Summer Reading!

Summer Reading

It’s always fun for me to put together a summer reading list of things I think I should read.  I usually choose nonfiction books that will bring me new insight into myself or my topics of interest (sustainability, psychology, christianity) and some fiction books I’ve heard a lot about in reviews or through friends.

Typically what actually happens though, is that I just read what I feel like reading, and don’t usually finish my list. Here was my reading list from the winter – I read 5 out of 11.  Here is my reading list from summer 2012 – I read 7 out of 15.   I better aim high because past experience seems to indicate I’ll read about 50% of this list.


  • A Fine Balance – Mistry Rohinton
  • NW – Zadie Smith
  • Babbit – Sinclair Lewis
  • Wind up Bird Chronicles – H. Murakami (I’m loving Murakami, one of my new favorite authors I believe).
  • Eleanor & Park – R. Rainbow
  • The Magicians Land – L. Grossman.  (Third book in the Magicians series… and I’m really excited for it.)


  • Thinking Fast and Slow – D. Kahneman (already reading this one, and I highly recommend it).
  • Change Agent – Os Hillman
  • Performance Management – Aubrey Daniels
  • The Wisdom of Crowds – Surowiecki (You’d be surprised how often you hear about “crowdsourcing.”  This book is about some of the psychology of that.)
  • Big Data at Work – Davenport
  • Reasons and Rationalizations – C. Agyris (or any book by him)
  • Micromotives and Macrobehavior – Thomas C. Schelling
  • Cradle to Cradle – W. McDonough
  • Deep & Wide – Andy Stanley
  • Disunity in Christ – C. Cleveland (*Christena writes a fabulous blog about social psychology and christianity. you should check it out.)
  • Metamorpha – K. Strobel
  • The Locust Effect – G. Haugen.

I update my reading progress on Goodreads often – If you use that site, I’d love to be friends with you and see what you read.

goodreads logo


PS:  In other REALLY exciting news – I’m 92% done with my MS degree at Salem State, and therefore might have some more time for blogging in the future!  OR…  I might just read ALL the books and work on my 30 before 30 list.  We’ll see.


Dreaming of Winter Break Reading


8 Books I want to Finish, Read, or Re-Read between December 20th and Spring Break.

  1. Telegraph Avenue (M. Chabon).
  2. Brother Karamazov (F. Dostoevsky)
  3. Sustainability by Design (J. Ehrenfeld)
  4. The Irrational Season (M. L’Engle)
  5. The Change Monster (Jeanie Duck)
  6. Green to Gold (D. Esty)
  7. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (H. Murakami)
  8. Speaker for the Dead (O.S. Card)
  9. A Better World, Inc. (A. Korngold)
  10. Disunity in Christ (C. Cleveland)
  11. Good to Great (J. Collins)

Other suggestions? I could modify or add on. 🙂

Why should you read Christian Classics?

First off: Let me give the condensed answer from a well respected scholar of great repute.

“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books….” “But, if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old.”  “Every age has its own outlook.  Is is specially good at seeing certain trauth and specially liable to make certain mistakes.”

– CS Lewis.  From “On the Reading of Old Books” (full PDF found here, only 5 pages long.)

This was the premise for a strange church book club that I had hopes of starting with help from several others.

I say strange because there were two thing which has led somewhat to the slow start of the group:

1.  You didn’t actually have to read the book to attend. (But this was poorly communicated.)

2.  You did not have to commit to attending every time.

No, the point of the book club was to give an introduction to some of the Christian Classics – both ancient and modern.  I, as a voracious reader, of course, take it personally that people are more likely to participate in Beth Moore studies than those of Richard Foster. (He doesn’t, after all, have a Q&A at the end of each chapter, or videos which accompany his texts)

I am sad that we stick with our own era, and sadder still that reading classics is often subjugated to the more pragmatic parenting class, review of Old Testament history, or the theological nuances of soteriology.  (I just wanted to use the word ‘soteriology in my blog post, grin and bear with me.)  Not that those things are bad, and you will find me attending those talks with interest and a good spirit.

But seriously folks, if CS Lewis said to do it, we should do it!  (That’s a joke, for those of you who don’t get it.)

CS Lewis says “Read Old Books!”

Anyway, I mostly want to talk about a REALLY old book that I unfortunately did not get the chance to discuss on Thursday.

“The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence.

A little history: This is a very small “book.”  It was published sometime around 1690, likely following the death of ‘Brother Lawrence,’ a humble monk who served in the kitchen and sandal repair shop of a monastery in Paris from mid-life until his death.  The full text of the book can be found here, and it’s possible to read the whole thing in a very short amount of time.  It is a series of fifteen letters addressed to an anonymous friend.

Why read it:
– Demonstrates a different cultural perspective
– Provides encouragement for those who are suffering, and a new way of looking at suffering
– Gives a window to a time before goals and measurement – this is the dawn of the “Scientific era” (I always need to be reminded that people were getting along just fine without check charts back in the day.)
– Demonstrates a beautiful balance of both set prayer and meditation, as well as conversational and thought prayers.

How to read it:

I think it would be best to read this book responsively.  Because it is so short, it is easy to read it quickly, but I think it would be wise to read it and then consider writing a letter to a fellow Christian in a spirit of encouragement, as Brother Lawrence would do.

Brother Lawrence, although he apparently eschewed formal set meditation as your only prayer, did not reject imagination or imagery (meditation).  This is not a set part of worship in Protestant/Evangelical circles, though I’ve heard from conversations with my Anglican brother in law (who also blogs), that this incorporation of the senses is much more common there. Consider trying some meditation on your own.  (Another old book: Introduction to a Devout Life, by Francis de Sales, will provide you with ideas/clues for how to try this. If anyone has recommendations for other books, I’ll take them!)

Attempt the spiritual exercise which made Brother Lawrence “famous” –  prayer while washing dishes, cooking, and doing all work of all kinds.  A constant recollection of God.

Some quotes:

“Let him think of God as often as possible. Let him accustom himself, by degrees, to this small but holy exercise. No one sees it, and nothing is easier than to repeat these little internal adorations all through the day.”

“I make it my priority to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I maintain a simple attention and a fond regard for God, which I may call an actual presence of God. Or, to put it another way, it is an habitual, silent, and private conversation of the soul with God.”

Clearly, a book for all ages.

Checking In with New Years Resolutions

Here is what I’ve accomplished nine months after I first made my Resolutions –
This is a smooshed-up review of August and September

1.    Lose 15 Pounds – Success! I have a few races (4 Miles in October, a Turkey Trot in November) planned for the rest of the year and a hope to maintain the success I’ve had through the now impending Holidays.  I might possibly achieve my pre-pregnancy weight (a 6 pound loss still) by the end of the year.  However – I feel satisfied with what I’ve completed so far and look forward to increasing the amount of weight i can lift and decreasing my mile time. (both goals for next year I think…)

2.    Be a good friend – With the solidification of my new organizational method (I mentioned it briefly in this post) I’ve been able to gain more of a sense of accomplishment with this goal.  Now I’m able to look to at least 7 or 8 concrete, measurable steps I take toward meeting it each week.  This was a good instance where re-framing the issue came in handy.  I also wrote this post determining what I thought being a good friend was in adulthood anyway.

I only somewhat think this is true…

3.    Read 10 Important Books – I read 2 important books for my career, one each in August and September.  Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, and The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge.  At this point I’ve lowered the bar quite a number of times on this goal, so much so that I’m not sure it’s as meaningful as I intended in January.  I’ve got three more books I’m planning to try to read for the rest of the year, but I will have to think more carefully about making a similar goal next year.  I want to strive to avoid tunnel vision academically but also don’t always find the impetus to read difficult primary documents in my free moments.

Not an “important book” but certainly an enjoyable book!

  4.    Family First – Again, the organizational method to the rescue.  Its easy to see what steps to take to put my family first and to see that I’m celebrating them as integral and necessary to my own development and happiness.  Also, our family vacation in August was simply amazing!

Family Vacation at Cape Cod

   5.    Practice Better Blogging – Stuck to my schedule here, made a “Posts for the Rest of the Year” spreadsheet in order to copy Relishments (haha… but really, yes.) and working on the “better title” thing for Connect Shore.

6.    Be An Active part of my Communities – Over the course of this year I’ve been surprised how much this goal snowballed.  By that I mean, the more I reached out, the more I was drawn in.  The more time I spent searching for facebook events to join, groups I could increase my participation in, and saying “Yes!” the happier I felt.  Sometimes as a stay at home mom I question whether I’m an extrovert, but then I remember the charge I get from volunteering, conversing, and being a part of groups.  I am a very active part of my communities – and will enjoy even further participation in the future.  Most notable in September – I signed up (finally!) to volunteer with Green Salem and really did make it to an Art Throb launch!  I also was able to propose leading a book club at my church.

7.    Improve my Sustainable Living – Farmer Dave’s farm share is winding down, but we’ve found a winter share through the end of the year. I’ve been trying to get more careful about writing down what I want several weeks before I need it to give myself time to look for used items without pressure, which has somewhat been working.  I’ve been improving my theoretical understanding lately of sustainable development by working slowly through this primer (its a pdf) by Robert Kates.  As I read along I’m careful to search for other sources of material.  I’m hoping that this study will translate into career opportunities in the future – but it’s very open ended right now.  Also, I signed up to hear Bill McKibben (and others) speak in November in Boston – I’m excited!

