Books I Recommend – April 2016



1. Writing My Wrongs
Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison
by Shaka Senghor


“Each day in the hole was a test of my will to survive, as the insanity continued to unfold around me, but the act of writing about the things I saw helped to take away their power.”

This is an important book. Read it if you can. The author shares lessons he learned while serving a prison sentence for second degree murder, but they are lessons we all need to hear.

See more quotes here on my post, “Stop the Humiliation and Restore the Dignity

2. The Gift of Fear
by Gavin de Becker


“I explain that if she’s scared to death every night, focused intently on what might happen, then no signal is reserved for when there actually is risk that needs her attention.”

A fascinating book. I don’t anticipate needing many of the danger signals he talks about, but they’re good to know, just in case.

3. The Confessions of St. Augustine
by Augustine of Hippo


“You cannot change, yet You change everything. You are never new, yet never old. You make all things new, yet conquer the proud with old age before they know of its approach.”

A bucket list read. This autobiographical classic of Augustine’s conversion to Christianity is slow, and much of it I wanted to skim, but now and again I’d hit on a gold nugget that made it all worthwhile. I read the Modern English Version, which was helpful (this book was originally written in AD 397).

4. Whispers
Being with God in Breath Prayers
by Jean Wise


“Breath prayers are quite simply breathing in God’s love, his presence, and his peace and exhaling your worries, control and problems.”

Our blogging friend and fellow contemplative Jean Wise wrote this small book to explain the practice of breath prayers. She gives us so many wonderful examples of 5-7 word phrases that we can use to quietly repeat and breathe in prayer to God (such as, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me”). I’ve already used several of them myself.

5. The Contemplative Writer
Loving God through Christian Spirituality, Meditation, Daily Prayer and Writing
by Ed Cyzewski


“If I have made one mistake in prayer, it’s believing that 100% of prayer relies on me: what I say, what I believe, and what I do. What I am learning in small ways each and every day is that prayer primarily relies on God.”

Another blogger and contemplative is Ed Cyzewski, who not only recently published this short ebook, but has also created a new website for contemplatives—The Contemplative Writer—to provide daily prayer practices and soul care for writers. In the book he explains 10 practices for connecting deeper with God, including praying the hours, centering prayer, and imaginative Bible study. Get a free download if you subscribe to Ed’s weekly email list.

My review here of The Contemplative Writer


6. Beloved
by Toni Morrison


“She told them that the only grace they could have was the grace they could imagine. That if they could not see it, they would not have it. ‘Here,’ she said, ‘in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.'”

A hard but important story of slavery set in Cincinnati in the 1800s. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this classic; I’m still not sure what I think about it. It’s mysterious. But it still has me thinking about Sethe, Baby Suggs, Denver, and Beloved.

7. The Return of the King
(The Lord of the Rings, #3)
by J.R.R. Tolkien


“‘No, Sam!’ said Frodo. ‘Do not kill him even now. For he has not hurt me. And in any case I do not wish him to be slain in this evil mood. He was great once, of a noble kind that we should not dare to raise our hands against. He is fallen, and his cure is beyond us; but I would still spare him, in the hope that he may find it.’”

Such a delightful surprise to discover I love “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy! I’ve rewatched the movies and now I actually understand them. The books are lengthy, but worth it.

Currently Reading

  • The Wisdom of the Enneagram
    by Don Richard Riso, Russ Hudson
  • Interior Castle
    by Teresa of Avila
  • Beyond Fundamentalism
    Confronting Religion Extremism in the Age of Globalization
    by Rez Aslan
  • Zealot
    The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
    by Rez Aslan

* * *

What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

sharing at What I’ve  Been Reading Lately

32 thoughts on “Books I Recommend – April 2016

  1. Bill (cycleguy)

    here is what i am reading and in my cue: The Comeback by Giglio. Healing the Wounded Heart by Allender. Ditch the Baggage by Nancy Alcorn. The Face of the Deep by Pastor. I’ll be living high if I finish just one of them. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If it’s any consolation, it usually takes me a long time to finish one book too. Maybe it we would read only one book at a time? 🙂 But I love having choices when I read, so I know that won’t happen. You’ve got quite a good list going, Bill. I’ve never read anything by Giglio; one time I should rectify that.

  2. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Ok, Lisa, I’ve always wanted to read Confessions, and it’s been sitting on a book shelf gathering dust. Maybe I need to crack its spine and gather Augustine’s thoughts. Thank you for the challenge. Great book list!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’ve got nothing to lose but a little time, Lynn! Confessions was a hard read, but it didn’t take as long as I thought. (I’m not sure if the version I had was the whole thing or not?) It’s just interesting to see that even way back then, people were still having the same thoughts and wrestlings that we have now. We’re all more alike than we realize.

  3. Barbara H.

    I appreciate your thoughts on Augustine. I didn’t realize they had modern language versions – I’d definitely have to find one if I ever do read him. I’d love to reread LOTR – actually I haven’t read the last one, but I don’t know if I’d reread the others before starting it. Probably. Maybe after my reading challenges are done I’ll think about this set just for fun.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I definitely think the modern version of Augustine is the only thing that saved me. There were times that I found myself bored with it, but then whammo, he’d drop something heavy that would make it worthwhile again. I really had fun reading the LOTR series! I had read The Hobbit a few years back and didn’t enjoy it near as much.

