Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury – Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne – Jan. – grew repetitious and put me to sleep on any car ride in which we listened to the audiobook 😕 – but gave me new appreciation of the Queen canon and a new tip for songwriting (melody first, then structure, THEN lyrics)
A Child is Born – Lennart Nilsson & Lars Hamberger – Jan. – incredible picture book showing the miracle of being human, from conception to birth – wonderful memory of contentedly reading this by myself in KBay Caffe (Homer, AK) the day after I found out I was pregnant
Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart – Marie Allen & Shelly Marks – Feb. – a book that became my security blanket during a time of devastation – first started reading it the morning of Fri. 1/25, and we had our ultrasound later that day that confirmed my womb was empty
Devotion – Dani Shapiro – Feb. – a woman searches for God amidst Buddhism, Judaism, and her own worries
The Wonder – Emma Donoghue – Feb. definitely a page turner, mostly dialogue, long chapters and hardly any section breaks
A Spark of Light – Jodi Picoult – Feb. – predicted the two big reveals at the end; this book, along with a Jen Hatmaker interview of Jodi Picoult & an abortion-related episode of The Cut, made me have compassion on women who get abortions
The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood – Belle Boggs – Mar. – riveting collection of essays about the pressure to procreate, the struggle of IVF, and the miracle of children
[censored for the sake of my brother and any other family who read this blog] – Mar.
Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer – Mar. – another completely convicting resource and another attempt to be vegetarian
The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible’s Teachings on Justice – Chris Marshall – Mar.
What Babies Say Before They Can Talk: The Nine Signals Infants Use to Express Their Feelings – Paul C. Holinger – Mar.
This Boy’s Life – Tobias Wolff – Apr. – laugh-out-loud funny, and heartbreaking – made me want to read more of him
Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation – Martin Laird – Apr. – very deep and thoughtful book on how we actually aren’t separate from God, nor are we our chaotic thoughts – we are a vast silence that is within the silent vastness of God
Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives – Annie Murphy Paul – May – not sure I buy all the science in the book…but still an okay read
Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home – Natalie Goldberg – May – memoir of her journey through cancer and her recognition of her mortality
Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others – Barbara Brown Taylor – May – read in two days during trip to D.C.; inspired me to want to repeat her class experiences in a small group with my church
Normal People – Sally Rooney – May
Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage – Pauli Murray – May – 572-page autobiography of the first African-American woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal church…couldn’t put it down, such an epic life story
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed – Lori Gottlieb – June – borrowed from my counselor-friend; very fun and funny, with helpful tidbits like “numbness isn’t the absence of feeling; it’s being overwhelmed with feeling” and “the past is a vast encyclopedia of calamities you can still fix” (a joke, heard on a podcast)
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame – Janet Lansbury – June – after binging on her “Unruffled” podcasts
Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership – Laurie Beth Jones – June – had started last year, I think, and finally finished…good used as a daily devotional to inspire you for working with a team (staff, lay people, etc.)
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi – July – second time reading it, after often being tempted to!
Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities—from the Very Start – Magda Gerber – July – finished on the morning we went to our anatomy ultrasound – gets me excited to try this style of parenting from infancy onward
Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children – Sara Zaske – July – makes me concerned about lack of playtime/recess during school, excess homework in early grades, and more — maybe we should homeschool!
The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence – Judith Lothian and Charlotte DeVries – July – makes me excited for those first few hours bonding with baby, and encourages me to give birth naturally
Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said? – Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo – July
Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother – Beth Ann Fennelly – July – ahhhhhhhh, such a sweet, sweet, beautiful, poetic, charming, transporting, instantly re-readable and liftable book
The Better Pastor: A Fable About Embracing the Role of Leading a Parish – Patrick Lencioni – Aug.
The Library Book – Susan Orlean – Aug. – almost gave up on it but saw it through to the end; enjoyed histories of quirky people who led libraries in California
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting – Janet Lansbury – Sep. – another good one from the author whose podcasts I still binge-listen-to!
Three Women – Lisa Taddeo – Sep. – the first book in ages that made me want to read it while eating, riding in the car, upon first waking, just before falling asleep, during football games, and (yes) during church — not that I indulged each of those desires (and it happens to be a book about desire), but I wanted to
Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy – Sarah Jobe – Oct. – wonderful reflections on God + Scripture + pregnancy! Great to read in third trimester!
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation – Parker Palmer – Oct.
Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth – Oct. (most of it anyway)
Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother – Beth Ann Fennelly – Oct. – AGAIN! heehee
Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect – Magda Gerber – Nov. – so soothing, so resetting, so SIMPLE
It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) – Nora McInerny – Dec. – bought used in Pitts. and read in wee hours of morning with newborn (or, more accurately: while constipated and sitting on toilet after taking so much ibuprofen to help with recovery from birth) — grateful for something that could keep my attention!
Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver – Dec. – I adored this book and read it during meals. However, the ending seemed somewhat anticlimactic…or abrupt. I longed for more. Perhaps in a weird way that’s a good sign, though — desiring to read more.
