I don’t know how September is gone already! It was a FULL month with lots of activity… school events, board meetings, the Jewish holidays.
- I’ve been planning the school’s book fair, which definitely involves a LOT of moving parts. Having not done this before, I’m a tad overwhelmed, but I’m sure it’ll come together. I’m definitely meeting lots of new people, which is one of my reasons for doing it.
- One new thing that I’m specifically enjoying is my new board position with AJC. Last week I got to meet the Consuls General of Israel, Italy, and Greece and this week I’ll be with a small group of Kurdish leaders from Syria. Very interesting stuff.
- Our Daisy troop had its first meeting and it was enjoyed by all 12 girls. We have lots of extra troop events this year, outside of our meetings, and we are all looking forward to building fire trucks, camping, a bank tour, going to Disney on Ice, and multiple service projects.
- In case you didn’t see my series last week on Perfection, People-Pleasing, and Pretending to be Superwoman, check out those links. Enjoy these book reviews…. many excellent reads this time.
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
We want to be seen for who we are. We all struggle at times. We have all fallen. We’ve been lost. This book is an examination of what happens during the process of getting back up again.
“My goal for this book is to slow down the falling and rising processes: to bring into our awareness all the choices that unfurl in front of us during those moments of discomfort and hurt, and to explore the consequences of those choices. Much as in my other books, I’m using research and storytelling to unpack what I’ve learned.”
I’m already a huge Brené fan. I love how she brings topics like shame and vulnerability onto the main stage of discussion. I especially love how she incorporates personal narrative into her research. In this book, she includes many stories from her own life to illustrate her thesis. Her research in this book is about how we can best engage with life: recognize an emotion, get curious about it, and connect the dots to make sense of our experiences. Our job is to find the truth in our stories.
“When we combine the courage to make clear what works for us and what doesn’t with the compassion to assume people are doing their best, our lives change.”
Vulnerability. Authenticity. Courage. This book touches on everything we need to know to lose our judgements, set boundaries, and, well, rise strong. I especially appreciated her list of 10 guideposts for wholehearted living at the end. Highly recommend.
Tune In: Let Your Intuition Guide You to Fulfillment and Flow by Sonia Choquette
Another gentle and perfect Sonia book that came to me just when I needed it. She leads the reader step-by-step how to notice our intuitive nudgings and being more aware of our choices and why we make them. She has journal prompts at the end of each chapter to fully tap into our thoughts, as well as ideas for simple daily practices to focus our attention inward. It’s doable, simple, yet can lead to profound life shifts. Recommend.
“Listening to the voice of your intuition—instead of the voice of your fears and other peoples’ wishes and instructions—will bring about, over time, a deep-seated, unwavering sense of profound integrity, creative inspiration, and grounded soul purpose.”
The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist
This book read like an adventure story. Since I was aware of about 1% of the events before the Iran revolution of 1979 or in recent years, I read it as if it were unfolding in real time and couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happens! This book is the secret history of the last three decades of American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Crist is a historian for the federal government and an adviser to government and military officials on the Middle East. The amount of research that must have gone into this book astounds me. I learned a vast amount, not least of which is that Iran is an incredibly complex country. And of course, the story continues to unfold. Highly recommend this one.
The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes?
In a rational yet powerful set of recent articles, Dershowitz outlines and details the many ways that a nuclear armed Iran ruled by religious fanatics would “threaten the security of the world.” One of the foremost legal minds of our nation, Dershowitz rationally debates the pros and cons of the agreement, the next steps, as well as many possible solutions. He describes to path of several years of talks in how we got to where we are now, provides the text and many questions about the current deal, and sets out a moral and political case for keeping the strong military option on the table. Highly recommend.
A Window Opens: A Novel by Elisabeth Egan
I read this book the week it was published because I’d read two reviews from online friends that were so favorable I could hardly wait. I suppose I enjoyed it, but was also disappointed by the mundane-ness of it. Maybe my expectations were set too high?
