Q&A: Book Talk is the Best Talk

As I build my space over at Books & Crannies — my new(ish) subscribers’ newsletter — I’m constantly thinking of things I want to create there. This is where I plan to publish longer-form essays about things on my mind (writing fiction after years of only non-fiction, faith shifts, books, trends, what it means to be a thoughtful neighbor and global citizen), continued WRLD episodes, and recorded chats with friends of mine you’d like.

I wish all this stuff was there already, but I’m excited about what 2020 holds, that it will become the space where I get to share this with those who want it most. But at minimum, I love that B&C is already a place where we’re having great weekly discussions.

Every week I ask subscribers a question, and they’ve never failed at giving me great, thought-provoking answers. For example, yesterday I asked for ideas to share with the group for recommended books, articles, essays, video/channels, or podcasts by BIPOC or, more specifically, African-Americans, in light of February being Black History Month here. I shared my ideas with everyone, and I’m looking forward to what else this smart group has to share!

Here on AoS, I thought I’d share some great answers from a question I asked subscribers a few weeks ago: What are you reading right now?

First off, here’s my own answer, plus a few encouraging responses from people:

Here’s what others shared:

“Just finished A Year of Biblical Womanhood and started Searching for Sunday last night. It’s bittersweet, I was a late discoverer of Rachel Held Evans and it’s so sad to think of the big hole she left behind. But I sooooo relate to her spiritual journey and appreciate her willingness to ask hard questions.” – Alicia

“Fiction: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I actually never read this as a child, and I am thoroughly enjoying my first visit to Green Gables. …Non-fiction: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I KNOW, I KNOW. I never got around to reading this book when it was all the rage, but I’m finding it a pretty cathartic read for the start of a new year/decade.” – Rachel

“I’m currently listening to Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I’ve not read it before and it’s good (and long, like 35 hours) — I’m 14 hours in and it’s still good. The narrator is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is amazing. …I just finished Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner — I loved this book. …I’m reading The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn aloud to my husband. …It’s laugh-out-loud funny in the beginning. We’ve just started reading it and it’s been fun to talk about this couple’s discussions. Finally, I’m reading The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow. …There’s something magical and something on the edge of sinister happening. I can’t wait to get deeper into this one.” – Tracy

Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichl – Just finished this one on audio. It was a good change of pace after some heavier books that I’d read over the holidays. So fun to hear a behind the scenes looks at Gourmet magazine and amazing descriptions of food and New York City. Also, The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon – I’d taken a little break from the Outlander universe and it’s been a nice treat to get back into it.” – Bonnie

“I just finished Let Me Lie by Claire Mackintosh. I haven’t read anything by her before and I loved it and am already adding her others to my list. The audio is fun because it’s read in a great British accent. I’m currently reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It’s been on my TBR for a long time; when I saw the movie was coming out that was the push I needed.
And I’m also reading The Preachers Wife by Kate Bowler. I have all the feelings reading this but haven’t processed them yet.” – Megan

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi has been blowing me away. I’m listening to the audio, and I can be kinda picky on narrators, but Dominic Hoffman does an amazing job! Next, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. This is a cyberpunk adventure set in a weeeeeird future America. I rarely read stuff like this, but it’s one of my brother’s favorites, and I love getting to know people more by getting to know their favorite books. Finally, The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. This is a reread for me, one of my favorites. He makes the Gospel seem as simple and as unbelievable as it is.” – Anna

“I’m reading American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, by Shane Bauer. Wow. What a sobering read. I always knew private prisons were bad but this really opened my eyes to what they are all about, as well as the history, notably the centuries-old oppression of black people, even after slavery was supposedly abolished. I strongly recommend. I just finished Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, by Megan Phelps-Roper. It’s about her life growing up in the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, her complicated feelings about her family, whom she still dearly loves and most of whom are still there, and leaving them behind. It’s really fascinating and surprisingly, caused me to look at my own childhood and faith (which I still hold and love) and imagine how this kind of thing could truly happen to anyone.” – Kristin

“I’m reading The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner and loving the insights that he shares.” – Jennifer

Anne of Avonlea — I recently reread Anne of Green Gables for the first time as an adult, and ending up practically weeping with love for it (I am a very emotional reader. It’s a little embarrassing). I planned to read another book before getting into Anne of Avonlea, but I missed Anne too much and had to dig in. Also, Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren — I had this on my to-read list and don’t remember where I heard about it – maybe the podcast? I stumbled upon it in my church’s library and am enjoying it so far.” – Mary

“I’m currently listening to The Mark of Athena (working my way through that series with my 6th grader on our mutual school commute — he’s already read the whole series, but he doesn’t mind re-reading). I’m reading and listening to Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi. …During the 3-year-old’s bedtime vigil, I’ve started a romance that was recommended by a friend: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole. And I’m continuing my slow-but-steady way through War and Peace — I’ve been working on this since last June. …And I just finished the graphic novel Estranged: The Changeling King, which is the second in a series that I have really enjoyed, both for the fantasy storyline and the gorgeous art.” – Libby

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell and I am really resenting that I can’t carve out more than 20 minutes or so at a time to read because it is begging for a full afternoon under a blanket and a warm beverage.” – Heather

This Tender Land — book of the month I’m finally reading and I’m engrossed by the storytelling. Also, The Family Upstairs — I just started. I’m not a good thriller reader (or movie watcher either). Good Habits, Bad Habits — very informative on how to set habits up to engage changes you want in life. And finally, The Grace Outpouring — a story about a retreat center in Wales that saw miracles from a simple blessing they started giving their visitors. Recommended in my priest’s sermon last week.” – Sonja

“I’m reading Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series – my 11-year-old adored them and I can see why. I’m listening to the third of the Rotherweird trilogy by Andrew Caldecott. I’ve decided that it is a work of genius, but you have to work hard to get past the first half of the first book as there are a dozen complicated characters and a very convoluted plot. It’s sort of a weird combination of fantasy, magical realism, historical fiction, mystery and satire.” – Sarah

“For myself, I just picked up Atomic Habits. A few pages into chapter one and I’m already excited. With my 8-year-old, we are taking turns reading out loud Ember Falls by S.D. Smith. I really love this series even though it is a little more intense than I expected. And it has just enough pictures to help get my 8-year-old more interested in chapter books (rather than all the graphic novels, which are still awesome reads).” – Rebekah

“In paperback: You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. Just started it, interested to see if it lives up to the hype. On my Kindle: My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. Book 2 in this series by the Icelandic author. On my Kindle app (on my phone): The Queen of Nothing, by Holly Black. I just got this via my Libby Library holds and excited for some entertainment. On Audible: The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. I have been tending to podcast lately rather than audiobooks so this one has been in progress for quite a while. Just finished: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. Exceeded my expectations.” – Holly

“I just finished reading: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Really interesting deep dive on the re-emergence of public shaming as an internet phenomenon, particularly on Twitter. Currently reading: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern I loved The Night Circus, and I’m so happy to return to her fun and fanciful writing style. She does a great job creating intricate fantasy worlds that you wish you could step into through the pages of the book and a lot of weaving different stories and timelines together. Next up: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (got on audio from the library) Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson (I’m next in line for this at my library!)” – Sarah-Jane

“I am reading Preservation by Jock Serong. It’s a great story of the Australian colonial times with some amazing characters. Some abhorrent, some uncomfortable but all complex.” – Kirstie

“I am currently reading Atomic Habits, which I am really enjoying because I am one of those who falls into the category of accomplishing something big and then have no idea what to do with myself. …I am reading The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. We have one of those neighborhood libraries in our little town and I picked this book up there the other day. I am really enjoying it. I am also reading The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni. …Oh yeah, I’m also listening to I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott on audiobook from the library. It is a great book. She’s funny and the way she describes her life helps you understand a bit more about the people in your life that are like her.” – Tiffany

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Part myth, part fairy tale (but not for children) set in 1920’s Mexico. I am really enjoying this! Also, Old in Art School by Nell Irvin Painter I really wanted to like this one but it’s been a slow read. We’ll see if it gets better; I’m about a fourth of the way in. Finally, Starsight by Brandon Sanderson I have fallen in love with Sanderson’s writing this year. This is the second in a series and I’m loving it!” – Stacie

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This is fantastic! but it’s school holidays here so i have less alone time and so less audiobook time. The Eye on the World by Robert Jordan. A fantasy/sci-fi recommended by a friend but I haven’t been able to get into it yet. I just finished the YA series Arc of Scythe by Neal Shusterman which was unputdownable. Finally, Atomic Habits – a reread for the new year.” – Leandra

“Morning reads are non-fiction, personal/spiritual growth, or anything generally heavy-hitting: Burnout by Emily & Amelia Nagoski, Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons, Knowing God by J.I. Packer, White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. Afternoon/evening reads are typically memoirs or fiction for me: Sixty Meters to Anywhere by Brendan Leonard, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedediah Jenkins, The River by Peter Heller, Everything I Loved More by Dakota Walz, and Love Anyway by Jeremy Courtney. – Shelby


If this kind of chat sounds like your cup of tea, I’d love you to join Books & Crannies. When you do, you’re not only joining a group of likeminded nerds, you’re also truly supporting the work I do as a writer and podcaster. It means so much to me, so thank you in advance!

Phew… I love that my people are READERS! I’d love to hear if you have anything else you’d recommend — please do share. xoxo

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