  4. David

    Dear Lisa

    The Confessions is on my long-term to-read list (a list of books that have been on my to-read list long-term;). I do have a copy somewhere …

    I’ll definitely check out the new Cyzewski, and his website. I thought his “Pray, Write, Grow” was very good.

    Here: I’m re-reading a story book I re-read every few years. Very relaxing to sink into an old friend. Bible-wise, I have joined Facebook (!) and I’m taking part in a reading group about 1 Samuel. Lot of firsts for me there.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m guessing you would like Ed’s new site. He gives lots of material to reflect on. I don’t do it justice when I just read through it quickly; it deserves a longer sitting.

      It’s nice to have certain books that we can return to again and again. I have a few books on a special shelf that contains those old friends. Enjoy your Facebook group! Those can be great places for exchanges of ideas (and also time-consuming, if you don’t watch out, ha).

  5. Susan

    Almost every one of these had me “commenting in my head” 🙂 Augustine — yes, I think I’ve read a few of those “nuggets” so I would assume the whole book was just nugget after nugget. Interesting that maybe it’s not. I’ve never read any LOTR, thinking I wouldn’t get into them (I’ve said the same to my kids after trying the first HPotter). Hmmm. Maybe. That fear is a gift is a similar thought I had with my latest read — that pain, too, can be a gift. I love the idea of breath prayers. I’ve done that for ages, although I didn’t know there was a term for it!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, be forewarned about Augustine that it’s not wall-to-wall quotable moments. 🙂 I avoided Harry Potter for a long while too, but once I started reading the series, I loved it. Sometimes I’m slow to come to the party. ha.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Beloved was definitely interesting. In a perplexing kind of way. ha. It had a strong plot line but just included some mystical things that leave your wondering.

  6. Jean Wise

    wow I never expected to see my book on your list. I am honored. Thank you.

    Which version of the Interior Castle are you reading? I have two – the first one is older language but the newer version, translated by Kavanaugh is really good. I took a retreat a few years ago where we really delved into this writing and I learned so much through the discussion and digging deeper than just reading it myself. Thanks again!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad to include your book here, Jean! I’ve been doing breath prayers a lot more since I read it, so thank you.

      The Interior Castle version is one I found free online from ccel, 1921. It’s not super easy to read, so I’m guessing your Kavanaugh version would have been better for me. I’m awaiting “Entering the Castle” by Caroline Myss to come in the mail, a modern take on The Interior Castle of sorts. My niece started reading it and loves it, so my sister and I have ordered copies too so we all three can talk about it together.

  7. Karen

    I haven’t read Beloved, but it’s one of those books I feel I ‘should’. Thank you for sharing the link for Ed Cysewski, the subject of his book intrigues me.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Beloved has been one of those books I thought I *should* read too. And I’m glad I did. It was mysterious and heartbreaking and lovely all at the same time.

  8. floyd

    I’m always amazed at your reading prowess. Taking a few notes on your suggestions, looks like some good ones. Thanks, Lisa.

    I’m looking at a big ole goose egg for books right now, but need get to it just to slow the heart a bit.

  9. ibeeeg

    You never cease to amaze me, the vastness and amount of your reading. Through your reading and sharing, you have challenged me to read more and more outside of what once was my normal comfortable scope. Thank you.

    Yet again, I have books to add to my list from your list of ones read. This time around, Writing My Wrongs intrigues me the most.

    And oh hey, The Contemplative Writer is/was on sale today at Amazon, I snagged it.
    I’m thrilled as I’ve been wanting to read it. I’m enjoying his website.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m challenged by your book lists too. These monthly posts are some of my favorites to read, but my to-read list just gets longer and longer. Hope you enjoy The Contemplative Writer. Yes, I think Writing My Wrongs would fit in nicely with some of the books you’ve already been reading (Just Mercy and Between the World and Me).

  10. Lynn Severance

    I had never read “The Confessions of St. Augustine” as I had thought it would be over my head for understanding. But a few years ago, it became part of a Bible study group where our focus was on “women in church tradition”. One of the women was Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. The only information known about her is what he wrote in his book!

    I loved the book and finding out more about him and also his mother. She has often been revered for the way she consistently prayed for his conversion but we uncovered so much more.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I did find the parts about Monica interesting! I admit I read the Sparknotes along with the book so I could understand it better, but even better would be doing like you did: reading it together in community. To get more out of it, I definitely need some help. 🙂 I know I didn’t do it justice.

  11. Elena W

    I have owned Confessions of St Augustine for many, many years, and I want to eventually read it, but I am nervous about it being slow. Glad there are plenty nuggets that make it worth it.

    I am really interested in Ed’s contemplative writing book and website! I love the idea of spiritual disciplines and have been recently practicing lectio divina and really like it.

    Found you through Quick Lit linkup. Here are my April reads:

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Well, Confessions was slow at times, not gonna lie. ha. But it was worth it. I took a few notes so I will likely go back and re-read those from time to time instead of re-reading the whole book. 🙂 I used to practice lectio divina with a group and loved the experience. The group broke up though so I’ve rarely done it sense. How good to hear you’re delving into the practice and liking it!

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