Books, Books, Books – Part 1

I post about books all the time on social media… inevitably, when I mention a title, someone will ask me to write a list of books that I’d recommend. While I do keep my Goodreads account up to date, I thought it might be fun to chronicle books here from time to time.

So, here’s a list of what I’ve read so far in 2017:

Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Warren
– Spiritual memoir of sorts. Beautiful writing. She talks about encountering God in the small moments – brushing our teeth, stuck in traffic, eating leftovers, etc. Recommended.
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
– Letter to his son. Insightful, difficult at times for me to read. Convicted me that I don’t take enough time considering how others experience life. I really, really wanted to be in conversation with others while I read. Lots to process. I appreciated that he talked about how his views changed as he learned more and grew up and was exposed to other ways of thinking. Recommended.
On Writing, Stephen King
– This was actually much more of a memoir than I thought it would be. Honestly, I thought it was just “okay”. I enjoyed Bird by Bird so much more… but there were some moments in this book that were moving, made me laugh, and were very enjoyable. Glad I read it, but it was just kind of meh for me. Some profanity, fyi.
A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer
– A book about listening, discernment groups called a Circle of Trust. Not what I was expecting. I am a big fan of Parker’s and I thought this book was going to be much more about false self/true self. Good for those who want to start these groups. There were several good nuggets in the book, so it was just okay for me. I’d recommend pretty much anything by Parker Palmer, though.
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
– Oh my. Memoir. Very moving. Loads of medical talk, which I found facinating and sometimes gross (I have a weak stomach). I cried several times. Recommended – especially if you are in the medical field and/or are friends with someone who completed a medical treatment (not currently undergoing treatment – I fear that it could cause anxiety).
Recapturing the Wonder, Mike Cosper
– Enjoyable book with loads of current cultural references (hello, 30 Rock!). This book is for those who are perhaps a bit disillusioned about faith and are trying to sort it out. (this book isn’t available yet – I read an early manuscript) Recommended.
Dog on It, Spencer Quinn
– This book was unexpectedly very enjoyable. Fiction from the perspective of a dog. I was bracing myself for it to turn cheesy, but it never did. Totally believable “dog voice” the whole way through. Loads of fun – I laughed a lot. Some profanity, fyi. Recommended.
A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
– Oh my yes. This book. Fiction. Ove (pronounced “oo-vah”) is a cranky older man and I loved him. LOVED him. The character development in this book is positively delightful. Sobbed at the end… laughed a lot all the way through. Highly recommended.
Pilgrim Principles, Lacy Ellman
– This is a kind of devotional-type of book. Seven weeks of short, daily readings. Lacy uses a metaphor of pilgrimage to talk about going deeper in our spiritual journey. Familiar territory for the most part, but she brought in some zingers here and there that were really great for reflection. This isn’t Bible-y, fyi. She is talking about practices that help us become more aware of God in our everyday. Recommended if you’re new to these kind of faith practices.
Comfort Detox, Erin Straza
– Thoughtful book about how to get our of our comfort zone. Engaging writing. Enjoyable and convicting (but not in a big time guilt-inducing way). I’m all about paring down – and I love her take on that. Recommended.
Struck, Russ Ramsey
– Memoir. Engaging, thoughtful. Couldn’t put it down. There are a few paragraphs that I can’t get out of my mind – Russ addresses depression, emotional healing the comes with physical healing, faith, and more. Recommended.

What I’m reading now:

Word by Word, Marilyn McEntyre
– Loving – LOVING – this book. Short, daily readings that are insightful and unique angles on familiar concepts. I feel like I’m having coffee with a wise older woman and she’s sharing what’s on her mind. Highly recommended.
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
– Memoir. Trevor is articulate, smart, and has depth, which makes this more than just a simple autobiography. Some of his insights make me pause and agree out loud, “YES! Well said!”. It’s feeling a bit long, though, and I’m looking forward to moving on to my next book… but, I’m still glad I’m reading it. Some profanity, fyi.  Not sure if I’d recommend this one.
Faithful Presence, David Fitch
– Helpful, interesting book that is perhaps a bit more “academic” than most books I read. But, I’m enjoying it and learning some great nuance about church/faith community. Recommended to anyone in church leadership (or emerging leaders).
The Sound of a Million Dreams, Suanne Camfield
– Memoir. I’m only on chapter 2 and I can already feel the lump in my throat while I’m reading. She’s touching on some tender places in me – about dreams. Recommended.
In the Land of Blue Burquas, Kate McCord
– Non-fiction. I love Kate’s writing. This was her first book and the flow is a little more dense than her other books, IMO. But, the content is fantastic, eye-opening. I love how Kate tells stories. I think I’d recommend Farewell, Four Waters (fiction) by Kate above this one… but, this one is good, too.
Little Lessons from the Saints, Bob Burnham
– 52 reflections and practices. I’m friends with the author and really enjoy how he engages in life, so I’m having fun reading this book. His faith perspective (he’s Franciscan) is a bit different than mine, so I’m reading these reflections a bit differently based on my faith.

Other books I’m reading for work (aka, not available yet) and enjoying:

An Unhurried Leader, Alan Fadling

Vintage Saints and Sinners, Karen Wright Marsh

Movies are Prayers, Josh Larsen

Single, Gay, Christian, Greg Coles


It happened again today. It took me immediately back to second grade.

I’d been called upon to read a portion of a book for our little group sitting around the table at school. I liked our teacher. She was kind, motherly, young. Our little Christian school had about 20 students in total. It felt safe and familiar. Each time I was called upon to read, my throat would close up so that only a tight, wispy squeak came out of me. It was really frustrating when I couldn’t use my voice and I was grateful for an understanding teacher who gently asked questions (are you feeling okay? are you nervous?) and then let me pass on reading for the day. I didn’t think my throat was closing up due to nerves, but it stumped my parents and my teachers – though, I did hear more than once that it was probably all “in my head”.

Today, I led a meeting and that familiar annoying tightness that squeezed out the strength and fluidity of my voice suddenly appeared. No amount of hot tea, water, or coughing was helping. Maybe it was all “in my head”, but still very frustrating.

Still, I’m grateful for the experience today. I remember big brushstrokes of my childhood, but details tend to evade me. To remember the echo-y classroom with the cold metal folding chairs where we took turns reading was a surprise. I immediately remembered who I was then. Little “me” was rather fearless. I was tough, lively, always-in-motion, happy. I like to think I’m still those things, but they may look less obvious now. It feels good to recall the freer (albeit childish) expressions of who I am. Today, I loved having that physical reminder that I still carry that little fearless, feisty person with the occasional tight, squeaky voice with me.

Has a smell, a sight, or a physical experience triggered memories for you? What does it remind you about yourself – little “you”, who may have been less censored than adult “you”? What are 4-5 words you would use to describe little “you”? Do you see traces of those words in yourself today?