What I’m Reading: An Update

There’s nothing quite like unpacking after getting back from a trip. I love to travel, to see new places and go on adventures, but I also really like coming home, unzipping my suitcase, and putting everything back in its proper place.

I traveled quite a lot last month, and that meant I read a lot. When you travel alone as I do, and when you dread getting trapped in an airplane conversation as I do, a book or two makes the time pass quickly…or more quickly than time spent staring at the back of the head in front of you.

I realize I haven’t done a recap of what I’ve been reading in months. If you’re keeping track of my What I’m Reading page, you can see the tally for 2013 so far; I try to keep that updated. Perhaps none of you have missed my clever mini-reviews of the books I’ve consumed, but those of you who have, here are some suggestions:

If you don’t understand why your spouse/child/friend/roommate is quiet, needs quiet, or keeps asking you to stop talking, read:
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
I keep recommending this book to introverts and extroverts alike. It’s less rah-rah-rah introverts, and more about how introverts and the introvert perspective can be used to enhance experiences instead of being marginalized. Cain gives a scientific peek into the brains of introverts, and also suggests ways to interact within the personality types. No two introverts are the same, but we’ve all got to figure out how to interact with each other, especially when our culture focuses so much on larger-than-life personalities.

If you love Alan Alda (and who doesn’t), read: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed Alan Alda
One of my guilty pleasures (that I don’t really feel guilty about) is reading celebrity memoirs. I try to stay away from the filthy ones, but I love hearing about people’s journeys to stardom. Alda has a fascinating history, one that is unbelievable but told in such a casual way that you do believe it. Plus, he writes like he speaks, and so I hear his distinctive tone in my head as the story unfolds. He seems like a lovely fellow, and he has some terribly interesting stories.

If you struggle with how someone can be a feminist and be a Christian, read: A Year of Biblical WomanhoodRachel Held Evans
This is a book that changed me. Not drastically, but subtly. It named some things I didn’t know how to name, and called out some tensions I’ve always felt but never known how to express. Mostly, though, it gave me hope for a way through the storm between faith and identity and gender roles that are so engrained that we don’t even fight anymore. The book is not about feminism the philosophy, but rather issues about women and the church that we need to name and wrestle with as a faith community. I’m grateful for Evans’s humorous way of looking at issues integral to faith and womanhood.

If you love stories in general, read: To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
If somehow you haven’t read this book yet, shame on you. And if you haven’t read it recently, read it again. I know, life is too short to read books twice (rubbish, I say), but this one is so good. I watched the movie recently, and thought, “Okay, this is rare example of when the movie is better than the book,” because the movie is just SO GOOD. But in re-reading the book (actually, listening to it via audiobook), I realized I was wrong. The movie is excellent, but the book is exquisite. The book’s not even really about the trial; there’s so much more to the story, more to Jem and Scout’s lives. It’s a love story to a bygone era, one so far away it only lives in stories like these. Re-read this, I say!

If you don’t mind Death as a narrator, read: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
Zusak has the amazing capability to create phrases and images that I’d never considered before. He takes a setting and time period that has frankly been written about ad nauseum, and he changes your expectations. He sets up a (reliable?) unexpected narrator, and sets the story around a little girl. And it’s page after page of turns of phrases that are impossible and clever and beautiful and painful all at once. Zusak makes you feel conflicting deep emotions about World War II, and that can be a hard thing to do in a culture oversaturated with pain and stories from that time period.

If you like comedy and pop culture, read: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling OR Born Standing Up – Steve Martin OR I Remember Nothing: And Other ReflectionsNora Ephron
These books aren’t really anything alike, except they’re all by comedy writers. Kaling and Ephron’s books are similar in that they’re just reflections on everyday life, though Kaling’s book is about a young actor/writer in Hollywood and Ephron’s is about growing old and looking back on life. Martin’s book is about his stand up comedy evolution, and is a lovely glimpse into a very intelligent and purposeful comic.

If you’re still interested in Lincoln, read: Lincoln’s Battle with God – Stephen Mansfield
You may be a little Lincoln-ed out, but this book focuses on Lincoln’s faith journey. It’s complicated, as most faith journeys are. Lincoln is claimed by everyone from atheists to fundamentalists, and there’s a reason for that. Mansfield’s claims are that Lincoln’s faith life changed drastically from childhood to young adulthood to adulthood, and we should let the man be an enigma. We can’t pin Lincoln down, and that’s okay. Mansfield makes some compelling arguments to show that Lincoln was a man of faith at the end of his life, but there’s no denying Lincoln’s early life of rebellion against God and continued skepticism of the church. He was a complicated man for a complicated time.

More books can be found on my What I’m Reading page–follow along with me as I read through 2013!

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