Mini-reviews: Books I read in September


1. Let’s All Be Brave
Living Life with Everything You Have
by Annie F. Downs

Let's All Be Brave_Annie F. Downs

My full review here

I get author Annie Downs. She doesn’t think she’s brave either. But she wants to be. Me, too. She shares personal stories on how she’s learning to be brave, and encourages us in the process. She’s still relatively young in her journey, but I admire her courage to write about it anyway. “Seeing other people be brave makes you want to be brave too.” Agreed.

2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

Mr Penumbras 24-Hour Bookstore

I love how this novel mixes today’s technological world with yesterday’s old-fashioned book world since I relate to both. It’s an easy-going mystery and has already won numerous awards.

3. The Circle
by Dave Eggers

The-Circle_Dave Eggers

[What? Two novels in one month from this non-fiction lover? Blame it on the beach.]

“The Circle” is the world’s largest internet company, and the story develops through the eyes of a new employee there. It takes some nice twists that caught me off guard (maybe I don’t read enough fiction), so I stayed interested from beginning to end. It occasionally seems a tad too realistic though, possibly creating a little paranoia about our real life large internet powers (remaining unnamed).

4. Daring Greatly
How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
by Brené Brown


My full review here

Oh, how I love the honesty of Brené Brown. She includes 12 years of her research on emotions, yet also aptly exposes her own experiences about the importance of vulnerability in our relationships. If you like easily-accessible psychology-type books—and are up to being challenged in your own life—make sure you read this one. It’s excellent.

“To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”

5. A New Kind of Christianity
Ten Questions that Are Transforming the Faith
by Brian D. McLaren


This is my “Oh my!” book of the month. If you’ve grown too settled in your Christian dogma, let this book shake things up for you. McLaren asks ten seemingly innocent questions that will prompt new thoughts and even more questions. However, if you’re uncomfortable with the status quo being challenged, you best skip this book.

“We can very easily confuse ‘The Bible says’ with ‘I say the Bible says,’ which we can then equate with ‘God says.’ (A friend of mine says that the average religious leader begins by humbly speaking with God; then he speaks humbly of God; then he speaks proudly for God; and finally he speaks arrogantly as if he were God.)”

6. If Grace Is True

Why God Will Save Every Person
by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland


The question: Will everyone end up in heaven? After reading the book, I still disagree with the authors (they think yes; I think no), but that doesn’t negate the great value of this book. They share insightful thoughts on grace and faith that we definitely agree on. “The Bible doesn’t say God can be loving or God is often loving or even God is usually loving. It says God is love.” Yes!

They also bring up other questions that I needed to ponder (and will continue to). My sister Sandy and niece Danielle also read this one, so we had a marvelous discussion afterwards about it. I’m looking forward to our next book together (Sandy’s choice this time!).

7. Still Foolin’ ‘Em
Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys
by Billy Crystal

Still Foolin Em_Billy Crystal

I like Billy Crystal. He’s made me laugh for years. He makes me laugh again in this memoir about his career and about turning 65. He has a few colorful words and stories sprinkled here and there (just so you know), but overall it’s a funny yet poignant look at his life.


1. Les Misérables
by Victor Hugo


Yes, still here. I  crossed the halfway mark though (51% read)! I’m finding it very interesting in chapters, and very off-topic in other chapters. But the good continues to outweigh the bad, so I’ll carry on.

“The gamin is a grace to the nation, and at the same time a disease; a disease which must be cured, how? By light. Light renders healthy. Light kindles.”

2. One Way Love
Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World
by Tullian Tchividjian

One Way Love_Tullian Tchividjian

God loves us even when we’re not very lovable—a one-way love. This book is about God’s grace and love and faithfulness. That’s always welcome news; no wonder I’m enjoying this one.

“The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people.”

3. Four Cups
God’s Timeless Promises for a Life of Fulfillment
by Chris Hodges

Four Cups_Chris Hodges

This is the one real book traveling with me to Guatemala. I listened to Pastor Chris’s sermon series on the four cups earlier this year through the podcast of Church of the Highlands, so I know this material will be profitable.

A third category this month. . .


1. Overcoming Sin and Temptation
by John Owen

I wanted to read this one with Tim Challie’s Reading Classics Together group. But I got behind early on. Plus the language is very laborious. Now just isn’t the time for it. Maybe later?

2. Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman

The subject is fascinating: how our brains work in fast and slow modes. It starts out engaging. But frankly, the length (512 pages) grew too discouraging. I’ll just read what others say about it instead.

* * *

What’s a good book you are reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

24 thoughts on “Mini-reviews: Books I read in September

  1. Annette Whipple

    I thank you for the reminder about the bookstore book. I’d seen that around before. The heaven book sounds interesting, but I suspect I’d just be frustrated with it instead of seeing merit in thinking through each part on my own. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I understand that, Annette. Occasionally I’ll intentionally read a book by an atheist or someone totally out of my faith zone just to challenge my own thoughts about what I believe. But not every month because it is draining. 🙂

  2. Barbara H.

    I was the same about the Owen book. I am vitally interested in the subject but just wasn’t mentally up to slogging through the language, so I didn’t even start. I’m enjoying reading Challis’ reviews of the chapters.

