On a lighter note, I wanted to share three books I’ve read recently that I’ve really loved. If you’re looking for a good read over these last few weeks of summer, here are some worth considering:
Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible by Debbie Blue.
I was perusing the bookstore at the North Texas UMC General Conference and saw this book by Debbie Blue, whose writings I always love. I am not a bird person. I am not particularly interested in books of this kind, as a general rule. But I was fascinated by the idea, and by the way I thought Debbie would approach it, and I spent the last year reading at least a thousand pages about snake imagery in the Bible myself (which, by the way, has been so. totally. fascinating.) and if birds were half as interesting as that, I was more than willing to give it a go.
Well. I just can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book. I read it on vacation, on my porch, where birds often perched just inches away, which was sweet serendipity. I had no idea there could be so much to ponder about birds in the Bible, and how much I absolutely got wrong about the bird imagery in scripture. (You too- just wait until you get to the part about VULTURES!) Within these pages I found the God I have come to know, who is so much more wily and unfathomable and beautiful and wonderful than any of the ideas we use to pin God down. And through these birds, we get a glimpse of that God. And in Debbie we find a writer brave enough to write honestly about that God, which is what I find most refreshing about her. I kept finding myself wanting to speed up to read all of it, and simultaneously wanting to slow down because I didn’t want it to end. I read a chapter a day, and I noticed I would spend the remainder of the day noticing the smaller things that always surround me but go mostly unnoticed. Like everyday sparrows and commonplace flowers and monotonous concrete sidewalk, all waiting for a closer look to discover the beauty within.
I almost never re-read books. (Why, when there are so many new ones I want to read?!) But I will absolutely re-read this one, again and again.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m sure you’ve seen this book. Many of you have probably read it already. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. I am a latecomer to Elizabeth Gilbert. I confess I thought Eat Pray Love sounded like the kind of book I vehemently avoid, and so I avoided it for a very long time. But I am a convert. I love her writing, and I loved her TED talk, and I cannot gush enough about this book. She puts into words the magic that’s so hard to capture about the creative process, and she gives a rousing pep talk about committing to being a creative person and doing the work, which is something we all need to hear often to keep going. The bottom line: she gets the creative process, and she has figured out the importance of marrying a wholehearted trust in your instincts and a disciplined commitment the daily work to make your creativity happen.
I don’t know how it works for everyone, but I do know Elizabeth Gilbert’s experiences rang true (in a far less interesting way, with far, far more modest results) to my own experience. Sometimes you are seized by a book that wants to be written and it asks you to write it and, if you say yes, you will write some days with a whoosh of Beyond guiding your hands along the keyboard. This all sounds crazy, really. But that’s the point. It’s big magic. Don’t ask me to explain it. But thank God Elizabeth Gilbert described it for us, so that we can remember to be open to it and to be committed to honor it as best we can.
One more thing: I found out Gilbert was coming to Dallas to speak on this book, so my sister in law and I went to see her. WOW. She spoke for over an hour with zero notes, and she was absolutely compelling and wove this story that was captivating and I left so energized and delighted. Whatever that thing is that makes people zing and hum with aliveness, she’s got it. And I’m taking notes.
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Confession: I spent the majority of the last decade avoiding modern fiction. It just wasn’t my thing, and I found most books I did read to be “meh.” I still feel that way about a lot of the modern fiction books I read, to be honest, although I read far more of it now than I used to. But I do love a good, easy beach read. And every once in a while I’ll find a book that captivates me, and Leaving Time is one of those books. I had never read Jodi Picoult before this, although apparently I’m way behind as she’s written approximately one zillion novels in the last few years. (#goals) I think I read it in two days. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a quintessential beach read: great story, page-turner, satisfying and interesting all around.
Since then I’ve also read another of hers, The Storyteller, which was heavy but also really, really good. I recommend them both, but I’d start with this one.
What are you reading this summer? I’d love to hear your good book recommendations in the comments!