Books I Read: January 2018

Books I Read: January 2018

The first month of reading is in the books! I am looking at reading so different now. And by now I mean the last 4-5 months. But that deserves its own post. This was a great month of reading, and I’m so glad I was able to set the tone for this year of reading so well.

Braving the Wilderness

Building on her other books, Braving the Wilderness is all about taking our vulnerability outside – to the wilderness in fact. She tackles themes of belonging, acceptance, love, civility, and trust. Essentially her message is this: when you belong to yourself you belong everywhere. But also nowhere. And the paradox is perfect.

I love Brene. I just love her. I think she’s a critical person for this generation, for this time. I had no way of knowing what this book was going to mean for me when I picked it up. I just placed a hold and it came up so much faster than I anticipated, so I went for it. Turns out this book IS my Secure 2018. It fleshed out so many of the concepts and feelings I had about my word of the year – Secure. I think I need to buy my own copy and reread and mark it up.

Good

  • This book is so tailored to the current political and social climate. To everyone, of every political affiliation or religion. It’s all about navigating the landmine field of social interactions, of whatever sort. If you’ve had a hard time relating with people or figuring out how to have the tough conversations – this book is IT for you.
  • I love her use of paradoxes. We belong when we don’t belong. The more we search for connection, the higher our risk for loneliness.
  • Her trust acronym is in one of her other books, but it hit me a lot harder this time. Basically true trust incorporates this:
    • Boundaries – setting and enforcing boundaries
    • Reliability – do what you say you’ll do
    • Accountability – take responsibility for your actions
    • Vault – don’t share what isn’t yours to share
    • Integrity – practice what you preach, even when it’s hard
    • Nonjudgment – everyone can ask for what they need without judgment
    • Generosity – interpret the actions of other generously
  • Her story about not making the drill team literally made me cry. We’ve all been there. We’ve all fallen short, and had people respond in a way that helped us write our own negative stories about ourselves. That story felt so important to me.
  • If all I got from this book was “People are hard to hate close up. Move in.” It would be worth it. It is something we all intuitively understand, but often fail to practice. It is the game changer.

Less Good

  • It’s too short, in my opinion. And not just because I liked it. Because I didn’t feel it clarified enough.
  • For example, “Speak Truth to Bullshit.” I loved it, and I needed that chapter so much. But it left me wanting. What exactly IS bullshit, beside the “you’re with us or against us” example? I felt like she didn’t have enough applicable examples.
  • I would have appreciated more examples of what TO do instead of what NOT to do. I felt like there were a lot of the bad examples.
  • It felt a little rushed. Idk maybe it’s just me, but I’ve read a lot of Brene’s work in the last two years and this one felt by far the shortest, fastest, and least dense. And not because of the topic – the topic was serious and heavy and important! It could have been twice the length and had more research and anecdotes and interviews.

Recommendation: For everyone, everywhere. But especially people who feel lost in social interactions today with all the vitriol and differing opinions, or if you struggle to feel like you belong. It can stand alone but I highly recommend reading at least Daring Greatly or ideally Daring Greatly AND Gifts of Imperfection first.

Turtles All The Way Down

Band-aids, spirals, hand sanitizer, internet searches, anxiety, Harold. Just a day in the life of Aza Holmes, amateur sleuth. A teen suffering from anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, Aza is constantly worried about infections and diseases. Her indomitable best friend Daisy stands ever at her side, encouraging her to do the scary things – like sneak onto the estate of Davis Pickett – her friend from Sad Camp years ago. Davis’ father, multimillionaire and eccentric, has gone missing and Aza finds herself solving the mystery of where he went, who he was, and who she is underneath the “spiral.” 

I had very low expectations for this book, because I’m not the biggest John Green fan. I had a multitude of problems with The Fault in Our Stars, but I was pleasantly surprised to like this book much better.

Good

  • I felt that the representation of mental illness was important, realistic, and appropriate. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is sometimes kind of fetishized in the media, but this narrative was much more interesting and less glamorized.
  • Aza was still responsible for her actions, and her disorder or mental illness did not excuse her from behavioral consequences. I feel like I see a lot of that in books and online today – if you have mental illness it’s an excuse. It is, but it isn’t. Aza still had to confront some of the negative consequences of her behavior.
  • I loved Aza & Daisy’s friendship. Not without bumps. Not without blemishes. Two imperfect girls who choose to stick together. I thought it was a good example of friendship and forgiveness.
  • A boy doesn’t magically solve your problems!!!!! Yay!!!! Props to a love story that is realistic and imperfect – it’s more a romantic friendship and it does not serve as the end but rather the means to a story. It’s not forever. It’s not solving all her problems, or all his.
  • I loved the tension in Aza & her mother’s relationship. You’re begging her mom to understand, but also so pained for her mom who clearly loves her and worries and has NO IDEA. That felt more realistic to me.
  • This was pretty engaging and fun to read. Great for a vacation or lazy weekend.

