Every year I like to make a list of the books I read. Usually I read about 60 books, but this year I only read about 40. I don’t know if it’s because we took a really long trip to eastern Europe and the Adriatic coast or because I’m spending more time with my granddaughter.

I hope you enjoy scrolling the list. It’s long, and eclectic. Please share some of your favorite books with me in the comments section!


Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines – These famous words are now synonymous with the dynamic husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. As this question fills the airwaves with anticipation, their legions of fans continue to multiply and ask a different series of questions, like—Who are these people?What’s the secret to their success? And is Chip actually that funny in real life? By renovating homes in Waco, Texas, and changing lives in such a winsome and engaging way, Chip and Joanna have become more than just the stars of Fixer Upper, they have become America’s new best friends.The Magnolia Story is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.They both attended Baylor University in Waco. However, their paths did not cross until Chip checked his car into the local Firestone tire shop where Joanna worked behind the counter. Even back then Chip was a serial entrepreneur who, among other things, ran a lawn care company, sold fireworks, and flipped houses. Soon they were married and living in their first fixer upper. Four children and countless renovations later, Joanna garners the attention of a television producer who notices her work on a blog one day. *This book was better than I anticipated. Very funny. Lovely story with lots of surprises.
Dear Life by Alice Munro – In story after story in this brilliant new collection, Alice Munro pinpoints the moment a person is forever altered by a chance encounter, an action not taken, or a simple twist of fate. Her characters are flawed and fully human: a soldier returning from war and avoiding his fiancée, a wealthy woman deciding whether to confront a blackmailer, an adulterous mother and her neglected children, a guilt-ridden father, a young teacher jilted by her employer. Illumined by Munro’s unflinching insight, these lives draw us in with their quiet depth and surprise us with unexpected turns. And while most are set in her signature territory around Lake Huron, some strike even closer to home: an astonishing suite of four autobiographical tales offers an unprecedented glimpse into Munro’s own childhood. Exalted by her clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, Dear Life shows how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be. *There’s a reason Munro is a Nobel prize winner. She makes storytelling look effortless. There’s a mundane, dreamy quality to her short stories, yet you’ll find yourself turning each page to know what happens, just as you would a suspense novel. The stories stay with you throughout the day. At night you’ll figure stuff out. Her stories are about childhood, and parents, and stolen innocence. They have a a sad quality about them but they are not necessarily sad. Melancholy might be a better word. This book contains four stories at the end that are autobiographical and Munro says this is her last book.

Popular by Mitch Prinstein – Popular examines why popularity plays such a key role in our development and, ultimately, how it still influences our happiness and success today. In many ways—some even beyond our conscious awareness—those old dynamics of our youth continue to play out in every business meeting, every social gathering, in our personal relationships, and even how we raise our children. Our popularity even affects our DNA, our health, and our mortality in fascinating ways we never previously realized. More than childhood intelligence, family background, or prior psychological issues, research indicates that it’s how popular we were in our early years that predicts how successful and how happy we grow up to be. But it’s not always the conventionally popular people who fare the best, for the simple reason that there is more than one type of popularity—and many of us still long for the wrong one. As children, we strive to be likable, which can offer real benefits not only on the playground but throughout our lives. In adolescence, though, a new form of popularity emerges, and we suddenly begin to care about status, power, influence, and notoriety—research indicates that this type of popularity hurts us more than we realize.Popular addresses a topic more relevant today than ever before.  In a world that pushes us to pursue power, and click our way to online status, it has become too easy to be lured towards a type of popularity that can harm us, and our children. Popular relies on the latest research in psychology and neuroscience to help us make the wisest choices for ourselves and for our children. With specific tips for parents, business leaders, and all adults who can remember their high school experiences, as well as a letter to teens to help this generation navigate a world in which popularity has become more complex than ever before, Popular can teach us all how to achieve more meaningful, successful, and rewarding relationships. *I read this book because a friend wrote to me asking how she could help her 15 year old daughter who was having problems with other girls in her high school. This book is well written, filled with good stories, and lots of psychological research. The focus is on the difference between popularity and likability, and how those traits affect us for life.I disagreed on one part. The part where he talks about the Columbine killers being bullied. That’s a myth that was propagated in the first 24 hours. I live in the Columbine part of Denver. Forty nine kids from my church were in the school that day. Friends lost their daughter. But what was discovered is that those boys were well liked by their teachers and peers. They were not bullied any more than anyone else. One showed sociopath traits and the other was an angry depressive. (I highly recommend Dave Cullen’s book Columbine for more on this topic.)



Brave Dreams by Celeste Barnard – For the woman who wonders if dreams are just for other people. Do you ever feel like dreams are for other people? Do you ever wonder if it’s selfish to dream? Does God really want us to pursue our dreams? Shouldn’t we just be happy with what we have and where we’re at? This book answers those questions with my own personal stories as well as biblical examples. If you’ve been hiding dreams in your heart- know that these dreams are not only okay, but they are necessary! Dreams are for us, but they’re not ‘just’ for us. When God puts a dream on our heart, you can be sure that there’s a Kingdom purpose behind it. John 10:10b- I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. The more we begin to believe that God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do, the more encouragement and hope we can bring to those around us through our dreams. Discouragement is running rampant. We need to believe again that God wants to use His people to do great and mighty acts. No competition, just a mighty group of women taking their place and helping others to do the same. *Celeste is a friend of mine so it was fun to read her story.


The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was already known as a crusading physician delivering targeted care to vulnerable children. But it was Diego — a boy who had stopped growing after a sexual assault — who galvanized her journey to uncover the connections between toxic stress and lifelong illnesses.The stunning news of Burke Harris’s research is just how deeply our bodies can be imprinted by ACEs—adverse childhood experiences like abuse, neglect, parental addiction, mental illness, and divorce. Childhood adversity changes our biological systems, and lasts a lifetime.  For anyone who has faced a difficult childhood, or who cares about the millions of children who do, the fascinating scientific insight and innovative, acclaimed health interventions in The Deepest Well represent vitally important hope for preventing lifelong illness for those we love and for generations to come​. *This is one of those rare books I could read in one sitting. Even though the subject matter is sad at times, Dr. Harris’s research is compelling. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor, author, and teacher. I wrote about the ACEs study in my first book (Renewed).
Currently I’m in the process of finalizing a book about post-traumatic growth. I spent five years researching and writing about a fascinating phenomenon; one that most people don’t know about: That is that some people are resilient to trauma and can even thrive after adversity. Trauma can be the springboard that catapults people into higher and better ways of functioning than before. In spite of the pain and suffering, the trauma actually ends up giving some people an advantage in life.
Two questions that drove my research were:
ž 1. Why did some survivors report positive changes when others did not?
2. žCan people be helped to find positive changes?
What I discovered blew my mind. There are many practical things people can do to heal and grow after trauma affects their lives. You can imagine how interested I was about reading Dr. Harris’s research from a physician’s standpoint. At times I had to jump up from the chair where I was sitting, and post on Instagram or Goodreads, because I want everyone to know about this book. I will certainly be telling all my friends in my circle of influence.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande – Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, NPR, and Chicago Tribune, now in paperback with a new reading group guide.Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them. In his bestselling books, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures-in his own practices as well as others’-as life draws to a close. Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life-all the way to the very end. *I like books like this that get to heart of what matters in life.

