Brain Food (AKA: My Latest Reads and Listens)

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Have you ever read and consumed so much information, it felt like your brain would pop? Or is that just a type 5 problem? Between speed-reading for review swaps, research for my own books, and a weekend parenting conference, my brain has gorged itself like it was Thanksgiving (over and over). I even came across a tongue-in-cheek article about Post Homeschool Convention Stress Disorder which was perfectly timed. So now it’s time to digest and detox; to let it all sink in, filter out what I don’t need, process it and put it back out there in my own words. Here’s what’s been on the brain table lately.

Books:

I Carry Your Heart by Barbara A. Luker
This was a great dual-timeline read from a fellow Black Rose Writing author for a review swap. It broke my heart into a million pieces, as star-crossed lovers tend to do, but Luker did it in the best way possible. This story is an expose on the types of love out there—passionate, steadfast, familial, and more. It’s a sweet, if somewhat haunting, tale.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
What a classic! It’s been around since the 90s and I’ve heard great things about it for years, and I finally grabbed a copy and started reading. Let me tell you… I feel seen! I read every other paragraph aloud to my husband because I was so amazed at how relatable it was. “Babe, listen to this, is this me or what?” If you are a writer and want more than grammatical tips, pick this up. It gets to the heart and soul of writing.

In Search of Sisters, by Mary Ellen Bramwell
Another review swap for a Black Rose Writing author! This started out slow but eventually became quite a memorable story. I enjoyed reminiscing over my own Europe trip as the protagonist explores the continent. I liked how her search for herself transformed to noticing others more. It makes you want to get out there and talk to your neighbors.

We Too, by Mary DeMuth and Talking Back to Purity Culture, by Rachel Joy Welcher
Each of these books deserves their own post, but I’m going to lump them together for now. As I’ve wrapped up final edits on Outside of Grace, I’ve been pouring over some books related to purity culture and sexual assault as it affects Christians specifically. It’s a topic that I’ve grappled with for 90,000+ words, edited extensively, and spoken with various professionals about. It continues to reveal ways purity culture affected me, and challenge me to deconstruct my beliefs, separating what is actually Christ-like from what was just culturally-imposed. Hard stuff, like I said, deserving of its own post.

The Princess Parables by Jeanna Young
If we’re being honest, most of my reading time is spent with books targeted at 2-5 year olds! I grabbed these at the homeschool conference I attended and my girls love them. They retell Jesus’ parables as princess stories. I’m thrilled to take their love for all things princess and put it into something that tells positive, moral stories instead of the usual…well, you know.

Blogs:


I’ll be honest, I tend to spend more of my time reading quick articles than I do books. Of course, most of that is on pointless bunny trails, but here’s a few articles I sought out and enjoyed recently.

Becky Wade: How to Support Authors (Good look at what authors really make from their books.)
Seven Reasons Why Motherhood is Amazing For You, According to Science (Helpful for *those* days)
Motherhood is the most achievable path to a legacy (Also encouraging)
Why was Mary Magdalene the First Witness of the Resurrection? (Highly recommend!)

Listening:

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill
Like Bird to Bird, I’ve known about this for a couple years and heard so much about this podcast, I felt like I had already listened to it just because people talked about it that much. I am SO glad I finally started listening to it myself though! The quality is impeccable, the content unnerving, and the conversations it has stemmed with my husband are priceless. We’re currently in the process of shifting away from our old church and looking for a new one, so this has been incredibly well-timed for us as we consider what makes for a healthy or unhealthy church environment.

Teach Them Diligently conference
There were so many incredible speakers at this conference. Heidi St. John absolutely blew me away and left me convicted and well-churched for days to come. Rebecca Spooner was also amazing, each of her sessions had the audience sniffling and trying to subtly wipe away our tears. She touched my heart. And Rachael Carman’s talks were so witty, pointed and well-shared, I went home and practically narrated them verbatim for my husband. If I could adopt her as a second mother, I would. (Also, thanks to this conference, I’ve been reading a lot more of the Bible lately too! It truly left me inspired and encouraged.)


What about you? What’s been in your brain-food diet lately?



October Reads

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This month has been entirely non-fiction. After a very stressful few weeks, I’ve been on a self-help binge. I try to solve all of my problems through books (not sure whether to attribute that to my introvert nature or my Type 5 personality). That isn’t a bad thing, of course. There’s a wealth of information out there, why suffer with a problem unnecessarily? For some reason we tend to believe things like parenting and relationships should come naturally. But they don’t. In fact, I love Herbert Spencer’s take on this:

“What is to be expected when one of the most intricate of problems is undertaken by those who have given scarcely a thought to the principles on which its solution depends? For shoemaking or housebuilding…a long apprenticeship is needful. Is it then that the unfolding of a human being in body and mind is so comparatively simple a process that anyone may superintend and regulate it with no preparation whatever? … Better [to] sacrifice accomplishments than omit this all-essential instruction.”

