I’m way late on this, all the planning class prep has me very excitedly busy (yay!) but the books I read in July were SO GOOD and need to be shared. I’m gonna go in reverse chronological order, not only because they’re more fresh but it’s also the order in which I am passionate for them. Just a great month.
A Quick Note: Audiobooks are so awesome you guys. Do not underestimate audiobooks. They totally count as reading, and they make fun reading accessible to busy groups of people (moms, students, every single person on earth). You would be surprised how many incredible books you can consume when you listen in the car, the shower/bath (yeah I bought a waterproof bluetooth speaker lol), cleaning your bathroom, folding laundry, or cooking dinner. H*ck, I even listen laying on the couch sometimes. Peak laziness but it’s rad. Get a library card, download Overdrive, and get listening!!!!
Behind Closed Doors
Jack & Grace Angel are the perfect couple with the perfect life. They host the most elegant dinner parties, will soon be taking total custody of her sister with Down Syndrome, and Jack has developed a strong reputation as a successful lawyer representing battered women. But why does something feel “off” about them? Why are they never apart? What is going on behind closed doors?
Two weeks ago I had a solo drive (with my daughters) to and from St. George for a Girls Weekend, which is great because Ryan traditionally does not ~love a lot of the books/podcasts to which I prefer to listen. And this one is a HARD no exception. He’d have hated it two pages in. The day before the drive I realized I didn’t have quite enough podcasts to listen to the whole time, and wanted an audiobook. I filtered by “available now” and sorted by popularity and Behind Closed Doors came up on one of the first few pages. I’d seen it on a list of great books if you love true crime and creepy thrillers, so I downloaded it. And since the first few sentences I haven’t stopped thinking about it since!
- The back and forth sometimes bothered me, but overall it gave a full and interesting picture of Jack & Grace. The way the past catches up to the present and the present moves forward in exciting jumps is masterful.
- I don’t mean to sound sexist here but I generally do not love female narrators. This one is really really good and her voice for Jack is CREEPY AF.
- I don’t think I ever thought “ugh this is pointless, skip ahead.” Like it’s a thriller, so of course you’re just bracing for the eventual climax but every page, every piece is interesting and useful.
- It feels so original and terrifying. I’ve never read anything like it. I wanted to talk about it with anyone and everyone, which is a really good sign for me.
- Even though the subject is so scary and violent and evil, it’s pretty tame in terms of language and exposure. She really lets the fear and imagination do the heavy lifting.
- The reason I can recommend this book so fervently is because the ending is satisfactory, for the most part. My biggest issue with Gone Girl, which I believe to be the closest comparison I can make to this book, was the ending was just a little too bananas. This one is bananas, but in a more believable and satisfying way.
- It is super scary. This is definitely not for everyone. It’s not particularly violent or NSFW or anything like that, it’s just like dark and evil. Not Satanic, just like an evil criminal, the mind of which is probably pretty hard for you to conceive as a normal, good person.
- There are definite holes. You miss lots of background and description for Jack. The entire ending is so satisfying in many ways, but also jumpy and jolting. So much that is just skipped or assumed.
- Trying not to spoil anything, I was a little disappointed with WHERE it ended. You want to see just a little bit more into the future, get a few more answers, understand MORE.
Tattoos on the Heart
Father Gregory Boyle has dedicated his life to serving in gang-infested areas of Los Angeles. This book shares experiences and beliefs interwoven in a way that leaves you FEELING the messages. Part memoir, part sermon, part TED talk, part literary research, this book will change your mind about compassion and Christ.
My good friends and the best group of sisters I know (the Waters Clan *shoutout*) have been recommending this book to me for years and I ~finally went for it. I listened to it on audiobook, which was fantastic because it’s narrated by the author. You hear his emotion. But I am also gonna need a copy for myself. To highlight and re-read approximately 40 more times.
- I mean… you just kind of have to read it. This book makes you FEEL THE FEELS. All of them. And it’s just so good.
- As someone with little-to-no experience with gangs, I will admit much of my knowledge was shaped by news articles. When you humanize these gang members as individuals, and feel Father Boyle’s love for them it’s so CHANGING.
- The swearing usually falls in the “less good” category, but I promise it’s a good thing in this book. It’s not excessive or problematic. In fact it just makes everything more ~real and raw.