 The Fever by Megan Abbott – In this impossible-to-put-down “panic attack of a novel,”* a small-town high school becomes the breeding ground for a mysterious illness. Deenie Nash is a diligent student with a close-knit family; her brother Eli is a hockey star and her father is a popular teacher. But when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class, the Nashes’ seeming stability dissolves into chaos. As rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through school, and hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families, and the town’s fragile sense of security. A chilling story about guilt, family secrets, and the lethal power of desire. *I’m a huge fan of Abbott. I’ve read most of her books. I don’t know if it’s that my head was distracted with a housing remodel, and people in and out of the house, but I could not get into this book. I knew there was a point to this book, but it felt like there were a million points.I felt scattered. I couldn’t latch onto the characters. I didn’t like any of them. I didn’t understand them. With that said, Abbott has this incredible gift of capturing place and mood. I will continue to read her books.

Bear Town by Frederik Backman – People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world. *It’s hard to give this book a rating because clearly the author has a gift for writing and storytelling. However this book was too much for me in the way of length and the number of characters I was supposed to keep track of. I just finished texting my daughter-mother of a two year old—who had this on her bookclub but chose not to read. I said, “Good choice not to read. There were like 130 main characters.” LOL. Yet, I had to know what happened because I had invested a good amount of time into this book, so I kept on reading. Mostly I skimmed. Even skimming like crazy it took me a long time to finish. I didn’t enjoy it. In fact I felt agitated. I should have just put it in my stack of giveaways but I persisted and found what happened at the end. Though I must confess I had to google the question to see if one of the major characters dies. The text doesn’t really make it clear. I was right to google because there were lots of sites that took me to that question-so I wasn’t the only one asking.

Your Relationship with You by Denise Onofrey – Relationships are hard, but they don’t need to be. Discover how to start making relationships easier. Denise Onofrey, The Relationship Strategist, provides insights into the self-limiting rules that create dis-ease and dis-connection in our relationships.

Learn how you arrived at where you are now, and begin to shape the relationships you desire most, by taking control where YOU matter most. Create ease and connection with yourself, then write your “rules to live by” using these proven strategies:
  * Shed the “shoulds” and “suppose to’s”
  * Turn down the noise
  * Decode emotions vs. needs
  * Harness your gut instinct
  * Slow down to move forward  *I met the author at a book signing. Interesting thoughts.
The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian – Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police – she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home – Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did? Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home. *Spoiler Alert. Don’t read too far into this if you don’t want a glimmer of the ending even though I’m clueless about what happened at the end. I don’t read a lot of fiction. If i do, I find myself wondering how long until I get to the end. This book was not like that. I was engrossed in every page and didn’t want it to be over. All of a sudden everything came to a climax, but I’m not sure what happened. I tracked everything just fine until the last 5 – 10 pages and suddenly there were too many double crossing spies. I have no clue who was the bad guy, or why a certain character would want Cassandra to let him go, or why she would be convinced she should let him go..Still, I enjoyed the book and alway love Chris’s writing.


The Wonder Years by Leslie Leyland Fields – We’re all getting older. How do we make the second half of our lives the best half? Forty incredible women of faith from 40 to 85 tackle aging anxieties head-on–and upend them with compelling first-person stories full of humor, sass, and spiritual wisdom. Including: Elisa Morgan on Dogs and Belonging
Elisabeth Elliot on Sacrifice and Offering
Jennifer Dukes Lee on Drinking in God’s Love
Jennifer Grant on Diving In
Jen Pollock Michel on Facing the End
Joni Eareckson Tada on Pain and Provision
Kay Warren on Joy and Holy Fun
Kendra Smiley on the Freedom of Fun
Lauren Winner on Living with Intention
Luci Shaw on Embracing Adventure
Lynne Hybels on the Necessity of Pleasure
Madeleine L’Engle on Honoring Touch
Patricia Raybon on Answering the Phone
Paula Huston on Living Outdoors
Shannon Ethridge on the Miracles in Mistakes
Sheila Wise Rowe on Following God’s Lead
Vina Mogg on the Beauty of Mess

Jill Kandel on ‘Tilting Toward’ and on ‘The Legacy We Leave Behind.’
And many more. In three thematic sections–Firsts, Lasts, and Always– these women provide much-needed role models for aging honestly, beautifully, and faithfully, with surprises all along the way. These are indeed the Wonder Years. * I’m 53 and up to this point have not struggled emotionally with aging. In fact, as each year goes by I seem to get happier. I’m a counselor and author who studies happiness so I know that most people get happier and happier with each decade, and they have their peak life experiences in their late 60s and early 70s. After that they start to decline only a little bit in regard to happiness (as friends die and health declines). However, most people never get anywhere near the unhappiness they experience in their 20s. Isn’t that great news?The book’s author Leslie Leyland Field’s is a wonderful example of a woman living life to the full. She lives in Alaska and helps support her family by catching salmon. On the side she teaches, writes, and travels. Nestled alongside her adventures, you’ll find stories from 40 other “over 40” Christian authors. This book will encourage any woman who feels like her best years are behind her. Buy a copy of this book for you, your mother, your sister-in-law, your grown daughter, and a friend. They will thank you!

Tangerine by Christine Mangan – The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country. But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind. Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless. *Interesting story about two friends. Lots of atmosphere. Rewired by Erica Spiegalman – Rewired is a new, breakthrough approach to fighting addiction and self-damaging behavior by acknowledging our personal power to bring ourselves back from the brink. Centered on the concept of self-actualization, Rewired will guide you towards not only physical sobriety, but a mental, emotional, and spiritual sobriety by learning to identify key principles within yourself, including authenticity, honesty, gratitude, and understanding a need for solitude. Rewired addresses the whole self; just as addiction affects every part of one’s life, so too must its treatment. By helping us to build a healthy space to support our own recovery, we can rewrite the negative behaviors that result in addiction. Usable in conjunction with or in place of 12-step programs, Rewiredallows for a more holistic approach, helping to create a personalized treatment plan that is right for you.*This book was a selfcare book more than a book related to addictions. I’ve spent the last ten years researching, writing, speaking, and blogging on selfcare, so nothing seemed new or revolutionary. However, if I was brand new to this topic, I would enjoy the book.

