7 Books I Recommend – May 2019

I’m stingy with my personal list of 5-star ratings.

But for books #1-5 below, I easily give 5-stars. So, so good.

(#6 and 7 are also very good.)

7 Books I Recommend_LisaNotes

Books I Recommend


1. Atomic Habits
An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
by James Clear

Atomic Habits

If you care about making good habits in your life, this is a must-read. I’d been hearing it was good; it lives up to the hype. I’m already applying several little tricks to my own life to improve habits.

“Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”

[click here if you can’t see 1-Minute Book Review]

James Clear has a great newsletter you can sign up for here. It is often excerpts from the book Atomic Habits.

2. Never Split the Difference
Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It
by Chris Voss

Never Split the Difference

This book is also SO good. Author Chris Voss is a former hostage negotiator for the FBI. He uses his experience (such fascinating stories!) to explain nine strategies we can use to make our lives better (not just for negotiations, but for relationships).

“Your most powerful tool in any verbal communication is your voice. . . .You can be very direct and to the point as long as you create safety by a tone of voice that says I’m okay, you’re okay, let’s figure things out.”

Chris Voss also has an informative weekly newsletter with one tip each week at his blog, Black Swan. Even when it doesn’t apply directly to me, there’s something I can use each time.

3. Off the Clock
Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done
by Laura Vanderkam

Off the Clock

This is yet another game-changing book. Too often I catch myself saying, “I just don’t have enough time.” This book helped me realize mistakes I’m making with time and how to correct them.

Off the Clock is not just a time-management book though (although it is partially that), but also a philosophy of living.

Be warned: Laura Vanderkam strongly encourages you to track your time for two weeks to see where it’s actually going. It’s painful. But enlightening. (I’m using the free version of Toggl to track my time; if you want a digital tool to track your time, I highly recommend Toggl.)

“I repeat a two-part mantra: Plan it in. Do it anyway. If my anticipating self wanted to do something, my remembering self will be glad to have done it. Indeed, my experiencing self may even enjoy parts of it. I am tired now, but I will always be tired, and we draw energy from meaningful things.”

I also listen to Laura Vanderkam’s short podcast, Before Breakfast, each morning.

4. Dreyer’s English
An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style
by Benjamin Dreyer

Dreyer's English

If you write anything (blogs, books, emails, etc.), this book is a wonderful resource. But beyond that, it is very entertaining. Author Benjamin Dreyer (copy chief at Random House) is an expert at using words. Who knew a grammar book could be so funny? I had to read excerpts out loud again and again to Jeff because they were so witty.

Here’s some writing advice:

“Here’s your first challenge: Go a week without writing very, rather, really, quite, in fact. And you can toss in—or, that is, toss out—’just’ (not in the sense of ‘righteous’ but in the sense of ‘merely’) and ‘so’ (in the ‘extremely’ sense, though as conjunctions go it’s pretty disposable too).

   “Oh yes: ‘pretty.’..And ‘of course.’ That’s right out. And ‘surely.’ And ‘that said.’

   “And ‘actually’? Feel free to go the rest of your life without another ‘actually.'”

5. Doing Life with Your Adult Children
Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out
by Jim Burns

Doing Life with Your Adult Children

There are thousands of books on parenting young children. But parenting adult children? Not many. This book is excellent. Written from a Christian perspective, Jim Burns answers questions like:

  • When is it okay to give advice to our adult children?
  • What do we do if they’re about to make a big mistake?
  • How do we relate to our child’s spouse?
  • Where’s the line between enabling and helping?

“There is relatively little available about the challenges of parenting an adult child. Yet we will spend more time as a parent of an adult child than we will as the parent of a young child and adolescent.”

My daughters are both in their 20s, but I’m still their mother. They still need me, just in a different way. This book helps clarify the way. (Thanks, Beth, for tipping me off to this one and for the giveaway copy.)

[See review and more quotes here of Doing Life with Adult Children]

6. The Lost City of the Monkey God  
by Douglas Preston

Lost City of the Monkey God

This is a 4-star book for me, only because it had more historical detail than I needed. But if lots of background information is your thing, you might give it 5 stars. It’s the true story of discovering a lost city in the jungles of Honduras. It’s not for the squeamish. The journey was dangerous, snake-filled, and disease-ridden. But fascinating.


