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Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  8,536 ratings  ·  625 reviews
“The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splint ...more
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by Zondervan (first published July 14th 2010)
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Becca Nelson I think you're asking the wrong question. Sometimes while reading books like this, I find myself thinking "Well, sure they were able to forgive that p…moreI think you're asking the wrong question. Sometimes while reading books like this, I find myself thinking "Well, sure they were able to forgive that person or that situation, because they haven't been through [insert something here I'm bitter about]." But honestly, I don't think it works that way. I don't think it's a matter of how deep a betrayal was, or whether their life is worse than yours. I think forgiveness and reconciliation is a necessary human experience no matter how deep a betrayal or how bad you have it. (less)

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Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
5 stars! Shauna Niequist is a woman I wish I could be friends with! I loved her previous book "Cold Tangerines" as well as this one! She has such a powerful message to send, yet does it in such a simple, relatable way. Reading some chapters I laughed out loud and reading others I cried until I could barely see - sometimes I did both on the same page. So many of her chapters resonate so deeply with me - her views on parenting, marriage, spirituality, friendships, etc. - I can completely relate to ...more
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian-books
I really wanted to enjoy this book as I had with her previous one - Cold Tangerines. But if I have to hear the word "season" one more time, or hear the rundown of exactly what they ate, or skim through an inane amount of adjectives just to get to the point, I'm going to scream. I felt that even though the author was mostly open and honest, it was more like being included in the popular girls conversation about how important everything about her life is but guess what, you only get the fabulous d ...more
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-read-in-2011
Coming off a dense book on writing, Shauna's latest collection of stories, "Bittersweet" was like curling up on the couch with a blanket and a big 'ol bowl of comfort food — the literary equivalent to mac-n-cheese.

There are some folks who may read her writing and shrug it off as too folksy or too preachy. I feel sorry for them. Because I think Shauna has a remarkable ability to write poetically about the everyday moments we all experience but never take time to think about, let alone cherish.

Jan 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book may as well be a shout out to all of Shauna's friends and family. Most of the pages are filled with cliches about food and cooking clubs and her son... blah blah blah. She talks about churches and the Christian community but very little about God and faith. True, there are brief moments of spiritualness if you can sift through the lines upon lines of her "dear diary" whining and attempt to mention every person she's ever met by name. I don't mean to be insensitive, this woman clearly h ...more
Barb Terpstra
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read Shauna's book "Cold Tangerines" a few years back and really enjoyed it. Her newest, "Bittersweet", did not disappoint--in fact, I really think I liked it better than "Cold Tangerines". Shauna's writing style is so fresh and honest, you feel like you are sitting and chatting with her on the couch. She talks about real life and real hurts and disappointments, but not in a "you should feel sorry for me" sort of way. She takes life struggles and gives them over to God, but that's not easy eit ...more
Mandy J. Hoffman

"When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow." This is the focus of Bittersweet which is a collection of short essays. It's cover invites you to sit, read, and reflect on your life as Shauna shares from her life.

In full disclosure, I couldn't finish this book. For the most part I liked the essays I read, but it felt like I was reading blog post after blog post rather than reading a flowing book. Each chapter stands alone while still
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If it were any other time, any other season, I probably wouldn't have picked this up from the Kindle store. I wouldn't have looked at this twice, because I don't think it's for me, or I would be interested. When was the last time I read a non-fiction, self-help book like this? I can't remember. But I know for sure that if it were any other time early this year, or if it were any other season in my life, I wouldn't have decided to get Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist and read it immediately aft ...more
Sarah Hyatt
Feb 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: giving-up
I'm counting this one as read because I paid for it and I skimmed most of it after struggling through the first few essays.

I enjoyed Cold Tangerines more than I expected and as a result, have always thought I really enjoyed Shauna Niequist's writing. I don't know if I can say that anymore, and it's possible Cold Tangerines was, for me, the book that hit me in the right place at the right time. I still think her chapter on family vacations was lovely in that book.

This book never connected with me
Jacquelyn Sill
I hate to mark it as "it was ok" but, the next higher choice is "liked it" and I feel a little dishonest to say I liked it. I found myself with the interest that I would have reading a stranger's blog. This book reads as if it were a culmination of blogs. I am a blogger and I love writing as a form of self expression and to sort things out. But, I cannot imagine that anyone who does not know me--or for that matter most who do know me--would be that interested in reading my blogs.
The transitions
Realistic. Niequist has the ability to speak of both the beauty and brokenness of life without sugarcoating it. She is also easy to relate to. I constantly thought "that puts into words how I've been feeling" or "that's what I went through with such-and-such person". Faith, family, friendships, and food are the cornerstones of our lives, and Niequist invites us to take a step back and look at them with fresh eyes. To see both the bitter and the sweet as part of what life is, that you can't have ...more
Feb 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book was basically just a handful of blog posts set into book format. None of the posts had continuity, so I kept reading about the same few events over and over again (losing her job, moving, having a miscarriage, etc.). When the author wasn't repeating herself, she was talking about how awful her life was, listing off the names of every friend she's ever had in her life, and talking about the food she served or ate at dinner parties she had with aforementioned friends. This book was a was ...more
Shelley Lawrence
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
Shauna has an amazing way with words. She helps you see things in a way you've never seen them before. Her words paint a clear and vivid picture and grasp your heart. Her raw honesty and real-ness is so refreshing and inspirational. I can only hope she continues to bless us with her words and stories from her life. My life is changed from having read her book. ...more
Rachel A.  Dawson
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-radreads
Shauna's "thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way" was poignant, beautiful, and soulful. This book is like a warm hug from a dear friend while you're curled up swapping life stories on a comfy couch over mugs of coffee. It's warm and real and reflective in the best ways. I hang on to her every word and feel like we've been best friends forever every time I read her stories ...more
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I liked her first book, Cold Tangerines, so much that I immediately requested this one. Another winner. Now I've ordered her third book. I don't usually want to read that much of one author at a time, but this is good stuff:) ...more
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Bittersweet, never has a title been so well chosen. Shauna Niequist talks about a time in her life when everything was unsettled, jobs ending, grandmothers dying, miscarriages and still she kept in the game. She cried, she wept, she curled up in a ball but she also officiated at weddings, celebrated births, found a new house where she and her husband really wanted to live. Bittersweet is well written and gripped at my heart because I, too have experienced bittersweet. ...more
Amber French
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
In the prologue, Shauna explains her thoughts on the title for this book. “Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness.” Reading through the book, you learn about moments where she experienced heartache and also pockets of “life is perfect” at just that moment. She t ...more
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"I learned about waves when I was little, swimming in Lake Michigan in navy blue water under a clear sky, and the most important thing I learned was this: if you try to stand and face the wave, it will smash you to bits, but if you trust the water and let it carry you, there’s nothing sweeter. . . . If you dig in and fight the change, you’re facing, it will indeed smash you to bits. It will hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you." (Page 15)