Lessons from the Prairie by Melissa Francis – For fans of the beloved TV show Little House on the Prairie, a self-help book by Melissa Francis, bestselling author of Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter and child star of Little House, revealing important life lessons inspired by a childhood on set. Melissa Francis was only eight years old when she won the role of a lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the world’s most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Now in Lessons from the Prairie, she shares behind-the-scenes stories from the set, and lessons learned from the show’s dynamic creator, Michael Landon, that have echoed throughout Melissa’s adult life. With novel insights on hard work, making mistakes, and even spirituality, Francis shares inspirational and practical life lessons that will appeal both to her current TV fans, and fans of one of the most adored TV shows of all time. *Entertaining. Before reading this book I read Melissa’s memoir and was amazed at how cruel her mother was. 

Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco – Cartoon illustrated documentary narrative of Bosnian War. *I’m trying to understand the incredibly complex history of the Bosnian War. I watched the five hour PBS documentary that shows what happened after the Yogoslavian leader died. After that I read a smattering of books. Still, I feel like I only understand a tiny bit. This book was deep, painful, complex, and yes, even funny. It’s written in comic book form and makes a wonderful addition for those who want to understand what happened in this part of the world during the years of 1992 – 1995.

How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed by Slavenka Drakulic – This essay collection from renowned journalist and novelist Slavenka Drakulic, which quickly became a modern (and feminist) classic, draws back the Iron Curtain for a glimpse at the lives of Eastern European women under Communist regimes. Provocative, often witty, and always intensely personal, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed cracks open a paradoxical world that through its rejection of capitalism and commoditization ends up fetishizing both. Examining the relationship between material goods and expressions of happiness and individuality in a society where even bananas were an alien luxury, Drakulic homes in on the eradication of female identity, drawing on her own experiences as well as broader cultural observations. Enforced communal housing that allowed for little privacy, the banishment of many time-saving devices, and a focus on manual labor left no room for such bourgeois affectations as cosmetics or clothes, but Drakulic’s remarkable exploration of the reality behind the rhetoric reveals that women still went to desperate lengths to feel “feminine.” How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed also chronicles the lingering consequences of such regimes. The Berlin Wall may have fallen, but Drakulic’s power pieces testify that ideology cannot be dismantled so quickly; a lifetime lived in fear cannot be so easily forgotten. *“Hailed by feminists and scholars as one of the most important contributions to women’s studies in recent decades . . . ” How rich the irony in that half of all young people here in America want our country to become socialist (or communist). They all say it will be different. Hah! I didn’t pick up this book for political reasons. I picked it up based on a Rick Steves recommendations for those traveling to the Adriatic. We have an upcoming trip. But, wow, am I glad I bought this book. Slavenka Drakulic can write! Her depictions of women living in communist countries if full of wit, sarcasm, compassion, and sorrow. I highly recommend this book, especially for millennials who have glamorized what was a haunting era for much of the world.

A Traveller’s History of Croatia by Benjamin Curtis – An inside look at the complex roots of Croatian history–from the earliest time to the present–as well as the many influences visitors will see on its towns, ports, and islands. One definite conclusion can be drawn about Croatia in the early 21st century: it has established itself as one of the worlds most coveted tourist destinations. Maps and line drawings. Anyone who has glimpsed the long, mountainous, island-studded Dalmatian coast would surely agree that its beauty is little short of divine. Croatia, quite simply, is blessed with some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet, and its history is equally captivating. A Traveller’s History of Croatia offers tourists and travellers an inside look at how the country’s cultural fusion of Mediterranean, Central European and Balkan influences has given it a tumultuous past. The book’s narrative begins with Croatia’s astounding Greek and Roman legacy, and then explains how the early blooming of the Croatian state in the 9th century was thwarted by the ambitions of its powerful neighbour, Hungary. In the Middle Ages much of the coast came under the control of Venice, which over centuries left its indelible stamp on many charming, historic towns. Croatia became a battlefield as the Ottoman Turks invaded during the 1500s, until they were finally repulsed by the Habsburgs, who ruled the country right up until the First World War. The twentieth century brought new solutions in the founding of Yugoslavia, problems with Croatian nationalism and the horrors of invasion in World War II. Under Tito a stability came to the region until the battles of the 1990s, which were finally resolved with the international recognition of an independent state in 1992. Croatia today is independent, peaceful, and as beautiful as ever: it has taken its place as one of the world’s most coveted travel destinations. *Dense! But a good one for me to skim before our trip to the eastern Adriatic. 

Erotic Tales for Pujabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick. A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages—a spicy and alluring mix of Together Teaand Calendar Girls. Every woman has a secret life . . .Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community. Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s “moral police.” But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all. *A wonderful, interesting, refreshing book. I listened on audio and the reader did a fantastic job.

The Good and the Beautiful by James Bryan Smith – “God wants me to try harder.” “God blesses me when I’m good and punishes me when I’m bad.” “God is angry with me.” We all have ideas that we tell ourselves about God and how he works in our lives. Some are true–but many are false. James Bryan Smith believes those thoughts determine not only who we are, but how we live. In fact, Smith declares, the most important thing about a person is what they think about God. The path to spiritual transformation begins here. Turning to the Gospels, Smith invites you to put your ideas to the test to see if they match up with what Jesus himself reveals about God. Once you’ve discovered the truth in Scripture, Smith leads you through a process of spiritual formation that includes specific activities aimed at making these new narratives real in your body and soul as well as your mind. At the end of each chapter you’ll find an opportunity for soul training, engaging in spiritual practices that reinforce the biblical messages on your mind and heart. Because the best way to make a complete and lasting change is to go through the material in community, small group discussion questions also accompany each chapter. Those who are leading apprentice groups will also find additional help and opportunities to interact with other leaders at the Apprentice website, www.apprenticeofjesus.com. This deep, loving and transformative book will help you discover the narratives that Jesus lived by–to know the Lord he knew and the kingdom he proclaimed–and to practice spiritual exercises that will help you grow in the knowledge of our good and beautiful God. *I first heard about James Bryan Smith when I read Rich Mullins biography. I would like to know this man in real life. 

