It’s about time I scooped up the books I’ve read recently and put them into this space so I can remember the highs and lows of my reading over the last few months. Here we go, books I’ve read from September to mid November.
The Midnight Library- Matt Haig.
I think this one is my favourite of all his fiction, a brilliant idea of someone working through their regrets, living different lives to see if her actual life is worth living. I read this in one sitting on our last camping trip of the summer. It’s a beautiful read, it helped me reflect on my life and I was left awash with gratitude for the life I have and stunned again at the goodness and wonder in this world. Go read.
American Dirt- Jeanine Cummins
Another one I loved and couldn’t put down. This charts the journey of a mother and son as they escape a drug cartel in Mexico and head over the border to a new life in the states. It’s a tense read, a hard read at times and I had to skip read certain bits because the thought of a mother and her 8 year old on the run made me think too hard about what it would be like to be on the run with my 8 year old. Worth delving into.
Braiding Sweetgrass- Robin Wall Kimmerer
I’ve written about this before and how it influenced one of my sermons last month. It’s a beautiful collection of essays about our connection with the natural world, the wisdom of native American culture and ways we can learn about our relationship to the place we live. It made me spin out in wonder and awe. It made me want to build in deep wells of gratitude and it spun a much much better story for me than the consumerism which invades our souls. Worth soaking in it’s beauty slowly and thoughtfully.
The Glass Hotel- Emily St John Mandel.
I loved her Station Eleven but found this story a bit cold. As far as I can remember it was a novel spanning lots of years and different points in a characters life, exploring where events took her and interconnections with other characters. It’s an interesting exploration of what makes a life worth living and it was a fairly good read, but it didn’t set me alight.
The Gift of Being Yourself- David Benner.
I had to read this for my Spiritual Direction course and loved it. It’s a deceptively short and simple book but gave me so much compassion for myself, and my boys in helping think through how I can love all of who they are, not just the loveable bits. It helped me move forward to accepting the shadow side of me so I can further know how much God loves and knows me. It really helped me not over worry about some of the not so great aspects of my boys character and helped me have empathy and love for the whole of them. I love that they can articulate out loud (and I pray it would be a deep reality) that God loves them when they are grumpy, angry and frustrated as well as when they are fun and delightful. This book helps in the journey to learn to own our whole selves so that we don’t get stuck in putting up defences to try and hide parts of ourselves.
The City is my Monastery- Richard Carter
This is a book of thoughts and prayers from an intentional community at St Martins at the Field in London. It goes through the seven things which make up their rhythm of life with thoughts and reflections from each. It’s a beautiful book, one which made me long to hang out with Jesus more. Definitely worth getting hold of and swimming in the beauty of.
Catlin Moran – More Than a Woman.
OH my word I love this woman and all that she writes. IF you are a woman in your 40s/50s then this is the book you need to read right now. If you are a man and married to a woman in their 40s/50s then you must read this too and chat to the woman in your life about it. And if you are in your 20s/30s it won’t hurt to read this although it may scare you a little. And I guess if you are beyond your 50s you’ll enjoy it just as much. At times reading this was as if she had seen into my life and thoughts and just written them down for me. She’s got such a knack of writing about the everyday ordinary stuff of being a middle aged woman in a way that is relatable, funny, tear jerking and real. I didn’t identify with all of what she talks about but that’s just because we are different people. So much of this made me laugh out loud with relief that I am not alone. If that’s not a good recommendation I don’t know what is.
Motherhood- The best, most awful, Job- Ed by Katherine May
Again. If you are a mother then you must stop what you are doing and go and read this book right now. (it has short chapters so don’t worry if you feel you are just too tired). If you are partnered up with a mother then also please read this book right now. It’s a beautiful series of essays from all different kinds of mothers, ones who have adopted, natural birth mums, gay, straight, autistic, mum’s who have lost babies and more. It’s just a wonderful collection of stories that again made me know that I was seen and not alone. Two amazing gifts.
Sweet Sorrow- David Nicholls
The story of a man reflecting on his first love back when he was a teenager. I really enjoyed this, mainly because it was set in the late 90s and took me back to my teenage years. A nostalgic look at life and all it’s twists and turns. I really enjoyed it.
I’m still here- Austin Channing Brown.
I don’t really know how to talk about this other than to thank Austin for the gift of her story. It’s her reflections on being a black woman and, let’s face it, the crap that has come her way because of that. It’s worth reading for the insights, the wisdom that comes from her and the further spur to seek a world which is actually just and where racial discrimination is seen, owned up to and dealt with.
Girl, Woman, Other– Bernardine Evaristo
I loved this tour through a load of interconnected women. It’s a beautiful sprawling book of very different stories and journeys. It made me laugh and cry and be very sad when it ended.
Lost Connections- Johann Hari
I have mixed feelings about this book. I love the premise which goes along the lines of – don’t just give out medication to fix depression but also take a look at the social and psychological aspects of what is going with people. I feel like that was given as game changing revelation whereas I don’t think it was that shocking of a statement. Maybe it is in some corners of how depression is treated but it feels to me a given that our whole lives play into how depressed we become, it’s not just as simple as a chemical imbalance in our brains. But as I write that I realise how easy it is to tell that story to make depression an acceptable illness. But maybe it shouldn’t have to be reduced to chemistry to make it acceptable. Anyway. Johann makes some interesting points about all of that and then goes through seven causes of depression and then looks at how we can tackle each of those in our lives. He calls for a deep societal change from the values of consumerism and individualism to living more interconnected lives with each other. I think he has a point, maybe several of them. Worth reading.
5 Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain- Barney Norris
A book based around Salisbury and explores the interconnected lives of 5 different people meeting in a chance way, reflecting the 5 different rivers that meet in Salisbury. It was a pretty engaging read, interesting takes on what makes life worth living and a good concept to build a novel around. As I write this I’m starting to realise just how many books I’ve read in the last couple of months are all about interconnectedness and interdependence. I like that theme breaking into the rather weird disconnected world we live in at the moment.
The Man I Think I Know- Mike Gayle.
A fairly lovely light novel about two men who used to go to school together and now find themselves in very different circumstances but who develop an awesome friendship. Easy to read which was good for my lockdown fuzzy brain.
The Wild Robot- Peter Brown.
My son put this book in my hand declaring I had to read it and that it was about a Robot on an Island who was a bit like Jesus. Such a lovely tale of a robot who befriends the animals on a wild remote island, and yes she is a bit like Jesus in the way she helps people and lives amongst them. I like this story reminding me that Christ does indeed play in 10,000 places.