What I’m Reading Right Now: November Book Reviews

In addition to my regular responsibilities, I  worked around the clock this month to get my advent devotional ready to go, and thought I hadn’t finished any books at all.  But look: I finished 6 great books! Well, I finished 4 great books and one I didn’t love as much as I expected, and I’ll finish one today or tomorrow but can’t wait to tell you about it.

November Book Reviews

This month I’m listing my books according to my enjoyment/recommendation level (from greatest to least!) If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear what you think.

The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher HeurtzThe Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heurtz

My sweet friend Leah gave me this book, and reviewing it today is cheating a little bit, since I haven’t quite finished it. But I don’t want to wait a month to to talk about this book. I’ve mentioned that I’m somewhat obsessed with the Enneagram, and this is my favorite I’ve read so far (and I’ve read a lot.)

As the Enneagram has exploded in popularity, I worry it’s being used like other personality typing systems, that people think all it can tell us is who we are.

The Enneagram can be so much more, and Heurtz does a great job of presenting both how to find your type, but also how to use your type to begin the journey toward wholeness and connection with God. The Enneagram is not about strengths and weaknesses, it’s about the identities we construct for ourselves to earn or prove our worth in the world. The Sacred Enneagram helps you begin to step away from the unhealthy drives of your type to engage the world from a place of wholeness.

I loved the first portion of this book, even though it covered familiar territory. Heurtz’s approach to finding your type was helpful, and I enjoyed hearing his personal story. But this book shines by taking you a step beyond typing to discuss spiritual pathways, and the contemplative prayer practices that will be helpful for each type.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Middlemarch by George Eliot

🎧 Middlemarch is fun to listen to on audiobook, and I was able to finish it in under a month (think it would have taken much longer to read in book form…)

I cannot believe I have never read this before, it is so reminiscent of Jane Austen, which I love. More sprawling and moral-teaching than JA, but I loved it.

I deeply enjoyed all the different storylines among the upper and middle classes and the way the plot weaves everything together. I enjoyed the social commentary, and was very intrigued at how many of the justice themes are still prevalent in our day, if in quite different forms. Like Austen’s books, Middlemarch is gently feminist, though the way women are belittled by men in this book is a bit more shocking, revealing the then-common assumption that women’s minds were inferior to men’s. Middlemarch has lots of likable characters (amid a couple less likable and one I HATED), and a great celebration of young people who want to change and better the world (along with their disillusionment when things don’t work out as they planned.) So glad I finally got around to reading/listening to this classic!

As a classic, Middlemarch is super cheap on kindle and audible. It would be a great Christmas break read/listen (if you like 19thc literature, which I do!)

 

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon RonsonSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

If you’re looking for a fascinating and dicussion-provoking non-fiction book for yourself or a book club, this might be perfect.

I just finished listening to this today, and it is going to stick with me. Journalist Jon Ronson begins his journey when a twitter-bot is created using his name and identity, falsely representing his tastes and voice and activities. He shares his experience with the bot-creators publicly, and is thrilled when twitter piles on, shaming the creators into taking the bot down. He’s happy with the outcome, but the public shaming left him feeling dirty, and curious about the culture of internet shame.

That interaction lead Ronson to research and interview various subjects of internet shaming, from outed politicians to plagiarizing journalists to the woman who made a racist joke before getting on a plane, then arrived in South Africa to find she’d been fired, her name had turned into a hashtag, the subject of unbelievable vitriol on Twitter.

These stories are riveting, heart-breaking, and slightly terrifying. Ronson does a fantastic job of presenting every person he interviews as a human being, and I ended up having empathy even for the less sympathetic stories. More than a rehearsal of the dangers of flippancy on social media (or in life), or a study of the culture of outrage we’ve created online, this book is a study of the effects of shame.

I highly recommend this, but with one warning: I used an audible credit, knowing I’d be limited in my actual-book-reading time this month. Ronson reads it himself, and he is a great narrator (and British, which is always a plus for me). BUT nearly every chapter of this book quotes internet trolls, with all their delightful troll language. I am not a delicate flower in this area, but SYBPS is heavy on words that have never before breached  my earbuds or the inside of my mini-van, grossly negative words for and threats of violence toward women. I found it super disturbing to listen to, and almost wish I’d read the physical book rather than audio.