Lost Connections by Johann Hari – There was a mystery haunting award-winning investigative journalist Johann Hari. He was thirty-nine years old, and almost every year he had been alive, depression and anxiety had increased in Britain and across the Western world. Why? He had a very personal reason to ask this question. When he was a teenager, he had gone to his doctor and explained that he felt like pain was leaking out of him, and he couldn’t control it or understand it. Some of the solutions his doctor offered had given him some relief―but he remained in deep pain. So, as an adult, he went on a forty-thousand-mile journey across the world to interview the leading experts about what causes depression and anxiety, and what solves them. He learned there is scientific evidence for nine different causes of depression and anxiety―and that this knowledge leads to a very different set of solutions: ones that offer real hope. *I heard about this book from Tucker Carlson on FOX News. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I was eager to read the details of this well researched book. I don’t know who the author is but I think he’s someone kind of famous for writing prior books. I’m not into pop culture so I’m unsure. He is British. He struggled with severe depression and anxiety. He spent many years taking medications and he suffered from the side effects such as weight gain. Eventually he traveled far and wide to understand what really helps people who suffer from depression. He read the research and visited with top scholars. What he found shocked him. In particular was the research on SSRI’s that shows a slight improvement for people, but most of that occurs from the placebo effect, which is a real effect that body has when it is given hope. All of this I knew already, but it was fun to see how passionate he was about the topic. It was helpful to hear the actual statistics again. The anecdotes were unique and fresh. After obliterating the remedies most specialists resort to, he then discusses what really helps people. Things like connection, sense of purpose, meaningful work, etc. So yes, this a book I highly recommend and already have. But there is one strange thing the author did that drove me crazy. Every so often he would take bashes at anything or anyone who is politically conservative. For instance he makes comments like this: “People vote for Trump because they think it will give them more freedom, when in fact it’s the opposite.” Says who? Hari? It’s in these moment he offers no argument and no real evidence. This is the reason I give the book four stars.

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan – It’s a crazy idea: trying to name the phrases that make love and connection possible. But that’s just what Kelly Corrigan has set out to do here. In her New York Times bestselling memoirs, Corrigan distilled our core relationships to their essences, showcasing a warm, easy storytelling style. Now, in Tell Me More, she’s back with a deeply personal, unfailingly honest, and often hilarious examination of the essential phrases that turn the wheel of life. In “I Don’t Know,” Corrigan wrestles to make peace with uncertainty, whether it’s over invitations that never came or a friend’s agonizing infertility. In “No,” she admires her mother’s ability to set boundaries and her liberating willingness to be unpopular. In “Tell Me More,” a facialist named Tish teaches her something important about listening. And in “I Was Wrong,” she comes clean about her disastrous role in a family fight—and explains why saying sorry may not be enough. With refreshing candor, a deep well of empathy, and her signature desire to understand “the thing behind the thing,” Corrigan swings between meditations on life with a preoccupied husband and two mercurial teenage daughters to profound observations on love and loss. With the streetwise, ever-relatable voice that defines Corrigan’s work, Tell Me Moreis a moving and meaningful take on the power of the right words at the right moment to change everything. *I love me a Kelly Corrigan book. I’ve read them all. This one is just as good. Kelly has a memory like a steal trap. She tells all the funny, interesting moments from childhood on. Though we are very different (she is on the liberal side of politics, lives in a big city on the west coast, etc) she is kind. She doesn’t turn people off with mean jabs as if her view is the only view. She is super smart and funny. And really tender and sweet. Very authentic. I’m ready for another book!

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski – An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy. Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never be the answer—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all. The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal. Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm. Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible. *Very well researched. I saw this on someone else’s “to read” list and thought it might be helpful for my work as a counselor.

Prague by Rick Steves – Travel guide. *I read these travel books every afternoon, for a month, down under my deck as we prepared to take our trip to Eastern Europe. Rick Steves does his homework! He keeps recommendations up to date. 

Croatia & Slovenia by Rick Steves – Travel guide *Slovenia was one of our favorite countries! If you get a chance, go!


Vienna pocket by Rick Steves – Travel Guide *A good resource.

The Boy Born Dead by David Ring (forward by Mike Huckabee) – Few American epics of tragedy, intrigue, friendship, and faith will entertain and challenge the soul like the narrative inspired by the events in the real life of David Ring–a boy literally born dead who survives with sobering consequences. Living with the harsh realities of cerebral palsy, Ring faces impossible odds yet stumbles into an improbable life of inspiration and influence in the small, unassuming town of Liberty, Missouri, in the 1960s. As a teenage boy, Ring finds himself tragically orphaned and being shuffled about to various homes. Along this journey, he faces secret, unspeakable atrocities that eventually plunge him into the depths of depression and attempted suicide. But amid the harsh troubles of life, he encounters another boy his age named David, the son of a local pastor. Their unlikely friendship begins on the rocks, but eventually develops into something extraordinary and unique that alters the trajectory of both of their lives–and the whole town of Liberty–forever. *My mother in law gave this book to me. I had no idea what it was about. i thought it would be a light, inspirational book. I found my self weeping many times. This is a well written true account of a boy who suffered in many ways. Enabled by the love of a pastor and pastor’s family, he transforms. I highly recommend.

Running away to Home by Jennifer Wilson –  “We can look at this in two ways,” Jim wrote, always the pragmatist. “We can panic and scrap the whole idea. Or we can take this as a sign. They’re saying the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. Maybe this is the kick in the pants we needed to do something completely different. There will always be an excuse not to go…”And that, friends, is how a typically sane middle-aged mother decided to drag her family back to a forlorn mountain village in the backwoods of Croatia. So begins the author’s journey in Running Away to Home. Jen, her architect husband, Jim, and their two children had been living the typical soccer- and ballet-practice life in the most Middle American of places: Des Moines, Iowa. They overindulged themselves and their kids, and as a family they were losing one another in the rush of work, school, and activities. One day, Jen and her husband looked at each other–both holding their Starbucks coffee as they headed out to their SUV in the mall parking lot, while the kids complained about the inferiority of the toys they just got–and asked themselves: “Is this the American dream? Because if it is, it sort of sucks.” Jim and Jen had always dreamed of taking a family sabbatical in another country, so when they lost half their savings in the stock-market crash, it seemed like just a crazy enough time to do it. High on wanderlust, they left the troubled landscape of contemporary America for the Croatian mountain village of Mrkopalj, the land of Jennifer’s ancestors. It was a village that seemed hermetically sealed for the last one hundred years, with a population of eight hundred (mostly drunken) residents and a herd of sheep milling around the post office. For several months they lived like locals, from milking the neighbor’s cows to eating roasted pig on a spit to desperately seeking the village recipe for bootleg liquor. As the Wilson-Hoff family struggled to stay sane (and warm), what they found was much deeper and bigger than themselves. *I bought this book used, for a buck or two. But, it has given me a million dollars worth of pleasure. First, because we are headed to Croatia but man can Jennifer Wilson write. I’m jealous of authors who can write with such candor, opening their flaws for all the world to see, not out of a narcissistic need, but because they have the ability to share their humanity. Even if I wasn’t going to Croatia I would tell every reader who loves travel or memoir to put this at the top of their stack. It’s poignant, humorous, adventuresome. Also, you can listen to her podcast interviews with Rick Steves. Get his app and listen to the Croatia episodes.

