Top 5 books about an interesting woman I've read so far this year

Friends, our reading year is half over! (I'm not the only one who measures time this way, am I?) If you follow any sort of reading challenge for the year, I thought I could help you fill in some of the categories with what I've been reading so far this year.  (For what it's worth, I chose these categories from this popular reading challenge.) 

Previous Top 5s: 

Top 5 books published in 2017 I've read so far this year

Category: A book about an interesting woman

Putting this list together was easy because I realized I love reading about interesting women (fictional or real-life!). It was also hard because I could have added a bunch more! What are your favorite books about interesting, strong, funny, quirky, talented, kind, fierce women?

 

1.  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Penguin Books, 2003. 336 pages )

The heartbreak of this story is beautifully overshadowed by the beauty of its characters. A book I will re-read every couple of years. I haven't read a book that better describes the beauty of female relationships than this - pass it on!

2.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Broadway Books, 2011. 381 pages)

My daughter Natalie read this in an ethics class for school, and promptly put it in the book pile on my night stand. It took me a while to get to it, and then a while to finish reading it. It's a fascinating, sad, and important story about the history of bio ethics, medical research and the way racism permeates our social institutions at deep levels. This is a story with both a personal (Henrietta Lack's tragic life and the struggle her family faces still today) and epic ("One scientist estimates that if you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—an inconceivable number, given that an individual cell weighs almost nothing.") in scale. Anyone who's had a polio vaccine owe Henrietta a debt of gratitude, not to mention the countless other ways her cells (still alive today in research labs around the world) have benefitted human health, but most of us have never heard of her. Rebecca Skloot does a beautiful job of telling a complex story about science through the lens of story. I heartily recommend this book! (You can read an excerpt here at the author's excellent website.)

3.  You Carried Me: A Daughter's Memoir by Melissa Ohden (Plough Publishing House, 2017. 160 pages)

The well-documented and dramatic details of Melissa Ohden’s survival stand on their own as an important memoir, and are made more valuable by an invitation to readers to consider their own experiences of suffering. See my full review here. 

4.  Still Life With Bread Crumbs: A Novel by Anna Quindlen (Random House, 2014. 288 pages)

Rebecca Winter is a photographer well known for work she's done in the past, and wanting to make something new. She moves from her luxe city life to a cabin in the woods and befriends a quirky cast of characters who were easy for me to love, too. Pleasant reading. Well-written characters and interesting plot line. A great vacation book!

5.  Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters -- And How to Talk About It by Krista Tippett (Penguin Books, 2008. 240 pages)

For the past year or so, I've been listening to the On Being podcast with Krista Tippett.  This is my first time reading her, and I feel like I've found another important mentor.  Tippett is eloquently skilled at communicating her own faith while intelligently engaging people of all faiths to share their own stories.  This is a rare skill, and I want to grow in it.


I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  

What are some of the best books you've read so far this year? 

#

Here's all the books I've read in JanuaryFebruaryMarch/April, & May/June.

Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2016 and previous years.

Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!

p.s. there are all kinds of affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Top 5 books published in 2017 I've read so far this year

Friends, our reading year is half over! (I'm not the only one who measures time this way, am I?) If you follow any sort of reading challenge for the year, I thought I could help you fill in some of the categories with what I've been reading so far this year.  (For what it's worth, I chose these categories from this popular reading challenge which is maybe not the best fit for this blog.)

 

Category: A book that's published in 2017

It'll be fairly obvious that I'm not a "hot off the presses" kind of reader. I've been fortunate this year to have the opportunity to review several new releases, and many of them are on this list. What's your favorite newly published book? 

1. At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider (Thomas Nelson, 2017. 288 pages)

To be honest, I'm always afraid I won't be unbiased enough to give a proper recommendation for a friend's book. Then, I swing too far the other way and don't give it enough kudos. I'm trying to get better at that because I'm lucky to have a surprising number of friends who've written books. Tsh is a friend, AND this is is a great book. She tells the story of the nine months she and her husband took their 3 kids (ages 10 and under) on a trip around the world. If you are a traveller, you'll enjoy learning from the Oxenreider's travel savvy. If not, you'll still enjoy the book for it's winsome reflections on the need for all humans to know a place called home. Reading Tsh's book felt like chatting over a relaxed dinner with friends - both enlightening and comforting. This was a book I didn't want to put down, and I wholeheartedly recommend.

