Books I recommend – October 2015

Once a month we share what we’ve been reading for What’s on Your Nightstand. Here are books I finally finished in October that I’d been reading awhile.



1. The Martian
by Andy Weir


If you’ve seen the movie about an American astronaut abandoned on Mars, you know it’s good. But the book is even better! (No surprise there, right?) My only complaint is that it’s overly technical for me, but that might be its appeal to others who enjoy sci-fi thrillers. It’s long, but it reads quickly.

2. Life in Motion
An Unlikely Ballerina
by Misty Copeland


Misty Copeland’s journey from poverty to becoming an African-American ballerina soloist with the American Ballet Theatre is quite amazing. I hope her memoir (and life!) inspire many more young people to pursue their dreams. Of particular interest to me is that her first ballet classes were at the Boys & Girls Club since I’m getting to volunteer with teens once a week now from the Boys & Girls Clubs in our area.

To this day, I don’t really understand how we did it, given the situations that we were put in. We’d been taken from our natural father, in the case of myself and my older siblings, and then from Harold, the only dad we’d ever truly known, to live with a man who spewed epithets. Next we lived with family friends in a gang-infested neighborhood, moved in with strangers, and then, finally, settled down in a shabby motel. It is still a wonder to me that not one of us has ended up in jail or on drugs.

Instead, we thrived.

3. A Curious Mind
The Secret to a Bigger Life
by Brian Grazer


Author Brian Grazer is a Hollywood producer who schedules weekly “curiosity conversations” with a wide variety of people. The book includes what started him on this journey and where it’s taken him, plus an encouragement to do the same yourself.

“Not knowing the answer opens up the world, as long as you don’t try to hide what you don’t know. I try never to be self-conscious about not knowing.”

4. Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian
by Paul F. Knitter

without buddha i could not be a christian

I know: the title might be a turnoff. I had to get past it myself. But some books are worth moving beyond the title to see what’s inside. This is one. Knitter, who is a Christian, reaches into Buddhism to gain practices and truths that in turn enhance his Christianity. He always comes home to Jesus.

“What we are called to be faithful to is not the words themselves, but the way those words are supposed to form or reform our lives. Christians believe certain things in order to act in a certain way. The purpose of doctrine is not primarily to fill our heads but to shape our lives. We express our belief in words in order to express our beliefs in actions. The words are meant to promote deeds.”

5. Gathering Blue
(The Giver, #2)
by Lois Lowry


This is the second book in The Giver quartet (although I saw NO connection at all with The Giver, which was a bit disappointing, I must say.) The similarity is it’s another dystopian future world, where orphaned Kira is charged with using her gift to perpetuate what society dictates. And it’s also similar in that it’s very good and worth reading.

“The guardians with their stern faces had no creative power. But they had strength and cunning, and they had found a way to steal and harness other people’s powers for their own needs. They were forcing the children to describe the future they wanted, not the one that could be.

6. Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again

This Newbery Honor book is about 10-yr-old Ha’s escape from Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon to (of all places) Alabama (which is why I chose to read this one). It’s based on the author’s true experience. While it’s labeled a children’s book, adults must gain far more from reading it because it cuts deep into our prejudices as well as our compassions. It’s short and easy to read; I highly recommend it, as well as all the books I read for Amy’s Newbery through the Decades Challenge.

I count up to twenty.

The class claps
on its own.

I’m furious,
unable to explain
I already learned
and how to purify
river water.

So this is
what dumb
feels like.

I hate, hate, hate it.

7. The Hound of the Baskervilles
(Sherlock Holmes #5)
by Arthur Conan Doyle


Holmes and Watson have to solve a case among the moors involving a mysterious beast and the Baskerville family. There were a few things I saw coming, but Doyle’s writing doesn’t allow you to figure out much on your own. This is the last book of my 2015 Reading Challenges (and specifically Carrie’s Reading Classics Together). It feels good to mark it as “done” and end on a great book.

“The past and the present are within the field of my inquiry, but what a man may do in the future is a hard question to answer.”

8. Knowing God
by J. I. Packer

While I don’t agree with Packer on several things in this classic theology book, I still highly recommend it because not only does he explain more of the how, why, and what about God, he asks appropriately probing questions that made me think on my own about having a more intimate relationship with God. This is our last week reading together with Tim Challies’ group. My weekly summaries are here.


