I heart books.

What I Am Reading.

on October 29, 2015 in I heart books. with 10 comments by

Annie F. Downs // What I'm Reading

Do y’all have the same problem as me? Do you start one book and then start another and then have one in your car and one by the bed and suddenly you realize you are in the smack middle of five books?

This is me.

I was talking with some friends yesterday about the books we are reading and it makes me so happy to talk about books. What my friends are reading, what I’m reading, what we should be reading. Pretty much, it’s one of my favorite conversations.

So here’s what I’m reading now and what I think. (Which, by the way, I’m just getting serious about my life over on GoodReads, so if you’re there, let’s totally connect!)

. . . . .

Garden City by John Mark Comer :: My friend Matthew told me about this one and wow I have loved it so far. I’m a little more than halfway through it, but I kinda like reading it in chunks of time, like last week when I went to Leiper’s Fork. I have a few flights next week- this is definitely the book I will make space for in my carry-on.

It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke :: Gosh this book is so smart. The cover is so cool, but the book is far more theological and deep thinking than the cover would lead you to believe. I’m so impressed with the ideas and study that Jeff put into this book. I just finished it and I totally recommend you read it.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North :: So another buddy of mine recommended this one. I’m about a third of the way through it and so far it is way interesting. When I am busy writing nonfiction, if I don’t have good fiction on my bedside table, I will Netflix my life away. So I’m always grateful when friends recommend fiction books that I may not have found on my own.

Coming Clean by Seth Haines :: Y’all. Here’s what. Seth’s book absolutely changed me. No joke. I want to send this book to about every pastor and Christian and worship leader that I am friends with. There is something really important, I think, about our Christian culture talking openly about addiction and the pain we try to avoid. Please read it.

Walking With God by John Eldredge :: So our Bible study has been reading this book since the spring and I’ve really liked it. My friend Heather told me that as soon as she finished the book, she started it again. So that’s what I’m doing too. The first read through really helped my prayer life grow in the last six months or so, so I’m excited that our group is starting it again.

. . . . .

Here are some books that are in line for me to read next:

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

Out Of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

Wearing God by Lauren Winner

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

. . . . .

What are you reading these days? Any great suggestions that I need to add to my winter-in-Nashville-we-get-trapped-in-our-homes list? Because. January is around the corner. The ice cometh.

. . . . .

TueBook Tuesday: February is for book lovers.

on February 3, 2015 in Tuebook Tuesday with 2 comments by

TueBook Tuesday!

As I promised last week, here are my thoughts on the two books I think you should buy and read this month. I love talking about books so much. I’m glad y’all do too.

For the Right Reasons by Sean LoweUnknown

It is no surprise that I like Sean Lowe. I blogged about why his story matters, and I believe it. I think that’s a great reason to read this book. Because your story matters, my story matters, Sean’s story matters. If you are a fan of The Bachelor TV series, you’ll love a lot of the behind the scenes scoop you get from Sean’s perspective. For me personally, the section about being on Emily’s season was sooooo interesting. And his faith journey is encouraging to read.

Here is the only thing I want you to know before you read it: your life, right where you are, can be extraordinary. There were moments in Sean’s book where he didn’t like his “normal” life and I get that, but I’m a big fan of “normal” looking lives lived by very brave people. I think that changes the world. I believe that you are where you are on purpose, with a purpose, and God has called you to be brave right there.

Look at Romans 12:1 in the Message version.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

So while I do think you should read the book, and I think you will like it, I want you to read it with that caveat in mind- embrace what God is doing for you, right where you are, and that’s the best thing you can do for Him. I love that in the book, Sean continued to look to God for direction in whatever role he was placed. I don’t think being The Bachelor was ever a dream Sean had as a kid, but God was able to work through Sean to speak and minister to other contestants for sure (which is really cool to read). That’s something I love about our God: He can use you at your school, your job, your basketball practice, or your TV show. Being brave is about where He places you.

That being said, buy the book and read it.

Home Is Where My People Are by Sophie HudsonUnknown-1

Sophie brought me to my literary knees with her first book– I just could not have loved it anymore. Which, as long as we’re being honest on the blog today, scared me about her second one. I hoped she could do it again, and of course- she did.

