What I’ve Been Reading Lately: January, February

It’s so fun to look back over these reads and to share them with you here. There are some good ones!

JANUARY
A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
Now that we spend a good bit of time in the North Carolina Mountains, Tim and I are a bit obsessed with hiking the Appalachian Trail. Although let me be clear. I will never do this. But listening to this classic travel book on audio was almost as good–(mostly because we kept rejoicing in the fact we were not pitching a tent in a blizzard, etc.). It was a little slow at times but all in all an interesting read/listen.

The Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish
I bought this in hardback for one reason: the cover is gorgeous. The premise is also intriguing: the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect in two centuries, one an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city in the 1660s, and an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history in the 21st century in a race to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe. The novel is smart, beautifully written and complex. Read this when you want to dive in deep.

Unlikely Success: How a Guy Without a Clue Built One Hell of a Business, by Marvin Chernoff
Unlikely Success is an engaging, enlightening, and thoroughly entertaining collection of recollections that let us follow Marvin Chernoff from his days playing stickball on the streets of Brooklyn to winning the Shell Oil corporate advertising account away from the Madison Avenue “big boys” for his ad agency in Columbia, South Carolina. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir from Marvin Chernoff, a legend in our community and our industry, a wild, creative spirit who founded a respected ad agency that rose to fame during my own formative years (in the same city and business). I never knew Marvin personally and it is something I regret; I am grateful to have this glimpse into his mind and his world. A fun read.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
I LOVE THIS BOOK. Me and Reese Witherspoon, we both do. She’s optioned it for a movie; I’m just telling everybody I know to read it. The publisher says: Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

FEBRUARY (It was a great reading month!)
The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry

I mentioned in the last post I’ve read two books recently that made their ways to my Faves of All Times list. The first was The Snow Child. This is the second. The publisher says: An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late nineteenth-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love. Heroine Cora Seaborne is a fantastic character, and Perry’s writing is elegant, smart, delicious. Love, love, love.

The Good House, by Ann Leary
I heard about this book via one of my favorite podcasts, What Should I Read Next, and it did not disappoint. Hildy Goode is a longtime resident of an idyllic town in Maine, selling real estate and generally keeping her eye on all the town’s goings-on. She also hides a significant drinking problem. The story is funny, sad, and poignant as Hildy literally hits bottom hiding out in her basement. As Anne mentioned on the podcast, I folded so much laundry just so I could listen for a few more minutes. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.

Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small Town Church, by Winn Collier
Winn Collier is a Presbyterian minister who also happens to be one of my favorite writers, so when I saw that he had written a new book, I couldn’t wait to get it in my hands. It did not disappoint. Epistolary fiction, the short volume spans seven years of the ministry of Jonas McAnn and his congregation at Granby Presbyterian. The publisher says: Jonas’s letters ruminate on everything from fly-fishing to the Nicene Creed. They reveal the earthy spirituality woven into the joys and sorrows of the people of Granby, the community of the church, and Jonas’s own unfolding story.Readers will discover what it means for a pastor and a church to do the slow work of ministry in community—anchored by a common place and buoyed by a life of faith that is meaningful, rooted, and true. It is a quiet, beautiful, deeply thoughtful book and I could not underline enough. A gift for your spirit.

Currently in my TBR and library reserve stack (I am jacked!):
The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
White Houses, by Amy Bloom
A Snow Garden and Other Stories, by Rachel Joyce
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner

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Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little* financial reward (*in 12 months it amounted to less than $9.00) for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post (obviously) but it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books. 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.

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

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: November, December

 

I’ve done a lot of reading in the last five months even if I haven’t done much writing about it here. Time for a catch-up because I am JACKED to tell you about them all and in particular the five I particularly loved–two of which make their move to my all-time faves list. There’s a lot to share after all this time, so I’ll add January and February in the next post.

Here goes!

NOVEMBER:
The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers

I loved this book for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is it is a beautifully executed version of all the things I love most in a novel: interesting history, colorful characters, a moving story, gorgeous writing. The publisher says this: When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away?
I loved, loved, loved this novel!

The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
I may well be the last person on earth to get around to this book. Chapman maintains you and your significant other probably express love in a very different ways and that recognizing these differing “love languages,” and honoring them, is the secret to intimacy and lasting love. While a bit of an unintentional caricature of the self help novel (it was written 25 years ago although it has been updated), I did find the insights really helpful and I still think about them on a daily basis. Very worth the read if you are into this kind of thing–which I am.

Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny, by Tony Robbins
I love Katie Couric’s podcast and really enjoyed her interview with Tony Robbins. That prompted a visit to the library and a download of this audiobook, which Tim and I listened to on a road trip to Florida. I am fascinated by Tony Robbins–let me say that–but this particular book didn’t really speak to me. Although to be fair, I must say I am sure it is a matter of my life stage. (I think my giant is fully awake and focused on some other things right now.)

DECEMBER:
The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey

Now on my All Time Favorites List, The Snow Child was Day Five of my 30 Days of Joy series here on The Daily Grace in December. Gorgeous, quiet, heartbreaking, beautiful–I love everything about this novel. Jack and Mabel are a childless couple homesteading in Alaska in 1920. It is a brutal life for them both, until one day they build a girl out of snow. The next day the snow child is gone but they see a young blonde girl running through the trees. This is Fiona, and her magical existence changes everything about their lives. I started this book on Kindle but loved it so much I ordered my own copy. You will want the paperback, I promise.

Before the Fall, by Noah Wiley
Another road trip pick, I got this award-winner on audio from the library. The publisher writes: On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family. The novel goes on to deconstruct the days and moments leading to the disaster as officials try to determine if this is a case of mechanical failure or if something more sinister is at work. I love the premise of this book but it didn’t quite land for me (so to speak). Still it has been heralded by critics and decorated with lots of “thriller” honors, so if you love the genre it might be right up your alley.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport
Doesn’t need much explanation since the title is aptly descriptive. I enjoyed this read and pulled some valuable nuggets. A topic I am very interested in, and if you feel the same, this is a worthy read. NOTE: I read this on Kindle but suggest the paperback. There will be sections you will want to underline and refer back to.

What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
I admire Hillary Clinton for her smarts and her moxie, and I was most interested to hear her side of the story of the election of 2016. This book did not disappoint. While no doubt written with an eye toward legacy (who wouldn’t?) I nevertheless felt the deconstruction of the “mistakes” she believes she made, along with the immense heartbreak of the loss and the dealing-with-it days that followed was both genuine and heartfelt. No matter how you feel about Hillary, a fascinating glimpse into the historical significance of a female’s run for president.

Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie
I’ve never read Agatha Christie but this title (“the most widely read mystery of all time”) seemed like a great place to start. Plus Agatha Christie was one of my grandmother’s favorite authors. Plus the movie was coming out so the title was getting a lot of buzz. Plus we were headed on YET ANOTHER  road trip, this time to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, and the library delivered the audiobook just in time. (There was quite a wait list so this was rather miraculous.) We really enjoyed it and MARVELED at the audiobook narration which I didn’t discover until we had finished–Dan Stevens–AKA Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey! Worth a listen just for his A-MA-ZING character voices. So good!

 

Next up: What I’ve Been Reading Lately: January and February
(There are some great ones!)

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Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little* financial reward (*in 12 months it amounted to less than $9.00) for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post (obviously) but it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books. 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.

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

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!

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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: 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!

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.

Introverts Unite.

I guess the proper place to begin is with the admission she was not even on my radar. Oh, I’d heard of the book. I’d been drawn to it for years, the title alone tugging my heart until it pulled itself all the way to the top of my To Be Read list. But I don’t watch Grey’s, or Scandal, or How to Get Away With Murder, and so Shonda Rhimes, who created and runs those blockbuster shows, was a not a familiar name to me.

All that has changed. I just finished Year of Yes and can proudly say Shonda Rhimes rocked my world in the most powerful, gorgeous, healthy way possible.

The book is her telling of the life explosion she experienced when her sister offered, in a casual comment: You never say yes to anything. It pierced her, this thought, and it became the driving force behind a commitment to spending one year saying yes to anything that came along that scared her.

(This is a woman who hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances, just saying.)

This book is good, y’all. So good. And not in the way I expected. Shonda gets real, going deep enough into her hesitancies to actually identify what it is that scares her. Then she works hard at addressing that particular thing, which changes her perspective, which opens up her life.