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What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

25 thoughts on “Books I recommend – October 2015

  1. Linda Stoll

    Brene Brown’s latest, so much to savor and sit with there. And Marie Kondo’s ‘the life changing magic of tidying up.’ Lots of good takeaways there …

    Just think … when this week is over we’ll have more time to read again!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, yes, I want to read Brene Brown’s book too! I’ve seen her interviewed about this latest book and it sounds as amazing as her other material. I started out strong this year with Marie Kondo’s work in my housecleaning, but somewhere along the way I got sidetracked. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in January for some new resolutions. 🙂 Although she had a few thoughts that I couldn’t connect with, I do love her overall philosophy of getting rid of things.

      Only a few more days now with our 31 days….I think we’ll make it! 🙂

  2. Barbara H.

    I haven’t seen The Martian but the previews look good. Misty’s book sounds really good as well.

    I’m on the last chapter of Knowing God! It’s been a great read but I am ready for the book to be done.

    I would have trouble with the idea of looking to a false religion that leads people away from a right understanding and relationship with Christ to gain ideas to enhance my own. I’d rather look to people who are stronger in their relationship with Him. But as Christians we do sometimes shut down when talking to someone who is Buddhist (probably because we just don’t know what to say or where to start) and we need to be willing to engage them on a personal level.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Both Jeff and Jenna read The Martian first, so I knew I was going to have to read it. 🙂 I had to cram it in before I allowed myself to see the movie though. As always I’d recommend you read the book before you see the movie if you have time to do both.

      Yes, I enjoyed Knowing God too, but I’m also ready to be done. I didn’t enjoy the longer, later chapters as much; it was hard for me to stay focused on his train of thought, but overall it was a great read.

      The Buddha book is definitely not for everybody. It was helpful to me, but I wouldn’t recommend it to those who aren’t comfortable being exposed to differences like that. One cool thing about this book though was that the author is a strong Christian so he was always relating from that perspective.

  3. Ifeoma Samuel

    Just received your post via email, Lisa.

    I have currently…..

    Alicia Ruggieri’s “Fragrance of Gerrainuims” and her latest book “All Our Empty places”,

    Aimee Imbeau’s “Raising Godly Children and

    Sue Detweiler’s “9 Traits of a Life Giving Marriage”

    And Lisa, you might want to add them to your list as well.
    Just thought I should let you know my book is on sale throughout this week. I would appreciate it if it gets to be on your nightstand for November.

    Hugs and Blessings, Ifeoma Samuel

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like you have quite a few great books going, Ifeoma. I love keeping several going at one time too. Makes me more likely to pick up a book when I have a spare moment instead of turning on the TV. Congratulations on your own book! I pray that it does well!

  4. Kay Marie

    Hey there!

    Oooh! What did you think of the A. Conan Doyle one??

    So, you read Gathering Blue? It is in “The Giver” series, correct? I read “The Giver” just recently… and hated it. Would’ve read the whole series, but honestly, the giver left me with no desire to.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I really enjoyed the A.C.Doyle book! I knew it would be good, but I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

      If you didn’t like The Giver, don’t read Gathering Blue. 🙂 Even though it’s a totally different story, it’s the same genre. I liked both (although I prefer The Giver over Gathering Blue), but now that I’ve come this far, I feel compelled to read the third book…Messenger. We’ll see.

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          Another good thing about the Sherlock Holmes books is that a lot of them are in the public domain now because they’re so old. I was going to get a free copy to read on my Kindle of The Hound of the Baskervilles, but ended up checking out a free Kindle copy from my library instead.

          1. Kay Marie

            Awesome! Love it when stuff is out there for free:)

            I read “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and a lot of other Sherlock Holmes stories, as a kid, but they were only the condensed versions for kids.

            Then I read the Dupin short stories of Poe’s and so I guess I’m now a little prejudiced against A. Conan Doyle because he was copying Poe and , in my opinion, he kind of breaks some of the rules, but I really should read his stuff before I form my opinion!