Her storytelling is some of the finest of our generation (I’m not exaggerating), especially if you are a Southerner or like to hear about life below the Mason Dixon line. Her stories are endearing, sweet, kind, hilarious, and moving. If you’re holed up in your home because it’s cold outside, or if you’re about to head on vacation of any type, this is your book. You will fly fly fly through it, wish it was longer, and maybe start it again or loop back to her first one.

Buy it, devour it, enjoy it.

You know I love a good book conversation. So what are you reading right now? Anything new I should know about?

I made a list of things.

on January 30, 2015 in AnnieSpeaks, I heart books., Ze Bloggy Goodness with 3 comments by

I have not forgotten the blog exists, I promise.

Since getting back from Ecuador, I’ve been going ninety miles a minute trying to prep for two weeks of travel and buying a new car and writing some things and meetings and I HAVE FELT SOME OF THE PANIC.

Forgive me.

But here is what you need to know.

thing 1.

I get to travel a lot and it is awesome. And it is the best way for me to see you. So if you are anywhere NEAR where I am going this spring, please come say hi. Don’t panic about “can I come to that?” or “am I welcome?” — just email or tweet or something me and we’ll work something out.

thing 2.

There are a few books coming out that I think you’ll enjoy:

Home Is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson… and my word, y’all, she has done it again.

For The Right Reasons by Sean Lowe… I liked it. I have thoughts. But I liked it.

(We’re gonna resurrect TueBook Tuesday next week and I’m going to expound on both of these, so yes. Obviously. I have more to say.)

thing 3.

Speaking of Tuesday, on Tuesday night I’m speaking in Atlanta at Buckhead Church’s Single Series. I know. I don’t talk about being a singlet very much. But when Atlanta asks, I usually say yes. I’m such a sucker for my hometown.

To introduce me to the crowd, they made this cute little video that I kinda love. (It’s below- so subscribers, you may need to click over to see it.)

If you are anywhere near, married or single, you are so welcome to join us Tuesday night. If you have any single friends in the area, definitely let them know about the series. Buckhead Church does a really cool job of intentionally caring for the singles in their community and I think it’s a place worth getting plugged in to if you are single in the city.

thing 4.

I’m sending out a newsletter today (or maybe tomorrow?) and I just wanted to make sure you knew that thing existed. It’s kind of like a VIP list- you know stuff first, you know stuff everyone else doesn’t know, if the blog feels like a bunch of friends at a party, the monthly newsletters feel like dinner around a farm table.

If you’d like to receive it, sign up here.

thing 5.

I’m hooked on Propel Women. Download this month’s magazine and set aside some time this weekend to read it. The direction they are encouraging all of us to go in leadership is right on, I think.

. . . . .

Okay, I think those are my things. Do you have any things to share with me?

. . . . .

A Brave Story: Matthew + Jessica

on October 22, 2014 in #thatisbrave, I heart books. with 2 comments by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Matthew Paul Turner and Jessica Turner. This story was written by Matthew and it is used with their permission.

. . . . .

There’s often a thin line between stupid and brave. How one differentiates between stupid and brave usually depends on why you did what you did and what happens after you do it.

For instance, a person’s decision to jump off a high rocky cliff into a lake is often considered brave. Heck, if your jump is perfect and you quickly burst forth out of the water like a buoy, it might even get labeled brilliant.

But if you jump off a cliff and it ends with a belly flop or a broken arm or leg or—God forbid—a drowning. Then, that one-time potentially brave or brilliant action is quickly deemed stupid. Unless… the reason you jumped off a dangerous rocky cliff was in order to to save a drowning child—then it would likely not matter how the event ended—you’d be labeled brave regardless.

Now, I haven’t jumped off any cliffs or saved anybody from drowning, I just self-published a children’s book. Brave? Stupid? Heck, maybe you’re thinking, books gets self published all the time, why would it be considered either?

