Double infraction here: 1) we’re already in April, 2) Instead of reading one book with 300 pages or more as per my 2018 goal, I read a few books with a couple hundred or more pages each. Honestly, after reading The Goldfinch, I wasn’t entirely sure I could immediately handle another tome with only one storyline. So, I opted instead for several books from different authors (I was tempted to read two Joyce Meyer books at once) with one leitmotif: faith.
Faith in the traditional sense (Get Your Hopes Up!) with a motivational twist, faith in one’s self (This I Believe), faith in learning life lessons and finding joy in the small things (The Church of Small Things) and faith in people during a time when most people would lose all faith in humanity (The Day The World Came To Town). I’ll briefly review them in the order that I read them.
Get Your Hopes Up! by Joyce Meyer
Goodreads Rating: 5 stars
Personally, I feel like I can never go wrong with Joyce Meyer’s most recent books. When I say “recent” I mean from the last seven years or so. I’m not too crazy about her earlier works. They’re too pontifical and castigating for my taste. Thankfully, she’s relaxed over the years so her newer writings are more laidback and encouraging. This is one such book. I don’t really have to have a particular reason to read her books which are more motivational than canonical, other than for pure enjoyment. They’re lighthearted and inspiriting; exactly the kind of book that I like to read when I just want to take it easy.
Get Your Hopes Up! is a reminder that life cannot be fully experienced without enduring hope in one God or energy source depending on what you believe.
“You can decide to enjoy your life – every aspect of it. Even in the midst of adverse circumstances or criticism from people you care about. The truth is that your circumstances will probably never change until your joy is no longer based on them changing.”
This I Believe compiled by NPR.
Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
This I Believe is a compilation of essays submitted by NPR listeners and public figures about their own personal beliefs which “reveal the American spirit at its best”. This last part should have been more prominently showcased as the true essence of the book. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with patriotism in all its grandeur. I love this country just as much as the next faithful American. I’m just saying that I felt like the book had been incorrectly entitled. It should have been entitled “I Believe In Migrating to America”.
This I Believe is speckled with a considerable number of essays from successful people that have migrated to the US and achieved the quintessential “American dream”. It seemed like the others were about people’s beliefs in their own abilities to succeed and also achieve the “American Dream”. Too many folks seemed to have taken the opportunity for self-aggrandizing and back-patting one’s self. The rhetoric was a little odd for my taste. But I did really enjoy some of the essays: There Is No Such Thing As Too Much Barbecue by Jason Sheehan, Living Life with “Grace and Elegant Treeness” by Ruth Kamps, The People Who Will Love You When No One Else Will by Cecile Gilmer and Always Go To The Funeral by Dierdre Sullivan.
“I believe in barbecue. As soul food and comfort food and health food, as a cuisine of both solace and celebration…I believe that barbecue drives culture, not the other way around. Some of the first blows struck for equality and civil rights in the Deep South were made not in the courtrooms or schools or on buses, but in the barbecue shacks.” (This entire essay by Jason Sheehan is baronial!)
Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle
Goodreads rating: 4 Stars
Church Of Little Things by Melanie Shankle is absolutely adorable. It reads like a letter from a friend which is always so personally gratifying. The author is personable, authentic, vulnerable and humorous all at once. This book is about finding joy in the small things as opposed to always waiting for a monumental life-changing event to make us happy.
Her stories are candid and unpretentious. She talks about finding joy in making school lunch sandwiches, in attending her teenage daughter’s soccer games, in loving her pets (even the hermit crabs that she wasn’t crazy about) and in her work amongst other small daily things. There is plenty of joy to be found in what may feel sometimes like the mundane.
” You know what we all do when we sit around thinking about our Fantasy Someday? We miss the holiness of this moment we’re living right now. There will never be another one like it. And even if that makes you think ‘THANK GOD, BECAUSE MY LIFE CURRENTLY STINKS,’ there are still lessons to be learned, character to be built, and stories that will be told about where you are right now. God takes all of it – the mundane and the ugly, the clean couch and the wine spills, the ordinary and the occasional extraordinary – and when we allow Him to add His grace, His mercy, and His outrageous love, He adds a brushstroke there and some color here and so paints it all into one glorious work of art, one that only He can achieve through us where we are right in that moment – in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our classrooms, in our communities and world.”
The Day The World Came To Town by Jim Defede
Goodreads Rating: 5 stars
The Day The World Came To Town by Jim Defede follows the stories of several families from across the globe that were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland when the airspace over the United States was blocked off during 9/11 and the way they were embraced by Newfoundlanders. It is an absolute masterpiece! I loved every single page of this little heartfelt book.
I don’t want to give too much away because I truly believe that every single human being on the planet should read this book whether you’re cynical or still have faith in humanity. Every one of these stories is so endearing and personal. Each one offers us an important takeaway that must be read! Jim Defede is an exceptional observer and storyteller. Bravo! Job superbly done. I am obsessed, in love and in awe with the people of Newfoundland. We should all aspire to comport ourselves in their same manner.
The entire book.
Let me know whether you get a chance to read any of these or if you already have. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy!