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June Bookshelf

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Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, by Eboo Patel I loved this book. I appreciate Eboo’s perspective on interfaith relationships. He doesn’t pretend all faiths are the same, he doesn’t try to smooth over differences or force a stilted and dulling pretense of agreement. He challenges us to live with the spacious of faith that loves and believes what we love and believe, while fully respecting another to love and believe what they do. Even, he exhorts us, we can learn from one another. Much like I have learned about the power of posture in prayer from my Muslim friends, while not insisting we pray alike. This is lovely memoir by a man who practices what he preaches.

Homing Instincts, by Sarah Menkedick I loved this book, too! So beautiful. I heard a podcast interview with Sarah in which she talked about the lack of serious writing about motherhood and I totally agreed. This is a deep exploration of the body, identity, and home, through the nine months of her pregnancy. She had previously spent a lot of time abroad so I particularly resonated with that aspect of her transition to motherhood.

Paris, I Love You, but You’re Getting Me Down, by Rosecrans Baldwin. Liked it, didn’t love it. It’s a bit crass, so you’ve been warned. Super funny, especially as a person who has studied French and spent some time in Paris. I will always love reading how other people navigate cross cultural work and relationships.

A Sinner in Mecca: a Gay Muslim’s Hajj of Defiance, by Parvez Sharma. Gay. Muslim. Pilgrimage. This is a loaded book and it includes an extensive exploration of the violent aspects of jihad as the author goes deep into Saudi Wahhabi teachings. Like Paris, I Love You, this book is a bit crass. I didn’t need to read about all the author’s sexual exploits in the underground gay bars of Beirut or Cairo. But I was fascinated by his writing about the hajj. Okay, I’m fascinated by almost all writing about the hajj, as it is the most mysterious of the Islamic Pillars, to an outsider. I watch people pray, hear them say the Shahadah, join in fasting, and we all give to the poor. But the hajj is behind a shroud, so reading this was like peeking behind the curtain. I’m sure more conservative Muslims take deep offense at some of what he writes, but I’m trying to read widely as I learn. I have to admit that I love his sort of ‘inside jokes’ as a Muslim. I’ve been a Christian all my life and there are things other Christians just get that are funny, jokes about Chubby Bunny or when on road trips and someone says, “Matthew 4:19a” and everyone gets in their cars because they know the reference (“Come, follow me.”). For example, Parvez’s friend texts him, “Come on over, the beer is flowing like the water of Zamzam.” I enjoy when people can make light of their faith, even while they love it and hold to it fiercely. Its human.

In the Land of Invisible Women: a Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom, by Qanta Ahmed. I have loved lately reading spiritual memoirs by Muslims. They’ve been harder to dig up, but its been a pleasure to find some in my Kindle library or on sale. This is by an Indian Muslim doctor, trained in the US, who takes a job at a hospital in Saudi Arabia. While there, she goes on the pilgrimage, hajj, to Mecca. What I appreciated most about this book is that she is not a religious outsider, looking in, aghast, at Saudis. As a Muslim, she has a unique perspective.

Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert, by Tammi Labrecque. Hopefully this book will help me serve you guys all better. And if you’re a writer or creative who also has a newsletter, get this book! Super practical and helpful. And inexpensive.

New Seeds of Contemplation, by Thomas Merton. I’ll share a quote, to let you know what this book is about. “It should be accepted as a most elementary and moral truth that no man can live a fully sane and decent life unless he is able to say “no” on occasion to his natural bodily appetites.” Not an easy lesson for so many of us in this age. He also suggests we avoid radios and advertisements. If Merton only knew…

The Bookshelf, May 2019

Here’s what I’ve been reading and some Kindle Deals (prices valid as of the day this is posted). The links take you to my Amazon Storefront and when you click through to purchase a book, I earn a small percentage (at no increased cost to you). This is a great way to support the hosting blog costs of Djibouti Jones.

My favorite book of this month, of even the past few months, is No More Faking Fine, by Esther Fleece. (also on sale for $2.99!) I could post so many quotes here. I loved how she pieced together verses that cut straight to our pain and that demonstrate how the people the Bible did not run from their pain, but took it straight to God and expected to be met in their sorrow. No More Faking Fine demonstrates how it is not only ok to grieve, but that doing so and inviting God into our pain, allows God to minister, heal, and love.

“Even as we cry, “How long, Lord?” we can trust the process that in the waiting, we are being strengthened, sanctified, and transformed. Even in the waiting, God is powerfully present, and that can be our source of deep, unshakeable joy.”

(audiobook) Deep Work: Rules for Focused Work in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport. So good, and challenging. I’ve been pushed to limit my digital use. I already didn’t have social media notifications on my phone and don’t watch much TV. But I do love me a good podcast and there are so many good ones out there. But, as a writer and simply to be a healthy person in today’s world, I need to limit that input and get some quiet time in order to do deep, focused work. I highly recommend this book.

Jean Vanier: Portrait of a Free Man, by Anne-Sophie Constant (published by my publishing house, Plough, yay!) Jean Vanier passed away this month and he left a legacy of mercy, love, and tenderness. This is a lovely biography of the man who founded L’Arche and changed the way people view disability. It releases in August, 2019 but is available now for pre-order. Here is from the back cover copy:

“The story of Jean Vanier is the story of a free man – a man who knew how to become himself, who knew how to free himself from restraints, opinions, and prejudices; from intellectual, religious or moral habits; from his epoch; from popular opinion. … Jean Vanier has transformed the lives of thousands and thousands of mentally disabled people. And he has transformed the understanding of thousands of people regarding the disabilities of their own children and of people with disabilities. Where we see only failure, disgrace, impossibility, limit, weakness, ugliness, and suffering, Jean Vanier sees beauty. And he knows how to open the eyes of others to see it.”

 

I’ve been reading a lot of spiritual memoir lately and these are ones I’ve returned to over and over:

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans

Girl Meets God, by Lauren F. Winner Lauren is smart and funny, a Jewish convert to Christianity (and if you read her later books, a person who continues to wrestle deeply with faith). She writes with refreshing vulnerability combined with surprising heft and depth, something often lacking in current books, especially spiritual memoir. I love this book.

A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue, by Badru D. Kateregga and David W. Shenk This book is unique in that it is balanced from both sides. Often I read books like these and one side wants to dominate, even as the book gives off the idea that it is a dialogue – it comes down to an argument. But this truly is two men who love their religion, and present it.

Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor I mean, BBT. So good. She is another woman who loves God, loves the church, loves wrestling with matters of faith and who is so, so smart and such a pleasure to read.

And a new one, Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic, by Jordan Duffner. My publisher suggested this one to me, and I’m so glad they did. Jordan writes respectfully and beautifully about how specific aspects of Islam have encouraged her faith. An example is of how the Quran repeatedly urges people to pay attention, look for ayat, or signs, of how God is at work in the world.

 

Kindle Deals

No More Faking Fine, by Esther Fleece, $2.99

Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans, $4.99

Hallelujah Anyway, by Anne Lamott, $1.99

Inside Al-Shabaab, $2.99

Streams in the Desert, 365 days of devotional readings, $2.99

Faith Unraveled, by Rachel Held Evans, $2.99

The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton, $2.99

Fierce Faith: A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety, by Alli Worthington, $2.99

The Road from Corrain, by Jill Ker Conway, $4.99

 

What are you reading lately?

 

By |May 23rd, 2019|Categories: the bookshelf|Tags: |0 Comments

The Bookshelf, May 2019

(I traveled to Kenya this month and since I followed Cal Newport’s advice in Digital Minimalism which I read last month, I deleted all games from my phone. I only played one anyway, but still. Gone. Also, I never had social media apps installed on my phone to begin with. So, I had loads of time to read on the plane. Plus, I skimmed Threading My Prayer Rug and It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, read more below).

Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up, by Kathy Khang (listened to the audiobook) Such an important book, Kathy raises her voice about race and more, and challenges us to raise our own voices, alongside hers. Timely, well-written.

“Race and reconciliation can no longer be framed solely as a justice issue but rather as core to the gospel, theologically grounded in the imago Dei (the image of God). As Christians, if we truly believe we are all created in God’s image, and that God the Creator had a hand in developing, creating and shaping not just our embodied souls but also the places and spaces we steward and have dominion over, then reconciliation with one another is not merely an option – it’s part of God’s mandate. It requires us to speak up and speak out.”

