A number of people appreciated my last post where I mentioned feeling tired and a bit melancholy. I mentioned that sometimes we read heavy, demanding stuff, or things that are provocative and challenging; reading with discernment is a high calling, but hard work. Sometimes, though, I like books that aren’t fluffy or simplistic, but that are still upbeat and hopeful and energetic and not difficult to enjoy. I named some (including one that was about lament, because sometimes when we feel discontented, that’s a holy nudge toward subversive prophecy, which begins with lamentation and outrage. So, yeah, even my cheery list included some serious ones. Sue me?)
So, here’s part two — another short list of books that are substantive but not weighty, inspiring and fun but not shallow. A good list of “mid-level” sorts of reading from which many of us would benefit, even if our diet more usually tends towards the heavy, or the silly.
And all of these, unintentionally, are all by or about women. But most are for anyone, male or female, young or old. You can order ’em at 20% off the prices shown by clicking the order form link below. That takes you to our secure order form page. Or give us a call. Thanks.
Without further ado, 6 new books that struck me as “just what the doctor ordered” for me this week.
Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are Deidra Riggs (Baker) $13.99 Deidra is a woman I respect immensely, for her pleasant demeanor and her professional advocacy for bloggers writing about faith and the work-world at TheHighCalling.org where she serves as managing editor. It’s a big and impressive job, and one of the great things is that she invites her team to encourage younger writers, guiding them into finding their voice, saying their piece, making a difference in ways big and small. Usually small. Which is the theme of this eager-anticipated and very inspiring book — with Deidra’s guidance and encouragement, you can realize that you are a world-changer. Do you ever think that you should get involved in something, or you should take a stand, or follow a sense of God’s leading to stretch you capacities to serve? Do you ever wonder how to know what to do to be faithful to these promptings? Do you ever give up before you even try?
The three parts of this brand new book are “Knowing Yourself,” “Following God’s Leading,” and “Taking the Next Step.” It is commonplace to hear that “the gospel must be lived” but Riggs reminds us of it yet again with vigor and grace and a curious blend of being audacious and reasonable. I loved Ann Voskamp’s lovely forward — it is very well written as she tells a story or two, and then shares a line that Deidra once spoke to her: “We get to be terrified, so God gets to be glorified.” So, dear readers, cheer up, get ready to shift out of your comfort zone, maybe even be terrified, and yet learn to be okay with that. I for one am going to devour this upbeat book, and look forward to getting to know the author’s story, and I reconsider my own. How ’bout you?
Where Jesus Prayed: Illuminating the Lord’s Prayer in the Holy Land Danielle Shroyer; color photographs by Carter Rose (Paraclete Press) $16.99 The monastic sisters in the religious community who run Paraclete Press are very excited about this, and assured me I’d love it. I think they are right — just glancing through it I notice that it does indeed have some good insights about praying the Lord’s prayer. Maybe you, like me, have read a number of solid books on this, but, like me, never tire of being drawn into this pivotal and important aspect of our Lord’s teaching. But not only is this beautifully written and obviously insightful, it is juxtaposed with photos and stories of being in the Holy Land. The author had gone on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and she had one goal: “to enjoy God, fully present to the presence of the Holy.” The back cover explains that she was “tired of her own wordy prayers and theological thoughts as a pastor, she wanted her prayers to be quiet listening rather then incessant speaking. When the Lord’s Prayer came to mind in the midst of her silence, she welcomed the words of Jesus as the only words she needed.” This book is the fruition of her discipline of only praying this prayer as she traveled. Immersed in a sense of place, she felt the prayer coming to life in new and unexpected ways.
Shroyer wrote a book years ago – one of the first to be identified then as “emergent” — called The Boundary Breaking God: An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise. She is a graduate of Baylor and of Princeton Theological Seminary and is a Theologian-in-Residence at Journey Church in Dallas, Texas.
Jamie Clark-Soles, a New Testament professor at Perkins, says of When Jesus Prayed,
As someone who regularly leads immersion trips to the Holy Land, I am familiar with the best resources available. Shroyer’s book now tops the list. She presents unexpected, new ways of viewing the places, and she centers it entirely around a conversation with Jesus. Highly recommended!
For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards Jen Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson) $22.99 I spent an evening with this a week ago and laughed right out loud. I loved Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess — an honest, upbeat, but serious story of living on less — but wasn’t sure a major hardback release about life being “lovely and fun and courageous and kind” was going to work. And I loved it. I guess it is written for women (yes, come to think of it, given that there’s a chapter including a wife’s view of sex –“have fun and stuff” — and in one chapter she quotes Gwyneth Paltrow from Elle magazine, I guess it is written for women.)