8.    Grow Spiritually.  It’s totally subjective of course, but over the course of the year I’ve been trying to be more grateful and to mutter under my breath “people succeed in groups” whenever I feel a twinge of jealousy over others opportunities.  Yet, coupled with prayer, I think I have found myself more content, joyful, and satisfied with my life. (Even though I’m still not famous, like a riffed on as my number 2 lie I’ve believed in this post at Connect Shore)

Beginning the process of co-leading a devotional book club at my church (see the above poster) has also increased my ears to hear spiritual leading from God, and caused me to love Him more.  And again on the organizational method – breaking the day into segments has provided natural times to pray, and weekly reminders to reflect – both potent reinforcers.

How are your New Years Resolutions Going?

10 Books I need to Re-Read

I found out about Sarah Bessey’s 10 Books Week on Thursday.  There are only 2 days left in it, so I will make only 2 lists.  I could go back and make another 5, but I think I’ll save that pleasure for another time.  There are so many other stories cavorting in my head, begging to come out and play on the blog that I don’t have the energy to continue to tamp them down.

So, why 10 Books I need to Re-read as a list?

When I was 5 and had a cold my mother handed me Little House in the Big Woods to read in bed. I think this was the first book I ever read, and this is one of my clearest memories of childhood.  (I don’t care if it might be misremembered.)  That means I’ve been a reader for 22 years.

From the first I always wanted to read more More MORE.  I checked out stacks of 12 books at the library every other week, I systematically went through the shelves of the Hudson Public Library, reading everything that struck my fancy – Joan Aiken all the way down to Jane Yolen.  I turned to the non-fiction section, particularly gymnastics, from time to time.  When I was 12 I figured I could “graduate” to the adult section.  (I read Good Morning Miss Dove first.)

I spent the next 10 years alternating between the Young Adult section and the Adult section.  When I was 22 I “discovered” non-fiction really wasn’t as dry as I thought it was and read Animal Vegetable Miracle as one of my those tentative early nonfiction reads.

It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I suddenly realized I had forgotten most of anything I had read in high school or that first year of college.  Though I vaguely remembered impressions of enjoyment or hatred, that was really all. And would some of them seem as shockingly wicked now as they had at the time.  (I’m talking about you, Fight Club!)

It was also at this point that I realized – though there were more books than I could ever read in my lifetime… they weren’t all worth reading.  Maybe other people know this sooner. So I began to re-read, starting with Animal Farm, a high school freshman year bane.

But, without further ado:

10 books that I should re-read

  1. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (which first awakened my desire to be a pioneer)
  2. Izzy Willy Nilly by Cynthia Voight (well do I remember my crazed obsession with C.V. as I was nearing the end of those children’s room shelves!)
  3. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (thought I’ve re-read Cat’s Cradle at least five times, a serious exception to my usual no re-reading norm.)
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  (Should I have read this at 15?)
  5. Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (the first Kingsolver I ever read)
  6. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (which I attempted at 14 with no small amount of frustration.)
  7. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (I remember this vaguely from my Women’s Lit class first semester of my freshman college year)
  8. Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk (re: subversive?)
  9. Beloved – Tony Morrison (was this as bad as thought it was in 11th grade English class?)
  10. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (particularly in light of the new movie slated for this December)

What books do you need to re-read?

The New Year’s Resolutions

Yes, of course I made New Years Resolutions! Any interest in finding out what they are?

As an incorrigible list maker.  (I think most blogger’s are.) I am also, of course, obsessed with New Year’s Resolutions.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that last year I made over 50 of them for 2011, and that I was in the works of making fewer for 2012.

When I was brainstorming what types of things I wanted to resolve I wrote down dozens of ideas.  Seeing the sorts of things I wanted to accomplish in 2012 written out helped me organize the details into large goals, which could be comprised of smaller objectives reached by various strategies.

You might notice some of the language in the last paragraph that I use to talk about these 8 things: resolutions, accomplishments, goals, objectives, strategies.  I learned a lot of this terminology as a case manager for adults with cognitive disabilities.  Even though I no longer work in that position, I find that language very useful in my day-to-day life as well.

Loosely, I think of resolutions as unperformed actions.  This is my current-self wishing to be a different-self in 12 months. Goals are nearly the same as resolutions, but more theoretical and idealistic.   They are big and broad, whereas objectives are focused.  You might think of objectives as nouns, and following them are strategies behaving as verbs.  My strategies are what will actively turn my objectives into reality.