A talented writer will c
Corinne Edwards
Truth: there is going to be good and there is going to be hard. No matter what. No one can get away with avoiding that juxtaposition. The idea of life being bittersweet is at the heart of this book of essays. Shauna takes snippets and experiences from her life and uses them as a springboard to encourage her readers to look for ways to bring their lives in harmony with both God's will and the specific things that will bring them true happiness.

I feel somehow disappointed in myself for not loving
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The good with the bad is something I always have been able to grasp. You can't appreciate a really good day unless you have a bad one from time to time. However, I never really have taken the time to deeply analyze and reflect on how my good and bad and interact, intersect and interplay to make for my own bittersweet existence. I so appreciate the thoughtful way that Niequist put her story out there on paper to provide inspiration to so many others.
Specifically, as someone who has been on the p
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book took me awhile to read, but it was so worth it. While there were small bits and pieces I didn't agree with, the overall message of this book could not have been more timely. Shauna's stories were so relatable and the writing was so beautiful that I found myself stopping time and time again to save quotes. I think the last two chapters were my favorite, but I believe the final paragraph in the epilogue sums up the book quite nicely:

"My prayer for you is not that you live a life that's o
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have no words to describe how beautiful this book is or how deeply it moved me.
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 stars round up for the last chapter. I had to read this book as part of my small group. While I wanted to like it, I struggled. It seemed like I was reading her personal journal/cooking club book. And I am one who loves the ministry, community and food. She doesn’t focus much on the Word, but she does have a testimony. This rating is not on her testimony, it’s on the way she invited us in.
Sep 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, unforgettable
With each creative chapter speaking honestly about the beauty of life and its many lessons we endure, this book shares delicately and gracefully the words of wisdom of Shauna Niequist. I really loved this book. I found her perspective on life experiences relatable and her desires and vitality very uplifting, all of it hitting very close to home. BITTERSWEET gives a great big bear hug.
Amy Kannel
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity, memoir, own
Shauna Niequist really has a lovely way with words. I underlined passage after passage as she used fresh metaphors and captured familiar feelings/experiences just exactly so. I like the style of her books quite a bit--a collection of related but mostly stand-alone essays, easy to dip in and out of. And I enjoyed this one more than Cold Tangerines.
Anne Bogel
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Niequist is clearly coming into her own in this second essay collection. It's not quite as good Bread and Wine, but the seeds are there to be seen among Bittersweet's best writing. Well worth the time. ...more
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really wished I read this book before her third book Bread & Wine. I felt like I was re-listening to the same book because so many of the stories were very repetitive. I love Shauna's wisdom and her rawness. ...more
I received this as a gift about 10 years ago and since I'm trying to stop hoarding unread books, decided to pick it up. To be honest I had no idea who Shauna Niequist is or about her previous connection to a church I really really disliked when I lived in Grand Rapids. (Mars *shudder* Hill.) When I discovered this, I considered not reading but it's been a hard year and I have been in desperate need of grace. The book was real hit or miss for me, ultimately best read a chapter at a time to keep f ...more
Hannah Jayne
Aug 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Thoughtful and personal and honest. And an incredible recollection of meals past eaten.

I agreed with a lot of thoughts and feelings, and disagreed with a lot of thoughts and feelings—and am slightly confused about how strongly I should be of either.

Overall, I liked it.

It was depressing, and hopeful, and depressing, and hopeful again, aaaand depressing. Continuously. Bittersweet is an accurate title.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading Shauna Niequist’s books is like having coffee and breakfast with a friend, catching up on life. I’ve read three of her books now (Bittersweet, Present Over Perfect, & Bread and Wine) and I have to say that I enjoyed B&W and Bittersweet much more than her newest. At her best, Niequist makes me say “me too” and reminds me of my vibrant, bubbling side. While I struggle with the Christian proposition of bitter experiences for sweet purposes, I think Shauna handles the subject gently.
Sam Victor
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.”
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Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron Niequist, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek Community Church and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live ...more

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