Running Man, by Charlie Engle, recommended by Kelly H. A drug addict turned ultra marathoner, telling a gripping story of pushing his body to all kinds of intense and exhausting extremes. He writes with humor and honesty and his descriptions of running across the Sahara are unreal. This is a book that will take you from your chair around the world and back again, urging you to push beyond what you perceive as your own limitations.

This is Marketing, by Seth Godin. Typical Godin, short and pithy and practical, a fun read. He says marketing is basically being generous.

“Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.”

If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland This book felt a bit dated, because it is, but I loved her perspective on the value of silence and solitude. She is clear about the importance of writing and about why it needs to be treated as work. Here’s my favorite quote:

“But if it is the dreamy idleness that children have, an idleness, when you walk alone for a long, long time, or take a long, dreamy time at dressing, or lie in bed at night and thoughts come and go, or dig in a garden, or drive a car for many hours alone, or play the piano or sew or paint alone or an idleness where you sit with a pencil and paper quietly putting down what you happen to be thinking, that is creative idleness. With all my heart I tell you and reassure you: at such times you are being slowly filled and re-charged with warm imagination, with wonderful, living thoughts.”

Threading My Prayer Rug: From Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, by Sabeeha Rehman. To be honest, I skimmed this. But I’m kind of in a skimming stage of reading and life. The book is lovely and I so appreciate hearing the story of an immigrant Muslim woman.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered, by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa faced the near devastation of her marriage, cancer, and more and through vulnerability and courage writes a book that encourages faith in the midst of brokenness.

Born With Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman, by Daisy Khan. I really enjoyed this book, if you can only read one, between this and Threading My Prayer Rug, read Born With Wings. This is the story of a Muslim woman’s faith journey through doubt and questions and I resonated in so many ways with her story. For anyone who sometimes doubts God but also loves their spiritual heritage, this is a great book.

“But if I had lost something in America, I had gained something else – the ability to discern for myself my own path. I did not want to follow blindly.”

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. Um…LOVE. I love food and cooking and haven’t seen anyone take so much evident delight in both as I’ve seen in Samin. This is more than a cookbook, it is a cooking class. Super recommended.

What are you reading?

*affiliate links

The Bookshelf, April 2019, part 2

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, by Cal Newport. Is it wrong that I read this on my iPhone? This book is really good. It mostly says what I already thought and felt, but with research and tips and some hard, hard truths. Like: its okay for people on the fringes of your life to fall off the radar when you stop clicking “like” on their posts. Better to have real life conversations than little shots of dopamine from hearts on Instagram posts. I’m working on adapting a lot of what he writes about.

Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints, by Christiana N. Peterson. This book gives a good overview of the lives of the saints, through Christiana’s personal life and family journey. I skimmed some parts, but still found it an uplifting book. I especially appreciated her reflections on being a “stayer” while people came and went from their intentional living community. We feel that, as long-term expatriates, and the fulfillment and losses that are inherent in staying resonated with me.

Inheritance: a Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, by Dani Shapiro. This was lovely, as is everything Dani Shapiro writes. It brought up fascinating conversations with my family about the difference between genetic connection and family culture. How would you feel if you found out in your 50s that your parents are not your parents? Or, one of them isn’t? And they are gone, so you can’t ask what they knew?

Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedom, by Arsalan Iftikhar. I finished reading this on Easter evening, the day 290 Sri Lankans were slaughtered in horrible terrorist attacks, and just weeks after the equally horrible attacks in New Zealand. There is a deep, deep problem in the world with people turning to violence, playing god with bombs and guns, and it is heartbreaking and infuriating. And never okay. This book will be a challenging read if you’ve bought into the lie that only Muslims are terrorists. Iftikhar meticulously breaks down that facade and presents a far more accurate picture. Hard to read, because of all the pain caused by violence, but really, really important.

Atomic Habits: an Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. This is an easy read (haven’t finished it yet, but almost), really practical and helpful. Kind of in the same genre as Digital Minimalism. As a staff team in Djibouti, we are discussing goal setting and planning for the coming school year, and the way James writes about the differences between goal setting and system development was especially useful.

Man. I need to read some fiction or something light. My goodness, I read a lot of serious books. Any fun, but not-put-downable book recommendations for me? I need some levity in my life these days.

What are you reading?

*includes affiliate links