Thankful Thursday – March 2016 Books

I’m on a reading roll – and loving it! – but that makes it unwieldy to post reviews quarterly. So here are my March reads:

The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding MarriageThe Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage by Rob Bell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m aware Rob has become a polarizing force among people of faith. That’s mostly, though not completely, irrelevant to this book. This book is more like sitting down to a conversation between Rob, his wife Kristen, and you on the topic of marriage and what fosters or hurts its health. It’s an easy read with some helpful things to say. If you want a quick-and-easy read, with a sometimes spiritual bent, this book is for you.

The crazy title word refers to an ancient Hebrew concept in relation to creation. Before creation, God was all there was. In order to create, God had to “zimzum,” or contract part of himself, in order to make space for something other. And so they describe marriage as a dance between two people, zimzum-ing for one another in order to create something new and good, for a purpose.

RatscaliburRatscalibur by Josh Lieb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book contains kid-friendly references to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Knights of the Round Table, and more. It’s creative, funny, and meaningful – your courage more than your actions make you a hero. A perfect read-aloud. Tween did an in-class book report on this and other 6th graders thought it sounded great.

EuphoriaEuphoria by Lily King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I tend to like books that whisk me away to a different time and place and introduce me to intricately-written characters I can get to know and learn from. Euphoria scores on all points. Set in 1930’s New Guinea, it follows three anthropologists studying native tribes along the Sepik River. Anthropology was a brand new discipline and they are trying to figure it out – along with their own hearts – as they go. Loosely based on accounts of Margaret Meade, this book took me down fascinating rivers of academia, study, life, and the human heart.

Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life PermanentlySmall Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by Caroline L. Arnold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

People tend to make sweeping resolutions for how they want to be: fit, organized, healthy. Instead, we should make microresolutions, easily achievable goals we can do at set times, that will add up over time to that be-goal. Instead of muscling through to our goals by force of will power and decision making, microresolutions help us form habits over time. If I want to be healthy, I can set a microresolution to walk for ten minutes on Mondays. After I’ve achieved that goal over a month – making it a habit – I can add a new microresolution: walk for ten minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; or something related like, replace the mid-afternoon bowl of chips with a cup of tea.

This idea is so simple, and so do-able! I know it’s common business practice, but Arnold’s presentation of it here inspired me to set my own microresolutions. So far I have a list of 23 goals I will tackle over time – she recommends no more than two at a time until they become habit. Already while reading the book, I have two successful microresolutions on their way to being habit!

Fervent: A Woman's Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic PrayerFervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the most practical and motivational books on prayer I’ve read. It’s target audience is women, but the advice – and more importantly, the Scripture – is pertinent to everyone. I blazed through the book, anticipating that I will go back through it more slowly as I create my own prayer journal to live into God’s Word through prayer. Highly recommend for anyone desiring to pray more.

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not sure I was going to like this book, but it grabbed me at the start. Maybe it’s the teenage narrator, the really smart, humble girl with an oddball mom and a withdrawn genius dad. Turns out mom is, in fact, the genius. Or maybe they all are.

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the author’s intention, but it did have me pondering how we live and how others perceive us. The women, especially, have some awfully low views of one another, especially those who don’t make an effort to fit in. There are more important things than fitting in. And infinitely more important things than judging one another.

Overall, an entertaining read.

Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At more than 500 pages, I thought this book might take me a while. Instead, I read it in a few days. Rowell’s writing style is very inviting, told from the perspective of many different characters, which also makes for short “I’ve got to read one more!” chapters.

The book is entertaining, but I’m still not sure what to make of it. I thought it might be a Harry Potter satire, and in some ways, it does function as such. Simon = Harry. Penny = Hermione. Baz = Ron. The Mage = Dumbledore. Watford = Hogwarts. So the characters, even in their differences, are familiar.

But it’s also a ghost story, a love story, and an adventure story. Perhaps I liked it in part because it kept me guessing.

Two Great Reads – Stargirl and Eleanor & Park

Stargirl (Stargirl, #1)Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I ❤ Stargirl! I have read this book twice, aloud with each child at the right time.

Stargirl is a gust of flowery-fresh spring air. She leaves change where she finds it, and drops more for those who might need it. She reads community bulletin boards and newspaper fillers as research and sends handmade greeting cards of condolence, congratulations, or encouragement to neighbors, often perfect strangers. She serenades the Mica High lunchroom with her ukelele. She takes pictures of the little boy across the street and creates a scrapbook of his everyday moments to give him when he’s old enough to appreciate it. She is everyone’s biggest fan.

And that is also her downfall.

Her boyfriend, Leo, tries to explain that “they” don’t want you to cheer for the opposing team. That’s not “normal.”

But she is not normal, even when she tries. Stargirl’s nonconformity is what makes Leo – and the reader – love her. She shines the spotlight on the uncomfortable ways we choose to live normally instead of spectacularly. And we could all use more spectacular in our lives. May we all be so blessed to find, or be, a Stargirl.

 
Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Romeo and Juliet are just two rich kids who’ve always gotten every little thing they want. And now, they think they want each other.”
“They’re in love…”
“They don’t even know each other.”
“It was love at first sight.”
“It was ‘Oh my God, he’s so cute’ at first sight.”
“Then why has it survived?”
“I don’t know, because Shakespeare is a really good writer?”
“No!”
“Because…because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?”

Eleanor and Park are no Romeo and Juliet. They’re not spoiled rich kids. They didn’t “Oh my God, he/she’s so cute” at first sight. They become star-crossed lovers, however. And we hold on that their story will end with hope.

Rainbow Rowell may not be Shakespeare, either, but she’s right that people do want to remember what it’s like to be young, and in love, and this book took me right back to high school in the 80’s. It’s beautiful and true and heart-breaking and, maybe, just maybe, hopeful.