  1. Ship of Fools by Tucker Carlson – In Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution, Tucker Carlson tells the truth about the new American elites, a group whose power and wealth has grown beyond imagination even as the rest of the country has withered. The people who run America now barely interact with it. They fly on their own planes, ski on their own mountains, watch sporting events far from the stands in sky boxes. They have total contempt for you. “They view America the way a private equity firm sizes up an aging conglomerate,” Carlson writes, “as something outdated they can profit from. When it fails, they’re gone.” In Ship of Fools, Tucker Carlson offers a blistering critique of our new overlords. Traditional liberals are gone, he writes. The patchouli-scented hand-wringers who worried about whales and defended free speech have been replaced by globalists who hide their hard-edged economic agenda behind the smokescreen of identity politics. They’ll outsource your job while lecturing you about transgender bathrooms. Left and right, Carlson says, are no longer meaningful categories in America. “The rift is between those who benefit from the status quo, and those who don’t.” Our leaders are fools, Carlson concludes, “unaware that they are captains of a sinking ship.” But in the signature and witty style that viewers of Tucker Carlson Tonight have come to enjoy, his book answers the all-important question: How do we put the country back on course?  *I had a bias to like this book: Carlson has been my favorite FOX personality for many years; way before he got his own show. My favorite story about Tucker is the one Greta Vansusteren did on her Greta Talk podcast. I even wrote about it in my own book about posttraumatic growth (You’ll have to go listen in order to know what I’m talking about.) Here’s my favorite paragraph from the book: “Trump’s election wasn’t about Trump. It was a throbbing middle finger in the face of America’s ruling class. It was a gesture of contempt, a howl of rage, the end of decades of selfish and unwise decisions made by selfish and unwise leaders. Happy countries don’t elect Donald Trump president. Desperate ones do.” That’s exactly how I feel. I became a serious follower of politics when Barak Obama was elected. I never missed a day to see how he was going to undo what the United States of America stood for. I started attending conferences and summits to learn all I could. But the moment I became a news junkie was the night I was celebrating my wedding anniversary in a cozy home on the San Juan Islands in Washington state. It was the night after the events at Benghazi. I asked my husband, “What is this story about?” He said, “Our ambassador and several others just got killed.” Fast forward. Nothing in the book was new to me because I watch Carlson’s show every single night. If I’m not home I record and watch later. This book is a fast read, and you can tell it was written in anger. Carlson said he wrote most of it on airplane flights. Smashing themes in the book are:
    Immigration – “You don’t have to convince or serve voters; you can just import them.”
    Elitist liberals – “Eight of America’s ten most affluent counties voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, in most cases by a large margin.” (The ones who supposedly cared about the little fella no longer do)
    Social Media – “Facebook sees and records everywhere you go. FB knows the stores you visited, the events you attended, and whether you walked, drove, or rode your bike…the company also knows much of your Web browsing history.”
    War – “Liberals used to be antiwar.”
    Free Speech – “There’s nothing more infuriating to a ruling class than contrary opinions. They’re inconvenient and annoying. They’re evidence of an ungrateful population…Above all, they constitute a threat to your authority.” (insert sarcasm)
    Carlson continues in the book talking about identity politics, racial diversity (how liberals now want everyone divided according to their DNA), global warming, male bashing, and the amount of filth in cities led by liberals who say they care about environmental issues.
    This book if filled with anecdotes, quotes, statistics, and history. Most importantly it’s a smashing explanation of the 2016 Presidential election. Sadly, Hillary still doesn’t get it. Yesterday she was on TV, once again belittling Trump and the people who voted for him. She has no insight.
    Hope she reads a copy of this book.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin Popular blogger Shannan Martin offers Christians who are longing for a more meaningful life a simple starting point: learn what it is to love and be loved right where God has placed you. For Christ-followers living in an increasingly complicated world, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to live a life of intention and meaning. Where do we even begin?Shannan Martin offers a surprisingly simple answer: uncover the hidden corners of our cities and neighborhoods and invest deeply in the lives of people around us. She walks us through her own discoveries about the vital importance of paying attention, as well as the hard but rewarding truth about showing up and committing for the long haul, despite the inevitable encounters with brokenness and uncertainty. With transparency, humor, heart-tugging storytelling, and more than a little personal confession, Martin shows us that no matter where we live or how much we have, as we learn what it is to be with people as Jesus was, we’ll find our very lives. The details will look quiet and ordinary, and the call will both exhaust and exhilarate us. But it will be the most worth-it adventure we will ever take. *I  would never want to negatively critique an author because I know the process. It is difficult to find your voice, find an agent, wait for the book to sell to a publisher, write the dang thing, and then market it. But I’m struggling…I started the book last night. It was late and I was tired, so maybe that was the problem. I was frustrated because I couldn’t ground myself in the story. The author shares a little bit about how how she lived in the country but now she lives in the city. Her husband worked for a conservative entity, and had troubles with a person who came in with more liberal views. Somehow they end up in the city, and somehow they become friends with this lady. But I don’t know exactly how that happened.I guess what is missing for me is what Brene Brown calls “the rumble.” Things turn out, but I can’t seem to figure out the tangible process of how that happens. Based on authors who recommended this book I was waiting for the funny stories and the specific details of how Martin got close to her neighbors. So far I haven’t found that.I’m about a third of the way through the book and maybe it will make more sense today.The writing is lyrical, and beautiful, in the style of Ann Voskamp, but the combination of lyrical plus the missing rumble (the tangible process of how things changed), it’s making this book an effort to read. However. I wish the author well, and I can see from the reviews lots of folks like it.

Killing the SS by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard – As the true horrors of the Third Reich began to be exposed immediately after World War II, the Nazi war criminals who committed genocide went on the run. A few were swiftly caught, including the notorious SS leader, Heinrich Himmler. Others, however, evaded capture through a sophisticated Nazi organization designed to hide them. Among those war criminals were Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” who performed hideous medical experiments at Auschwitz; Martin Bormann, Hitler’s brutal personal secretary; Klaus Barbie, the cruel “Butcher of Lyon”; and perhaps the most awful Nazi of all: Adolf Eichmann.Killing the SS is the epic saga of the espionage and daring waged by self-styled “Nazi hunters.” This determined and disparate group included a French husband and wife team, an American lawyer who served in the army on D-Day, a German prosecutor who had signed an oath to the Nazi Party, Israeli Mossad agents, and a death camp survivor. Over decades, these men and women scoured the world, tracking down the SS fugitives and bringing them to justice, which often meant death.Written in the fast-paced style of the Killing series, Killing the SS will educate and stun the reader. *If you’ve ever read a Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard book (Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus…) you know why you would never hesitate to order their next book. The books are incredibly well-researched, told in non-political fashion, and written in the style of In Cold Blood: Non-fiction but told like a fast-reading novel. I didn’t realize when I ordered this book that it was not about Hitler and the Nazis per se. It’s about the specific men and women underneath Hitler, who carried out the murders of millions: The S.S. This book will leave you feeling so many emotions. You’ll feel surprise, anger, a sense of justice served, a sense of justice not served, horror, incredulity, and a disbelief in all that happened, and is still happening from the late 1930s to this very moment in history. I wish every person would read this book in order to know about the people who carried out Hitler’s atrocities.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown – Leadership is not about titles, status, and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential. When we dare to lead, we don’t pretend to have the right answers; we stay curious and ask the right questions. We don’t see power as finite and hoard it; we know that power becomes infinite when we share it with others. We don’t avoid difficult conversations and situations; we lean into vulnerability when it’s necessary to do good work. But daring leadership in a culture defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty requires skill-building around traits that are deeply and uniquely human. The irony is that we’re choosing not to invest in developing the hearts and minds of leaders at the exact same time as we’re scrambling to figure out what we have to offer that machines and AI can’t do better and faster. What can we do better? Empathy, connection, and courage, to start. Four-time #1 New York Times bestselling author Brené Brown has spent the past two decades studying the emotions and experiences that give meaning to our lives, and the past seven years working with transformative leaders and teams spanning the globe. She found that leaders in organizations ranging from small entrepreneurial startups and family-owned businesses to nonprofits, civic organizations, and Fortune 50 companies all ask the same question: How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture? *I was enjoying the read on Audible. I’ve read all of Brown’s books. I have shared with dozens of counseling clients and hundreds of friends. After watching a promo for this book on Youtube, I politely told her on Twitter it was frustrating that everything had to turn political. I don’t mind people having political views, but I hate when professionals put it into material that I’m paying for. (Lately, I’ve been getting the rhetoric from every counseling seminar and book I buy!) Well, the author didn’t like my comment so she vented back, in a mean way, on Twitter. It felt like I’d been publicly shamed although I have not read that book 🙂 She wasn’t curious at all in what I had to say. The irony is that she is the one who caused me so much shame–the very focus of her research. However, I used her shame-neutralizing techniques and went to my friends on Facebook. I told them what happened (not trying to evoke pity, or demonize her) and hundreds of my friends showed up to comfort me. It was nice. I told her I would still support her work and I wished her well. But after time and consideration, her reaction left me feeling bad. It doesn’t feel like she practices what she preaches and I’m not sure I can pay for more of her material.

Sisters First by Jenna and Barbara Bush – Born into a political dynasty, Jenna and Barbara Bush grew up in the public eye. As small children, they watched their grandfather become president; just twelve years later they stood by their father’s side when he took the same oath. They spent their college years watched over by Secret Service agents and became fodder for the tabloids, with teenage mistakes making national headlines. But the tabloids didn’t tell the whole story. In SISTERS FIRST, Jenna and Barbara take readers on a revealing, thoughtful, and deeply personal tour behind the scenes of their lives, as they share stories about their family, their unexpected adventures, their loves and losses, and the sisterly bond that means everything to them. *I listened to this delightful book on Audible. It’s read by sisters Jenna and Barbara Bush, with a forward written and read by Laura Bush. This book doesn’t focus on politics but it does focus on the life of a child being raised in a political family. It’s funny, and sad, and poignant. Very honest and heartfelt. I’m surprised by how good it was. Very interesting and entertaining. I bought a copy for my own twin sister for Christmas.

Joyful by Ingrid Fettell Lee – Have you ever wondered why we stop to watch the orange glow that arrives before sunset, or why we flock to see cherry blossoms bloom in spring? Is there a reason that people — regardless of gender, age, culture, or ethnicity — are mesmerized by baby animals, and can’t help but smile when they see a burst of confetti or a cluster of colorful balloons. We are often made to feel that the physical world has little or no impact on our inner joy. Increasingly, experts urge us to find balance and calm by looking inward — through mindfulness or meditation — and muting the outside world. But what if the natural vibrancy of our surroundings is actually our most renewable and easily accessible source of joy? In Joyful, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee explores how the seemingly mundane spaces and objects we interact with every day have surprising and powerful effects on our mood. Drawing on insights from neuroscience and psychology, she explains why one setting makes us feel anxious or competitive, while another fosters acceptance and delight — and, most importantly, she reveals how we can harness the power of our surroundings to live fuller, healthier, and truly joyful lives. *I like to spend time in my local bookstore, often with my granddaughter who likes to play with the train. So I wasn’t looking for a book. I’m behind on my stacks by my bedside. But I wandered by the self help section. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor so I wanted to see if anything stood out. There was this book taking up a large section, face out. Joyful. I picked it up, surveilled the cover. Yeah yeah. I put it back down. But then I decided to see what reviewers said. There were so many of the people I admire touting this book’s praises. So I bought it. It’s a book about what makes people feel good, written by a women whose career is in design. Hmm, that’s interesting. Fetell Lee takes topics like color, and shape, and describes the impact they have on our psyches. Many of the stories I had heard before…like the one about Tirana, Albania. But she added much more to the story than I had ever heard. With almost every topic, there was Fetell Lee, hopping on a plane to tell you firsthand how the pink blossoms of Japan and the house of Pierre Cardin impacted her. This was one of the books you don’t force yourself to pick back up. It’s one you can’t wait to get back to. Every afternoon, I found a sunny spot near my Christmas tree, reading and then googling. (You’ll want to google almost every object the author talks about.) This book is a lot of fun. It will leave you feeling uplifted and happy. Also, I’m not much into home decorating, but it has given me some ideas of changes I want to make in my home. I’m very glad I bought and read this one.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage. *You know the type of book that reads so beautiful you want to cry? The kind of book you hold close to your chest and sigh as you read the last line? Well that’s what this book is. It’s always hard to rate books because they touch you in many different ways. I might feel inspired by Jewel’s biography. Uplifted by Ingrid Fetell Lee’s Joyful. But certain books make you a better person. This is one such book. It’s the story of two couples—two wives married to two professors—during the great depression. It is set on the shores of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a simple story told deeply, with compassion, about quotidian lives. There is no giant plot and no great action. And yet I never struggled to pick this book up. In fact, it had the opposite effect on me. I wanted to sit under my Christmas tree, while the day’s light faded across my couch, savoring each word. I’ve heard of this book for over a decade. It’s been sitting there on my bookshelf, just waiting for December 2018 when I would read it. How happy am I to learn that Stegner wrote 27 more books. In fact, I ordered his book about John Wesley Powell for my son.

