What I’ve Been Reading — Summer 2013 Edition

Things have been so quiet here and over at Mrs. Smith Cooks, that one can actually hear the crickets chirping.  Here I am to help correct that! I hope that now that my manuscript has been turned in to the publisher, I can spend some of my writing time here and at MSC!

Though I was disappointed with the volume of books I was able to read this summer (re: above writing project and some other projects this summer) I wanted my first post back to be about what I *did* read because there are a couple of gems in there.  As I did in the Spring Edition, I’ll give my brief review and my “stars” out of five.

The Still Point of the Turning World Emily Rapp – Best book I read this summer by a landslide. This is a mother’s story of the very short life of her son Ronan who was born with Tay-Sachs disease. The book is agonizingly beautiful in its prose and its descriptions of her beautiful boy. The depth of pain in this story is overwhelming at times, as one can only imagine. I recommend this book to anyone, but particularly highlight it for anyone who is a minister, counselor, or just wanting to be a better friend to someone who is losing (or has lost) a child. Ms. Rapp does a fantastic job of explaining what she needed from friends or helping professionals as well as some of the things that were said or done that deeply wounded her. Love this book and give it six stars out of five.

Son of a Preacher Man: My Search for Grace in the Shadows Jay Bakker Somehow, even though the book was written in 2001, I had never heard of it. Furthermore, I never made the connection that Jay Bakker, cool progressive pastor of Revolution Church was the son of Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. (Guess that he succeeded in making his own path apart from mom and dad, eh?). When I made the connection and learned of the book, I had to read it. I was fascinated by Jay’s story growing up with Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, and to hear some of the details of his experience. Particularly moving for me (in a sad way) was hearing his sense of isolation and abandonment from Christians who cut him off or otherwise abandoned him throughout the scandal that rocked his family. It’s a wonder he returned to faith at all. A wakeup call for Christians to act like it. I give it 3 stars out of 5. The reason for the ho-hum rating despite the great content is that the writing is, well, ho hum. I recommend it for the content but you won’t find yourself glued to the seat.


Between Parent and Child: The Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication by H Wallace Goddard – Clayton is getting to an age where he is learning how to say “no!” assert his opinion, express his wants and desires. In short, he’s learning to communicate. I was looking for some solid advice about parent/child communication that I could use in the long haul. This book is a classic and recommended by sources I generally trust for parenting advice. Perhaps it’s because I had overly inflated hopes for this book, but I was disappointed in it. (The same thing happens when someone describes a movie as an *amazing* movie. I see it, often and think “eh, it’s fine”). I found it to be mostly common sense (“listen to your child, don’t order her around.”) followed by examples that were painfully redundant. “This is what it means to listen to your child…”) It’s not that the content was bad. (In fact, it was quite good) it was that I was hoping for more. There were select passages where I found myself nodding along or reflecting on what I hope my approach will be in the future, and the book was good reinforcement for some things that I already hope I will put into practice, but it was not life changing. (Perhaps this is because the ideas have spilled over into common theories on parenting? Not sure of the reason, but this was my experience. I give it 3  stars out of 5.

Brim: Creative Overflow in Worship Design by Suzanne Castle and Andra Moran. Awhile ago Chalice Press (the publisher of my upcoming book…. yay!) had a free digital download sale. Did someone say free book? Yes please. I had this book on my list of books to check out and I’m so glad I read it. It’s full of imaginative ideas for worship. The context of your church will determine when these ideas would best be implimented. For my church, I’m planning on rolling some of the ideas out during our quarterly contemplative services. The services have creative prayer stations along with some really fantastic communal liturgies. There is a ton of brilliance in this book. I spent my time thinking “I would go to this service and feel completely at peace and at home.” and then I would turn the page to the next idea and think the same thing. I oohed and ahhed over this book. I give it five stars out of five.

Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do About It by Mark Devries I had this book sitting on my desk for months and picked it up one day when I was needing to clear my head for a few minutes. It was engaging and I felt like it spoke to some of the specific problems our church (and so many churches) face. The problems, Devries suggests, have a lot to do with structural componets (job descriptions, planning calendars, databases, etc) and less to do with well designed programs. Without the structure, the program fails. The book is full of very practical ideas and plans. The book also references a study where youth were asked to list the things they think makes a youth group successful. “Having a Sr. Pastor that likes and understands youth” was ranked at #2, higher than almost anything else on the list. I recommend this one to my youth ministry and ministerial colleagues, highly. Five stars out of Five.

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppell Shell – Have you ever bought a cheap version of something only to have it break and have to replace it, only to have the replacement break and have to replace that, and then realizing “If I would have bought a quality one of these in the first place…” This is where the book Cheap begins. The book explores the US fascination with cheap goods and the industry created to deliver them. I though the book was interesting and worth reading, but I was bored at times. There is excellent information, however. For me, it led to some thoughtful reflection that will result in action. Three and 1/2 stars out of five.

Children’s Books I’ll end with a couple of children’s books my boys adore, as I did in the last review. We’re still in board book land around here. I’m going to highlight two bilingual editions, because there’s a few important things to highlight about bilingual editions.

 Where Is the Green Sheep? / Donde esta la oveja verde? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek, translated by Carlos E. Calvo  – The Illustrations on this book are adorable. Brilliant, in fact. It’s a simple, sing songy story about finding the green sheep at the end. Part of the charm of the story, though, is that it rhymes in English. Obviously, when translated, it doesn’t rhyme. It’s not a bad book experience when it doesn’t rhyme (you’re still looking for the green sheep) but it makes less sense as a bilingual book. I think it would have been smarter to publish an English version and a Spanish version, because the resulting bilingual rhymes in one but not another mish mash is less successful, in my opinion. For the book itself 5 stars, for the bilingual edition 3 stars.

Mi Amor Por Ti/My Love for You (Spanish Edition) By contrast, My Love For You is a perfect candidate as a bilingual book. Great illustrations, great simple counting and repetition. I have a lot of love for this book and love to snuggle up with my boys and read it to them. Five stars.

  • Phil Micheal

    Traci… I’ve got a small box of books for your little guys and some other music books for the school at your church. I’ll be sending them up with a friend around the end of October. She will mail them from Boulder.

    “I used to wanna change the world. Now I just wanna leave the room with a little dignity. – Lotus Weinstock