Category Archives: Books

Reading as self-examination

I enjoy and am challenged by books written from the perspective of an unreliable narrator. The most recent one I read was The Good House by Ann Leary. Hildy Good is a descendant of one of the witches hung in Salem. She lives in the area north of Boston.

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The Good House by Ann Leary

The challenge for me came from deciding how much of her story was true and how much was skewed by her drinking. Her self-awareness and denial entertained me, but kept me wondering how far off she was in describing her behavior. Her children sent her to a rehab center, so she had to be less in control than she thought. But was her denial any different from what I might do? Do I want to face my behaviors truthfully? Deal with them rather than justify them?

Reading is for entertainment, education, and self-examination. The Good House covered all those purposes. What book has done that for you recently? Do you tend to stick with one purpose more than the others?

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Praying in color

I like color. Vivid colors—royal blue, raspberry, leaf green—and soft colors—butter yellow, lavender, cotton candy pink. I also enjoy praying. But sometimes the grip on my heart is too strong, too difficult to articulate. Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth provides the perfect solution. It’s a chance to speak to God with the Holy Spirit’s help. The approach is simple, requiring only time, paper, colored pens or pencils, and a willing heart. MacBeth’s book contains explanations and color examples.

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I have used this technique in many ways. I have prayed for friends and their families. The paper results were colorful representations of the time I spent focusing on every member of their families. It’s a joy to then mail that paper format to my friend to remind her how important she is to me and God. I used this approach for a group of friends, praying individually for each of them before we gathered. That occasion gave me time to reflect upon each of them, their needs, and what a blessing they were to me. This method also works when my heart and brain are too full and I need to spend time with God, bringing every thought, need, anguish, and joy before him. He knows my heart and through this encounter I feel connected to him. Image

When I’m finished praying in color, I have a tangible representation of an encounter with God and my time pouring myself on the page about a person or issue. What a beautiful blessing. 

Have you tried this technique? Is it something you’d like to try?

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What I learned from a tough book

Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes caught me off guard. Not in its subject matter, which I knew would be emotionally difficult, but by the freshness of the read. The words, thoughts, and characters’ feelings struck me with their strength and honesty. Drawn in from the beginning, I forgot I’d read the book before. Every scene was fresh as it unfolded. Every scene spoke of teenage or adult angst. Every scene poured forth human vulnerability.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult


Picoult guided me through the horrific events of a high school shooting by way of the shared history of the shooter and his victims. Although fiction, similar events have occurred throughout our country. I safely explored them through the distancing lens of a novel. The characters could have been real. The emotions I felt certainly were.

In reading Nineteen Minutes, I learned something about the horrors we can inflict on each other and the mind’s capacity to forget in order to protect us. This book made me more patient and compassionate with others. I’d rather not add to someone else’s pain. A book that changes a person for the better is a good one.

What books have made you better? In what way?

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Up all night with a good book

I couldn’t help myself. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve devoured all four of Tana French’s novels. French writes novels about murders in Ireland. They’re not your everyday suspense genre. The plots are complex and deep, thought-provoking, gripping, and filled with beautiful language. Her characters are rich, complicated, flawed, hurt, and determined not to let their injuries define them.

Here’s a couple examples of sentences I loved:

“A whole coven of knife-happy stalkers could have been doing the Macarena around the cottage and I would never have known.”

“She pinned me up against the photocopier—” . . . “—and she breathed all over me,” Rafe said. “Moistly. It was like being molested by a walrus soaked in air freshener.”

Great stuff. If you’re looking for a good psychological suspense with characters you’ll love and wonderful writing, give Tana French a try. The characters cross over in the books, but the protagonist is different in each one. You can read them out of sequence.

Heads up: her books contain profanity.

In the Woods by Tana French, Book 1 Dublin Murder Squad series

In the Woods by Tana French, Book 1 Dublin Murder Squad series

The Likeness by Tana French, Book 2 Dublin Murder Squad series

The Likeness by Tana French, Book 2 Dublin Murder Squad series

Faithful Place by Tana French, Book 3 Dublin Murder Squad series

Faithful Place by Tana French, Book 3 Dublin Murder Squad series

Broken Harbor by Tana French, Book 4 Dublin Murder Squad series

Broken Harbor by Tana French, Book 4 Dublin Murder Squad series

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Into the Free

I love a book that grabs me by that vacant place where my tonsils used to be and doesn’t let go. Into the Free is such a book. Julie Cantrell created a loveable character in Millie Reynolds. Loveable because she’s tough, honest, and still vulnerable. Millie longs for a stable family where the adults fill their roles, and she doesn’t have to.

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Into the Free conveys Depression-era Mississippi innocence along with the harshness of survival in a time of unemployment and poverty. Life is hard, Millie’s family life is harder, and still she marches on. While not duplicating Harper Lee’s Scout, Millie has enough of a Scout echo to strum heartstrings that adore Alabama’s favorite heroine. Millie’s music is an original song that captures her struggles and joys. It still plays in my head.

A five-star book for me is one that I’ll read again and that I find myself pondering scenes from as if they happened to someone I know. Into the Free is a definite five-star.

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