Springtime in London is a season of repentance. Of asking forgiveness for all the terrible things you said about her during winter. When London blooms, the beauty brings you to your knees, inhaling the sweet smell of jasmine.
London opens to you like a novel itself…. It is divided into chapters, the chapters into scenes, the scenes into sentences; it opens to you like a series of rooms, door, passage, door. Mayfair to Piccadilly to Soho to the Strand. ~Anna Quindlen
During winter, friendships unfold in pubs and cafe’s over tea and coffee but in springtime, they burst open with laughter under ancient trees. I know an important connection is made when random conversations about the weather suddenly turn toward books. Even better is the discovery of a love and appreciation for the same titles and authors. I no longer take that little serendipity for granted.
As an expat in London, I walk into bookstores and admire the Edwardian architecture but peruse rows of books like a deer wide-eyed in the high beams. I don’t recognize most of the authors. As someone who reads one book a week and finds bookshops a guilty pleasure, can I tell you how weird this conundrum feels?
I’m learning that a well written story transcends cultural and socioeconomic boundaries that threaten to divide us. Storytelling brings people together through our shared humanity. That’s why the Bible is still a best seller.
Because I follow my father’s DNA and generally fall asleep shortly after I sit down for prime time, I’ve started reading Christian non-fiction alongside the Daily Lectionary after I awaken. Fiction during the transition after the end of a work day and before cooking dinner for my family. Sabbath has become a respite for reading big chunks of content when paragraphs are all I can manage during the week.
While London springtime is the muse inspiring new pieces of writing, I’m sharing a stack of books that have influenced the way I see the world lately. I’ll admit, most of these titles were referred to me by Americans but I’m still on the hunt for European authors I can recommend to you.
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson — Somehow I missed this delicious read when it was published in 2003 but my British friend Helen is trustworthy when it comes to page turners. This one does not disappoint. Set in the badlands of northern Ontario, Lawson writes with vivid details that remind me of what it is like to be a child raising herself and making incorrect judgments about the people who influence her inner world.
Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom — This haunting book includes suspense, love, tragedy, and the terrible realities of racism. There were times I wondered if redemption was ever going to happen and nearly put the book down. But because Grissom paints a tale that identifies with the pain for our humanity, I was driven to know how it would end. This is not a feel good book but a novel that asks for compassion and empathy.
Lila by Marilynne Robinson — I signed up to hear Marilynne lecture earlier this month and borrowed this book from a friend in the Cotswolds. A story about the unlikely marriage between a homeless girl and a minister. It is thought-provoking, spiritual, and smart. Like CS Lewis, her writing makes me feel like I need to discuss it with someone afterward. I had the same impression when I heard her speak to a room of academics. Her award winning Gilead is on my stack for April.
Rising Strong by Brene Brown — This book, like all her previously published titles, is a life changing read. If you’ve ever failed (which means this book is for everyone!) and long to know how to get back in the game or understand why you struggle with moving forward, Brown’s research and wisdom is eye opening and transformative. Highly recommended.
Breathing Room by Leanna Tankersley — Admittedly, I received this book as a gift during a conference three years ago and finally read it. And God’s timing is perfect. Sentences are underlined in nearly every chapter and pages of notes in my journal reveal how her writing sparks layers of thought. Leanna writes with a healthy balance of humor and vulnerability about a tender release from self-condemnation. It’s a beautiful story of being set free to be yourself.
As we begin the month we celebrate resurrection through Easter, this free printable April calendar with daily prompts and quotes from the fourth chapter in Rhythms of Rest is my gift to you, my dear reader. I pray that as you make space for rest, this download will become a daily reminder of how much you are loved.
For more book recommendations, listen to my conversation with Author, Susie Davis in her podcast Dear Daughters. Susie and I met at the conference where I received Breathing Room in a gift bag. And we connected like old friends when we began talking books. Prepare to hear us giggle often.
What are you reading that you love? And if you are using the calendar, tell us how it is helping you rest. Share in the comments.
