As usual, it’s been a while and the books are piling up (in both the “read” and the “read me” piles) and I just can’t keep up with ALL THE BOOKS. There are so many. If I could have a job where all I did was read all day every day I would be the best employee ever employed on the planet.
But alas, I must keep working (and not even alas because I love all the “work” I am doing right now, but still, it would be a good job, right? Reading all day? Every day? I. Can. Not. Imagine.).
I thought I’d catch up a bit by giving you some short synopses of some of the books I’ve read since last time. I have rediscovered that great American building called THE PUBLIC LIBRARY and I am wearing a path from my door to theirs (which incidentally is 1. 8 miles apart) so many of these books I can’t send you but I bet YOUR library has them too. If its designated as “mine”, let me know you want it and it’s yours- I’ll drop it right in the mail to you!
The Life You Can Save (revisited) (mine- still up for grabs):
So. While initially reading this book (and I wrote about it here) I connected and was challenged by the overall “message”. I noticed a lack of spiritual/Judeo-Christian-worldview words and language but also did not pick up on language that would suggest beliefs opposite to that. I don’t always extensively research an author’s background before reading, so I did a quick google search on Singer and read two somewhat generic blurbs and moved on. So imagine my HORROR when a few days later in two DIFFERENT places I came across his name in the context of some pretty provocative ethical beliefs that differ greatly from mine. (I don’t really want to encourage reading his thoughts and beliefs necessarily but suffice it to say he has pretty horrifying (to me) thoughts on the topics of euthanasia, the inherent worth of the elderly, mentally and physically handicapped, deviant sexual behavior and various other things.) I started to read more and frankly had a lot of distress about deleting the post, writing a follow-up post, sending out some other form of follow-up, something?! because I didn’t want anyone to think I agreed with any of his reasons behind his thoughts. Continuing to process, I realized part of what was troubling me was that I could believe in so much of WHAT he said, but with a totally different WHY. My entire life from big trips to daily minutes is built on the belief that ALL human life has dignity and worth. As I have traveled and read and become more involved with areas where injustice continues I have only come to believe this more. That post led to some great conversations with people in my life and I do agree with much of his challenges as regards poverty in this world, but I want to make it very clear that I believe we should care about justice and poverty and safety and oppression not because it benefits the “greater good” but because I believe EVERY person has the right to those things because of their individual worth. While I don’t feel the need to start researching authors, I have learned a lesson that when I am “recommending” or commenting on a non-fiction book, I will be more intentional about knowing the author’s background. I don’t want to belabor this issue much more but am more than happy to talk about it with anyone who has thoughts/questions/insights.
The Girl on the Train (borrowed):
This was a sort of last minute pick in book club last month and I LOVED IT! It reminded me of Gone Girl but with less annoying insanity and with more reality. And by “reality” I mean that this author was writing about things like alcoholism and infertility and abuse and mental stress as only a person who has “been there” could do. I always connect so much with writers who are able to show by their words that they didn’t just do “research” but that they “lived” their research whether personally or relationally. I don’t know this author’s story (see above, didn’t research!) but I just feel certain she is writing from a place of knowledge in some of these areas. In recent years I’ve noticed how you often go through something REALLY hard, and then sometime down the road you come along another going through that very thing. What is always so amazing and encouraging is how words (or silence) of experience and understanding can really be a lifeline to sanity and hope. I suspect it might be a primary way we heal and redeem some of those painful things- using them as a tool to help others.
Another big theme I took away from this book is the way we create our own version of others’ “reality” based on limited pictures we see of them (can anyone say social media?) and quite often (maybe never?) do those creations match the actual reality.
Sisterchicks Do the Hula (mine- up for grabs): My friend Ros gave me this book for my birthday (two years ago?) and I just read it last month (I’m sorry Ros!). I do that a lot (maybe because I have 412 books to read at any given point?) I LOVED the way it literally made me want to board a plane that night back to Hawaii. (Seriously- I looked up ticket prices.) I think in some ways, Hawaii will always be my home. We had the great privilege of doing our residencies there and the island life just got in my blood. I simply step off the plane and feel this thing that I imagine many people feel when they return to their childhood homes. Hawaii to me is about peace and sunny, breezy beaches, and calm and aloha and love and friends and nature and home. I am pretty sure I am more at peace there than anywhere else on earth.