If that’s what crossed your mind, you could have a point. Self-published books are a dime a dozen in today’s ebook and print-on-demand world. It’s becoming such a common occurrence that I’m more surprised when I meet somebody who hasn’t released a book.

But publishing a children’s book independently from a major imprint isn’t quite. Four-color formats aren’t commonly printed on-demand, at least, not without suffering a huge cost. And the ebook format, though widely accepted among adults, isn’t what’s preferred for children. Though ebooks for kids are becoming more and more available, parents are slow to pick up on the trend, often considering any kind of iPad use as “screen time.”


And to do a children’s book well costs money—lots of it—because you have to pay an illustrator, a printer, and a distributer.

Still, despite all of the risk involved, my wife, Jessica, and I decided that we had to publish my children’s book. We didn’t feel like we had much of a choice. Publishers said no. They had a variety of reasons for declining, all of which didn’t include “not liking” the book. In fact, they loved the book idea. So after the last no from a publisher, because Jessica and I believed in the project, we began making plans to publish it ourselves.

Though both of us have a good amount of experience in publishing, neither of us knew what we were doing. We took it a step at a time, my Type-A wife spearheading the logistics. The process from start to finish took more than a year and cost us several thousand more than what we believed it would.

But we did it—not because we have copious amounts of time and money— but because we believed in the idea and believed in the purpose behind the idea: to create a children’s book about God that is inspirational, rhythmic, fun-to-read, and full of color.


And with God Made Light, I believe we did just that.

Now, was our decision to publish this book brave or was it stupid? Well, that’s hard to say since it just released yesterday. If people like it—maybe brave? If it falls flat—maybe stupid?

Or perhaps the outcome—whether it sells or doesn’t sell—isn’t what really matters here. Maybe our bravery is more accurately gauged by why we’re publishing God Made Light—because we believe in the book, we believe in it’s message, we believe in its potential, and we believe that children and families need more “light” in our lives. But all of that, in the end, is difficult to measure, leaving my bravery or stupidity in question.

But I can say this: self-publishing a children’s book called God Made Light makes me feel brave. I know; that sounds cheesy. But it’s true. No, I don’t feel brave in the way I might if I were swimming with sharks or brave like I believe I would if I were saving somebody’s life, but rather brave because in order to make this happen, I’ve had to choose over and over and over again to believe in my work and to believe in what other people have said about my work. That might not sound like much. But that’s the only way God Made Light ever saw the light of day—because I managed to brave my own self-doubt and rely on the encouragement of others to pull me out when I became too focused on the risk or the cost or the potential rejection.

Even now, as my book is available and receiving reviews on Amazon, I’m fighting the temptation to doubt, to wonder, what the heck have I done? No, releasing a children’s book without a publisher is not the same as somebody jumping out of an airplane or tightroping across the Grand Canyon, but like the daredevils who do such things, I don’t know what’s coming. Will the book be a success? Will people like it? Will I lose my shirt?

I don’t know the answer to that. But whatever comes, I’m brave not because I did it but because why I did it.

. . . . .

Friends. Isn’t that SO encouraging? LOVE this story. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of God Made Light — I’m gifting it LIKE CRAZY this Christmas. I believe in the story and I believe in the Turners and I believe this book will matter to every kid, and adult, who reads it.

Also- HOW CUTE are their kiddos? I love them so.


When your book has a sister.

on August 5, 2014 in I heart books. with 2 comments by


If Let’s All Be Brave could have a sister, I’d pick Speak by Nish Weiseth.

(Is that how “sisters” work? You just pick? Okay. Great.)

This sisters idea is not only because I think they would look cute posing for pictures today, but more because they are two different books that share the same blood.

What flows through them both is the belief that a story can change a life.

I love this book. I think you will too. It’s a challenging read, but not a difficult read. (Know what I mean?) It’s going to push you and encourage you, but Nish doesn’t use the kind of words that make me need a dictionary or make me feel like I don’t understand what her analogy is ACTUALLY talking about. But she does use the kind of words that made me pause, take a deep breath, and really process who, where, and why I tell my stories.

I am a better writer, storyteller, and human because of the time I spent in Speak.

I can’t think of a better way for you to use your reading hours this week.

Dig into Speak.

And then tell your story.

. . . . .

Should you (and your teen) see The Fault In Our Stars?

on June 5, 2014 in I heart books. with 98 comments by


(Warning: this post will be a bit longer than usual but will not include any spoilers. However, I will be mentioning sex between teenagers, so my normal G rating on a blog post is gonna bump up to PG. Proceed.)

I cried through the last few chapters of the book by John Green.

I cried the back third of the movie. Like, ugly cry.

And when it ended, I walked out of the theater and began to turn over in my mind what to tell you.

. . . . .

In the few weeks that I have been talking about this book, the red carpet event, and the movie, I have had a small (but vocal) group of readers expressing their concern that someone like ME (I’m assuming they mean “teen Christian author”) can support a movie like THAT (I’m assuming they mean the part where two unmarried teenagers have sex). At least, that’s what the emails were mostly focused on. They have not all been unkind, more just concerned. And I understand. I really do.

And so I’ve wrestled. I loved the book. I loved the movie. But would I tell teenagers to see it? Or moreover, would I be willing to “stand” in front of a bunch of parents and say this movie deserves your time and money?


Here’s why.

In every story, there are going to be moral decisions made that you will not agree with. Sometimes, you can press on and it not affect you. And then, at other times, the decisions made cause you to want to walk away from the story all together. When you feel a check on your insides, listen to it. It is your personal decision.

I watch Parenthood. Julia kissed a man that wasn’t her husband. I don’t agree with that. But I still watch it because I find there is so much redemption in the lives of the Braverman family.

I watched a few episodes of Sons of Anarchy. The violence and sex were too much for me. I quit it. The good didn’t outweigh the brutal in my mind.

That doesn’t mean you should watch Parenthood or stay away from Sons of Anarchy. I’m just telling you that was MY experience and the check on MY insides.

In The Fault In Our Stars, there are a few decisions made by teenagers that I do not agree with or believe are the most healthy and life-giving choices. And truthfully? I found the one short sex scene absolutely earned the PG-13 rating because it’s surprisingly racy, especially for an experience between two high schoolers.

But one sex scene does not a movie make. There is so much more to this story, to the complexity of the characters, to the wrestling through pain and laughter and family and cancer and grief almost to an unbearable degree.

. . . . .

I would not suggest middle schoolers see this film without an adult. Truth be told, if I had high school son or daughter, I’d sit right there next to them in the theater, just like Mark Matlock from Youth Specialties.

But that isn’t my stance simply because of the sex (though, again, what is appropriate for you or your child to see is TOTALLY your decision). I think you need to see it with your kid because you need to talk about it. And you need to listen.

The love in this movie is real to how teenagers love.

The pain in this movie is real to how teenagers hurt.

TRUST ME. PLEASE. Teens are my people. I write for them, I think about them, I talk to them, in some form or fashion EVERY DAY. This story, the book and the movie, is real for them. And you need to see it. And you need to talk about two cancer-stricken kids having sex because they love each other. And you need to talk about how real loss is and how deep love and pain go and what happens when things go wrong.

Don’t stay away from this movie because you are scared of the conversations that will come of it. Whether you see it or not, I’m willing to bet the teenagers (and adults) around you will. And I’m scared that some of us are going to stay away because we “don’t believe in pre-marital sex even if the kids do have cancer” (that’s a quote from an email) and what’s going to happen is the teenagers around you are going to internalize what they see and feel in that movie theater and make decisions alone without wrestling through their thoughts with a wise adult.


We can see the movie with them. We can have open and honest discussions around our personal beliefs, and we can hug them and cry with them and feel with them ALL THE FEELS that will come when you watch The Fault In Our Stars.

The movie is really great. The book is better.

Both are worth your time.

. . . . .

Your thoughts and discussion, spoken with respect and kindness, are welcome here- whether you agree or not. Feel free to discuss this book or film in comments (without spoilers please), but I do reserve the right to delete meanness because it’s Friday and ain’t nobody got time for that.