Oh, how I love this post, Shelly, because of course, I’m a bibliophile. Even though I purged many books in a pass through when Michael put metal book cases in our basement (and for me purge means to give away—I can’t bear to throw away books), Mike still says our basement is sinking in books. Truth be told, they’re everywhere . . . in bathrooms, bedrooms, the hearthroom, strewn across the kitchen table (and on top of the dog’s crate nearby), and good grief! in our kitchen pantry—food for thought! And my mother has trained me to take a book in my purse, wherever I go. I call them my tiny tomes (and I recall one of your blog where you do something similar w/ your small books). What would we do without our books?! I shudder to think, although, as an aside, I would add that it is a good spiritual discipline on occasion for booklovers to forego their books, to take some kind of a book fast. God convinced me to do that one Lent, and it was later confirmed (as I struggled to obey) by author Lauren Winner doing the same thing. It was a vital, deepening experience. But for now, I’m reading! Your being in England and being Anglican, you are likely familiar with poet Malcolm Guite. But I was surprised on my recent visit to Scotland that no one had heard of him. This Lent, I’m reading his Word in the Wilderness. And this past Advent I read Waiting on the Word. He’s a wonderful poet who includes his own poetry in these books, but also gathers a fragrant bouquet of words from poets from archaic to contemporary. With each poem he writes an explanation and devotional. They are deep food for prayer and contemplation. When I was in Scotland, I bought his The Singing Bowl. Loving it! This year, I’m reading a prayer a day from Valley of Vision and in the afternoon dipping into more poetry via John O’Donohue’s Bless the Space Between Us and Acceptable Words: Prayer for the Writer. In the morning (over requisite British or Irish tea, of course), after I read my bible, I read several chapters each day of another book, usually nonfiction. I’m dipping back into the books of Gail MacDonald, whose husband Gordon MacDonald, is more well-known for his book, Ordering Your Private World (an excellent book, and he’s written many more). Gail was more known during the 80s and 90s and is a personal mentor to me. We’ve exchanged wonderful, thoughtful emails, and her books drip wisdom. This is just what I’m reading at the moment, but the stack on the kitchen table is high. Sadly, I’ve not read much fiction, and hope to remedy that. I’m not a snob about it, because whenever I read good fiction, I grow from it. I just tend to gravitate towards nonfiction and poetry. These books that you are suggesting sound marvelous, and I’ve not read them. And I think I’m going to need to read Rising Strong, because the Lord worked powerfully in my heart this month on the Isle of Iona, and I need to continue to rise up in His courage and strength. Oh, lest I forget…. your readers would love the deep, soulful work of Lilias Trotter (who might especially appeal to your British friends), and Elisabeth Elliot, whom I also personally met, and who is now with the Lord. Well, before I write another word about reading, I’m going to go read!! The kettle is boiling. Love you so much, and this is such an encouraging post. (And the house in your photos? Lovely. I’m not familiar with this one).
Oh my – i now need to write down the books from the prior post! So many good ideas.
And thanks Shelly for making me feel a little less old (it’s my birthday today!) by saying you can only read “paragraphs” during the week. I used to read for hours…and it’s just too difficult to do this after a work day. My 55-year old body say “just a little”!
Just finished Still Waiting by Ann Swindell, FANTASTIC! And am half-way through Lisa-Jo Baker’s Never Unfriended. Both of them are wonderful books for absolutely everyone.
Oh Shelly….I LOVE this post! YOUR words straight to MY heart! I figured it out just a week ago that I average 40 books a year in reading. And like Lynni, I have them stacked here, there, and everywhere in this old house. Now I see that I have four intriguing recommends from you that I simply must read. Next stop? Local library site AND amazon.
Currently, I am into one of Joel C. Rosenberg’s ”fictional” novel series. Don’t know if you know him, but he’s an excellent Jewish-American author whose novels, as well as non-fictional works, deal with biblical End Time prophecy with such concise accuracy that he’s actually had high-ranking gov’t officials ask him how he knows what’s going to happen BEFORE it actually takes place. This first in his series, ‘Third Target’, is a suspenseful page-turner. I’ve never been disappointed with any of his books.
Have to say…again…Your photos are just. so. beautiful; SO. completely. English. I am forever green with envy.
Love to you, Shelly, from over the pond, here in the wilds of SW Ontario, Canada, where Spring is taking its own sweet time in arriving. *sigh*
Love the butterflies on the calendar for April!
As for good books I have read recently — My Heart by Julie Manning is awesome! She showed me how a mom can love her kids as Jesus would. I never loved liked that when I was raising my kids. Julie amazed me with her courage as well as she deals with a very serious heart condition. This book brought me closer to God and is pushing me to be more courageous.
And a British suggestion “Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey” by the Countess of Carnarvon about the true story of Highclere Castle. Being a Downton Abbey fan, I loved this historic book!
Oh I follow her blog. Doncha love her, Janet (although I don’t think she has a clue how real folks live . . . still it’s fun to dream! 🙂 )
I follow her blog too! I just love the special events they have, and the history that is in that house is amazing!
Have you been to Highclere Castle? It’s smaller than some country houses in England, but well worth seeing. I think you’d love it, Janet! Perhaps Shelly will visit and take some of her exquisite photos of this enchanting place, where Matthew and Mary still roam the halls, no doubt! 🙂
Beautiful, Shelly! thank you for sharing!
Just finished Rhythms of Rest this morning. It’s also my first official day to practice Sabbath. I semi-practiced napping and no cooking on Sundays after church, but now I’m actually planning my Sabbath time. Extended reading of blogs I don’t get to during the week and making comments to those who have touched me life. Thank you so much for tackling the challenges of your life and posting. Loved the book and God spoke to me so clearly through it regarding a number of things.
One question Shelly, you have a link to Daily Lectionary at the ESV site but it doesn’t really connect to a lectionary reading. Am I missing something? And thanks for the beautiful April calendar!!
So appreciate the book recommendations, Shelly–I’ll be checking them out! Recently read Rumors of Water by L. L. Barkat, subtitled, “Thoughts on Creativity and Writing.” She artfully weaves together memoir and advice, demonstrating how the small, everyday moments provide plenty to write about–if we live attentively. Also read Jennifer Dukes Lee’s, The Happiness Dare. Much uplifting encouragement to capture the joy around us, and especially of our particular “style:” Experiencer, Doer, Giver, Relater, or Thinker. For March 25 on the March “Rhythm of Rest” calendar, you suggested we write down where we see God afoot in our lives. Earlier in the month I had already started recording one observation each day for “A Celebration of Small Things.” And last week, inspired by a red sunrise and glowing moon, I recorded twenty precious, small moments in one day. God is always afoot! And when I’m attentive, I experience more profoundly the joy of his presence.