Funerals & Memorials by Dayna Reid – A simple, stress-free approach to writing and conducting a memorial service. Readers are given all the information needed to create and officiate a beautifully personalized funeral or memorial service, including:• A description of the order of service
• A checklist and instructions for writing a eulogy
• A large collection of spiritual and non-spiritual wording examples
• Instructions for how to interview the family
• Guidance on how to handle special circumstances
• Several sample memorial services
• Ideas for including extra personal touches
• Guidance for understanding grief
• Ideas for following up after the service *You might think it’s strange that I ordered this, but I’ve had friends ask me for memorial advice and you never know when you’ll need it. A great addition to my book shelf. 

Baby You’re Gonna Be Mine by Kevin Wilson – “Hands down my favorite book of the year.” — Ann Patchett “Wildfire Johnny” is the story of a man who discovers a magic razor that allows him to travel back in time. “Scroll Through the Weapons” is about a couple taking care of their underfed and almost feral nieces and nephews. “Signal to the Faithful” follows a boy as he takes a tense road trip with his priest. And “Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine,” the title story, is about a narcissistic rock star who moves back home during a rough patch. These stories all build on each other in strange and remarkable ways, showcasing Wilson’s crackling wit and big heart. Filled with imagination and humor, Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine is an exuberant collection of captivating and charmingly bizarre stories that promise to burrow their way into your heart and soul. *Love this author’s style of writing. But his stories are puzzling. They are dark, but at the same time, you feel like there’s something funny underneath. Like a Coen Brothers movie. I didn’t really get them.

Alive in the Sunshine by Nancy Colasurdo – Alive in the Sunshine is the story of a 40-something woman’s journey from established professional to active seeker. It is a call to simplify and awaken, to live more authentically, and to find meaning and beauty in our everyday lives. Nancy Colasurdo’s memoir, covering a decade of self-reflection and change, begins with the staggering effects of 9/11 and her subsequent layoff as a television producer. Her well-ordered life falls apart completely as she struggles to find her way, continually questioning and seeking a life beyond that of the conventional Italian-American Jersey girl she was raised to be. She finds a new profession in life coaching, divorces the Catholic Church in the wake of the priest scandal, and seeks love, often with devastating results. Eventually she attracts a man who shows her her capacity for love, opening her up even further. One day Colasurdo picks up A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf and falls in love with this quote – “[W]atch in the spring sunshine the stockbroker and the great barrister going indoors to make money and more money and more money when it is a fact that five hundred pounds a year will keep one alive in the sunshine.” The quote describes a way of being very much at odds with the spiritual wasteland Colasurdo had fallen into. Ultimately, Alive in the Sunshine is about learning to pay attention to signs, appreciate simple pleasures, and be present in our lives. *Read half then gave up. She’s a good writer but I had a hard time relating to the author. Nothing in common and I couldn’t see where she was going.


Blog to Win Business by Henneke Duistermaat – Are your blog posts not as good as you’d like them to be? Or are you unsure what to blog about? Blog to Win Business teaches you how to write blog posts your customers love to read and share. This practical book takes you through the various elements of blog writing – from developing a unique voice to generating ideas and composing compelling headlines. This book doesn’t just explain how to write a blog, it also helps you decide what to write and how to position your blog as a must-read resource in your industry. It has been described as probably the most useful guide to business blogging. *I love this authors style of writing. She’s a true professional. Great writing tips here.


Struggle Well by Ken Falke and Josh Goldberg – Your struggle may come in different forms, and be given one of many different names, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, and/or PTSD. No matter how much you or a loved one is struggling, or what it is called, one thing is almost certainly clear: you aren’t living the life you desire or deserve. Still, there is hope. By embracing the struggle, rather than fighting it, you can stop surviving and start thriving. Ken Falke and Josh Goldberg train combat veterans battling PTSD to understand and achieve Posttraumatic Growth (PTG). PTG helps you discover opportunities from times of struggle, and this book provides actionable strategies for making peace with past experiences, living in the present, and planning for a great future. Through Ken and Josh’s work, thousands have transformed struggle into profound strength and lifelong growth. Now it is your turn. It’s time to learn to Struggle Well. *I didn’t learn a lot that was new to me but that’s because I constantly scour the literature for material about posttraumatic growth. I’m glad to know Falke wrote this book and that he continues to help vets.

Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin – “Between Heaven and Mirth will make any reader smile. . . . Father Martin reminds us that happiness is the good God’s own goal for us.” —Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New YorkFrom The Colbert Report’s “official chaplain” James Martin, SJ, author of the New York Times bestselling The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, comes a revolutionary look at how joy, humor, and laughter can change our lives and save our spirits. A Jesuit priest with a busy media ministry, Martin understands the intersections between spirituality and daily life.  In Between Heaven and Mirth, he uses scriptural passages, the lives of the saints, the spiritual teachings of other traditions, and his own personal reflections to show us why joy is the inevitable result of faith, because a healthy spirituality and a healthy sense of humor go hand-in-hand with God’s great plan for humankind. *I picked this book up on and off many times. It’s a good one to read in short doses. In many ways it brought me closer to God and felt like a devotional even though the focus was about joy, humor, and laughter being at the heart of the spiritual life.It caused me to reminisce many of the funny things that have happened to me, and to see those as gifts from God. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud, probably causing the neighbors to wonder what I was doing out on my deck.

Finding the Upside of Down by Lucille Zimmerman – yes, this is my own book but I read it a few hundred times this year before it was published, so I thought I’d feature it here. When people go through a massive traumatic event 5 – 35% will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many fear they will never find joy again. Yet strangely, a subgroup become better people. They still experience pain, anguish, and loss, but eventually, some say life holds a new richness as a result of the trauma. New science reveals how great pain and loss often pushes survivors to face their own mortality and to find a more meaningful and fulfilling understanding of who they are and how they want to live. *I hope you love it! It truly was a labor of love. Not for money or fame, but because I want to help people find meaning in their suffering.

Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg – Old Friend from Far Away teaches writers how to tap into their unique memories to tell their story. Twenty years ago Natalie Goldberg’s classic, Writing Down the Bones, broke new ground in its approach to writing as a practice. Now, Old Friend from Far Away—her first book since Writing Down the Bones to focus solely on writing—reaffirms Goldberg’s status as a foremost teacher of writing, and completely transforms the practice of writing memoir. To write memoir, we must first know how to remember. Through timed, associative, and meditative exercises, Old Friend from Far Away guides you to the attentive state of thought in which you discover and open forgotten doors of memory. At once a beautifully written celebration of the memoir form, an innovative course full of practical teachings, and a deeply affecting meditation on consciousness, love, life, and death, Old Friend from Far Away welcomes aspiring writers of all levels and encourages them to find their unique voice to tell their stories. Like Writing Down the Bones, it will become an old friend to which readers return again and again. *An excellent book about writing memoir. 

Intimate Deception by Dr. Sheri Keffer – Nothing destroys trust like sexual betrayal. Beyond broken vows, a woman who discovers that the man she loves has been viewing pornography or having an affair must deal with devastating blows to her self-image and self-worth. She must grapple with the fact that the man she thought she knew has lied and deceived her. She may even bear the brunt of shame and judgment when the people around her find out.Drawing from her experience both as a marriage and family therapist and a woman who personally experienced the devastation of sexual betrayal, Dr. Sheri Keffer walks women impacted by betrayal through the pain and toward recovery. She explains how the trauma of betrayal affects our minds, bodies, spirits, and sexuality. She offers practical tools for dealing with emotional triggers and helps women understand the realities of sexual addiction. And she shows women how to practice self-care, develop healthy boundaries, protect themselves from abuse or manipulation, and find freedom from the burden of shame and guilt. *Dr. Keffer knows her stuff, both clinically and personally.

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel – Is there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God? Former atheist and Chicago Tribune journalist Lee Strobel says yes! In this revised and updated bestseller, The Case for Christ, Strobel cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools such as Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis, asking hard-hitting questions – and building a captivating case for Christ’s divinity. Strobel challenges them with questions like, How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event? Winner of the Gold Medallion Book Award and twice nominated for the Christian Book of the Year Award, Strobel’s tough, point-blank questions read like a captivating, fast-paced novel. But it’s not fiction. It’s a riveting quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure. *I have heard about this book for decades but never read. I’m teaching a 2 year bible study, so it felt like the right time. Glad I did. It’s excellent! It will affirm your faith.

Healing after Loss by Martha Whitmore Hickman – The classic guide for dealing with grief and loss for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Here are thoughtful words to strengthen, inspire and comfort. *I buy this book for friends and clients. I heard about it from former FOX News reporter Megan Kelly.

About My Mother by Peggy Rowe – There’s a Thelma Knobel in everyone’s life. She’s the person taking charge– the one who knows instinctively how things should be. Today, Thelma would be described as an alpha personality. But while growing up, her daughter, Peggy, saw her as a dictator– albeit a benevolent, loving one. They clashed from the beginning– Peggy, the horse-crazy tomboy, and Thelma, a genteel controlling mother, committed to raising two refined, ladylike daughters. When major league baseball came to town in the early 1950s and turned sophisticated Thelma into a crazed Baltimore Orioles groupie, nobody was more surprised and embarrassed than Peggy. Life became a series of compromises– Thelma tolerating a daughter who pitched manure and galloped the countryside, while Peggy learned to tolerate the whacky Orioles fan who threw her underwear at the TV, shouted insults at umpires, and lived by the orange and black schedule taped to the refrigerator door… *Mike Rowe’s mom wrote this book. You know, Mike the dirty jobs guy. It’s a memoir of sorts. Funny tales about her mom and about herself. Easy, witty.


Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith – More Style, Less Stuff. Cozy Minimalism isn’t about going without or achieving a particular new, modern style. Nope. It’s simply a mindset that helps you get whatever style YOU LOVE with the fewest possible items. You want a warm, cozy, inviting home, without using more resources, money, and stuff than needed. Why use more if you don’t have to? In Cozy Minimalist Home, accidental stylist and bestselling author Myquillyn Smith guides you step by step on making purposeful design decisions for your home. You’ll have the tools to transform your home starting with what you already have, and using just enough of the right furniture and decor to create a home you’re proud of in a way that honors your personal priorities, budget, and style. No more fretting when it comes to decorating your house! In Cozy Minimalist Home, Myquillyn Smith helps you

  • Realize your role as the curator of your home who makes smart, style-impacting design choices
  • Finally know what to focus on, and what not to worry about when it comes to your home
  • Discover the real secret to finding your unique style—it has nothing to do with those style quizzes
  • Understand how to find a sofa you won’t hate tomorrow
  • Deconstruct each room and then re-create it step by step with a fail proof process
  • Create a pretty home with more style and less stuff—resulting in backwards decluttering!
  • Finish your home and have it looking the way you’ve always hoped so you can use it the way you’ve always dreamed *Interesting and fun. She’ll help you decorate no matter what your budget and situation is.



The Happy Cookbook by Steve and Kathy Doocy – A beautiful, full-color collection of recipes and stories that celebrate comfort and inspire happiness all year round from Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy and his wife, Kathy. Steve Doocy calls Kathy, his wife of more than thirty years, “the best cook I’ve ever met.” Together, they take joy in cooking and entertaining with their family and friends. In The Happy Cookbook, the Doocys share favorite recipes, stories, and photos from their family life. In addition to beloved family dishes, this full-color cookbook includes recipes from friends like musician Kid Rock, professional golfer Greg Norman, and many more! The Happy Cookbook will not only appeal to Steve’s legions of Fox & Friends fans, but to anyone looking for accessible, fun, and delicious food that will inspire great meals for every day and for special occasions. The Happy Cookbook includes a range of yummy dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. *I’ve made so many recipes and they have all tasted great.


To Bless the Space between Us by John O’Donohue – From the author of the bestselling Anam Cara comes a beautiful collection of blessings to help readers through both the everyday and the extraordinary events of their lives.
John O’Donohue, Irish teacher and poet, has been widely praised for his gift of drawing on Celtic spiritual traditions to create words of inspiration and wisdom for today. In To Bless the Space Between Us, his compelling blend of elegant, poetic language and spiritual insight offers readers comfort and encouragement on their journeys through life. O’Donohue looks at life’s thresholds—getting married, having children, starting a new job—and offers invaluable guidelines for making the transition from a known, familiar world into a new, unmapped territory. Most profoundly, however, O’Donohue explains “blessing” as a way of life, as a lens through which the whole world is transformed. O’Donohue awakens readers to timeless truths and shows the power they have to answer contemporary dilemmas and ease us through periods of change. *This book is a comfort. It’s the one I keep in my living room, all by itself, like a warm blanket. I read from it weekly. 

I’m excited to see what books 2019 has in store. What book stands out from the ones you read in 2018?


Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.

She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."