Life, shared.

When I look over the many grace-filled moments of life, I count these among the most holy: the time spent lingering around a dining room table after a lovely dinner. Candles are burning low, a last splash of wine has been poured. Conversation flows easily, joyfully, the topics having moved to things that matter, treasured memories, dreams for the future, deeper questions of life. Inevitably there is a moment in which someone leans back and looks around in the soft light, and with no words at all acknowledges the glory of this communion.

How grateful I am for dear friends. How grateful I am for life, shared.

XXOO

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: September, October

What a great couple of reading months it has been. I hope my recommendations serve you well and bring you some happy, happy book moments.

SEPTEMBER:
Of Mess and Moxie, by Jen Hatmaker
I’ve got a huge girl-crush on Jen Hatmaker, a woman who speaks her mind with a healthy dose of honesty that’s wrapped in so much love it’s disarming. She is also a Christian leader who believes in — and fights for– inclusion. This book, which has this subtitle: Wrangling Delight Out of this Wild and Crazy Life, made me laugh, made me cry, made me think hard about my days and how I navigate them. I enjoyed via audiobook (which is delightful and powerful read by Jen), then I bought the hardback because it is THAT GOOD. I want it around, physically, and not just on my Kindle. Love, love, love.

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
This is the book that popped up everywhere I looked as autumn approached, one of the most anticipated of the fall crop. I was familiar with Ng having read her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, earlier this year. (I wrote about it here.) Little Fires is beloved by critics and authors alike which you will see on its Amazon page, which notes of the story: a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. If you enjoy contemporary family dramas (which happens to not be my favorite genre I don’t know why I keep choosing it), I think you will like.

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate
What a surprise this book was to me! It’s another that kept insisting itself and when I discovered I was #25 on the library’s waiting list I immediately ordered my own copy on Kindle. It is right up my alley: Based on the true-life scandals surrounding the notorious Tennessee Children’s Home Society in the 1930s, Wingate weaves a thought-provoking and complex tale about two families, two generations apart. (My local friends will be interested to know much of the story takes place in Aiken, South Carolina.) I must say the cover of this book is not a great indicator of the rich story within, so don’t let that fool you. A really good story very well told.

Braving the Wilderness, by Brene Brown
I think this is the most profound, powerful, important book I’ve read in the last 10 years, or maybe ever. EVERY PERSON ON THE PLANET SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. Brene makes a compelling and immensely readable case for “true” belonging and the courage to stand alone. From Penquin Random House: Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” I listened to this via audiobook which I loved because Brene reads it, and her personal storytelling is just so powerful. By Chapter 2 I had already run straight to the bookstore to buy a copy. I HAD THINGS TO UNDERLINE AND REMEMBER.

Get this book. Seriously.

THE MAGNOLIA STORY, by Joanna and Chip Gaines
Like a hundred billion other people on the planet, I love Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV show Fixer Upper. Like the hundred billion I have that feeling they are family, or at least really good friends. Still I wasn’t standing around waiting to read this book. They felt a little overexposed to me, and this seemed like just another layer of all that promotion. But then there it was available immediately via audiobook from the library, and Tim and I were going on a road trip, and it seemed like an okay choice…and so we queued it right on up. We really enjoyed it! Chip and Jo Jo do the reading and while I liked their familiar voices they are NOT great audiobook narrators. But we found their story really interesting, particularly from a business standpoint, and found ourselves caught up as the miles flew past. Worth a read, I’d say, if you’re a fan or if you’re looking for some entrepreneurial encouragement.

NEWS OF THE WORLD, by Paulette Giles
I love a tale about unlikely characters thrown together in unusual circumstances and this is a great one. Amazon says: In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction hat explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust. Beautifully written–one of my favorite books of the year. I read this in actual book form and suggest that format because it is small and beautiful–a delight to hold and look at.

PRESENT OVER PERFECT, by Shauna Niequest
Amazon says: Written in Shauna’s warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection.

