7 Books I Recommend – April 2017


Here are seven books I recommend from what I finished reading in April. Each month we share what we’ve been reading at Jennifer’s.

7 Books I Recommend

1. Deep Work
Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
by Cal Newport


Can you focus for long periods of time without getting distracted? If not, Deep Work might be a book for you. The author stresses that we’re losing our prolonged abilities to concentrate, and the world is suffering by that lack.

It’s not the most ground-breaking book I’ve read, but because it gives many tips and steps, it’s worth reading.

2. Grace Behind Bars
An Unexpected Path to True Freedom
by Dudley Mitchell


An inspiring real life story. This excellently-told narrative is by Bo Mitchell, businessman and chaplain for the Denver Nuggets, who ends up in federal prison for a white collar crime he was unaware he committed. His wife, Gari, also shares her perspective sprinkled throughout the book.

The book will encourage you in your Christian faith, and also make you more appreciative of your freedom. I first heard Bo and Gary on a Focus on the Family podcast here. I recommend both the book and the podcast, in either order.

My review here of Grace Behind Bars

3. Democracy in Black
How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul
by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.


This book will enlighten you on both the history and the present of black lives and politics in America. Author Eddie Glaude made me think of things I hadn’t considered, and challenged me to go forward in more productive ways.

My review here of Democracy in Black

4. Invisible Influence
The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior
by Jonah Berger


A very intriguing and well-written book. If we think we make only rational, independent decisions about our lives, we’re wrong.

We’re influenced by more factors than we’re conscious of (and it’s more than just which news channel we watch). This book reveals many of these influences. Awareness is powerful.

5. Disrupted
My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
by Dan Lyons


I started this book because it was funny. I laughed out loud over and over at this true story. Dan Lyons was a top writer in his early fifties when he was suddenly laid off from Newsweek. The next job he can get is at the tech start-up, HubSpot. (If you saw The Intern with Robert De Niro, you realize how funny this scenario can be, an older man working with all younger people.) Except this time it’s not fiction.

As the story progresses, it turns a little dark. But it provides interesting insights on both age discrimination and young companies.

6. Practicing the Power
Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life
by Sam Storms


Are the gifts of the Spirit still active today? Sam Storms says yes. He uses this book to show how the Spirit can work in a church and other settings. Another thought-provoking book. And one to pray about for action.

My review here of Practicing the Power

7. The Naked Now
Learning to See as the Mystics See
by Richard Rohr


I already know I need to read this again. It’s too much to get in one reading. Rohr explores what it means to live in the present and to let go of dualistic thinking.

2 Novels I Don’t Recommend

The Good Father
by Noah Hawley

The premise is good: a father’s son is accused of assassinating a presidential candidate, and the father goes on a quest to acquit him. But it didn’t progress enough for me. It’s okay, but I like Hawley’s novel Before the Fall much better.

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher

The topic of teen suicide definitely needs to be talked about. But I didn’t like the “let’s-blame-everybody-else” approach that the main character uses in this book, especially blaming other teenagers who are struggling, too. The tone of the book just rubbed me wrong. I’ll skip the Netflix series since I didn’t like the book (and since I don’t have Netflix).

Reading Now

  • A More Beautiful Question
    The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
    by Warren Berger
  • When Everything Changed
    The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present
    by Gail Collins
  • The New Jim Crow
    Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
    by Michelle Alexander
  • The Versions of Us
    by Laura Barnett

* * *

What good book have you read lately? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

42 thoughts on “7 Books I Recommend – April 2017

  1. Candace Playforth

    I’m surprised I haven’t read any of these books. I’ll definitely check some of them out. Thanks for the recommendations, Lisa. Reading takes me to my happy place. My daughter watched Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix and had the exact same opinion as you about it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Reading takes me to my happy place, too, Candace. 🙂 There’s just never enough time for it. That’s interesting that your daughter had the same opinion about 13 Reasons. It may be helpful for some people, but I guess it’s just not for others of us.

  2. Michele Morin

    I’m having a Eugene Peterson marathon right now — love his writing and thinking. As Kingfishers Catch Fire and Run with the Horses are going with me everywhere.

    I really want to read some Richard Rohr, so I was happy to get that recommendation. Maybe that’s where I should begin.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      How wonderful to be in a Eugene Peterson marathon, Michele! I heard his interview not too long ago with Krista Tippett, On Being, and it made me want to grab another of his books. I really haven’t read much by him so I’m due! Hope you find some good Richard Rohr–Falling Upward is another of his that I’d highly recommend.

