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13 books I’m reading this next year

“We read to know we’re not alone.” William Nicholson couldn’t be most spot-on about why reading resonates with so many of us, and I think it’ll ring truer for me this year than it has in a long time. Sure, we’ll be meeting new people daily from all walks of life, and yet, if my traveling experience has taught me before, I’ll never feel more third-culture than when I’m walking that thin line between my host country and that of my passport.

So, I plan to read a lot this next year as we travel. We won’t have much access to Netflix, certainly no DVDs in our packs, and even our music will be in short supply in a few countries (hold me as I ponder that last bit there). We try to dish out screen time in small doses in our real life anyway, but that parenting move will be on hyperdrive for the next year—we simply won’t be able to watch many movies. Literally.

Reading is one of my greatest loves, so I plan to take the timeless ritual and hold it near as a dear friend. I’ve found that years later, the books I’ve read on a trip become companions from that journey. Here’s what I hope to read this next year on our round-the-world trip (all via Kindle, of course).

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Find it on Amazonhouseofthespirits

What it’s about: In one of the most popular Latin American novels of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. Its Chilean backdrop serves as a beautiful description of Latin culture.

Why I’m reading it: I want to read more novels this next year—I’ve been filling up on non-fiction the past few years, which is great, but I’m ready to get lost in a story. And I’ve heard good things about this one.

Where I’m reading it this next year: South America

Overrated by Eugene Cho

overratedFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: People today love to talk about justice, but are they living justly? They want to change the world, but are they being changed themselves? Eugene Cho confesses that he likes to talk about changing the world but he doesn’t really like to do what it takes. He doesn’t doubt the sincerity of those who want to change the world, but he fears that today’s wealth of resources and opportunities could be creating “the most overrated generation in history. We have access to so much but end up doing so little.”

Why I’m reading it: I heard him speak at my church our last week in Oregon, and I was really moved by his message. This idea of good intentions but little action has been percolating in my mind for some time now.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

thealchemistFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: An Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way, but what begins as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of inner treasure.

Why I’m reading it: This is one of those books I feel like I should have read already, with so many people I trust raving about it. I love getting lost in a good story… I think my daughter and I will read this together.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Europe

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

chasingfrancisFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: When his elders tell him to take some time away from his church, broken pastor Chase Falson crosses the Atlantic to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest. There he is introduced to the revolutionary teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi and finds an old, but new way of following Jesus that heals and inspires. The main character’s spiritual discontent mirrors the feelings of a growing number of Christians who walk out of church asking, Is this all there is? They are weary of celebrity pastors and empty calorie teaching.

Why I’m reading it: My literary agent and friend recommended it to me, and she’s got great taste. Plus, let’s just say this work of fiction sounds a little non-fictional in my own life at the moment.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Europe

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

writinglifeFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: This short book by renowned novelist Annie Dillard explores her perspective on the practice of being a writer. Commentary on the craft of writing is juxtaposed with narration of the author’s personal experiences, all of which are grounded in the extended metaphor that creating a literary work is, essentially, following “a line of words.” The themes of the book are also grounded in that metaphor, specifically in their investigation of the contrasting natures of that line and the simultaneous effortlessness and hard work that go into following it truthfully.

Why I’m reading it: This book is quoted all over the place, and again, it’s one of those books I feel like I should have already read, as a writer myself. I hear I should plan on pretty much highlighting the entire dang thing.

Pilgrim Principles by Lacy Clark Ellman

pilgrimprinciplesFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: Pilgrimage is a sacred journey, and it speaks to our longing for something more and our search for answers to life’s deepest questions: Who am I? Who is God? What makes me come alive? Though ancient in its roots, the practice of pilgrimage is alive and well today, calling seekers to journey beyond the edge of daily life into terrains of mystery, wonder, revelation, delight, acceptance, and transformation.

Why I’m reading it: About the book, Ellman says you don’t have to leave home to begin living like a pilgrim. But well, I’ve left home for a year, so I figure this would be a good time to read this new-to-me book.