I’d had my eye on this little book for quite some time then found it on sale on Kindle. I snatched it up and curled up with it in bed one night. I read it in one sitting and think it is a good recommendation for anyone who feels life has gotten away from them, anyone who wants to learn to be present in the midst of messy life. Particularly a good go-to for young women trying to balance it all–which, thank heavens–is no longer me. I did love Oprah’s interview with Shauna on her SuperSoul Conversations podcast. Good stuff.

 

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have!

XXOO

Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help with the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader. 

I also share great book deals on my favorites via Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

October

 

I’m so glad

 

 

I live in a world

 

 

where there are

 

 

Octobers.

 

                                            –L.M. Montgomery

 

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it’s always there

IT’S ONE OF THOSE TIMES that makes you realize you never really know the joy life will bring, one moment to the next.

First there was the fact we had a slew friends staying with us in the mountains for the weekend. Then others were to arrive late Saturday afternoon, our plan some happy time out on the deck, followed by a big, casual, family-style dinner.

Then Jessie called.

“You can say no,” she said, “and I will totally understand.” She totally meant it, too.

But I said yes, and that’s how it came to be on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in October I was standing, camera in hand, just up the way in a lovely mountain meadow photographing the prettiest wedding I’ve ever seen.

I am not a real photographer, let me be clear about that. Plus there were three or four guests intentionally snapping away–each of us aware the professional had cancelled at the last minute and that surely–surely between all of us there would be enough good shots for a proper album.

Still. It was a wedding.

None of this is even the point of this post. I merely want you to understand how it was I found myself in a meadow on a mountain on a picture-perfect afternoon in October, a witness to the sweet, sweet wedding of a couple I’d never ever met. And I want you to feel the surprise that experience–unexpected as it was– brought to me. Turns out it was one of the most love-filled, light-filled, joy-filled afternoons of my life.

 

FIRST MY FRIEND and soul brother, Jay Coles, was visiting and offered to give me a ride up to the wedding. He knew I was anxious (!!!) and graciously agreed to hang around, bringing his camera as a backup. The two of us fussing around getting our “gear” ready so tickled our crowd that someone demanded a photo.

Thank heavens I am not sporting a camera in this shot!

 

Then Jay and I arrived and went to work, doing our best to capture each thoughtful detail.

 

IT’S AN ODD THING to attend the wedding of a couple you don’t know, even more so when it is an intimate gathering of family and dearest friends. I felt removed but also all up in it, every unknown face coming to me through my camera’s zoom lens. It gave me the opportunity to look and see and experience the color and shape of every emotion in a heightened and powerful way.

There was so much love.

Sister and sister.

Mama and daughter.

Father and bride.

Brother and brother. And brother.

Bride. And groom.

Oh, this bride and groom.

Their joy overflowed in a way made manifest, I swear, by the wide open setting, the colors of autumn, the October sky. They blushed; they laughed; they cried. As did the Justice doing their marrying (who I think may have been the groom’s brother). As did everyone else in attendance (but for those ADORABLE children).

As did I.

I stood there, my lens trained on the love-filled faces of these strangers, and tears rolled down my cheeks.

 

LOVE IS ALL AROUND is the point I’m trying to make, love is present and moving in a hundred trillion ways you never see or even know. Love is flowing, good and strong and remarkable, all across the globe, in every country, three states away, just a little ways up Ogle Mountain.

Even when we forget it. Even when forces divert our attention elsewhere, and we’re unaware.

Love is all around.

 

XXOO

 

I’d love to send a little note each time there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here.

 

 

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When It Dawns On You

I’ve placed this photograph in this blog post I’d say…oh, 10 times or more. I’ve taken it out. I’ve put it back in, smaller, taken it out. Put it back in, made it larger, made it smaller, walked away.

And here it is now. Large.

Why the angst, I wonder? Why the need to get it just right?

Perhaps it is because the moment I snapped the photo felt so right, so perfect, so awe-filled. Perhaps what I want is for you to be there, too, to step with me into the early morning cold, the world dark and still, the mountains starting their glow. I want you to feel and see and know, as I did, in that moment.

