5 Books I Recommend + Video – November 2018

Here are 2 fiction books and 3 non-fiction books I recommend from what I finished reading in November, including a 1-minute video review of a favorite.

Once a month we share our current reading list at Jennifer’s.

5 Books I Recommend-November 2018_LisaNotes

Books I Recommend


1. A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving

A Prayer for Owen Meany

This is a sweet, poignant, coming-of-age (any age!) novel about two best friends navigating the 1950s and forward. First published in 1989, it was a top 100 pick this summer from PBS’ The Great American Novel. And deservedly so.

The first sentence:

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

2. The Last Ballad
by Cash Wiley

The Last Ballad

This novel is inspired by the true life of Ella May Wiggins, an ordinary woman who stumbled into working for human rights for textile workers in 1929 in North Carolina. It’s hard, tender, surprising, and important. My nephew-in-law, Colton, recommended it to me months ago. I’m glad I finally got to it.


3. Raise Your Voice
Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up
by Kathy Khang

[Click here if you can’t see the 1-minute review of Raise Your Voice and 4 Do’s and Don’t’s of Online Conversations”]

Raise Your Voice_Kathy Khang

There’s so much in this book about using your voice to talk about important issues. Regardless of who you are. Regardless of your platform or lack of one. Everybody has a voice and everybody is entitled to speak up.

(See full review here of Raise Your Voice)

4. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
by Yuval Noah Harari

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

What’s happening to our world? Harari writes about 21 issues we all experience in various genres of our lives: political, technological, social, and religious.

I’m not sure if I feel scared or comforted after reading this book. But I do feel more informed, on issues such as artificial intelligence, immigration, spirituality, and more.

“Fear of the unknown can paralyze us more than any tyrant. . . . Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”

5. Art of Focus
3 Easy Steps to Build a Life You Love and Control Your Time
by Curtis McHale

The Art of Focus_Curtis McHale

This is a great book of practical steps on making things happen (not just on setting goals). About finding your purpose, not just following your passion.

I’ve been reading McHale’s blog for awhile now. I find his book as likable and informative as his blog. McHale is authentic in sharing what works and what doesn’t work in managing your business (whatever that happens to be) while keeping your relationships healthy.

“If you’ve built a great business but have a broken marriage and relationships YOU’VE FAILED.”


  • The Radium Girls
    The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
    by Kate Moore
  • Resist and Persist
    Faith and the Fight for Equality
    by Erin Wathen
  • Remember Death
    The Surprising Path to Living Hope
    by Matthew McCullough 
  • The Line Becomes a River
    Dispatches from the Border
    by Francisco Cantú
  • The Ministry of Ordinary Places
    Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You
    by Shannan Martin

* * *

What good book have you read this month? Please share in the comments.


My books on Goodreads
More books I recommend

49 thoughts on “5 Books I Recommend + Video – November 2018

  1. Beth

    Thanks for sharing snippets about each of these, Lisa! I especially liked watching your video to finally hear your voice! You have that sweet southern drawl, similar to my mother-in-law! I do love a good southern accent! Thanks for providing so many great resources on a variety of topics, my friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Beth. I’m always very reluctant to include a video. 🙂 It’s definitely a lesson in humility. ha. I admire people like you who seem so relaxed with it.

      1. Beth

        Are you kidding me, Lisa? You did great! Very relaxed. Besides, I think southern accents often sound melodic, compared to my very flat and plain midwestern non-accent. 😉 I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the “Mason-Dixon Line!” Ha!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I really had no idea what to expect from Owen Meany. So every page was a surprise. I had been watching the PBS TV series on all the books, but had to stop midway when they got to Owen Meany because I didn’t want to ruin the ending. I guess it’s safe to go back and watch that episode now. 🙂

  2. Linda Stoll

    Lisa … I love when you do these videos. You’re a natural!

    And those pointers about our online behavior and communication are well said … and much needed. Good stuff … especially as we seem to be spending more and more time absorbed in social media.

    * sigh *

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re sweet, Linda. The videos do NOT come naturally to me. 🙂 The author had some really good tips on both social media and IRL communications. I also enjoyed just reading more of her story. Everybody has one!

