What I’m Reading Now

Happy Friday! Here is a list of five books I’m currently reading. I would love to know what you are reading lately!

Jean Vanier: Portrait of a Free Man by Anne-Sophie Constant will be published by Plough Publishing House on August 4th. Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche community in France passed away on May 7th. I’ve read his book Community and Growth, have heard him interviewed on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast, and have a great respect for him and the work he did. He served those who the modern world often sees as “the least of these”, and I was introduced to him through some of Henri Nouwen’s writings. I’m looking forward to an inspiring read about this modern spiritual giant who has left behind a beautiful legacy.

I am listening to The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton on audiobook. It is read by Joanne Froggatt (Lady Mary’s maid, Anna Bates, from Downton Abbey) and is a gorgeous, intricate, many-layered tale containing murder, mystery, ghosts, and voices from the past and present. I haven’t read a Kate Morton book in several years and am truly enjoying this book!

She’s My Dad: A Father’s Transition and A Son’s Redemption by Jonathan K. Williams with Paula Stone Williams is an eye-opening, heart-wrenching true story of a Christian minister’s family turned upside-down by the revelation that their father is a woman. Told through the son’s eyes, the story is filled with many references to charismatic 80s and 90s church culture in the U.S., ( with which I am, for better or worse, familiar). I am only about a third of the way through and will give a full review when I finish the book.

I just began reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden last weekend. It’s the story of a successful businesswoman in her mid-forties who decides to join a Benedictine order of nuns in Sussex, England. At this stage, she has just taken the train to the Abbey and has been allowed inside. This is going to be a wonderful story, I think. This is my first Rumer Godden book for adults; I’ve only read her children’s books. (My favorite children’s book of hers–and all-time favorite Christmas book is The Story of Holly and Ivy.) She has several titles I am adding to my TBR list…

As so many others are doing because of her recent, untimely death, I am reading Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding Church by beloved writer Rachel Held Evans. Because I have struggled with my relationship to church, I want to read the words of someone who has been there and understands.

This Is Marketing by Seth Godin (Book Review)

I don’t have a business degree and have never taken a marketing course in college. Everything I learn has been through podcasts, books, articles, blog posts, and a few videos on Lynda or Linked In Learning, as it’s now called.

Seth Godin’s books have been invaluable to me over the past eight years since I discovered him online. His insight, encouragement, and knack for getting to the core of each idea he talks or writes about has been invaluable in my actual everyday life, before I started a business.

When I was a stay-at-home homeschooling mother I read Seth’s books and blog. His message about “work that matters” has always inspired me. I’m an INFJ, so doing work that matters is pretty much as important as breathing. On page 14 of his latest book, This is Marketing, Seth Godin writes:

“Marketing is the act of making change happen”.

And he shows us how we can use the principles of marketing to share our meaningful work with the world and bring about change. All through this book, and, indeed, all of Seth’s work, you will hear him talk about doing “work that matters for people who care” and that we, as marketers, are meant to serve people and add value.

This is not the way marketing was seen in the past. It is no longer considered a good marketing practice to selfishly demand that people (who don’t know us) give us their time and attention as we try to sell them something. Instead, we are to start by showing up consistently, bringing our best to people, and serving them.

Then, if we earn their trust and we become part of a “tribe” or community of people who share interests, we can offer what we have. And they might actually choose to listen to our message and, possibly, to buy from us. One very important point Seth makes in Chapter 20 “Organizing and Leading a Tribe” is this:The tribe doesn’t belong to you, so you don’t get to tell the members what to do or to use them for your own aims.” (p. 230)

I hear a lot about “building your tribe” and “growing your followers on social” from successful influencers, but Seth is right: if you are lucky enough to have a group of people who want to listen to you, that’s great! But you don’t own that community–you are there to serve them, not use them.

I’m jumping around a bit, but Chapter 9, “People Like Us Do Things Like This” is about people’s desire to fit in and their perception of status. Seth explains why it is so difficult to bring about change. I found this chapter super helpful to understand why marketing can be so difficult.

Chapter 10 is about the creation of tension, as a marketer, in order to bring about forward motion, and, thus, the change we want to make. He explains “pattern match” and “pattern interrupt”. This was helpful in understanding what to do about the resistance people have to change.

Other valuable and practical insights can be found in his chapters “A Better Business Plan”, “The Funnel”, and “Status, Dominance, and Affiliation”.

I always appreciate the generosity with which Seth shares his wisdom and the clear way he explains marketing principles so that anyone can comprehend them. Throughout the book, just like in everything else he shares with the world, Seth’s message is about being generous and doing your best work. Not perfect work, just your best. And then ship it. And then tomorrow you can make it better.