  3. Betsy de Cruz

    When I saw your title, I thought, “Oh wow, I’m going there!” I always love to learn about books. I’m so impressed by all the reading you do, Lisa!

    My daughter just wanted the 13 Reasons netflix series, and it definitely sounded like something I DON’T want to watch…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love seeing what others are reading as well, Betsy. It saddens me that there are SO many books are out there that we’ll never get around to reading. 🙂

  4. Linda Stoll

    Ah, once again, a great big potpourri that crosses a whole bunch of genres. Were you a librarian in another life?


    Thanks for the leads, friend … and blessings on your day.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I often think I would have loved being a librarian, Linda. But I would have just wanted to stop work and read all day if I were surrounded by books constantly. 🙂

  5. Barrie

    I have read Cal Newport’s blog for a while- in education I am always looking to read different viewpoints and his book on student success is always a big hit- He recently wrote a piece on disconnection from devices…so interesting. I haven’t read this book, but it’s been on my TBR for professional development, so I will keep it there for later for sure!
    Democracy in Black looks super interesting too- I just finished a fiction book about race that was so thought provoking and I think started a conversation within myself about my own privilege and assumptions about “equality.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll have to check out Cal Newport’s blog, especially his piece on devices. His work is fascinating to me. For some reason I’m drawn to that genre of books.

      I’ve recently started The New Jim Crow which is both riveting and sad about mass incarceration. I’m going to check out your fiction book on race as soon as I can get a copy.

  6. June

    You always pick the most interesting titles/topics, Lisa! With my schedule, I work through books rather slowly I’m afraid. But they are no less enjoyable! Always adding to the list and appreciate your recommendations each month, friend! Blessings on your week!

  7. Barbara H.

    Your selections are always thought-provoking, and several of these pique my interest. We enjoyed The Intern, so Disrupted sounds like a good one, and I love hearing stories of how God worked through real-life situations, so Grace Behind Bars sounds great, too.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think you would really enjoy Grace Behind Bars, Barbara. It’s wonderfully told and reads like a Christian autobiography. The author shares some of his childhood stories as well, so you really feel like you know him by the end of the book.

  8. Trudy

    I always appreciate your insight into the books you read, Lisa. Grace Behind Bars especially sounds interesting. I love your keen perception of Thirteen Reasons Why, too. Love and hugs to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Trudy. I always love sharing about books that I’m reading. I don’t do it a whole lot in real life so it’s fun to have this outlet online. 🙂

  9. Lois Flowers

    I always love your book posts, Lisa. The section on novels you don’t recommend made me smile … I think this kind of feedback is just as useful as the opposite kind! “Disrupted” on your list caught my eye, maybe because I just finished reading “Pretend I’m Not Here,” a memoir with a really long subtitle by the woman who ghostwrote Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village.” It was fascinating to me, but may be too much inside baseball for people who aren’t very interested in the journalism business. 🙂 I’m also reading “The Joy of Missing Out” (did I read about that one here?), which is really good, and just started Steven Curtis Chapman’s new book, “Between Heaven and the Real Word,” which I already love.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you mentioned Pretend I’m Not Here. It sounds so fascinating to me! I just got the sample sent to my Kindle. 🙂 I’ve always wondered how ghost writing really works; now maybe I can see. I haven’t heard of The Joy of Missing Out but it sounds delightful as well. I have a book on my nightstand that I haven’t started yet entitled The Power of Off; I’m looking forward to digging into that too.

  10. Bill (cycleguy)

    Have been hearing so much about the “13 Reasons” book and series. I’m glad to skip it for the reason you gave. Reading Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf (saw them with Louie Giglio) and This is our Time by Tevin Wax. Finished Charis by Sprinkle. Excellent book on Grace.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Those books all sounds so full of hope and grace, Bill—my favorite kind! I’m going to look them up on Amazon and see if I can get some samples sent to my Kindle. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Debby

    I always enjoy a list of book recommends. I recently heard an interview with Richard Rohr and got interested in reading his latest work. You’ve helped confirm that. As to your reflections on 13 Reasons Why, I read a review of the series written by a teen who has struggled with thoughts of self-harm. She had similar thoughts on the series. Stopping by from Holley’s place today.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m currently reading another Richard Rohr book now on the Enneagram. It isn’t quite as enthralling as some of his other works, but I enjoy the topic. Hope you find a good one of his to read! Thanks for sharing what you’ve heard about 13 Reasons Why. It’s been interesting to see what others think.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I found Practicing the Power free through BookLook Bloggers. I love free books and library books because if I don’t enjoy them, I don’t have to feel guilty if I can’t make it through to the end. 🙂

      1. TC Avey

        Me too, Lisa.
        free books are the way to go. Especially if I’m uncertain if I’ll like it. I’m willing to pay for books from authors I know, but if it’s someone I’m unfamiliar with then I’m hesitant to spend my money.