7. The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

Poisonwood Bible

This novel is about a traditional, evangelical Baptist missionary, Nathan Price, who takes his wife and four daughters to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The female characters take turns narrating the chapters. Living in Africa turns out to be much more difficult than they had imagined or prepared for.

Barbara Kingsolver does an excellent job switching voices for each character and keeping the plot rolling along over three decades. It’s a long book (546 pages), but the length felt necessary to fully hear the story.


  • I’d Rather Be Reading
    The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life
    by Anne Bogel
  • Glorious Weakness
    Discovering God in All We
    by Alia Joy
  • Outliers
    The Story of Success
    by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Almost Everything
    Notes on Hope
    by Anne Lamott
  • In the Shadow of Statues
    A White Southerner Confronts History
    by Mitch Landrieu
  • The Highly Sensitive Person
    How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You
    by Elaine N. Aron
  • Born to Run
    by Bruce Springsteen
  • Nine Perfect Strangers
    by Liane Moriarty

* * *

What good book are you reading this month? Please share in the comments.

My books on Goodreads
More books I recommend

39 thoughts on “7 Books I Recommend – May 2019

  1. Linda Stoll

    Oh …. I think you’ll love I’d Rather Be Reading, Lisa! It was one of my favorites last year …

    I’m in the middle of Larry Crabb’s When God’s Ways Make No Sense. Good stuff …

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Linda. So far I am really enjoying Anne’s book! I have to just stop and smile at all the things that hit home with me about reading. She was reading my mind when she wrote it. 🙂

      Larry Crabb is one of my favorites; such wisdom in his words. That sounds like a powerful book.

  2. Bethany

    Always such fun to read your lists! I hadn’t heard of any of these. The grammar book sounds really very rather interesting haha!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. I like what you did there, Bethany. I should have proofed this post for how many times I used those words myself! 🙂 I’m sure there were several instances.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, I always appreciate your thoughtful review–you and Tim Challies (do you ever read his)? I also enjoy the videos and wish you’d do more of them. 🙂 I may have asked you this, but on your upcoming list, do you read these concurrently? I ask, because you say, “reading now,” present tense. It implies (or at least I infer), that you are dipping in and out of all or most of them. I’m ACTUALLY doing that right now, and I’m not so sure it is proving to be a great USE OF MY TIME or a GOOD HABIT. I used to read one book at a time, cover to cover. Now I’m finding I feel distracted, or sometimes bored w/ a book. I’ve learned, on a rare occasion, not to finish a book that is REALLY poor quality. Life is too short to do so. I have even occasionally (gasp!) thrown a book away if I have scribbled it up too much, having really milked it for all it’s worth, but am now moving on. But mostly, I keep my books–lots and lots of them. I need to read what I have. That’s another thing: As I’d said, I read my books. But people like you, make new titles tempting :), and I have also taken advantage of book sales while they last–like, recently at LifeWay. And isn’t that sad that it’s closing its doors?? Your reviews will be all the more helpful to me now, b/c I want some idea of what a book contains before I purchase it, and now, it will be less and less possible to browse books before buying. Keep reading and keep reviewing, please!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Lynn, I love reading Tim Challies’ “A La Carte” and his book reviews too. There are always things I click on in his posts.

      To answer your question, yes, I do read those books concurrently. I like having a variety of books to choose from, depending on the mood I’m in. I *try* to read a few pages in each one every few days, but it doesn’t always work that way. Some books require a slower pace and others I can speed through if the content isn’t that great. I’m trying to get better like you and just STOP reading books that aren’t worth my time. I do it more often than I used to.

      I tried reading only one book at a time for a season. It was really hard for me. So I guess we each have to do what works for us! ha. Thankfully there’s no right or wrong way.

      I took a couple of years where I concentrated on reading the books I had in my house. I made a dent in the pile, so after that time, I try not to let that backlog get too big. Fortunately, I’m more of a library reader than a book-buyer so I usually HAVE to read them (or not) and get them out of my house every few weeks. 🙂

      1. Lynn D. Morrissey

        We’re Challies fans. Yay. And yes, I do go the library route and that has saved time and $ in the end. I even went through a season of 3 mos., God-led, not to read anything but the Bible, b/c I realized my books were becoming an idol. I also know sometimes I would rather read than act, and in my perfectionism, I think I have to read every known fact about something before moving forward. Translation: Stall tactic.
        Tx so much for sharing.

