Back to School Reads

Well, usually this post would’ve been about “Summer Reads,” but SOMEHOW summer is already gone! The good news is that you don’t have to be laying out by the poolside or relaxing in the mountains to enjoy a good book. Reading is fun, guys! 🤓 Anyway, here are some of my favorite recent reads:

 1. The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide (Jenna Fischer)

If you are any kind of artist or creative soul, if you’ve ever had a big dream and wonder if you could make it a reality, or if you’re a film and TV nerd like me, you will find this book fascinating. Penned by the adorably charming Jenna Fischer, this book is written to actors who want to make it in Hollywood. I technically wouldn’t fit into this narrow audience, but I can’t tell you how much insight and perspective I gained from her stories in regards to being an aspiring author. (Plus, you will get a behind-the-scenes look at The Office!)

 

 2. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile)

Yep, I have officially drunk the Kool-Aid. Thanks to Annie F. Downs and Anne Holman Smith, I finally plunged into the Enneagram world beyond a 3-minute online quiz, and I get it. Personality quizzes have always been fun (American Girl Magazine, middle school email chains with 102 questions about yourself, etc.), but the Enneagram is different. It doesn’t just tell you who you are at your “home base,” but it also tells you who you can be. I’m a 1 wing 2 (whoop whoop!), but that can look differently when I’m stressed, secure, in growth, under pressure, etc.

Of course, this is not the end-all-be-all for solving all of your problems in life. (That’s Jesus!) But, the Enneagram is a great tool to help you learn about yourself, increase self-awareness and learn how to interact with others in your life.

TAKE THE QUIZ

 3. The Secret Keeper (Kate Morton)

So I read this one on our family beach trip and managed to thoroughly annoy my brother by shouting, “No!” “Oh my word!” “WAIT A SECOND!” about every five minutes, give or take. I couldn’t help it!

Let me backup: The Secret Keeper is a historical fiction piece about a woman who had an idyllic childhood in the English countryside. Oh, except for the fact that at age 16, she witnessed her meek, saintly mother stab a man with no explanation. (The mother knows she saw it and never talked about it.) Now an older actress in her 60s, Laurel returns to her hometown to be with her dying mother and realizes she must solve this mystery before it’s too late. With flashbacks to WWII and storytelling from multiple points of view, this thriller will keep you on your toes (and possibly banned from the family beach setup, if you’re too reactive 😉).

 4. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Francis Chan)

Ooooh this one is good. I actually read this book a few years ago, but it’s the kind you keep on the shelf to pull out again and again in various seasons. The concept of the Holy Spirit can sometimes be difficult to grasp, but rather than run away in fear, Chan embraces this member of the Trinity and shows readers what Scripture really says about this powerful, wonderous Person. (Yes, the Holy Spirit is a person, not a thing!)

 5. Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies (J.B. West)

Calling all American history buffs! If you want a fascinating peek inside the White House walls from the Roosevelt to Nixon administrations, this book is for you. Written by J.B. West, chief usher of the White House, this New York Times bestseller is somewhat of an American, political version of Downton Abbey that is historical. Here are a few fun facts:

• The White House had food rations like everyone else during WWII.

• Also during WWII, the Army wanted to paint the White House black so that it would be less of a bomb target.

• Jackie Kennedy almost never wore a dress unless she had company or was in public.

• Nixon’s daughter married Eisenhower’s grandson.

I hope you will try one of the books, and if none of them interests you, go find something that does! Because #ReadingRules 🤓

It’s no secret that I love reading and writing about people’s stories. I’ve recently gone through three top-notch autobiographies from some of my favorite people in the entertainment industry. If you like them on-screen or on the radio, don’t hesitate to pick up or download a copy of their book. Enjoy!

The Magnolia Story (Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino)

Aren’t they the cutest? This book rewinds to the beginning of Chip and JoJo’s love story, which is just as sappy-sweet and comical as you would imagine. Both innovators at heart, Chip and Joanna take readers through the ups and downs of how they launched their one-of-a-kind careers, all while beautifully giving credit to God and His sovereign plan for their lives.

One of my favorite parts? The story of how Chip surprised JoJo by spending their extra money on a decrepit houseboat. This disastrous move on Chip’s part is what actually landed them a reality TV pilot.