 

 

My dear friend, Jay, is there, too. He doesn’t say a word, just stands there with me while I take it all in. Then he says, oh so quiet, See the star? I look again. I look closer.

Sure enough there it is, up and just to the right. A star.

 

 

I turn to the left. West, toward my beloved Mother tree.

There is this.

 

 

Good heavens, I think, how beautiful is the gift of another day.

How awesome it is to be reminded in such a beautiful way.

 

XXOO

 

I’d love to send a note each time there’s something new on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here!


 

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Remind us.

 

 

Like so many people, I’ve spent the last two days in a stupor. I cannot process the horrific events of the Las Vegas concert; I do not understand how such can happen. I cannot believe we live in a world in which individuals have a need–and heaven forbid the legal right–to own any weapons with the power to cause such destruction.

It does not make sense to me.

And I have no words of consolation.

~~~

These smart men and women do, and so I will turn to them and what they’ve offered over the past two days. May their thoughts/prayers bring you a little bit of whatever it is your soul needs. (And may they forgive my sharing of their words during this time of such heartache without official written consent, although there is a link to each.)

From Winn Collier:
Lord, we woke this morning to another wave of sorrow. More of us are dead. We had to tell our children, once again, of the evil we’ve done. We have to face another grieving day, added on top of all the other grieving days. We have tears. We have anger. We are hellbent on destroying one another. You’re going to have to help us see the truth. You’re going to have to give us courage to be something different. You’re going to have to help us. Amen.

~~~

From Jen Hatmaker:
I have so many things to say about the Las Vegas mass shooting. So many that my blood is boiling over and I want to run screaming into the streets. I feel like we are standing in the middle of a violent, endless nationwide crisis swirling all around us, and we keep “sending thoughts and prayers.” I want to rip my hair out. I feel so alone in my outrage, because the polite thing is “not right now.” When? When? When??

I am not going to write out of fury and despair, so for this morning, I will simply say that my heart is shattered for Las Vegas. Every single mama and daddy and brother and sister and daughter and son who lost a precious person deserves better than a normalized culture of violence and death. They deserve more than our thoughts and prayers. 

We love you, Las Vegas. We love you, first responders. We love you, community members. We love you, victims and friends of victims and family members of victims. We love you. We are bearing witness; you are not alone. This is not okay, it has never been okay, and it should stop being okay. There is no polite response to this level of constant tragedy. You deserve our collective outrage. You have mine.

~~~

From Brene Brown:
1. Prayer + civic action are not mutually exclusive. Join me in both.

2. Step away from social media coverage and toward real people for support, action, conversation, and being with each other in collective pain. Keep informed, but don’t stay glued. Our secondary trauma will not make us better helpers – it shuts us down and sends us into self-protection and blame-finding.

3. Adding this for our kids: All we can do is acknowledge the pain and fear, create space to talk about what’s happening in an age-appropriate way, and own our own vulnerability and uncertainty. Also important to put down some guidelines for watching and talking about it. We want them to ask us and depend on our answers, not those of their peers. And, of course, love them as hard as we can.

