Dear Friend: gentleness for 2022, everything my book club read this year and my first podcast interview
what I'd tell you if we were sitting on my couch, drinking tea ☕
I’m imagining you’re on the other side of my couch, with your own mug cupped in your hands for this letter. From my couch, we’re still enjoying the twinkling lights of my tree, as I’m personally embracing Christmas lasting until Epiphany. I’m so glad to be here with you.
Even as the new year can bring a pressure to try harder, I’m continuing in my word for 2021, “gentleness.” I don’t have a word or four (my practice for several years) yet for this year, but I’m listening to the few that are rising to the surface and being gentle here.
Pressure and hurry are not the way to true heart-level change or transformation, I’ve learned, and I’m committed to an unhurried pace as I listen for what the Lord might have for me. There’s nothing magical about January 1, and there is plenty of space for listening and an unhurried pace. I pray you extend yourself similar gentleness as we enter into 2022.
Gentleness isn’t just for my word-of-the-year timeline. I’m also working to be gentle to myself as I take my time to share my favorite books of 2021. I’ve been enjoying seeing others’ favorites lists and am slowly putting together my own. Those will be coming your way soon and I’m already looking forward to be talking about books with you here. But to start, I thought it might be fun to share the books I read with my IRL book club, the Paper Ladies in 2021.
2021 ended my second year and began my third of hosting a book club, and I’m so grateful for it. 2021 started out with a fair amount of burnout for me, and there were several points where I questioned whether I had space to continue to host fellow bibliophiles. But I’m so glad I continued to show up, because this group has been a life-giving place, offering lots of grace to come as you are.
I love getting to collectively select what we’re reading, and ensuring it is also available at our local library. And I’ve never come away from a book discussion without new insights into what we’ve read and of course, more book recommendations. Even if something we read wasn’t my favorite, there’s a gift in getting to process and dialogue together about what worked or didn’t work about a book.
What the Paper Ladies read in 2021:
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
This was my second time reading this one, and I enjoyed it more. There’s a fair amount of trauma (and triggering topics) touched on, and I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time during my first read. I had space to enter more deeply into the story a second time, and our discussion helped me appreciate more about this tender story about mother-daughter relationships and survival.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
This newer release wasn’t my favorite, which surprised me since I usually love older protagonists and this one had several. I struggled to keep everyone straight or (if I’m honest) care about what was happening all the way through.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
This one is charming and whimsical, while also feeling only a tad bit unsteady as our narrator is coming of age and perhaps not the most reliable . I was so glad to talk about this one, as there was lots to unpack and notice together about this classic from the author of 101 Dalmatians.
I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
This was easily my favorite book club read of 2021. Austin shares honestly and kindly about her experience as a black woman and it was a gift to be entrusted with her story.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
While not perfect, entering into the experience of someone with a disability was one I’m glad I read. This one brought up one of my favorite conversations about representation and disability. And we all agreed that we would have preferred a different cover!
The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Our group definitely appreciates a good middle grade book, and how accessible it can make difficult topics. I appreciated our conversation about race and family dynamics that came out of this one. We agreed that it felt refreshing to have functional parents for this one.
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Another middle grade reader, but this one focusing on the Vietnam War, as our protagonist comes of age, convinced his teacher is out to get him. The title doesn’t especially fit for me, but I appreciated this one, nonetheless.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
This one is a short, funny Christmas book that felt just right for a season that feels full, and brought out childhood remembrances of reading this same book for quite a few of us. We all agreed it landed differently with adult eyes though!
How The Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior
This is our January 2022 book! I’m only a few pages in but I’m already enjoying this story of our grumpy, 85-year-old heroine.
Lastly, I had the privilege to be on a podcast, Our Island in the City with my friend, Jodi Grubbs this fall. It was my first time being on a podcast, and she made me feel at ease with her gentle questions and hospitality. Even as I had to record in my bathroom, due to the noisy road I live near, this conversation was truly a joy. If you are interested in listening, you can find episode 12 of season 3 anywhere you listen to podcasts. I got to chat about the Enneagram, peacemaking, lots of bookish things & end with a poem I wrote last spring. I hope it is a gift to you, whenever you might get a chance to listen.
And is there anyway I can pray for you? Or anything that you’d like me to know?
I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to just hit "reply" to this email, if you want to share a prayer request, no matter how "big" or "small,” if you're feeling anxious or scared, you're not alone and I'd love to pray for you. And if my words brought up anything for you, I’d be so glad to know.
And before I close, a simple benediction for you today:
May you have eyes to see glimpses of the goodness of Jesus in your life.
May you have open hands to experience how personally and deeply you are loved.
May you take refuge in him today.
Gentleness, especially in my self talk, is my word for 2022. I’ve not been kind to myself lately.