Books I Recommend – March 2016


Books I Recommend


1. Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me

“I left The Mecca knowing that this was all too pat, knowing that should the Dreamers reap what they had sown, we would reap it right with them.”

Until we can move past our white privilege, we will all suffer. This is a profound book that the African-American author Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote to his teenage son about systemic racism in America. Blogger Deidra Riggs hosted a 4-week book discussion on it here. This book was the Red Couch selection for March 2016. (I’ll post a review soon with more quotes.)

2. Habits of Grace
Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines
by David Mathis


“We cast the disciplines not as ten or twelve (or more) distinct practices to work into your life, but as three key principles (God’s voice, God’s ear, and God’s people), which then are fleshed out in countless creative and helpful habits in the varying lives of believers in their differing contexts.”

This book is about the spiritual disciplines, but framed a little differently. Practical and full of grace, two of my favorite things. [My review of Habits of Grace here]

3. Spark Joy
An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo


“The important thing in tidying is not deciding what to discard but rather what you want to keep in your life.”

This is a stand-alone book, but also a continuation of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (my review here). You should see my sock drawer before and after. {smile} If you’re serious about decluttering your home and organizing it in a way that “sparks joy,” this second book is the nitty-gritty on what it can look like. Lots of illustrations. (Review coming here this Thursday.)

4. The Path of Centering Prayer
Deepening Your Experience of God
by David Frenette


“If you asked me how you could meditate, how you should relate to God, how you might pray, I would whisper, ‘Amen.’ If I remember only one simple thing at the end of my own life, I hope it will be amen. Amen means, literally, ‘so be it’ or ‘let it be.’

After any petition or prayer, ‘amen’ is the so be it, the let it be that releases that prayer or petition into God, with a radical trust that nothing more needs to be said, nothing else needs to be done.”

This book gives a very accessible approach to Christian meditation through the practice of centering prayer. Excellent material.

5. A Return to Love
by Marianne Williamson


“We either have faith in fear or we have faith in love, faith in the power of the world or faith in the power of God.”

A re-read for the Hard Core Re-Reading Challenge. And so worth it. This book reminds us to love. To forgive. To make peace. To accept each other. To trust God. I didn’t agree with everything said about A Course in Miracles, but the insights on expressing love are true for all times.


6. The Marriage of Opposites
by Alice Hoffman


“She reminded me of her best piece of advice and suggested I would do well to listen to her. Love more, not less.”

This historical novel is based on the life story of painter Camille Pissarro, the father of Impressionism. The setting is St. Thomas in the early 1800s. Excellent story-telling. This was my pick for the Read Harder challenge in the “Historical fiction set before 1900” category.

7. The Two Towers 
(The Lord of the Rings, #2)
by J.R.R. Tolkien


“What a pity Bilbo did not stab the vile creature, when he had a chance! Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need.”

I never thought I would read this book, but after reading the first book in The Lord of the Rings series this year, I got hooked. And now I’m currently reading the third and final book. Who knew?

8. One Crazy Summer
by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer

“So I sang the la-la-la part with Fern, making a nice wall around us, to keep that laughing Ankton girl on the outside. We all have our la-la-la song. The thing we do when the world isn’t singing a nice tune to us. We sing our own nice tune to drown out ugly.”

This children’s novel set in California during 1968 is about 11-yr-old Delphine and her two younger sisters reuniting with their mother for the summer and ending up attending a Black Panther summer camp. A poignant novel and a 2011 Newbery Honor book.

9. Breaking Stalin’s Nose
by Eugene Yelchin


This short children’s novel is a 2012 Newbery Honor book about the Soviet Young Pioneers and one family’s encounters with Stalin’s men. Another heartrending story based on reality.

I also finished:

  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
    It was tough reading. There were gold nuggets in it, but I had to dig too long for each one.
    “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
  • Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy by Alli Worthington
    My review here. Nothing particularly new about how to be less busy: choose activities wiser and say no more often.
  • The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
    I read this one too quickly to give it a fair review. Contained many concepts that I need to slow down and consider.
  • Reliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark by Walter Wangerin Jr.
    A beautiful devotional that I read during Lent.
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
    I listened to this audio book but can’t really recommend it because of the stories and language. It met this requirement for the Read Harder challenge: “Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award.”