~~~

From Emily P. Freeman:
My hands are still shaking after merely watching a few minutes of footage from Las Vegas. I cannot imagine what so many are going through this morning.
.
For those who have witnessed scenes that could haunt for a lifetime, we pray for a sanctified memory and a holy imagination. Release them from the haunting, we pray.
.
Let grief do her sacred, invisible work. Soothe the jagged edges. Bring relief.
.
May Your presence fill up and overflow the gaping holes left in the wake of tragedy.
.
Remind us You haven’t left us alone. 

~~~

From Glennon Doyle:
Reminder to my beloveds today: It’s a terrible, heartbreaking day – and it is okay to feel that deeply. There is nothing wrong with you – there is just something wrong.

We will rise and we will work, but today, today it is okay to stop and rest and hold our hearts and people close. Stay soft. This world needs people who are strong enough to stay soft.

Take tender care of yourself and others today.
I love you.
G

 

holding on tighter and holding you closer than ever,

cathy

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In Space

I WON’T BE ROCKING the universe when I make a statement about travel’s profound ability to broaden horizons. (There is so much wrong with my decision to keep that kitschy sentence but there it is.) Park yourself some place new and wonderful things happen. Your view changes. Your thought patterns are interrupted. Your priorities shift.

It happens to me regularly these days as Tim and I spend pockets of time at our weekend place high in the Blue Ridge. The contrast between that rural lifestyle and the urban one we enjoy in the flatlands of South Carolina is pretty dramatic. When we are in those mountains we find ourselves considerably more focused on the land, on each sunrise, on the sheer passing of time.

(None of this comes as a great surprise as I’ve written about it here and here and here on The Daily Grace.)

But the last time we were there something new happened that I’ve thought about a good bit since. We weren’t long before bed when Tim suggested we plan to get up a little earlier than usual the next morning. The International Space Station would be crossing the sky over our house just before dawn, he said, and this would give us a great chance to see it.

Yes! I said, with so much enthusiasm you’d think I’d been waiting my whole life for just such an opportunity. (I sort of knew there was a Space Station flying around up there. Maybe? Kinda?)

Rise we did.

 

watching and waiting

 

THE VIEWING OF THE THING was not as dramatic or impressive as you might imagine. It was a bright little white dot that appeared just where Tim said it would, lifting right out of the trees that stand over the chimney and our roof. It moved at rather a quick clip north to south finally disappearing from view over Big Butt ridge and the Black Mountain range just behind.

 

There. Over the trees.

 

the International Space Station moving across the sky

 

We observed and marveled and I questioned. Were there people aboard? (Yes.) How many? (Six.) How long have they been up there? (Varies, depending on the astronaut, but the space station has been manned continuously for 16 years.) How far away is it? (220 miles) How fast does it go? (17,227 miles per hour)

What were the astronauts doing right now? Were they looking down at us, commenting on the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains?

I also found this little tidbit particularly interesting: We could see the Space Station in the sky at this moment because it was positioned such that the sun reflected off its surface, thus making it look like a fast moving star in a dark-enough sky. Then it disappeared from our view before it actually went out of sight because it slowly disappeared into the earth’s shadow.

 

the space station, gone from view in that pretty orange sky

 

And just like that, in less than two minutes, the entire thing was done.

We stayed put to watch the sun rise, we surely did, then we went back inside and I immediately jumped into an online search for photos in reverse: the earth from the Space Station. There are many incredible collections, like this one. But I was most fascinated by those from Commander Randy Bresnik, a Citadel grad who posts on Instagram as @astrokomrade. He had just given us a from-Space view of Charleston, post Irma, on which he wrote:  After #Irma. Charleston, I have swum in your streets before, I know you will recover quickly again to the city we all know and love.

That there is powerful stuff, my friends.

 

THE EXPERIENCE HAS STAYED WITH ME, I’ll also tell you that. I think about the fact that Space Station (with its people) circles the earth 16 times a day. It has done this every single day for the last 16 years. And all that time I have been right here, fully and completely not paying attention.

It’s the kind of thing a person should know, is what I think. It’s the kind of thing a person should know and celebrate and from time to time stand back from, in awe.

How happy I am my husband–and those mountains–made sure I did just that.

 

XXOO

NOTE: If you are interested in the International Space Station, NASA has an app that will tell you when the best viewing times are for your location. Click here for more information.

 

I’d love to send a little note each time there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here.

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heart lights