2.  The Reckless Way of Love: Notes on Following Jesus by Dorothy Day (Plough Publishing House, 2017. 149 pages)

Promoted in a line of "Backpack Classics" in Plough's Spiritual guides, this little book provided the perfect introduction for me to become better acquainted with Dorothy Day's personal reflections on faith and ministry. I enjoyed D.L. Mayfield's encouraging introduction to the book. You can read an excerpt here: Confronted by Dorothy: A Christian Activist Reckons With a Modern-Day Saint.

3.  To Alter Your World: Partnering with God to Rebirth Our Communities by Michael Frost & Christiana Rice (IVP Books, 2017. 240 pages)

I read this book for Englewood Review's latest print journal, and will post a link when my (thumbs up) review is available online. In the meantime, subscribe to ERB here! 

4.  You Carried Me: A Daughter's Memoir by Melissa Ohden (Plough Publishing House, 2017. 160 pages)

The well-documented and dramatic details of Melissa Ohden’s survival stand on their own as an important memoir, and are made more valuable by an invitation to readers to consider their own experiences of suffering. See my full review here. 

5.  The Way of Letting Go: One Woman's Walk Toward Forgiveness by Wilma Derksen (Zondervan, 2017. 240 pages)

I read this newly-released book for a review at one of my favorite book recommendation sources, the Englewood Review of Books.  Once the review is published, I'll update here. In the meantime, if you are hoping to become a person able to live in the freedom that comes with radical forgiveness, add Derksen's book to your must-read pile.  It's a hard and redemptive story, as characterizes most profound Gospel stories. (update:  The book review can now be found at ERB's site here).


I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  

What are some of the best books you've read so far this year? 

#

Here's all the books I've read in JanuaryFebruaryMarch/April, & May/June.

Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2016 and previous years.

Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!

p.s. there are all kinds of affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

What I Read in May & June

Baseball + Reading = Perfect Summer evening

Baseball + Reading = Perfect Summer evening

See what I read in January, February & March/April.

16.  At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider (Thomas Nelson, 2017. 288 pages.)

To be honest, I'm always afraid I won't be unbiased enough to give a proper recommendation for a friend's book. Then, I swing too far the other way and don't give it enough kudos. I'm trying to get better at that because I'm lucky to have a surprising number of friends who've written books. Tsh is a friend, AND this is is a great book. She tells the story of the nine months she and her husband took their 3 kids (ages 10 and under) on a trip around the world. If you are a traveller, you'll enjoy learning from the Oxenreider's travel savvy. If not, you'll still enjoy the book for it's winsome reflections on the need for all humans to know a place called home. Reading Tsh's book felt like chatting over a relaxed dinner with friends - both enlightening and comforting. This was a book I didn't want to put down, and I wholeheartedly recommend.

 

17.  The Nine Tailors (A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery) by Dorothy L. Sayers (Mariner Books, 1966. 420 pages)

My first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, and it was so enjoyable. It's the kind of story I read a couple pages at a time as I was falling asleep each night. Don't think this means the story was boring, just pleasantly paced without requiring me to stay up all night to solve the mystery. I also loved the bit of insight into the history and culture of the church bell.

It's weird that murder mysteries are comfort reading, but there you have it. I think the comfort is trusting the mystery will be solved, right?

 

18.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Broadway Books, 2011. 381 pages)

My daughter Natalie read this in an ethics class for school, and promptly put it in the book pile on my night stand. It took me a while to get to it, and then a while to finish reading it. It's a fascinating, sad, and important story about the history of bio ethics, medical research and the way racism permeates our social institutions at deep levels. This is a story with both a personal (Henrietta Lack's tragic life and the struggle her family faces still today) and epic ("One scientist estimates that if you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—an inconceivable number, given that an individual cell weighs almost nothing.") in scale. Anyone who's had a polio vaccine owe Henrietta a debt of gratitude, not to mention the countless other ways her cells (still alive today in research labs around the world) have benefitted human health, but most of us have never heard of her. Rebecca Skloot does a beautiful job of telling a complex story about science through the lens of story. I heartily recommend this book! (You can read an excerpt here at the author's excellent website.)