Herbert Spencer

Without further ado, here’s a sneak peek at the things I’m working on.

The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Rearing the Preschool Child, Thomas Millar
10/10. Book of the month pick.
Good luck finding this 1990s out-of-print book. But do try. Because it is absolute gold.
My mother-in-law gave me this book a few months ago and it sat in the long queue of my reading list until I was utterly fed-up with certain toddler behaviors and started looking far and wide for a resource (see picture above for some of my personal parenting library). Honestly, I was tired of the modern parenting advice: Talk about their feelings, let them express their feelings. Most modern parenting advice is focused on correcting the parent and calming their responses. Which has its place and I’m not bashing it as part of parenting, but when that is your only method, you’ll soon find yourself living with a tiny tyrant who believes you are slave to their fits and emotions (ask me how I know). So I remembered this book and pulled it out for some good old-fashioned advice.
And Millar delivered!
It’s old-school without corporal punishment. This book is short. It’s easy to read. And it lays out a plan that walks you step-by-step through every conceivable toddler behavior (buy a good timer). My favorite thing? It provides reasons for correcting behaviors. He talks about training children out of egocentricity, teaching them to respect authority, and building a healthy conscience, among other things. He addressed one of my personal struggles, which was the transition from saying “no” to young children only for dangerous things to training them up in good behaviors (because it’s much easier to allow a messy room than letting them touch a hot stove). And he does it all with a heavy dose of absolute sass. You’ll need a sense of humor to read Millar. One of my favorite lines was about teaching a child to hang up his coat. Paraphrased, Millar says, “Sure, you can pick it up for him. Then when he’s grown, ask his wife how she feels about doing it for him too.” Oh snap.

No More Perfect Kids, Jill Savage
I actually listened to this one instead of reading it. Why don’t I do that more often? It’s better than podcasts and I could fit in so much more “reading” in the little pockets of time like driving and running errands, washing dishes, etc. Back to the book itself: There have been moments that really connected with me, and other parts where I wasn’t sure I was the right audience (there was a lot of talk about older children). Based on this book, I’m now interested in her other one too, No More Perfect Moms. She has some wonderful tips on accepting our children for who they are. I think the part I appreciated most was early on, when she said we set our children up with an impossible expectation: We want them to be unique and special, yet also entirely normal and accepted. Yes.

Boundaries, Henry Cloud
Everybody’s heard of this one, right? It’s hugely popular. I had no idea it was so Biblically based, but I was fine with that. In fact, coming from the “be nice” Christian culture, it was very helpful to see Biblical support for boundaries. I’m only about halfway through this one (picking and choosing chapters based on “hot spots” in my life). The thing I’ve learned so far: that I’m not nearly as good at setting boundaries as I thought I was. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Anger, Gary Chapman
The relationship expert behind the Five Love Languages writes about discerning “good” anger from “bad” anger, how to handle either, and how to handle it in various relationships. I appreciated the brevity of this book and the quick summaries at the end of each chapter. It was a highly readable ebook for me. I’ve struggled with anger as a go-to defense in high-stress situations and am working on it. I’m not feeling any radical changes in my life yet, but hey, it’s only been a month. His thoughts on anger definitely float around in my head during potentially heated moments.

Help! My Bible is Alive!, Nicole Unice
If you can get past the slightly cheesy title (sorry, Nicole), the book itself is wonderful. It has been a godsend (ha). Unice walks you through the basics of studying the Bible, and it really does make that big, intimidating, seemingly outdated book come to life. It’s an easy read for beginners, with plenty of depth for experienced Christians. I was familiar with many of the concepts, but actually walking through them in the book made it become personal. I find myself automatically dissecting verses in my head now. I started the month of October literally avoiding my Bible, and I now find myself reaching for it automatically. That’s as good a review as a book can get.

Honestly, there’s half a dozen more self-help books I’ve picked up this month, but these are the only ones I’ve really read through. If I get back to the others, they’ll be on my November list. Otherwise they’ll languish in book purgatory until I have a bad day and need tips. I’m a slow nonfiction reader, I can’t quite gobble them up the way I can a novel. But I love them nonetheless. Anybody else have a list of nonfiction titles waiting for you? What’s on your list?

September Reads

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Yes, this post is running a bit late. I’ve got an entirely updated list coming up for October but luckily had this one saved in my drafts. Anyway, here were last month’s reads! The fiction side is entirely novellas. I’ve been feeling the quick read. I tend to get sucked into a story and can’t put it down. So when it’s a full novel, that knocks out a few days where I hardly get anything else done. At least with a novella, it’s only about one day before I get back to washing dishes and feeding my children (calm down, I never forget to do that, I just sometimes do it with a book in hand).

Your turn! What’s your August reading list look like?