Will You Help Me Choose My Next Read?

“For some of us, good books and beautiful writing are the ultimate solace, even more comforting than exquisite food.” – Anne Lamott

So I read more than one book at a time and this weekend I realized my current stack is made up of my personal perfect combination of book genres. I will share those genres with you in this post, but I realized I have a bit of a problem.

Will you help me choose my next read?

This year I’m loosely trying to follow Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge and one of the categories is to read a book in a genre you wouldn’t typically choose. But I’m having trouble thinking of something for that category.

I thought it would be fun to share with you what I’m currently reading and then hear suggestions from you of a book outside of one of these genres.

Here are the books I’m currently reading (including affiliate links incase you want to check them out yourself):

Moon Over Manifest by Clare VanderpoolMoon Over Manifest [Audio Book] by Clare Vanderpool (Children’s Literature, Historical Fiction)

Now that the girls no longer attend school in the neighborhood, I spend a lot of time in my car. So I checked out the audio version of this one. The main narrator’s voice grates on my nerves which was almost a deal-breaker for me.

But I have managed to get over that and I’m glad I did. I’m about seventy-five percent through it and look forward to getting in my car so I can listen to it. When I don’t have a fiction book in my life, I’m a little less happy about the world. I chose this book based on the cover.

Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith

Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith (Spiritual Non-Fiction)

I adore the book of Colossians and this is an entire book about the third chapter. It’s shorter than books I typically read in this genre, but I enjoy being able to read a whole chapter or two each morning.

I credit so many authors who write books in this category for much of my own spiritual formation. But I have an entire stack of books in this genre waiting in the wings so I definitely don’t need any more recommendations like this right now.


Bird by Bird by Anne LamottBird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Writing, Reference)

This is mostly a re-read, although I am realizing as I near the end I’m not sure I ever completely finished it.

I always feel best when I have a book on writing or creativity on my stack and have several more I want to start. These are the kinds of books I like to re-read as I always find something new to apply to  my creative work. I’ve enjoyed my time with this one.



Never Broken by Jewel KilcherNever Broken by Jewel (Memoir)

The older I get, the more I’m enjoying memoirs. The goal isn’t to teach a lesson or make a point but to tell a story.

Because of my continued obsession with Alaska and my love for the show Alaska the Last Frontier (a reality show featuring what life is like on a homestead that just so happens to star Jewel’s family) I ordered this book last week. When it arrived, I sat down and didn’t get up for three hours.

From her experience living on a homestead to living in her car as a homeless teenager to becoming a millionaire singer – it’s the stuff of movies, y’all. Except it’s her real life and it’s fascinating.


These are the four books I’m currently reading in my four favorite kinds of books: fiction, spiritual non-fiction/Christian living, writing, and memoir.

What do you recommend I read outside of one of these genres? Something about space? Science? Gardening? I’m at a loss!

One Thing Change Doesn’t Change


They built a Wal-Mart next to the Starbucks in the shopping center where I write. Once demolition started, they put up fences to keep the traffic out. You could see where the new building would be even though it was mainly construction equipment, piles of debris, and mounds of dirt.

construction zone

It was a parking lot in transition, on its way to becoming a shopping center.

What was is no longer and what will be isn’t quite yet.

When John and I were living in the midst of a vocational transition since he left his job of twelve years, I felt a little like that parking lot. I married a pastor, was involved in our church, felt part of a team of other youth leaders, and then all of that was gone.

It was our choice and the parting wasn’t ugly or painful in any of the ways these partings sometimes are. But it was painful in the ways you might expect – loss of community, an unpredictable future, fear of the unknown.

What was is no longer and what will be isn’t quite yet.

It took me several months to begin to grieve some of those losses as well as to recognize the control and predictability I thought I had before were only illusions anyway.

Slowly we started to carve out a new normal in the midst of the vocational limbo.

Girl Meets Change

I’m always hesitant to embrace change, at least the kind I don’t feel in charge of.

But the biggest reason I hesitate is because I only know what I’m leaving. I don’t yet know what I’m walking toward. And that is the hardest part of the limbo.

“When change puts me in tight places, is it especially dark because his hand covers and protects me too? Can I believe — really believe — it is dark because of mercy and protection rather than abandonment?”

Kristen Strong, Girl Meets Change

growth in change

Walking to my car after leaving Starbucks shortly after construction began, I noticed some of those mounds of dirt in the construction zone had grass and other plants growing out of them.

Grass! And other plants!

This parking lot was in the midst of transition and grass was growing where it had no business. The dirt wasn’t there for keeps, but it was there for now. Even so, seed takes root, burrows into the darkness, and shoots up to the light because that’s what seeds do.

Seeds take root and grow even though things won’t be this way for always, even though all is about to change, even though all seems unsettled, unsure, and unstable.

The one thing change doesn’t change is growth.

The growing still happens even in the midst of transition. But unlike those plants that will be uprooted and tossed aside as that dirt mound becomes a foundation, the growth that happens within me in the midst of change will not be wasted.

Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong

When I look back on my life, the times I have experienced the most important growth have intersected with some kind of life change or transition.

I’m not saying those changes have always been welcome, but when my soul has been asked to move forward, let go of something old, or embrace something new, these are the times when I have become more fully myself.

Change invites me to burrow down deep into the place where God lives with me and find the solid ground of peace, hope, and a whole heart.

I may despise the change, but I never regret the growth.

And so we pause to consider those things we’ve left behind, those strange places where we now find ourselves, and the unknown future we’re walking into. Isn’t that what life is, after all? A series of holding on, letting go, moving forward, and growing in the middle?

Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong
My friend Kristen Strong wrote a whole book about this ever-present, not-often-enough talked about topic of change. She would know – she has traveled far and wide with her air force family, settling in to one community just in time to leave again.

KristenStrongHeadshotAs the wife of a career veteran, Kristen speaks as a woman who has experienced change in many makes and models. And as a friend, Kristen speaks the kind of language I can relate to.

I read Girl Meets Change during a time when I really needed to remember the truth: that God is with me even though things are different.

As my girls are into their first few weeks of middle school, I hold on to that truth.

As I walk with John into a new season of ministry, I hold on to that truth.

As I consider what it means to love, really love, my friends even when we’re all changing, I hold on to that truth.

You can learn more about Kristen and her new book at GirlMeetsChange.com. If you are in the midst of a life change, no matter how big or small, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Kristen’s book today. She’s lovely, kind, and just the kind of company you want beside you in the midst of those unknown seasons of change.

Why I Read More Than One Book at a Time


At the beginning of the year, I made a list of books I hope to read in 2015. For now the stack is too high. But secretly I like it best that way.

Book Stack - Emily P Freeman

Unread books are like kind friendships waiting in the wings. They won’t rush you and they’re willing to move at your speed.

I keep a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year (I write them down in my bullet journal with an actual pen). But I won’t write the book down until I’ve completely finished, even if I only have a few pages left. I always look forward to writing the title and the author’s name on this page – a way to celebrate progress.

Books Read 2015

I am a firm believer in reading more than one book at a time. I might change that habit one day, but for now I like the way the ideas and concepts from different authors hang out together in my soul. They trade ideas, contradict one another, see the world from all different corners.

Sometimes they say things so perfectly in sync with one another I’m sure they must be friends in real life.

That’s a nice reminder for me. As a writer, it’s tempting to think we should always be creating something new, saying something original, dazzling the world with our ingenuity. But as a reader, I enjoy when the books I read repeat the truth. Sure, they may say it a little differently, turn the phrase in a way I’ve not yet heard.

But when old truth is repeated, it gives my soul a place to rest.

I think of my girls when they were toddlers, asking for the same book at bedtime – again, again, again. We find comfort in repetition.

So tell me the truth in your southern accent or through the filter of your time in the war. Show me the truth with your metaphors, the ones you find in your travels or your own front yard. Tell me the lessons you’ve learned and the ones you hope to learn. Weave for me stories of love, of loss, of hope.

Repeat the truth you’ve heard from your mother and your mother’s mother, but say it in your own way. And I’ll read your story and her story and their story, too – one in the morning and one at night.

Book Stack - Emily P Freeman

A stack of books is a pile of promise. Even books we don’t like or don’t agree with teach us something about the truth.

As you make your book lists and add to your piles, it’s always a joy to see a book I’ve written sitting on your bedside table or nestled in a stack on your shelf.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P FreemanMy newest book, Simply Tuesday, releases in 2 weeks. (UPDATE: It’s available now!) If you aren’t yet sure it’s for you, I want to invite you to listen to me read the first chapter to you.

Simply click on this link and you can listen right now.

Or if you prefer, you can download it now and listen later on your walk through the neighborhood or while you finish up the dishes; before you go to sleep or first thing in the morning.

I might talk a little too fast and maybe get carried a way in some spots. But I wanted to record these first 40 pages as a gift to you. May the words be a kind companion for your soul.


So You Want to Be a Better Listener

I cried through communion yesterday and I still don’t know why. Instead of falling into the  pattern of feeling either apologetic about my tears or grasping for a way to explain them to myself, I’m learning to embrace this sometimes oddly timed emotion and allow it to simply be. Everything doesn’t need an explanation.

emily p freeman

While I think it’s important to listen to our tears, that doesn’t always mean we’ll get a diagnosis. I chose instead to let them fall, took the bread and the cup and thought about the kingdom of heaven.

“Jesus promises us the kingdom of heaven: more compassion, more, love, more spirit, more mercy, more justice, more courage, more surprise. Everything but more money. The regular practice of Communion is meant to help move us from being the citizens of an empire to the citizens of heaven.”

Nora Gallagher, The Sacred Meal: The Ancient Practices Series

Being a citizen of heaven means living upside down. We already know the first are last, the last are first. The rich are poor, the poor are rich. The strong are weak, the weak are strong.

Maybe being a citizen of heaven also sometimes means the talkers will learn to listen. Maybe I’m making that up.

I wrote about listening at (in)courage this weekend because I believe good listeners can change the world. I know this because they’ve changed mine.

