The staff is kept busy year round at Westheights Church because there’s always something exciting coming up. However, in the week between Christmas and New Year, we take a bit of a breather and make precious memories with our family and friends. It’s also a time when we can catch up on our reading, something that the entire staff have in common – we love to read!
Over the holidays I wondered, “What are my friends reading this week?” because I was curious about what and why they were reading. So I asked the staff to send me a photo, unstaged, of whatever they are reading and asked what prompted them to read this book. I discovered that the “why” of reading is just as fascinating as the “what.” (I also discovered, from the photos they sent in, that I’m the messiest reader!)
As well, I asked what they had read in 2015 that they would recommend.
Here’s what I got (in no particular order), along with my own contribution because I should be fair! Note that a couple of books are recommended by multiple people so they must be good!
“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. This is Thomas’ book. He got it a few years ago, and this year he got the DVD for Christmas. We watched it for a family movie night over the Christmas break. That got me intrigued (Thomas said the book is better) so I’ve been reading it. Almost done. And Thomas is right, the book is better!
One book I read in 2015 is “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” by Peter Scazzero. I loved it because it focused on fundamental (but hard to do) principles of transforming your inner life. It really made a difference in how I view my life, my purpose, and my time.
I’m reading “Basic Cooking for Dummies” because I want to learn how to cook this year and be a better contributor to our regular household tasks. Feel free to send me your favourite (simple) recipes – with detailed, foolproof instructions.
One of the best books I read in 2015 was” Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes” by Richards and O’Brien. I learned a lot about the bias we have when reading the Bible and how we need to be more aware of the context of so much Scripture. It has a unique perspective, is written in an accessible style, and even made me laugh out loud at times.
I am reading “The Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright on my Kindle. It is a long book that describes the socioeconomic conditions that lead to the rise of Osama Bin Laden and Al Quaida and ultimately the tragedy of 9-11. I am enjoying it as I had very little knowledge about the history of the Arab world during this period.
From my 2015 reading I would recommend Daniel Pink’s book “To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” and Andy Stanley’s “Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend“.
I’m currently reading “The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy“, a memoir by Rainn Wilson (for those of you who watched the American version of the tv show The Office, he’s the actor who portrayed odd beet farmer/paper salesman Dwight Schrute). After hearing Wilson talk about his book on the radio, my mom saw it at the library and checked it out assuming either Tom or I would want to read it, and I got to it first. So far, I’m enjoying it! Wilson is both hilarious and insightful. While he and I have come to different conclusions about faith (he is Bahá’í, a faith group I knew next to nothing about before reading his book), he has made it a goal in life to encourage others to go deeper and ask the “Big Questions” in life.
As well, if you can get your hands on ANYTHING Shauna Niequist has written, please do it. “Bread and Wine” is a favourite of mine, but I’m also loving her daily devotional, ‘Savor’. Reading her books is like reading a letter from a friend who loves Jesus, connecting with other people, and food (in fact, many of her books include recipes, and we have loved every dish of hers that we have prepared). As I read what she has written, I find myself saying, “Yes, exactly that!!” …sometimes even out loud.
I would also recommend ‘Kisses for Katie’ by blogger, author and world-changer Katie Davis. It’s the real life story of “a courageous eighteen-year-old from Nashville who gave up every comfort and convenience to become the adoptive mother to thirteen girls in Uganda.” Her story of faith and sacrifice is inspiring!
Full disclosure: In 2015, I read a lot less than I would have liked. For example, I didn’t have a chance to finish ‘Kisses for Katie’ in the three weeks I had it before it had to go back to the library. (Three weeks may SEEM like plenty of time to read a book, but I’m willing to bet anyone who spends most of their time parenting an infant and a preschooler will tell you differently.) That said, I can’t wait to pick it up again and feel I can recommend it based on what I read.
I’m reading “Le Petit Prince“, a short French classic, often enjoyed as a children’s book, but quite clever as adult reading… mostly because my son David’s Grade 12 French Immersion class will be studying it next semester, and I’ve been reading his English and French books alongside him, so that I can help him to understand assignment requirements.
Books I would recommend: “Wonder“, by R.J. Palacio. A brilliantly written and moving story about the experience of Auggie, a 5th Grade boy with a rare facial deformity, and that of his family and his peers, as Auggie enrolls in school for the first time. And, “The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World,” by Peter Scazzero. This book discusses with practical insights key personal issues for leaders who take the time for an emotional checkup. A quick and encouraging read for those who may wonder why they feel stuck, overwhelmed, unmotivated or powerless, with how-tos for healthier actions and interactions.
“Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” is a book all about creativity, process, and how to get work done. Great read, and very unique. “Story, Signs, & Sacred Rhythms” by Chris Folmsbee focuses on restoring a process for leading students that focuses on the story and practices of the church rather than entertainment. Both are great (I’ve actually read Steal Like an Artist twice in about a week because it’s so brief and full of good advice).
The books I read in 2015 that I would recommend are: “Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy” by Donald Miller, “Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community” by Dietrich Bonheffer, and “Bread & Wine” by Shauna Niequest.
I’m reading “Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. I picked this up the day after an enjoyable (but exhausting) week-long family reunion with Tim’s family! After living with 22 relatives for a week, most of whom I barely knew or had never met before, this book title grabbed me. I’m halfway through it and am encouraged by the way the author affirms introversion and discusses how this trait is undervalued in today’s culture of personality, as opposed to a culture of character.
In 2015 I read a few fiction books that I really enjoyed. I read over 50 books, so it’s hard to narrow them down. If you like a really good mystery and you aren’t daunted by a long book, “The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair” by Joel Decker (I read the English version), a story about a novelist with writer’s block. If you like painting and sculpture, “The Painted Girls” by Cathy Marie Buchanan is inspired by the real-life model for Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and a notorious criminal trial of the era. I was privileged enough to see the Little Dancer sculpture at The Glyptotek this summer so this book was especially poignant for me. And, I enjoy fictional books which attempt to create a back story about famous works of art. Another book about art (and art forgery) which had me hooked is “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt who won a Pulitzer for her novel.