What Your Reading List Says About You + 4 Books I Recommend

In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.
– Mortimer J. Adler

The Stories We Make Up

It was someone else’s receipt. His name was Mr. Brewer.

He left his library receipt in the library book, Because Internet, that I had just checked out. I eagerly looked at his list.

  • When you catch someone reading a book in public, do you strain to see what it is?
  • Do you glance at the titles on your friend’s bookshelves?
  • When fellow bloggers share their favorite books of the year, do you eagerly click the links?

I like seeing what books other people choose. I can make up personal stories when I see their reading choices. Do you do this, too?

Books on Mr. Brewer’s receipt included:

  • Because Internet—Mr. Brewer is curious about life. He’s an internet user and finds it interesting to learn why people communicate the way they do online. (Maybe he’s also an Enneagram 5 like me?)
  • German for Travelers—He likes to be prepared. He’s planning a trip to Germany (at least pre-coronavirus; his books were due 2/5/20). He doesn’t want to be caught by surprise in Germany, so he’s reading up on it here.
  • German at a Glance—He also wants to speak the language some. Say a few words. Maybe he already speaks it a little German but needs to brush up on it.
  • Easy Spanish-Step-by-Step—Mr. Brewer is certainly industrious. Maybe he’ll also journey over to Spain while he’s in Europe. Might as well learn a little Spanish, too.

There are alternate stories, of course. But this one satisfies me. I tore the receipt up.

And wondered what stories people make up about my reading choices. . . .

Here are books I recommend from May. See all my recommended books here. Draw your own conclusions about my personality by the books I favor.

4 Books I Recommend May 2020_pin


1. Upstream
The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen
by Dan Heath


I would rather prevent a mess before it happens than have to clean it up afterward. This book explains SO many implications this simple concept has in our daily lives.

I’ll always read Dan Heath’s books. He’s an excellent nonfiction writer who includes lots of stories and facts with such clarity like none other. This book will make my top 10 list for 2020.

Read coronavirus implications from upstream and downstream thinking here

2. Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman


Kahneman explains about the two ways we think: the intuitive level (he calls it System 1) and the more logical level (System 2). Understanding this about ourselves has long-lasting implications. Another top 10 book for the year.

I see this book referenced in many other books I read. Now I understand why. Even though it took me months to finish it (I read it slowly), it was worth it.

3. The Truth about Us
The Very Good News about How Very Bad We Are
by Brant Hansen

The Truth about Us

We all like to think we’re a good person, right? In a fun but serious way, this book steps on our prideful toes. It helps us understand that none of us are as good as we unrealistically think we are. But God has us covered anyway. It’s liberating. And inspiring.

I’ll be chewing on this book for a long time. And re-reading it, like I did Hansen’s Unoffendable. (Could I have finished three top 10 books for 2020 in this one month???) Full book review coming soon.

4. Braving the Wilderness
The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
by Brené Brown

Braving the Wilderness

I first read this book three years ago. But I finished it again this month with my book club group. It’s worth mentioning again.

It’s as relevant as ever.

As we saw the country strongly divide over politics the past few years, we’re now seeing it divide again through differing reactions to the coronavirus fallout. Brené helps us understand how to stay connected to each other in the wilderness, even when we disagree.

Reading Now

  • Beartown
    by Fredrik Backman
  • Because Internet
    Understanding the New Rules of Language
    by Gretchen McCulloch
  • Write Better
    A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality

    by Andrew T. Le Peau
  • I’ve Seen the End of You
    A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know
    by W. Lee Warren
  • You’re a Miracle (and a Pain in the A**)
    Understanding the Hidden Forces That Make You You
    by Mike McHargue (Science Mike)
  • Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire
    The Guide to Being Glorious You
    by Jen Hatmaker

* * *

What good book are YOU reading this month? What does it say about you? Do you like looking at other people’s bookshelves? Please share in the comments.

More books I recommend

32 thoughts on “What Your Reading List Says About You + 4 Books I Recommend

  1. Melissa Kowalewski

    Great post – I ALWAYS look at people’s bookshelves. I find that it gives me insight into their interests and values. It gives you something to talk about. I also look at what people are reading in public. I am constantly carrying a book with me to read while I wait somewhere. You never know where you can get a good rec for your next read!

  2. Martha J Orlando

    I just finished reading Plainsong by Kent Haruf, and was oh, so pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Funny, but I found it on one of our bookshelves downstairs, and I don’t even remember buying it – lol! Anyway, great work of down home fiction.
    Blessings, Lisa, and thanks for your recommendations here!

  3. Laurie

    I love seeing what other people who are reading the same books as I am are reading. That’s why I love your book posts so much. I finished Brene Brown’s book last month and loved it. Now I must search for other books by her. I have heard other good things about Upstream and You’re a Miracle too. Thanks for the wonderful tips, Lisa!

  4. Barbara Harper

    I like your story about Mr. Brewer. Sounds good to me! 🙂 I do like to see what others are reading, and I love to look at other people’s bookshelves. One of the best ways to start a conversation!

    I’ve always been amazed at how much nonfiction you read. Nonfiction always takes longer for me to get through, unless it’s a biography or true story, yet I feel like I retain less of it. But I am usually working through one at a time. Right now it’s The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength.

