8 Books I Recommend—April 2023

“Books are possibilities. They are escape routes. They give you options when you have none. Each one can be a home for an uprooted mind.” 
– Matt Haig

Here are 7 nonfiction books + 1 novel I recommend from what I read in April.

[See previously recommended books here]


1. A Hole in the World
Finding Hope in Rituals of Grief and Healing
by Amanda Held Opelt

A Hole in the World

After the unexpected death of the beloved Christian author Rachel Held Evans at age 37, her sister Amanda tried holding it together. But the need to grieve her sister—as well as three miscarriages—finally caught up with her. She delved into how cultures in times past and and today have grieved well. She wrote this book to explain those rituals as well as share her own journey with grief. A beautiful and important work!

“Grief changes us. . . . I am not the same. . . . I do not think we can say of grief, ‘This, too, shall pass.’ There is no going back.”

2. Life in Five Senses
How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World
by Gretchen Rubin

Life in Five Senses

How many senses do we have? Scientists now have identified far more than five. But are we making the most of even the big five we’ve always known? Author/podcaster Gretchen Rubin discovered she was taking her senses for granted. She began experimenting with using her senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching in more ways than ever before. Her story here is very engaging. She’ll inspire you to go do likewise with your own body.

That pink-eye afternoon had revealed three truths. I wanted to appreciate the moments of my life more fully; I wanted to get out of my head and into my life; I wanted to deepen my knowledge of the world, of other people—and of myself.”

[Read my full review here of Life in Five Senses]

3. How the Word Is Passed
A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America
by Clint Smith

How the Word Is Passed

Do you have evidence of slavery in the town you live in? Clint Smith created his own tour in the United States and elsewhere of monuments and landmarks about America’s history of slavery, including Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation, Angola Prison in Louisiana, and Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, VA. He talked with tour guides, local residents, and other visitors at each location. The insights he documents from these places and people are valuable to each of us wanting to face our past and do better in our future. This book should tug at your heart. 

“The history of slavery is the history of the United States. It was not peripheral to our founding; it was central to it. It is not irrelevant to our contemporary society; it created it. This history is in our soil, it is in our policies, and it must, too, be in our memories.”

4. The Violence Inside Us
A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy
by Chris Murphy

The Violence Inside Us

I’m sorry this book has to exist, but I’m very glad I read it. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy explores our country’s firearm history, as well as shares both personal accounts and national stories of firearm incidents in our recent past. He says that compared to other high-income nations, the chance you will die a violent death at the hands of another person is ten times higher if you live in the United States than any other place, even though our rate of mental illness is no higher than the rest of the world. We just have lots and lots of guns here, and exceptionally easy access to them. Senator Murphy also lays out some next steps for saving lives instead of ending them. Well written and easy to understand. 

“Controlling the means of violence is perhaps the most impactful lever we have to pull. Today, the safest places in America are those that make it just a little harder for people who want to hurt others to get their hands on a gun that will do the job.”

5. Soulbroken
A Guidebook for Your Journey Through Ambiguous Grief
by Stephanie Sarazin


Not all grief comes from someone dying. Ambiguous grief results from divorce, broken friendships, estrangements, infertility, dementia, etc. Yet our culture typically responds inappropriately or not at all to these losses. Stephanie Sarazin offers a path of facing ambiguous grief that goes beyond the unhelpful “be grateful and stay positive!” response. Stephanie writes, “Grief is not a condition to cure; rather, it is a human condition to be honored.”

I particularly benefited by Stephanie’s differentiation between external hope and internal hope; one is harmful and one is helpful. I highly recommend this book. 

“Grieving the loss of a loved one who is still living—a partner to betrayal, a child to addiction, a parent to a degenerative disease—isn’t the same as grieving the loss of a loved one to death.”

6. The Sentences That Create Us
Crafting A Writer’s Life in Prison
by PEN America

The Sentences that Create Us

It’s inspiring to know programs exist to help people in prison master their writing skills. It’s not only helpful for them to express themselves, but it’s beneficial for those of us on the outside to hear the unique perspectives they have to offer through their writings. This book is written for people in the justice system, but it’s helpful advice for anyone who writes. It also includes several insightful writings from those who are or have been incarcerated.

“To read, mentor, listen to, and embrace prisoners’ writing compels us to bear witness and brings us all closer to liberation.”

7. My Jewish Year
18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew
by Abigail Pogrebin

My Jewish Year

This is my pick of the month about the Jewish tradition for Lory’s Spiritual Memoir Reading Challenge. Author Abigail Pogrebin grew up in a mainly non-observant Jewish household, but as an adult she wanted to connect deeper with her Jewish traditions. She took a year to totally immerse herself in every Jewish holiday, participating in the rituals and interviewing rabbis and others to better understand the history and meaning of each holy day. She learned much not only about the Jewish people but also about herself. I learned to appreciate even more the valued role of ritual in the Jewish religion.

“Make it better. That’s Judaism’s mandate in a nutshell, and every holiday brings it home.”