- I liked how much he included quotes from literature, scriptures, religious scholars, and relevant experts. It’s not just him talking through stuff – he has backup.
- At no point does he come off as super preachy or holier than thou or self-righteous or anything. You just love him and want to be like him.
- The whole point isn’t gang members or making you like them. The whole point is helping you understand compassion and the “no-matter-what-ness” of God. How huge He is. How much He ~enjoys you, exactly how you are. It’s hard to describe, but pretty incredible.
- There are definite uses of swear words, and as I stated above, they’re part of the dialogue. But you do need to know that there are swear words in English and Spanish, and mentions of gang violence and drugs. Don’t listen to this one around kids who can listen.
- You will cry. And there are a couple of parts where it’s hard to not feel a little hopeless after a really sad story. But it always picks you back up, I promise.
More than Happy
Serena Miller is the author of several Amish fictional novels, so in her research she began to notice Amish children. In stark contrast to American children, they seemed patient, quiet, content, well-behaved and… happy. What are Amish parents doing right? What can we learn from their parenting?
This was a book club pick for Bon’s Book Club and I really really enjoyed it. I definitely recommend it to parents (or even teachers!). It was great to discuss it at our book club to hear everyone’s perspectives on Amish vs. Englisch (non-Amish) parenting – and mostly because there was homemade ice cream and rolls.
- She uses a lot of anecdotes to illustrate her points, which was very helpful as they stuck with me pretty well.
- She does a good job of debunking that it’s “one” magic thing or perfect formula, because of course there isn’t one. Each chapter tackles one facet of the Amish community/beliefs/parenting that affects the way Amish children behave.
- I don’t know much at all about the Amish – just what Ryan has told me from his mission experiences in Pennsylvania, and Dwight Schrute’s Amish-esque upbringing. You don’t need to know anything about the Amish to read this. She gives a good, full picture of their actual lives and culture.
- One thing I really liked was the “Amish Pause.” They take a little pause and really think before they respond or say anything. I need to do that.
- The biggest takeaway for me was that the Amish children are expected to help and participate in EVERYTHING, all the time. Tiny children carry things, sort things, and have age-appropriate chores. Everyone attends church, weddings, funerals. Teens are involved in service, making meals, learning trades. So I’m trying to start that. Is it useful to have Reese carry in a light bag of groceries? No, because some of it usually ends up on the garage floor. But she was SO EXCITED to help, and now it’s a thing we do.
- Reward is better than bribery. The Amish set high expectations and reward good behavior. For example, buying candy at the end of a quiet grocery trip. One mother would put change or treats in her kid’s coat pockets when they were hung up. The reward isn’t expected – but the good behavior is. Cheap or meaningless praise is also garbage and we should stop doing it.
- Security is huge. Amish children live lives that are far more secure and supported than the average American children. Divorce rates are practically zero, and they are surrounded by family. I really loved that the Amish really treasure their marriages and speak well of their spouses in front of their children and that’s something I’m committing to do better.
- Simplicity – they don’t need 100 toys. That will actually make them more unhappy. Materialistic Danica needed to hear that, and I’m committing to fewer toys and less at birthdays and Christmas. It’s just better for everyone.
- I can’t get over that they stop educating at 8th grade. It smacks of brainwashing, and just makes my teacher heart sad. I do like that they start working and learning trades, and definitely support that. But education should be continued in my opinion.
- So much of this is just possible because of the Amish community and can’t really be replicated. They don’t have to deal with the internet or computers or smartphones or pornography or cars. I think you eliminate a lot of things automatically with the culture, and that’s not always feasible (or desirable).
- It’s somewhat repetitive and totally anecdotal. That’s fine, but we talked about wanting more concrete evidence and research.
I can wholeheartedly recommend these three books. Well, with the caveat that Behind Closed Doors is scary AF so only if you ~like that kind of thing. Very good, very different books. All great for a summer road trip, poolside read, or once those kiddos head back to school.
On the docket for August:
- A Monster Calls (just finished, not happy about it)
- Lighten Up (reading on ebook as scripture study, so slow-going but SO GOOD)
- East of Eden (can’t wait to start!)
- Caraval (started, slowly trying to get into it)
- The Magic of Motherhood (has been on my shelf for MONTHS)
Happy Reads, everyone!