My favorite part of the story is the commencement speech she delivered at her alma mater, Dartmouth College, in 2014. The audiobook (read by Shonda, which is so powerful) features that speech. I want every young person everywhere to hear it. I wish I’d heard it at 21.

Heck, the truth is I want every young woman I know to read this book.

So thank you, Shonda, for lessons and inspiration and a grand nudge to walk more boldly toward.  For the reminder that as women, and as human beings on this earth–it is our honor and our glory to step out of the shadows and fully, confidently, into the light.

 

this morning’s light

 

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: February

February, here goes.

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Harper Collins says of this book: A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I listened to the audiobook so the “charming pluck” really came to life. (To tell the truth, I’m not sure it would have held my attention in book form, but maybe.) Worth a listen, for sure.

The Mothers, by Britt Bennett
Called “dazzling” and “ferociously moving” and “luminous,” I could hardly wait to read Britt Bennett’s The Mothers.  The young author has become a bit of a literary darling with this–her debut novel–winning tons of awards and finding a spot on nearly every 2016 Best Book list. Plus I adore the cover. So I was thrilled when it came from the library just in time for our recent trip. I settled into my window seat on the plane, cracked the book open and nearly had a heart attack when I read the location for the story was our destination: Oceanside, California. Serendipity! But alas, turns out this is not the book for me. I finished it–but struggled. Please, please somebody read this book so we can discuss!

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
I’ve had the same title at the top of my Favorite Book of All Times list for nearly 20 years, but this reading season has served up two grand competitors. First I covet Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, a thick, rich, delicious novel I sank into and savored over several weeks last Fall. And now there is Lincoln in the Bardo. The first novel from George Saunders, it is–without a doubt–a masterpiece. Stunning and brilliant, Saunders offers a compelling (and original) story about the first days after the death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, beloved son of President and Mary Todd Lincoln. (You will want to read this one in hard back.)

Oh friends. This book.

(My previous Favorite Book of All Time? Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.)

Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
I mentioned this memoir in a previous post on The Daily Grace, noting at the time I had some mixed emotions about it. This is a tough read; the first three quarters detail Melton’s lifelong battles with addiction and the subsequent (and shocking) implosion of her marriage. She writes with an unsettling honesty and goes into great detail–so much so I nearly gave up on her/it. (Clearly this is the desired effect.) But just then the story takes a turn and the insights she offers about “unlearning” and living in truth are surprising and powerful. I think about this book every day.

TO BE READ

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voscamp

Above the Waterfall, by Ron Rash

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

News of the World, by Paulette Giles

A Snow Garden, by Rachel Joyce

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, by Glenn Taylor

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 cover the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

Oh–one other thing. On the days I find a great deal on one of my favorite, favorite books, I often share it on 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.

When It’s All Too Much

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior.  It’s a book about which I have a lot of conflicting emotions, and I will hold those for another time. But just last night, as I was rendering Andouille Sausage for some Fat Tuesday Gumbo, my headphones delivered a thought that has clung to me like a dryer sheet.

Glennon was describing the despair she felt in the first moments and hours and days of the devastating dissolution of her marriage. She felt paralyzed, frozen–unable to do anything, or move in any direction as she considered the unfathomable damage divorce would do: the scars her children would carry, the very implosion of her own identity and existence. 

Then this whisper came back to her.

Just do the right next thing, one thing at a time.

It’s exactly what we need to remember, don’t you think, when the world becomes too much, when life overwhelms.

Just do the right next thing.

Oh, yes. I’m going to hold on to that one.

XXOO

 

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately

 

AROUND THE HOLIDAYS, Tim and I made a commitment to each other to spend more time reading (AKA less time watching television). Then we instituted a Reading Happy Hour, and three or four times a week, we (AKA he) builds a fire, pours a glass of wine and–while dinner bubbles away on the stove or broils in the oven–we sit, sip and read.

(It is as divine as it sounds.)

It has also been the perfect kickstart to get my reading on again.

 

 

THEN, INSPIRED BY ANNE BOGEL’S FANTASTIC PODCAST What Should I Read Next?, I decided to keep a reading log. As I made the January list I was surprised at its volume. I’m not someone who can read multiple fiction novels at once–I swear my brain is not developed enough for that–but I can juggle different genres on different platforms. In fact, I’ve realized this works really, really well for me because I love to read myself to sleep at night and sadly, at least in terms of reading volume, it never takes more than a few pages.

