books of 2013: from biographies to beach trash

From biographies to beach trash…. my annual book list. I am afraid that in the midst of life this year, I forgot to keep a list of the books I read. The year started out with  lighthearted reading and ended with management and fundraising books – good in their own right, but not what I would categorize as lighthearted fun. So, instead of a full list, this year I leave you with a few that you might consider adding to your reading list. Because I think these are fun and you are great, I am providing you links to each of these on Amazon in paper and kindle (when available) form. Happy reading.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

Here is where I admit that I never would have picked up this ‘young adult’ / children’s science-fiction book on my own. But, a friend gifted it to me, and so it was sitting on my kindle just waiting for an opportune time. I got the flu, and I feel in love with this little book.

 Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes  by Jonathan Auxier; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

Another children’s book, but this time written by the good friend of a good friend. It reminds me of a Roald Dahl book, and I highly recommend picking up a copy. It would be a great read-aloud with your children.

Boy by Roald Dahl; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

Following on the above book, I love Roald Dahl. The BFG was a favorite for us kids and my Dad read it to us over and over. Boy is Dahl’s autobiography of his childhood–some of which was spent in Tanzania in places I know. It is Dahl’s familiar writing style with bits and pieces of familiar places tossed in. A lovely, quick read.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story  by Donald Miller; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

I have a place in my heart for Don Miller, and this book is no exception. Our lives our stories, and we make a lot of choices along the way about where those stories take us. Through his own story, Don reminds us that we have choices and we can choose to live a great story.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World  by Bob Goff; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

In the above book, Don mentions Bob Goff. So, when Bob’s book came out, of course I was a little bit curious. I laughed my way through this book as I was reminded that God loves in extravagant and whimsical ways. A friend read this book and felt like maybe her life was too small, a sense of guilt seeping in. If you read this book, don’t let yourself feel that for a moment. It is an invitation to live life to its fullness, to recognize the extraordinary in the daily, to experience the whimsical life. It is beautiful.

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

I read this book when I spent several weeks writing and living in community with dear friends. It provides freedom and encouragement as I dove into the art of writing. I highly recommend picking this book up if writing is part of your journey.

Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin; where to find it: In Paper In Kindle

Marin provides no answers, and certainly no easy ones. It is the first book written from the Christian perspective on this issue that I have appreciated and honestly recommend reading it. Regardless of what you believe, Marin provides valuable thoughts to help you understand the impact of your words and actions, as well as much food for thought.

Heat Wave  and  Naked Heat by Richard Castle; where to find it: In Paper/Kindle

Beach trash. If you watch the television show Castle, there is probably a spot in your heart for these books. They read like an episode of the show, mirroring when the books are released in the show. Lovely beach trash. But, if you don’t watch the show, skip the books.

books of 2012: from biographies to beach trash

It is once again that time of year to look back and remember what I have read. Every year there are a few questions about how I categorize books. Undoubtedly, that leads me to categorize a bit differently the following year. In case you think that I don’t love beach trash, I do. It is a wonderful class of literature – that which I will take to a beach. I also call it ‘alternate television.’ That being said, I would not characterize it as ‘good literature.’ I hope that you find something in this list that urges you to pick up a new book. What have been your favorite reads of the year? Any recommendations for me?

A link is provided to each book – both the paper and kindle versions (when available) – on Amazon. If any of these books sound interesting, purchase using these links and you will be supporting this website. Thanks!


Top Picks of 2012: 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows In Paper For Kindle

I love this book. My mom recommended it to me a while back, but the name turned me off and I did not read it until two years later. Do not let this happen to you. It is a book written in letters. Renee sent it to me for my birthday, and in the following month it was read by at least six other people. (Take a minute to check out Renee’s 2012 book list.) It is a quick read and will leave you wishing there was more. Here is the thing: I have not yet met a man who has read it. Please, please, if you are a man and you read this book, please let me know your thoughts so that I can know if I should recommend for me as well.

