Books I Recommend – February 2016

Books I Recommend February 2016


1. Christianity After Religion
The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening
by Diana Butler Bass


“Awakening is not a miracle we receive; it is actually something we can do….What do you do to participate in awakening? Perform faith. Display the kingdom in all that you do. Anticipate the reign of God in spiritual practices. Act up and act out for God’s love.”

This is an excellent and intriguing look at the current state of Christianity and the rising trend of spirituality over religion. I highly recommend this book for a continued conversation about belonging, behaving, and believing.

2. George
by Alex Gino


The main character George wants to play the part of Charlotte in their class play of Charlotte’s Web, but the teacher says a boy can’t take that roll. This is a challenging but important young adult novel about transgenderism. It’s my “Middle Grade Novel” pick from the Read Harder Challenge 2016 and well as for the category of “Book by or about a person that identifies as transgender.”

3. When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead


This 2010 Newbery Medal winner is about 6th grader Miranda and a series of anonymous letters she’s receiving in 1978 in her home in New York. It’s a fun and easy to read mystery (and includes a few A Wrinkle in Time references). I enjoyed it.

4. An Abundance of Katherines
by John Green


Maybe the geniuses don’t have it so good after all. This novel by the author of The Fault in Their Stars is a coming-of-age novel about the intelligent Colin and his crush on girls named Katherines.

5. No Mud, No Lotus
The Art of Transforming Suffering
by Thich Nhat Hanh

No mud no lotus

“When we learn to acknowledge, embrace, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less.”

We each have our trials in life. We can’t escape them. But we can be transformed through them. In this book Hanh talks about facing our suffering without being overwhelmed by it.

6. How to Love
(Mindfulness Essentials, #3)

by Thich Nhat Hanh

how to love

“In the beginning of a relationship, your love may include only you and the other person. But if you practice true love, very soon that love will grow and include all of us.”

I’ve fallen in love with the wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh (I read three of his books this month—they’re short and practical). This book centers on the different ways to love, as well as meditative practices to expand our capacity for love.

7. The Art of Communicating
by Thich Nhat Hanh


“If your partner says something untrue, don’t interrupt and say, ‘No, no, you’re wrong. That wasn’t my intention.’ Let him speak out. He’s just trying to speak out the difficulty. If you interrupt, he will lose his inspiration to speak, and he will not tell you everything. You have plenty of time. You may even take a number of days to look deeply, in order to skillfully tell him about his wrong perception when he can hear it.”

How do we understand others and become understood ourselves? Hanh has practical recommendations, including these 6 statements to say when we don’t know what to say.

8. How to Meditate
A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind
by Pema Chodron


“Meditation gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on.”

For Lent I’m attempting to do Centering Prayer everyday, so this book was a beautiful reminder to keep coming back to the present moment, and for me, to be more welcoming of God in the present moment.

[see quotes from How to Meditate here]

9. The Fellowship of the Ring
(The Lord of the Rings, #1)
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Fellowship of the Ring-Tolkien

I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, after starting the trilogy when I was younger and finding it too confusing. But I decided to give it a try again as an adult for my 2016 Reading Challenges. And now I can’t get enough. I’m currently reading The Two Towers, and am already looking forward to the third book.


  • Habits of Grace
    Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines
    by David Mathis
  • Breaking Busy
    How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy
    by Alli Worthington
  • Reliving the Passion
    Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark
    by Walter Wangerin Jr.
  • The Two Towers
    (The Lord of the Rings, #2)
    by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Walden
    by Henry David Thoreau
  • A Return to Love
    by Marianne Williamson
  • The Path of Centering Prayer
    Deepening Your Experience of God
    by David Frenette
  • The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman

* * *

What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

30 thoughts on “Books I Recommend – February 2016

  1. Linda Stoll

    Kate Morton novels! The new Marie Kondo book!

    Nothing heavy … light is working for me right about now.

    Enjoy curling up and settling in, friend.

    Oh and speaking of what we’re reading, I’m giving away a new favorite book for little ones on my blog this week.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes light reading is just the thing, Linda! I’ve got Marie Kondo’s new book too. Excited about digging into it, but trying to finish up some library books first. For better or for worse, those usually get first priority because of the deadline.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I admire you for re-reading The Lord of the Rings so frequently–they are very long books. ha. But I now understand the draw. I finished book 2 yesterday, but I have some other books I need to finish before I start book 3. It’s pulling on me though! 🙂

  2. Kayla Marie

    I just got “A Wrinkle In Time” from the library. If I like it, I’m thinking of reading the whole series.

    Seriously? “The Fellowship”? You go, girl! It drives me crazy when adults don’t read these totally awesome books because they’re considered “children’s lit.” They miss so much… I think that most of my all-time favorites are categorized as “children’s lit.”

    Anyway, glad you’re enjoying it. I think you will love the other two as well. They are fantastic!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I loved the A Wrinkle in Time series. Hope you enjoy it too. I’m grateful for MANY books in the children’s lit category. I’m trying to read more of the current Newbery Medal winners from the 2010s this year. Always intriguing. Hope to start The Return of the King soon! I need to finish a few others first….

  3. David

    Dear Lisa

    I should probably read George, as I get up to that kind of thing a lot. Two
    things that make me wary: (1) IME novels for children that are “issue-driven”
    like this tend to be very ham-fisted and moralistic (more like propaganda than
    like literature); (2) although it would probably be very easy for me to
    identify with George and his plight, I don’t at all buy in to the current
    ideology around “transgenderism”. IMHO the entire concept of “gender” is
    harmful and regressive (inhuman) and I wish people would just stop using the
    word. (I could go into a Very Long Rant). Will possibly find this book
    upsetting for The Wrong Reasons LOL. I will read it; thanks for the tip-off.

    After reading your recent post on meditation I am definitely on the look-out
    for a book on “Christian” meditation / meditation from a Christian
    point-of-view / meditation and prayer / …? I really enjoy praying, and I
    enjoy meditating, so this could be very exciting for me. (Praying, and
    meditating, and writing in my diary all have a very obvious beneficial effect
    on my behaviour, so it’s not just self-indulgence.)

    My reading: I recently finished “Wearing God” by Lauren F. Winner (I’m sure I
    saw a link to it here somewhere). It was perfect for me in many ways and
    helped me crawl out of a bleak couple of months. While I’m here, my scripture
    reading plan for this year is the minor prophets: I read Isaiah and Jeremiah and
    Ezekiel last year and loved the impression of the relationship between God and
    humanity as a developing passionate love affair. (Will also be keeping in touch
    with the Psalms.)


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Well, I don’t know if I can or cannot recommend “George” on the issues you mentioned. My viewpoint is so limited to begin with. Was this book propaganda? Regressive? Someone more qualified than me could answer those questions better. If you do read it, do let me know your take on it. I’d be much interested.

      If you’re interested in Christian meditation, Father Thomas Keating has been a modern prolific writer and proponent of it, most notably in his book, Open Mind, Open Heart. But there are others I liked reading equally well: Cynthia Bourgeault’s Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, and David Frenette’s The Path to Centering Prayer (I’m currently reading). Those are all specifically on centering prayer though, which I’d consider as just one avenue of meditation. Thich Nhat Hanh gives a Buddhist perspective, but does share valuable principles that easily correlate with Christianity (my opinion).

      I haven’t read Wearing God but I did read Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner and enjoyed hearing her ideas on spiritual disciplines. I’m sure I would benefit from reading Wearing God as well.

      The minor prophets huh? Yes, definitely stay in touch with the Psalms while you’re in there so it won’t be too gloom and doom. ha. There is good stuff in the minor prophets–they are definitely worth reading!, but I find I have to weed through a lot of hard stuff to get there (again, just my opinion).

      1. David

        Dear Lisa

        I’ve looked into it a bit more and I don’t think I shall read George: the author seems very rooted in this new medicalised paradigm that I don’t like 🙁

        FWIW there’s a British novel for children that came out in 2008 called “The boy in the dress” by David Walliams. Not a good novel (derivative, trite), but presented the issues in a way more familiar to my experience: a boy wants to wear dresses and make-up — so let him!

        Thank you for the prayer & meditation book pointers. I have ordered “Open Mind, Open Heart”. I am on the road again soon to visit Dad so I’l have an opportinity to read and practise.


        1. LisaNotes Post author

          I’m glad you looked more into “George” for yourself. It’s always an iffy thing to recommend books to others. Glad to hear about the British novel you recommend. Since you won’t be reading George, I’ll spoil the ending: it also ends with the boy wearing dresses and make-up and being accepted by his family and close friends as he is.

  4. Bill (cycleguy)

    I’m reading “An Unquiet Mind.” The author is bi-polar. Also have Moving Mountains by John Eldredge to read. Make it Zero (the movement to safeguard every child) by Bowley and Franklin. I just ordered The Face of the Deep, Through the Eyes of a Lion and The Comeback today. Lots to read in the days to come.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      An Unquiet Mind sounds like an interesting and informative book, Bill. Not an easy read, I’d guess. Yes, you have lots of good books to read in the days ahead! Enjoy.

  5. Barbara H.

    I really enjoyed the first two books in the LOTR series but this reminds me I never did read the third one. I was trying to decide whether to read or watch first when the 3rd film came out and ended up watching. Now I would probably need to reread the first two to be ready for the third one. I am sure I’ll plan revisit them some time. I listened to the audiobook of The Hobbit narrated by Rob Inglis and loved how he did it, so I will probably look to see if he has narrated LOTR as well.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I finished the second LOTR book this week, but don’t know when I’ll start the 3rd one. I’d love to soon, but I’ve got a couple books from the library that already have holds on them, so I’ve got to finish those first. But I don’t want to wait too long or I’ll forget what was in books 1 and 2. ha. As I was reading them, I’d read a little, then watch a little of the movie, read a little, watch a little. It helped me make sense of it all to SEE the characters as well as read about them. 🙂

  6. Mary Geisen

    Hi Lisa! What an extensive list of books! I know both of my sons loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I just finished reading the Yada Yada Prayer Group, 1st book and loved it. I am also slowly digging into NT Wright’s Simply Good News which is also part of an online course I am taking. One of my favorite authors is Lisa Wingate, who wrote The Story Keeper plus many other books. I love to read but find that I can’t get through books as fast as I would like to. You inspire me, Lisa!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I read the Yada Yada Prayer Group series awhile back and was very encouraged by it to continue praying with friends. Glad to be reminded of that! Hope you’ll enjoy other books from that series if you continue. I’m guessing NT Wright’s book is a much more difficult read. 🙂 I’ve read some of his work before; not something you can skim through.

  7. Jean Wise

    I love your eclectic collection of readings. I am reading Deep Work right now and really like it. Have it from the library and thinking I will buy one for myself. Also reading Presence – interesting read . I want to see her TED talk next which lead to the book. Author is Amy Cuddy. you may like them.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing the info about Amy Cuddy. I’ll go look up her TED talk. I haven’t heard of either Deep Work or Presence, but the titles sound like books I would enjoy too (and especially if you are enjoying them, ha).

  8. floyd

    Okay. Now you’re just showing off…!

    Amazing how much you can get to and through.

    Those books by T.N.H. sound interesting. I’ve never come close to that kind of patience… which is why I should probably read the books…

    I’m re-reading The Apocalypse Code by Hank Hanegraaff. Pretty amazing take and read on such a massively divisive subject.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yeah, I don’t have even 1% of the patience that TNH has. I don’t think I want to go through the discipline to get there like he has though. ha. I’ve heard of The Apocalypse Code but never read it. Sounds intriguing!

  9. Tonia

    I still haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time… must get that added to my list.

    We LOVE The Lord of the Rings – I’m listening to the audio version with my daughter and she’s loving it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, yes, you must read A Wrinkle in Time. It’s so good on many levels, for the child as well as the adult. I listened to The Hobbit on audiobook and loved it. I imagine TLOTR is just as good!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      TNH’s books are new to me this year. How have I missed them before? ha. Glad to have discovered them now anyway. I love how you describe his writing: “tender and enlightening.” I totally agree.

  10. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I am so glad that you’re loving Thich Nhat Hahn and Pema Chodron! May I also recommend Shiryu Suzuki? “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” and “Not Always So” are on my nightstand.

    I rather agree with David’s comments about “George”; introducing a hot-button issue like transgenderism to adolescents can make coming-of-age much, much harder because of the physical and psychological changes they’re already going through. I think that most pubescent boys do wonder what it would ‘feel like’ to be female – I certainly did – but planting something of a political seed may be unwise.

    I’m currently reading some opposites – Mark Bowden’s “Killing Pablo”, about the rise and fall of the drug ‘lord’ Pablo Escobar, and “The Chronicles of Narnia”.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, do recommend more books to me, Andrew. I’m always up for recommendations. I’ll look up both those books you mentioned! Sounds like you’ve got a diverse collection of books going on right now too. It’s the best kind of reading to me, something for whatever mood you’re in. Praying your weekend is a smooth one.

  11. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! I love that title “No Mud, No Lotus”. Such a terse, interesting thought! I’ll have to write that one down.
    I’ve never read the Lord of the Rings series, which always scandalizes my sister. She LOVES those books. I think it’s great that you’re continuing to read about centering prayer too. I know we connect in the love of that practice.
    I wrote down the author Thich Nhat Hanh. Sounds interesting!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know, isn’t that such a great title by TNH? I’m guessing you would love his books as much as I do.

      I originally bought The Lord of the Rings books for my daughters, but neither one of them were ever the least bit interested. So before I got rid of the collection, I thought I’d better give them one more try myself. I didn’t expect to really like them this much. ha. I hope to start the third one in a few weeks.

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