March Books

March was a busy book month for me. Mike had a lot of work travel, and Scott mostly does his own thing, so I had some extra reading time.

I started off by finishing Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which I had included in the February roundup. My book club read this, and we had great conversations that challenged all of us on our own assumptions and actions. Our justice system leaves a lot of room for improvement, and fixing it is going to be a long and slow process because of the multitude of complex issues involved. It would be tempting to say there is no point in trying, but Stevenson is an inspiring person who made me want to do more than I was doing. We tried to come up with ways we could be part of the solution, and I considered some of those issues when deciding which candidates to support in the recent primary elections.

I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction books, so I try to intentionally read fiction. I realized I hadn’t read any fiction in February, so I made up for it in March by reading 3 novels.

The Secret Wife

The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

This historical fiction features Russia in World War I which is always interesting to me because my grandma was born there in 1919, so the dates the story covered that and the early years before their family went to Canada.

Last Train to Istanbul

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin

This historical fiction features Turkey during World War II. I’ve read a fair amount about World War II, but I had never realized the efforts that Turkey made to protect their Jewish citizens. When I finished the book, I did some internet reading to find out more because it was fascinating. There are so many good stories in the world. The history books in school only focus on a few viewpoints and a few prominent figures. But everywhere we look, we can find people who are making brave choices, risking their own comfort and wellbeing for the good of others.

On Mystic Lake

On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah

Hannah is an author mentioned by several friends and acquaintances when a friend was asking for book recommendations, so I thought I would give it a try. In both The Secret Wife and On Mystic Lake, the protagonist goes to a lake with family connections after learning about her husband’s infidelity. I hadn’t realized the similarity when I started reading this one. Beyond that, they both dealt with their situations in very different ways. This was an easy read.

Death by Meeting

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

Lencioni’s books are easy reads for business leadership books. He uses fables to illustrate the point, which makes them easy to follow and to imagine how the concepts might apply to you and your situation. Mike and I listened to this together on Audible, and we’ve started implementing some of the techniques at work and have already seen positive results from increased communication on daily activities.

The Ideal Team Player

The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni

Last October, our company had our team watch an Entreleadership simulcast presented by the Dave Ramsey group. Lencioni was one of the speakers, and he spoke about the ideal team player virtues. We have been using the humble, hungry, and smart framework during reviews to help focus employee development goals. We are preparing to hire for some key positions in our company, and I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to hire someone who is going to fit in with the direction we are going from the beginning, so I decided to listen to the whole book. Looking back, I understand now why some previous hires haven’t worked out well, and I also more clearly see why the ones who are doing well are great people to have on our team.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Mike started listening to this on Audible on my recommendation, and he said it was boring and dry and scientific, so I knew I would like the book. Ha ha. I did like the book, but it is dry and scientific. It just happens to be on a subject I find very interesting and fits in with a lot of my learning in the last few years, so I did not find it boring. What was disheartening to me is that the book was written 20 years ago and most of the findings on the importance of emotional intelligence in academic learning are still being overlooked by the majority. For anyone concerned about the safety and wellbeing of kids in school, especially in light of recent acts of gun violence, that topic is specifically covered in this book. Perhaps if we considered emotional learning to be as important as other kinds of learning, we would start seeing a reduction in incidents rather than an increase in incidents.

I actually started two more books in March but haven’t gotten very far in either, so I’ll save them for later.

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February Books

With only a few hours left in the month of February, here is a review of what I read this month.

Braving the Wilderness book cover

Braving the Wildenerness: The Quest for True Belonging and Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

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

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

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.5 Dysfunctions of a Team

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.

January Books

I have loved reading since I was young. For the last several years, I have kept a log of the books I read. I have seen a few posts from others on what they have been reading for the last month or quarter and thought I might try it. Whether or not I will continue this in future months is yet to be seen.

A Song of Home book cover

A Song of Home by Susie Finkbeiner

This is the third book in the Pearl Spence series, written by one of my college friends, Susie Finkbeiner. (Fun fact: Her now husband was a groomsman in my wedding, but she came from Michigan to Illinois for the wedding with her then boyfriend*, who was the piano player.) If you are a fan of historical fiction, you’ll enjoy this one. Susie balances historically accurate settings with relatable real life issues and some tough topics.

Humble Roots book cover

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson

I picked this up (by “picked this up”, I mean “downloaded on Kindle”) several months ago on the recommendation of a blogger I follow and figured the beginning of the year was a good time to read something that mentioned grounding in the title. This book challenged me in a lot of ways. Humility is an oft-overlooked virtue, but it is so much more than just a virtue. As a wannabe gardener, I enjoyed the plant analogies. As a Christ-follower, I appreciated the call to find both a purpose and rest in Christ. I’m still digesting this one and will revisit it in the future.

HP and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

I reread all 7 of the original Harry Potter series at the beginning of December while I was recuperating from surgery, so it only seemed right to read this again. I came late to the Harry Potter party, as I read them the first time in 2016, but I’m a fan for life. I know a lot of people didn’t like some of the things that happened in the Cursed Child, but I loved it.

Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business

Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business by Henry Hutcheson

My grandparents started a company when their kids were young. My husband, one of my brothers, and I have worked there now with my parents for almost 10 years. Working with family is, well, work. A lot of it. This book has some interesting information, but it jumps from topic to topic and repeats itself a lot. I was a little disappointed because I’ve talked personally with the author and expected the book to be more than it is. I kept having to remind myself that he is a consultant who wrote a book, not a writer. Meet him in person or listen to him speak somewhere and skip the book. 🙂

Braving the Wilderness book cover

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone   by Brené Brown

I’m a huge fan of Brené Brown. (When we were picking our next read for book club, I may or may not have been called a fangirl.) I’m about halfway through this book, and I’ve highlighted countless passages. This book really resonates with me, and I’m sure I’ll be mentioning it to a lot of people (and requesting it as a book club read, even if they accuse me of being a fangirl.)

Blog Note: When I preview this post, some of the book graphics are enormous. I don’t know how to fix that yet. If you are one of the 5 people who read this blog, you love me enough to overlook it.

*Another Blog Note: I wrote “then husband” when I really meant “then boyfriend”. My husband, who knows all of these lovely people, informed me of the error. I didn’t mean to marry people who only dated.