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{Book Reviews} What I Read in September

covers of books read in september

I found myself having a couple casual interviews this month -quite by happenstance - and kinda laughed to myself when, in one, I was like: "Well, I'm good at reading and synthesizing what I read." Ha. At least there's one strong point for me!! So are you ready for my reviews for September? I get a little long-winded, as this month I forced myself to read non-fiction that took more concentration so I didn't get lazy in my reading -and then listened to audiobooks for the ones that were a bit more purely for entertainment.

And somehow that added up to nine books. Here we go:


The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann: Remember in August when I raved about The Wager (review HERE) by Grann? It was a highlight book of the year for me, as was his book released a couple years ago titled Killers of the Flower Moon.

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is a collection of long-form articles written by Grann telling true stories of "people whose fixations propel them into unfathomable and often deadly circumstances." The two most compelling stories (for me) were about a con artist who tricked his way into a family claiming he was their son who had disappeared. And a story about a collector of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia and his "strange death."

Rating: 7 out of 10. Great for spooky season. (But not my favorite Grann book - I still say The Wager is going to come out as a Top Book of 2023 for me.)

A Quiet Mind to Suffer With by John Andrew Bryant

Bryant shares his story of struggling with OCD and intrusive thoughts to the point that he ended up in the psych ward, lost his job and was kicked out of the ordaining (ordainment?) process he was in. He states, "It has been important for me over the years to not understand a mental illness as a character flaw or a lack of faith when it is simply an Affliction, a kind of Suffering among other kinds of Suffering." His thesis is that the mercy of Christ held out a thread to him that he held onto during his suffering and brought him back even through the mind's torment he faced. I was sent this book from Lexham Press and appreciated that it showed up because otherwise I don't think I would have come across this honest, thoughtful story. While I felt the book rambled a bit (he writes in a very poetic way), and circled around what actually happened instead of just stating it in a linear manner, I strongly felt thankful that I read it. It is a honest look, but also kept the truth throughout -"There was a Christ I could depend on, and there was always a way to depend on Christ." In his story, "the psych ward became a psalm" and he chose to embrace the mercy that the death and resurrection of our Lord offers each of us.

Rating: I actually won't rate this one. While the style of writing sometimes didn't gel with the storyline (for me), and I feel we ultimately would have some (minor) doctrinal differences, all that fell to the wayside, as I felt the writing was honest, thoughtful and genuine. Something that is terribly hard to do in writing to convey your message on such a difficult story. So, well done, John.

Every Woman a Theologian: Know What You Believe, Live it Confidently, Communicate it Graciously by Phylicia Masonheimer: A great review of basic theology, this book is one I'd recommend and am considering leading a Bible study on, because hm, that would be fun! Anyway, I digress: Masonheimer presents what you would learn in a Bible college Systematic Theology class in a precise, covering-the-high-points way and I would suggest you read it if you want to understand better a biblical theology. I believe Masonheimer would say she leans reformed, which I am not, but she does present her points in a way that you can see for yourself what the views are and then go to Scripture on your own to further study them. A good relief to see a deeper book written for women on the subject of theology! I'm all for that!

Rating: 9 out of 10. Great for deeper study, which you can do now that it's the fall - as in the season of fall, but also, since we're in THE FALL. Haha. Get it? Get it? Okay, I'll move on.

Reflections on the Psalms by C S Lewis

As my study in Psalms this fall progresses, I'm reading a couple supplementary books/commentaries on the book. Lewis's is one I've read before, and it has been a good reminder of a literary way of viewing the Psalms. If you want a good overview of Psalms, try this. Good intro, good explanation of literary usage in the Psalms (which also applies to the Bible at large).

Rating: 8 out of 10. Good for reading on your front porch swing, thinking about how smart Lewis was, but how he really led us on a wild goose chase thinking there were hidden magical lands if we just kept looking. (Also, one point for it being my grandpa Massey's copy from 1958. V. sentimental. Not pictured.)

Counting the Cost by Jill Duggard Dillard

If you're at all familiar with the Duggar saga or read her sister Jinger's book, you'll want to read this one as well. I listened to it and thought that helped because I could hear her tone and pain in her voice. The story is sad, and her sharing seems to be rooted in the fact that her dad will not (and doesn't) take responsibility for any of it, even though she made no money from all the times she was filmed, and her thesis seemed to be that he treated her worse for her nose ring and pants than he did her pedophile brother who sexually abused her and others. I felt she explained her pain and frustration very clearly. Toward the end, she explains faith-wise what she went through and how she has turned to her faith in her growth and separation from her parents. (Remember in their form of "religion," the dad is still over authority of you even when you are married. So false and untrue that it boggles my mind how anyone could think differently...and yet...)