  5. Beverley

    I read several books on Buddhism, but in the end it didn’t feel right and I had to let it go, but I did take several things from it, into my Christian life with great benefit, including meditation and mindfulness.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Meditation and mindfulness are probably the main two things I take away from Buddhist teachings also, Beverley. And neither of those are Buddhist per se; they just have been more practiced in it the past few centuries. I’m glad we can learn from others, to be strengthened more in our own traditions.

  6. Bill (cycleguy)

    Let’s see. I’m reading Unique by Phil Cooke. Still reading Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. (it is a slow read). I also have 2 Lee Strobel books on my shelf to read: “The Case for the Real Jesus” and “The Case for Grace.” Been busy month and reading has slowed. I have one I’m reading at home on the Titanic.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Some books needs to be slow reads. I have a couple books that I’m taking a VERY long time to read. Speed sometimes kills a book that needs to be eaten slowly. Glad you know how to pace yourself. 🙂

  7. Sharon

    I just bought Priscilla Shirer’s book, “Fervent.” It’s about expanding and deepening your prayer life. I can’t wait to get into it!


  8. bekahcubed

    Inside Out and Back Again sounds great! I think it was good for me to focus only on the Reading to Know bookclub this year (and not to get into other challenges) – but I’ve been collecting recommendations from all of you who’ve been reading along with Amy. So many good books, so little time…

    One group of our friends (the Tuesday night “Happy Food” group) is pretty into science fiction – and they’ve made the comment that while most science fiction is “fantasy set in space”, The Martian is truly scientific. So while sci-fi fans may appreciate the setting, the technical bits are probably more likely to appeal to the sciencey people who can’t stand sci-fi because it’s just too…wrong. (For my part, I like fantasy, but not generally fantasy set in space :-P)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, this probably wasn’t the season for you to do too many book challenges. 🙂 I have my moments at times when I wish I hadn’t committed to them, but in the end, I’m always glad I did because it gets me to read things I’ve been wanting to read—and in the process clear off some of my shelves, which is always a good thing!

      Interesting comments from your science fiction reading friends. They should know what they’re talking about, so I’ll take their word for it that The Martian was truly scientific.

  9. Susan

    Many of these sound interesting! Is the Giver sequel new? If so, I smell money-making (not that that’s necessarily bad) since the whole “dystopian craze” is a relatively new thing. Bummer that it wasn’t too similar to the original, which I loved. I think the Buddhism book sounds interesting — honestly I like books that make me think about Christianity in new ways. I graduated from a quite secular university and haven’t abandoned my faith yet 🙂 I love the BBC Sherlock shows — maybe I should read some “real” Sherlock??

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I don’t know when The Giver sequel ended, but Gathering Blue (#2) was published in 2000, so not anything new. But yeah, definitely is a trend right now. I guess that’s why they made The Giver movie…I wonder if they’ll follow up with any of the other books?

      I’m sure we could swap quite a few book titles since you’re like me and don’t mind reading perspectives different than your own. 🙂

  10. Deanna

    So glad that you enjoyed The Martian as much as you did. I agree, it was but too technical, but it didn’t bother me – I was able to skim the parts that were over my head. The beauty is that all the technical stuff didn’t take away from the story but actually enhanced even if it bored me a tad and such.

    Life in Motion sounds like a book that I should read; inspiring and encouraging.

    To need read Gathering Blue. I read The Giver and loved it. I’ve already been warned that Gathering Blue does not seem to fit with The Giver but that it will make sense (as far as why is to a part of the series) once done with the quartet – I hope that’s true.

    I am sort of doing a Newbery Challenge of my own, I shall check out Amy’s.

    As always, you have a fabulous list of books. Thanks for sharing.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yeah, I did some skimming too in The Martian to get through the technical parts. Thankfully the movie wasn’t nearly as technical so I enjoyed that part of it, although I still think the book was better. 🙂

      Hmm….so maybe I do need to continue on with The Giver series so it’ll all make sense in the end. The stories are easy to ready and enjoyable so what have I got to lose?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, yes, do let me know what you think of that one, Jean! I’ve only recently become aware of Joan Chittister (I believe I first heard her on an Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday interview). She seems to be an amazing and strong woman of faith.

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