With only a few hours left in the month of February, here is a review of what I read this month.
I pre-ordered this book, so I have had it since it was released in August. I am so glad that I picked it up to read now. The timing coincided with several personal events and national news stories in a way I could not have planned. We are surrounded by conflict. We face it at home, at work, at school, at church, at the grocery store, and among friends. Our country is in a heightened state of conflict, and it seems to be more divided by the day. It’s tempting to blame conflict on others. It’s easy to dismiss people with other views than our own. It’s easy to hide behind our keyboards and rant on the internet. It’s even easy to get in someone’s face and tell them they’re wrong. It’s a lot harder to admit that we are afraid. Even if we realize that our responses are based in fear, we don’t know how to move forward and still love the people around us. Braving the Wilderness is about precisely that. In order to effectively dialogue with others to come to a mutual understanding and move forward in a positive way, we have to know who we are and where we belong. I highly recommend this.
While I was reading this book, Mike was reading Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. We discussed the ideas from the books with each other, and there are a lot of similarities. Crucial Conversations is on my “to read” list as well because I enjoy reading and want to learn as much as I can about topics that are interesting to me. If you don’t want to read both, then read Crucial Conversations if you want more of a step-by-step guide on how to talk with others about hard topics. Read Braving the Wilderness if you want a broader scope that more directly addresses the emotional aspects.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
I’ve had this on my “to read” list for several months as I began intentionally learning about systemic racism in the United States a few months ago. Several others in my book club have been doing the same, so we started this book at the beginning of February. I’m not quite to the end, but I will say that this is a must read. The book is primarily about issues with the justice system, and racism is definitely a main focus, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s well written and easy to read, but it covers hard stuff. I’m sure the other patrons in the coffee shop were concerned about me today when I sobbed through half a chapter.
Read it. You’ll learn a lot. And you’ll be outraged and inspired and challenged all at the same time.
Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth
For many years, my mom had a subscription to Good Housekeeping magazine. (She probably still does.) Being someone who read almost anything I could get my hands on, I often read it, long before I was in position to be doing any housekeeping of my own. Geneen Roth had a column about weight loss and diet and eating, and that was my favorite feature. (It probably says something about me that my favorite magazine feature as a young teen was about weight loss.) Her approach was definitely different than most diet-related advice, and it resonated with me. I picked this book up at a thrift store or garage sale a couple years ago and finally read it last week. While Roth’s ideas about God are different than mine, this book really challenged and encouraged me.
It is not a how-to book. Not even close. It’s not about counting calories or macros. There are no forbidden foods. There are no hard and fast rules. If you want an eating plan laid out for you for the next 2 months, don’t waste your time. If you want a cheerleader to tell you to lace up your sneakers and start working out, then this book is not for you. It is about mindfulness and learning to trust your body. It’s about letting go of shame and guilt and ideas about what you should look like or how much you should weigh. It’s about questioning assumptions and learning to recognize hunger for food and differentiate that hunger from a yearning for something else. It’s about being free from food in a way that allows you to enjoy it for the good that it does for your body without making it the remedy for everything that’s wrong in your life.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
Mike downloaded the audio version of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team as part of his own personal and business development efforts, so I listened with him. Most of the book is written as a fable, where the concepts are illustrated by telling the story of a fictitious company, and it is easy to digest. The last section gives more pointed instructions on each of the ideas. The team dynamics apply to all types of teams, not only in business settings.
Between our respective readings of Braving the Wilderness and Crucial Conversations and then this book, we are trying to take our new knowledge and understanding to heart and have been challenging each other to put them to practice. It’s a lot of work! But I also think it’s important work, and even if it seems hard, it will be worth it.