I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of a story.
Jesus often taught in parables, of course, but I’ve also been considering the words of the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. Nathan goes, sent by the Lord, to David to confront him about his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. But instead of simply telling David he sinned, Nathan tells a story. When David is outraged over the rich man who stole the poor man’s sheep, Nathan turns the tables on him and says, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).
That is what a good story, true or fiction, can do for us – it can hold up a mirror to our lives and help us see ourselves as we really are. In fact, sometimes, a story can do this better than an outright sermon, because we don’t have our defenses up. When we think we are looking at someone else’s life, and their faults, we are freer to examine our own than when we are bracing for confrontation.
I shared a couple of weeks ago about a book that did exactly that for me, a wonderful story called Hind’s Feet on High Places. But I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of other fantastic stories recently, and I thought I’d share a few with you this morning.
7 Women, Eric Metaxes
Eric Metaxes is known for, among other things, a couple of very long biographies. I checked out his book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer when it first came out, and had high ambitions to read it, but it was about a thousand pages (not an exaggeration) and after a chapter or two, I knew I just couldn’t do it.
But this little book profiles seven different women in under 300 pages – much more doable. Each chapter is its own little biography, and each stands alone, so if there’s someone you’re not particularly interested in, you can totally skip to the next one.
However, do not skip the introduction. He talks about why he chose the women he wrote about, and why women like Joan of Arc and Rosa Parks were able to accomplish what they did. “There are things men can and should do that women cannot, and there are things women can and should do that men cannot… So when men cease to be such or women deny their uniqueness, they make that complementarity impossible, and the whole, as it were, suffers.”
First Impressions, by Charlie Lovett
If you love Jane Austen, or mysteries involving old books and used bookshops, this book is definitely for you. It was a fun, easy-to-read story, perfect for a long weekend or rainy day.
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle
This book – I had no idea how much I would love it. I think I read it once before, in junior high, but this time I read through the entire quintet of books. Each book is very different, but they are all good. I just finished the final book, An Acceptable Time, last night, and have enjoyed the whole series immensely.
Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist
This was also a reread for me, but a very timely one. In the book, among other things, Shauna talks about her husband’s health struggles, and her struggles to help him as he had to change his diet for his health. Reading about his journey was especially timely for me, and the recipes included throughout were exactly what I needed – wholesome and full of real-food ingredients, but delicious and soul-filling at the same time. Several are gluten-free and dairy-free, too.
Happiness for Beginners, Katherine Center
I think this is Katherine Center’s best book yet. (I’ve read two others of hers, Everyone is Beautiful and The Lost Husband). I love her writing style and characters in general, but the main setting of this book is a weeks-long hike through the mountains. Jason and I hope to one day take the boys on backpacking trips like the one described in this book, so I loved all the details she included about hiking and camping. And this may have positively influenced my opinion of this book, but I took it with us on our first camp out of the year, and read it by the fire while Jason and the boys were fishing. It was so easy to imagine myself in the book.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Some friends of mine from work just started a book club, and this was what we read for our second meeting. I discovered about halfway through, to my disappointment, that my much-beloved antique copy of this book is abridged, so I have this copy on my Christmas list. Despite having the abridged copy, though, I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this book.
The last time I read it, I was in college, and related most to Jo and Amy, setting off on their adventures. This time, I saw so much more of myself in Meg and Marmee. I love books like this that only get richer with each reading. And I can’t wait to read an unabridged copy and find out what I’ve been missing! (Also, after you read it, watch this movie version, one of my all-time favorite films.)
After You, Jojo Moyes
(WARNING: major spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read Me Before You, turn back now!)
I was hesitant to read this book, (a sequel) because I disliked the first book, Me Before You, so much. I was in a rough place emotionally when I read it, and we had just put our dog to sleep a couple days earlier. The whole time I was reading, I was just sure the ending would turn out on the side of hope and life, so when Will decides to go ahead with his assisted suicide, I was heartbroken, discouraged, and sorry that I had wasted all my vacation reading time and so much emotional energy on a story that left me so disappointed. But the sequel – it was exactly everything I wished Me Before You had been. And if, unlike me, you liked the first book, you’ll like this one, too, I think.
Those are the books I’ve been loving lately. If you want more book recommendations, I’ve been trying to share more of books I’m excited about on Instagram, and you can always see everything I’m reading on Goodreads.