I, for one, don't like to learn about history. But, I do like to read and I do like to be smart (or at least sound smart). The best solution for me is to read novels that are set in a time & place that teaches me all about it, without me even realizing I am getting a history lesson. Of course, it's not just about gaining smarts! Reading stories that are set in another time & place gives us a first person point-of-view to understand better the circumstances of others' lives. Like "heavy reads" that pique my empathy, any stories that take place in a life different that my own do increase my sense of humanity and fraternity. Straight up: learning about different lives makes me a better person! And, it makes life more interesting, too, no?
Even as a "do-gooder" – whether you donate to good causes, volunteer your time, or run a business to support thriving employment of vulnerable women ;) – it is possible to do the good, but still maintain a distance in your heart between yourself and the other. I'm speaking about myself, of course; being so geographically distant from the work at Basha (& Basha's partnering training programs) makes it easy to check out emotionally from the lives of people who are so very different from my own. This summer, I've read a string of books that have been so extraordinary! They have nudged me and pressed my heart in transformative ways; to see all people – from the most vulnerable to the most powerful – as people, humans, made like me and of equal value. To be upfront: there are Christian faith elements in all of these books; I love to read and read a wide range of genres, but this summer, these books were my jam! Like, as a friend once said, "water for a thirsty guy [gal!]". I have listed them below from the most widely interesting & accessible (ie. least Christian-y) to the most specifically faith-based.
When summer vacation began around here, my oldest daughter took up her station in the corner of our couch, pretty much reading all day (punctuated by meals, exploring breaks outside, and some antics with her siblings). With a two-year-old and five-year-old, not to mention a myriad of other adult & business responsibilities, I am not quite at that life space of blissful, lazy reading all summer (and I try to keep the envious glances to a minimum). But, for many of us, summer provides a respite from the year of run-around busyness, and AT LAST a chance to dig in to a good book.
This month, I read Tsh Oxenreider's memoir/manifesto Notes from a Blue Bike and I thought... if you like reading Shop Good, you might really like this book. In one sense, I am loathe to point everyone to another writer who is like me, but much farther along, with many more resources, more wisdom, and a published book… But, Tsh is just that good! The truth is, I don’t read blogs much. [I am all the more swelled with gratitude when anyone takes the precious time to read mine – seriously, THANK YOU. It means so much to me.] I create, I work, I cook, I clean (ha ha, no I don’t), and I do read. I love novels & memoirs, I read the Bible. I try to keep up marginally with news/world events by reading the New Yorker and (honestly, shameful as it is to admit this as a news source) scanning the Facebook trending stories. But regular, devoted blog reading just doesn’t make the cut. So, all that to say, I am no expert in Tsh Oxenreider’s giant of a writing hub, The Art of Simple. I’ve read a number of articles over time, and I like it. I like her. The like her contributors. We are simpatico. So, when I saw her book, Notes from A Blue Bike, on the library shelf, I snapped it up and have been devouring it ever since.
One of the very obvious responses that came across in our reader survey was that many of us love to read. Perfect, because I do, too! I’ve written book lists before, but it’s been a while, and we readers are always looking for something to read, amiright?! Last month, the book club I belong to with some long-time girlfriends picked our books for the year. A theme that popped up through the recommendations was food memoirs and other books about cooking, eating, and the role of food in one’s life. Not cookbooks, though some included recipes, but books about life, with food interweaved. I enjoy food, I’m intrigued by chefs, and I love to read glimpses into other people’s lives. Here are some foodie books on my radar, but let me know any more that I must add to my nightstand!
Last Mother’s Day, my sister gave me a copy of Jenny Rosenstrach’s cookbook/memoir/ode-to-“family dinner” Dinner: A Love Story. Based on her blog of the same name, DALS wrestles through the joys & trials of prioritizing a daily meal together as a family. The book chronicles Jenny’s journey from the early days of her own family – she & her husband working long hours in NYC publishing, then counter-culturally coming home and still cooking dinner – through the punishing years of toddler pickiness, on to the glory days: what she calls “the years the angels began to sing” (i.e. school aged children). Throughout her tales of working and then baby-ing and, the trickiest, working and baby-ing, there are recipes. Oh, there are recipes! Ever since receiving it, DALS has been a mainstay of my cooking arsenal. I dole out copies whenever I have occasion to, and sing Jenny’s (or Andy – her husband’s) praises when I sit down to yet another reliably delicious meal. Dinner: A Love Story is a fabulous gift to give to any mom, any aspiring cook, anyone who likes good writing, anyone who enjoys a good laugh… ANYONE! Pick up a copy at your local bookstore if there is a mom you’d like to treat this week. Also: download our Moms Meaningful Gift Guide for Jenny’s own cookbook must-haves. Another idea in our meaningful gift guide is to cook your Mom a meal. Here are two recipes from Jenny’s original DALS book that you can make for Mom this weekend.
When I began working on our Meaningful Gift Guide for Moms, I knew that I needed to include a section on books. I’ve written a bit about books to read and where to buy books, so it is becoming apparent that I am a “reader”. What isn’t apparent is that my love of reading came directly from my mother. She always has a stack of books on her bedside and one or two on the go. Her book club has been meeting for nearly 40 years. And her insistence that a great joy of life is that she will never, ever run out of great books to read – well, it has completely inspired me with a passionate love of reading.
Sooo, I love a good deal. I really do. When Amazon first began gaining traction, it was my greatest delight to find something I wanted on Amazon for a fraction of the price that I could find it elsewhere. Then, I read about them being the Walmart of the internet: not much concern for anything (or anyone) but the profit statement. I heard about the Hachette debacle. I read that in the UK, Amazon uses a tax evasion practice that enables them to pay less than 0.1% in taxes. And, as my husband was helping to promote & sell a water-purification product, I learned first-hand about Amazon’s aggressively predatory pricing. That is, they constantly scour the internet marketplace for other stores selling the same products, and inch their prices a little bit lower, and lower, and lower. Amazon can still thrive as a business, even with very low margins (selling for just a tiny bit more than the price for which they bought it), because their volume of sales is so high. Small businesses cannot. It was time. The discounts could no longer sweet talk me. I needed to break up with “the Web’s biggest bully”. I had mostly been borrowing books from the library, buying used, and shopping for other items at more traditional stores (I can buy running shoes from a local running store – who knew?!). But I’ve always got my eyes open for alternatives to Amazon. Cue the trumpet fanfare: only last week, I was DELIGHTED to discover Better World Books.
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