Nine Books I Recommend – August 2016

Below are nine books I recommend from what I read this month. 

9 Books I Recommend


1. The Happiness Dare
Pursuing Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire
by Jennifer Dukes Lee


It’s okay to want to be happy as a Christian. Jennifer shares why God also wants us to be happy. Her book offers ways to work with our individual personality types to achieve maximum happiness and holiness.

My book review here of The Happiness Dare

2. Hillbilly Elegy
A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J. D. Vance


Now a lawyer, author J. D. Vance tells how he grew up poor in a small Appalachian town as what many label a hillbilly. He writes of what that meant then and now.

3. 10 Things Jesus Never Said
And Why You Should Stop Believing Them
by Will Davis Jr.


Did Jesus ever say, “It’s all up to you“? Or “This wouldn’t be happening if you were a better Christian“? No. Davis walks through 10 things that Jesus never said that we often believe. I didn’t resonate with everything, but enough to make the book worth recommending.

4. Listening Is an Act of Love
A Celebration of American Life from the Storycorps Project
by Dave Isay


This is a beautiful collection of word-of-mouth stories heard in the StoryCorps’ booth. When we listen to each other’s stories, we are “bearing witness” to life and love and human dignity.

5. The Upside of Irrationality
The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
by Dan Ariely


This book contains more “irrational” things that we do and don’t do from author Dan Ariely (he also wrote Predictably Irrational, one of the favorite books I read in 2009). This one explains why bonuses don’t always work, why we should interrupt fun activities and push through boring ones, and why counting backward helps increase endurance.

6. Big Magic
Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert


Gilbert reminds us that we all are creative beings. She writes to encourage us to bring out the treasures hidden within each of us. Even if we think it’s already been done. “Well, yes, it probably has already been done. Most things have already been done—but they have not yet been done by you.”

7. Running Scared
Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest
by Edward T. Welch


I took multiple notes from this helpful book on worries and fears. Welch gives us a God-honoring view of how to trust more and worry less.

For me, knowing that there is grace for tomorrow has made the most noticeable difference on my own anxieties and fears. The hurdle that was always in front of me was that I couldn’t imagine that grace, which is another way of saying that I limited God to the size of my own imagination. Now I know that I could never imagine that grace because I have yet to receive it.


8. The Serpent King
by Jeff Zentner


This is a somewhat haunting novel about Dill, the teenage son of a fallen Pentecostal preacher in small-town Tennessee. It chronicles Dill and his two outcast friends Lydia and Travis as they work to navigate high school and life.

9. The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


This novel also has a strange feel, but it sheds light on how a young girl might feel who grew up in foster care her whole life. When Victoria ages out of the system, she starts out homeless and penniless. The book keeps alluding to some hidden event that occurred earlier in her life that affected everything; I had to keep reading to find out what it was. As expected, it also contains many flower references, which I also found interesting.

Reading Now

  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
    by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Telling Room
    by Michael Paterniti
  • Without You, There Is No Us
    by Suki Kim
  • The Jesus Creed
    by Scot McKnight

* * *

What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

46 thoughts on “Nine Books I Recommend – August 2016

  1. Linda Stoll

    Lots of new-to-me reads which I always love, Lisa!

    And yes, absolutely, The Language of Flowers did have that strange, off-beat quality to it. I couldn’t put my finger on it when I read it, so I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who found something unique in the telling of the tale …

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I can’t quite tell anyone exactly what was strange about The Language of Flowers. But something. ha. Yet it so intriguing so I had to keep going. I particularly liked when they visited the flower market, something I’d never done until a couple weeks ago! 🙂

  2. Karen

    I read “The Language of Flowers” a few months ago; really liked it! (I even copied/pasted the long flower meaning dictionary into my notepad… the whole using flowers as a language sounds like something I would have done as a young person.)

    Latest reads: a Mitch Albom novel that I enjoyed much more than any other one of his; this one was entitled “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto.” And Carly Simon’s memoir, “Boys in the Trees.” That one was… OK.

    In between books right now. Need to find something else on Overdrive. Oh, I do have a new book I preordered on Kindle that should arrive tomorrow. It is not going to be light reading, though… “Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll have to take note of the Mitch Albom novel. Overdrive is wonderful, yes? I love that the library has Kindle books to borrow these days as well as “real” books. Still love both. 🙂 Your Healing books does sound intense, but likely very helpful too.

  3. Kathy

    I always love new book ideas, so thank you for this! I’m looking forward to reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, and I’ve been meaning to listen to her podcast on the subject of her book. So good to visit again!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Big Magic was an inspiring book for sure. I listened to her podcast about it several months ago, but then deleted it after there was no more new stuff. Hope you enjoy!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Hillbilly Elegy is hard to come by at my library (lots of people in line front of me) so I got on the hold list for the audio book and got it much quicker. It’s read by the author (typically not my fave), but it was still good. I may or may not have missed a few sections though when I listened while in bed. 🙂 Hope you enjoy it if you read it. There were parts I really related to myself from where I’m from.

  4. Kym

    The Dan Ariely book (well, both of his books you mentioned!) looks intriguing to me. Think I might take a look for that one. Lots of interesting books on your list!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Glad you found some titles that piqued your interest, Kristi. I do love books! It’s hard for me to look at reading lists and not come away with a few new ones for myself.

  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Thanks so much, Lisa. I really enjoyed Jennifer’s book. It’s both inspiring and practical. I reviewed it and could do so enthusiastically.

    Tell me: Do you read multiple books concurrently? What’s your style and schedule?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Glad you enjoyed Jennifer’s book too, Lynn. She definitely is hope-filled and encouraging. Yes, I do read multiple books concurrently, usually 4 or 5 at a time. Sometimes that number depends on what has become available at the library. 🙂 I typically read in short spans here and there, so I’m always surprised that I get through several books a month. I feel like I rarely sit down for extended periods to read. Except on trips! Which today is a travel day from Seattle to Alabama so I expect to get a lot of reading done.

  6. Susan

    I read about Hillbilly Elegie in the newspaper and was intrigued — I’ll have to read it eventually for sure. My daughter read the “Beside Ourselves” book for a college course last year — as I recall, she wasn’t a big fan, but I don’t know details. Is that Eliz. Gilbert of “Eat Pray Love” fame? Interesting, esp. given all the news lately on her divorce.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Hillbilly Elegy is getting lots of press right now. I don’t usually catch a book this quick. ha. Beside Ourselves is definitely different; I’m not sure what I think yet…. Yes, same Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve never read any of her novels but her non-fiction writing is entertaining.

  7. Pam

    Ah, Lisa, I always look forward to your lists because they are chocked full of goodies! So, here is what I have been reading in August: If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas, Closer Than Close by Dave Hickman, Wholeheartedness by Chuck DeGroat, and in the fiction category Catching Heat by Janice Cantore, and Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing your reading list, Pam! I always love to see what everyone else is reading too. I’m especially interested in the Eric Metaxas book. I loved his biography on Bonhoeffer.

  8. Barbara H.

    Loved, loved, loved Running Scared. We were just talking in Sunday School this past week about the fact that holiness and happiness aren’t antithetical. I’ve heard too many people say that God is about our holiness, not our happiness, as if the two could never go together, and that really rankled me. I had not heard of Hillbilly Elegy – sounds interesting!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I remember you had good reviews of Running Scared, which pushed it more to the top of my list. I’m glad I finally have read it now too. I need to go back through the notes I took and really put into practice some of his thoughts!

  9. Rachel Q

    These are some great books recommendations! Thanks for the suggestions. I will have to look some of them up! Thanks (Your neighbor at Holley’s place) Happy Wednesday to you!

  10. Beverley

    Like the look of ‘Listening is the Act of Love’ – my new group of women at church is very much an act of love and it certainly comes from feeling like i am being listened too.
    I have read Predictably Irrational last year or so and i have the other one on my book shelf, it is a good reminder to get on with it…
    Big Magic looks good also, although i am getting overloaded with too many of the same type of book, this type. I think my creative gene went to my sister and brother, then missed a generation and went to my daughters 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you have found a good group of listeners, Beverley. It’s not as common as we’d like to think.
      You don’t think you’re creative? That surprises me because I find your writing and thoughts very creative! It just goes to show that others often perceive us differently than we perceive ourselves. 🙂

  11. Sharon

    As always, a great list, Lisa! I bought the book “Running Scared.” Haven’t started it yet, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be one of those *important* books in my life!


    (Been gone on vacation for a while, but wanted you to know that I received the book you sent me. Thank you so much!!)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We’re alike in many ways so I’m guessing you will benefit from Running Scared, too, Sharon. I really resonated with a lot of the fears and anxiety that the author addressed. But I still have to put the advice into practice. Reading it is the easy part; doing it is another story. 🙂 Glad you got the book!

  12. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, I love posts like this and never think to do one. I definitely want to read Running Scared. This is the 2nd time I have seen it mentioned and it seems like a much needed read! I am reading The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith, Rhythms of Rest by Shelly Miller and I started Everything Is Possible by Jen Bricker this afternoon. Yes, {sigh} I read a little from each one every day.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Lots of good titles in your list too, Joanne. Of those, I’ve only read The Good and Beautiful God. I really, really liked it so much. We had a small group that (sort of) read it together. 🙂 But all your titles sound good! Oh, for more time.

  13. floyd

    Well, I have to admit that the Southern based memoir caught my attention. Sounds a lot like the one I penned, just about a generation earlier… and less civilized.

    I can always count on you to keep us in the know about all things books, Lisa!

  14. Melissa Lee

    I agree The Language of Flowers did have a strange feel to it. Almost a grungy..gritty feel, for a better lack of words. I had a hard time pin-pointing exactly what that strange feel was, myself. It is a good book though.

    Wishing you all the best in September.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I actually finished We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves last night and it was so good! I enjoyed it more than The Language of Flowers. Hope you enjoy it too if you read it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I loved The Happiness Dare, too, Sarah. Sounds like we grew up with that same lie of deprivation and hand-to-the-plow mentality. Work, work, work. Not that we aren’t supposed to work. ha. But we’re also meant to enjoy the lives that God has given us. So grateful that Jennifer took the time to write the book.

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