19.  Still Life With Bread Crumbs: A Novel by Anna Quindlen (Random House, 2014. 288 pages)

Rebecca Winter is a photographer well known for work she's done in the past, and wanting to make something new. She moves from her luxe city life to a cabin in the woods and befriends a quirky cast of characters who were easy for me to love, too. Pleasant reading. Well-written characters and interesting plot line. A great vacation book!

 

20.  The Gospel in Gerard Manley Hopkins: Selections from His Poems, Letters, Journals, and Spiritual Writings (The Gospel in Great Writers) by Margaret R. Ellsberg (Plough Publishing, 2017. 268 pages)

I'm grateful for any opportunity I have to learn an artist through his life story. There are drawbacks, of course. Sometimes it's hard to look a hero in the proverbial eye through their letters and journal entries. It's hard to hear the doubt, insecurity, and suffering of the people who've introduced so much beauty into the world. Oh my goodness, Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems are beautiful. And his suffering was real. My favorite part of the book is still the poems, which I guess I could read in his collected works, but I've learned that I often prefer to read and study artists' work within the context of their everyday lives. 

Here's my all-time favorite Hopkins line from The Wreck of the Deutschland: "Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east". Yes, let it be so.

21.  Plough Quarterly, No. 12 - Courage: Lives of Radical Devotion including authors Yu Jie, Raúl Suárez, Julian Peters, Dorothy Day, Sam Hine, Maureen Swinger, George Bernard Shaw, Meister Eckhart, & Peter Mommsen (Editor) (Plough Publishing, 2017. 80 pages)

This is one of my favorite quarterly journals. Recently a friend asked if I'd recommend a subscription, and I thought I'd share my response: While the publishers represent the Anabaptist perspective on issues of social justice (pacifist, etc.), they are incredibly hospitable to various Christian perspectives across the spectrum of faith and practice. One of my favorite things about the journal is that each issue weave text from Christians who've come before us (e.g, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Søren Kierkegaard, Elizabeth Goudge, Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Day, and others ) with modern-day practitioners. You can sign up for a free trial issue here.


Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2016 and previous years.

Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  

What are you reading these days? 

#

p.s. there are all kinds of affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Best moments of May & June

We're one year in to this new and beautiful chapter of our lives in Connecticut, and my ability to keep up with blog updates seems to be decreasing. Here's a peek at some of what we've been up to the past couple of months. (I'll update on what I've been reading, watching, writing, making and listening to in a separate post soon!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best of May 

2017

I want to see a thousand tiny places, smell their flowers, and taste the sauces made by their people. I want to feel the difference between the textures of grit in Sri Lanka and Morocco. I want to meet the woman who bakes the best bread i n the smallest town in New Zealand. I want to find the best vantage point to see Bosnia from Croatia. What do the Grand Marnier crepes taste like in Rouen? In Paris? There are untold numbers of tiny places and extraordinary people who occupy them. We will perhaps see a hundred of both.
— Tsh Oxenreider, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

A few things we enjoyed in May:

  • Discovering Harborview Market in Black Rock and Open Door Tea in Stratford. Best shared with friends.
  • Dogwoods in Fairfield!
  • Meeting the beautiful artists of Truth Colors, and touring their studio co-op space with friends.
  • Mother's Day was a bit rocky for me this year. It's not just missing the physical presence of 3 of my kids, but also accepting that our family life is forever changed into a different season. All totally natural, and good, but still a loss of what used to be and transitioning into a new normal.
  • Best part of Mother's Day? Trying out my gift of beach accessories (which I plan to use prolifically this summer)!
  • A friend from church shared some Yankees tickets (in really great seats!)
  • We attended our second funeral of a church family member since moving to Fairfield. I've been grateful for the way we've been invited into the last, suffering days of such dear people. Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting. Hallelujah.
  • Brian took me on an epic date night to hear our favorite husband/wife troubadours, Over the Rhine, perform at City Winery in lower Manhattan.
  • Our church's reading group (aka, Apostles Reads) read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe together for Eastertide. Oh my goodness, the fun conversations this initiated! One weekday morning, Brian and I visited with a 93-year-old British man in our congregation who lived in London during the WWII blitz and remembers clearly being evacuated as a child to live with complete strangers. He shared stories with us about the trauma of this event, and also how it softened his heart to follow God years later when he first read C.S. Lewis (whom he knew as one of the professors at Oxford where he attended university.) We could have spent all day hearing his stories of a life well-lived, and can't wait to visit again!
  • Brian and I travelled to Southern California to meet and talk with other Anglican leaders (gathered under the moniker Telos Collective) about the intersection of faith and culture. This conversation will be held in special focus over the next five years. To be honest, it was a bumpy start for me, and I've been asking God to show me why ever since. Still the topic of conversation - what it means to announce Christ's good news in the here and now of our homes, neighborhoods, & workplaces - is bent toward hope and beauty, and we're glad to take part.
  • I am one of 6 siblings - 4 girls, 2 boys. Two of my sisters and I accomplished our first-ever "just us" overnight get-away on Memorial Day weekend. You'd think it wouldn't have taken all these decades to make this a thing, right?