 

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

This is a light, fun, YA coming of age story. It might be the first YA I have read written by a male and from the male POV? It skewed a bit heavy on young teen boy pervishness in the beginning, but I ended up enjoying it (the action begins with 3 14yo boys plotting to get the Vanna White Playboy, so imagine the dialog…)

But this is actually a really sweet story, and I ended up liking all of the 14 year old boys quite a bit, I loved watching their relationships evolve from filthy jokes and one-upsmanship to actual support and friendship.

The love story is similar to the Julia Stiles/Heath Ledger storyline in 10 Things I Hate About You, though it resolves differently. This is heavy on 80s nostalgia because of the setting (1987), but the story stands up with or without the nostalgia. It’s nerdiness is centered around video games, which I could care less about, but still really enjoyed the story. Read it in under 24 hours (don’t tell Matt, but I didn’t even start this until after it was due back to the library, so hello to more library fines. Sigh.)

(I didn’t see this on my daily Kindle deal lists today, so perhaps it’s always this cheap… but I noticed when I snagged that link that The Impossible Fortress is only $1.99 on Kindle, that is a great deal for a fun little read! I spent more than that on library fines…)

 

Faithful Presence by David E. Fitch

Faithful Presence: 7 Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission

This is a niche read, not for everyone. But if you have a voice in shaping any kind of Christian community, it is a great book I’d highly recommend.

I’ve read a lot  about Christian practices over the last year or two (and have more books sitting on my Kindle waiting for me), but they focus on private, personal practices. This book is the first I’ve read about practices that shape communities, and it was thought provoking and helpful personally and for my job and ministry.

Fitch discusses the role of seven different disciplines, and how they can be practiced within the church walls, in believing homes, and out in the community. I was familiar with all of the disciplines he covers, though I haven’t considered all of them disciplines or required practices for Christian communities, nor have I considered how they each can be observed in the community. My favorite chapter was the one on kingdom prayer, and I was most surprised and intrigued by the discipline of being with children.

 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

This has been on my TBR for a while, having loved the movie for years without knowing it was based on a book. After reading As You Wish last month, I decided to go for this next.

I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t just listened to Carey Elwes’ book, and rewatched the movie. The book is a delightful story, and I loved the tone and the story within a story set up. But the movie is so familiar to me, I found it hard to slow down and engage in the story as a book.

If I had never seen the movie, there’s a good chance this book would be in my top 5 stories of all time. But with the movie (a relatively faithful retelling of the book) as familiar to me as the back of my hand, I found the book slow going, I had to make myself finish it. But it did make me appreciate the movie even more, and want to rewatch it again.


That’s it for November! On to December, and coming soon: My best reads this year (I’m so excited that I read enough to make a LIST this year! Even though I’m not even close to my goal of 100 books.)

I am hoping for LOTS of reading time as many of my regular activities go on break for Christmas. I’ll finish Brene Brown’s latest in the next week or so (I’ve been saying that since September I think). I have several audiobooks ready to go, my first Richard Rohr, and my next “why-haven’t-I-ever-read-that?” super long classic, Anna Karinina. For physical books, I am deciding between The Imortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I snagged at the Library Sale, and Wonder, which my 10yo says I’m going to LOVE and that I have to read it before I can see the movie.

What should I read next? And what did you read this month?

 

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3 thoughts on “What I’m Reading Right Now: November Book Reviews

  1. I must say that I love that you post the books that you read each month. I have read so many good books that I would never have heard of otherwise. (Gardenspells being my favorite so far.)

    I finished re-reading the Lunar Chronicles this month. This is a great series. Each book in the series is based on a fairy tale, but it is so, so much more. I think that you would like it.

    I also finished the Uglies series this month. (I host a reading club for kids and teens, so I try to keep up with the most popular YA.) It was a good series, but you are not missing anything if you skip it.

    I also read several non-fiction books, but nothing that stands out as great.

    • Thanks Tracy! I have had the Lunar Chronicles on my list for a while now, but I am super wimpy (SUPER wimpy!) about suspense, and even though I know the stories, I worry they will be too stressful for me?!? What do you think?

      And I am SO glad you enjoyed Garden Spells, it was a delightful surprise for me too!

  2. I am just like you, I watched The Princess Bride first then read the book, which is something I normally don’t do. I would say it’s one of those rare moments where I actually prefer the movie over the book. Great post! 🙂

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