Voila–a short essay is perfect.

(I feel the same about knitting. I love the challenge of a difficult pattern and need one to keep me excited about picking up the needles. But sometimes you just want a simple Knit and Purl so your mind can be somewhere else (AKA watching too much television). 

 

ANYWAY. The magical simultaneous reading triumvirate–fiction, memoir or essays, audiobook–is allowing me to make some good headway in an endless and thrilling To Be Read list.

January, here goes.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave 
I learned of this book from the What Should I Read Next? podcast and have to say it is my favorite of the World War II novels. Smart, sometimes witty, and beautifully written.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J. D. Vance
Vance reads the audiobook, and I believe this format masked what others have noted is less-than-steller writing. And because it is a memoir, hearing family stories in the author’s voice added to the experience. As to my opinion about the theme of the book–I am a child of Appalachia and should therefore have complicated emotions about Vance’s perspective. I don’t. I found the stories of his family engaging, and I think his conclusions are fair, given his experience. What I do feel conflicted over is the wild popularity of Hillbilly Elegy. I think it was a good read (listen) but not one that I find to be incredibly important. 

Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan
A heartbreaking story about prejudice on Mississippi’s Delta. Jordan’s debut novel, it received a huge boost via recognition by Barbara Kingsolver. Tight, well-written–and I enjoyed her use of multiple first person narrators.

Stitches, by Anne Lamott
The audiobook of this collection of essays on “meaning, hope and repair” is read by Lamott (already one of my favorites) and it is a treasure. I clung to every word and listened to much of it twice. Plus–if you are an Amazon Prime member–you can listen for free under their “Channels” section in the Audible app.

Someone Will Be With You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life, by Lisa Kogan
I first read  Lisa in O Magazine and loved her writing so much I tracked down this work. She’s funny, honest and easy to read. That equals a win to me.

The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful, by Myquillyn Smith
I enjoy Myquillyn’s “don’t let the thought of it overwhelm you” interior design style on Instagram so much I decided to download the book. The design tips are great, of course, but I also love her easy-going life philosophy–and I found much to inspire me to Just Chill.

NEXT UP

A Snow Garden, by Rachel Joyce

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, by Glenn Taylor

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voscamp

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

News of the World, by Paulette Giles

Love Warrier, by Glennon Doyle Melton

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

It’s a fluid list, of course, influenced heavily by what comes in from my library HOLDS list as well as the coveted Kindle Daily Deals on Amazon. (I’m a fan.) I’ll let you know how it goes.

And if you have thoughts or other recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any other 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 cover the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

Oh–one other thing. On the days I find a great deal on one of my favorite, favorite books, I often share it on 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.

Reasons to Rejoice

IN 2012 I LISTENED to the audiobook of the best new book of the decade*, Rules of Civility. It took about three pages to make this proclamation, and by the end of the story I confidently pronounced Rules to be the perfect novel and a new American Classic.

Guys. It is SO. GOOD.

It was also the debut novel of Amor Towles, a New York investment banker who wrote the thing from the perspective of a female character. Wow.

SINCE THEN I’ve googled, oh, a hundred times(?) to see what Towles is working on, where his work appears, what book has been released as a follow-up. Google has been pretty quiet on the matter.

Until now.

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 10.49.04 AM

 

Released yesterday, A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW is Towle’s second novel and one highly anticipated by critics and readers alike. It’s the story of Count Alexander Rostov who, in 1922, is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. As Towle’s website states his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

This one I will read with a hardback copy in my hands.

AND THERE IS THIS. I learned of Towles’ new release not via Google but in listening to a podcast with which I am also a bit captivated. What Should I Read Next is the brainchild of Anne Bogel, a mom of four who blogs at Modern Mrs. Darcy and talks books via the podcast. Her format is simple and interesting: She asks a guest to name (and describe) three books she/he loves and one she/he hates, and from that she plays matchmaker, suggesting three books that meet the guest’s reading profile.

She’s a book whisperer, if you will, and it’s interesting to hear her choices. It’s also entertaining and informative to listen to the guests and their picks. Hear more at this link: What Should I Read Next.

A new Towles’ novel and a podcast that pairs readers with books they’ll love: two great reasons to rejoice even if the calendar says summer is over!

*in my opinion

 

 

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