 


 

Best of June

2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few things we enjoyed in June:

  • Opening night for our friend Adiel's photography at Source Coffeehouse in Black Rock
  • First residency at retreat center in New Hampshire for my spiritual direction certification course with Selah / Leadership Transformations, Inc. (more info on that exciting subject in an upcoming post!)
  • Brian's birthday & Father's Day (kids bought him Yankee tickets, of course)
  • Exploring the Penfield Beach pavilion, recently re-opened after extensive damage during Superstorm Sandy in 2012
  • Great night watching Laura Dunn's documentary Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry at the fantastic IFC Center in Greenwich Village. Loved being able to ask Mary Berry a question I've been pondering about her Dad. And, of course, there's Nick Offerman standing right in front of us, talking about his love for Wendell Berry and woodworking. (Also, Holly Hunter waited in line to meet the director because I was getting my pic taken with her and chatting about how much we both love our mutual friend Amy.)
  • Brian and I prayerfully decide to downsize to a less-expensive rental in Bridgeport (more info on that exciting/stressful subject in an upcoming post!)

And here's a fun little feature from the photos app on my phone. Sweet. (A couple rogue photos crept in there from like last year or something, but I didn't take the time to edit it. They know who they are.)


What have you been up to lately? Drop me a note in the comments below.

A few places you can find me online on the regular:

@sacramentallife or @tamarahillmurphy on IG

Tamara Hill Murphy-A Sacramental Life on FB

Reading lists and reviews on Goodreads

every other idea that's ever floated through my head on Pinterest

Don't forget you can receive new posts in your email inbox by subscribing in the sidebar above. Have a great weekend, friends!

Lindy West, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Embracing Our God-Given Bodies [sharing at Think Christian today]

read the whole article at Think Christian

“Is it a sin to be fat?”

I asked my friend the question over a cup of Earl Grey and a fresh blackberry muffin. My friend is not fat in the least; she had merely expressed interest in my current writing topic. She laughed and asked how I planned to answer the question. I, having never been accused of being thin, replied: “I don’t know if it’s a sin to be fat, but let me ask another question. Is it a sin to be thin?”

I’ve been thinking about the subject since hearing an interview with author and “fat acceptance movement activist” Lindy West on Mother Jones’ food politics podcast. The conversation features West’s experience with fat-shaming, a topic she discusses frankly and humorously in her 2016 book, Shrill, and at various public events, including a June appearance in Manhattan billed “The Other F Word: The Politics of Being Fat.”

West concluded in her mid-twenties that, in spite of her best efforts, she’d always been fat and probably always would be fat. She was ready to publicly acknowledge her acceptance of herself as fat. Up to that point in her life, the size of her body was something she never talked about with her friends or family. In a 2016 interview with radio host Ira Glass, she gave this explanation for the shameful silence: “The way that we are taught to think about fatness is that fat is not a permanent state. You're just a thin person who's failing consistently for your whole life.”

While some of West’s views on the politics of the body differ from a Christian perspective, I’d argue that her voice on the subject of fat-shaming is helpful in correcting a cultural standard that for decades (centuries?) has approved only one variety of the human form.

read the whole article at Think Christian

Bonus feature/laugh of recognition: Kelly Likes to Diet (The Office) 

"all I have to do is drink maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and water for all three meals..."


In what way do you see your body as a gift from God?