The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon In Paper For Kindle

This is another book that I adore. I love food, faith, and community. Originally published in 1969, I found that the book to be as true and as applicable today as I imagine it to be then. Beyond recipes, these are thoughts on life that ring true to my soul. Again and again, I was filed with wanting to share these thoughts with others. Here is just one paragraph for you to enjoy:

You indict me, no doubt, as an incurable romantic. I plead guilty without contest. I see no other explanation of what we are about. Why do we marry, why take friend and lovers, why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry, or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half of earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become. For all its rooted loveliness, the world has no continuing city here; it is an outlandish place, a foreign home, a session in via to a better version of itself–and it is our glory to see it so and thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We were given appetite, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great. 


Recommended Reads: 

The Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins (I read the trilogy over two weeks of travel, mostly in rural Africa. Wonderful young adult literature that should be read as one book rather than three. Living in places of genocide and war made parts of this ring particularly true.) In Paper For Kindle

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, Book 2) by Suzanne Collins In Paper For Kindle

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) by Suzanne Collins In Paper For Kindle

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (My friend loved it, my dad hated it, I gave it a try. I found myself reading late into the night frustrated that I was loosing sleep but wishing I could stay up all night.)In Paper For Kindle

Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir by Susan E Issacs (It made me smile. I love the honesty.)In Paper For Kindle

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (Wow. Hard life, real faith.) In Paper For Kindle

Trusting in His Goodness by Marilyn Wilson and Shelly Cook Volkhardt (This is a book primarily written for women on God’s goodness. It is filled with much truth. Mimi is a dear friend and it is wonderful to read thoughts I have heard her speak.) In Paper For Kindle

Through the Veil  by Lisa Ohlen Harris (Great memoir of places I love. Of course, I am biased as I know Lisa and the book tells of places I know.) In Paper For Kindle

A Swiftly Tilting Planet (part of the Time Quintet) by Madeline L’Engle In Paper For Kindle

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I liked this book, but did not adored, so was torn as to where it should go.) In Paper


Recommended Beach Trash:

Getting Stoned with the Savages: A trip through Fiji and Vanuata  by J. Marteen Troost (I laughed my way through this book while traveling the backroads of Uganda and remembering my childhood in Fiji.) In Paper For Kindle

The Partner by John Grisham (A good Grisham. Did not know there were bad ones until this year – please avoid those listed in the ‘not endorsed’ category.) In Paper In Paper

The Race by Clive Cussler In Paper For Kindle

Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle In Paper

The Girls  by Lori Lansesns In Paper For Kindle


Business and Development:

Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn (Awesome. It is about the situation of women around the world. If you do not know much about women’s rights around the world, please take a moment to learn. This is not perfect or cohesive, but it is good and worth a read.) In Paper For Kindle

African Friends and Money Matters by David Maranz (If you live and work in Africa, read this book. If you don’t, probably not necessary.) In Paper

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (This is the most ‘academic’ book on this year’s list. It is a good one that looks at the differences societies and regions. I truly appreciate the thoughts and perspectives.) In Paper For Kindle

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki In Paper For Kindle

The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extroverted World by Marti Olsen Laney (If you are an introvert and have not read about being an introvert in the working world, this is a good read.) In Paper For Kindle

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins In Paper For Kindle


Not Endorsed:

The Innocent Man by John Grisham

Theodore Boone  by John Grisham

The Tehran Initiative by Joel C Rosenberg

One Day  by David Nicholls


In Case You Missed These Posts: 

books of 2011: biographies to beach trash

books of 2010


books of 2011: biographies to beach trash

Every year I write up a list of the books I have read – from biographies to beach trash. This year I decided to break it up so that you can at least know which books I recommend. I have provided links to the recommended books on Amazon (don’t get me wrong – I love beach trash at times, but it is so much harder to find good books than beach trash). Let me now if you have any questions and what your favorite books are as it is always good to have reading suggestions. Happy reading in 2012!

Recommended reads:

Beach trash for various reasons:

  • The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
  • Atlantis Found  by Clive Cussler
  • The Mediterranean Caper  by Clive Cussler
  • Raise the Titanic!  by Clive Cussler
  • I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
  • Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream  by David Platt

Business or development reads:

  • The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace  by Shaunti Feldhahn
  • The One-Page Project Manager for Execution by Clark A. Campbell
  • The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything  by Guy Kawasaki
  • Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations  by Clay Shirkly

the books of 2010

Every year I start off the blog with a look at the books of the past year – from biographies to beach trash. I am honestly not positive that I have created a comprehensive list this time, but I have tried to wrangle them from my shelves and memories. Since I have, for the most part, stopped writing individual posts about books, please let me know if you have any questions about these books. Also, I would truly love to hear about your favorite books of the last year as I always love a good suggestion of a book to get lost in.