8. The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's Secret

In this intriguing novel, Cecilia Fitzpatrick, a happy married wife, stumbles across a letter her husband wrote years ago when they were first married. Addressed to her, it was labeled to be opened only after his death. When her husband finds out she discovered the letter, he realizes their entires lives may be about to change if she opens it now.

“She felt she was on the edge of understanding something important. . . . It was easier to pretend there was nothing more to know.”


  • Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image
    Learning to Love Ourselves as We Are
    by Hillary L. McBride
  • Poverty, by America
    by Matthew Desmond
  • The Enneagram of Emotional Intelligence
    A Journey to Personal and Professional Success
    by Scott Allender
  • Why We’re Polarized
    by Ezra Klein
  • Eight Dates
    Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
    by John M. Gottman
  • The Mindful Body
    Thinking Our way to Chronic Health
    by Ellen J. Langer
  • Fresh Water for Flowers
    by Valérie Perrin

Books I Recommend April 2023

What good book do YOU recommend? Please share in the comments.

33 thoughts on “8 Books I Recommend—April 2023

  1. Joanne

    Life in Five Senses sound amazing. I’m not at all shocked by that statistic you mentioned in The Violence Inside Us; my son and I had been researching gun deaths here in the US versus places like England and how ours is the highest of any other developed country per capita– and sadly it’s risen 35% in the last 5-10 years.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, those rates of violence in the US versus other developed nations is astonishing. 🙁 I hope that we’ll move forward in working together to take common sense steps to reduce the violence here. I know we’ll never stop all of it, but we can at least get better. Good for you and your son in doing that research! I’m sure it’s been fascinating (and depressing).

  2. Heather Hart

    I’ve been out of the loop as far as reading goes, and I hate to admit that I haven’t even heard of any of these books. Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll have to check them out.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s easy to get out of the loop when there are so many things to do. 🙂 And there are always a new round of books coming at us every day. It’s impossible to keep up.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, My Jewish Year was quite fascinating. I thought I knew a decent amount about the Jewish holidays just from Bible studies through the years, but I learned a lot more in this book.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’d love to tell you the husband’s secret, Donna, but I suppose I shouldn’t spoil it! lol. I did get my husband to read the book too so we could talk about it. 🙂

  3. Kathy Martin

    I had never heard the term “ambiguous grief” before. Sounds like an interesting book. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think “ambiguous loss” was originally coined by Pauline Boss a few years ago in a book she wrote, but this new book, Soulbroken, by Stephanie Sarazin takes it to a new level in her depth about ambiguous grief. It was very helpful!

  4. JoAnn @ Gulfside Musing

    You’ve read/are reading some really great books! I loved How the Word is Passed… it was one of my favorites last year. The Husband’s Secret is waiting on my kindle and Gretchen Rubin’s new book sounds really good, too.

    Of your current reads, Poverty, by America and Why We’re Polarized are both on my tbr list. I bought a copy of Fresh Water for Flowers and tentatively have that scheduled for next month. Hope you have a great week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you loved How the Word Is Passed too. It was tragic though. 🙁 I’d had it on my list for awhile, so I’m glad that I finally got around to reading it. It’s important stuff.

      I just finished Poverty, By America this afternoon. It’s another sad yet hopeful book about how we might could really end poverty if we would choose to do so. It enlightened me in a few ways! Why We’re Polarized is doing the same. I have SO many pages marked.

  5. Liz Dexter

    How the Word is Passed looks really useful and important. I read some good books last month, Kit de Waal’s “Without Warning and Only Sometimes” became dear to me as she grew up very close to where I live now (not yet reviewed!).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I just got the sample sent to my Kindle from Amazon of Kit de Waal’s book. I’m so intrigued by her childhood! Thanks for sharing about it here, Liz.

  6. Paula Short

    I to am amazed by how many books you read and the variety. If you haven’t read already may I recommend
    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: By, Rebecca Skloot. I’m almost certain you will enjoy this.
    Thanks for sharing this with Sweet Tea & Friends this month dear friend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I actually did read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks a few years back, Paula, and it was so fascinating! And so disturbing too. It was the recommended summer reading book for Auburn University when one of my daughters was there. I found a copy at a used book store and read it myself, then handed it off to my husband to read too (I don’t remember if he read it or not though! lol).

  7. Jean Wise

    Once again your list is wonderful. Sadly I did order through the library the book about gun violence. What a mess our country is in. Makes me very sad.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know; the gun violence makes me sad too. The Violence Inside Us is well-written and well-researched. I hate the need for it. 🙁 Senator Murphy also includes his own personal stories about the Sandy Hook community. Very moving.

  8. Jeanne Takenaka

    Lisa, you read some fascinating books! Life in Five Senses sounds especially interesting! And the novel, The Husband’s Secret sounds intriguing. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your reads. Your selections are always books I haven’t heard of, so you expand my horizons.

  9. Holly

    I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read from Gretchen Rubin and have her latest on my TBR. I have to admit being a little skeptical how you could write a whole book about the five senses, but after three years of wearing a P100 mask and now moving to a disposable mask, I’m discovering smells I hadn’t smelled in so long. Tomatoes really stuck out to me or a bit of dill. Grocery shopping is a totally new experience.

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