Currently Reading

  • Beloved
    by Toni Morrison
  • The Return of the King
    (The Lord of the Rings, #3)
    by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Wisdom of the Enneagram
    by Don Richard Riso, Russ Hudson
  • The Confessions of St. Augustine
    by Augustine of Hippo

* * *

What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

30 thoughts on “Books I Recommend – March 2016

  1. Linda Stoll

    Yep, Spark Joy was fun, Lisa! If I could read either this one or Marie’s 1st, I’d choose this for the little illustrations and personal stories and practical how-to’s scattered through the book.

    A nice and easy read …

    * It’ll be interesting to see what Marie’s next book will look like now that she has a little one!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree, Linda. If I had to choose one book, I’d probably choose Spark Joy too. I did learn a lot from the first book though and it gave me a great start. I just need a kick in the pants every so often to keep at it. 🙂

  2. Bill (cycleguy)

    Let’s see…Just finished Through the Eyes of a Lion by Levi Lusko. It is a MUST! Currently reading Comeback by Louie Giglio and also Make it Zero by Mary Frances Bowley. I have been taking a break from Moving Mountains by John Eldredge and have The Face of the Deep on deck.

  3. Barbara H.

    I had not heard of The Marriage of Opposites, but it sounds interesting. I had read one of the LOTR books before seeing its film and the other afterward and was trying to decide which way to watch the last one when it came out and we watched it, so I haven’t gotten to The Return of the King yet. I need to put that on my classics TBR list.

    I don’t think I would enjoy Walden from what little I know about it.

    I’m looking forward to your thoughts on Augustine’s Confessions. I’ve thought about it many times but have always been intimidated.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think you would enjoy The Marriage of Opposites too, Barbara. After I finished it, I read more of the history behind the characters. Interesting. I’ve been watching the LOTR movies as I read the book, so I read a little, watch a little. But the third movie is way out of sequence with the book so it’s messing me up a little. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Now I’m understanding that passion. 🙂 I definitely need rereads to understand much of it. Lots of details in these books! Tolkien was quite an intelligent and faith-filled writer.

  4. Jennifer@5 Minutes for Books

    I might pick up Spark Joy. I’ve read lots of articles about her first book, and have tried to implement the principles in buying new things. I have the Spring Cleaning bug, so this might help encourage me! It is hard to let go, but I rarely regret it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I would definitely recommend Spark Joy if you have the spring cleaning bug already! She’ll keep that bug biting. 🙂 I have a hard time letting go of certain things too, but books like this encourage me to just do it. And yes, rarely do I regret it. That should motivate me to let go of even more.

  5. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! You know I’m going to research The Path of Centering Prayer. I love the little snippet you put up about ‘amen’. I never thought of it as a releasing prayer in itself. Love that!

    I tried to read Amy Poehler’s book. I really tried. But I had to return it to the library. It seemed to have no sense of plot, rhythm…I think she did it for the money honestly. And the language and some of the topics? Yikes.

    Between a week-long visit from my daughter and family, and Easter, I am knocked off my book reading. But I have a few that I’ve started. In Memoriam/Henri Nouwen (it’s short) and In God’s Holy Light/Joan Chittister are the main ones.

    Read on my friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I totally get what you’re saying about Amy’s book. If I had been reading it instead of “listening” (and I use that term loosely—sometimes it’s hard for me to stay attentive with audiobooks!), I probably would have shut it down too. The only advantage of the audiobook was that she read it herself (typically I do NOT like that, but in her case, since she is a comedian, it worked) and she had several guest readers. But the content was the bigger problem.

      I’ve yet to read a Joan Chittister book but I do want to. And Henri Nouwen is a favorite. Good reading to you!

  6. Deanna

    You seem to always have at least one book or two that sparks my interest and wind up increasing the number of books on my Want to Read or Consideration shelves over on Goodreads. This month is no different. 🙂

    I’m adding… Habits of Grace, The Path of Centering Prayer, and Breaking Stalin’s Nose. For next year’s Lent season, I hope to remember Reliving the Passion. And you gave me a good reminder to get going on The Confessions of Sr Augustine – which edition are you reading?

