulk will affect the outcome. You need to experiment a few times. Kondo says it will “click” when you get it right, and I have totally experienced that.

Anyway, when your clothes are folded this way, they can be tucked into rows, side-by-side, in a drawer. It looks like this:

konmari folding - shirt drawer

(If your drawer isn’t totally full it helps to use a shoe box  to help things stand upright. I’ve used one to separate my tank tops.)

I’ll show you how to fold other items this way in a bit — first I might need to convince you just how awesome this method of folding is.

What’s So Great About Vertical Folding?

You guys. Once you start folding your things so that they stand on end you won’t want to stop.

Here’s a list of reasons I love KonMari folding:

1. It makes a ton more space.

After folding my clothes vertically and utilizing a couple of shoe boxes to divide my things like Kondo suggests, I could fit twice as many clothes into a drawer. In turn, I was able to take things off of shelves and off the closet floor and organize them into the newly-emptied drawers in a much more efficient, attractive manner.

I already showed you this in my last post, but apparently I can’t get enough of showing the world my underwear drawer:

The Konmari method: underwear drawer before

Konmari method: underwear drawer afterSee? Look at all that room! I could now fit the contents of the lower drawer into this one:

Konmari method - after

With that lower drawer empty, I now had a nice place for swimwear, which was previously always just kind of stuffed wherever it could fit.

Soon, everything has a place and there was no more stuff piled on my closet floor.

Yay for more space!

2. I can see everything at a glance.

That makes it much easier to find and select what I want. No digging around and messing things up when I can’t find that one shirt.

It also helps you keep track of your possessions. When you fold things like this, none of your clothes end up hiding under your other items for months on end until you forget about them. You get a much better sense of what you really have.

3. It makes every item I own feel more valuable.

When I slow down to smooth each item with my hands and carefully fold it just so, I am encouraged to treasure each item. It makes every item feel like a precious gift.

folding pants

And when all my clothes are arranged in neat little rows, they seem more valuable. (In my closet, I achieved the same thing by hanging everything on velvet hangers. All my clothes feel couture now!)

4. By contrast, folding this way highlights the things I no longer cherish.

It’s easy to ignore and forget about items that I just ball up and toss into a drawer until my drawers are bursting with things I don’t really like. KonMari folding encourages me to take more careful stock of what I own. It might force me to question why I even own certain things. If I feel irritated by having to take such care with an item that repulses me, that might be a sign that the item needs to go.

I recently chucked some old, ugly t-shirts I was wearing to bed for that reason. It felt weird to carefully fold clothes I hated. I replaced them with some pretty, matching, cotton pajamas which are a pleasure to fold.

folding pajamas konmari

5. It forces me to straighten up my environment so I have a surface to work on.

You need a decent-sized workspace for this this kind of folding. I usually fold the clothes in my bedroom. Before I begin, I need to make my bed (if I haven’t already). I have been trying to get in the habit of making my bed as soon as I wake up in the morning; this is an added incentive to get the job done.

6. It’s very satisfying, making your clothes all crisp and tidy.

I cant’ be the only one to feel this way.

7. Your clothes get less wrinkly.

Nothing gets bunched up or flattened under the weight of everything above.

Convinced yet? Here are some more visuals:

How To Fold All Your Clothes the KonMari Way


Fold in half, then fold in the pointy crotch part to make a rectangle. Then fold in halves and thirds until you have that neat little package.

Howto fold pants the KonMari wayAgain, here’s a video if you need some extra help.

Here they are in a drawer (Ben and I can now fit both of our pants into the same drawer. P.S. He is not as good at folding this way but he’s got the right idea):

pants drawer - konmari styleUnderwear:

OK, so I hesitated to show you how I fold my underwear because I do have a little bit of dignity. But then I remembered I had a few pairs I hadn’t worn yet! These still have the tag on them. Okay? These are not underwear I have worn.

Anyway, same principle as the shirt:

how to fold underwear the Konmari way

And here’s how they look in the drawer. (I’ve used a shoe box again as a divider. The bigger box contains my socks.)

underwear drawer - konmari style(Ignore my rumpled sports bra. I’m not perfect.)

There you go! Give it a try, I promise it’s awesome!

How and Why to Fold Your Clothes Vertically (aka Kon-Mari Style). This will ransform your drawers! From The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

What I Love About “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”

What I love about Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"

A few months ago I read this fascinating international bestseller.

Along with the rest of the internet, I fell completely in love with this little book.

Here are some of my favourite things about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Vertical Folding

You guys. Once you start folding your things so that they stand on end you won’t want to stop. (I have an entire post devoted to vertical folding in the works.)