The Beach by Alex Garland

thebeachFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: The Beach, as main character Richard has come to learn, is the subject of a legend among young travelers in Asia: a lagoon hidden from the sea, with white sand and coral gardens, freshwater falls surrounded by jungle, plants untouched for a thousand years. There, it is rumored, a carefully selected international few have settled in a communal Eden. He sets off with a young French couple to an island hidden away in an archipelago forbidden to tourists, yet over time it’s clear that Beach culture, as Richard calls it, has troubling undercurrents.

Why I’m reading it: I’ve heard the movie doesn’t even compare to the book, and though I’m not usually the thriller type, it sounds like a fun read while we’re in Thailand for awhile.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Southeast Asia

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

sunalsorisesFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.

Why I’m reading it: When we were in Tuscany, the subject of favorite books circled the group, and Seth Haines quickly named this one as his. I’m impressed that anyone can name their favorite book as confidently and rapidly as he did, and I trust his taste, so this book was added to my queue.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Europe

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

yearinprovenceFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: In this memoir, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January’s frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine. It transports readers into all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life and lets us live vicariously at a tempo governed by seasons, not by days.

Why I’m reading it: We might slow down and park a bit in Provence, so this seems like obvious reading during our time there.

Where I’m reading it this next year: Europe

The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor

completestoriesFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: Thirty-one O’Connor stories, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections she together in her short lifetime, completes this collection. Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century.

Why I’m reading it this next year: The best reading recommendations come from fellow readers I trust. And this collection comes recommended enough for me to believe them and try it out myself.

Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson

eatthisbookFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: The second part of Peterson’s momentous five-volume work on spiritual theology, he offers greatly needed, down-to-earth counsel on spiritual reading by challenging us to read the Scriptures on their own terms, as God’s revelation, and to live them as we read them. In these pages he draws readers into a fascinating conversation on the nature of language, the ancient practice of lectio divina, and the role of Scripture translations.

Why I’m reading it: I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Peterson, so I anticipate the same for this one. I like the idea of down-to-earth counsel on spiritual reading in my life.

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

geoofblissFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, this book travels from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author’s case, moments of “un-unhappiness.” It investigates not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy?

Why I’m reading it: I’m terribly fascinated by the idea of happiness and different cultures’ definitions of it—and it serves as research for the book I’ll start working on during this trip. Looking forward to this one.

Where I’m reading it this next year: All over the place

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski

sacredyearFind it on Amazon

What it’s about: Frustrated and disillusioned with his life as a motivational speaker, Michael Yankoski was determined to stop merely talking about living a life of faith and start experiencing it. The result was a year of focused engagement with spiritual practices–both ancient and modern–that fundamentally reshaped and revived his life. By contemplating apples for an hour before tasting them (attentiveness), eating on just $2.00 a day (simplicity), or writing letters of thanks (gratitude), he discovered a whole new vitality and depth through the intentional life.

Why I’m reading it: I heard Michael speak at our church a few weeks ago and was profoundly moved by his short message. His year of discovery sounded eerily like a prophetic word for our upcoming year on the road—in fact, Kyle and I have called it a sacred year previous to this new book’s release. I pre-ordered it on my Kindle while he was still speaking. Really excited about digging in deep.

Where I’m reading it this next year: All over the place, slowly

We read to know we're not alone. -William Nicholson

This isn’t comprehensive, of course—I tend to add books and take them away as I find inspiration. But this is my plan as of now. Here’s to another year of reading!

What are your reading plans from now till next summer?

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Reading Time:

7 minutes





  1. Laura

    To read less, to live more. To trust that not all the answers are awaiting discovery outside of me…

  2. Steph

    I have a general list a mile long…I then pick from that list based on whatever I feel like/the library has available at the time (though I usually have several going at once). Adding Overrated and Chasing Francis to my list.

