“My life – my personality, my habits, even my speech – is a combination of the books I choose to read, the people I choose to listen to, and the thoughts I choose to tolerate in my mind. . .~ Andy Andrews

I’m not sure if a more thought-provoking statement can be made regarding the effect the things we expose ourselves to has on us as a whole person. We truly are what we read…what we watch…what we listen to..What we put into our body and brain, will ultimately “come out” in some way. Everything we read and watch influences us in some way. So, at the close of the year, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the books and movies I’ve read and watched, and share my Top 5 with you. I’ve been carried away, inspired, moved to tears, lost in thought, entertained..It truly is amazing how much simple words on a page or the acting out of words on a page can have on a person..I am thrilled to be able to share my favorites with you.My first post will be focused on the best books of 2010.

Best in Books

(*As a disclaimer, not all of these books came out in 2010. I simply happened to read them this year.)

1. The Noticer: Sometimes all a person needs is a little perspective by Andy Andrews  

– Talk about quotable and inspirational! I had my life journal out nearly the whole time, stopping to write down Andrews’ gems of wisdom and insight.  Here are a few of my favorites..

“Everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but if you’ll remember, mountaintops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of a mountain. Sure, the view is great, but what’s a view for? A view just gives us a glimpse of our next destination-our next target. But to hit that target, we must come off the mountain, go through the valley, and begin to climb the next slope. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak.”

“In desperate times, much more than anything else, folks need perspective. For perspective brings calm. Calm leads to clear thinking. Clear thinking yields new ideas. And ideas produce the bloom…of an answer. Keep your head and heart clear. Perspective can just as easily be lost as it can be found.”

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

– This book is not only in my top 5 for 2010, but is currently in my top 5 for all time! I went into this read expecting to be bored, and found the freshest and most engaging take on civil rights I’ve ever encountered. The characters are well developed and the stories captivating. I had difficulty putting this book down, and despite being nearly 500 pages, read it in just 2 or 3 sittings.

3. Life of Pi by Yann  Martel  

– This was a book I’d always wanted to read, and was excited to get to read and share it with my book club this year. A very “simple” story about a young boy trapped on a rowboat with a tiger ends up giving the reader a lot to consider. If you are not a fan of symbolism, or if you need your books to simply be taken at face value, I would not recommend this book to you, as I would almost describe it as an allegory. A very good and thoughtful read.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

-My number 4 pick is actually a trilogy, and lies more within the realm of “escape literature.” This series is definitely for anyone who enjoys utopian/dystopian literature.  The second and third books are entitled, “Catching Fire,” and “Mockingjay.” I read each of these books in about an hour, and was in agony waiting for the third book to be released.  I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but cannot urge you enough to read these books! Everyone I know who has read them has been just as engrossed in them as I was….(and as a tip, have all three ready to go, because you will want to start the next book as soon as you finish the first!)

5. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose

– I loved this book. Whether you are a Bible believing Christian or a hard-core agnostic, this book will resonate with you. Kevin Roose, a “non-believer” from Brown University “went undercover” at Liberty University (home of the late Jerry Falwell), a university where students are required to attend chapel, and receive demerits for things such as kissing, watching R rated movies, and wearing skirts that are above the knee. Roose went into Liberty expecting Christians to fit into the pre-conceived mold he had for them, and found that as a group, they are actually quite diverse, accepting, and much more loving and open than the limited picture the media portrays them to be. I think the byline for this book should be, “Expectations were made to be broken.” Awesome read…

Honorable Mentions:

1. Keep Sweet by Michele Dominguez Greene – I have a small obsession with reading books about the FLDS. This is the first fiction book I have read about them, and loved it.

2. The Gift by Cecilia Ahern – I do not usually care much for chick-lit, but found this story to be very sweet and quite engaging. It reminded me very  much of the movie, “The Family Man.”

3. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer – While this is a definite “guilty pleasure” book, if you are a Twilight fan, I would highly recommend this quick read. This gives the “Twihard” a more complete picture of the series, and delves into the lives of the newborn vampires, and their preparations to wage war with the Cullens.

Books are my favorite way to escape the day, my favorite way to learn, and my favorite way to spend any quiet time I may have. While I read a lot, I always endeavor to read more each year. I pray the same for you. Make the time. And to quote Levar Burton at the end of the little book talk segment on Reading Rainbow, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” Happy reading!