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor by Paul Farmer
  • 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  • West With the Night by Beryl Markham
  • The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour
  • Love & War by John & Stasi Eldredge
  • Into the Mud: Inspiration for Everyday Activists by Christine Jeske
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  • Working with the Poor: New Insights and Learnings from Development Practitioners by Bryant Myers (ed.)
  • First Family by David Baldacci
  • Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
  • The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
  • Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour
  • Don’t Let’s Go to the Dongs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller
  • Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organizations to Achieve the Extraordinary by Joel Kurtzman

Of the many books on my shelf waiting to be read, these are the ones I am currently tackling:

  • Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer (yes, I did read this about 6 months ago too)
  • The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn
  • Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt
  • Blind your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West

should i post the books i read?

From my lack of posting about books in the last six months, you would think that I have stopped reading. While I always believe that there is more reading than I make the time for, plenty of good books have been read. Just yesterday I finished West With the Night by Beryl Markham. This was her memoir spanning her childhood in Kenya to when she completes the first solo nonstop flight over the Atlantic Ocean from east to west. Her story includes hunting with the Masai warriors, training and racing horses, and spotting elephant herds for safaris by plane. She finishes the book as she is on a ship back to Kenya and I love the imagery she closes with:

“And so the little freighter sat upon the sea, and, though Africa came closer day by day, the freighter never moved. She was old and weather-weary, and she had learned to let the world come round to her.”

And now that we have established that I have in fact been reading these last months, this is the question I have for you: Do you care? If you do care, what do you want to know? For some reason, it seems nearly impossible for me to keep up with a short post about every book I read. But maybe I should learn to do so. What about the old running list of what I read? Please voice opinions to help me figure out what to do.

Right now I am going to curl up with Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum

review: the help

Title: The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Genre: historical fiction

Form: hardcover

Recommended: definitely

Thoughts: Let me start out by saying that I loved this book. The story and the writing pulled me in and I was lost to the world as I finished it. A most beautiful place to be – one that made me nervous to start another book in fear of disappointment.

The Help examines issues of race in the early 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi through the eyes of three women. One is a young white woman who is an aspiring writer and the two other are black women who are household help in local white homes. They come together to collect stories and write a book through the eyes of the black maids of Jackson. While providing a glimpse into the horrible world of segregation, this is a book filled with courage, hope, and dignity. You should read it.

books of 2009

Lately I have found myself wanting to read more and yet not making the time to curl up with books. There is plenty waiting to be read on my shelves and I am looking forward to working through those and others in the coming year. What were your favorite books of 2009? Is there anything that I should be adding to my shelves for this coming year? I would love to hear your thoughts.

For now, this is the list of books read this past year. Many of them have separate blog entries, but sometimes I was lazy and never got around to updating. Let me know if you would like to know more about any of these.

  • A Painted House by John Grisham
  • The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks
  • Presenting to Win by Jerry Weissman
  • Generation Y and the New Rules of Management by Mark Murphy and Andrea Burgio-Murphy
  • Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y by Bruce Tulgan
  • The Chains of Heaven by Philip Marsden
  • The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeline L’Engle
  • Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene
  • When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…or Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
  • Treasure by Clive Cussler
  • Hunter by J.A. Hunter
  • The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
  • Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni
  • Tribes by Seth Gordin
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lhairi
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather Armstrong

review: it sucked and then i cried

Title: It Sucked and then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita

Author: Heather Armstrong

Genre: autobiography

Form: hardcover

Recommended: yes – for all those people who have or are considering having children or who deal with depression in yourself or loved ones

Thoughts: Heather writes her autobiography much like how she writes her blog – candidly, verbosely, and full of humorous images. Nothing is off-limits, everything is worth discussing, and humor is found in the smallest moments. I found that I devoured the first half of the book and then took the second half much slower as her writing style is one better digested in small pieces. I love her honesty about life, children, and depression. All three are much less intimidating when approached openly. Read it with a drink in hand while laughing a loud, honest, and obnoxious laugh.

