Books I Read in February

I am trying something new in my obsession with reading books. It is made for weddings, but I am applying it to my reading list.

Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue.

It is so much more than cliche or superstition, but about being whole in my approach to reading.

This all began with an interview Mike and I listened to with author John McPhee about words and dictionaries and finding the right word at the right time. McPhee tells his students, "Your destination is the dictionary.", something my Daddy was fond of saying when we were kids.

So when Mike and our oldest son, Sean, met for lunch at Christmastime, they snuck in a detour to Powell's Books. Powell's is a three story, full city block book wonderland, a true Portland landmark. The high shelves are laden with an eclectic mix of new, used and vintage books. Add to that, calendars, journals, book bags and top-shelf coffee nearby, and you've got a little slice of heaven.

Just look at their children's book area.

Together the manly men chose a 1934 edition of Webster's New International Dictionary in cranberry red with gilded letters. Sigh. Mike knows and loves me truly.

He wrote on the wrapping that John McPhee quote which I keep tucked inside.

Besides words no longer in current popular use and deep definitions, it has sketches on most of the pages along with color illustrated plates of flowers, herbs, insects, flags and medals. It is a full 3 1/2 inches thick with a thumb index and a few pressed leaves from the previous owner. Take that Google images.

So that began my growing awareness that my reading list needed to include something more than just the current bestseller list. I was sort of doing this instinctively, but now I am being more intentional about the mix. I'd like to read, over the course of the year, older books for connection with history, hot-off-the-presses books for new ways of saying things, worthy re-reads that bring joy or strength and true blue classics to round out the list.

So here they are, the books I read in February.

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner

Erin writes with a creative, fresh, cutting edge, wise and vulnerable voice. I don't always find that combination, well, anywhere. Plus, the title caught my eye. Can you really chase slow?

I found, along with many others who found her way before I did, that "Erin learns just how much strength it takes to surrender it all and veer right into grace". It can be one thing to reach for a smaller, slower-paced life when the phone isn't ringing off the hook, but quite another to walk away when the silver platter is set before you.

I loved seeing how she framed fame and popularity, family and peace, love and children, all in wisdom, style and that veer in to grace.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

This was my re-read this year. I think the further you are into actually practicing your creative endeavor be it painting, music, writing, parenting or gathering people together, the more often you'll need to re-read this book. It was such a boost to my courage, that I may need to re-read it every year or two.

It is lines like this that got me back in to the places I am called.

"We are facing dragons, too. Fire-breathing griffins of the soul, whom we must outfight and outwit to reach the treasures of our self-in-potential and release the maiden who is God's plan and destiny for ourselves and the answer to why we were put on this planet. "

But there are so many lines that gave me courage for so slim a book, that it reads bigger than its size. It is full of my signature squiggles and stars that mark the places I want to remember and revisit. I kept it nearby and read in little slivers of time, forging big bravery to take with me into my work.

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW by Walter Brueggemann

I have been cultivating my heart for observing and celebrating Sabbath several years now. It takes a while to walk it out. It takes practice, creativity and discipline. Brueggemann's book focuses not just on rule following, or even work stoppage only, but on "becoming a whole person and restoring a whole society" by resting in and relying on God alone. This we do by stepping out of the achieving, acquiring and commodity making world and into Sabbath.

One of my favorite lines is,

"Sabbath is soul-receiving when we are in a posture of receptivity before our Father . . ."

This goes directly on the re-read list.

A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent by Walter Brueggemann

This is a Lent devotional that I am currently reading to prepare my heart for the Lenten season. And it is doing that work well.

Here's a good line.

"We have this wondrous story of Jesus transforming the wilderness into a place of nourishing plenty."

Brueggemann has a fresh way of seeing and saying things about God's purposes, and Lent in particular, and what he calls our "deathliless" that resonate with me long after I've finished turning pages.

I did not set out to read these next two books, at least they were not on my to-read-next list. I more stumbled upon them. I recently attended a baptism in a predominately black church and realized sitting in that velvet pew with a fan in my hand that I really was searching for voices of unity and struggle to help me reconcile various thoughts of race and mixed-race all around me.

I recommend both of these for their voices of love, honesty and deeply rooted Christian faith.

My First White Friend: Confessions on Race, Love and Forgiveness by Patricia Raybon

This book explores a woman's thought process and body image on her way to love and accept herself and her views. It is a good look into how her outlook was shaped by her childhood, her family and society at the time. It was written more than twenty years ago and bridges several generations of attitudes.

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

This tender memoir is the complex story of a white mother and her black son, their stories set side-by-side. The chapters alternate between McBride's voice and that of his Jewish mother who fought to make school and church the center of her children's lives, all twelve of them.

I am not quite done reading this one yet, but early on I could feel McBride's love, respect and hope to protect his Mommy.

If your bedside has a stack of books, save this list for later or choose one to order to widen your reading habits.

As usual, I need recommendations in fiction. Let me hear what you're reading.

*I curated this list with affiliate links just for you.