If you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, or involved with marketing in any organization, including non-profits, you need to read this book. Buy it here or at your favorite bookstore or borrow it from your local library, but definitely put it on your TBR list! Oh and one final book nerd note: at 5.3 inches by 7.3 inches, the size of this book feels just right to hold in my hands.

There are Amazon affiliate links in this post. This means if you choose to make a purchase through a link, the cost to you is nothing extra, but I will receive a small compensation. This helps me pay for the costs associated with running this blog, as I am determined to keep my blog ad-free (you’re welcome!).

Nocturnal (Book Review)

This is a very short review of a new poetry collection by Wilder Poetry.

Nocturnal was the first poetry collection from Wilder Poetry that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. It is an achingly beautiful work of art. The emotional intensity of the poems are juxtaposed with calming black and white watercolor-type imagery of the moon in its phases, birds, trees, and other nature-related things.

The poetic themes seem to be centered around the poet’s identity and the euphoria, misery and pain of love in its highs and lows. Her voice sounds quite youthful and should appeal to readers in their teens and twenties. Readers of the poetry of Atticus should enjoy this collection very much! Grandparents, this would be a great gift for a teen or twenty something book-loving grandchild.

Here are a couple of poems:

how to handle me with care:

forgive;

then show me how

to do the same.

I will hold the colour gold

in my hands and show you

how beautiful this life can be

even when your eyes have forgotten

how to see the light.

the sun will always find its way back to you,

just like me.

I received a free e-galley through Net Galley, but all opinions are strictly my own.

Planting Native (A Book Review)

Here in the Northeastern part of the United States in April, we haven’t planted our gardens yet. But we are cleaning up our and gardens and preparing them for planting. We are buying shrubs and trees and perennials too. If you are wondering what to plant, PLEASE think about birds before you do. Are you investing in plants that are native to your area? Birds need native plants to thrive and if you already know this, hooray!!! But if not, and you live in the Eastern part of the U.S., this book might be just what you need to help you choose plants for your yard!

The book I’m recommending is called Planting Native to Attract Birds to Your Yard by Sharon Sorenson. What I love about this book are several things: The photos of birds and native plants are gorgeous, the quotes by naturalists sprinkled throughout the text are inspiring, and the facts that are highlighted bring perspective, importance, and responsibility to us as property owners.

Another thing I like about this book is that in chapters 1-3, the author explains EVERYTHING–even down to a definition of what a native plant is (not a weed!) She doesn’t simply say “birds need native plants for shelter, nests, and food”, but explains how birds use the plants for shelter, nests, and food, and why it’s so crucial that we have them in our yards.

Did you know that native plants are actually less work and less expensive to care for than non-native plants? They don’t need fertilizer, and they rarely need watering, pruning, or deadheading either!

In Chapter 4, the author helps us to formulate a plan for our yard and garden spaces, by analyzing what is already in our yard and neighborhood. We make a list of assets and liabilities. She also includes a list of invasive plants named “The Disaster Dozen”. She shares why they are such a problem, how to get rid of them, and what to replace them with.

She goes on to have ample suggestions for what to plant in any size space. Chapter 5 is dedicated to Native Trees with consideration of biodiversity, soil conditions, space, personal preference, and more! Chapter 6 is all about Native Shrubs and Vines and she has you choose one for each season. (I would’ve never thought of this!) Chapter 7 is Native Perennials: Flowers and Grasses, and finally, Chapter 8 discusses Adding Water.

So, if you are a property owner, gardener, landscaper, or bird lover, I highly recommend that you order this book here or from your favorite bookseller!

From Red Earth (Book Review)

I knew when I saw the cover of Denise Uwimana’s book From Red Earth: A Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness that it would be a weighty read. Although I’ve heard missionaries talk about the Rwandan genocide, of the hateful, horrible violence and desolation the small East African country experience, it was only in general overviews. I’ve never read the first-hand account of someone who survived it, and even more incredible–someone who has been able to forgive the perpetrators of these horrific crimes.

Having read many Christian biographies and autobiographies to my kids during the years we homeschooled, I was pleasantly surprised to find this book is as well-written and captivating as a good novel.

The author does such a wonderful job describing her surroundings in the town of Bugarama, creating a sense of danger and foreboding, and she vividly recounted her childhood in such a way that I was transported through the story along with her. And even more importantly, I quickly felt a sense of connection with her.

Denise’s personal thoughts and feelings, that she generously shared with readers throughout the book, gave a beauty and individuality to the story, and invested me as a reader.