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          Ha. I know what you mean, Lynn: it’s easier for me to read than to act, too. I strive for balance but it’s not always easy, putting down my books to LIVE what I’m learning.

  4. Barbara Harper

    I got Off the Clock on your recommendation – rather, I put it on my wish list, and someone got it for me for Mother’s Day. 🙂 One of the things I liked when I clicked over from your review and looked at the contents on Amazon was that she put spending time with people as important. Other books I’ve seen about time management talk about how to avoid or get rid of people who mess up your schedule – which, I’m sorry to say, is too often what I feel like doing. I know interruptions and other people’s needs are part of God’s will for me, too, so I liked that this book seemed to stress their importance. And hopefully it will have some tips for balancing making time for others and still getting done what needs to be done.

    The ones about English and adult children look really good, too.

    The Highly Sensitive Person was very helpful for me, though I didn’t agree with every little thing in it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I love, too, in Off the Clock that Laura Vanderkam does value people. In my time-tracking project, I have a category specifically for “Family/Friends”. I’m like you and can bend toward seeing people as distractions that can mess up my schedule. 🙂 I try to overcome that tendency by thinking I have all the time in the world to accomplish what God wants me to accomplish, and people are his most prized treasures.

      Being a word person, you’d probably appreciate the content in the English book too. I appreciate someone who is so careful and smart with their word choices and Benjamin Dreyer is definitely that.

      I find that I’m skimming quite a bit in The Highly Sensitive Person. Some areas really hit home, but others don’t seem relevant to me. Maybe I’m not as highly sensitive as I thought I was. ha.

  5. Laurie

    Lisa, when I read your book recommendations, my TBR list always grows by leaps and bounds. The grammar book sounds like a must-read. I think I would eliminate half the words in most of my posts if I followed the instructions here, but since I don’t have an editor (other than me), it would certainly be an improvement.

    I love Barbara Kingsolver. I think I have read everything she has ever written. I liked Poisonwood Bible, but it was not my favorite. I usually like her non-fiction books best.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      So you’re making me want to go look up more Barbara Kingsolver books. 🙂 Poisonwood Bible is the first book of hers that I have read (that I’m aware of). And she writes non-fiction? I’ll definitely have to look that up since that is my first love. 🙂

  6. Lesley

    This is another inspiring list of books! I love the quote from Off The Clock – I’m quite good at planning what I want to do but less good at following through so this sounds like it would be a useful book for me, as would the grammar one!
    I’m in the middle of I’d Rather Be Reading at the moment as well and I’m enjoying it so far.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I finished I’d Rather Be Reading last night; I’m sad that it’s over. It was a fun and easy read of things I could really relate to. Hope you’re enjoying it as well, Lesley!

      Off the Clock was an inspiring book in many ways. I’m guessing that each reader would glean something different but useful from it.

  7. Mother of 3

    That time management book sounds great and I’m wondering if that grammar book would be a good fit for my high school student; it might be a fun way to cover some extra grammar without a dry, boring textbook!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I would guess yes, that Dreyer’s English would be very interesting to a high schooler. There might be some references they wouldn’t get but Dreyer has TONS of footnotes to explain things (and the footnotes are great too). 🙂

  8. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I always have to pop in for your “top reads” as I have enjoyed some of your other recommendations. I know the book on parenting your adult children needs to be on my list. It can be a really rough road and like you said, not much is written on the topic. Potty training? Yes, tons written. Adult crises…not so much. Thanks for sharing!
    Bev xx

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Exactly, Bev. I remember reading so many books on parenting when my children were little. I guess I never thought I’d need any when they were older! ha. (I was wrong!) 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll look forward to reading that post, Michele! I’m so glad that you’re a contributor at Desiring God. You have the skills, the knowledge, and the heart for it. And yes, the Adult Children book might be a great resource for you as you write.

