Making these selections has been a bit like choosing one's favorite child over the others. It goes without saying that I've read more than 40 tremendous books, but since I originated this dang idea, I need to stick to my own rules. Here is installment three.
21. Indispensable Guide to Smaller Churches by David R. Ray. I belong to a small, loving congregation and am a lay ordained minister. This book gave me perspective on how to not feel inferior as a small congregation in the midst of the mega church landscape. It reminded me and gave me examples of the good things that can happen in small churches and I have been unapologetic about the size of our membership ever since.
22. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow. I wish so much that my grandmother could have read this book. She would have loved it and we would have had so much to discuss. This is an epistolary novel (written entirely in the form of letters). Of course, readers who know me well will know how much I LOVE that! It is stunning how such a beautiful and painful story can unfold simply by the letters the cast of characters send to one another. It is gobsmacking (utterly astonishing) in its literary beauty. You will not regret picking up this one or downloading it.
23. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. Sarah Vowell needs to be cloned. If she taught history classes or at least wrote the textbooks for high school history classes, it would be every student's favorite subject in school. This is my favorite of all of her books. She's wicked smart, wicked funny, and her research is exhaustive. It's especially fun to listen to because she has a very high, nasal voice that can mask her brilliant mind. It was this book that planted the seed to begin my presidential biography reading project. (She's also Violet from The Incredibles.) If you like history, run do not walk to this book.
24. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. This book is on the list because in the nine years since I read it, the imagery and strange community of people she assembles is still very vivid to me. Super smart writing, this one.
25. Why is it Always About You? 7 Deadly Sins of Narcissism by Sandy Hotchkiss. This book helped me understand some strong personalities that I seem to attract repeatedly and how to better cope. It's a fascinating read.
26. Raising Kids with Character by Elizabeth Berger. I read this when my daughter was 18 months old – a pretty stressful time in my parenting journey. This book really helped me get perspective on what I was trying to achieve in my parenting. I wrote this author a thank-you e-mail and she replied! This was the start of my writing to authors whose work moved me.
27. The Gift of Rest by Joseph Lieberman. I read this book three years ago. I love reading books from other faith traditions, and this one was really good. The author reflects on how his Jewish faith and its Sabbath keeping has enriched his life. It inspired me to begin choosing to rest as an important part of my week. Right now, rest looks like a commitment to my Sunday afternoon yoga class. This book has made a difference in the way I spend my weekends recuperating from the frenzy of my work week.
28. Broken Open How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser. This is another book that brought comfort and context during a time of great stress and confusion. If you are encountering a difficult time, definitely seek out this book.
29. Literary Mama by Andrea J. Buchanan and Amy Hudock. This was a birthday gift from a dear writer-friend and another book that was pointing me in the direction of taking my writing life seriously. The writing is really, really good.
30. Angelina Ballerina series by author Katharine Holabird and illustrator Helen Craig. This book series will always conjure some of the sweetest mother-daughter moments I have shared with Cadence. When she was smaller, she'd choose an Angelina book from her collection because “ I know you love these books.” The illustrations melt me every time.