The Bookshelf, August 2018

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This month I’m sharing books both my dad and I have loved and one he recommends, which I have not yet read, but its on my to-read list, once he finishes.

Made for These Times, by Justin Zoradi, a book about doing work that matters (fun fact: my brother-in-law is mentioned by name in this book).

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. An inspiring, historical sports story about the Olympics held in Germany before World War II and the US rowing team.

Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle. Excuse the multiple mentions in the past few months of this book. I bring it up again because of how deeply it impacted my dad. He stopped every chapter or so to wipe his eyes and read several paragraphs to my mom and I. It is a book that will change the way readers live and love.

The Day the Revolution Began by NT Wright. This had been on my to-read list but my library didn’t have it. Turns out, my dad has it and had filled it up with notes and thoughts. It is taking me a while to get through because I’m reading both the actual book and his notes.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I love all of Larson’s work. This book is about the Chicago World’s Fair and an unsettling series of murders.


And here are the books I read this month.

Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey. It is about time. Finally, got my hands on this book and I love it. I love how she makes loving Jesus so beautiful, even in the middle of great, big questions.

The past few months have been rough for me and these words carried me through a challenging moment in the middle of August. I took Sarah’s words out of context and pasted them over my own wilderness. They birthed a sliver of hope, a hope I desperately needed and am still clinging to:

Set out pilgrim. Set out into the freedom and the wandering. Find your people. God is much bigger, wilder, more generous, and more wonderful than you imagined. On the other side of your wilderness, you may even find yourself reclaiming it all – the tradition, the habits, the language. You may be surprised someday to find yourself right back where you began, but with new eyes, a new heart, a new mind, a new life, and a wry smile. Now, instead of being whatever label you preferred, perhaps you can simply be a disciple, a pilgrim, out on the Way, following in the footsteps of the man from Nazareth. You aren’t condemned to wander forever. Remember now: after the wilderness comes deliverance.

Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less, by Greg McKeown. This is a helpful, challenging read, especially for Enneagram 3’s, which (coming clean), I believe I am. Making choices, cutting back, saying no. You know, easy stuff, like that.

You’re a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. Mostly, I read this because it was available from my library and I’ve been on the waiting list for her other book: You’re a Badass, for so stinking long. I thought it might be a kind of preview, but it was also really interesting. (I’m not great at making money, hence, I read the book. I’m still not, but maybe I’m less scared of talking about money. Maybe.)

Grounded, by Diana Butler Bass, about finding God in nature, in humankind, in our daily mundane and average, stunning lives.

Two Hours, by Ed Caesar, about the work of trying to break two hours in the marathon (written before Nike’s attempt this past spring)

What are you reading?

What I’m Reading, July 2018

Or, what my 12-year old daughter is reading, for the young among us, and the young at heart (personally, I still love books for this age), some classics and some new-ish books. She’s a reader, keeping mom happy.

The Giver

The Westing Game

This Island Isn’t Big Enough for the Four of Us. Oh man, I still just love and love this book. I can’t read it out loud to the kids without laughing. I must have read it a hundred times as a kid.

The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. Could barely tear her away from this one.

The Scourge

I have a hard time reading much while we are in the US, there is just a lot more to do here. Things like axe-throwing events, frog-chasing, mini golf, multiple graduation open houses, and so much more. Plus, I have a massive stack of magazines that piles up while I’m away, because yes, I still prefer to read magazines in hard copy format rather than online. So I’ve had a lot of Runners World and New Yorker to catch up on.

The Day the Revolution Began, by N.T. Wright, about the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus. The particular copy I’m reading is full of my dad’s underlinings and notes, which is fun and adds another perspective to the book.

Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd, about spirituality and femininity

The Destiny Thief, by Richard Russo, about the writing life

But What’s It About, About?

Can you sum up your favorite book in one word?

Can you sum it up in one sentence?

Can you sum it up in three words? Three sentences?

There are two kinds of ‘about’ in this question. There is the plot: what happens? And there is the theme: what does it mean? Or, how do the events in this particular story touch on something universal?

What is It about?

One of my favorite books is Unbroken. It is about former Olympian, Louis Zamperini, and his struggle to survive in the air, at sea, and as a POW during World War II. And, it is about resilience and what it takes to overcome evil. Resilience. Survival. Evil. War.

Another favorite of mine is Behind the Beautiful Forevers. It is about life in an Indian slum. And, it is about finding beauty in brokenness. It is about a family wrongfully accused of their neighbor’s murder and it is about the creative and terrible things people stuck in poverty do to both get ahead and to affirm their dignity. Poverty. Beauty. Brokenness. Dignity.

As I work on my current project, I am really struggling to boil it down to these kinds of words and sentences.

Whenever someone asks me what it is about, I stumble.

I need my ‘elevator pitch.’ This is what writers call the answer to ‘What is your book about?’ If you were stuck in an elevator with a top New York literary agent, what would you say about your book before the doors open? What could you say that would make them want to read it when you only have thirty seconds, maybe a minute? You can’t give a full plot. You can’t lay out the intricacies of your fascinating character. You only have a few words, maybe one or two complete sentences.

It really helps me when I hear what people say about other books.

What are some of your favorite books and what are they about? And then, what are they about about?





How Do I Read So Much?

Someone asked me the other day how on earth I manage to read so many books.

How Do I Read So Much?

For starters, let it be known that the books I write about on The Bookshelf are often books I’ve read a while ago, not necessarily books I’ve read that particular week.

But here are some of the ways I manage to read so much.

I don’t watch movies or TV. Unless I’m doing aerobics at the same time or it is The Amazing Race, for me the television holds little of interest and that clears up a lot of time for reading.

I don’t finish every book I start. Sometimes, I just can’t do it, even if I want to. There are too many books, too little time, and too many other things to do in life. So some of the books I mention in the What I’m Reading Section are books that I started but never finished. The Tiger’s Wife is one, All the Light We Cannot See is another, though I’m still hoping to get through that one.

I skim. I don’t read every single word, at least not in every single book. Many, I do read every word and sometimes every word twice because they are so much fun or so incredible. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Station Eleven. If you saw how quickly I flipped through the Divergent Triology or the Delirium Trilogy you might take issue with me claiming to have ‘read’ these books.

I count listening as reading. So while I run (25-35 miles a week), I listen to audiobooks or sermons or podcasts, not music. I listen while I cook and sometimes while I drive. The whole family listened to Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever while on a 4 hour road trip to our camping destination a few weeks ago.

I read some books for work. My organization here wants to keep us on our toes. This means reading books like When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself and The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. The head of our organization here happens to be my husband so I get to have input, too, and get to help choose great, challenging books.

I read some books out of desperation. Like Smart but Scattered Teens: The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential, to help me understand why my intelligent teenagers can’t turn homework in on time.

I read out loud to my kids. My kids are 9, 14, and 14 so we aren’t talking Dr. Seuss anymore but books like The Turtle of Oman. So reading is part of my parenting.

Do you read a lot? How do you get it all in?

*image via flickr

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