God delights in giving us pleasure, and reading is among life's greatest gifts.

The October Book Talk: Where Reading Friends Love to Gather

Movement outside my window is a continual distraction this time of year.  Leaves floating down in vibrant shades of turmeric and cayenne pull my attention away from the pan on the stove, the recipe on the counter, the book I’m trying to read.

The autumn foliage is breathtaking on this country hill, and I’m reminded that all this beauty is a portal through which God enters my days and my thoughts.  Four times in Scripture we are exhorted to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,”  and the perfection of His creative genius shouts to me when I’m walking the dog in a shower of swirling color.

After all, God could have made leaves fall off the trees without bothering to make the whole process so glorious.

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But it’s clear that God delights in giving us pleasure, and reading is among life’s greatest gifts–especially when I get to share what I’m reading with friends. This monthly Book Talk is a pour-yourself-another-mug-of-cider kind of post where I’ll share what I’ve been taking in this month, and where I look forward to hearing from YOU about your October reads. In fact, if you are a blogger and you want to share the link to a blog post recapping what you’ve read this month, be my guest. Let’s get started…

Be Kind to Yourself

I met Cindy Bunch in the Acknowledgements section of so many books that when I learned she had written a book herself, naturally, I had to read it. As a long-time editor for InterVarsity Press, Bunch walked into Be Kind to Yourself holding two questions in her heart and extending them to the reader with all the force of a spiritual practice:

  1. What’s bugging you?
  2. What’s bringing you joy?

These two questions are connected at gut level, for as the first makes way for a full expression of the second, we learn to “work with the daily pain” and to “embrace the things that bring awareness of God’s good gifts.” (96)

If you are finding within yourself a need to examine the routines and rhythms of your life through a lens of gentleness, Cynthia Bunch stands with you as a seasoned searcher. She shares insights from her own desolate days and explores spiritual practices that offer help and support. It turns out that tiny adjustments and small acts of noticing offered to God over time begin to make a difference: the burned bacon as well as the sweet hummingbird; the hurtful comment from a friend alongside the healing words of scripture; the disappointment of cancelled flights offset by the comfort of family togetherness.

Be Kind to Yourself offers all the expected advice for rational practices: get some sleep, learn your Enneagram number, practice forgiveness, relinquish control, make time for what you love to do. What keeps it from being just another self-rescue book is the deep current of wisdom that transcends the practical, offering Gospel hope and refusing pat answers to the brutal and unanswerable realities that find their resolution only in the kindness of God.

Always a Guest

I cherish Barbara Brown Taylor’s voice–not because she and I agree on everything, but because we do not. Her prose is lyrical and her reasoning is crystalline, which is so healthy for someone like me, addicted to being right and generally convinced that everyone who disagrees with me must do so because they do not fully understand the issue at hand.

Always a Guest is a collection of sermons and speeches Brown Taylor delivered as guest speaker after having left parish ministry. Ironically, it has been in this ministry of schlepping from pulpit to podium that she has stumbled upon the rich insight that the speaker’s role is “to do what any person sitting in front of them could do: give voice to the faith that is in them, and trust God to do the rest.” (89) As a teacher, I’ve inscribed these words in the front of my journal as a sort of mission statement and a reminder of Who’s behind all the words, both written and spoken.

BBT has a gift for reading a well-known Bible story, diving in head first, and emerging from the depths, clutching in her fist a completely fresh and fearless interpretation based simply on her willingness to observe the scene without the bias of the familiar. Her commitment to the creative life bubbles forth as a joyful invitation to others to create and to appreciate beauty everywhere:

When we put something beautiful into the world, it is Genesis all over again.” (210)

“[Jesus] seemed to know that what anxious people need most is to get over ourselves for a moment, losing ourselves in the kind of beauty that loosens our grip on all the thing we mistakenly think will keep us safe.” (279)

Conversations about the nature of true faith, Christians and conflict, and what it means to worship God challenge the reader to embrace the truth that God exists outside our organizational systems–even outside our theology, which is, after all only a servant of the inquiring heart. If you are willing to take the risk of being prodded into seeing your following life in a new way, this is the book for your late fall night stand.

On Waiting Well

Sometimes the books I need to read the most are the ones that cut across my preferences and address the ruts I’ve dug for myself over five decades of living. Waiting has never been my forte, and here in the U.S.A., it’s easy to make a virtue out of impatience. A smile and an eye roll and a few words about being “driven” and “determined” and suddenly we’re off the hook.

However, a careful reading of scripture and an honest look back over my shoulder both reveal that God is often most active in my seasons of waiting. If you don’t want to miss out on his purpose for you as you wait, On Waiting Well by Bradley Baurain will convince you of something you might already have begun to suspect: On this planet, there’s no way to dodge the need to wait.