The story follows a middle-aged mother-of-three and immensely likable person who has to leave her loved part-time job to find a full-time one when her husband loses his. She joins a startup that is “the future of reading” but ends up hating it, and also hating being pulled in so many different directions, not measuring up to any of her roles. All of Egan’s characters are drawn extraordinarily well. We hear all about her three kids, her parents, husband, etc. In the end, she must think about what she really wants most of all. I understand wanting to be everything to everyone, but when reading this book, I often felt like I was drowning. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not!
The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
Thank you, Patti, for telling me about this sweet little book! A bookseller comes across a handbag on a Parisian street and feels impelled to return it to its owner. Inside is a red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet. Romance ultimately ensues, but the book isn’t so much about that. It’s the vulnerable inner workings of each heart that makes this book so compelling. It’s real and such a great story that grabbed me right away. It’s a fairly quick read. Recommend.
Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home
This is a powerful memoir about a woman who, lost and searching as a young adult, purposely chose to become a Hasidic Jew for thirty years, and then abandoned that way of life after realizing that she was living in conflict with her true values and self. We hear about her arranged marriage, her experiences mothering 7 children, her friendships, and we are privileged to hear her inner thoughts and struggles with a faith that doesn’t allow questioning. Highly recommend.
I want to tell my children that I don’t believe so much about our life anymore, but I don’t dare. If I could, I’d say, It isn’t important to me whether you recite the right prayer or wear the right clothing. Just know yourself. Don’t go forward without that, like I did. Don’t be dishonest with yourself and with people you love, or with God, like I have been. If I change, if I get honest, will you know me?
Here is where I put my forbidden woman’s hands on the Torah’s wooden handles and grasp them for the first time, a grasp I instantly understand as an ancient act of ownership. In that instant of touch, I am a creature of touch, sensual and real, power and resonance in my palms. I stand uncovered before the Torah, not naked but revealed. I have ascended to a new Torah. I think, however imperfect it now seems, the Torah is mine. My inheritance. To love, or not. To believe and follow, or not. True or not, there my people have found shards of truth. We have rallied around it, holy or not. We have argued with this text, giving it shape and depth. We have made it holy.
This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Rabbi Alan Lew
Wow. This book floored me. It is rich, compelling, and astounding in its purity. The late Rabbi Lew addresses the beautiful transformation and soul searching ritual that takes place each year during the Jewish holidays of Tisha B’Av and Sukkot. He writes that we are constantly redefining ourselves, that we must become conscious of our blunders, and that the healing and repentance that we undergo at this time of year can heal us. Inner healing requires self-acceptance, forgiveness, and a willingness to let go of mistaken beliefs.
Lew likens the holiday rituals and meaning to the journey each person makes from birth to death and back again, as if life were a circle and traveling it teaches us what is most important. “It takes the living of a whole life—a life and a death, the complete journey—to learn that. We are all making that journey, and the High Holidays are a dress rehearsal for it, a time when we are all stripped down—a time that gives us an intimation of what this long, strange journey home is all about.”
“So we can pray, we can meditate, and we can set aside a moment every day for reflection. Or we can simply choose one thing in our life and live that one small aspect in truth, and then watch in amazement as the larger truth of our life begins to emerge. The truth is, every moment of our life carries with it the possibility of a great blessing and a great curse, a blessing if we live in truth, a curse if we do not. All that’s required of you is to see what’s in front of your face and to choose the blessing in it.”
So many eloquent passages. Reading this book adds such a richness to this time of year. I will definitely read it again. For readers of ALL faiths, this book will change the way you look at life. Highly recommend.
The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter by Susan Pinker
I have never seen so much evidence about our fundamental human need for face-to-face interaction. It’s easier now than ever to socially isolate ourselves, but Pinker tells about how social interaction improves each and every aspect of our lives. In case study after case study, Pinker proves that face-to-face contact can lengthen our lives, make us smarter, and develop trust within a community.
I’ve made a practice this past year especially to actually see and visit with friends. Besides reading their Facebook updates, an in-person coffee or lunch date, truly does make a difference. I found this book highly relevant to today’s culture. The connections that Pinker makes between research topics are fascinating. Truly a compelling read.
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Thanks for reading! Do you have any spiritual books you’d recommend?
What have you been reading lately? And are you on Goodreads? I’d love to connect there.
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