Week in Books {Hatmaker, Fowler, Scott}

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

I’m a big fan of Hatmaker, and her latest seemed like a natural extension from her previous book, Interrupted (mini-review here). While I’m not going to replicate her project exactly, it was very inspiring and got me thinking about how I could adapt the challenge to fit my life (and the areas where I most need it!)

I’ve seen lots of other bloggers talking about this book, especially this summer, when there seems to be an informal “Summer of 7″ going on around the blogosphere. It’s an intriguing idea, and I’m considering being a late-starter with it, but I’m not sure what the best way to put some of the concepts into practice in my life is.

That, plus I’m not sure about how to convince my husband to go along with me, and I don’t know that I want to try to drag my kids into some aspects of it.

State Fair by Earlene Fowler

I love mysteries, and I especially love mystery series. I love getting to know characters, and feel like they’re old friends. So even though this wasn’t one of my favorites in the series, I’ll still read the next one. This one felt fairly preachy, but I still like Benny and her family. If you haven’t already been reading the series, I wouldn’t recommend this one as a stand-alone mystery.

It’s also nice to occasionally have an easier read to intersperse with ones that require more effort, because I’m working on a couple that are definitely more demanding.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.

Yes, I did read the illustrated, abbreviated version of Ivanhoe. No, I’m not ashamed to admit it. September’s bookclub read is Ivanhoe. The “real” version of Ivanhoe that I have is 367 pages. This one was around 200, and half of those pages were illustrations. I read the quick version to get a general understanding of the story, so that when I read the full version I’m not trying to keep all the names straight and figure out what’s going on with the plot.

This is my first time reading a classic where I first read an abbreviated version, so I’ll see how I like it. Maybe I’ll wish I’d jumped right into the regular version!

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Memorizing 1 Peter 1

It’s time for another session of Hiding His Word in my heart, and this time the passage Do Not Depart has selected is 1 Peter 1.

I was … not all that successful last time when I joined in as they memorized the first part of John 1. I’m looking forward to trying again with a different chapter, because I know I can do it (I did it with Romans 8!). And even if I don’t really memorize it completely, the effort of trying to memorize it still is beneficial.

Why Do I Bother?

I’ve written about Scripture Memory before, when I described what helps me have the most success. And on the not-so-successful side of things, how I deal with it when I’ve got the blahs.

One of my favorite aspects about memorizing scripture is that as I do my daily Bible reading and come across a scripture I previously memorized, it JUMPS off the page at me. Even if I couldn’t have told you the verse before reading it, it’s clearly somewhere in my brain still because it is oh-so-familiar. It helps reassure me that the effort I put into memorization isn’t wasted, even when I can’t spout the verses off without prompting.

Sound Good? Want To Participate?

  • If you’re interested in joining in on memorizing 1 Peter 1, the Do Not Depart group will be starting August 19, with a scheduled finish of November 17.
  • You can register at Do Not Depart on Wednesday the 8th, and they send encouraging emails.
  • You can also “Like” their Facebook page for more encouragement,
  • They’re also on Twitter at @DoNotDepart,
  • You can join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #HideHisWord.

Week in Books

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill.

August’s bookclub pick, and I’m so glad it was. I read this years ago (maybe in high school? Sometime around then) and had forgotten many of the specifics. Holocaust memoirs and biographies are a subgenre in which I’ve read extensively, and this is a fantastic one. It’s also great because the detail level keeps it more appropriate for younger readers than some others in the genre.

I’m really looking forward to the meeting next week and the discussion about the book. I’m curious to know what everyone else thought about it!

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson.

I wanted to love this book, because the premise is terrific. But the examples given are so far from how I can imagine actually speaking to my kids that the usefulness was diminished. It may just be because my kids are so little, but a lengthy response preaching the gospel to my son when he whacks his sister won’t really accomplish much in my opinion.

But again, he’s only three, so I’m not sure that it’s completely a fair complaint. It’s just not right for our stage yet. I do think I’ll reread it when my children are a little older, because I really liked their emphasis on Christian parenting verses moral parenting.

Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen by Amy Pennington.

I’ve read so many cookbooks and food blogs, so a three star / “good” rating seems worse than it really is. The book was fine, and if you’re new to really making use of your pantry you may find it much more helpful. There were details about some ingredients that I don’t use all that regularly, but none of her recipes for utilizing them really tempted me. The best part of it for me was the reminder that you don’t have to have an enormous pantry or endless amounts of space to take advantage of a pantry. The author lives in New York; I am 100% positive that I have gobs more available space than she does, so what am I doing to use that storage space wisely?

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A. J. Jacobs.

I wish I hadn’t bothered with this one. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t really worth the reading time. I liked his The Year of Living Biblically more, but this one had more what had annoyed me in the other. Some aspects of his personality annoy me and make me less interested in reading about a project that’s all about him. I was also somewhat upset by the end of the book when a relative of his develops leukemia (specifically, AML) and he tosses out the stat that she only has a 10% chance of still being alive in 5 years even if chemo succeeds in putting her into remission.