  3. Mary P

    If it is practical for you, consider getting either a Kindle or Nook that can access the Internet and check out books from your library (if your library has that available). My library has over 8,000 e-books available, and I can check out at any hour of the day or night, up to 4 at a time (I download them onto my Nook so they are accessible even when I don’t have access to Internet). When they come due after 14 days, they are automatically returned to the library so I never have to worry about returning them.

    • Tsh

      Yep! We do this, too. 🙂

  4. Naomi Liz

    Such a great list! I just added Annie Dillard’s book to my ever-growing “to read” list. And the Eugene Cho book is excellent–I found it incredibly insightful, humble, and challenging.

  5. Sarah Pinault

    What a great list! My goodness, first you make me want to homeschool, now you make me want to sell up and travel for a year with my toddlers. What are you trying to do? Change the world one life at a time???? 🙂

    • Tsh

      Ha—maybe…. mwah ha ha ha! 😉

  6. Danielle

    Thanks so much for sharing this list! I always have such a huge list of books to read but can never manage to read more than 4 books in a year. 2015 is going to be a slower year for me and I am looking forward to doing some more reading. Lately I have been looking for books outside of my normal genre (non-fiction, science/nutrition, history). Your list here has certainly added a few to my list that I don’t think I otherwise would have come across.

  7. Bethany Turner

    These books sound great. I already had a couple of my list, but I think I will be adding a few more.

    My reading plan until next summer is textbooks. I am taking 2 semesters of nonprofit management classes.

  8. Katy

    I am always looking for new books to read and your lists have been great starting points. The books you shared regarding religion/ faith seem to be just what I need these days. And, I bet, I am not the only one.

    • Tsh

      I think there’s a lot of this that resonates with this sort of stuff lately…

  9. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Such a fun topic! I’ll be curious to hear what you think of them all. The Alchemist is on my to-read list (and yeah, I feel like I *should* have read it already, too), I’ve only read one Allende novel, and I should probably make myself finish reading Flannery O’Connor’s selected stories. She’s so talented, but her stories kind of give me the creeps. 🙂

    I love that Peterson book, and I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on The Writing Life. I adored it in college, but I re-read it last year and was really surprised by it. I don’t want to say too much until you’ve read it, but it was definitely like opening a little time capsule.

    • Tsh

      Huh… now I’m really curious. 🙂

  10. Morgan Brown

    I got a big smile on my face when I saw you’re going to read The Geography of Bliss. This book had a huge influence on why I took a trip around the world, and holds a warm fuzzy place in my heart. Enjoy!

    • Tsh

      Oh yay! Very cool.

  11. Sarah M

    Wow, what an amazing book list, Tsh. I’m adding at least half of these to my (ongoing) list & Pinterest board, so I can remember them.
    I’m currently reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and I’m wondering why the heck I haven’t ever picked up a book of his yet. I’m fascinated by it. I love non-fiction and cultural studies (and great writing!) and I’m thinking I’ll read every single one of his books.
    Sarah M

    • Karen

      I’m on the same reading plan Sarah…everything by Malcolm Gladwell is outstanding, and Outliers was my first book of his, recommended to me by a Benedictine Abbot! Enjoy!

    • Tsh

      Yes, Gladwell’s stuff is great!

  12. Sharon

    I have a couple of those on my list- overrated is right near the top. Thanks for this list!

  13. AC

    I read Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island when we were traveling to the UK and you are right. I absolutely associate that book with that trip which is beautiful in that it was a great trip but it also made the trip better reading about an American’s experiences where I was traveling. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

    • Tsh

      I haven’t read that one yet, but I’ve read (and LOVED!) some of his other works. I just may add that, too! Thanks for your $.02.

  14. Caroline Starr Rose

    HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS!!!! I started this on a summer Sunday afternoon, right after lunch. The next thing I knew, it was dark outside. One of my absolute favorites.

    Also, I’d love to hear about the Annie Dillard. I think she’s brilliant but have never read anything she’s written about writing.

    • Tsh

      Oooooh… Now I can’t wait to dig in!

  15. Sarah

    I haven’t read any of these books. (Though I’ve picked up The Alchemist a half dozen times, never to leave the store with it… I’m at a loss as to why.) I’m bookmarking this page so I can go back and find these books when nothing I reach for is doing the trick. I love having a go-to of literature recommendations, and this list is no exception. Thank you for this great list of thoughtful, insightful books!

  16. Lacey Prewitt

    I am about to read Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin, New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd.

    • Tsh

      Rutherfurd’s books are fun! And huge. And intimidating. 😉

  17. Sharon Holbrook

    Bring it on, these sound terrific! Please report back on these books. Would love to know if they meet expectations.

    • Tsh

      Will do!

  18. Heather

    I’m a big fan of reading books that somehow relate to the places I’m travelling to. Last Christmas my husband and I spent 6 weeks in New Zealand and whilst we were there I read The Luminaries by Eleanor Caton (Man booker prize winner last year). I loved that we were driving through places I was reading about. Your trip sounds amazing! If you pass though the north east of England I’d love to show you around.

    • Tsh

      Well, we’ll be in NZ this December, so I may add your book rec to my pile! Thanks. And yeah, we just may make it to northern England as well (not sure yet), so that’d be fun!

  19. Margie

    Good choice on A Year in Provence. It is one of those books that writes lyrically about experiencing a place not as a tourist but as a traveller. You won’t walk away from it changed, but it will make you ponder the little observations of your trip.

    If you have never read Bill Bryson, I would recommend one of his travel books for one of those times when you feel frustrated by the actual “travel” aspect of your trip. Maybe for a day when the nuts and bolts logistics of moving your family between continents on a long flight has left you weary. Notes from a Small Island is one of my favorites.

    • Tsh

      Yep, he’s great!

  20. Paula augustin

    I have read the alchemist and the sun also ride and they are both phenomenal. I can’t wait to see your views on them. I’ve actually been looking for more books to read so I’m saving this post as reference 🙂 I’m currently reading “Body Mind Mastering” by Dan Millman and so far it is very captivating. You should check it out! Good luck in your travels 🙂

  21. Sarah Caldwell

    LOVE this post! Your list feels like a book kindred spirit to me! I couldn’t get over how many of your books on your list are also in my to-read pile for the upcoming year! Actually, I’ve had a few for awhile this year, and haven’t gotten to them like Pilgrim Principles, Chasing Francis (I’m so thrilled to hear it was recommended my your agent), The Writing Life, and The Alchemist–I’ve had it on my to-read list for way too long! I’ve been reading an advanced copy of A Sacred Year, and LOVE it – I can’t wait until my paper pre-order copy comes this month. (I like to mark up and highlight my books). So many of my friends have loved Eat This Book. I hope you write a follow-up post this year about which of these books you enjoyed most, if you abandoned any, etc. I’m adding a handful to my to-read pile. I’m especially intrigued by The Geography of Bliss. I’ve also always wanted to read A Year In Provence. I love that you shared where you are reading many of the books – such a fantastic touch! I was reading Under The Tuscan Sun when I went to Tuscany in 2012 (for the 1st and only time–sigh! I MUST go back there one day SOON!). Reading it whilst traveling and staying there was absolutely sublime–a book lover’s dream.
    Right now, my reading stack includes: An Altar In The World by Barbara Brown Taylor, Breathing Room by Leanna Tankersley, and Tables In The Wilderness by Preston Yancey. (another book I can’t wait to hold in my hands). I’m also looking forward to reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, The Artisan Soul by Erwin McManus, Surprised By Motherhood by Lisa Jo Baker, and Handling The Truth: On The Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart.
    I think I’m going to break down and finally get a kindle this year – I’m curious what type you think is best – perhaps I’ll check the archives of your blog to see if you’ve addressed this topic before.
    Such a long comment, so sorry! But I absolutely love book posts! And I’m so excited for you and your family’s trip – it would be a dream of mine to one day do a similar adventure with my family. Traveling Mercies to you–I’ll be keeping up with your blogs. Hope you continue to podcast this year as well! 🙂 Blessings to You & Yours!

