So Many Books…

Once the semester ends, I usually take some time to make a book list for myself for the summer (or start of the calendar year). And that list usually has a theme. This summer, I’m struggling to narrow the list…and the theme boils down to either professional, what’s on the Kindle, or what have I been longing to get to but couldn’t because of school (and the Damn Israel Book).

I’m also aware that I can never get to all the books I want to read…so I’m not including the Top 27 from my Amazon Wish List. Because I may or may not get to ANY of those this year. However, here’s what I’m going to make a wholehearted effort to get read this summer:

Books to finish:

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman

Born Digital by Palfrey & Gasser

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Kindlon & Thompson

Professional Books to Read

I tend to read books about parenting, children, gender stuff, or some combination of the three. It’s been a personal research interest for awhile. Now it’s an official research interest. So here goes…

Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before by Jean Twenge

Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting by Hara Marano

The Maturity Myth: What Teenagers Need from Parents to to Become Adults by Terri Apter

What’s on the Kindle

Love Wins by Rob Bell (go on, call me a heretic–or, better still, a universalist)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

The Confessor by Daniel Silva

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

Unsqueezed by Margot Starbuck

The Good Body by Eve Ensler (go on, call me a feminist)

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

And what I’ve wanted to get to but couldn’t because of school 

OK…so there’s somewhat of a theme here…SPIES…and travel…with a coupla randoms thrown in for good measure

The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

The Ghost War by Alex Berenson

The Silent Man by Alex Berenson

I Drink for a Reason by David Cross

Once a Spy by Keith Thomson

Twice a Spy by Keith Thomson

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erick Larson

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth by Cain, Postlewait, & Thomson

And I’d like to finish out my Israel book list, some of which you’ve already seen here, but is actually a little more extensive.

I figure if I can get through the ones specifically listed here by the end of the calendar year, I can meet my goal of 30 books for the year.

We’ll see how that goes.

Fall to Grace: A Book Review

Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self, and Society is author Jay Bakker’s call to re-examine our individual and collective thoughts on grace–what it really is, who really gets it, and what it would look like if we really extended it to everyone.

Jay Bakker is the son of the well-known (infamous?) Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of 80’s televangelism. Most of us remember how that turned out. Suffice it to say that Jay has a leg to stand on where a conversation around grace is concerned. Indeed, he spends the first couple of chapters describing what it was like for him to be part of that family at the highest and lowest points.

With humorous and earthy tones, Bakker takes us on a journey that explores , in order, who this God is who freely bestows grace, who we are as individuals working (unnecessarily so–it’s grace after all) to receive grace, and what it would look like if we extended grace to the world around us. Indeed, he calls it a revolution.

If we could see God as a loving, doting parent who wants the best for all of God’s children–that we are punished by our “sin” and not for it–and as the parent who welcomes all of your friends over to the house with a stocked pantry and fridge, how would that change the way we view grace?

If we could see ourselves as broken, yes, but still loved by this God of grace, unconditionally and without exception, how would that change the way we receive grace?

If we could look at the society and people around us, with all of their bent and broken ways, with all of their flaws, knowing what we do about God’s grace and having received it as we have, how would that change the way we welcomed others?

These, I think, are the points Bakker tries to make over the course of this book. He provides plenty of scripture–primarily using Galatians as the backdrop. He offers a reasonable base for why so many in the church have botched it. He includes personal accounts from others who have re-discovered grace. And just about the time you’ve considered joining this new revolution (if you’re not already there), he offers up a platform for why the lines we draw in religious organizations around the issue of homosexuality are way off base.

As for this reader, I was with Bakker the whole way. For those who struggle with accepting grace (or bestowing it), this just might be the book for you to really think about who God is, what it means to really and truly receive grace, and how well you include or exclude others from participating in the work of the Kingdom on matters that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t matter at all.

This book was a quick and easy read–and well worth the time.


Thanks to for sending me the book and extending grace on a late review.

The Annual Mother’s Day Review

Since I’m forced into Mother’s Day on an annual basis, I thought I’d work to embrace it a little more this year. Here’s what that got me:

I actually went to church…and I’m pleased to say it wasn’t bad. My church doesn’t go all out for holidays of the Hallmark variety, and I’m thankful. There was a baby dedication, but it was sweet and very well done. And in the service I didn’t go to (but could hear through the closed office door).

We finally got out of church and went to lunch with the most local parts of the family. The pizza was good. My M-I-L not giving me enough credit for being an adult not so much.

We had the in-laws over for a spell this afternoon–mainly because we didn’t take the gift with us for the mother-in-law. Things were going along until I found it…

The pool that moved in under our kitchen sink.

Once again, we have a leak. And so Al’s dad got under there and made some suggestions…and then Al got to work on that part.

Meanwhile, I did laundry and grocery shopping and returned home to an uber-frustrated husband. He did take a fun(?) picture at some point in the process…but still. There were choice words for the manufacturer. Because a $5 hose is preternaturally connected to the $200 fixture. And we will likely end up paying the latter amount instead of buying a $5 hose.

He’s still ranting about it.

And I? After I post this mess, I will be tending to the laundry. You know…folding a load and putting another into the dryer.

Happy Freaking Mother’s Day.

Books I Probably Shouldn’t Take With Me To Israel

I’m headed to Israel in a coupla weeks and I’m trying to think about what would be useful for me to take so I can catch up on some reading–as well as what might help me have even more context for where I’m going. But I’m thinking there are things on my list I might be better off leaving at home.


Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad

I can’t imagine that going over very well…because one never knows where one stands with so many groups always vying for something over there…

Every Spy A Prince 

You know…another book about the history of the Israeli intelligence community. I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated about the spy game, but I am. You should see what I’m planning to take with me on the plane for those times when the ol’ Kindle isn’t allowed to be up and running.

My personal favorite…one I discovered at an indie bookstore in DC last summer and really hoped to read before we left:

The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday

I’m hoping to someday really and truly understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…as well as the things that led to the making and undoing of the Middle East. As best I can tell at this point, everyone’s right and everyone’s wrong. But how did we really get here?

I’m sad I won’t get this one read in time, but it may actually make more sense to read it after the fact.


The Source. I call it the Damn Israel Book–a shout out to Barbara Kingsolver who, while writing The Poisonwood Bible (one of my all-time favorite books. ever.), referred to it as The Damn Africa Book (DAB for short). I swear. This book is a mere 905 pages long and tells the story of the people that lived and moved around a tell in Israel. A friend of mine asked me for the Cliff’s Notes…my response was: discovery, death, digging in the dirt, hope, destruction, despair, digging in the dirt, growth, destruction, death, digging in the dirt, movement, despair, hope, digging in the dirt, the end.

I read Anna Karenina AND War and Peace in a single semester in college. It has taken me this entire semester to get this book done.

But once it IS done, I’ll reward myself with finishing

From Beirut to Jerusalem

I was halfway through when I had to stop to focus on The Source. This is Thomas Friedman’s description and account of his time as a reporter in the Middle East in the early 1980s. It wouldn’t seem relevant to read a book that was written 25 years ago, but some of the same names he writes about then are the same dictators that were tossed or people are trying to toss this year. And since all those guys had such a long-standing regime in the area, it IS still relevant even 25 years later. Friedman has a good style of writing that is, at times, very humorous. That Middle East at that time was incredibly colorful, and you really get a sense of how much it paralleled our own Wild West.

I do hope to get this one finished as well…but I think they’ll let me in the country with this one if push comes to shove.

At least, I hope they will.