    Spark Joy sounds good, but to be honest, I don’t want to read it because I am overwhelmed with life as is and I’m thinking I may feel like a failure with my decluttering process if I take that book on…not a failure per se but taking on the “need” to add one more way of doing something to my plate (does that make sense). One day, when my mindset is more available, I will take a look at the book as I am very curious.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, my to-read list grows every month when I read other people’s nightstand posts. 🙂 I really, really enjoy Reliving the Passion as a Lenten book so I hope it will be meaningful to you too if you use it. I’ve used it several years already and will probably continue to.

      The Confessions of St. Augustine is one I’ve put off a long time too. I’m reading a free version I found online, the forward is by Warren Wiersbe, and it’s a “Modern English Version.” It also may be slightly abridged because it’s not too terribly long. ha. But so far it’s very readable and enjoyable! I’m going slowly to understand it better.

      I totally get delaying Spark Joy. Wait until the season is right for you!

  7. bekahcubed

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the Lord of the Rings books – I started reading them in my mid-teens and rather wish I’d read them even earlier 🙂

    I’ve started and put down Walden more times than I can count. I always see great quotes from it, but there’s so much rambling and nonsense in between the gems that I can’t seem to keep at it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I am reading The Return of the King mainly on my Kindle, but at only 47% in, the story seems to have reached its climax already. I had to look at my paperback version to discover that there are LOTS of pages at the back for the appendix so I’m further into the book than I realized. 🙂 Very good.

      I totally understand why you start and stop Walden. Fairly early on, I began just skimming. I did finally make it to the end, but only because I wanted it to be over. ha. There were some amazing passages, but I had to muddle through a lot to get there.

  8. floyd

    You’re still my reading hero. You’re like Ms. Pacman, but instead of the berries it’s books.

    I’ve only managed to re-read Hank Hanegraaff’s The Apocalypse Code. Guess I like the controversial stuff.

    “I bow humbly before thee,” (I say in an English accent).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Haha. I probably retain as little knowledge as Ms. Pacman would from the books. 🙂 You keep reading the controversial stuff; that’s often the most entertaining and informative. The Last Week had some controversial thoughts in it that I need to think more about. We need to continue being stretched to prove old dogs can still learn new tricks, right? 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Jennifer. I have recently started listening to a new podcast (to me) about what books people recommend and it’s been fascinating (as if I need to add more books to my to-read list!). It’s called “What Should I Read Next?” with Anne Bogel.

  9. Kym

    I really like how you include a quote from each of the books you mention. What a great idea, and one I may borrow (if I remember!) for my next monthly summary!

    I read Marie Kondo’s first book and gave it a mixed review. Found some of it very practical and helpful, and there were other parts that I thought a bit “out there”. I might pick up Spark Joy just to see how it compares.

    Thanks for visiting my Bookshelf Review!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Kym. I like including the quotes when I can because it gives a better taste of the book than just my words alone. Yes, some of Kondo’s suggestions are a little too out there for me too. 🙂 Spark Joy is very similar to the first book, except that the extra illustrations are very helpful!

  10. David

    Dear Lisa

    Habits of Grace and Centering Prayer both sound very good. I am loving Open Mind, Open Heart, but it’s a very slow read. Every sentence I read I want to act on it, bring it to life. It’s very readable, but over-stimulating. Perhaps I should read it “normally” then read it again “actively”.

    I don’t suppose Breaking Stalin’s Nose has anything to do with the Gogol story (The Nose)? Very good story (short, funny ,weird).

    I have just finished reading “Anglicanism: a very short introduction”. I have almost no grasp of “denominations” so this was interesting for that side of things, what a “Church” is or should be, etc. I will probably have a look at the “Apostle’s Creed” and the “Nicene Creed” to see how I measure up. Are those kinds of things universally important? I suppose you can’t let in any old heretic…


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I remember wanting to read Open Heart very slowly too. Some books call for that simmering pace. You’re wise to want to bring it to life.

      Breaking Stalin’s Nose is unrelated to the Gogol story. It’s a young boy who is a loyal follower of Stalin…and then his father is arrested as a spy.

      Perhaps it’s good that you don’t know much about denominations? 🙂 I know more than I’d like to. They tend to be divisive instead of unitive for the church as a whole.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *