books I have read in 2018

One book every 7.93 days. I wish my average was better. My goal is always one book every 7 days — or fewer. Sigh.

Below you’ll find my top ten highlighted:

  1. The Liars’ Club – Mary Karr – Jan.
  2. tiny-beautiful-thingsTiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed – Jan. 
  3. Torch – Cheryl Stayed – Jan. 
  4. I Heart My Little A-holes: A bunch of holy-crap moments no one ever told you about parenting – Karen Alpert – Feb.
  5. Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) – Kate Bowler – Feb. 
  6. The Love of a Good Woman: Stories – Alice Munro – Feb.
  7. What Is the Bible? – Rob Bell – Mar.
  8. the-story-gridThe Story Grid: What Good Editors Know – Shawn Coyne – Mar. – helped break down the structure of any riveting novel, so you can replicate it for your own! genius!
  9. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Austin Channing Brown – Mar. 
  10. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows – James Bryan Smith – Mar. 
  11. Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent – Richard Rohr – Mar.
  12. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business – Patrick Lencioni – Apr.
  13. Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America – Natalie Goldberg – Apr.
  14. the-livingThe Living – Annie Dillard – May … amazing … speechless
  15. South and West: from a notebook – Joan Didion – May 
  16. Making All Things New – Henri Nouwen (2nd time reading it) – May
  17. Am I There Yet?: The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood – Mari Andrew (May) – lovely illustrations/watercolors, made me smile, gift from one friend, which I in turn bought for two more
  18. litLit – Mary Karr – June – love love love love love…so many bits of wisdom, hard-won…and love the Christian connection
  19. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick Lencioni – June
  20. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – June
  21. the_right_to_writeThe Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life – Julia Cameron – June – ❤️ the practical tips and inspirational essays…made me want to write regularly…makes you fearless and free
  22. theft-by-findingTheft by Finding: 1977-2002, diaries by David Sedaris — lol funny, difficult to put down
  23. Motherhood – Sheila Heti – July – often felt like stream-of-consciousness or lyric prose, and I wondered if I would need to reread it to fully grasp it…definitely articulated some of my doubts about whether to become a mother
  24. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson – July
  25. if-you-want-to-writeIf You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence, and Spirit – Brenda Ueland – July (minus pp. 59-62 because they were ripped out of the library copy) ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ want to reread and own and devour on a daily basis
  26. The 5-Second Rule – Mel Robbins – July
  27. East of Eden – John Steinbeck – August (finally the right time for me to read this epic book…engrossing family saga that held my attention all through vacation and plane rides)
  28. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandburg – Aug. – seemed somewhat scattered in its structure … oh well
  29. Calypso – David Sedaris – Aug. – funny & sad at the same time
  30. Saying No to Say Yes: Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence – David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor 
  31. One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty – Aug.
  32. The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community – Eric H.F. Law – Aug.
  33. america's womenAmerica’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines – Gail Collins – Sep. – so compulsively readable! took it with me to meals, to the bathroom…juicy facts and tidbits, plus some material for sermons, potentially – worth keeping around!
  34. Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong – Sep. – warm tale of a woman whose father is losing his memory, and her care for him; real in its frustration and humor and love
  35. American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World – David Baron – Sep.
  36. Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living – Shauna Niequist – Oct. – first started this with the moms’ Bible study group in the spring and never finished it…but finally picked it back again during lunch at work…and perhaps God sent it to me at just the right time, before the craziness of fall
  37. The Ninth Hour – Alice McDermott – Oct. – fiction about nuns
  38. liturgy-of-the-ordinaryLiturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren – Oct. – beautiful, soothing reflections on how our life in Christ is also our everyday life in the 21st century
  39. Advice for Future Corpses * * and those who love them: A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying – Sallie Tisdale – Nov. – humorous, revelatory…made Jordan and me talk about wanting to be buried naturally (no coffin)…also taught me what not to say to a dying person (for instance, if they’re talking about leaving, ask them where they’re going rather than say “you’re not going anywhere”)
  40. From the Corner of the Oval – Beck Dorey-Stein – Nov. – “beach read” fluff book (admittedly—I couldn’t put it down) of a stenographer’s five years working in the Obama White House
  41. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Amy Chua – Nov. 
  42. Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business – Patrick Lencioni – Dec.
  43. Daniel Generation: Godly Leadership in an Ungodly Culture – Jolene Cassellius Erlacher – Dec. – wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t for my friend having written it, as the subtitle made me pre-judge the book…but I was surprised by its insight
  44. The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time – Arianna Huffington – Dec. – making me savor sleep more and pay more attention to my dreams (which are bizarre!)!
  45. The Great Failure: My Unexpected Path to Truth – Natalie Goldberg – Dec. – read in less than 24 hours; received on Christmas morning; my take-away from the memoir is: people are always a mixture of good and bad, and to think of them as all one or all the other does them (and us) a disservice
  46. two-part inventionTwo-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage – Madeleine L’Engle – Dec. – so poignant, heartbreaking, and sweet – worth a reread, especially if/when I deal with my own husband’s death someday

new year’s resolution


For Christmas, my husband got me a book with the subtitle “how to stop complaining and start enjoying the life you always wanted.” Should I be upset? All right, to be fair, it was on my wish list.

I’m not ready to undertake the book’s 21-day challenge, not even if it is the first day of 2019, perfect for fresh starts. But I will. The book says on average it takes people 4-8 months to successfully go 21 days straight without complaining, criticizing, gossiping, or being sarcastic. (If you slip up you start back on Day 1.)