    • Tsh

      What a great reading list you have there as well, Sarah! And I recommend and LOVE my Kindle Paperwhite. The backlight is super useful, yet it still feels nice and simple; book-ish. If you’ve gotta read on a device (major help while traveling), I’m a fan of making it as close to ink and pages.

  22. Sarah Caldwell

    Ack! Excuse all of the typos above! 🙂

  23. Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas

    I think the interwebz ate my first comment, haha. Here’s a second go:

    I LOVE snooping into people’s reading lists. Why? I don’t know. But this was great 🙂

    And I’m so excited that you’re reading Flannery O’Connor this year. Here’s my unorthodox advice about Flannery. Folks always say to start with her short stories and they tell you to read “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” first. Don’t do it. Save that one until you acclimated. I would start with one of the novels. Wise Blood is great, but my favorite is The Violent Bear It Away. It’s weirdly southern and amazing.

    • Tsh

      Awesome. Thanks, Haley!

  24. Kaysa

    I have a long list too!

    I will finish my current read:
    The Art of Non-Conformity which is fabulous.
    The Earth’s Best Story: The Bittersweet tale of twin brothers
    Bootstrap Leadership: 50 ways to break out, take charge, and move up
    Eat The Yolks
    and many more….

  25. Kaysa

    And I will steal a couple from your list as well

  26. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Amazing list!! I know a certain cookbook you can add to the list come Jan/Feb. 😉

    My brother read The Beach when we backpacked through Thailand back in the day. That thriller, plus his anti-malaria pills, gave him some serious nightmares. 🙂 I was always too chicken to read it….

    • Tsh

      Totally! Can’t wait to get my hands on it when I first get home. 🙂

      And yeah, we’ll see how long I last with The Beach… I get wigged out easily, too…

  27. Gabrielle

    I just added a few more books to my own list, as if I needed any help :). I discovered Peter Mayle a couple of years ago and have added a handful of his books to my own library, love him! Frances Mayes (Under The Tuscan Sun) is also an excellent author.

  28. Hannelene

    I really wanted to like The Writing Life, and I usually like Annie Dillard, but I have to say that was a tough one to get through. My list? The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, Julia Cameron’s classic The Artists Way (I read it too long ago to remember much), and all things Mario Llosa Vargas, since I live in Peru these days.

    Love love love Flannery O’Connor.

  29. Helena

    I will forever associate Wally Lamb’s coming of age novel ‘She’s Come Undone’ with my own coming of age during a year spent living in New York. I remember so clearly reading this book whilst on a road trip all around the States and the book still stirs those memories when I see it on my bookshelf here in London.
    ‘The Beach’ is definitely much better, and more disturbing, as a book. I wish I could have read it on a beach in Thailand 😉 I have, however, managed to read ‘the Dark Heart of Italy’ by Tobias Jones on a beach in Italy and it definitely hit home the message that everything is not as idyllic as it may seem at first glance.

  30. DJ

    I love my Kindle too. I’m wondering though how you are going to read “The House of the Spirits” and “The Geography of Bliss” on your Kindle. Amazon does not currently list a Kindle edition of these works.

  31. Nina

    Hi Tsh, so excited for ya’ll as you embark on this amazing journey! My husband and I traveled in South America for 13 months in 07/08 (we loved the slow pace) and one thing we really enjoyed were the book exchanges at many of the hostels. I was limited on what I could read based on what was available, but i ended up reading some gems I never would have if I had unlimited options! It was also really fun to think of all the places those books had been and the hands they had passed through. Just a thought to keep in mind- maybe one book of the paper kind at a time would be fun, too!

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