What she, and the Tutsi people of Rwanda experienced during the hundred days of genocide is unimaginable, horrible violence, pain, and grief. The fact that the international community did nothing to stop it is unthinkable and shameful. The descriptions of barbaric, hateful atrocities that humans committed against fellow humans are difficult to read, to take in, but necessary to remember in the hopes of preventing history repeating itself.

The second half of the book focuses on what happened after the violence. Denise wrote how she and the people who survived began to process what had been done to them and to their loved ones. So much grief, pain, anger, and hopelessness permeated their hearts and minds. Many had no home, no family, no land and seemingly, no future.

As time passed, Denise gradually found healing and was miraculously able to forgive her enemies. She began working to help other survivors to find healing. Eventually, this became her full-time work: to help widows of the genocide toward recovery and restoration.

I believe everyone should know what happened in Rwanda, even those of us who live far away and may never visit. We need to be reminded of the cruelty that is possible in humanity, and that we are not immune to it no matter how much we think we are.

Reading this book provides us with a first-hand account of the Rwandan genocide; more importantly, though, the message of hope, healing, and restoration that shines through this story is one that the world also needs to hear. I highly recommend this book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Plough Publishing, but all opinions are completely my own!

Links I Love

Snow on Cayuga Lake, April 1st. I zoomed in with my phone, so the quality is horrible, but at least you get an idea of what it’s like in the Finger Lakes this time of year.

Here is where you will find my sources of inspiration this week. It could be in the form of podcasts, books, blogs, and/or films/shows.

I found three different episodes on Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast that contained helpful advice on business and marketing for email and Instagram. I started implementing her tips for Instagram right away. Now I need a day to revamp my website and plan out an email marketing campaign.

Julie Solomon’s Influencer Podcast gave me some helpful tips about blogging and social media.

The John Maxwell Leadership Podcast had a two part series called A Winner’s Daily Mindset that encouraged and motivated me. Here’s Part One. (One thing I dislike about this podcast is the commentary from the two show hosts after John speaks. They just drag the show out for another fifteen to twenty minutes rehashing his content like a couple of Southern-accented sports commentators with bad grammar. Leave the talking to John, boys!)

Krista Tippett interviewed Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach for On Being Podcast, discussing the work Glennon is doing with Love Flash Mobs and Abby’s new book Wolfpack,which will be released Tuesday April 9th (can’t wait!).

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Oh, and it’s National Poetry Month! I will be releasing a post each day at 5pm ET called “Evening Poetry” in which I share one of Mary Oliver’s poems. Mary Oliver is a good place to start for people who think they don’t like poetry. I say “think they don’t like” because there is definitely poetry in the world for everyone. Give poetry a chance! Check out the Poetry Foundation’s website for poetry galore, head to your local library, and buy a book of poetry at your local bookstore. I received a new book of poetry for Christmas entitled What Have You Lost by Naomi Shihab Nye and will be sharing about it quite soon!


What I’m Reading Lately

I have a stack of my own To-Be-Read books and an even taller stack waiting for me at the library, but I am only reading four at the moment. I just noticed that that three out of four authors are of Irish heritage…interesting!

Although I’ve been reading Colm Toibin’s The Master for several nights, I didn’t realize until last night that it’s about Henry James. It is beautiful: poetic and imaginative, and told by a true Irish storyteller. Have you had the opportunity to read anything by this author? Last year, I read his book Nora Webster and fell in love with the characters, the Irish landscape and style of speaking, the sad story, and her strong, surviving spirit.

David Whyte‘s The Heart Aroused has been on my unread bookshelf for a few years. Since it’s about corporate America, and I don’t have any experience in that arena, at first glance it seems a bit irrelevant to my life. But since I love all of David Whyte’s writing–poetry and prose–and once I dug into it, I realized the message is for all of us. The subtitle is “Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America”. David works with large companies, focusing on “the conversational nature of leadership. If you haven’t already, listen to his TED Talk “A Lyrical Bridge Between the Past, Present, and Future”.

John O Donahue left this world too soon. A friend of David Whyte’s, everything he wrote was pointing his readers toward beauty, imagination, curiosity, and wonder. His book Walking in Wonder was published posthumously and contains talks he gave. I don’t want to miss one word this man left for us! However, if you like his work, then read my favorite book of his Beauty: The Invisible Embrace .

This is Marketing is Seth Godin’s latest book and everything he writes is something every business owner, entrepreneur, and worker in today’s economy needs to read. Seth has always thought and spoken outside the box and his ideas might take a while too assimilate. He speaks much on generosity, doing good work, picking yourself, and shipping your work ( as opposed to perfectionistic procrastination.)