The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien
I have a confession. I’m reading The Lord of the Rings starting at the second part. There’s a story behind this though! The simple fact is that, by chance, I received both the second book and watched the second movie before the first and third parts. Imagine being plunged into Middle Earth with hardly any context! The effect renders an already-mysterious, fantasy world into something more cryptic, even whimsical. Another quirk is that I’m finding this book to be soothing as a bedtime read, although as a disclaimer this may not be ideal for everyone as some scenes are rather dark. However, I just love listening to Tolkien as he describes the natural environment and the rich dialogue exchanged between his characters on their journeys. Entering with a mindset to savor what I’m reading, I can “wander without getting lost” and go at my own leisurely pace (a nice departure from the Peter Jackson movies which are intense yet enjoyable in their own right). I’ve long desired to read Tolkien’s masterpiece for myself and am thrilled to be engaging with material that left such a dramatic legacy on an entire genre.
To read: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
I have loved listening to Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, so when I heard he was producing an audiobook in the same style, I knew I had to give it a chance. In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell explores how we make sense of people we don’t know and how that often leads to misunderstandings, some with dire consequences. Some of the statistics and research he shares are really surprising, like how our facial expressions and perceived emotions don’t give away as much as we think. While some of the stories and examples are incredibly difficult to listen to, I think what he has to show us is important for us to live as faith lights of Christ’s in our communities.
To Read: Try Softer by Aundi Kolber
In Want + Plenty: Waking Up to God’s Provision in a Land of Longing by Meredith McDaniel
When I first heard about In Want + Plenty on a podcast (and discovered that one of my favorite authors had written the foreword!), I knew I had to read it. Meredith McDaniel, a licensed professional counselor, pairs the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt with stories from her own life and counseling practice. Like the enslaved Israelites, we often feel trapped in cycles of mundane or even oppressive labor as we struggle to get through another day. Feelings of anxiety and overwhelm become normal patterns in our lives, blinding us to what’s really going on beneath the surface. Meredith gently invites us to view these feelings not as something to resist or deny but as teachers to open our eyes to the state of our souls. Through her words, she reminds us that we are loved by the God who is ever-present, awakening us to his provision of “manna” in our own stories.
To Read Next: Try Softer by Aundi Kolber