Mary Oliver poems (library): I know that Mary Oliver isn’t exactly a new author, but I haven’t exactly been a big poetry reader overall. Her name kept coming up and I picked up a few of her books from the library before heading to Florida to spend a week with Pete. I absolutely fell in love with the way she talks about nature, probably because I was sort of immersed in it that week. She brought a level of peace and calm (and peace in the questions) to my heart that week. I love the way she puts in short phrases complicated things we feel all the time. I don’t write poetry much but I have a special place in my heart for it because it makes me think of my grandmother.
Stitches (library): If you don’t know Anne Lamott you should check her out. She writes more honestly about grace and love and life and hurt and peace and hurt and laughter and hurt and writing than maybe anyone I know. She reminds me of Brennan Manning in the way she embraces her faith and God’s grace but still admits daily all her faults and problems and how she holds on to God’s grace anyway. Whoever you are, whatever your story, whatever your “things” are, you will find a welcome place in Anne Lamott’s words. I promise!
The Rosie Effect (borrowed): Our book club read The Rosie Project last year and we all absolutely loved it. Some disagreed but I loved this second one just as much. I think this series tells an amazingly well-written story that gives a very human side to an often misunderstood group of people. The main character has Asperger syndrome and is portrayed in such a real way that I can’t help but think it comes from real experience with people with Asperger’s. This book reminded us of how quickly things get “off” when we don’t communicate and how sad that is to watch from the outside. I think when this happens we sometimes make up our own stories and rarely are they based in reality. I have known people who do this and then can’t remember what’s real and what’s not; I’m sure at some point most of us have been that person. I love the way that this story helps you think of people with Asperger’s as “people” and not only their diagnosis. I also really loved the subtle but obvious hint that sometimes taking emotion out of a relationship or issue can actually help
Vanishing Grace (library): I pretty much love everything and anything Philip Yancey. His book What’s So Amazing About Grace is one of my Top 10 of all-time favorites. I think he writes so beautifully about why grace matters and how having it in our life changes the world. This book carries along on that same theme, specifically looking at why, if grace is a trait unique to Christianity alone (of all religions), have Christians often been seen as and acted like those with the LEAST grace- for ourselves and others. I find this a fascinating topic
Tattoos on the Heart (library)– I have recently had more exposure to the prison system in general and the American prison system specifically. I found this book through those conversations and channels and there is too much to say for this post, and will require an entire post all its own. It is absolutely going in the top 10 for this year if not my life thus far. Please get this and read it now. How could you NOT want to read about a priest working with gangs in LA who is known as “G-dog”? I WANT to talk about it with you! Go. Get it.
On Being Mortal (library): THIS. BOOK. TERRIFIED ME! This surgeon has written several other great books exploring hard topics in medicine and ethics and humanity and I do think it was a well-written, thought-provoking book. It explores how we as Americans and citizens of the world think about and experience issues related to death, dying and the aging process. It is a fascinating short story of how our culture has come to think about aging (and what to do with those who are aging- yikes! All of us!) and how we approach conversations around death. I am struggling so much with issues in the American healthcare system right now and I tend to get really “franxious” (frustrated/anxious- I just invented that word) when I read accounts like this. Accounts that trace things out in a way that shows the insanity (but also the reason the insanity happened and why it continues and why “insanity” isn’t the best word because most insanity happens slowly, slowly over time until it’s the norm.) This subject always hits me in a weird way because when you think about growing older when you don’t have children it can cause some anxiety if you let it. Then, maybe because when you turn 40 (which I am still TOTALLY excited about) and you realize you are old enough to actually THINK about growing older as something that is happening to you (where DID all these wrinkles come from!?!) you realize that you do actually now and again have to think about it. And that’s a good thing, but for some reason this book caused me a good deal of stress as I was reading it. I’d be interested in others’ thoughts!
Ghost Wanted (mine): This is latest in her newest series of books which are always a good, quick read with loveable characters. Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand mystery series is my absolute favorite ever, second only to Agatha Christie. I’ve been reading them for 20 years now and when the new one comes out each time it is truly my favorite day. She recently announced on her website that the next book following Annie and Max Darling would be her last, and I’m not ashamed to tell you I actually cried some real tears. Seriously. I think I must not have been the only one because a few days later she retracted her post and decided she could not “kill” them. Thank you Lord for this gift.
Other recent books:
Boundaries (mine): a classic. You could read it 20 times and still learn more
In Search of Balance (mine): did not like as much as Margin, but still good stuff
Lila (library): I know so many people loved and connected with this book, but is there anyone else out there that just didn’t like it? If so, PLEASE write and tell me- I want to understand why I alone of all my friends and family just couldn’t get into it?
The Meaning of Marriage (library): Tim Keller. Enough said. If he wrote it, I will read it.
That’s it for now! What are you reading and why? I need some more books for the pile!