9 Books I Recommend – June 2024

“All of literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”
– Leo Tolstoy

Here are 3 novels and 6 nonfiction books I recommend from what I finished reading in June 2024. 

[See previously recommended books here]

NONFICTION

1. Worth Fighting For
Finding Courage and Compassion When Cruelty is Trending
by John Pavlovitz

Worth Fighting For

Sometimes it seems our country has gone mad, dividing into two angry camps against each other. Along comes John Pavlovitz with hope that perhaps it doesn’t have to be this cruel. I thoroughly enjoyed this book encouraging us to continue standing strong for our values, but also to respect each other as we do so. [Full book review coming soon…]

2. Write a Must-Read
Craft a Book That Changes Lives―Including Your Own
by A.J. Harper

Write a Must-Read

I recently participated in a writing webinar with A.J. Harper as the host. In the short amount of time that I had her one-on-one with my work, I was amazed at her ability to lead me more directly to the heart of what I wanted to say in my writing. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, I highly recommend A.J.’s book about the writing and editing (and some about the publishing) process; it’s phenomenal.

3. The Age of Magical Overthinking
Notes on Modern Irrationality
by Amanda Montell

The Age of Magical Overthinking

Because I loved Amanda’s other books (Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism and Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language), I had a hunch I would love this one, too. And I was right. With her witty and personal writing style, Amanda walks us through the biases that trap our brains into thinking irrationally. There’s no guarantee that we’ll automatically think more logically and realistically after reading this book, but we’ll at least be more aware of fallacies when we see them. [Full book review coming soon…]

4. Life After Doom
Wisdom and Courage for a World Falling Apart
by Brian D. McLaren

Life After Doom

How are we to live in the middle of our climate crisis? Brian McLaren shows us a wise and brave path through, not around. This is a book about grieving, about hoping, and about changing, regardless of what happens next. I found it incredibly insightful and helpful.

[Read my full review here of Life After Doom, “A Journey of Hope Amid Climate Chaos”]

5. The Light Shines in the Darkness
Choosing Hope After a Mass Shooting
by Melinda Rainey Thompson

The Light Shines in the Darkness

On June 16, 2022, about 100 miles from my home in north Alabama, a visitor to a church potluck in Birmingham, Alabama, sat down to eat with welcoming church members. And pulled out a gun. With no warning, he began firing. Three people died that night. And everyone was affected. Even the church members not in attendance. This book is a beautiful collection of essays from those who were there or who loved people who were there that night. I’ve chosen it as the selection for the August meeting of our Alabama Moms Demand Action online book club. One of the authors will be with us to share his experience of that horrible night.

6. Do/Walk
Navigate earth, mind and body. Step by step.
by Libby Delana

Do Walk

My other book club—the in-person group—is reading Do Walk this summer. It’s a small, easy book about Libby DeLana’s habit of taking a walk every day. It’s definitely motivated me to do my short walk in my neighborhood far more frequently these days (despite the oppressive heat).

FICTION

7. The Women
by Kristin Hannah

The Women

This is a powerful novel about a young nursing student in the mid-1960s who joins the Army Nurse Corps to serve in Vietnam. While it is fiction, it is based on the lived experiences that many female soldiers had during the war and after their return home. I cried throughout the book because it was so gut-wrenching yet also such an important story to hear.

8. Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre

Because I want to read Praying with Jane Eyre: Reflections on Reading as a Sacred Practice, I thought I’d better re-read the classic novel Jane Eyre this month. It’s been years since I first read it, but it held up beautifully. I thoroughly enjoyed it (maybe even more this time?). If you’re not familiar with the story of orphaned Jane Eyre, the travails of her life, and her relationship with Mr. Rochester, I encourage you to find a copy (they’re everywhere) and read it, too.

9. The Dollhouse
by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse

This novel is based on the actual Barbizon Hotel for Women in New York City in the 1950s. Aspiring models lived on one floor, and secretaries and editors lived on another. The book alternates chapters between a modern tenant as she uncovers a story that happened in 1952, and a character living it in 1952. Interesting plot and well-written.

