Books I’m reading – February 2015

Um, it’s almost March and I’ve finished only 2 books on my 2015 Reading Challenges (and they were just children’s Newbery books). Too many unexpected books popped up. How does that happen?

But the unexpected ones have been outstanding! Once a month we share the books we’ve finished reading and are reading now at 5 Minutes for Books. Here is my list for February.


1. Middlemarch
by George Eliot


This novel is a picture of English community in the 1800s. Eliot develops the characters slowly and richly (i.e., it’s long!), but it’s interesting, so in this case, long is good. It’s my pick for the category “A Classic by a Woman Author” for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

2. Pray, Write, Grow
Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together
by Ed Cyzewski


My review here

If you write and if you pray, you’ll appreciate Ed’s newest book on both. It’s short but full, and it’s only $.99 if you pre-order now (I don’t know how much longer). I’m reading a review copy; the real thing comes out March 11. All Ed’s books are well worth reading.

3. A 10-Week Journey to Becoming a Vessel God Can Use
by Donna Partow


A study book for small groups or individuals, this has been on my shelf for years. So I added it on my TBR Pile Challenge this year to either read or get rid of. (But I confess I’m not taking 10 weeks as recommended….)

4. Fever 1793
by Laurie Halse Anderson


This award-winning novel is about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793. It’s making me anxious—who will die next? Another book from the 12 on my TBR Pile.

5. Abandonment to Divine Providence
by Jean-Pierre de Caussade


Written in the 1700s (published in 1861), this classic is about abandoning ourselves to God in the present moment—a holy moment—with God’s will guiding all things. It’s important reading for my One Word “now” year. It’s also my “Nonfiction Classic” pick for the Back to the Classics Challenge.


1. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
by Richard Atwater


This novel is a cute, short children’s book (made into a movie) about a family being gifted a penguin and the havoc and joy it brings. It was my 1930s pick for the Newbery through the Decades Challenge.

2. 40 Days with the Holy Spirit
Fresh Air for Every Day
by Jack Levison


My full review here

This is a devotional but with depth. I’m re-reading and praying through it slowly with Holy Spirit for the 40 Days of Lent.

3. Deep Down Dark
The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free
by Hector Tobar


Read this one! It’s a great story, it’s true, and it’s well-written. You remember the mine collapse in Chile in August 2010, right? This is the official behind-the-scenes look from the perspective of the men trapped as well as their families and rescuers. It’s being made into a movie so read the book first. I doesn’t matter that you already know the ending.

4. The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak


Love, love, love the story-telling by Markus Zusak. He’s an artist. The story is of course marvelous too about a young girl and family in Nazi Germany, but the writing—oh my.

5. Simplicity
The Art of Living
by Richard Rohr


I haven’t read any books by Richard Rohr that I haven’t liked yet. This is one of my favorites so far. It’s about many things spiritual, and he lays it all out plainly.

“I’m convinced that we have transformed the Gospel into self-control. On the other hand I’m convinced that the Gospel itself is about self-surrender. But self-control is a masculine way of thinking. And self-surrender is perhaps rather a feminine form of thinking. We haven’t allowed God to teach us to surrender.” – Richard Rohr

6. Falling Upward
A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
by Richard Rohr


Another excellent Rohr book about participating in the divine life even more, the older we get.

“True religion is always a deep intuition that we are already participating in something very good, in spite of our best efforts to deny it or avoid it. In fact, the best of modern theology is revealing a strong “turn toward participation,” as opposed to religion as mere observation, affirmation, moralism, or group belonging. There is nothing to join, only something to recognize, suffer, and enjoy as a participant. You are already in the eternal flow that Christians would call the divine life of the Trinity.” – Richard Rohr

7. Simply Open
A Guide to Experiencing God in the Everyday
by Greg Paul


My review here

This one is about paying attention in the midst of the busy world to the presence of the Spirit of God, using the avenues he’s given to all of us: our eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, hands, mind, and heart. Within each sense, Greg Paul focuses on these four areas: releasing, receiving, becoming, and doing. It’s good, especially if you want to live more contemplatively.

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What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

35 thoughts on “Books I’m reading – February 2015

  1. Barbara H.

    I hope to get to Middlemarch one day.

    I only got to two of my reading challenge books, and one of them was a children’s book as well.

    I’m glad I am not the only one with books on my shelves for years that I haven’t read yet. :=)

    The one about the mines sounds interesting, and The Book Thief is not on any of my lists but I so want to read it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Middlemarch has actually been quite easy to read for an older book. I know you know what I mean. 🙂 Sometimes the pace and the rabbit trails can be frustrating, but not the case (so far) with this one (although it definitely is slower compared to modern novels).

      I put all my unread books together on the same shelf the other day and it was discouraging to see. ha. But Jeff was amazed at how small the number was. Go figure. It’s all about perspective I suppose.

  2. Susan

    I’ve never read anything by George Eliot — I’d like to, though. Mr. Popper’s Penguins brings back such nice memories! My 3rd grade teacher read it to us. I loved Book Thief, as well.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I remembering reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins with my girls when we homeschooled so it brought back happy memories to me too, Susan. May have even been on a camping trip (so make that mixed memories, ha–I’m sure it rained!).

  3. Cathy

    I’ve been staring at my copy of Middlemarch sitting on my bookshelf for years now. The size is so intimidating! I’d love to read it someday soon.

    My daughter read the Book Thief and loved it. I really loved the movie but she said it’s a little different than the book.

    Enjoy all your good books!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree, Cathy. The size of Middlemarch is intimidating. I started it on my Kindle first so the size wasn’t quite as obvious. But then I checked out a hardback copy from the library (I like to go back and forth) and took a step backwards. ha.

      I watched The Book Thief first, then read the book (not my preferred order). So now I want to re-watch the movie since I should understand it much better now. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I saw the Book Thief movie several months ago for the first time. I don’t think I quite “got” it all at the time though. But now that I’ve read the book, I’m ready to watch it again! My husband hasn’t seen it yet (and he will NEVER read the book, ha), so hopefully I can rope him in one night to watch it together. I can’t imagine anybody not liking it. Glad you posted a nightstand yourself!

  4. Jean Wise

    What I like most about your monthly lists is the variety and mixture of older books, newer books and fiction and nonfiction. Instead of buying something new this year, I scoured my bookshelves and found three Lenten devotional to use for this season. From that hunt I pulled off God Hunger by John Kirvan so reread. Don’t you love some of these books that keep calling us back? Great list, as usual, Lisa. Thanks

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I do love that it’s so easy to find a wide variety of books. I remember back in the day when I had only the bookmobile choices of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. 🙂 Loved those too though! Glad you found some faithful friends on your shelves for Lent.

  5. David

    Dear Lisa

    I decided I couldn’t wait till July and I’ve started reading the Hegel (Phenomenology of Spirit). It’s very exciting but very hard. I don’t think I’ll understand it first time through. His first book was a life of Christ, and he seems to have considered himself a religious person. They are turning up with increasing regularity.

    The Cyzewski sounds right up my street! I am only gradually coming round to reading longer texts on screen. Will it come out in dead tree format too?


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes we have to just dive into a book whether the time is as planned or not. I’ve been waiting on “Being Mortal” to become available at my library, and it popped up yesterday, so I’m reading it now instead of later. I’m glad Christ in various forms continue to turn up for you. 🙂

      I think you would enjoy Cyzewski’s book on prayer and writing. It’s only 75 comparable print pages so not too bad if you dislike eReading. I’ve not heard any plans for it to be available in other formats but that doesn’t necessarily mean the answer is no.

  6. Sharon

    You do know, Lisa, don’t you, how much I love your book lists. As I’ve said before, I love the range of topics that you read about. I would love to sit down and talk to you about how and why you are led to these books. I appreciate your eclectic tastes!!

    I was especially intrigued by the book, “Fever.” I just watched a documentary the other night about the bubonic plague in London. Evidently they unearthed some old graves, and are learning more about The Black Death by studying the bones. Maybe a bit morbid, but I found it fascinating!

    Thanks for more books to add to my *unread* shelves. (Yes, I have shelves, plural…and maybe some boxes, too!)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you enjoy the book lists, Sharon. They’re always fun for me to do (although I probably spend a little too much time on them!). Yes, how fun it would be to sit down and talk about how our books choose us. 🙂

      The plague documentary sounds interesting. I really can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been to live in those times of such uncertainty. At least we *sort* of know about diseases, even though we can’t or don’t always prevent their transmission successfully.

      I’m thinking I have no more boxes of books anywhere (except one recently added to the basement; I need to shelve them). Books, books, everywhere.

  7. Tonia

    I’m laughing at the reading challenges comment. I have a few that I’m doing but the minute I try to schedule all my reading the book list goes out the window with the first interesting book I see.

    Middlemarch is very good. I think the slow unfold works so well with that story.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know—what is it about making the list that automatically attracts new books to invade? ha. Glad I’m not alone in that. And thanks for the encouragement to stick with Middlemarch.

  8. Sharon B

    Fabulous list!

    I loved the Book Thief. I think this is an instance where you really need to have read the book first to fully grasp the movie. For me, so much didn’t translate from book to screen. The book was much more powerful for me.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you. The book made everything so clear. I felt the same way about Les Miserables. I watched the movie first and thought I understood it well enough. But then after I read the book and re-watched the movie, I realized how much I hadn’t understood during the first watching.

  9. Lynn Severance

    Lisa – always appreciate your list of books and synopsis that give us a bit of a taste for their content.

    I have returned to a book I read some years ago and loved. I am reading it as my “Lenten” book and find I am getting even more out of it this go round. It is Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. It was Nouwen’s chance encounter with viewing Rembrandt’s painting of that parable setting that sent Nouwen on his inner journey coming forth with many insights. The story within the story and his insights unfold beautifully.

    I also began Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” and was taken over by the first two pages – a storyteller who swoops her reader right into the story. I think I may have mentioned that elsewhere – how Laura lives with chronic vertigo and yet has found a way to “write” and finish and be published without any big platform or blog or a gazillion followers other than those who were so captivated by her first book, “Seabiscuit”.

    xo Lynn

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      When you love a book, you know I’d probably love it too, Lynn. 🙂 I’ll have to add Henri Nouwen’s book to my list now. I’ve heard this book referenced not long ago in something else I was reading (maybe by Richard Rohr?).

      I’m glad Unbroken is having the same effect on you that it did on me. It was just one of those stories that I didn’t want to put down. Hillenbrand’s writing has an unobtrusive way of carrying me along without being aware of it.

  10. Beth@Weavings

    You just make by TBR list longer. I hopped over and pre-ordered Pray, Write, Grow.

    I’ve read Middlemarch twice now. This story puts me in such agony and I always say I’m not every re-reading it, yet when I finish the story know it is a story I will want to re-visit. Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment!

    I had to laugh about not taking 10 weeks to go through a book. I am the same way.

  11. Carrie, Reading to Know

    Donna Partow…whoa…I haven’t heard that name in awhile!

    I DEVOURED several of her books as a teen. I recall that I even wrote her a letter thanking her for her books and she wrote me back and I was so over the moon about that. 😀 AN AUTHOR WROTE TO ME!! 😀

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      So I’ve had Donna Partow’s book on my shelf even longer than I realized. 🙂 The author Doris Gates (“Blue Willow”) wrote me back when I was in 3rd grade and I still remember it! Makes an impression.

  12. Shonya

    I’m glad someone else gets distracted by other books besides those on the goal list! 🙂

    I seem to remember enjoying that Donna Partow book years ago. And The Book Thief–what a wordsmith!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, the wordsmithing in The Book Thief just took my breath away. I’d often have to just stop and soak in his beautiful word choices before I could read more. Not often does that happen! He has a true gift.

      1. Lynn Severance

        I did not want “The Book Thief” to end for that very reason!
        I have loved many books for various reasons; but none captured the “word crafter lover” in me like that book and way the author formatted it.
        It could well be one I’d re-read if I ever get though other books awaiting!! 🙂

          1. Lynn Severance

            Shonya – I have not read “The Kite Runner” but I know others who have and who really liked it. Thanks for the recommendation in light of “The Book Thief” connection with wordsmithing! 🙂

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