A Little (Reading) Help From Your Friends {Book Club}

Thank you so much to those who have already given to our year-end campaign! We are excited to report we have raised $13,597.00 so far! Make sure you head over to our Better Together page for live updates. It’s definitely not too late if you haven’t given yet, and we’ve still got a few hours left to reach our goal before December 31st at midnight EST!


I’ve been a voracious reader since just about forever. Instead of a nap time when my siblings and I were young, my mom read to us the tales of Johnny Trumane, Adoniram Judson and other classical heroes. Before bedtime, my dad worked his way through the Little House on the Prairie series, sending me to dreamland riding wild ponies and surviving never-ending blizzards. Library days were my favorite, and I could be found curled up for hours with a book in hand. I’ve never had trouble finding something to read.

These days the sheer number of books available to us can be overwhelming! Add in the decision of e-book versus print, the complexities of finding time to read in our line of work, and the precious nature of suitcase space and it might seem all together too complicated to decide what to read next.

Each person is different, and situations and availability vary, but this week I want to share with you some ideas for book inspiration and resources for your reading journey.

Do you use Goodreads to track what you’ve read through the year? I love creating my own reading challenge come January 1, getting ideas from friends on a new author to try, and tucking away books for the future. We also now have our very own Velvet Ashes group on Goodreads! I’ll post what we are currently reading in book club there, and you can ask for reading advice or suggest a book that might be applicable to the community. Check it out!

Several years ago I wanted to get out of a reading rut and made a book challenge list with different categories that would stretch me over the coming year. It was fun brainstorming different ideas, like the number one best seller on Amazon (on the day I decided to start that book), the Pulitzer Prize winner in the year I was born, and a book by an author I had never read before. Amy Young creates a Summer Reading Challenge with a whole bunch of category ideas and there are also some great ideas on Pinterest.

“The words we speak and read make the world around us. They open our eyes to the reality of God; they liven us to what is possible; they draw us onward into maturity, wisdom and love. To be a book girl is to own the identity of holy learner to the full”. If you need to be reminded of the joy and deep work of reading, check out Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson. Not only does Clarkson dig into the beauty of a reading life, but this book contains the largest amount of amazing book lists and suggestions I’ve ever seen in one spot. There’s something for everyone to feel inspired in these pages.

I have a book addiction that gets me into trouble sometimes. I simply cannot exit our public library without a book or two in hand (despite knowing I have several at home waiting for me). I sometimes stay away from Amazon because I might just buy every book that looks intriguing. Cost can definitely be a factor for our budgets when it comes to reading, especially if we don’t live close to a library. Enter free books! First of all, check with your library back home and see if you can borrow e-books with your library card! Second, there are lots of great places to learn about free or cheap e-books. One of my favorites is called E-Reader Girl, where you can sign up for a daily email with books that might be discounted that day or reads that are cheaper. (Fair warning, there tends to be a LOT of Christian romance, in case that’s not really your thing.)

What tips and tricks have you learned or tried to spice up your reading routines? Where do you go for book inspiration? Here’s to some fantastic reading in 2019!

Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

In January we’re going to be reading The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. I’m excited to explore the amazing and diverse ways the Creator has formed each of us! I hope you’ll join in. Here’s a quick summary of the book and our schedule!

The Enneagram is an ancient personality type system that helps us understand both our positive and negative wiring, our fears and motivations, and our pathway for growth. Cron and Stabile explore each of the nine types with lots of stories and examples to help us learn about and appreciate each one. As we understand ourselves in deeper and more meaningful ways, the goal of the authors is to help us grow in our love and understanding of the God who created us so uniquely.

Here’s our schedule:

January 8: Chapters 1-2 (Getting started on understanding the Enneagram)

January 15: Chapters 3-5 (Learning about Types 8, 9, and 1)

January 22: Chapters 6-8 (Exploring Types 2, 3 and 4)

January 29: Chapters 9-12 (Understanding Types 5, 6 and 7 and Conclusion)


  1. Rachel Kahindi December 31, 2018

    Love Goodreads and Amy’s summer reading challenge! I was the kids who would win the local library’s summer reading program. 😉

    If you want to be inspired to read classics, there’s a podcast called The Great Books Podcast. They answer the question “Why is ____ a great book?” I like listening to the episodes on books I’ve read because they give some extra background info and insight. The episodes on books I haven’t read sometimes convince me to read those books. There are spoilers, but I usually already knew the basic plot anyway. I mean, these books have been around.

    I subscribe to Book Bub, which is one of the free/cheap books email services. You can choose genres you want to receive emails about and subscribe to favorite authors. I have gotten loads of horrible free books that I’d never heard of before, a few good free books, and some really great $2.99 books that I wanted to read anyway and was thrilled to find on sale.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 1, 2019

      Rachel, these are great resources!!! I’m slowly expanding my podcast repertoire and this sounds like an excellent one to add. 🙂 I LOVE getting really good books I want anyway on sale- but I have such a huge collection of books waiting to be read on my Kindle. I’ve had a goal for I think the past 3 years to only read the books I already own instead of buying new ones. Let’s just say I should make it a new goal for 2019 because I never make it.

      Happy reading!!

    2. Ruth January 7, 2019

      You both have really good ideas! I made Book Girl the first book I read in 2019. I’ve been wanting to read more consistently, and it was really motivating.

      I also listened to a couple of podcast episodes and found them really helpful. And found a book I’ve been wanting to read for $2.99 on Book Bub. So that was a pretty productive day on the book front. Thanks for the tips!

      1. Sarah Hilkemann January 7, 2019

        Ruth, that sounds like a super fun start to 2019! Happy continued reading. 🙂

  2. Paulette January 28, 2019

    Sarah, I too have loved reading since early childhood. Two common problems in our home were that my siblings and I would read instead of doing our assigned schoolwork (I would even lose myself for ridiculous amounts of time reading the dictionary!) or take books into the bathroom and stay in there as long as we thought we could get away with it…okay, who am I kidding? Some of us still do that at when we are at our parents house…the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are right outside the bathroom door, after all. 🙂

    What a gift to have parents who read to us…mine did too, and all those books and series shared as a family are certainly precious memories. In addition to lots of classics, some were M biographies, which played a big part in God’s calling on my life, and in daily encouragement on the field, remembering their examples and faith.

    Like you said, now there are limitations of time, cost, suitcase weight, and living far from libraries. 🙁 The challenge I am most frustrated by is a jungle environment that can make papers and books start to smell like mold in less than three months! Like such a bad smell that one doesn’t even want to touch the pages without gloves or plugging one’s nose. Anyone out there who has lived in a humid climate have tips for how to preserve books?

    Thank you so much for all the reading suggestions! I had never even heard of Goodreads. Just joined, and sent you a request to join the group.
    I just got a 3-month subscription to Kindle Unlimited, so am hoping to read as many (free!) books as possible by mid-April. Have started with some that Book Club read in the past, and am reading the discussions along with the reading. Hoping to get back into current reading with Book Club in February.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 28, 2019

      Paulette, it’s so fun to hear how much reading was a part of your childhood- and still is! 🙂

      I get what you are saying about print books and humidity! I definitely found it helped to keep them in bedroom where I ran the AC occasionally. I absolutely love the smell of a real book so having the book smelling musty would not be good! 🙁

      Thanks for your comment!!

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