Rating: 8 out of 10, audiobook recommended in this case.

Master of Change: How to Excel When Everything is Changing - Including You by Brad Stulberg: Hm. How to say this: Here's the thing, I actually spent cash dollars on this book and I think that annoys me more than anything. Since the whole premise of this blog is about change and encouragement for when we find ourselves having to start over, so to speak, I thought this book would be a good review. And it is... to a certain extent. Stulberg presents studies and terms helping define change. His best point is about how we face change every 18 months in our lives, but we talk about it like we're surprised when it happens and that we look at change as moving from A ->Z back to A (homostasis) as opposed to A -> B on to C (allostasis - the healthier way to change.). Good points on organizations needing their pillars of "who we are" and then adapting to the changing world with how they operate, without changing those pillars.

Where he loses me is in his anecdotes. In most of them, there is a moral relativity that comes into play, where they change their beliefs (isn't this against his point about the pillars?) and how that shows progression or evolution. My takeaway is that he advocates accepting the change that comes your way, which plays into his spiritual point of view, embracing Buddhism and Stoicism as ways to accept what happens to you and then changing who you are (although I'd want to ask someone who really knew Stoicism if he's even employing that viewpoint I'm not sure accepting whatever happens and evolving goes along with the whole "bear and forebear" aka persist and resist philosophy espoused by Epictetus and is at the root of the Stoic philosophy). Then there's the whole aspect I'd like to cover, which would be from a Christian standpoint and what "stasis" has to do with who we are in Christ and how we change (sanctification).

I'll stop.

He didn't change my mind.

Rating: 5 out of 10. Skip, unless you want to read so we can discuss. I'd like that too. I'm not against the book, but the Covid (it's just too soon for me), political discussions and the moral relativity I kept finding didn't work in my opinion.

Fictional Fun

(The following were all audiobooks- Where do I find audiobooks? While I usually listen via Libby -our library's audiobook app, and Audible, this month I did a free trial with Scribd and ended up liking it. You can get a free month of Scribd to try out by clicking HERE. I like that you can "checkout" multiple books and magazines at a time, but they didn't have all the titles I hoped to find.)

Never Lie by Freida McFadden: Tricia and her husband are house hunting and visit the house of Dr Adrienne Hale, a psychologist who went missing and never was found a few years prior. They get stuck in a blizzard and while she's there, she listens to audiotapes of Dr Hale's patients, and finds clues to what may have happened to Dr Hale. I enjoyed the narration on this one, and the story itself was suspenseful.

Rating: 7 out of 10. Great for a spooky, chilly evening walk. Or background while you're cleaning your kitchen.

Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena: I don't even know what's going on here, because, well: Everyone here is lying. A girl disappears. Turns out her parents had trouble with her, oh, and the dad was having an affair. I don't know, maybe you can tell by my TONE *wink* but with multiple unreliable narrators, this one just lost my attention. I sped ahead to find out the "answer", but didn't enjoy the process.

Rating: 5 out of 10. Good for background noise as you're cleaning the bedrooms and bathrooms.

Lisa Jewell is an author I typically enjoy, and I read two of hers this month:

None of This is True: What is it with the whole everyone lying and none of this is true plot device? Another book with multiple unreliable narrators, although I felt this one was better written than the Lapena book above. A podcaster, Alix, meets someone who shares her birthday, Josie. As Alix starts making a podcast about Josie she discovers more and more mysterious clues until Josie disappears. Alix becomes the subject of her own true crime podcast. I didn't buy into the plotline completely: I mean, how daft do you have to be to invite a woman into your home and miss such obvious clues? But it was well narrated and did keep my attention until the end just to find out the resolution.

Rating: 6 out of 10. Good for background noise while you're baking all those pumpkin breads.

The Night She Disappeared: Two timelines, with the more current one involving Sophie, who tries to solve the mysterious disappearance of Talullah, who went missing two years prior.

Rating: 6 out of 10. But rated pretty high on Goodreads - so give it a try if you like this kind of book. For me, it didn't quite "work." Good for background noise while you're still cleaning. Or, more to the point, why am I cleaning three audiobooks' worth this month?


That brings us to the end of September! Let me know what book has been your favorite of 2023 so far!

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