review: balzac and the little chinese seamstress

Title: Balzac and the LIttle Chinese Seamstress

Author: Dai Sijie, translated from French by Ina Rilke

Genre: fiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: maybe

Thoughts: This is one of many books that I have picked up at used book stores simply because it seemed like it would be a good story; it was ok. The book tells the story of two young boys in China who are sent to the countryside to be ‘re-educated.’ They find treasures in hidden books, storytelling, and a young seamstress. The story and writing were both good, and yet I find that this book did not capture me and hold me in the way I had hoped. Maybe it would be better in the original French, or maybe it was just my mood. If you read this, let me know your thoughts.

review: a wrinkle in time

Title: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeline L’Engle

Genre: fiction, science fiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: definitely

Thoughts: This is one of those books I subconsciously rejected reading for years because I am not normally a fan of science fiction. And then Renee presented it to me for my 28th birthday last year with the inscription, “For Pamela, 28, because you need this on your shelf and in your head.” She could not have been more correct. L’Engle is an excellent story teller, and the symbolism throughout the book is outstanding. In future years I plan to tackle the other four books in the series. If you have not yet read A Wrinkle in Time, you should.

review: mountains beyond mountains

Title: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World

Author: Tracy Kidder

Genre: biography, nonfiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: yes

Thoughts: Dr. Farmer works to provide medical care to the rural poor in Haiti, is a doctor of infectious disease in Boston, a Harvard professor, and works to change modern medicine’s view of treating the diseases of the poor. Kidder spent a lot of time with Dr. Farmer as they travelled the globe, walked mountains in Haiti, and corresponded extensively. It is from this perspective that Kidder tells Dr. Farmer’s story. I once heard someone say that this book is annoying because it makes Dr. Farmer out to be hero – someone impossible to emulate and yet you are left feeling like you should be trying. I think that person was slightly right, and that annoyance means that it is worth reading because there is something worth learning, pieces of life worth living, that are contained in this book. So, be inspired and be annoyed all at once.

review: the sharper your knife, the less you cry

Title: The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School

Author: Kathleen Flinn

Genre: autobiography, nonfiction

Form: paperback

Recommended: yes – but only for foodies

Thoughts: Flinn tells her story of leaving the corporate world, falling in love, and following her long-time dream of attending the Le Cordon Bleu – a famous French cooking school. Each chapter ends with a recipe – many of which looked good, but I have not yet tried any of them. Her writing / storytelling was not outstanding, but I think you foodies (probably more so the female foodies) would enjoy this story.

review: hunter

Title: Hunter

Author: J. A. Hunter

Genre: autobiography, nonfiction

Form: hardback, out of print

Recommended: Definitely

Thoughts: This is an amazing book. Amazing because Hunter tells his own story in his own own way of a land that he watched change and no longer exists. Born in 1887, he traveled to East Africa in 1908 and subsequently watched and took part in the taming of vast amounts of land. Yes, he talks more about guns than I care for, but this is balanced by observations of the tribes he worked with, cultural practices like pointing with one’s lips, and places that I have been to (e.g., Ngorongoro Crater) that seem nothing like what he describes. The land he walked in was truly wild in such a way that I doubt exists today, which is wonderfully refreshing. If you can track down a copy of this book, you should read it. Thank you Josh for sharing this book with me.

elephantGiven that you might not have ready access to this book and that every now and then I post ‘safari photos’, I thought I should share a few quotes from Hunter on photo safaris. Also, just for the record, safari means trip or journey in Swahili – nothing more.

“In my youth, the only animals that were photographed were dead animals. This made the problem of animal photography very simple. After your client had shot his trophy, he posed on the dead beast while you clicked the camera. But today people are determined to secure pictures of living animals. The animals seldom care to cooperate.”

“I must admit that animals are sometimes remarkably tolerant of picture taking. I have watched in amazement while a group of photographers ducked in and out of brush within thirty yards or so of a heard of elephants, taking light readings, changing lenses, and assuming the most incredible poses to get unusual ‘angle shots.’ The elephants must have known that they were there and still the big brutes put up with their antics very patiently. After considering the matter carefully, I am convinced that the elephants thought that the photographers were a herd of baboons. Elephants are short-sighted, so this is a natural mistake for them to make under the circumstances.”