Meanwhile, on an unrelated note, I’ve begun a list of Things That Bother Me:

  1. When built-in ribbon bookmarks start fraying, so you have to trim them and then they’re too short.
  2. When I’ve stopped before a crosswalk to wait for a car, and then the car slows down and stops for me.
  3. That feeling you get when you’re wearing leggings, jeans, and snow pants, and you have to go the bathroom.
  4. When drivers glance up and glance down, glance up and glance down. You know they’re texting. No one’s lap is that interesting.
  5. Houses with those laser-star Christmas lights that look like the house has green chicken pox. We have ours angled onto tree branches and it is much, much classier.
  6. When a parking lot is sandy and then I step into my car and feel the brittle sand rubbing the pedals under my feet every time I accelerate or brake.
  7. When you take great care to clip your nails over a sink or trash can but the clippings still go everywhere.
  8. People who clip their nails anywhere.
  9. Nearly all styles of parenting.
  10. Almost all children.

a poem by Ted Kooser

Winter Morning Walks

He wrote these poems while receiving cancer treatment that made his skin sensitive to the sun. If he wanted to take a daily walk, he had to do so in the dark.

I read these poems four years ago, on increasingly dark mornings. I read them slowly, aloud, while taking slow steps around my bedroom. I came across one I copied in my journal on October 22, 2014. Will God grace me with a marriage someday, I’d asked, — a good one? Will my childhood self finally know what she has only daydreamed about? Will it be all she hoped?

december 29

     Windy and cold.

All night, in gusty winds,
the house has cupped its hands around
the steady candle of our marriage,
the two of us braided together in sleep,
and burning, yes, but slowly,
giving off just enough light so that one of us,
awakening frightened in darkness,
can see.

Someday, I wrote. Someday.

on death

Xray skeletons

Recently I was reminded I will one day die.

I had gotten an MRI and was viewing the results: a bulging disc near the top of my spine. Even as the doctor tapped her pen on the offending bump, my eyes strayed to other bones, other features. My jaw, especially. My jaw convinced me I will one day die. It was the jaw of a corpse.

The MRI revealed something I knew but didn’t realize: There was a skeleton in there, with a skull like the kind on a skinless body. There were empty black eye sockets. Teeth that would fall out and turn to powder. There was a brain that might nourish a tumor, which would press on nerves. Meanwhile the doctor tapped her pen on the screen, its plastic tip hitting the slipped disc where a nerve was already being pressed. She suggested physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractics, maybe an anti-inflammatory diet.

I came home and e-mailed my 74-year-old friend. He wrote back, “That was pretty scary, thinking of becoming a corpse.” And he’s a Buddhist who meditates on his death regularly.

Happy All Souls’ Day, everyone.

The entire braid of the self is coming unwound in a rush.

Advice for Future Corpses *
* And Those Who Love Them
p. 56


On Day 12 of the Whole30 nutrition program. We’re hanging in there.

Quick summary: Fill up on meat/seafood, veggies, and fruit — but you can’t have dairy, beans/corn/soy, peanuts, grains, booze, added sugar, or things like carrageenan/MSG/sulfites (none of which I can define). You have to read every label and scrutinize every ingredient. It will likely mean you make your own sausage, tomato sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and mayonnaise.

Breakfast has gone from a bowl of dry Cheerios with cheese on the side, to:


Slider buns get replaced with potato wedges, accompanied by homemade mushroom/kale/squash chips:


And, as an added bonus, you get intimately acquainted with your grocery store clerks!



The Whole30 lasts about 45 days — 30 days of following the rules, then a two-week period of slowly reintroducing food categories and seeing how your body responds. Do you feel more bloated? sluggish? Does your skin break out? Is your sleep suddenly restless? From then on, you can know which foods keep your energy high and which foods make you gassy. Everybody wins.

lunches that make you want to go to work

Ideally, you’ll not only manage your weight better, you’ll also rack up NSVs — non-scale victories. But I’ve been surprised which ones have bubbled up, for me:

  1. more gratitude for food
    1. praying before every meal and almost every snack
      1. and meaning it!
  2. more peace while eating
    1. I used to “need” to read a book or watch a show while eating. Now I can sit quietly, simply savoring and thinking.
  3. more confidence in the kitchen
    1. hated to stray from a recipe, but now I’m growing more comfortable estimating — and riffing!
  4. less screen time
    1. because when you can’t just zone out in front of the boob tube, mindlessly feeding yourself chips, there are fewer and fewer excuses to watch TV at all
  5. more sense of control at work
    1. Building on the positive momentum of planning ahead and meal-prepping at home, I feel more motivated to tackle work projects and chip away at each next action. One positive change in life can lead to another, and another.

All right, so far the Whole30 has not been all magic & fairies…but the good has outweighed the struggle, and we’re still early into it. The book promises that in a week or two we’ll be filled with Tiger Blood.

I look forward to that.

Thai turkey lorb on Romaine wedges, with fresh lime juice, riced potatoes, and kombucha to drink



Of course, eating itself reminds us that none of us can stay alive on our own. If you are breathing, it’s because someone fed you.

Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary, p. 71

my most recent marginalia

Thanks to this guy for introducing me to the term “marginalia.” Here are some recent markings:

Daniel Generation
from Daniel Generation, by Jolene Cassellius Erlacher

Thanks to this gal for being my friend and for publishing a book.

Cost of Discipleship
from The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[He uses the phrase “natural responsibilities,” “natural ordinances of life,” which got me thinking — what could be a more natural responsibility than raising kids? It is, indeed, a high priority — perhaps even an ideal. Yet if the Christian life is simply another priority, another ideal among several, then might the two compete? Another way to ask the question: If it were more faithful not to have kids, would I be willing not to?]

Present Over Perfect
from Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist

Then sometimes the books talk to each other:

talk to each other
from Liturgy of the Ordinary, by Tish Harrison Warren

And still other times I just correct grammar.