    Also felt the same way with Les Mis. Such a beauitful story sprinkled with so many profound truths, but with so many very very long rabbit trails!

    I hadn’t heard of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – sounds like a great read.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You totally understand me about Owens. I’m just reading Challies’ summaries too–they’re always so thorough it’s almost like reading the book, right? 🙂

      When Les Mis sticks to the plot, I love it and don’t want to put it down. But oh my, those rabbit trails can go on and on and on…. If I didn’t know its reputation as a great book, I would have stopped already. But I trudge on.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I understand the need to go slower through Brene’s book. Unfortunately my copy was from the library, and someone else requested it before I finished, not allowing me to renew it when my 2 weeks were up. 🙁 So I had to rush through the second half. I’ll have to give it a more thorough read another time (and buy my own copy!). 🙂

  3. Alecia Simersky

    I’m about to read Holley’s new devo and am looking forward to it. Number 5 on your list sounds very intriguing. I think I would really like it, I like being challenged and moving away from the status quo.

    War Eagle! We just moved to God’s country last month and enjoying it very much! 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      McLaren’s book is one I wish more people would read, just to broaden their perspectives (and maybe occasionally change their minds?). 🙂

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying Auburn, Alecia! Just think: you and my daughter (or me!) might have crossed paths at Starbucks or somewhere and never known it. ha. Hope you’re finding a good spiritual community there. My daughter has flourished through her friendships and worship at Church of the Highlands. I love visiting there with her.

  4. Jean Wise

    You certainly stretched yourself this month, Lisa! wow. what a wide range of topics too.

    I am reading a McLaren book right now: Naked Spirituality and read the updated classic – recently revised – SoulFeast.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it was a good stretching. 🙂 Naked Spirituality was the first McClaren book I read–it was good too, but I liked A New Kind of Christianity even better. Hope you enjoy!

  5. bekahcubed

    How neat that you’re reading together with your sister and niece. My sister-in-law and I recently started “meeting” on Skype to talk through parenting books and I’ve found it to be wonderful to get a different perspective – even from someone as close to me as she is (I mentored her through high school and we became good friends before she married my brother.)

  6. Dolly@Soulstops

    Praying today for you as you leave for Guatemala…may God give you peace and many gifts of connecting with Him and with others on your trip…proud of you for being brave and going 🙂

    Thanks for your book list. I’m reading King’s Cross by Tim Keller…very good…deep so I can only read it slowly…I’m also reading Found by Micha Boyett and feeling she’s kindred…

  7. Sharon

    I am going to see if my library has Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book store. I am trying to do better at reading non-fiction so I am jotting down a few you mentioned as well. Thanks so much!

  8. Jody Collins

    Lisa, I saw your Les Mis photo…….I read that book (unabridged, yep) back in the 80’s when the play first came out. It is still one of the most beautiful books ever written, I think. I have it in my nightstand and haven’t picked it up in years.
    Maybe I will again.
    You inspire me. 🙂

  9. Beth@Weavings

    Mr. Penunbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore looks interesting.

    I survived reading Les Miserables earlier this year and still need to write my thoughts down. I’ll be interested in what you think. I was surprised at my final feelings when the book was finished.

  10. floyd

    That’s it? That’s all you got? … I feel like Maxwell Smart when he begins to tell a lie to cover his shortcomings, “Would you believe?”

    Man. I’ve read one or two books this year and can’t remember the first one… Gotta get off this merry-go-round…

  11. Carrie, Reading to Know

    Oh. The 24-Hour bookstore one looks interesting. Marking that title down.

    Hooray for making it over halfway through Les Mis! Good work! 😀 I still think that is one of The Most Important works of fiction that a person can read in their lifetime. A definite must-read!

  12. christina

    I listened to the audiobook of Les Mis last year (during my many hours of PT work). The historical tangents would be more ponderous in print than audio, I think. He did always bring them back around to the story though. The book more than repaid my time, and the conclusion broke my heart, far more than the musical version. Such amazing craftsmanship there. Let me know how you find the ending.

    The 24-hour bookstore novel appeals to me most of the unfamiliar titles on your list. Big surprise there. 🙂

    Happy reading, friend. You already have your October titles chosen, don’t you?

    Grace and peace to you in Jesus.

  13. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! My girlfriend recommended “Daring Greatly”, I knew I recognized that cover. I haven’t started it yet, but it’s good to see that you liked it so well.

    I think it’s wonderful to say what you couldn’t quite finish. I get like that too. The title sounds good, or I’ve heard great things, but it just doesn’t hit home. I ran into that with the Wounded Healer book by Henri Nouwen. I really like him! But I just couldn’t get hooked on this one. Oh well, who knows, maybe in a few months I’ll try again.

  14. TC Avey

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t gotten to read much outside of the Bible. I look forward to life slowing down some so I can pick up a book and read it.
    Appreciate all the reviews.
    God bless.

Leave a Reply

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