An ongoing list of books I’m reading or recommend.
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This is a cookbook (yes, I love to read cookbooks!) that includes recipes from the places in the world known as The Blue Zones–these are the areas where people live the longest, healthiest lives. Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; and Loman Linda, California.I’m currently obsessed with The Blue Zones, so I read it in about 2 days. Full of gorgeous pictures and mouth-watering, plant-based recipes.
Speaking of cookbooks…I love Kelly Minter. If you’ve ever done one of her Bible studies, you will notice she often tucks delicious recipes in them. Well, now you can have her recipes and her wit and charm all in one place, along with some gorgeous photos. It’s everything I love about a good cookbook. Yes, I realize you can get recipes off the Internet for free, but there is nothing quite like a gorgeous cookbook, in my humble opinion.
This is probably my third or fourth time reading through this one. I got my signed copy of Jenkins’ book when I attended his writing conference back in 2010. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Jenkins is the author of the wildly popular Left Behind series. He is also the author of 195 (that is not a typo) books and 70 million copies sold. He knows a little about writing, is what I’m saying. This is one of my all-time favorites on the craft and career of writing. The hard copy appears to be out of print because it’s listed for $38, but the Kindle version is updated and much cheaper.
I’ve read Cal Newport’s other two books, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, but had never read this early work. It’s titled after the famous quote from comedian Steve Martin, and argues against the whole notion of “following your passion” and “chasing your dreams” as the key to happiness and success and satisfaction at work. I am still reading it, so I’ll withhold my opinion until I’m finished.
This is one of those books that doubles as a devotional and must be read slowly and reverently. Grab a highlighter as you read…God will probably have something to say to you while you’re milling about in these pages.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. Buchanan is the kind of writer I aspire to be. I’m reading this book on two levels: one for the content and one for the craft. The way he strings his words together is art. And the message of Sabbath: essential. My second read-through on this one. It’s my January pick while I pull away and rest after a very crazy November/December holiday season.
This is a classic that I read as research for the book I’m writing. It’s good. Some of the illustrations are not relatable to me, but the overall content is quite good.
I received this book as a gift from the author at a writer’s conference I attended this past summer. I didn’t intend to read it, because I’m several years away from the empty nest. But one night I was out of new books and was scouring for something to read, so I picked it up. Turns out it was EXACTLY for me. It is really a book about launching adult kids into the world and what to do when it doesn’t go as planned. Since I have one currently in college, I gleaned a ton from Savage’s advice. She is also super candid about the hardships she has faced as a parent, which I totally appreciate. That said, the writing style is typical “women’s self-help” style. If you, like me, read a lot of mom-self-help books in the 90s and early 2000s, you know what I mean. Lots of pithy sayings and sweeping generalizations.
This is actually my second read-through of this one. Ann Patchett is a lovely and thoughtful writer, witty and wry. This book is a collection of previously published essays that are autobiographical in nature, having a little to do with marriage and a lot to do with the writing life. It’s one of my all-time favorite books. Highly recommend.
I will admit, I picked up this book because of the bright pink cover. And also, because I had previously read and loved her previous trilogy, Me Before You, After You, and Still Me.
This is the only fiction selection this month, and it was mostly good. From the back of the book:
It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply “B”, asking her to leave her husband.
Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper’s archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie’s search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.
The storyline was very interesting and the characters were likeable, relatable, complicated. The main thing I disliked about this book is that the entire story is based on an extramarital affair (this is not a spoiler as it is established very early in the story)–correction: more than one extramarital affair. I don’t mind that so much, except when the affair is treated in a “good and right” sort of way. Which, in this book, that’s how it feels. For me, that spoiled what could have been a really great story.
Nephew of the world-famous (infamous?) televangelist, Benny Hinn writes an absolutely fascinating account of growing up in the Hinn family–flying in private jets, living in mansions, and spending millions on cars, travel, and clothing–all the while, exploiting the poor to do so. Hinn shares his journey from heir-apparent of the Hinn dynasty to family outcast, as he began to question their beliefs and lifestyle, and ultimately leave the ministry and find true faith in Jesus–and a much humbler, more modest lifestyle.
I personally have many friends who follow the prosperity gospel message (not to this extreme, but who believe that God’s plan for everyone is to live in health and material prosperity) and so this was especially interesting to me.
When Kate’s young daughter was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Kate and her family headed to Israel for an extended stay to undergo alternative treatment. If these were indeed the last months of their daugther’s life, Kate and her husband determined they would not spend them on their phones or glued to social media. So, they ditched their smartphones for flip phones and logged off social media entirely–and began walking in the peace and fullness God offers us every day, right in front of them.
Now, she’s encouraging us to do the same.
Absolutely gorgeous–As I embarked on my own year-long social media hiatus, a friend pointed me in Kate’s direction. I highlighted the heck out of it. Highly recommend.
After losing both her mother and her sister to cancer, Niki, too, was diagnosed. Eventually, she discovered that life doesn’t have to be pain-free to be full.
I was on the launch team for this book, as Niki is in my writing group. It is both funny and raw, and full of practical advice for those facing impossible circumstances.
After conducting a 360 Assessment (soliciting anonymous feedback from 50 people in his life), Brian discovered why he often burned bridges in business. One “friend” wrote: “Brian often puts projects over people.”
After that painful self-revelation, Brian set out to find the key to success in business and in life: his relationships. In this book, he leads you through a practical process to prioritize the people in your life AND find success in business.
Brian is my personal business coach and the founder of my writing group. I highly recommend this book for anyone who struggles to put people over projects and for anyone in business.
I could not put this book down.
As a woman in ministry, I was completely engrossed in the history of women in the church. From Kathryn Kuhlman to Victoria Osteen, from Beth Moore to Joyce Meyer, from Jan Crouch to Jen Hatmaker–this is the story or women who most often started off as someone’s wife and ended up as everyone’s “almost-pastor.”
From the inside jacket:
Boxed in by the high expectation of modern Christian womanhood, they follow and occasionally subvert the visible and invisible rules that govern the lives of evangelical women, earning handsome rewards or incurring harsh penalties. They must be pretty, but not immodest; exemplary, but not fake; vulnerble to sin, but not deviant.
This book is impeccably documented and beautifully written. The endnotes are as interesting as the chapters. Highly recommend.
Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me), by Kate Motaung and Shannon Popkin: “Your platform isn’t big enough.” If you’re a writer, speaker, or ministry leader, these five words have the potential to squelch your desire to share the message God has given you. In today’s digital world, speakers and writers are expected to grow their own following (known in the industry as platform or influence) before gaining access to a microphone or book contract.
I know the sound of those words first-hand. Every time I have met with a literary agent or publisher in the last 15 years to discuss a book idea, I’ve heard those words.
I heard it four times in July, actually.
And that is precisely why I picked up this book. 🙂
A simple and practical book to counterbalance the incessant message that our primary job as writers and speakers is to get those numbers up!
This book was “required reading” from my business coach. I expected it to be more of the same (see above–>YOUR PLATFORM ISN’T BIG ENOUGH!). But I was pleasantly surprised to see that, while the author does talk a lot about how to “build your numbers,” he takes a more well-balanced approach. He talks about approaching your digital life with an intent that establishes the authority, reputation, and audience to achieve your goals.
The book is very practical with a step-by-step process and plenty of real-life stories.
This is a memoir-ish book written by the lead singer of the Christian band, Tenth Avenue North. It is an easy and fun read with a profound message: Maybe God isn’t giving you His plan for your life because HE is the plan for your life. 🙂
As a person who has been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and who has multiple family members and friends with the same diagnosis, I found this book to be fascinating. Hari uncovers some unsettling studies regarding antidepressants and offers some reasonable theories about the real cause of depression (hint: it’s not a lack of serotonin in the brain.)
It gets complicated at times, but if you stick with it, it has some great insights.
In the summer, I love to indulge in light fiction. This book was right up my alley. It’s smart and funny with a likable main character.
From the back of the book: The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, and a cat named Phil. When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They are all–or mostly all–excited to meet her! She will have to…speak to strangers.
Nina considers her options:
- completely change her name and appearance (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair)
- Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: Coffee)
- Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth (already doing it.)
Do you know your Ennegram number? (I’m a 1w2). (My husband is a 3w2) (My BFF is a 9w1)
Not sure what all that means? This is a great book to answer that question. (I actually read this book last year, but I keep picking it back up, so I thought I’d include it in this month’s selections.)
In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA, Dani Shapiro received the astonishing news that her beloved and deceased father was not her biological father. This is a book about uncovering the truth of her identity and unveiling family secrets.
Beautifully written and very interesting. Though, I found the whole obsession with her family identity being “destroyed” because of her discovery a little annoying and over the top. Mainly, because I have adopted children and know that family goes much deeper than biology. That said, it was still a great read.
Warning: Some language
This is the memoir of the daughter of Steve Jobs. Well-written, interesting, intriguing, and–at times–very unsettling, this book was great.
Warning: Some language and uncomfortable child-adult situations.
Surprised by Oxford, by Carolyn Weber
My sister-in-law bought me this book and told me to take my time and savor it. I tend to read books quickly, so I appreciated her advice. And she was absolutely correct: It is a rich and intellectual memoir about a young woman’s quest to understand faith in God. Documented over her first year at Oxford, Weber grapples with issues of feminism, atheism, fatherhood, and love. It reads like a novel, but also delves deeply into theology. I liked this book a lot–though she lost me with many of the poetic and literature references. That’s my fault, because I’m not as well-read as my sister-in-law.
I’m passing this one on to my 20-year-old, as she grapples with her own questions.
Chris Beat Cancer, by Chris Wark
At the age of 26, Chris Wark was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. He had surgery, but instead of chemotherapy and radiation, Chris went against all medical advice and decided to use natural therapies to heal himself.
This book is more about what he did and recommends, and less about his story (I was hoping for more story). It was a very interesting and inspiring read…makes me mad at the medical field for not educating themselves about alternative treatments and making patients feel like idiots for choosing them.
If you read a lot of books on health and wellness, this does not offer any new information. If you do not, I would recommend this book. It covers everything you need to know to give your body the best chance at living cancer-free. It is also very Christ-centered. That’s fun.
Also, funny side-note: I was telling my friend about this book, and she thought I was saying “CRISPY CANCER.” Since that day, I have refused to call it by its proper name, because I love Crispy Cancer so much better.
Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown-Up Years, by Cathy Guisewite
This is a memoir/series of essays written by the creator of the comic strip, “Cathy.” Remember that comic strip? I have such sweet memories of my mom clipping the comic strip and putting them up on the refrigerator.
I’m about half way through it. Some of the essays are hilariously funny. Some are sort of sad, depressing, and a little whiny. If you are a middle-aged woman with grown kids, you will totally relate. The funny outweighs the whiny.
On my summer reading list…
Beach House Memories, by Mary Alice Monroe
This is book 2 of the Beach House series. I read The Beach House last summer when I was in Isle of Palms, South Carolina (the home of the author and the setting for the series.). It was so fun to see the actual places she was referencing! And, as the name implies, it’s a great beach read! I recommend starting with The Beach House before you proceed to book 2–duh. 🙂
The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman
This is the book that came from one of my favorite podcasts by the same name. Because I love the podcast, I’m super-excited about this book.
Can’t Make This Stuff Up! by Susannah B. Lewis
I can’t wait to read this. First of all, I love love LOVE Susannah B. Lewis (of Whoa Susannah). I’ve shared her videos on Facebook many times. She’s so fun. Plus, at the time of this writing, her book has over 900 5-star reviews and nothing below a 4-star. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a book without at least a few bad reviews. (Usually it’s someone who says, “I didn’t know this book was about God.” or “My copy came with a missing page.” The 1-stars always crack me up.)
Hearing God, By Dallas Willard
I’m currently writing my book proposal for my own book on hearing God…so I thought it would be wise to read this classic in preparation.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette, By Maria Semple
This was a really, light-hearted and fun read. The story is mostly told in the form of emails and memos, which I wasn’t sure I’d love or hate. Turned out, I loved it. It was a good story with likeable characters, and plot that kept me interested until the very end. I recommend this book.
Warning: Language. Not a ton, but more than I prefer in a book. Also, a sub-plot involving a main character that is sexual in nature, but no graphic sexual content. Other than that, pretty much PG-Rated.
The Reckoning, by John Grisham.
I’m a big John Grisham fan. In fact, it was his book, The Firm, that renewed my love for reading fiction back in my 20s, when consuming college text books and reading for my job turned reading into a chore. I read The Firm on my honeymoon, lying on a beach in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which may have had something to do with why I loved it so much. I immediately picked up several more John Grisham novels and devoured them.
Over the last few years, I have picked up a book of his here and there, but nothing compares to those early works, in my opinion.
I was excited to read The Reckoning because it looked like Grisham was returning to his courtroom-drama-set-in-the-deep-South that I loved so much. In a nutshell: this book is just entirely too long. Honestly, I feel like maybe his editor forgot to edit it or something. The entire story could have been told in about a third of the pages…and I’m not even exaggerating. There is an entire middle section that I literally skimmed, once I realized it was nothing more than a detailed (and graphic!) account of WWII. The story started out interesting, then became boring for about 200 pages, then became interesting again in the final 14 pages.
If you enjoy L-O-N-G, detailed accounts of WWII, you’ll like this book. If you are looking for classic John Grisham, I suggest you pass.
Warning: Graphic war violence and a detailed account of the murder, which is the subject of the entire plot. Minor language. No sexual content.
Becoming Michelle Obama, by Michelle Obama
Smart, funny, transparent, interesting, and very well-written. I don’t care where you fall on the political spectrum (really, I don’t care, so please do not tell me!), Michelle Obama is a class act. She’s also a very good writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend.
Warning: If you are a strong supporter of Donald Trump or you hate the Obamas with a red hot passion, then I don’t suggest you read this book—she doesn’t hold back on her opinions about the way Trump behaves and how it affected her family and their safety. As far as content, Michelle does talk about living with Barack prior to marriage. Other than that, nothing offensive.
First of all, prettiest cover ever, so WIN!
I’ve followed Michael Hyatt for years. He’s the former CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing and talks a lot about business and productivity. If you feel like you are spinning your wheels working longer-than-you-should hours, this book will help.
Sometimes when I read Hyatt’s stuff, it stresses me out, because he makes a lot of assumptions (like, he has a “team” of people he can delegate to and I do not.). But this book was more practical for a wider audience. Definitely a book for “work” and not necessarily for a stay-at-home mom…though, he does have some great ideas about how to best use technology and implement daily routines that could be helpful.
Absolutely nothing offensive, except that he has a personal assistant, and I don’t.
Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness, by Gretchen Rubin. This is a very, very quick read. Each page has a tip. It’s a fun, little book. I was expecting more stories, but whatevs. It inspired me to clean my closet.
Digital Minimalism; Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, by Cal Newport. This one vacillates between super heady and super practical. I couldn’t put it down.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. My second read-through of this one. It’s a must-read.
Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer, by Priscilla Shirer. A great companion to The Armor of God Bible Study, also by Priscilla Shirer.
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