        Thanks again.

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          Yes, I’m all about free books when possible. I usually only buy books that I’ve already read and know that I want to own to read again, or books that I can’t find at my library, or books that I’m doing with a group. I recently finished a book with a ladies group and discovered something new: getting it spiral bound. It was a workbook that we had to write in a lot, and it was SO wonderful to spend a few extra dollars to get it spiral bound at Office Depot. 🙂

  12. Anita Ojeda

    You’ve got an interesting list, Lisa! I LOVED 13 Reasons Why. I first read it before my own daughter struggled with a mental illness, and in retrospect, I think that the book would be stronger if it incorporated more awareness of the role mental illness takes in most suicides. Having said that, I still love the book because it brings awareness to the role WE, the mentally healthy, play in the lives of those who suffer. Things that seem like no big deal to us can profounding change someone else’s life. I had no idea there was a series now–I read the book when it first came out.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad to hear you share another view on 13 Reasons Why. I’ve been wondering what someone closer to the subject matter would think. I value your opinion. While I’ve had several in my family suffer with depression, none have ever been that close to the brink of suicide, so my experience is limited. I didn’t realize the book had been made into a series until I started seeing it pop up online. While I didn’t like its tone, I totally agree with you on your bottom line about it: the important role of awareness that the mentally healthy can play in helping those who suffer. That’s a valuable lesson we all need to learn better. Thanks, Anita!

  13. Jean Wise

    I agree with what you said about Deep Work. It is the concept – I have deep work where i need to focus, spend time with and is high priority and shallow work – often where I can multitask. I listened to a podcast this morning and the two speakers both work in social media so have trouble separating deep work in a distraction like social media. I think a timer helps me – only so many minutes reading blogs, and looking at facebook….

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      A timer is one of my favorite productivity tools as well. It often motivates me to do something if I think I need only spend 15 minutes doing a certain task. And then it keeps me on task when there are things that I’d love to sit and do all day but don’t have time to. 🙂

  14. floyd

    I never cease to be blown away how much you read… More non-fiction seems like. There are some good ones that caught my attention I’ll put on my list.

    But the new heading of the ones you don’t recommend? (gulp) I hope I never end up on that list of yours! Although if I get that far I still would be pleased! I might have to send you some manuscripts to get your two cents… that way if I end up on your “bad” list, you’ll be partly to blame!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I definitely read more non-fiction than fiction. It’s actually quicker for me to read non-fiction too, so maybe that’s why it seems like I read a lot. It never feels to me like I read a lot. 🙂 I would be honored to read whatever you write, Floyd, and I know it would be good!

  15. Dianne Thornton

    I like this post, Lisa! We are finalizing plans for our summer trip and good reading is on my list of things to gather. That first one is intriguing to me. I used to be able to focus very well. But not so much these days. Could be the fab 50’s and all that goes with that. lol … Also, love your commentary on 13 Reasons Why … ugh. We had a couple of suicides at my kids’ school and my girls lapped this show up. ugh. ugh. ugh. So encouraging our kids with why NOT rather than why. And I get frustrated with the parents who all say … “watch this WITH your kids … it’s so important.” And maybe it is, to some extent … but I think the take away would be at the end of each is … really? how about why NOT for this reason. (Sorry … got a little soap boxy here.)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      How fun to be making plans for a summer trip! I’ve discovered I don’t focus as well as I used to either. And I need a lot more quiet around me as well. 🙂 About the show, I agree with you that the subject is indeed something to talk about with our kids. I’d just rather find a more appropriate one. I understand your soap box.

  16. Ashley Davis

    Finished Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. Excellent book. It is kind of geared more towards men who struggle with porngraphy, but the same principles can be applied to women who struggle with sexual immorality, lust, etc. The book doesn’t suggest behavior changes; instead it suggests that only real change can happen through Jesus and His grace.

    Currently, I’m reading, I am Not, but I Know I Am by Louie Giglio. So far, it’s pretty good. The first few chapters have been kind of repetitive, but I’m sticking with it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like Finally Free is a very good book, especially since it can be applied toward other issues as well. I’m guessing there would be overlap between it and the Freedom curriculum I just finished with the Highlands ladies. Lots of good words from God on freedom! I wouldn’t trade my freedom in him for anything. I’ve heard Louie Giglio speak (online and on podcasts) but haven’t read any of his books. Hope that’s a good one!

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