  3. Lesley

    I loved Raise Your Voice and I enjoyed your review. Our team at work has been reading The Five Dysfunctions Of Team by Patrick Lencioni and it is fascinating! We’re going to be discussing it, beginning next week. (I think our team functions pretty well but we can always learn more about how to work well together!)

  4. Laurie

    I read “A Prayer for Owen Meany” years ago and loved it. I went through a whole John Irving phase, but haven’t read him lately. I think I might have to see if there are any of his books I haven’t read. I also think “Raise Your Voice” is a must-read. I see you are reading “The Radium Girls”. I read that this year. What a sad, sad story, but a well-written book. Thank you for the recommendations.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This was my first John Irving book (as far as I know anyway). So maybe I need to look into more of his books! I’m glad to hear you also read The Radium Girls. It is quite depressing and I thought about stopping, but I’ll keep going. It is definitely a sad story. 🙁

  5. Michele Morin

    I always love your 1 minute reviews. I have Kathy’s book in my pile and really need to get on it!
    And it would be so wonderful to re-read Owen Meany. I read it back in the 90’s and only just barely remember it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I don’t know how I missed Owen Meany back in the day, but this summer was the first time I became really aware of it. I think my husband would enjoy it as well, but it would have to be in audiobook form. 😉

  6. Trudy

    I’m looking forward to reading your full review of Raise Your Voice tomorrow, Lisa. It sounds like it would be good for me to read as I’m not very assertive, and I easily pull back, especially around more dominating characters. I love your video! Such great points about our voices online as well. I love listening to your southern drawl, too. 🙂 Advent Blessings and hugs to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m not always assertive either, Trudy, especially in public spaces, so this was a good book for me to read. I’m also reading a similar one (didn’t plan it so closely but it’s working) called Resist and Persist. It’s very good about standing up for ourselves as women. Blessings to you too, friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Curtis offered The Art of Focus free for awhile so I picked it up then, and I’m glad I did. I think he has another new book that just came out (this week?): The Freelancer’s Guide to Getting Started: The plans you need to launch a successful freelance career. I’m sure it’s good as well. But since I am not looking to start a freelance career, I won’t likely read this one. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Lisa recommended my book — Curtis McHale

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I am enjoy The Ministry of Ordinary Places, but I do find myself skimming it at times. It’s a lot of personal stories, which are interesting, but I have my limits on how many I like to read. But I’ll withhold judgment until the end. 🙂

  8. Ashley Davis

    I finished Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. Highly recommend. Practical tips on actually how to study the Bible.
    She’s Mine by Stephanie Fast. It’s her story of how she was a war orphaned child in South Korea. Hard read at times, but she has a sense of humor so it’s not all dark.
    Currently reading Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry. Fantastic. Almost finished.

    And I’ve started god’s at War by Kyle Idleman and Christ’s Call to Reform the Church by John MacArthur. Trying to read multiple books at once. That’s not an easy task for me. Haha.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad to hear you liked Women of the Word. I downloaded it on my Kindle while it was free, but I don’t know when I’ll get around to reading it. Currently absorbed with library books and review books. Look at you reading multiple books at once! 🙂 It’s my favorite way to read.

      1. Ashley Davis

        I got Women of the Word for free as well, but I think I may buy a hard copy. It’s one of those books I want to mark up and hold in my hands.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Kathryn. I’m always tentative to share a video review. But it seemed appropriate since it was about online communication. ha. A Prayer for Owen Meany was my first John Irving book and I do recommend it! It is sticking with me too as the month goes on.

  9. floyd

    I always love your lists. On this one I couldn’t get past your first recommendation, partly because I’m also writing a coming of age novel right now.

    I already ordered myself a copy of A Prayer For Owen Meany…

    That first line is wonderful… gotta love a good wordsmith…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Let me know if you read A Prayer for Owen Meany and what you think. The time setting is a few years further back than our era, but not by much. Can’t wait to read your novel one day because you are definitely a good wordsmith yourself.

  10. Aimee

    I just finished The Ministry of Ordinary Places and I think it will be one of my favorite books this year!

    Somehow I’ve never managed to read Prayer for Owen Meany, but it sounds lovely. I’ll have to check it out.

Leave a Reply

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