Less Good

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s something so exhaustingly internet about the way John Green writes. Like everything is for tumblr.
  • There’s always just a little bit too much going on with his characters. Just enough to make them unbelievable. They have just one piece too much in their history or personality.
  • Teenagers are so romanticized and glorified. I don’t doubt that a smart teen with OCD would know extensive research about an infectious disease, but I highly doubt a teen boy would have expansive British lit knowledge AND know the names of all the constellations AND write poetry. I think I know teens. I don’t think John Green knows teens. I get that this is fiction and it makes it more fun for teens to read, but I think it also creates some problems with reality and expectations.

Recommendation: great for teachers of teens, anyone with mental illness or wishing to better understand mental illness, or if you’re looking for a quick, absorbing read.

That We May Be One

Tom Christofferson, brother of apostle D. Todd Christofferson, is a Mormon and gay. He was raised in a very strong family in the church, wrestled with being gay all through his upbringing, and then eventually decided to leave the church (asking to be excommunicated) to live his life as a gay man. Eventually, he found his way back to church attendance and learned a lot about LGBTQ+ Mormons, the love God has for each of us, the principle of seeking for “daily bread,” and the lessons we all have to learn about mortality and eternity.

This topic has always been dear to my heart, especially in recent months as my little brother came out last year. I have been craving some perspective and insight on the topic, and this book delivered. This book is just that – his perspective and insight gained from his experience and study.

Good

  • I took such comfort in the doctrine. There is literal, actual doctrine on pretty much every page. Not that you ~need it, but it was just so obvious that he is coming from a place of doctrine and understanding in the church. I know there are a lot of people who have this understanding that a gay person’s perspective clearly cannot align with the church and gospel doctrine, so I loved that he took this approach so that more “traditional” Mormons can read and feel open to this.
  • It’s All. About. The. Savior. He brings everything, and I mean EVERYTHING back to the Savior. And shouldn’t we all? At the end of the day that’s the root of everything and all that matters. This is a complex issue, difficult to simplify, but it somehow simplifies when we center it on the Savior.
  • No judgment, no recommendations. He does not say that there is a particular way that LGBTQ+ Mormons should go about things. He says explicitly that he chose his path for him, and that it might not work for everyone. He is all about everyone developing their own relationship with God and taking the path they feel is best.
  • Practical and realistic advice for straight Mormons. I particularly loved his explanation of “condoning vs. accepting” and his advice to be there at their weddings, get to know their significant others, and just to love, love, love them. THEY KNOW THE DOCTRINE. THEY KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE. Being a douche or withholding isn’t gonna teach them anything, except that you feel a need to take away something special from their lives to make a statement. YES.
  • Peace. I just felt such peace and love from his words. And peace is what many of us need on this topic.
  • Daily Bread – he talks at length about how we simply don’t know. We don’t know why. We don’t know when. We don’t know how. We may not know until later how this will all shake out. We don’t actually know what God wants for these individuals, or what His plan for them may entail. But all we need is daily bread. Go off what we have. Ask for today. Continue asking. Be ok with not knowing it all. We don’t need a year’s worth of spiritual food storage – we just need the daily bread. LOVE.
  • This book is without a doubt faith-promoting and uplifting.

Less Good

  • I still worry that conservative Mormons are going to use Tom as an example. “See? He came back to the church. They’ll never find love and peace and answers anywhere but here. The right path is to live alone in the church.” Even though the 100% does not say that.
  • Along with that, I worry that people will listen to him because he’s an apostle’s brother and he uses so much doctrine to share his perspective. Like his perspective only matters because he’s solidly in the church, and any other LGBTQ+ Mormon experience doesn’t matter unless they’re solidly in the church too.
  • He really glosses over the messy, hard bits. And I understand why. But I also think that’s such a critical part of his story. Did he question the validity of the church? Did he ever get angry at God? Did he ever want to scream at bishops and general authorities and people who told him (and even still think) that something is wrong with him?
  • I wish he was able to talk more about his relationship. I love that he respects his former partner’s privacy, of course. But I wish he was able to say more about a fulfilling, loving, committed, charitable LGBTQ+ relationship. Many people reading his book may have a skewed perspective of what it’s like to be a normal, happy, functioning LGBTQ+ individual.

Recommendation: All Mormons, seriously. Really anyone who wants to better understand the relationship between LGBTQ+ individuals and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anyone who doesn’t feel quite comfortable with where things sit today.


What a month. I’m currently knee-deep in Outlander (!!), listening to My Cousin Rachel on audiobook (ahh!!!), and busted Mere Christianity out of my still not unpacked book boxes to begin soon. Meanwhile my list of t0-read books is growing week by week. Yikes but yay!!!!

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One thought on “Books I Read: January 2018”

  • 3 weeks ago

    I had many of the same thoughts on That We May Be One. But, I think the most important thing I got out of it, and out of that article from that one gay member you shared is that there is no one “right” “perfect” path for LGBTQ members. We just DON’T know or understand. It’s up to us to LOVE only, not try to SAVE them…that’s up to Christ, and He already has.

What do you think?