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11 Books to Read During COVID-19

Start with:

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.

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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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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, May 2019

(I traveled to Kenya this month and since I followed Cal Newport’s advice in Digital Minimalism which I read last month, I deleted all games from my phone. I only played one anyway, but still. Gone. Also, I never had social media apps installed on my phone to begin with. So, I had loads of time to read on the plane. Plus, I skimmed Threading My Prayer Rug and It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, read more below).

Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up, by Kathy Khang (listened to the audiobook) Such an important book, Kathy raises her voice about race and more, and challenges us to raise our own voices, alongside hers. Timely, well-written.

“Race and reconciliation can no longer be framed solely as a justice issue but rather as core to the gospel, theologically grounded in the imago Dei (the image of God). As Christians, if we truly believe we are all created in God’s image, and that God the Creator had a hand in developing, creating and shaping not just our embodied souls but also the places and spaces we steward and have dominion over, then reconciliation with one another is not merely an option – it’s part of God’s mandate. It requires us to speak up and speak out.”

Running Man, by Charlie Engle, recommended by Kelly H. A drug addict turned ultra marathoner, telling a gripping story of pushing his body to all kinds of intense and exhausting extremes. He writes with humor and honesty and his descriptions of running across the Sahara are unreal. This is a book that will take you from your chair around the world and back again, urging you to push beyond what you perceive as your own limitations.

This is Marketing, by Seth Godin. Typical Godin, short and pithy and practical, a fun read. He says marketing is basically being generous.

“Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.”

If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland This book felt a bit dated, because it is, but I loved her perspective on the value of silence and solitude. She is clear about the importance of writing and about why it needs to be treated as work. Here’s my favorite quote:

“But if it is the dreamy idleness that children have, an idleness, when you walk alone for a long, long time, or take a long, dreamy time at dressing, or lie in bed at night and thoughts come and go, or dig in a garden, or drive a car for many hours alone, or play the piano or sew or paint alone or an idleness where you sit with a pencil and paper quietly putting down what you happen to be thinking, that is creative idleness. With all my heart I tell you and reassure you: at such times you are being slowly filled and re-charged with warm imagination, with wonderful, living thoughts.”

Threading My Prayer Rug: From Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, by Sabeeha Rehman. To be honest, I skimmed this. But I’m kind of in a skimming stage of reading and life. The book is lovely and I so appreciate hearing the story of an immigrant Muslim woman.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered, by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa faced the near devastation of her marriage, cancer, and more and through vulnerability and courage writes a book that encourages faith in the midst of brokenness.

Born With Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman, by Daisy Khan. I really enjoyed this book, if you can only read one, between this and Threading My Prayer Rug, read Born With Wings. This is the story of a Muslim woman’s faith journey through doubt and questions and I resonated in so many ways with her story. For anyone who sometimes doubts God but also loves their spiritual heritage, this is a great book.

“But if I had lost something in America, I had gained something else – the ability to discern for myself my own path. I did not want to follow blindly.”

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. Um…LOVE. I love food and cooking and haven’t seen anyone take so much evident delight in both as I’ve seen in Samin. This is more than a cookbook, it is a cooking class. Super recommended.

What are you reading?

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The Bookshelf, April 2019, part 2

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, by Cal Newport. Is it wrong that I read this on my iPhone? This book is really good. It mostly says what I already thought and felt, but with research and tips and some hard, hard truths. Like: its okay for people on the fringes of your life to fall off the radar when you stop clicking “like” on their posts. Better to have real life conversations than little shots of dopamine from hearts on Instagram posts. I’m working on adapting a lot of what he writes about.

Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints, by Christiana N. Peterson. This book gives a good overview of the lives of the saints, through Christiana’s personal life and family journey. I skimmed some parts, but still found it an uplifting book. I especially appreciated her reflections on being a “stayer” while people came and went from their intentional living community. We feel that, as long-term expatriates, and the fulfillment and losses that are inherent in staying resonated with me.

Inheritance: a Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, by Dani Shapiro. This was lovely, as is everything Dani Shapiro writes. It brought up fascinating conversations with my family about the difference between genetic connection and family culture. How would you feel if you found out in your 50s that your parents are not your parents? Or, one of them isn’t? And they are gone, so you can’t ask what they knew?

Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedom, by Arsalan Iftikhar. I finished reading this on Easter evening, the day 290 Sri Lankans were slaughtered in horrible terrorist attacks, and just weeks after the equally horrible attacks in New Zealand. There is a deep, deep problem in the world with people turning to violence, playing god with bombs and guns, and it is heartbreaking and infuriating. And never okay. This book will be a challenging read if you’ve bought into the lie that only Muslims are terrorists. Iftikhar meticulously breaks down that facade and presents a far more accurate picture. Hard to read, because of all the pain caused by violence, but really, really important.

Atomic Habits: an Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. This is an easy read (haven’t finished it yet, but almost), really practical and helpful. Kind of in the same genre as Digital Minimalism. As a staff team in Djibouti, we are discussing goal setting and planning for the coming school year, and the way James writes about the differences between goal setting and system development was especially useful.

Man. I need to read some fiction or something light. My goodness, I read a lot of serious books. Any fun, but not-put-downable book recommendations for me? I need some levity in my life these days.

What are you reading?

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