WHAT I’M READING NOW

  • Zero Days
    by Ruth Ware
  • Punished by Rewards
    Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’S, Praise, and Other Bribes
    by Alfie Kohn
  • The Heart of Nonviolent Communication 
    25 Keys to Shift From Separation to Connection

    by Kristin K. Collier
  • American Carnage
    Shattering the Myths That Fuel Gun Violence
    by Fred Guttenberg, Thomas Gabor
  • Spiritual Bypassing
    When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters
    by Robert Augustus Masters
  • A Well-Trained Wife
    My Escape from Christian Patriarchy
    by Tia Levings
  • The Power of Ritual
    How to Create Meaning and Connection in Everything You Do
    by Casper ter Kuile
  • Good People
    Stories From the Best of Humanity
    by Gabriel Reilich, Lucia Knell


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

sharing at these linkups



Share 4 Somethings—June 2024

For the 2024 edition of “Share 4 Somethings,” Jennifer asks us to share each month:

  1. Something loved and/or disliked
  2. Something accomplished
  3. Something improved upon and/or that needs improvement
  4. Something noticed

I also share my previous month’s One Second Everyday video . . .

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something Loved

  • CELEBRATING V WITH HER FAVORITE COOKIES 

Earlier this year, my friend V and I talked about the birthday party we’d have for her in May. Birthdays were big to her. Even though her mental capacity was limited, she had an uncanny knack of remembering everybody’s birthdays and made sure everyone knew hers.

But unfortunately she didn’t make it to her birthday this year. She died 3 weeks before she would have turned 56 years old.

We still wanted to do something special on her birthday though. So Jenna, Kay and I baked V’s favorite M&M cookies, printed a special remembrance card with her photo, and passed them out to her friends at her apartment complex. It was a beautiful time of hearing individual stories about V from her friends and sharing our grief together.

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something Accomplished

  • VISITED MY LEGISLATORS IN WASHINGTON, DC

Earlier this month I attended the annual conference of Moms Demand Action in Washington, DC. Our goal this year was to prioritize gun violence survivors, solidify our purpose of creating safer communities, and use our voices as voting constituents.

We spent one of our days on Capitol Hill, spreading out in our red shirts to talk to our legislators. My friend LaKeisha and I met with my representative, Dale Strong. Our group also spoke with the staff of our two senators from Alabama.

While we don’t always agree on the same strategies to solve our violence problems, we usually agree on the same objective: greater public safety for all. It’s not about Democrat or Republican. We’ll keep trying to find common ground and working together toward common goals.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something Improved Upon

  • FINALLY PLANTED FLOWERS

We were a little late this year, but Jeff and I finally weeded out our flower beds and planted new flowers in pots. I don’t enjoy working in the heat as much as I once did, but I do love having color around the house during the summer months. So a few flowers in pots on the porch and on the deck do the trick for me.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something Noticed

  • PREPPING FOR INSIDE OUT 2

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the new Inside Out 2 movie. But I couldn’t remember much about the first movie. So I borrowed my niece’s DVD last week of Inside Out and enjoyed rewatching it to jog my memory of the emotion characters in it. It was just as good the second time.

Now I hope to find a day next week to go watch Inside Out 2. Have you seen it?


What is something you are loving, accomplishing, improving, or noticing this month?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

I’m linking at these blog parties


Rediscover the Power of Your One Word
{One Word 2024 June Linkup}

You’ve made it to June! Congratulations, you’re halfway through the year with your One Word. Now is a great time to re-motivate yourself by remembering WHY you chose this word in the first place.

Link all of your ONE WORD blog posts below. Share an update about your One Word in the comments.

~ * ~ * ~

Revisit Your Initial Thoughts

Back in January, you chose a word that resonated with your goals for the year, one that could guide you and keep you focused. But as time rolls on, it’s easy to lose sight of that initial spark. That’s why it’s helpful to pause and reflect on your journey so far.

If you filled out our One Word worksheet, wrote a blog post, or talked to someone about your word in January, now is the time to reread those words or rehash that conversation. Let your initial impressions and clarity excite you again.

Ask yourself the following questions to gain deeper insights into your intentions and progress:

1. Why did I choose this word in January? What was happening in my life that led me to this word?

One reason I chose CURIOSITY in January is because I’ve experienced changes in several critical relationships over the past couple of years. CURIOSITY was a tool I wanted to use to wonder more, ask better questions, and create deeper connections.

I’m sad as I look back at my first post this year—Do You Want to See Better? Try Curiosity. I didn’t imagine in January that by mid-year, my friend V would no longer be here. I naively thought her vision problems would be a simple fix, instead of signs of a much more extensive problem.

Are my vision problems more extensive than I realize, too? Is this another lesson for me? I see the need to remain curious.

2. Is my word serving its purpose? If not, how can I revamp it to align with my goals for the second half of 2024?

Yes, CURIOSITY is serving its purpose by making me more aware of being aware.

Looking back over my original goals, I realize I haven’t been as intentional about doing some of the things I’d planned (like being curious about new foods!) yet many have happened naturally nonetheless (this month I enjoyed Cuban food for the first time). I will definitely stick with CURIOSITY for the second half of 2024.

An Exercise to Rekindle Your Connection

If you’re unsure about your word now, here’s a quick exercise to try. Dig up your word’s roots to make a deeper connection with your current situation.

Look up your word’s etymology in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary or the Online Etymology Dictionary. What is its origin? Has its meaning or use changed over time?

I smiled when I read that in the late 14th century CURIOSITY meant “careful attention to detail” (a definition now obsolete) because I often pay too much attention to details (please load the dishwasher this exact way). But in other ways, it’s handy to be a detail-oriented person—I usually keep track of the day and time my appointments are, for example.

In Middle English curiosity often had a negative connotation, like “prying; idle or vain interest in worldly affairs.” But now, curiosity typically means “having a strong desire to learn or know something,” which is how I am viewing it this year.

Embrace this mid-year check-in to rediscover the strength of your One Word and adjust your path if necessary so your word can continue to inspire you through the rest of 2024.

Next Linkup

This One Word linkup will remain open for 2 weeks for your One Word posts, closing at midnight on Monday, July 8. Link as many posts as you’d like about your One Word. Each link will also be shared in our One Word Facebook group

Our July linkup will open on Wednesday, July 24 (and on the 24th of each month for 2024).

If you’d like to receive our monthly One Word emails and ideas, join here any time of the year.

May you remember to stay connected with your One Word throughout the year.


Has your One Word stayed relevant so far in 2024? Leave a comment here.

Link Up About Your One Word!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


The Unexpected Impact of a Short Friendship

It’s Thursday morning, one day after V died. My phone dings. I see it’s Michael. I wonder what he’s going to say. He wasn’t the one who told me about V’s death last night, so I wonder why he’s texting.

Meeting Michael

I first met Michael, a hospice nurse, only weeks earlier. I had signed up V for hospice care after her brief stay in the hospital due to a UTI. The hospital staff, seeing her decline, asked me if I’d considered hospice for her. No, I hadn’t.

But now I would.

Two days later back at V’s facility, I introduced myself to Michael when he came to finalize the hospice paperwork and to meet V in person.

He was gentle with her. And kind to me. I noticed both. I appreciated both.

Michael explained to me how hospice would work. He or a fellow nurse would check on V every few days, as an extra layer of care above what she was already getting at her facility. As death became more imminent, they would make daily visits. Someone would inform me of her condition after each visit, or I could talk to them directly at the facility as they made their visit.

Life and Death Updates

True to his word, Michael regularly gave me a phone call or sent me a text after his visits with V. Even though our interchanges were typically brief, they were meaningful because of their content—life and death.

On one Wednesday morning, Michael texted me that V was unresponsive. But she was comfortable. I replied that I appreciated him watching over her. I had seen her a couple days earlier myself, and planned to visit again in a day or two.

But late that Wednesday night, everything changed.

Jeff and I were watching the news in bed. We had been under tornado warnings all night. And while the storms weren’t over yet, the worst seemed behind us—only thunderstorms remained—so we flicked off the TV to go to sleep.

Until my phone rang.

Middle-of-the-night phone calls rattle awake the body and soul. And usually for good reason. This was no exception.

The Final Call

This call was from a nurse I had not met, gently telling me that my friend V had just passed away. I was shocked, although I shouldn’t have been. I knew V’s time was short.

The nurse reassured me that V had not suffered, and that her passing was peaceful. She advised me to stay home and not venture into the bad weather; there was nothing I could do tonight.

I lay in bed as my mind raced through details I’d need to handle Thursday morning. Tell V’s brother. Finalize burial arrangements. Talk with staff at the nursing facility.

And grieve the loss of my friend.

An Unexpected Apology

It was mid-morning on Thursday when my phone dinged with the text from Michael. His message expressed condolences for my loss. And an apology.

“I’m sorry I did not give you more warning…I did not expect it so soon.”

I paused, taking in his words. I appreciated the apology, but it wasn’t necessary. I held no hard feelings for his lack of notice–who can accurately predict the exact moment of someone’s passing?

I typed out my reply. “Thank you, Michael. I appreciate your tenderness with V these past weeks. I’m glad she’s relieved of her body now.” And hit send.

He responded immediately with “Yes, I understand. Thank you. I wish peace for you also…”

And with that, our brief yet significant friend was completed. Michael had served his purpose in my life well, leaving a lasting impact despite our short acquaintance.

In life we occasionally cross paths with kind souls for only brief periods of time. From beginning to end, I’d only known Michael for a few weeks. Yet he left a mark on me more profound than some people I’ve known for years.

May we never underestimate the importance of fleeting exchanges, of short friendships. Even brief encounters can leave lasting impressions.


To those of you who have done end-of-life care, you are beautiful humans. Thank you for what you do. Share your thoughts in the comments.


Life After Doom: A Journey of Hope Amid Climate Chaos

I want people to read this book, Life After Doom: A Journey of Hope Amid Climate Chaos by Brian McLaren. Here’s why.

SHORT REVIEW:

HEAD: What’s one thing I’m thinking about from Life After Doom?
Contemplating our future.

Brian presents these four scenarios in the book:

1: Collapse Avoidance Scenario
This is the scenario we want, the one where governments, businesses, and citizens unite with urgency to stabilize our climate crisis.

2: Collapse/Rebirth Scenario
This scenario is a gradual decline with survivors who can rebuild communities and economies in new ways.

3: Collapse/Survival Scenario
This scenario is like the dystopian movies we’ve seen, where the few survivors face unimaginable conditions.

4: Collapse/Extinction Scenario
Well, you can figure this one out. We’re gone.

HEART: What’s one thing I’m feeling about this book?
Finding hope in despair.

One thing I’m feeling is more hope. I’m not necessarily hopeful we’ll quickly stop the damage we’re doing to our planet, but I’m cautiously hopeful we can maintain our values and humanity through the challenges. I appreciate Brian’s encouragement that we don’t have to resort to selfishness or despair. This is a much-needed message for people like me who can feel discouraged and disheartened by the vitriol and despair surrounding climate change.

HAND: What’s one thing I’ll do after reading this book?
Keep learning.

One thing I’ll do is continue learning about climate science from those more knowledgeable than me, then hopefully pass along something of use to others who want to know more.

“Voicing your concern matters, and voicing your commitment matters even more. Katharine Hayhoe says it well: the single most important thing you and I can do about our current situation is talk about it.”

LONGER REVIEW:

WELCOME TO REALITY

Who should (and shouldn’t) read this book?

Life After Doom isn’t for everyone. Brian states early on that this book may NOT be for you . . .

  • If you’re already on edge because of personal challenges, save this book for another time.
  • If you dismiss climate change as a hoax, skip the book altogether.
  • If you are looking for statistical evidence and charts to convince you how bad things are, this book won’t satisfy you.

But if you are a human being looking to face head-on what is happening to our climate, with humility, resiliency, and responsibility, then please read this book.

The book is intellectually easy to read, but emotionally difficult at times. I teetered through a range of emotions as I read it. But it’s worth it. As Brian writes,

“We need to face what we know. And we need to face what we don’t know. Only what is faced can be changed. That is why I say, and I hope you will join me, welcome to reality.”

STAY THE MORAL COURSE

I have read several climate science books the past two years and each has brought me hope for different reasons (Not the End of the World is a great one for data). But none of these books went to a final scenario quite like Brian does in Life After Doom. I found it oddly hopeful to imagine that even if we don’t save Earth, we can still be courageous and loving human beings along the way.

If it comes to this:

“Standing on the brink of oblivion (to use Ernst Becker’s phrase) we feel arising within us this sustained declaration: We will live as beautifully, bravely, and kindly as we can as long as we can, no matter how ugly, scary, and mean the world becomes, even if failure and death seem inevitable.”

Brian occasionally draws from his own Christian tradition in the book, but also values insights from other religions, philosophies, and indigenous traditions. We all are neighbors on this planet, and we’ll need to be in solidarity on how to heal it.

“Do you see why I keep coming back to the Serenity Prayer? I do not know for certain whether our current doom trajectory can be changed with courage, or if it should be accepted with serenity. I do not yet have that wisdom. The only thing I know is that I want to set a moral course for myself, without judging others if they take another course.”

ACT NOW, LOVE ALWAYS

None of us can accurately predict which scenario will happen in this experiment we’re playing with Earth. But I do know it’s time we act now, before our options dwindle down further.

Brian includes lots and lots of resources throughout Life After Doom for wise actions we can take, for information we can read, for people we can listen to, and for support we can find.

I realize complacency is often our default option.

But I hope we won’t get stuck in complacency. Whether you are a poet, a scientist, a politician, a theologian, a businessman, a teacher—a human being with any gifts and skills!—there is something for you to do to ease our transition from climate destruction to climate rejuvenation.

“In times like these, many things become too late. For example, it is already too late to keep CO2 levels below 350 parts per million. If it is not too late already, it will very soon be too late to keep Earth’s temperatures below the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit proposed by scientists in Paris in 2015. It will be too late to save this coastline or that ecosystem, this city or that species, this democracy or that economy. But it is not too late to love, and it never will be. Love will count, no matter what.”

What we need most are people who care. Reading books like Life After Doom is a powerful way to nurture a caring spirit.

Be a person who cares.


Share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to NetGalley + St. Martin’s Press
for the review copy of Life After Doom


“I’m not sure”—Is That Compassionate?
Embrace Uncertainty for Greater Compassion

I began to notice how seldom we ‘make place for the other’ in social interaction. . . . Western society is highly opinionated.”
– Karen Armstrong

Is there a connection between knowing you’re always right and being unsympathetic?

And its converse? Are those who realize they could be wrong likely to be more compassionate?

I’m curious about it. I wonder if it’s so.

Because sometimes, from where I sit anyway, it seems to be true: that people who are most sure of their position are often the harshest ones. And people who accept their potential to be wrong are the ones more likely to give grace to others.

But I could be wrong. . . .

In Karen Armstrong’s book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, Armstrong suggests these three exercises to grow in compassion.

1. Appreciate the unknowable

Armstrong suggests participating daily in an experience that touches you deeply beyond words. What brings you awe? What captures your sense of wonder? One example for me is the awe I feel when I see unusual displays of kindness. Seeing humans treat other humans with exceptional respect and dignity makes me truly realize there’s much I still don’t understand about the depth of goodness in our humanity.

2. Become sensitive to overconfidence

You probably know someone in your life who thinks they know everything. (And if not, turn on the news; you’ll find talking heads who think they know it all.) Do we try too hard to win arguments? Are we too reluctant to admit, “I don’t know”? Would we be wise to occasionally play devil’s advocate against our own views to uncover blind spots?

3. Notice the mystery of each person

Be mindful of the beautiful mystery of each person in your day. Think about what you specifically love about your partner or close friend. And then about yourself. What makes you different from everyone else? Do you value the mystery of each person?

Another book that touches deeply on this message is Kathryn Schulz’s amazing book, Being Wrong (it’s messing with me, I tell you). She reminds me that even as I seek Truth, the deceptive allure of certainty is hard at work pulling me in the opposite direction of Love.

“Just as our love of being right is best understood as a fear of being wrong, our attraction to certainty is best understood as an aversion to uncertainty.”
– Kathryn Schulz

How little we know.

May we make peace with it so we can learn more.

And open up space for more love, more grace, and more compassion.

* * *

Has being wrong ever taught you to be more compassionate? Who in your life is a compassionate person? I want to hear.

Read more: