what I’ve been reading. spring edition

Here are some of my favorites from March and April so far!

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"My dedication to being good had cost me a fortune in being whole. My desire to do all things well had kept me from doing the one thing within my power to do, which was to discover what it meant to be fully human." (127) . This was a book I found while thrifting months ago, knowing that I wanted to read it but was waiting for the right time. I try not to overthink a prompting to pick up a particular book, and ended up reading this one in a day last week. It was apparently the right time. As I face plenty of disequilibrium in my own soul in this season, this book felt like it met me in some beautiful ways. It came not with answers, but with permission to find out what it means for me to be human. Barbara Brown Taylor's words are good and weighty, as she weaves her own story of calling and ministry, with humility and humor. If you feel out of sorts with church on any level, or if you don't feel quite whole, or if you want to know what it means to live your life well, this book is for you. It is a call to courage and vulnerability, and permission to find Jesus in all sorts of places, with church included. I not only loved this one, but my soul needed this one. A for me. #preachingtomyownheart #idratherbereading #bookreviewswithalison

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I love Mr. Rogers, so this deeper look at his life was truly welcome. I kept being struck by how providential so many elements of his life were. From the wealth he came from, to how out-of-sorts he felt as a child, from the music that he pursued, to the evolution of television as a medium, so many elements felt perfectly timed and orchestrated for him to become the Mr. Rogers we know and love. Fred certainly was privileged, and I love how well he used what was entrusted to him. He wasn't perfect, and this book certainly paints him as human. But he was someone who genuinely wanted the best for others, who was truly the person he seemed to be on screen. I loved the stories of moments he had with children or people who others might have been trained not to acknowledge. I could say so much about this book, but I'll just say that this look at Fred Rogers' life made me want to love people like Jesus, the way he did. If you want to know more about his life, and/or loved the documentary, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” this book is for you. A for me. #idratherbereading #bookreviewswithalison #wontyoubemyneighbor #mrogersneighborhood

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"I don't want to suffer anymore. But I must survive. So I ask for help. I ask for it all the time. My God, why is this so hard? Why is asking for help so impossible in our culture? But I already know why. It's because we cannot admit how much we truly need, how desperate we really are, how dark the world sometimes gets. There are so few safe spaces to admit how bad the bad days are. We don't want pity, we don't want attention, we just want to not hurt anymore. No one can imagine the strength it takes to admit how weak you are." (187) Alia Joy has created a safe space to admit how bad the bad days are, in the pages of this beautiful book. I wanted to slow down and savor her words, as I felt the weight of the pain and surrender it took to write them. I also was quickly drawn into her deeply vulnerable, courageous writing, and had a hard time putting this book down. This book feels like the gospel, the true good news. This isn't the gospel of strength and success and wealth that we think we want. This is the good news of belonging, of being weak, of being enough, when you feel anything but those things. Alia has suffered a great deal, and she brings each of painful scars to the light to be seen. Her stories broke my heart, but I think they needed to. I'm grateful for her courage to not shy away from the messy truth, as it also deepens the hope that is ours when we are weak. A+ for me. #partner Thanks to Baker Books for the review copy of this excellent book. #idratherbereading #bookreviewswithalison

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This was a side to World War II that I hadn't seen before. Thousands of displaced Europeans, forced to leave their homes and work in Siberia. I had no idea of the cruelty that so many Lithuanians endured. An entire people was mistreated in such a dehumanizing way and then silenced. As difficult as it was to enter into this devastation, I'm honored to share the burden of this story. Lina's mother reminded of me of Betsy Ten Boom (Corrie's sister, The Hiding Place) and her gentle commitment to kindness and the care of others was a shining beacon of hope in the darkness of these pages. How beautiful it was to not have characters put in a box. Good people do desperate things, or bad people show kindness. A- for me. PS. There's a lot of violence and cruelty in this book. It was almost too much for me to handle. The worst of it felt in the first third of the book, and I'm glad I pushed through, but I wanted to give the warning. #idratherbereading #bookreviewswithalison

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This book is lovely. I love how it begins with Adam and Eve, making its way to Jesus, all pointing to Easter. This book feels perfect for young children, as we are let in on the secret that Easter is coming. So many people didn't know! The angry crowd, Judas, the cows & sheep who watched over the manager, but we know! The hope of Easter is coming! I am often frustrated with spiritual books for children, as they either oversimplify or complicate a concept or a story. This one felt like it hit the mark for me, as it tells of Easter coming in a way that children will understand without losing the weight of this hope. If you're looking for a book an Easter book for young children, this one has a squishy, sparkly cover, hard pages, and beautiful illustrations, plus the message I want my children to hear at Easter. "Because Jesus died, all our sins can be forgiven. And because He rose, we can live with Him in heaven! You see, God always knew, and now you know too…that's why Easter is coming!" . A for me. #partner Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of this darling Easter book. #childrensbooks #idratherbereading #bookreviewswithalison #easterbooksforkids

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If you're anything like me, I don't always know what to do when I have a few moments to myself. Particularly in this season with young children, and as an #ennagram9, it can be difficult to know what I need or what would be the best way to be filled up when I have a free hour. Sometimes I sit down with my journal, but it can be so hard to quiet myself and know where to begin. What part of my heart needs attending? It can be so hard to know where to begin to listen. I love this colorful, beautiful journal that Emily Ley created. From the three ribbon bookmarks, to the fresh crisp pages and bright colors, it already feels like a mini-retreat. This journal has prompts and guided questions to invite me to listen to my own heart. I love how easy it feels to answer a question as a way to peel back some layers and reveal the state of my soul. There are fifty two prompts, so you could easily pace yourself with one per week. Her theme of grace instead of perfectionism rings true throughout the pages. A few of the prompts focus specifically on life as a mom, so this journal would be the best fit for mamas. This book feels like an invitation to extend grace to our own hearts, as we reflect on our own dreams and the way we are loved by God. A for me. #partner Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy of this gorgeous book. #idratherbereading #bookreviewswithalison

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"Each phase that pops up in life–whether it's raising a teenager, having another baby, starting a new career, or planting another church–calls for courage, because whether we asked for it or not, it is ripe ground for building a beautiful life or for tearing it down. Everything we walk through cries out to us not to miss it, not to manipulate it to go our way but just to be present in the middle of it. To accept it for what it is, to engage fully and not give away what God has for us during that time in exchange for lesser things." (9) . I fell in love with Kate's honest writing with her last book, "And Still She Laughs" as she shares with vulnerability and humor about the painful, beautiful journey of watching her daughter die. "Here Now" brought more of Kate's courageous, funny, tender storytelling as she shares about her struggle to live in the present, and invited me to open my hands to what the Lord was giving me, in this moment. If you want to be more peaceful and present in your life, this is a book you'll be glad you read. Kate is a gentle guide who made me laugh while also quieting me with truth. I'm so grateful for the goodness of these pages. A for me. #partner Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy of this lovely book. My opinions are my own.

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If you ever want to sit with a kind mentor, who care about you and has some gentle truth for you, this is the book for you. Susie Davis' care and love felt like it came off the page, and sat beside me and held my hand as I read. With chapters on loving your body, feeling small, life transitions, just to name a few, each chapter made me feel safe and seen in the current state of my life. Plus, this book is just beautiful! The cloth cover, and the pages that have gorgeous floral illustrations matched the gentle, kind tone of the book. Each chapter ends with space to jot some reflections or answer questions that Susie's words might have raised for your own heart as you read. I've loved savoring each chapter, with a steaming mug and a few quiet moments to breathe deeply and hear some truth from someone who is rooting for me. A for me. Link to preorder in my bio. #partner Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of this beautiful book. #idratherbereading #bookreviewswithalison

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