What would you ask the stars of TFIOS?

on May 7, 2014 in I heart books. with 11 comments by


So I got an email last week inviting me to the Fan Event for The Fault In Our Stars, the movie based on the book by John Green.

I thought, “that is so cool! I can’t believe I get to sit in the audience and have a ticket reserved for me.”

And then the PR guy was all, “and we’d like for you to have a spot on the red carpet where you’ll be able to interview the stars of the movie and John Green.”

And then I was all, EMOJI WITH WIDE EYES. (You know the one…)

I love doing interviews. You know that from IF:Gathering. (Proof. Proof 2.0. Proof video style.) I love making friends and talking to people and asking about their lives. In fact, I’m getting more and more of these opportunities and it makes me giddy (and it will make you say WHOOOOAAA when you read about my life dream in Let’s All Be Brave because for these chances to be presented to me is all sorts of cray since I wrote that book a year ago.)

So while I’m thrilled about the chance to be interviewing on the red carpet, I was a little surprised, but mainly honored and stoked. Boy did I say yes fast- it will be a BLAST to chat with Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, and John Green.

I’ve done my due diligence in research and have learned a lot about these four fine folks, and I’ve formulated some interesting and humorous but not annoying questions (I hope!), but I know many of you are fans of this book and this movie as well, so I thought CROWDSOURCE!

Help me, you guys.

What questions should I ask the stars of The Fault In Our Stars? Anything you really want to know? 

And yes, I’m having ALL THE FEELS about meeting John Green tomorrow. But I’m gonna be profesh, don’t you worry. I’ll make you proud, friends.

(And by the way, I will be posting like crazy on Instagram and Twitter, so if you want to keep up with real time tomorrow (Thursday), that will be the best place to do it. Or follow #TFIOSTN hashtag!)

Tuebook Tuesday Part 3

on April 29, 2014 in Tuebook Tuesday with 4 comments by

Another week, another couple of books that I’m really excited to tell you about.

I’m making some goals with my life (including more fun pronto), but I’m not putting any pressure on myself to be THE MOST DISCIPLINED or THE MOST PERFECT version of me.

Today’s Tuebook Tuesday books speak right into that- the importance of finding beauty in imperfection.

. . . . .

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

nestingplaceYou may know her better as Nester, by Myquillyn is absolutely amazing and one of the greatest gals I know.

Here’s why you need to buy this hardback book. THE PICTURES and THE WORDS. They are just purely beautiful. I cannot quit flipping, page to page, and reading all the things that Myquillyn has to say (in her perfectly Nester way) and then staring at every picture.

No kidding. I’m making changes all over my house, not necessarily buying a thing mind you, but just doing some shuffling and moving and changing to remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

This book is inspiring, lovely, and just what you’re gonna want to read as the spring really kicks in. Also? This is THE PERFECT Mother’s Day gift. So grab one for yourself and grab another for your mama.

. . . . .

Go With The Flow by Brad Huebert


I’m not great at having my quiet times. Forgive me.

For as long as I’ve been a Christian, I’ve gone back and forth from being good at quiet times to being bad at them to feeling guilty and looping back to being good at them again. Woof. It’s frustrating.

But as I read Go With The Flow, I began to have a better understanding of how to connect with God daily, without guilt, but in a genuinely Annie way. Using the temple/tabernacle from the Bible as an outline, Brad walks you through how to connect in your own way with the Lord.

Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, huh?

This is a pretty quick read (and pretty cheap!) that you can get it in paperback or on your kindle. I got the ebook and really enjoyed reading it as I was traveling around the last few weeks.

. . . . .

I hope you’ll snatch up these good reads to add to your shelf, coffee table, or e-reader.

Speaking of good reads, have we connected at GoodReads.com yet? I’m pretty much having a blast building book shelves – like this one with my favorite teen reads– and seeing what my friends are reading and wanting to read.

Also, just a reminder, you can still download two free chapters of my next book Let’s All Be Brave from NoiseTrade. Also, you can go ahead and pre-order that puppy if you want.

. . . . .


Any good books you know of releasing today? Or are you reading anything interesting? Tell us!