I know some of my Goals are going to change over the year, and some of the strategies are going to evolve to fit this.  However, here are my goals as I’ve conceived them now.

1. Lose 15 pounds.  (I know, so cliché.) Prior to being pregnant I knew how to eat as a (very) active, single young woman with a job where I stood or moved for approximately 4 -5 hours, and exercised for about an hour a day.  Things have changed in my life as well as with my body in the last year. I’d like to re-learn how to eat and exercise to fit my current lifestyle.  I’d hope this results in a weight loss of 15 pounds.  Some of my strategies for this include finding exercise partners, eating more mindfully, and getting back into the habit of lifting weights 3 times a week consistently.

2.  Have (or Find, or Make) a consistent friend group.  I know a lot of people, and I would consider many of them close friends. However, I also consider a number of them “loose cannons.”  They don’t know each other and hanging out with all of them separately is time consuming (though delightful) “work”.  I’d like to merge some of my friendships, and I’d like to (counterintuitively) see less people more often.  I am least sure of how to accomplish this goal, and would love advice!  I think a way of doing this would be to invite more people over, or start more recurring activities.

3.  Read 20 Difficult Books.  One of my side projects is this blog about sociology, which is pretty much just book summaries.  I want to read the ISI list of 100 Sociology Books of the last century in 10 years.  Therefore I’d like to read 10 books from the list this year.  I’d also like to read 10 seminal works in other fields, some of those books you always say, “Oh yeah, It’d be good to read that.”  For example: Wealth of Nations

4. Family First. Now that I’m a mostly stay at home mom a lot of my accomplishments of the week are cooking, chores like grocery shopping and bill paying, caring for my son, and being a good wife.  Three years ago I would have thrown up even thinking that, and writing it just made me gag a little.  But, times change.  I would like to perform these tasks with the most joy possible, and the least complaining.  Doing that is way harder than writing that just was. Some of my strategies for this include: keeping up with documenting our trips and daily activities through photos and tangible mementoes, being thankful for small things, and planning “spontaneous” activities.

5. Practice Better Blogging.  Over the last year I’ve really started to enjoy blogging a lot, so I’d like to get better at it.  First off, I’ve finally figured out that what I have can be called a “lifestyle blog.”  (Who knew? Probably everyone but me.)  I finally figured out what my “niche” was, and now I’d like to focus on writing more on those topics.  I’d also like to write more creatively, humorously, descriptively and of course, regularly. Also, I’d like to find a blogging community with others that write on a fair number of the topics I write about.  Finally – I made a facebook page.

6. Be a Part of my Communities.  I consider myself to be part of several communities; my church family, my friends, and my physical place –  The North Shore.  I would like to spend more time this year strengthening my ties in my communities. I really enjoy my Tuesday morning mom group in Salem already, but I think I could be even more involved in the area through: making a soccer team, volunteering, attending some of the networking events around town like the Salem Wine Women, and the Green Drinks.  I think the other two communities can be strengthened as part of my goal to be a better friend.

7. Improve my Sustainable/Local Living.   In 2011 I stopped composting, but I’d like to start again in 2012.  I’m already a zealous recycler, but I could be doing better.  I’d also like to be part of a CSA, make “real” purchases at small businesses, which are over 25 dollars every month, and simply learning more about “Green” business, technology, and other innovators by reading websites.

8. Grow Spiritually. There’s a couple main parts to this, finding a Christian woman as a mentor or attending a Bible Study, practicing a few spiritual disciplines (prayer, fasting, study) with my husband more regularly, and hopefully discerning a vocation/calling for myself with prayer and study.  (As you may notice from my posts about work, I’m kind of lost in this area.)

That’s about it!  I’m looking forward to tracking my progress on the first of the month each month, and developing in as yet unforeseen ways.  Anyone got any resolutions they want to share?

December Reads

December Close Outs

I get excited by a good book bargain, whether it’s free, or one two or three dollars.  They call to me likes Sirens.  So it’s no wonder that quite a number of the books on my shelf are beautiful, but unread.  I’m like the proverbial kid who’s eyes are bigger than his stomach.

So, I’m going to put my foot down this December and make an attempt to read the above books before the month is through.  Some of them have been dragging on all year (the Bertrand Russell), others for only a few months (the Jane Addams).   This shall involve near superhuman strength to not request interlibrary loan books, to suppress excitement about the latest project I have in my mind to follow, and to not read too many book blogs.  Of course, I will have to make an exception for my book club.  (We’re reading (rereading for many of us) the Lord of the Flies this month.)

However, it will be good to get these one’s off the guilt list, and hopefully kick up my 2011 books read list to 70 books by the end of the month.