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11 Books to Read During COVID-19

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Stronger than Death: How Annalena Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

This book will show you how to live in a time of contagious disease and fear. I am so inspired by Annalena, as I think comes across in the book. She was relentless in her love and care for the most vulnerable among us. Her legacy continues and I want to quote her nephew, with whom I messaged in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis in Italy where he lives. He said, “All is quiet. It is a time of silence and also of God.” That is just so beautiful. He is caring for his family and they are turning to faith. He also quoted Annalena, “Everything is grace.” What a privilege to get to know people like this, who live this way and with these hearts in the world. They are what bring me hope.

You can read the prologue of Stronger than Death free, just enter your email address here:

 

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

I loved this book especially because (spoiler alert) it ends with hope. It is so beautiful and thoughtful and richly imagined and slightly terrifying. All the right elements.

 

Black Death at the Golden Gate, by David K. Randall

I saw a dead rat in the streets of Nairobi about a week after reading this and felt a cold pit in my stomach. This book is a deep dive into the bubonic plague (which is still around, who knew?!) but also the way fear stoke racism and how that leads to further death and mayhem. A super relevant read right now.

 

On Immunity, by Eula Biss

I quote this book all the time. Biss is such an incredible essayist. If you want a thoughtful look at herd immunity, on caring for the vulnerable among us, on being a parent in an age of disease and fear, if you just want to read someone with a sharp and smart mind, this is amazing.

 

No More Faking Fine, by Esther Fleece

I gifted this book to many people. An excellent look at how to cling to faith in the middle of a crisis or of pain without pretending that everything is fine. I love this book.

 

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, by Sonia Shah

Science, history, geography, disease. It’s all here.

 

Illness as Metaphor, by Susan Sontag

Such a powerful essayist. This is a look at how we talk about illnesses like cancer and how the words we use can sometimes also cause harm and affect the patient.

 

The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison

How to cultivate empathy when we feel overcome by our own fear? We need to wrestle with this question because I do not want to see the end of empathy. I’ve read this book several times.

 

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, by Pema Chodron

Could there be a more apt title?

 

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, by Lysa Terkeurst

Nope, it’s not. There is so much pain and brokenness in the world. How does our faith respond?

 

Devotion, poems by Mary Oliver

Because we can always, always read poetry.

 

What would you recommend for readers right now?

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Stronger than Death Book Trailer

Annalena Tonelli spent 34 years living and working in the Horn of Africa. Somalis loved her, and still talk about her with great affection, still carry on her legacy, still continue her work.

But someone killed her. Why?

Why did she stay so long as a foreigner, in the face of massacres, famine, tuberculosis, terror, and war? How did she build a strong local community across religious and racial boundaries, boundaries that today often divide communities?

This is not the story of a white savior, or is it? It isn’t the story of a saint either, or is it? Annalena was far from perfect but her example challenges us all to be a little braver. A little more loving. A little more willing to reach out to someone with empathy, faith, and action.

       

Available from Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and Amazon.

Thanks to Matt Erickson for providing video clips and photographs and to the Plough Publishing video team!

The Bookshelf, September 2019

 

The Time is Now, by Joan Chitister.I only kinda liked this book. I wish I had loved it. I love some of her other work. But it felt repetitive and political and I just don’t want to read that right now. At the same time, that might make it the perfect book for someone else, for another time. Because she is wise and prophetic and writes about the necessity, especially now, for prophets.

The Prophetic Imagination, by Walter Brueggemann.Sense a theme? Prophets.

A Life’s Work, by Rachel Cuska memoir of early motherhood.

Black Death at the Golden Gate, by David K. Randall.Oh.My.Word. We have rats in my house. We kill them as soon as we can and I hate them! This book made me hate them even more. Holy cow, what a great read. It is horrifying to read about the revolting filth of large cities at and before the turn of the century. Though, I hate to say it, but there are many similarities still in parts of the world. Sewage in streets, ramshackle and unsafe housing, rats, disease…And, I thought bubonic plague had disappeared. It has NOT. As early as 2015, two people contracted it in Yosemite National Park! Lord have mercy. Anyway, about the book, I really enjoyed it. Historical, true, great characters, little known facts. If you like Erik Larson or Laura Hillenbrand, you’ll love this book.

 

Kindle Deals:

Grateful, by Diana Butler Bass

The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman

 

What are you reading?

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By |September 2nd, 2019|Categories: the bookshelf|Tags: |0 Comments

The Bookshelf, August 2019

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine Aron.Any HSPs out there? Pretty sure there’s one right here.

The Blue Jay’s Dance: a memoir of early motherhood, by Louise Erdrich

The Butterfly Mosque,by G. Willow Wilson, a young American woman converts (reverts) to Islam, moves to Egypt, and falls in love with an Egyptian. I appreciated hearing her story of faith and her story of adjusting to all that she gained and lost, by embracing Egypt.

I confess, that’s it.

I’m in the USA, land of no peace or quiet, land of breakneck pace of life, land of no end of things to do or people to talk to, land of just one more person I want to get coffee with, land of no darn time to read. This, for an HSP, is stressful, but I know a breather is coming. We’ll go back to Djibouti and then I’ll complain about nothing interesting to do and feeling lonely. #expatlifetruth

 

Kindle Deals

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Help, Thanks, Wow, by Anne Lamott

Blue Nights, by Joan Didion

Two powerhouse female writers, right there. I loved both of these books.

What are you reading?

The Bookshelf, August 2019. Doing Good, Adoption, Somali poetry

 

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, by Warsan Shire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll let her words speak for themselves, here is some of her poetry:

Home, by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay…

Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help, by Larissa Macfarquhar

I loved this book. As a person who often feels the urge to help and who makes what others see as drastic choices (though not even close to as drastic as the people in this book!), I was curious. She writes about the lives of people who are not widely known and who have made incredible, sometimes questionable, choices in the name of doing good. And, she examines the entire enterprise of do-gooding (doing good?) and explores the idea of it being harmful, instead of helpful. The book goes beyond a critique of things like the White Savior Complex or Helping Without Hurting into WHY some are compelled to do good and WHY that might be problematic. The title is based off a philosophical question along the lines of: if your child were drowning and five strangers were drowning, which are you morally obligated to save? The one or the many? And what does your answer say about you and your values and way of being in the world? Fascinating.

 

The Faith of Other Men, by Wilfred Cantwell Smith, published in 1963

This book explores several different faiths and makes a valiant attempt at seeing them from their own perspective. Which of course is ultimately impossible, both for an outsider and to try and impose one perspective on things that have such wide interpretations even from insiders. But, it is fascinating and I enjoyed his respectful position.

Many Thorns, Yet Still Roses, by Jessie Gallaher

This is about a couple who adopted a sibling set of five, each of whom came into their family with significant development, health, and trauma issues. It is a book to read if you or someone you love has made a similar choice. It isn’t a book to read if you’re looking for a well-written book. For one thing, she uses too many exclamation points(!). Also, I find the cheeriness a bit grating, but I’m learning that I like dark more than I’d like to admit. Also, it is just plain too long. As a book. But, that said, I still highly recommend this book if, like I said, you or someone you love has made a similar choice. I have kids like this in my life and because I love them and the family they are in, I want to be educated, informed, compassionate, empathetic, and not a burden or a pain or a snooty know-it-all.

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