what I have been reading (back to school tired brain edition).


Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (borrowed from a friend)

When some butterflies that usually winter in Mexico end up in a valley in the Appalachian mountains instead, what happens to the community? What happens in particular to the families closest to this miracle (that could, after all, be a tragedy caused by climate change)? Maybe not my favorite Kingsolver (I have a special place in my heart for Prodigal Summer), but I loved the setting and the ways that Kingsolver cared so deeply and respected the poor people she was writing about. What good is science when your family is just getting by, and how much can farmers care about butterflies when climate change is affecting their own work? I really enjoyed this one. Recommended for: the science-minded among us, those who can see themselves in tales from a small town, anyone who has ever felt their lives were small and they wanted more.

Undistorted God: Reclaiming Faith Despite the Cultural Noise by Ray Waddle (via NetGalley)

Two quotes from this book sum up what I liked about it. “That’s the secret about religion: it better be worldly. Don’t live it all in your head, doing the math of perfectionism. Don’t forget the shaggy, swarming world.” And, “That’s what a church with its beckoning art should inspire when you sit down inside a sanctuary or assembly hall or approach a labyrinth of stone altar–the long view, a consoling sanity, a renewed search for the undistorted God.” This is mostly a story of finding God in unexpected places and learning how to differentiate the things that point you to God from God. Recommended for people who have trouble seeing glimpses of the divine in their daily lives.

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller (via NetGalley)

I have been hearing about this book for years, so when I saw I could request a copy with 100 additional pages, I was thrilled. It’s basically everything I love in an oral history, juicy behind-the-scenes gossip, scandal, and some people who are clearly very pissed about their experiences with the show and/or Lorne Michaels all these years later. SIGN ME UP. I flew through this and loved it (perfect airplane reading, by the way). My only complaint was that some of the new material seemed a little too current for the contributors to have really reflected upon what it meant culturally or even to themselves. I hope in 10-20 years there continue to be discussions with those actors and writers involved about their experiences on the show. My one suggestion for making this book better would be if the digital version had links to all the sketches that they are talking about. How great would that be, to read about a sketch and then just click to watch it yourself? Someone please make this happen. Recommended for: fans of SNL, people who kind of hate SNL, people who love oral histories and gossip.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson (via Blogging for Books)

On my last day of summer vacation, I took this book with me as I got a pedicure, and I read almost the whole thing. It’s a quick and easy read about writing. Benson talks about what works for him as he writes and edits drafts, what does not work for him, and gives general tips from his years of experience. Rather than being dry or imperious, the tone is warm and friendly, and I took away several ideas for my own writing. Recommended for: writers and friends of writers.

Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible by Peter Enns (purchased myself)

This was recommended in the comments here one day and I finally got around to ordering it. Rather than reading the traditional Old Testament stories with your child, Enns recommends focusing on the parables with small children, then moving to some of the more complex/confusing stories in middle school, and bringing the Bible into more cultural and historical context in high school. I liked this plan because I don’t really want to read Atticus stories about Noah’s Ark or genocide at this point, and without some guidance it is easy to step back from the Bible and be afraid to read it altogether. We obviously are very new to this (and I didn’t buy the curriculum), but if you have a young child and are nervous about reading the bible with him or her, I recommend this book to you.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonski (via NetGalley)

Grayson lives with his aunt and uncle and cousins after his parents died in a car crash, and he hides from them his darkest secret: he is really a girl stuck inside the wrong body. When he tries out for the female lead in the school play, a lot of feelings that have been tucked away in his family and his community come to the forefront. What I liked about this book was that it focused on middle grade concerns. Grayson most clearly articulates the idea that he is a girl by wanting to wear girls’ clothes. Obviously there is a lot more that goes into being a transgendered person than simply switching wardrobes, but Grayson’s expression also seemed appropriate for that age. You will root for Grayson to feel the support and love he needs and admire his(her) inner strength. Recommended for: middle schools.

Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels edited by Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani (via NetGalley)

If you have ever read a devotional and come away with more questions than answers, this is the book for you. After years of quiet times that left me unsettled, I enjoyed these thoughts on scripture that don’t depend on everything wrapping up neatly at the end. While of course some of the essays are stronger than others and some resonate more than others, they were consistently good and thought-provoking. My favorites were from Karen Walrond, Ian Cron, and Ellen Painter Dollar. Some other authors you might know are Brian McLaren, Eugene Peterson, Caryn Rivadeneira, Karen Swallow Prior, Susan Isaacs, Debbie Blue, Christian Piatt, Katherine Willis Pershey, Amy Julia Becker, Anna Broadway, and Gareth Higgins. This book is packed full! My only regret is that I was reading it during the first week of school, when I really did not have the mental energy for something so smart.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich (via NetGalley)

Nest is set in 1972 and is about Chirp, an eleven-year-old girl who loves dancing and the outdoors and wild birds. When Chirp’s mother gets sick, her world is turned upside down. Where can she find a safe place? As I was reading this, I felt as if it was a not-quite-as good version of Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt because of the bird themes and the neighbor Joey who is suffering from abuse. However, I can’t think of a student who would enjoy Okay for Now, but I do think this one would find a place on my shelves. It paints a realistic picture of depression and the stresses that many children face in their home lives. Recommended for middle schoolers.

I received some of these books for free but my opinions are my own.

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