Baurain makes an important distinction between waiting for and waiting on. It turns out that waiting is a real verb, no more absent of activity than a drop of pond water under a microscope. When we wait for something to happen, we “stay in place literally or figuratively until a person arrives or an event occurs.” Waiting on requires “attending to or serving someone.” To our surprise, we may find that, with the right mindset, the two become one and “any hardships incurred in the waiting for are far outweighted by the pleasure and wisdom of the waiting on.” (17)

Waiting is a theme that runs like a ribbon through all of scripture. This is “Big W” waiting, on ongoing spiritual reality for us who claim that our salvation, redemption, and sanctification are an “already but not yet” proposition. In the meantime, this big picture of God’s kingdom being formed in us and through us is the comfort that gets us through all our “small w” waiting that happens in doctor’s offices and at red lights during rush hour.

Whether or not you are currently in a season of drumming your fingers as you watch time passing you by, every believer who is paying attention is aware of the tension as we wait for God’s justice, for clarity in all the questions we carry, for his promises to be fulfilled, for rescue from our own stinking selves, and for Christ’s ultimate return.

Finally, if you are not in the habit of checking out the Acknowledgements section of the books you read, know that you may be missing out on some treasures. Bradley Baurain was careful to thank Johann Sebastian Back and cellist Yo-Yo Ma for the six Cello Suites that became the soundtrack for his days of writing, and looking them up on YouTube enhanced a morning of writing for me as well.

Strong, Brave, and Beautiful

Motherhood, for me, started out like a tightrope walk. To keep my balance and maintain my place on the tightly stretched wire, I read all the books, analyzed all the angles, second guessed all the decisions, and the only thing that saved my sanity is that Google had not been invented yet. I’m still in the process of taking grace for this mothering gig, and one huge encouragement along the way is the shared experiences of others.

The Kindred Mom community offers strong support and a warm welcome to mums through their blogging and podcast ministry, and now, with the release of Strong, Brave, and Beautiful there’s a lasting, hold-it-in-your-own-hand-and-keep-it-on-your-nightstand compilation of beautiful mothering wisdom. For the days when we feel weak-willed and cowardly, when we’ve forgotten what it’s like to wear real clothes and makeup, we need an amplifier for God’s voice in our ears saying, “You can do this. I love you. You are my child.”

Because moms may find their best worship experiences happen at the kitchen sink, because sibling rivalry is just par for the course; and because the climb up the “mountain of motherhood” takes us into some pretty thin air sometimes, the stories and borrowed wisdom of mums on the same journey (and in the same stretchy pants) land like a benediction. I can see that this book is going to be part of future baby shower and Mother’s Day gifts here in my part of the world!

Now It’s Your Turn

God delights in giving us pleasure, and reading is among life’s greatest gifts!

Where is delight showing up in your reading life these days?
What great gifts have you read and enjoyed in October?
I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments below!

Many thanks to Intervarsity Press, NetGalley, Kindred Mom, and to Moody Publishing for providing copies of these books to facilitate my reviews, which, of course, are offered freely and with honesty.

Michele Morin

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books I’ve shared this month, simply click on the title or the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

God delights in giving us pleasure, and reading is among life's greatest gifts.

47 thoughts on “The October Book Talk: Where Reading Friends Love to Gather”

  1. Thank you for sharing with us about these books, Michele. My favorite part of all your posts is hearing about your life “on the hill.” Your writing is so beautiful and makes me feel I am there!

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  2. I’ve been looking forward to your Barbara Brown Taylor review … don’t you just love when you resonate with someone deeply even though we might not necessarily agree on every theological thing?

    I read her books slowly, They cause me to sit and evaluate what I believe and why. They often move me out of my worn comfort zone. Her prose is indeed lyrical. I’m never bored when I sit with her words. A gifted woman, indeed …

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  3. I am looking up, Be Kind to Yourself. One book I am reading right now that is so helpful is Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Hurts and Everyday Betrayals. Turns out few of us know how to really apologize. Me included.

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  4. Those are all so through-provoking. I don’t tend to get through non-fiction very quickly. I’ve been enjoying a fictional series set during WWI this month by Roseanna M. White. So many Christian fiction writers go subtle these days–so much so, you almost can’t tell anyone is a Christian in them. I love that Roseanna portrays real, flawed Christians doing Christian things and struggling and growing. I shared what I’ve read this month in my end-of-month post today.