Talking As Fast As I Can (Lauren Graham)

It sounds impossible, but I propose that you’ll walk away from this book loving Lauren Graham herself even more than the beloved Lorelai Gilmore or Sarah Braverman. Lauren is smart, witty, classy, down-to-earth, clean, funny, and oh so entertaining. You feel like she’s your best friend. (We ARE best friends, right, LG?) You’ll relish Lauren’s hilarious tales about skipping kindergarten, living on a houseboat, working in The Theatah (no thea-teeeer), being single (and why that’s okay), and of course, making Gilmore Girls and Parenthood.

One of my favorite parts? Advice from Old Lady Jackson. Lauren writes,

“Old Lady Jackson is a character I made up when I started catching myself giving advice–initially to Mae and Miles on the Parenthood set–that sounded like it came from your grayhaired grandma who spends her days in a rocking chair knitting your scratchy socks you pretend to love at Christmas. By creating this character, who was obviously very, very, very far away from myself, I hoped to confuse Mae and Miles, among others, into thinking that while I might sometimes seem to offer suggestions that could be considered a tad ‘old-timey,’ they weren’t actually coming from me…”

I think I have a little bit of “Old Lady Jackson” in myself, so this chapter was particularly comical to me. (Again, because Lauren and I are besties. Right?)

When God Doesn’t Fix It (Laura Story with Jennifer Schuchmann)

In contrast to the other two books I mentioned earlier, this autobiography carries a serious tone and many difficult truths. You might recognize the artist Laura Story from her radio hits like “Blessings” and “What a Savior,” but you probably don’t know about her personal hardships.

Laura began an unexpected journey only one year into her marriage, when her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. What initially seemed to be a “next surgery will fix it” situation turned into a realization that Laura’s husband would likely have serious memory issues for the rest of his life.

One of my favorite parts? Laura concludes each chapter with a myth and a truth. My favorite is, “MYTH: God can only use my story when there is a happy ending. TRUTH: God can use my story when I trust him in the journey.”

Laura tackles the topic of our “happily ever after” mindset, sharing how she learned to praise God in the midst of grievous trials.

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There you have it, friends! As always, I love to hear your thoughts on these books and on YOUR favorite biographies. Happy reading!

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The Help (Kathryn Stockett)

I. LOVE. This. Book. Kathryn Stockett knows how to bring a character to life. Her writing style is so spot-on, you feel like you’re having coffee with the characters instead of reading about them. I saw the movie first and thought, “Is it worth it to read the book since I already know the story?” The answer is yes! You won’t be disappointed.

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Miss Brenda and the Loveladies (Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell)

Talk about eye-opening! This story recounts Brenda Spahn’s improvised journey of ministering to women fresh out of prison by inviting them to live in her home. Now a nationally-recognized program, The Lovelady Center in Birmingham, Ala. has helped hundreds of women rebuild their lives and find hope in Jesus. The book is an easy read, packed with heartbreaking and inspirational stories.


Her Mother’s Hope (Francine Rivers)

Gather ‘round, all you historical fiction gu-ru’s. This is your dream book! Get ready to walk through a mother-daughter heritage, beginning in Switzerland in 1901 and continuing to America during World War II. A few years ago, my mom and I both read this book on a family vacation. We ended up sitting side-by-side on the couch with the book flipped open, each of us reading two different sections of it! So don’t share this novel with anyone, unless you want to end up as literary Siamese twins. It’s that good.

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Holes (Louis Sachar)

Isn’t this a children’s/young adult book? Yes, yes it is. But it’s great. My friend Catherine is an elementary ed major, and she told me I was missing out if I hadn’t read Holes. She was right! Sachar uses all the good literary stuff—symbolism, mystery, motifs, foreshadowing, suspense… I could go on and on. Don’t let the 4.6 grade reading level stop you—it only makes binge-reading that much easier!


A Heart Like His: Intimate Reflections on the Life of David (Beth Moore)

You know the books where you want to highlight every line? This is one of them. Dive deep into the rich, complicated life of King David with the incredible Beth Moore. A man who experienced both triumph and tragedy, David is a prime example of a flawed human who sought to glorify the Lord and walk with him in everyday life. The book is divided into 9 sections with a total of 52 chapters, making it the perfect format for a daily Bible study.

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