Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Log: June 2016

My youngest sister has been doing an annual post of books completed, and I always enjoy looking through it. I do keep a log of my finished books, so I thought cataloging my completed books at the close of every month would be a good way to dust off this blog and encourage me to jot down a few lines -- or a few paragraphs -- with my impressions (a compiled list will appear at the close of the year). I don't like spoilers, so while I put some initial thoughts after each title, when possible I'm purposely vague regarding plot specifics so as not to dissuade any of you from reading them.

The included Amazon links are affiliate links; many of these titles I check out from the library or already own, but should you be inclined to purchase one, these links only mean Amazon will give me a small percentage of the cost, at no additional expense to you.

31) 6/7: Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy
After countless recommendations, I finally read this book. I'm not sure why I hadn't gotten around to it before now; while it does cover his time as a football coach, it's more about what makes Dungy tick. As people had shared, you need not like/follow football to appreciate this book. I do actually enjoy football in moderation, and we lived in Indiana while Dungy was coaching the Colts, so there wasn't any reason for me to have it on the back burner; I just kept finding other books at the top of my reading list.

I'd long respected what I knew of him, so reading more about his life and what has shaped his decisions and his responses was interesting. I had known one detail about his private life that I thought occurred after this book's publication (to remain relatively vague, a close family member dies by suicide); in fact, the death happened before Dungy published this book, so I had added interest in reading how he processed that loss.

32) 6/17: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
I am partway through another Bryson work after having heard an NPR interview with him after its publication (At Home: A Short History of Private Life), but I haven't yet finished it; the man has an encyclopedic mind so I find myself reading a section, then setting it aside to digest, and I don't see that routine changing. A Walk in the Woods was read for a neighborhood book group I joined.

I can't decide what to make of Bryson, whether he would be the perfect dinner companion, filled with witty anecdotes and fascinating details on everything, or whether he's egotistical, the type to dominate because he could talk on any topic. However, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

This was an entertaining, well-written read (our book group was split as to how uproariously funny it was - I landed on the at-times-amusing-but-never-laugh-out-loud side, whereas others were more of the hysterical-giggles-while-reading camp). Bryson decides to hike the Appalachian Trail, so this book covers the history of the Trail, his preparations for it and his experiences on it, details on the Park Service, and how flora and fauna have changed.

I couldn't shake the feeling as to how unprepared he seemed physically when he began (logistically, he had done his research and was prepared with gear and maps). And let's not get started on his hiking companion Katz. But I learned a lot about the Trail and find myself regularly checking the blog of a local woman currently hiking the entirety of the AT (I met her husband at the neighborhood block party, and her plans to hike the Trail influenced our book group to read this account).

33) 6/29: Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
This was a timely read. I knew of Nadia initially through a book review on Rachel Held Evans' blog, and then by chance I listened to Nadia share an incident on The Moth podcast that happens to be a chapter in this book. Side note: if you don't already listen, go subscribe to that podcast now - it's at the top of my listening list (yes, even ahead of This American Life most weeks).

Nadia is a progressive Christian and a Lutheran pastor. She previously published Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, but my library doesn't carry that title, so as is the norm, I didn't have any issues jumping to a later work.

In this work, she is vulnerable in sharing her faults. That was the aspect I appreciated most. It's easy to talk ourselves up to try to appear impressive, it is so difficult to willingly share our negative thoughts or our mistakes, and yet acknowledging them can transform us and others. She is also gifted at "finding God in all the wrong people," as the subtitle states. If we believe that we are all made in the image of God, it behooves us to recognize that essence in everyone, even if their actions are off-putting or even repulsive to us.

In addition to Nadia's transparency and frankness, I resonated with her mentions of the liturgy. We recently started attending a small local church that practices liturgy and have found it refreshing. Finding a tradition mindful of the church calendar and intentional in the words spoken in chorus has been a welcome fit.

I clearly enjoyed this book, and I only regret that I was finishing it under deadline (I try to avoid library fines and angering those next on the hold list...), as there were some passages I would have highlighted or earmarked had the copy been my own. I have every expectation this book will be added to my library.

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