Friday, July 7, 2017

Reading for Education, Entertainment, and Expansion

I haven't read as many books this year as I normally do, however I'm still completing an eclectic mix of books.


Lean In: Women, Work , and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg was recommended by a business coach who helps women scale and grow their business. As my teaching business/ministry continues to grow, I'm reading more books for inspiration and knowledge.

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. She shares her story as she encourages women to stay in the workplace and lean in to success. She discusses the "leadership ambition gap" and says that "choosing to leave the workforce was not the choice we thought so many of you wound make" when talking to/about other women who have left the workforce to care for families or due to frustration.

Honestly, I didn't like her much at the beginning of the book and felt like it was a whine-fest about why there are not more women in leadership positions. However, she was honest about her own decisions and how her husband helps her as she discussed becoming a mother and making hard choices (like leaving the office at 5:30 everyday to be home for dinner, but not letting everyone know she was leaving then). She made some good points about women needing to stand up for themselves and "sit at the table" and about the need for men to support women in the workplace. I don't necessarily agree with all her views, however it is a very readable and thought-provoking book.


All three books I've read purely for entertainment recently have been loaned to me. First, my niece Laurie shared her copy of A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner. This was a great read! The story is set in Elizabethan times and the main character is 11-year-old young Alice who witnesses her father's murder. She then flees on foot to York because she fears the murderers are after her. She is befriended by several choirboys and they decide to hide her in the choir by disguising her as a boy and calling her Pup. This is an engaging read that has a very satisfying ending.

These next two are the books my sister Brenda sent me as part of our monthly book swap this year. The June book was A Brother's Journey by Richard B. Pelzer, the younger brother of Dave Pelzer who shared his story of abuse in A Child Called It (which I read many years ago). Honestly, this book was somewhat disjointed as Richard shared about growing up in an abusive home. Reading it I felt like he was just trying to build off the story of his brother to have a book published. And, unfortunately, there was no real resolution  to the story as he simply ended it when he was a teenager still living with his terribly abusive and negligent mom. This was a quick read that brings to light how in the 1970s child abuse was often overlooked or simply ignored by others who didn't want to get involved.

The July book my sister shared was Sophie's Heart by Lori Wick. I read this contemporary Christian romance many years ago, also. I only remembered the very basics of the story, so I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it earlier this week. Sophie comes to America from Czechoslovakia, but finds it difficult to get a job because her English isn't perfect (despite speaking four other languages). She eventually becomes a housekeeper for Alec, a widower, and his three children. She does a fantastic job taking care of this family and their home and builds relationships with each of the children. Alec, still grieving and spending many extra hours working doesn't really notice her until much later. As you might have guessed, they fall in love and are eventually married.

[As a side note - the recent books I sent my sister were Invisible by Jennifer Rothschild (which I reviewed here) and Journey to the Well by Diana Wallis Taylor (which I reviewed here).]


And, I continue to expand and challenge my reading with the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners. The 1995 winner, The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, was an enjoyable read and very well-written. The story chronicles the life of Daisy Goodwill, from birth to death, and is written from the perspective of Daisy looking back on her life. She alludes to the fact that some of the stories are made up or romanticized, especially since she obviously would not remember her birth. Daisy's mother died in childbirth and she was raised by a neighbor and the neighbor's grown son until the age of 12. She then lives with her father, grows up, graduates from college, and eventually marries a man who dies on their honeymoon when he falls out of a window. She reconnects with the neighbor's son and they are married and have three children. After his death, she has a career writing a column as Mrs. Green Thumb, then eventually retires to Florida. I really enjoyed this book and the way that each chapter of her life was written differently - one chapter was simply a collection of letters to Daisy during that particular season of her life.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen was last year's winner. This novel is about the Vietnam War and is told from the point of view of a VietCong spy. He is a northern communist, serving with the southern army to learn information he forwards to his superiors in the north. He is the illegitimate child of a Vietnamese mother and a French priest father (who never acknowledges him). Before the war, he was educated in the United States, and he has the ability to see and sympathize with multiple views. This book started out as a good read as he told his story, however it digressed when he is forced to be a part of a couple of murders . . . and the ghosts follow him from then on. He is eventually captured and tortured and sent to "reeducation" and the story digresses further with hideous scenes of torture and rape. His story is actually written in the form of a confession that he was forced to write during the reeducation process. The story definitely captures the complexity of war, especially the Vietnam War and all its controversies, with lots of references to how Americans did not understand the Vietnamese. A disturbing and somewhat difficult book to read.

Have you read any of these books? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Although I've read reviews of several of these books, I haven't read any of them. The Stone Diaries sounds intriguing. I have a copy of Sandburg's newest book, Option B, on my shelf to read.

  2. Thanks for the recommendations. I have not read any of these but one; A Child Called It. It was a very difficult read. I will be checking out if my library has a few of these. I like a good murder mystery & I like history, so Murder For Her Majesty will be first on my search.


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