Yeah, my brother has a very rare combination of leukemia – both ALL and AML. I have specifically NOT been researching what his odds are, and the 5 or 10 year survival rate. It was a smack of reality I didn’t want to read. I do realize that this is an unfair reason to not like the book, but I wasn’t crazy about it before getting to that part. It just more of a final “why on earth did I bother reading this?” kind of moment.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
Although it’s extremely dated, I still enjoyed it overall. Lots of inspirational ideas and motivation; you just have to look beyond the gender stereotypes, and the jarring dollar amounts. Oh, inflation, how you have changed what is a high salary or stretch price for a home.

I think it must have been really revolutionary for its time, because it’s so often included on recommended/life-changing lists that I’ve seen. And I think a lot of Brian Tracy and others work is better, but perhaps they’re just building on the foundation that Schwartz laid.

{This one was actually read earlier, but I forgot to include it in the appropriate week. And I don’t want to neglect it. :) }

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Week in Books

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.

Loved this. Loved the details behind the research, and loved the practical applications and hints at how to put willpower to work for me, and when I shouldn’t rely on it. One of my favorite parts is how it discusses weight and food with willpower, and how that is kind of the exception to some of the other rules relating to willpower. It helped me understand why I actually have really good self-control in many other areas of my life, but struggle the most when it comes to what and how much I eat. And it gave me some ideas on how to handle it going forward!

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon.

While I enjoyed this as a memoir and interesting look at food culture and parenting in France, I’m not entirely sure how applicable it is to life here. Our food culture is just so different, and many of the French “rules” are much harder to follow here. But, it did give me encouragement to continue serving vegetables to my 3 year old who always says he doesn’t like them. Maybe one of these times he’ll have tasted it enough to like it. It also made me want to get back in the habit of a family tea time in lieu of a more random afternoon snack.

The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith by John W. James and Russell Friedman.

I thought this was a very helpful look at grief, and how you can get stuck in a way, because most of us never really learn how to deal with grief. I liked how it included more than just dealing with grief due to death too.

Thanks to Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for including this on her “Books I’m Afraid to Recommend” list. It is one that would be hard to suggest, but it’s a good one.

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Week in Books {Austin, Pantley, Hatmaker}

While We’re Far Apart by Lynn Austin

Historical fiction of the non-mystery variety isn’t typically my favorite, but on a whim I read the novel set in WWII-era New York. I loved it. I found the intersecting lives between the characters intriguing, and while I guessed the “surprises” in the book, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the work. A very fun read. I always know that I really like a book when I’m sad at the ending because I’ll miss the characters.

I probably shouldn’t have been that surprised that I enjoyed it, because I also really liked Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings trilogy, especially the first book, Gods and Kings

The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Your Child to Eat—and Eat Healthy by Elizabeth Pantley

I thought this was a very encouraging approach to dealing with picky eaters. I just finished it, so I haven’t had time to really try and implement any of her suggestions so I don’t know how effective it will be, but if nothing else it helped remind me that I am not alone in dealing with a picky eater!

Many of the included recipes sounded like items I might make for my kids to try, and I think hummus may be the first one I’ll attempt. I wish I’d gotten to the recipes before I made my weekly shopping excursion, because the most tempting ones include some items I don’t have already.

A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker

I think this one ties in very nicely with Unstuck, which I criticized for not having a lot of practical suggestions for how to engage with Scripture. Hatmaker’s book, though a completely different tone than , provides those practical suggestions and even includes examples from her own experiences. Loved it!

I’m really tempted to buy her other Bible study books, especially Tune In: Hearing God’s Voice Through the Static. They’re not at my library, so I can’t preview them like I usually like to do before purchasing a book, so I’m having a debate with myself if I should buy them sight-unseen. If you’ve read any of her other Bible study books, can you let me know what you think about them?

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Week(s) in Books

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings–and Life

If you’ve read a lot of time management books, or even Vanderkam’s own book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (reviewed here), not much of this book will be original. That said, it was still very inspiring to think about how am I using my mornings, and what could I do to make the most of them. It’s short, but priced to take that into consideration. Part of me wishes she’d fleshed it out more with additional examples or other information, but another part is glad that she kept it streamlined and to the point. I’m glad I read it.

Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic

I find conversion stories extremely interesting, but this is my first Catholic conversion story. I didn’t fully follow his theological arguments in the next to last chapter (being interrupted every two minutes by one child or another makes it challenging when I read more complex works, and for this one I kind of gave up working through that chapter and skimmed it.) I read the story for his actual story rather than a Catholic apologetics text, so I didn’t feel too bad about not really reading that part of the book. I didn’t like how Beckwith hinted at other events that had nothing to do with his conversion, and left it at mere hints (like his tenure battle at Baylor). I don’t know his story, so it made me curious about why he’d initially been denied tenure, and why his appeal was granted. Those facts are about all he gives, so I’d almost rather he’d left it out entirely if he wasn’t going to explain (maybe he thought it was big enough news that everyone already knew?) Even just a brief outline would have been enough; I wasn’t wanting endless details but some clue about what happened.

Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith

Jen Hatmaker’s newest book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess is all over the blogosphere lately (at least the part of the blogosphere in which I participate), and Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy mentioned this one when it went on sale for the Kindle as a kind of back-story to the events in 7. I’ve got 7 on my to-be-read list, and figured I’d go ahead and read this one first.

I was not familiar with Hatmaker at all before, and really enjoyed her conversational writing style. I also found her story compelling, and it’s made me that much more excited to read 7.

Refresh, Reuse, Repurpose: 20 Ways to Breathe New Life into Old Clothes

An ebook by Kristen from the blog The Frugal Girl with some clever ideas for using old clothing. Several ideas are easy enough for a complete sewing novice like myself to feel comfortable attempting, and a few of the ideas made me want to smack my forehead in a why-have-I-never-thought-of-that way.

My biggest complaint is that for a couple of the ideas, she directs you to her website for complete instructions and photographs demonstrating the procedure. The description of the ebook on her website claimed that “each idea is thoroughly explained and photographed so that you can actually apply these ideas.” While they may be thoroughly explained and photographed, you sometimes have to go to her website to actually see those explanations and photographs. I was disappointed in this, because there didn’t seem like any reason NOT to include that information – it’s an ebook; length doesn’t matter like it might for a physical book. It felt like an attempt to drive traffic to her website and it irritated me. I’d prefer to have all of the information in the book like I was expecting.

That said, I still enjoyed the book, and do recommend it for some great ideas.

Baby Sign Language Basics: Early Communication for Hearing Babies and Toddlers, New & Expanded Edition PLUS DVD!

Basic information on signing with your baby, including the helpful concept of routine verses motivating signs. I didn’t look at the instructional DVD that was included, because I’m pretty familiar with how to form many of the basic signs (and how to read the pictures and text for unfamiliar signs). I’m not sure that it’s really significantly different or better than any of the other baby sign books available.

Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible

This was kind of a strange coincidence, reading this immediately after reading Together: Growing Appetites for God (reviewed here). It made me wonder how to integrate the two, or if that’s really even possible. I found myself agreeing with so much of what Enns wrote, but don’t know what to do precisely (that is probably explained more in the books that he’s publishing for each year; this work was the overview/theory behind it all). I want to look at the instructional books and see the specifics there (there are instructor’s guides and student activity books for years one and two published so far.).

Unstuck: Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change.

Title: Unstuck: Your Life. God’s Design. Real Change.
Authors: Arnie Cole & Michael Ross
Category: Nonfiction / Christian Living
Length: 204 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Release Date: 2012
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 076420954X / 9780764209543
My Rating: 3 Stars

Does your relationship with God seem broken? Full of silence and distance? Do you ever want more than just an “okay” walk with Christ? After conducting extensive research, including more than 70,000 surveys, Back to the Bible leaders Arnie Cole and Michael Ross found many Christians feel the same way. But they also discovered the secrets that help believers grow and thrive spiritually. And they want to share what they discovered with you.

Filled with honest stories and real-life examples, Unstuck provides you with practical and proven ways to encounter Scripture daily, connect with God, and revitalize your faith. Stop just going through the motions and learn how to tap into God’s Word to live out the life He desires for you.

Summary Review:
Encouragement to engage with the Bible 4 or more times a week as a means for getting “unstuck” in your relationship with God.

Complete Review:
I wanted to like this book quite a bit – targeted at believers looking to get unstuck in their spiritual life, it seemed like a perfect resource.

I found it fascinating that the research behind the book found that the key component for people to have spiritual growth is engaging the Bible 4 or more times a week. Four times was crucial – 3 times a week wasn’t enough, and a weekly visit to church certainly wasn’t. People who were engaged in Scripture 3 times a week or less were not really different than people who never read the Bible at all!

What I didn’t like was how that statistic was repeated over and over and over. I got it the first time, and found the repetition unnecessary. I was disappointed that the practical section of the book was so comparatively short, and so unhelpful still. It felt like the entire book boiled down to: for significant spiritual growth, spend time engaged with the Bible.

Sounds great right? But what do I actually do so that I’m not just reading or memorizing scripture, but am immersed in and interacting with the Word.

I haven’t followed the 45-day program outlined in the book, nor have I taken advantage of the associated website, Unstuck GoTandem, and those resources might be the practical applications I was missing in the text. Once I complete that, I’ll post another update linked to this.

I was probably hoping for too much from a book, but I really was wanting something that told me what to do more; I already read my Bible most days, and I try to, in their words, engage it, but I don’t really know what that means. I was hoping the book could tell me.

Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review., and the opinions I have expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.