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{Book Review} What I Read in November

Hi All! There are not many areas in life where I would stand up and {gently} elbow you over and say, "honey, honey, let me handle this" {patronizingly} other than in the area of Books And What Thou Should Readest.

Upon second thought, I'd try not to be patronizing, but I would write a blog post where I'd say, "Gentle Reader, May I suggest some titles for your reading consideration?"

Ahem. {clears throat}

Gentle Reader, May I suggest some titles for your reading consideration?


Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things by Adam Grant

Grant's writing and teaching on "motivation and meaning" is bar none, and is just the type of book I devour. {He is an organizational Psychologist at The Wharton School.} This book focuses on the subject of typical persons and their ability to achieve greatness, as opposed to a prodigy who has that innate genius. (In other words, my reaction to this book: "so you're telling me there's a chance...") Grant's use of anecdotes is especially great in this book, including: At the very beginning he shares fascinating research about how kindergarteners who are taught by experienced teachers fare far better in their futures than the students who have a new-to-the-job teacher in kindergarten. It's not the kid - it's the teacher! Who knew. "We can all improve at improving. And when opportunity doesn't knock, there are ways to build a door." Overall, I consider this to be a typical Grant offering, while maybe not being his best. Still worth it. And worth it to realize we all have the ability to achieve.

Rating: 4 out of 5 genius stars. Easy book to read, not a lot of focus needed, might be a good Christmas break read whilst traveling!

A Brief History of Sunday: From the New Testament to the New Creation by Justo Gonzalez

Gonzalez takes a look at the history of Sundays or Sabbath. Why is Sunday the day Christians worship? Did you know various cultures have had differing lengths of weeks? Some 3 day, some up to 15? (Think moon phases, and planting schedules.) This is a history of Sundays that covers time, therefore different historical figures, denominations, and occasions in Christianity are covered (i.e. The Reformation). I firmly believe we need to know history in order to understand why and how things are the way they are today, and this book hits an area I think is often overlooked - as in, we stand so hard on our opinions of church and what Sunday (or Sabbath) should be, we overlook the fact that our time in history is just as malleable and short-lived as any other. There seemingly is always a pendulum swing in reaction to current practices (for instance, communion being a weekly event, then reduced in frequency, and now many denominations are swinging back to more of a liturgical focus which includes communion being practiced weekly again. Very interesting.) This is not a theological book, it is a history book.

Rating: 4 out of 5. Understandably presented. Does well hitting the high points of church history and connecting how those points connected with how Sunday was celebrated at the time.

Little Book for New Historians: Why and How To Study History by Robert Tracy McKenzie

I heard McKenzie in a Q&A format and was so impressed I bought this book immediately. It's short. It would be a good gift for your college student, your grandfather, your wife who loves history, or, yes: You. McKenzie is a professor of history at Wheaton College and does a great job introducing how we should study history as Christians, and how to analyze our sources. "As it matures, historical consciousness becomes more than a mindset. It becomes a mindset that engages the heart - mocking our pride, exposing our pretensions, and teaching us humility." Most of what he says comes across so plainly logical, but if you pause and consider, you realize how much logic we've laid by the wayside, thinking our time in history is all there is.

Rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect book for excusing yourself from the overwhelming family festivities to grab a cuppa and read in the quaint little town coffee shop.

If I Were Your Professor Sidebar: {If I tie in Adam Grant from the review above and his books on leadership with McKenzie's work, I'd say one of my biggest takeaways from watching people in my own life is their inability to realize when they walk into a new room/role that there is history in that room. I daresay anyone who is new to leadership positions should take time to understand the history of that organization, history of that conference room, people in the chairs and what has come before in order to be a better leader. Take time to listen to someone's story so that you can understand the why. It takes humility, as McKenzie states. A trait lacking in many of us. McKenzie and Grant's principles apply to the bigger picture of history and to your own personal/smaller history.}


Saving Grayson by Chris Fabry

"Grayson Hayes doesn’t remember things as well as he used to, but he’s sure his time is running out. Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, he realizes he has a small window of time left to right a terrible injustice―he just can’t remember what it is." I love Fabry's atmospheric writing and his ability to draw a character so well you swear you sat next to them at the local diner last weekend. This book deals with caring for someone who is losing their memories and also focuses on the power of forgiveness. Highly recommend, and definitely would be a good gift for your father- or mother-in-law, your friend, yourself. I liked this book so much, I dragged it around and um, ended up losing it. I'll find it at some point, hiding in the cushion of a chair or in the car, but until then, that's my highest rating for a book because it means I brought it with me to read just one more page. I apologize to Chris, though, because if someone lost my book, I'd think it was offensive, rather than seeing it as the giant compliment it is.

Rating: Chris is our friend and I don't rate friend's works, because they'd all get 5 stars from me! But for real, Chris is an award winning author and definitely this book is worth a read. Great for holiday break sitting in front of the fire.

These next two books were because I googled "best mysteries" when in a reading funk in October and these two were on it.

Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger. Krueger has his atmospheric writing down pat, and since I spent many weeks in the north woods growing up, I can relate to the way he describes crunching through the snow, the way cold hits your very bones and the stillness of the trees at night. The mystery is the first in a series focused on Cork O'Connor who solves the mysterious deaths of various people in a small town in northern Minnesota. I am a fan of Krueger's writing, but this one fell short for me. Subject matter was a bit PG-13 at times, plus the whole time I kept thinking I've read this already.... it's like I could see everything that was going to happen and some of the plot points fell short for me. Good book, but not his best. Read Ordinary Grace if you want peak Krueger.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ice fishing huts on the frozen as solid as iron lake. Doesn't require focus, might be a good book for that airline flight delay while you're trying to ignore your family (gasp! how dare you).

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Another mystery from the top ten mysteries list. "Clare Cassidy, a high school teacher specializing in the gothic writer R.M. Holland, is no stranger to murder. But when one of Clare's colleagues is found dead, with a line from Holland's iconic story The Stranger left by her body, Clare is horrified to see her life collide with her favorite literature." This book held a lot of spooky promise, with a couple jump scares, a ghost and various spooky events. However, the ending fell flat for me and resolved in a rather perfunctory manner. The ghost ended up not mattering. {I mean, you matter, ghost. But you're not like really matter anymore, so I guess you're just kinda floating in the background of this story? I digress...}

Rating: 2 out of 5. Grab it from the library and give it a quick read if you really, really love mysteries.

That's it for November! I am currently reading River of Doubt covering Theodore Roosevelt's travels (post-presidency) down an off-shoot river of the Amazon. It's riveting! I'm loving it, I just haven't finished it, so can't give you a rating yet. But it would be a great gift for that adventure/exploration/history buff in your life.

Looking for more ideas? Here's my other posts on books from this year:

But first, want to help support me?

Past Book Reviews:


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