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  5. Loved the Barbara Taylor Bradford quote about the goal of the speaker: ““to do what any person sitting in front of them could do: give voice to the faith that is in them, and trust God to do the rest.” It always comes back to sharing our genuine faith, doesn’t it?

    I want to read Cindy Bunch’s “Be Kind to Yourself,” because that is the person to whom I’m least kind.

    I just finished Shelly Miller’s “Searching for Certainty” (as you know.) I highly recommend it. My advice is to read it slowly and ask yourself all her questions. It all comes back to trusting our friend Jesus! And He is totally worthy of that trust. He proves it over and over to me; and I loved reading how He proved it over and over to Shelly.

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  6. Be Kind to Yourself sounds like my kind of book! Though I really, really struggle with relinquishing control; something I have been getting many, many lessons in this year.

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      1. It is typical Sparks fiction – coastal NC – a couple of pertinent social issues and a story. Highly predictable. Don’t bother – continue reading smart books and enlightening the rest of us! L♥L

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  7. I read once that God is lavish, exuberant in His pursuit of beauty. How much more reasonable it would have been to “save” the same leaves from one year to the next, but that’s not the way He chose to design our world. The trees flame out in a brilliant burst of color each fall and regrow tender green shoots each spring. I would never have thought of it but I am so glad He did!

    And…I relish Barbara Brown Taylor’s voice too, even though she and I don’t always see eye-to-eye.

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  8. Be Kind to Yourself may be just the book I need to read in this season. I’m currently reading Always a Guest right now. I love BBT’s prose too and her ability to help me see things from a different angle. Always a joy to see what you’re reading. Thanks for sharing, Michele.

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  9. I always appreciate hearing about new books, especially as we head into winter where I will have more time to read. Be Kind to Yourself sounds like a book many of us could use. I am currently reading American Dirt, which is both a terrifying and heartbreaking story of immigration.

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  10. I think the Barbara Brown Taylor book sounds like such an interesting one. As someone who doesn’t go to church (or didn’t prior to the pandemic, though I do listen to sermons), I would love to read about true faith outside of our rigid theology.

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  11. Wonderful post, Michele. I’ve never read Barbara Brown Taylor, but you have encouraged me to give her a try. 🙂 I love your mention of the Acknowledgement section … I always go there first! (I wrote two books to the “Life is Beautiful” soundtrack, if you ever need more music for writing.) I currently have three books about writing going at once, plus I’m about to go to the library to pick up a fourth. A little at a time from each of them, at least for now.

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    1. Wow! You are really leaning into your calling with that kind of reading. I have long thought I should read Steven King’s book on writing and I really want to re-read Annie Dillard’s.

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  12. Always appreciate your book reviews, Michele. Be Kind to Yourself by Cindy Bunch sounds intriguing. It’s on my TBP list! Currently my short stack includes another of your recommendations: Elisabeth Elliot’s These Strange Ashes, which you mentioned in a comment to one of your blog-readers no long ago. It is an enlightening read about life in the Ecuadorian jungle–with just three other missionary women. Book #2 I may have mentioned here before– Douglas McKelvey’s Every Moment Holy–a collection of liturgies for a wide array of occasions, from stargazing to changing diapers! His insights into the sacred elements of everyday experiences are breathtaking. Out to Canaan, one of Jan Karon’s Mitford books, rounds out my current selections. Her stories are full of delight: colorful characters, carefully designed plots that intertwine those characters with one another, humor, and life lessons deftly woven in as well. With you I praise God for the gift of reading!

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    1. I read the Mitford series a few years ago, and every so often I get a longing to return to Mitford. Maybe someday…
      And Every Moment Holy is on my Want to Read list. I keep hearing about it, and it sounds like one of those books I’d like to just soak in for a long time.

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  13. Thank you for these in-depth and beautifully written reviews Michele. I’m always looking for recommendations. But there’s not enough time to read every good book, so I really appreciate when I can take away something meaningful from a review. I felt like I did that here. I love visiting different genres and am just starting a biography about Kiffin Rockwell. Have a great weekend!

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  14. This has been an extremely busy season in my life and I seem to be working to keep up with my bible reading plan. You’ve made me realize just how much I miss “just reading.” Blessings to you sweet friend!

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  15. I need to check out, Be Kind to Yourself. I think so many of us are harsh taskmasters when it comes to self reflection. Thanks for the book suggestions and for the link up!

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  16. All new books and writers to me – enjoyed the reviews and particularly the thoughts on waiting well and the different aspect of waiting for and waiting on, thanks reflecting some more on that.

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  17. An intriguing post with lots of suggestions! I am amazed by His Handiwork all the time, but especially when I see autumn colors 🙂

    It’s great to see your link at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!

    Like

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