Saturday, February 3, 2018

30 Great Audio Books

Dear Prasanta,

You asked for audio book recommendations, so here you go!

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, read by the author
The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, read by Antony Ferguson (In a lovely Scottish brogue.)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelo, read by the author
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs, read by Audio Elan
The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway, read by Barbara Caruso
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, read by the author

Modern Novels:
Bel Canto Ann Patchett
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Babery
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Life-Changing Non-Fiction:
David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, read by C.S. Lewis!
Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster

Comfort Novels:
(If I ever fall into a coma, I've instructed my family to play these repeatedly.)

The Complete Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, read by Cherry Jones
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore:
(Some weird and disturbing scenes in these books, but they're well-crafted memoirs that left me thinking.)

Cut Me Loose: Sin And Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood by Leah Vincent
Greetings From Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman
Walk Through Walls by Marina Abramovic

Junior Fiction:
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

(These narrators were carefully selected.)

Moby-Dick by Hermann Melville, read by Frank Muller
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, read by Ian Lynch
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, read by David Horovitch,
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, read by Elijah Wood
Emma by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, read by Sissy Spacek

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Hope this helps. Happy listening!


Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Year in Books: 2017

Hi Friends,

This year I moved twice, returned to paid employment after 15 years as a homemaker, and got a divorce. Now I'm living in my parents' home with my five children.

Over the past 12 months, my reading choices formed the backdrop to everything that was rapidly changing in my life. Like always, it was through books that I was able to process these changes and make sense of things.

Here's the list of books in the order I read them:

1. Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson by Mary Rowlandson

A first-hand account of the abduction of a colonial woman by Native Americans in 1676. The first American best-seller.

2. Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

How to experience the presence of God through routine tasks. This idea isn't new.

Pair with The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

3. Possession by A. S. Byatt

The last novel on The Well Educated Mind fiction list! Break out the champagne!

4. Born Again by Charles Colson

A title on the Well Educated Mind autobiography list.

Charles Colson served seven months in prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration. This memoir recounts how his experience nudged him toward conversion to Christianity.

Pair with Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

5. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

A memoir of hope and dreams by a marginalized protagonist. Great introduction to writing by Hispanic women.

6. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

I cannot overstate how much this memoir moved me. It was while listening to the audio version narrated by Lisa Renee Pitts that I finally decided to separate from my husband of fifteen years.

7. Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti

I loved the idea of this book because it reminded me of issues of Victoria Magazine from the late 1980s--early 1990s. There would be a spread depicting scenes from a classic novel with quotes that sucked me in entirely. That magazine introduced me to a lot of great culture in general. Novel Interiors didn't quite live up to that level of inspiration, but it was fun to reminisce.

8. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

I've seen Ben Franklin's clothes at the Smithsonian; now I've heard his voice.

Listen to the audio version narrated by Robin Field.

9. Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim

I barely recall reading this book. Maybe I was in a fog because of what was going down in my life at the time. Anyhow, it left no impression.

10. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Graphic, poignant, heartbreaking, and lovely. Now I know why Maya Angelou is a National Treasure.

Listen to the audio version which is read by the author.

11. Fiddler in the Subway: The Story of the World Class Violinist Who Played for Handouts. . . and Other Virtuoso Performances by America's Foremost Feature Writer by Gene Weingarten

The world class violinist was Joshua Bell. You can search it on the Internet. He really did play for handouts in a subway. I think he earned like twenty bucks.

12. Swan: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver

"If you have ever gone to the woods with me,

I must love you very much."

13. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

A funny novel about a friendship between a middle-aged female French concierge and a 12 year old genius. Would make a good movie.

14. Optimism by Helen Keller

The name "Helen Keller" is pretty much synonymous with optimism, so the fact that she wrote a book with this title just makes sense.

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."

15. Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Lemmon

I love anything that stretches my comprehension of other cultures, especially with regard to the daily lives of women. This true story of determination, creativity, cooperation, and perseverance was inspiring.

16. The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie by Andrew Carnegie

I gleaned much more from this book than I expected. It was the right book at the right time. I listened to the audio version during the summer as I walked mile after mile at a local park. I needed to start shaping a vision of a future for myself and my kids that was going to be much different than I had prepared for heretofore. Andrew Carnegie helped me make some practical decisions.

17. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

During my brief time in college, when I was in about 20 years old, my English professor wrote a note at the bottom of one of my essays:

"You are a gentle, yet persuasive feminist."

I was mortified because I had been raised in a culture that taught "Feminism" was a bad word.

Reading this book was like a reunion with a part of myself that I had lost sight of, a part of me that I want my children to know.

18. The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

This was the second time I've read this book.

I still have a lot to learn about love.

19. Autobiography of Teresa of Avila 

One of the books on the Well Educated Mind autobiography list. I always enjoy a front row seat to history. There is nothing like a famous person's own words.

20. Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart by Steven M. R. Covey

Thought-provoking insights for those interested in establishing a unified team in the modern workplace.

21. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A novel about the attempt to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s. A solid, hefty piece of modern fiction which stretched me. I'd like to read more of this author's work.

22. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

A novel as vivid and dramatic as an opera. There's even a opera singer in it. Plus there's lush scenery, a terrible problem, forbidden love, and an evil villain with a rash on his face.

23. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the Whitehouse by Alyssa Mastromonaco

A light, entertaining read with some helpful advice for anyone starting a new career.

24. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Listened to this while playing Lara Croft: Relic Run on my phone. Now they go together in my mind.

25. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Finally got around to reading this. Now it's a movie with Julia Roberts.

26. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Another title from The Well Educated Mind autobiography list. This slave narrative is essential reading material. On Valentine's Day 2018, we'll celebrate the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass, so this is a title you'll want to put on your TBR list now.

Side note: It was quoted heavily in Half a Yellow Sun.

27. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook -- What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry

Extremely Insightful. This book helped me further clarify my career goals.

28. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A young neurosurgeon is diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer. This book is his final gift to humanity. Poignant and life-affirming.

"Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete."

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!



Friday, May 12, 2017

On My Own, but Not Alone

Dear Friends,

My pastor recommended that I start blogging again, so here I am.
Since my last post, life has taken a dramatic turn. I'm going through a dissolution of marriage after fifteen years. Fortunately, my children's father and I are currently on good terms and co-parenting is going really well. I won't be scrubbing references to him from my social media accounts.

I'm now living at my parents' farm with the children. I'll spare you the details of the last few exhausting months and just say that I think I've reached the final stage of grief: acceptance.

Mom and Dad have 18 bee colonies and no microwave. They have a rotary telephone and no wifi. Life has come full circle for me. I'm back in my old dormer bedroom in a twin sized bed I'm sharing with my five year old daughter. At night I like to open the window and and we listen to spring peepers and rain or whatever's going on in the country in the dark. We cuddle like two birds in a nest. I'm blessed to have all my children near me in a situation that is safe and familiar to us.

I've set up a portable library in my room with wooden crates. Reading is more than a pleasurable pastime right now: it's a life raft for my mind and spirit. Recently I've been tweeting some of my favorite lines from the book I'm reading: The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie. It's a great book for anyone attempting a fresh start. I've been deeply challenged by Carnegie's optimism and determination.

The children and I are adjusting well to our new community. They love school and I love volunteering there from time to time. Church has become a genuine sanctuary for my weary heart. A few weeks ago I began serving as a liturgist. The congregants were so loving and supportive of my effort, that I found the courage to do it again. I love how connected and generous they are to those in need. I'm learning from their example how to live out my faith in a more authentic way.

Until next time, then.


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Parable of the Good Samaritan: A Guest Post for a Friend

The Good Samaritan, Paula Modersohn-Becker

On Sunday mornings I assist my husband in teaching Sunday school to a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade boys. We usually have about ten boys in class, but yesterday we got a surprise when the girls from the classroom next door joined us! Their teachers weren't able to make it, so we ended up with 23 kids altogether. I love helping with this age group and I was especially happy to get to know the girls a bit.

Our lesson was on the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. My husband Joe asked for a volunteer to read the passage. A petite girl with red hair and freckles was the first to raise her hand. Joe called on her to read. I'll call her "Red."

Red's voice was soft. Right from the start she struggled to sound out the words. After a few minutes I thought she might give up and let someone else take over, but she plodded on through the entire passage. The boys squirmed. Some of the kids exchanged awkward smiles with each other. There were long pauses between Red's words and it was hard to hear most of what she read.

But it was okay.

Actually, it was more than okay -- it was wonderful! I'm not sure if any of the kids picked up on what I saw, but Jesus underscored His message to me because there was a "Good Samaritan" right by Red's side. I'll call her "Sam."

(Read the rest at my friend Tim's blog, Just One Train Wreck After Another.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Saying Goodbye

This afternoon my girls and I went back to our old house to finish wrapping things up. There wasn't much left to do. I swept the floors, wiped down the counters, then vacuumed the playroom. The girls frolicked through the echoing rooms and wrote "Goodbye!" and "I love you!" on the concrete porch with a stray piece of chalk. Olivia took a video as we pulled away.

I used to think I wanted to stay at that house for the rest of my life. I thought it would be devastating for me to leave, but actually, it wasn't at all. More than anything, I'll miss our kids being little. They have been the highlight of every square inch of my living spaces for the last fourteen years! This house was the setting for a sweet and innocent chapter of life for them. I believe they'll recall many fond memories of our time there. What else could I ask for?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Genealogy of Ideas

You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see. You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, "We are shaped and fashioned by what we love. 

Austin Kleon

As I said a couple days ago, I was inspired by Austin Kleon's short book Steal Like an Artist to assemble a "Genealogy of Ideas." I had some fun with this. I chose four writers whose works I have have nearly exhausted though the years. They each resonate with me for a broad spectrum of reasons. Taken collectively, perhaps they'll give me a glimpse into the type of writing that fits me best.

1. Diane Ackerman  ". . . is an American poet, essayist, and naturalist known for her wide-ranging curiosity and poetic explorations of the natural world."

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. ~D.A.

2. Lauren Winner ". . . is a historian, author and lecturer. She is Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity SchoolWinner writes and lectures on Christian practice, the history of Christianity in America, and Jewish–Christian relations."

Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt, or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith. And yet I keep living in the world the way a religious person lives in the world; I keep living in a world that I know to be enchanted, and not left alone. I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless, prone to wander. And yet, glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.~L.W.

3. Malcolm Gladwell    ". . . is an English-born Canadian journalist, author, and speaker."

Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig. 

4. Leo Tolstoy ". . . was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time."

Joy can only be real if people look upon their life as a service and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness. 


Happiness is when you and a friend combine your tea tin collections and discover they make a rainbow.