Communion is a kind of listening. We may come to the table distracted and bustling on the inside, but the elements remind us of a different way to live, offering a different kind of food that comes from another land, the original comfort food.

We eat and drink and remember Christ, not just who he was on earth but who he is within us today – stumbling through Monday, jotting down the grocery list, planning out the week. More importantly, Monday brings the opportunity again to see people and to listen to them. Do we really know how to do that?

Communion is a reminder that God hears us and came down to be with us. The company of Jesus is stunning, really. How can we offer his company to others? The simplest (and also the the hardest) way I can think of is to learn to listen without an agenda.

Want some good books on listening? I have a library of them. Here are three I highly recommend, using affiliate links because that’s just good business:

Listen In: Building Faith and Friendship Through Conversations That Matter // My friend Rachael Crabb and her two friends Sonya Reeder and Diana Calvin wrote this one together. As a woman who is emotionally allergic to small talk, I deeply appreciate this book. It’s a real-life example of what can happen when friends ask curious questions and cast a hopeful vision. I want to be the kind of friend that Rachael, Sonya and Diana are to one another and I’m thankful that they have generously let us listen in.

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer // I mean you’ve already read this one, right? Surely you have. It’s short and small and easy to tuck in your bag on your way to anywhere. I come back to this one again and again when I need a reminder to pay attention to the shape of my own soul and let Christ live through me whatever way he wants to.

The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh // This one hasn’t yet released so it feels a tiny bit cruel to tell you about it. I offered endorsement for this gem and if you pre-order it now you’ll get it in time for Christmas.

Basically if it were possible to combine the voices of Dallas Willard, N. D. Wilson and Jim Gaffigan, then what you would get is Adam S. McHugh. His writing is profound, lyrical and self-deprecating in all the right ways. There are few books I want to start again once I’ve finished. The Listening Life is now one of them. I adore this stunning, important book and want to give it to everyone I know.

May we learn to build in pauses before we speak and sometimes decide not to say all those words at all. Happy listening!

Because June is as Good as January for Setting an Intention

Hopefully everything you read here will help to create space for your soul to breathe, no matter if I write it or if I invite someone else in. That’s why I’m happy to welcome Claire Diaz-Ortiz to the blog today. I love Claire’s gentle reminder that you don’t have to wait until January to be intentional about your life. Here’s one simple way to do that today.

Like most of us, I want to be happier. Whether it’s waking up with more spark or going to bed more satisfied with my day, I want to open my life to the opportunity for greater joy.

As such, I love to read books about happiness. Gretchen Rubin has written a few of those, and in one of them she recommends a small, powerful idea that has taken hold to become a big, strong force in my own life.

The Importance of Setting an Intention

That idea is to choose a word each and every year that represents the year you have in front of you. Rather, to choose a word for your year. (Oh, and take a cue from Gretchen: years don’t need to start in January.)

Choose one single word that imbues the type of year you wish to have, one word that can serve as a guidepost for what you want in the season to come. A singular word you can always harken back to in moments of darkness and doubt. One word that informs your decisions, crystalizes your passions and priorities, and embodies you—the new you!—in the months ahead.

Depending on the type of year you seek, there are many words that can do the trick. Words like Move, Pause, Breathe, Dance, Less, Family, Health, Travel, and Choose all hold a certain special sauce.

The guidelines are simple. The word can be a verb or a noun. It can be a long word or a short word. But it is key that the word brings together everything you fervently hope to live and breathe in the year to come. One word to inform and synthesize the year you have ahead of you. One word to mean everything you want the year to be, and one word that will help serve as a guiding light when times get tough and you’re not clear on where your priorities are.

A few years ago, my word of the year was Rest.

It was a word that meant the world to me in that season of my life. I was harried and overwhelmed from a few too many years of corporate globetrotting, and I needed a daily reminder to do less. And so I did.

Although my Rest might not have been as restful as the Rest that some might be able to enjoy (I saw nary a beach that entire year), my word still served as a key force in getting me to slow down. It helped me to make decisions, and to keep in mind what was really important when difficult choices arose.

Should I go to that social event—or stay home? Should I say yes to what could be a great opportunity, or pass it up to wait for something better to come along? Should I travel to that work meeting—or call into it instead?

When life and work calls for us to be busy, it is hard to slow down. However, by attempting to make this word forefront in my mind, I sought to make small strides that would lead to notable changes and positive transformation. I knew I wouldn’t be perfect. I knew I would never get it 100 percent. But I did know that by setting the intention, I could make some progress.

In the end, I did. And you can, too. Set a word now, and watch your year rise up to take shape around it.

51be5Z-MwOLClaire Diaz-Ortiz is an author, speaker and Silicon Valley innovator who was an early employee at Twitter. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she holds an MBA and other degrees from Stanford and Oxford and has been featured widely in print and broadcast media.

She writes a popular blog at ClaireDiazOrtiz.com and is the author of several books. The above is an excerpt from her latest book, The Better Life: Small Things You Can Do Right Where You Are.