I started using this type of folding on my clothes (as Kondo suggests), after dramatically paring them down. The effect was magical. I could fit twice as many clothes into my drawers, giving me much more space. In turn, I was able to take things off of shelves and off the closet floor and organize them into the newly-emptied drawers.

Take a look at my underwear drawer. (I can’t believe I just said that to the whole Internet.)

The Konmari method: underwear drawer beforeSee all that wasted space? I had never noticed it before.

Konmari method: underwear drawer afterNow look at all that room! I could now fit the contents of the lower drawer into this one:

Konmari method - after

With that lower drawer empty, I now had a nice place for swimwear, which was previously always just kind of stuffed wherever it could fit.

Yay for more space!

The other great thing about folding your clothes this way is that you can see everything at a glance. None of your clothes end up hiding under your other items for months on end until you forget about them. You get a much better sense of what you really have. Beautiful.

After this new folding method transformed my bedroom, I started seeing opportunities to use this method all over the house. Like my dish cloths and towels in my kitchen. I managed to consolidate two drawers into one this way. (There’s also room for cheesecloth/ jelly bags/nut milk bags in there.)

folding dish towels the konmari way

Look at that empty drawer! I didn’t even have to get rid of anything to get it! It’ll come in handy when I reorganize my kitchen.

This was addictive. Next, my drawer of microfiber and other cleaning cloths got the same treatment.

konmari folding - cleaning cloths

konmari folding - cleaning clothsThis didn’t really make more space, but it made it easier to see what I had so I could grab the appropriate cloth more easily.

Like I said in an earlier post: learning how to fold this way was worth the price of the book alone.

Use Shoe Boxes as Dividers

Marie Kondo advises against buying new storage solutions. If you feel like you need to head to the Container Store to organize your things, it means you have too much stuff. You need to get rid of more.

However, sometimes it’s nice to add dividers inside your drawer to separate things. She recommends using what you have, and makes a strong case for shoe boxes.

You might notice that I’ve done just that in the photos above. They work perfectly! They’re a great size, they’re sturdy, and they’re attractive. I spent zero dollars on dividers when organizing my stuff. Awesome!

The Criterion, “Does It Spark Joy?”

Marie Kondo’s criterion for whether to keep something is simple. She advises you to hold each item in your hand and ask, “Does this spark joy?” If not, discard it.

As longtime readers know, I’ve been striving towards minimalism for years. I’m constantly purging. So as I’ve been tidying with the KonMari method in the last few months, I haven’t had a ton of stuff to get rid of. However, this new criterion has helped me let go of a few things I’d still been holding onto. It’s been a relief to be able to do so.

Thanking Your Discarded Items for Doing Their Job

new bike

This was a paradigm-shifting idea for me, and I loved it.

Sometimes we struggle to let things go because we feel guilty doing so. We think of the money we spent on the item or the person who gave it to us. So we hang onto these things, even though we don’t like/need them and never use them, keeping them shoved in the back of our closet or dresser.

That’s why I love what Kondo suggests: consider whether it has already fulfilled its purpose. Then thank the item for doing its job as you let it go. This is how she explains it:

If, for example, you have some clothes that you bought but never wear, examine them one at a time. . . . If you bought it because you thought it looked cool in the shop, it has fulfilled the function of giving your a thrill when you bought it. Then why did you never wear it? Was it because you realized that it didn’t suit you when you tried it on at home? If so, and if you no longer buy clothes of the same style or color, it has fulfilled another important function — it has taught you what doesn’t suit you. In fact, that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life, and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me,” and let it go (p. 60, emphasis mine).

Later, Kondo adds that after someone has given you a gift, it has fulfilled its purpose. It has been instrumental in allowing that person show her love for you. If you don’t want or need it, you are free to let it go without guilt. It has done its job.

I could go on, but for now, these are my favourite ideas in this fascinating little book.

How about you? Have you read it? Did you love it? What did you like best?

(P.S. Update on Felix: For those of you who are interested . . . everything remains the same. Felix is still well. We’re just waiting through isolation at home. Thanks for your continued prayers, and I’ll provide a more thorough update soon!)

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!*

Eight Books That Blew Up My Brain

8 Books that Blew Up My Brain

Books can be so transformative, can’t they?

I thought I’d share a list of the books that have most impacted me.

These books dramatically changed the way I understood some aspect of myself, the world, or God, turning my assumptions and long-held beliefs upside-down.

They helped form me into the person I am today.

Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical – Shane Claiborne

Blew up my understanding of the Christian life.

“Christians had taught me what Christians believe, but no one had told me how Christians live” (p. 38). This book changed the way I understood my role as a follower of Jesus, and inspired me to begin actually changing my life — my habits, my words, my spending — in response to Jesus’ teachings. I was no longer just trying to make people believe the same things as me, but striving to make the world a safer, kinder, more beautiful place — to help bring heaven to earth.