Tuebook Tuesday Part Tue

on April 15, 2014 in Tuebook Tuesday with 26 comments by

Well now I’ve started something I don’t want to quit.

Like eating Cadbury Creme Eggs. (Easter come quickly.)

I just love getting to tell y’all about books and two more great books release today that I think you should know about (and And AND stick around to the end for giveaways!).

. . . . .

Hope Runs by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Samuel Ikua Gachagua

Hope Runs CoverTwo years ago, I sat on my back porch and cried, having just finished THIS INTERVIEW with Sammy. He’s an incredible young man. I believe in that kid.

I interviewed Claire for What’s Your Mark?, a book I wrote with Jeremy Cowart and we immediately hit it off. I respect her so much, her work ethic and her investment in Sammy.

And this book, written by both of them, tells the story of how they became a family. It will make you tear up, people. It is beautifully written and a story like nothing else I’ve ever read. I think this would be an incredible graduation gift for guys or girls and a sweet Mother’s Day gift.

Also, if you order Hope Runs within the next 10 days, Claire has lassoed up all sorts of freebies. So don’t miss out on that.

. . . . .

The Illusion of More by Harris III

harrisiiiPeople are often asking me for books that a whole youth group can use- that boys will like and girls will like and leaders will like. This one from Harris III, master illusionist, is that exactly. I’ve gotten to look through it and I kept saying, “this is SO needed! This is SO good!” And then he pulled a rabbit out of my hat and I was like “I DON’T EVEN OWN A HAT.”

(Nah. That’s a dumb joke. Sorry.)

(But I’m giggling soooo….)

The theme is perfect for any of us- what lies do you believe? Is the grass always greener on the other side?

Here’s a video to tell you more about the book. (Click over if you can’t see it, subscribers. It’s gooooooood.)

Great, huh? I know. You’re gonna love it.

. . . . .

So here’s the Tuebook Tuesday Giveaway!

There will be three winners. (I KNOW! INSANE!) One person will win Hope Runs, one will win The Illusion of More, and one lucky duck will win BOTH!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below of why you’d like one of these books (or both!) and we’ll randomly pick winners early Wednesday!

Happy reading! 🙂

I’m having all the fun right now on the internet.

on April 9, 2014 in I heart books. with 5 comments by

I just need you to know this.

Here’s why.


Talk about God opening a HUGE door! Amazon picked Speak Love (a TEEN CHRISTIAN book!) to be their Kindle Daily Deal. Yes, everyone at Zondervan freeeeeeaked out. Because y’all! What is God up to that He has made a way for this book about the power of words to get into a LOT more hands!!?!

So if you don’t have it yet, grab it today! Less than TWO DOLLARS!

And feel free to grab this graphic and share the deal with your people. (Would you please share the deal with your people?)

But it is JUST for today- like, literally. Amazon don’t play. So tell your people! You know what they say… don’t let the sun go down on your empty Kindle…. or something like that.

Speaking of books….


Did you get your two free chapters of Let’s All Be Brave? I am so honored by the response so far, the hundreds of people who have downloaded it and so many who have written me to say they have been moved by it. And as I tweeted last week, you have NO IDEA how much that means with as much challenge and heartache as I experienced in the writing of it. I have asked God over and over to please let the pain matter and make a difference. I pray it does.

You can pre-order Let’s All Be Brave now if you liked the first two chapters enough to want to finish it. If you didn’t…. uh… don’t tell me yet. I’m still a bit of a tenderheart about this one. 🙂


On Tuesdays and Thursdays this month, I’m on The Chat with Priscilla. Yes, Priscilla Shirer. I’m gonna write a whole blog post about it, but I want you to know that you can tune in this month to see the two-part series on What Women Wish Men Knew. And this picture of Angie Smith and I? It’s my favorite. I love her so much.


I also got to blog at the LifeWay Women All Access blog about what women wish men knew. And I got to write about my Vandy boys, so you know that was joy to my heart.

Also, I’m sorry these graphics have you dealing with four versions of my face.

Amen and happy Wednesday.

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Get a sneak peek of Annie’s latest book! Click the link to download two free chapters of Let’s All Be Brave.