    I like to read classics and just “discovered” D. E. Stevenson. I just finished her Amberwell and started Summerhills.

  5. Lauren

    The quotation at the beginning of your post is something I need to remind myself … there are so many books I want to read that I’m often guilty of hurrying through a book in order to get to the next one, rather than really enjoying and taking in the one I have in front of me. Currently reading John Piper’s Coronavirus and Christ (my morning quiet time); Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer (as part of a “writer’s reading group” I’m participating in); and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (I felt like it was time for a classic and this has been on my shelf for too long). And now, of course, thanks to your recommendations, I’ll have even more waiting in the wings as future reads!

  6. Elena Wiggins

    If there’s a bookshelf in a house, I immediately gravitate towards it! And I love book review link-ups! I get many of my book recommendations from book bloggers. I’m reading Gone With the Wind, All Creatures Great and Small, and The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s. Pretty different from each other, so I’m not sure what that says about me… I’m eclectic? Lol

  7. Lesley

    I agree, it’s always interesting to find out what other people are reading. I’ve finally managed to read The Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry and it’s definitely one of my top books of the year so far.

  8. Joanne

    Not only do I strain to see the titles that other people read I have a horrible habit of reading over someone’s shoulder now and then too! I once read a few pages of a book on an airplane through the seats because I saw the person sitting in front of me reading a book I had been wanting to check out. Thankfully they didn’t know and I finally pulled out my own book.

  9. Jean Wise

    As always love your list and always discover a new book. I have just ordered Write Better too so will be fun as we compare this book. Our local library has been closed but I hear will soon open for pickups. I hope to order the book Thinking Fast and Slow, Your comment has me curious. And Curious is a good way to live and a spiritual practice we need more of. Instead of judging, be curious. Instead of assuming, be curious. Instead of giving up, remain curious. Always something new to learn!

  10. Kathryn Trask

    I enjoy Brene Brown, especially how she points up how we make up stories in our heads about things that are most likely totally different to the event. I am now listening to her podcast as well. Ha I love peeking at what others read!

  11. bill (cycleguy)

    Hi Lisa! Hope you are staying safe and healthy! My reading time kicked up a notch when this mess started. here is what I have read over the past few weeks: The Motive by Patrick Lencioni. When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas (it is on toxic people). Sacred Endurance by Trillia Newbell. I’m rereading Love Works (Update Edition) by Joel Manby. In my cue are Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Finding the Right Hill to Die On by Gavin Ortlund. I’ve also been listening to a lot of podcasts by Carey Nieuwhof the 95 Podcast focusing on small to medium churches. It has been a rich two months for me.


    I love browsing bookshops – and giving and receiving books! Definitely look at friends bookshelves and feel our book choices are very revealing. Just read – “Where is God in a coronavirus world?” John C. Lennox, a short book but with a clear concise commentary. Also bought for holiday reading (and of course the holiday never happened!) God’s Hostage by Andrew Brunson; enjoyed his honesty in describing his experience and identified with his conclusion, a good read!

  13. Liz Dexter

    I’ve got Because Internet on my TBR but I’m about to embark on 20 Books of Summer which involves clearing the decks of all books from 2018 so I won’t get to it for a while.

  14. Lois Flowers

    Lisa, I always come away from your book posts with at least one or two titles to add to my own need-to-read list. I’ve never read anything by Dan Heath but I’m going to slip over to the library website straightaway and see if I can find “Upstream.” And I will be looking forward to reading what you have to say about the books you are currently reading as well.

  15. Kym

    I love the quote you opened with. 🙂 I do like looking at other people’s bookshelves or at what others are reading in public. It’s often insightful into personalities and preferences, and sometimes quite surprising. All four of your recommended books look interesting to me, but I rarely follow through on reading non-fiction – wonder what that says about ME?

  16. Laura Thomas

    I love your story about Mr. Brewer! It certainly is fascinating to see what people are reading. My current reads are My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and Chasing Vines by Beth Moore. Happy Reading! Stopping by from #graceandtruth

  17. Donna

    I like knowing what others are reading or books they’ve picked up but I’ve never thought about making up stories about them based on their reading choices.

  18. Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog

    I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading. I can’t figure out what happened because reading has always been a big part of my life. But not in my married life for some reason. Just yesterday, though, I was making plans for reading more. I’ll definitely keeping your recommendations in mind!

  19. Jasmine | Midsummer Life Dream

    Braving The Wilderness sounds interesting – I’ll have to add it to my reading list for next year (I’m doing a reading challenge this year!). I wonder what people would guess about me from my library receipts – when I had them. Now I’m strictly a Kindle girl!

  20. Laura

    Love your taste in reading and I’m so glad to learn Hansen has a new book I haven’t yet read. Unoffendable was one that I also need to read and reread. Thanks!

  21. Danielle Hammelef

    I’ve also found library receipts in books and am always curious what books were checked out together. I gravitate to friends’ bookshelves (and will do so again when allowed to be in person social) and enjoy seeing what people are reading. This is why I interact and follow so many book blogs–it’s how I find new books for my TBR. I found an etsy site that I might finally make a purchase from after resisting–they have book covers with weird titles/sarcastic titles just to shock people when they peek at your current read.

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