  9. bill (cycleguy)

    My reading has slowed some due to the summer but also a busy schedule. However, there are two books I highly recommend. They are by Tim Keesee. One is called Dispatches from the Front and the other is A Company of Heroes. Fantastic books about missionaries in out of the way, dangerous places.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve heard of Dispatches from the Front so I’ll watch to see what you think if it’s worth reading, Bill. I always like hearing what books you’ve got going on. I hope to dive into a few new books in June with a bit of on-the-road time (in the passenger’s seat!).

  10. jodie filogomo

    You always have the most amazing books to talk about Lisa.
    The one with adult children sounds like something we all need to read.

  11. Trudy

    I’m always amazed at the variety and quantity of books you read, Lisa. 🙂 I look forward to your full book review about Adult Children. More and more we’re learning to say less and pray more. I always love listening to your southern accent. 🙂 Love and blessings to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Say less; pray more. That’s a great mantra, Trudy! I’m sure our kids would appreciate it. Thanks for your kindness about the video. I’m still not comfortable hearing myself, but trying to stretch. 🙂

  12. Rebecca Hastings

    I always love your book posts! Especially your one minute videos! You give so much information in that single minute!

    I can’t wait to check some of these out. Especially Atomic Habits. And maybe I’ll be brave enough to track my time and check out Off the Clock!

    I just finished Nine Perfect Strangers recently. Good read. Not my favorite of hers, but had great characters which is my favorite!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Well, every month I almost don’t do that video. ha. So thanks, Rebecca. I have to tell myself it’s only a minute; surely I can do just a minute. 🙂

      I’m still tracking my time (it’s been more than 2 weeks) but I hope to do a deep dive soon into the stats I’ve gathered and see where I can streamline or cut some things out. We’ll see.

      I’m halfway in Nine Perfect Strangers. I’m not sure which direction it’s going to take but I feel something ominous is in the air…

  13. floyd

    Those first five have to be good. I’ve heard a lot of your reviews and this is a big one!

    That Never Split the Difference caught my eye. I’ve come to see that as the norm in business so this is compelling.

    Add it to the growing stack!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Floyd: this was a big one. To have that many great books in one month was such fun! 🙂 Poor Jeff; I read a lot of excerpts to him from my books this month. Then again, he’d rather have the Readers’ Digest retellings than have to read them himself. ha.

      I think you would like Never Split the Difference. I recommended it most to Jeff as well. The informational content is excellent, but the stories are also amazing.

  14. Tammy L Kennington

    Hi Lisa,

    I’m making my summer list now so this is actually very helpful. (Ha!Ha!) I just posted about several books I recommend, as well.

    Have a great day and thanks for the recommendations!

    Peace and grace,

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Just read your post, Tammy! Thanks for sharing your list. It’s always helpful to me to see what other people are reading, especially when it’s non-fiction, my favorites. 🙂

  15. Maree Dee

    Lisa – Thank you for sharing your books. I like that you put a little review with each one. My only problem is I don’t seem to have enough time to read everything I want to. SO maybe I better start with Off the Clock. I am happy you share each week with Grace and Truth. You have wonderful posts! I pinned your post.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I share that problem with you, Maree. I never have enough time to read all the books I want to. I’m learning that I have to be pickier as I get older because my time is running out. 🙂 I’ll never complete my to-read list as it is, so I don’t want to waste time on books that don’t encourage me. Thanks for pinning my post and for hosting us each week!

  16. Jean Wise

    I love the research and the practical lessons in Atomic Habits. One I bought and applied too. Just commented on the other post re the adult children book but now I have added Dreyers English to my want list. A write needs references, right?

  17. Lynn

    I have heard great things about Atomic Habits. I think I am going to have to add it to my reading list. I have had The Poisonwood Bible in my TBR stack for awhile. I think I am going to have to finally read it this summer. I have heard so many things about it from people that loved it, so I need to finally read it. I loved I’d Rather Be Reading. I actually listened to the audio version of it and it was great because Anne did the audio for it. Thanks for sharing what you have been reading. I love hearing what others are reading.

  18. Evelyn Krieger

    Great list! Thanks. I also loved “Never Split the Difference”. Best memoir of the year and debut–Educated. Beautifully written, incredible story of resilience, family loyalty and abuse, rising above one’s roots, and the power of education to transform a life. Unforgettable.

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