WE WERE GATHERED around the dinner table, our feast consumed, our wine glasses refilled, when Linda brought out the box. She moved casually, nonchalant, the action drawing no attention at all. Then it sat there–just sat there, that box–seeming so insignificant as to have hardly been worth the effort it took to get it to the top of this mountain.

We carried on unknowing, the eight of us, caught up as we were in some other silly story about some ridiculous situation we found ourselves in thirty, forty, even fifty years ago.

We’ve known each other that long, you see. We are women who grew up together (in every sense of that phrase) in the 60s and 70s in a tiny mountain town on the remote southwestern edge of Virginia. It was a place buffeted from the world by ancient ridges that both nestled and isolated us. We did not realize the significance of this geography at the time, our worlds extending only as far as away high school basketball games required. We had little sense of a big world beyond that, in the years since, has flung us from South Florida to Louisiana to Maine–and many, many cities, large and small, in between.

And still we come together once or twice a year to reconnect and recharge and re-establish our roots. It’s a vital practice that brings light and love and nourishment to our souls. It makes me think of that scene in ET where the sweet creature’s chest LIGHTS UP when he is in silent communion with someone he loves, a soul connection with another who understands. It  happens when we are together. Our heart lights glow.

 

the ancient oak on the mountain we call Mother

 

SO ANYWAY the thing is sitting there, the very quiet box, and by some miracle there is a tiny, tiny break in the conversation, and I think it was Julie who said, What is that, Linda? What have you got there?

Oh, this? Linda says. I was clearing out some things. Wondered if you guys want them.

This got our attention, you bet it did, and all of a sudden that little vessel became a magic box from which an endless supply of memories came flooding over and around that table.

Oh, my, the stuff that box held.

 

(There was this much joy.)

 

PERHAPS IT WOULD BE more accurate to say the memories had to be excavated, because lord have mercy it took every one of us working together to reconstruct what may or may not have led to and resulted from the memories that box contained. For instance Linda produced two letters I wrote to her when I was a senior in high school and she was a freshman in college. I’m not kidding I have no memory of ANY of the things I wrote her about. Suffice it to say there was a great deal of detail and Every Single Sentence revolved around one boy or another, or what some girl said about one boy or another, or how I felt about what the girl said about the boy who may or may not have had anything at all to do with me. In a million years I’d never have believed that’s what we found significant in our lives back then. Sixth grade, yes. But seriously, not at 18. (Let me state for the record Julie was a bit more profound in her letters than I.)

Good heavens did that stuff make us laugh.

 

Case in point.

 

(We were also quite pleased we actually wrote each other letters. By hand. On paper. That we then had to go to the post office to mail.)

 

IT WAS a glorious weekend together, time filled with so much love and laughter I am still trying to recover. And I’m thinking hard about that hidden-away world in which we twirled batons and hosted sleepovers and knew every word to every Eagles song ever recorded (which we sang at the top of our lungs).

How grateful I am for the blessing of a happy, happy childhood.

 

Amy, Vickie, Cathy, Sharon, Lisa, Suzann, Linda, Julie

How grateful I am for these women.

XXOO

 

I’d love to send a little note each time there’s a new post on The Daily Grace. Just leave your email here.

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: June, July, August

JUNE
The Dry, by Jane Harper
Police investigator Aaron Falk returns home for the funeral of a friend and old wounds resurface in this “page-turner of a mystery set in parched Australia.” I loved everything about the set-up, plus this baby got 4.07 stars on Goodreads (and lots and lots of great press as one of this summer’s Must Reads.) I found it not as compelling. In fact, I sped read (is that a word?) the last half of the novel. But clearly, that’s just me.

My Southern Journey, by Rick Bragg
A collection of essays from the beloved Southern writer (and pulitzer prize winner). Okay, friends, I got this on audiobook and the introduction alone–read by Rick Bragg–is Everything To Me. His voice is thick and rich as maple syrup (the real kind) and his writing? I underlined every sentence in my head, then got a printed version to study. Plus those stories of his Mama and front porches and good heavens all the cats–this one will stay with me a long, long time.

Heat and Light, by Jennifer Haigh
We live in a world of opposing interests, and the struggle between two of them is at the heart of this book about a dying West Virginia coal town and the massive deposit of natural gas that lies beneath it. Jennifer Haigh brings fire and heart to this story through the complicated, very human characters that live it. She’s a master storyteller with an uncompromising voice.

JULY
This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
I heard about this novel from a podcast I love, What Should I Read Next. Hostess Anne Bogel (AKA Modern Mrs. Darcy) suggests you not read anything about the plot, including the book jacket, and that you just jump in. I followed her advice and totally agree. And I loved this book. It’s smart, poignant, and beautifully written. Oh, those family secrets.

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollen
I bought this book because it was a great Kindle deal and I am so glad I did. Practical, insightful advice and a perspective that was actually a bit new to me. Amazon says: Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion–most of what we’re consuming today is longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we see to become. Good one.

AUGUST
Trampoline, by Robert Gipe
I had heard many people I respect call this the best Appalachian novel in years and so it was on my radar. Then I met Robert Gipe at the writers’ workshop at Hindman. He is such a nice guy and LORD IS HE A POWERFUL WRITER. So I bought Trampoline on the spot, asked him to sign it, then cracked open that cover. I have never read anything like it and cannot recommend it strongly enough–particularly if you are interested in Appalachian literature or if you just want to be pushed. Intense, heartbreaking, fresh. Here’s the synopsis: Jagged and honest, Trampoline is a portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten and define it. Inspired by oral tradition and punctuated by Gipe’s raw and whimsical drawings, it is above all about its heroine, Dawn, as she decides whether to save a mountain or save herself; be ruled by love or ruled by anger; remain in the land of her birth or run for her life.  I do love me some Robert Gipe.

(Man, August was a good reading month.)

Fallen Land, by Taylor Brown
Gorgeous and oh so heartbreaking. Taylor Brown writes sentences that make you want to crawl up inside them. The synopsis: Fallen Land is Taylor Brown’s debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward. His descriptions of a decimated South* will leave you breathless. Plus the book jacket (hardback) is just so gorgeous.

 

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have!

XXOO

Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help with the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

I also share great book deals on my favorites via Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: March, April, May

I launched this What I’ve Been Reading Lately monthly book series on The Daily Grace in January and made it all the way to February. (That’s so me.) Which means the list is now very long. Still we should catch up, right?

Here goes Part 1.

 

MARCH
Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
An unexpected (and rather undramatic) kiss at a party changes everything not only for the individuals involved, but their families. Patchett shares the next 50 years as their lives weave this way and that.
I liked this book. Didn’t love it. But it was certainly highly acclaimed critically.

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh
Three women marry the same charismatic opportunist: Ken Kimble. 
I had the great honor of studying with Jennifer Haigh at the Appalachian Writers Workshop this summer. This is her debut novel, so needless to say I read it with great interest. Enjoyed it.

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
The true story of Chris McCandliss, a young man who graduated from college then abandoned his car, burned his cash and walked into the Alaskan wilderness, alone. His body was found four months later.
There is so much to this story of independence and survival. I found it fascinating. (Great on audiobook.)

APRIL
The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Poole
Set in 1916 in Tennessee, two flawed yet endearing grifters pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe—mules.
I loved this debut novel. Loved it–one of my favorite books of the year.

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
It’s 1977, and the body of teen Lydia Lee is found in a local lake. Her Chinese-American family tumbles into chaos.
Heralded as a literary thriller and one of the best debut novels of the year. I thought it was…okay.

MAY
Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry
Publisher’s description: “Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry’s unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter’s children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”
This book served as my introduction to Wendell Berry, who is without a doubt one of the finest writers living today. Quiet, beautiful, and so powerful, Hannah Coulter will live in my heart forever.  READ THIS BOOK.

Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
Over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.
Oh, I want every young woman every woman of every age I know to read this book. Loved, loved, loved. (Fantastic on audiobook, read by Shonda.) In fact, I wrote an entire post about it: Introverts Unite, which you can read here.

Hallelujah Anyway, by Anne Lamott
A powerful little spiritual guidebook for helping you rediscover mercy in this messy, difficult life.
I love everything Anne Lamott has ever written, and this little book is no exception. Plus I got to hear her speak in Charlotte, a night that brought so many insights and heart whispers I still think about it. I wrote a little bit about that here: The Gift of Mercy from Anne Lamott

UP NEXT: June, July and August

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have!

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