Babies Are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered! – Rebecca Dekker – Dec. – makes me so glad I had the birthing experience I did, and makes me grieve for so many women who are robbed of that…but I will say the author seemed like an unreliable narrator from time to time, like someone who writes a memoir too soon after a difficult event and has a desperate need to get you on her side
Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way – Deborah Carlisle Solomon – Dec.
The Dutch House – Ann Patchett – Dec. – enjoyed devouring this book during car ride to Ohio and Penns. just after Christmas – Patchett almost never disappoints
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:
- The Liars’ Club – Mary Karr – Jan.
- Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed – Jan.
- Torch – Cheryl Stayed – Jan.
- I Heart My Little A-holes: A bunch of holy-crap moments no one ever told you about parenting – Karen Alpert – Feb.
- Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) – Kate Bowler – Feb.
- The Love of a Good Woman: Stories – Alice Munro – Feb.
- What Is the Bible? – Rob Bell – Mar.
- The 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!
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Austin Channing Brown – Mar.
- The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows – James Bryan Smith – Mar.
- Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent – Richard Rohr – Mar.
- The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business – Patrick Lencioni – Apr.
- Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America – Natalie Goldberg – Apr.
- The Living – Annie Dillard – May … amazing … speechless
- South and West: from a notebook – Joan Didion – May
- Making All Things New – Henri Nouwen (2nd time reading it) – May
- 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
- Lit – Mary Karr – June – love love love love love…so many bits of wisdom, hard-won…and love the Christian connection
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick Lencioni – June
- Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – June
- The 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
- Theft by Finding: 1977-2002, diaries by David Sedaris — lol funny, difficult to put down
- 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
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson – July
- If 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
- The 5-Second Rule – Mel Robbins – July
- 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)
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandburg – Aug. – seemed somewhat scattered in its structure … oh well
- Calypso – David Sedaris – Aug. – funny & sad at the same time
- Saying No to Say Yes: Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence – David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor
- One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty – Aug.
- The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community – Eric H.F. Law – Aug.
- America’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!
- 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
- American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World – David Baron – Sep.
- 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
- The Ninth Hour – Alice McDermott – Oct. – fiction about nuns
- Liturgy 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
- 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”)
- 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
- Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Amy Chua – Nov.
- Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business – Patrick Lencioni – Dec.
- 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
- 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!)!
- 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
- Two-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
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:
- When built-in ribbon bookmarks start fraying, so you have to trim them and then they’re too short.
- When I’ve stopped before a crosswalk to wait for a car, and then the car slows down and stops for me.
- That feeling you get when you’re wearing leggings, jeans, and snow pants, and you have to go the bathroom.
- When drivers glance up and glance down, glance up and glance down. You know they’re texting. No one’s lap is that interesting.
- 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.
- 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.
- When you take great care to clip your nails over a sink or trash can but the clippings still go everywhere.
- People who clip their nails anywhere.
- Nearly all styles of parenting.
- Almost all children.
from Madeleine L’Engle’s beautiful memoir Two-Part Invention:
The Story of a Marriage
Which is worse — murdering someone, or refusing to forgive someone? I think she and George MacDonald might be right.
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?
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,
Someday, I wrote. Someday.
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
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.
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:
- more gratitude for food
- praying before every meal and almost every snack
- and meaning it!
- praying before every meal and almost every snack
- more peace while eating
- I used to “need” to read a book or watch a show while eating. Now I can sit quietly, simply savoring and thinking.
- more confidence in the kitchen
- I hated to stray from a recipe, but now I’m growing more comfortable estimating — and riffing!
- less screen time
- 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
- more sense of control at work
- 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.
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
Thanks to this guy for introducing me to the term “marginalia.” Here are some recent markings:
Thanks to this gal for being my friend and for publishing a book.
[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?]
Then sometimes the books talk to each other:
And still other times I just correct grammar.
The page above is an excerpt from Chapter X, Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing.
The book smells like the crackling-spine Berenstain Bears books I used to get from the library. It has the crackling-spine sound, too. I like to smell books right in the neck, in the heart, at the top. Ink and page and dust and shelf. Worn, musty carpet and metal shelf dividers. Must. Inhale. Books. I love the rubber-stamped address marking the book’s rightful place, and the thick paper.
Our little community college library lets any local resident get a card, and I leave there wanting to kiss every librarian for her goodness.
Nearly thirty years of hopeful writers did what I did today: stood at the counter and waited as a librarian crackled the back cover and stamped the stamp. I hope the library filled them, and Ueland filled them, writing filled them.
Bricks slick with rain, outside a tiny library.
My mother read to me, too.
Mom doesn’t want you to waste money on flowers and doesn’t want the hairdresser to give her any volume. She doesn’t wear pants so snug they’ll show her figure, doesn’t mind eating leftovers to spare the rest of us, doesn’t drive a Prius for ecology, just economy.
But when she read to me she read with enthusiasm. Not with impressions, like Dad, but at least with interest. Can a person be both practical and have a flair for the dramatic? Can she be no-nonsense and at least a little whimsical? I don’t remember the titles of any of the books from my childhood (other than Let’s Talk About Whining), but I know she read to me, with flair, and I know such a thing is to be canonized.