The author turned 40 and this liberating rumination (which is pitched as a “raucous ride to freedom for modern women”) followed. It is fearless, candid, offering a way to be creative in life, be faithful to faith but not overly churchy, and shows how to break free of guilt and shame by dismantling the “unattainable Pinterest life.” She reminds us to “release the burden of always being right” and help us seek a life that is “mostly good.” A hero of mine, the late Lewis Smedes, wrote a book years ago called A Pretty Good Person and I thought of it often as I read this more edgy, girly, call to let go of judgements and be freed up to live in grace. Any book that reminds me of Smedes, and that makes me laugh, is well worth it. Kudos, Jen.
By the way, she has a TV show, now My Big Family Renovation, which has apparently catapulted For the Love to the New York Times best seller list. And we have it in stock, right here. Fun.
Seven Women And The Secret of Their Greatness Eric Metaxas (Thomas Nelson) $24.99 I hope you know Metaxas’s Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness which was a tremendously written, very informative, and truly inspiring study of seven very different men. (How many books put Jackie Robinson, Nelson Mandela, and George Washington in the same league? The Bonhoeffer chapter is nearly worth the price of that one, and of course he does Wilberforce.)
Here, in this very new one, Metaxas turns his exceptional writing style on the task of telling us about seven women — again, fairly diverse, over time and sensibility. We have very informative, entertaining chapters on Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Saint Maria of Paris, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa. Again, this is a diverse grouping, but he shows their faith and character and help us see, so vividly, how they stood against the times, and how we might to.
(I have to say that right before the book came out Metaxas tweeted a list of women who were in the book and it was a hoax — an odd mix of goofball women, some with questionable ethics and less then admirable legacies, and some with far-left politics, which Eric most likely wouldn’t have included. I don’t know if everybody got the joke, but it made me smile all day!)
Karen Swallow Prior, a writer who loves great books (as evidenced in her marvelous memoir Booked and who has written Fierce Convictions, the definitive book on British abolitionist and poet Hannah More) says,
In writing about these seven singular, extraordinary women, Eric Metaxas does honor to all women. I finished Seven Women feeling more blessed and encouraged in simply being a woman than ever before. The accomplishments of these women — from across time and circumstances — have indelibly shaped the world we know today. Their stories will educate, encourage, and inspire every reader. This may be the best book you read this year.
Come Rain or Come Shine: A Mitford Novel Jan Karon (Putnam) $27.95 This may have one of the nicest covers of the year, and I’m drawn to it even though I’ll admit I haven’t read any of the others. There, I said it. But great thinkers that I admire have appreciated them — Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God memoir tells of her own conversion to Christian faith in part by reading about Mitford! — and, more importantly, customers and staff and friends really enjoy them. I suppose you know all about Father Tim — last heard of in Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good.
There is apparently a wedding in Come Rain or Come Shine. Maybe it is Father Tim’s adopted son, Dooley Kavanagh, first seen in At Home in Mitford, so many books ago. Dooley has now graduated from vet school and has opened his own animal clinic. I gather the wedding will be simple, complete with a potluck in the mucked out barn. The worship bulletin is even shown, fully realistic, in color, and it shows the liturgy and the Bible texts. So, yeah, it’s Dooley and Lace Harper.
People magazine called this a “vividly imagined world” and sometimes this is just what we need. It’s going to be a big seller, I’m sure — and for good reason. Nice!
Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry Maya Angelou (Random House) $30.00 This is one of the more handsome one-volume complete poetry editions we’ve seen — just a little bit bigger than some, but with lots of white space on the page. The titles are in deep blue ink on cream colored paper — complete with deckled edges on the pages. The woman who wrote that she is “phenomenal” is just that. This is a very handsome volume, with over 300 pages. Just holding it brings me joy, and reminds me of her distinguished career in letters. There are some famous ones, too — if you are old enough you will recall her “On the Pulse of Morning” a tribute at the inauguration of President Clinton and the never published before poem “Amazement Waits” that she did for the 2008 Olympic Games. She died in 2014.
And, speaking of significant women authors, we are still eager to sell Go Set a Watchman, by the extraordinary storyteller Harper Lee. Beth zipped through it the week it released and really, truly loved it. Just a day ago we got a long email from a customer who was exceedingly skeptical, but bought it from us on Beth’s recommendation. His note said that he experienced something he hadn’t in quite a while — the compulsion to keep reading, that made him stay up most of the night, simply unable to put the story down. I don’t know if it counts as a refreshingly inspiring book of the sort I’ve listed here, but, ya know, you could do worse on a hard day. And Paul’s note meant the world to us, reminding us of the great value of good books. That helps keep the discouragement at bay, too. Thanks, ya’all.
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