When I had gotten tired of talking about Jesus and studying Jesus, this book encouraged me to start living like Jesus. It also introduced me to radical nonviolence (which eventually led me to nonpunitive parenting). And it also inspired me to start this blog.

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture — Shannon Hayes

Blew up my understanding of vocation.

I guess I’d already been heading down this road when I picked up this book, but Radical Homemakers confirmed for me that there is freedom in domesticity. Hayes convinced me that it’s possible to change the world through the choices we make in our homes. We can actually help solve global crises by focusing on family and community. Homemaking can, in fact, be a political and ecological act.

One of the most powerful concepts for me was that of turning the household from a unit of consumption to a unit of production. I am ever striving for this.

This book made homemaking exciting and empowering, and affirmed my vocation as a homemaker.

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats – Sally Fallon

Blew up my understanding of health and nutrition.

Before I read this book, I was completely taken in by conventional nutrition wisdom: all fat (especially saturated fat) is bad for you; whole grains should be the staple of your diet; and calories are the enemy. And if it comes from the grocery store, it must be safe — otherwise, how is it for sale?

This book turned all that upside down, introducing me to Weston A. Price and traditional foods. Turns out, we’re actually undernourished despite being overfed; we need the fat in meat and dairy; grains actually deplete our bodies of minerals; and most of what you can get at the grocery store isn’t really food. And the most surprising of all? we need more bacteria in our food.

Thanks to this book, I’ve come to adore butter and lard; I constantly have food fermenting on my counter; and I’m crazy about real food while being suspicious of anything that comes pre-packaged.

I don’t love most of the recipes in this book, but the introductory chapters were life-changing enough to merit owning this book.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health – Toni Weschler

Blew up my relationship with my body and my understanding of the female body.

Growing up, I bought into the notion that women’s bodies were kind of lame. Menstruation was our curse, and our fertility was something that needed to be managed with medication (to prevent unwanted pregnancies).

TCOYF changed all that. I came to understand the whole menstrual cycle — from ovulation to menstruation and back again — as a beautiful and elegant cycle, to be honoured and understood, not managed. I learned that my body was speaking to me, and learned to read the signs of my fertility so that I didn’t have to rely on drugs. Our bodies are miraculous and stunning, full of life and potential.

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason — Alfie Kohn

Blew up my views of parenting.

This book first introduced me to non-punitive parenting. It was a game-changer. It revolutionized my understanding of the relationship between parent and child, and convinced me that you can raise responsible, compassionate, morally-developed children without reward and punishment. Whaaaaat?

This book got me to question the belief not only that we can control our children, but that we should. Mind-blowing suff.

(I talk about this book some more here).

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

Blew up my understanding of Christianity.

I know. Who of my generation of the evangelical subculture wasn’t affected by this disarming little book?

It’s been many years now since I read Blue Like Jazz as a starry-eyed university undergrad, but at the time it was revolutionary, and elements have stuck with me all these years. I’d never experienced a Christian writer being so honest and funny and self-deprecating. Unbelievably refreshing.

Most memorable: His idea of carrying an “I am the Problem” protest sign. It encouraged me to stop trying to figure out who was responsible for the mess we’re in, and recognize me own sin. If we all redirected our energy away from trying to correct others and turned the focus toward our own sin, we’d go a lot further with making the world a better place.

Is God to Blame? Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering – Gregory Boyd

Blew up my understanding of God.

This is the one book wherein I could practically feel the furniture in my brain moving. I remember sitting on my parents’ bed, clutching my head as lifelong beliefs dissolved like snow and new ones rushed in to replace them.

Greg Boyd — now one of my all-time favourite theologians — first introduced me to Open Theism with this book — namely, the idea that God can/does not know the future . . . because the future does not yet exist. Instead, God’s omniscience means he knows all the infinite possibilities of the future; but since he has given us free will, he has allowed us to co-create that future reality with him.

In this view, God has not pre-ordained our suffering: instead, suffering is the consequence of free will (that of humans and angels), and our choice to alienate ourselves from God’s goodness and love. But God is always working to redeem Creation through our suffering.

I fell in love with God all over again, thanks to this life-changing book.

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church — N. T. Wright.

Blew up my understanding of the afterlife.

Wright shocked me by arguing that most Christians have the afterlife all wrong: Jesus and the New Testament writers clearly teach that God’s children will be resurrected into physical bodies, here on Earth, just as Jesus was. (Heaven is, in fact, a temporary holding-place for the departed until the Resurrection.) He then goes on to explore the implications of the Resurrection: it changes the way we understand our mission, and has highly political implications. A stunning read.

Have any of these books had a big impact on you? What books are at the very top of your this-changed-my-life list? Any other mind-blowing books you recommend?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...