Good books!

I’d like to give you a peek at some of the good books I’m reading right now–from children’s books to fiction to spiritual growth. They’re worth your time!

(Click a cover to view the book on–you may be able to look inside!)

To Be a Slave

To Be a Slave, by Julius Lester (non-fiction)

  • Mr. Lester’s purpose in writing was to bring into light the “black literature” buried in archives and libraries. It’s a book of quotations, a look at slavery through the words of ex-slaves.
  • “Pa said ol’ massa and ol’ miss looked like their stomachs and guts had a lawsuit and their navel was called in for a witness, they was so sorry we was free.” p. 139

The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King, by T. H. White (fantasy)

  • A classic retelling of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. (Let’s just say I’ve enjoyed this one a time or two before.) It’s the first book I ever read in which the characters were fully Real… not all good or all bad, but a complex human mixture. I love White’s masterful interplay of classic-romantic with modern-hilarious.

Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It

Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It, Dr. Ray Guerendi (personal growth)

  • This one taught me a lot about adoption but more about mothering. I like Dr. Guerendi’s humor and common sense.


Journey, by Aaron Becker (picture book)

  • A most lovely children’s book: whimsical, wordless, satisfying. The stellar illustrations won a 2014 Caldecott Honor.

Locomotive (Caldecott Medal Book)

Locomotive, by Brian Floca (picture book)

  • And here’s the 2014 Caldecott winner! A charming look at western travel in the days of steam locomotives, including landmarks and eating houses along the way.


Farm, by Elisha Cooper (picture book)

  • I’ve mentioned this one before. But we’re still reading it, and we still love it. A realistic and understated look at modern farming–the farmer with his cellphone and air-conditioned cab, but the weather and animals just as delightful/unpredictable as in the days of Farmer Jones.

Freddy the Detective

The Freddy Books, by Walter R. Brooks (juvenile fiction)

  • Though the Freddy Books were written in the mid-1900’s, I just discovered them in the audio section of our library. And then on the bookshelves. We love them.


Witness, by Karen Hesse (juvenile fiction)

  • I first loved Out of the Dust, by the same author. Witness is the story of a small Vermont town pushed about by the coming of the Ku Klux Klan. Written in Hesse’s signature free verse… a surprisingly big story in a surprisingly few words.

Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids!

Good and Angry, by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller (personal growth)

  • What was anger created for? Does it have a purpose? Read and find out…

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne (historical fiction)

  • The story of an odd friendship between a boy in Auschwitz, and a boy outside Auschwitz. Perhaps the naïve people and unguarded conditions couldn’t have happened quite so; but I do not think Mr. Boyne’s point was to create a factual story. He wanted to capture an emotional truth, and he succeeded. He says, “I believed that the only respectful way for me to deal with this subject was through the eyes of a child, and particularly through the eyes of a rather naïve child who couldn’t possibly understand the terrible things that were taking place around him.” It’s a book that makes you think about fences.


Your turn! What are you reading? I do love a good book recommendation…

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Good news! Book discount!

Last summer I hosted a book giveaway for Life is for Living–Not for Waiting Around, written by my friend Anita Yoder.

We had one fortunate winner. But here’s some good news for the rest of you: her book is now available at a 60% discount, close-out special, through March 31st. That means it’s only $4.40 instead of $10.99!

Order here from Christian Learning Resource. Shipping will be $3.50; so for about $8.00 total you can get it sent right to your door.

Here’s the review I wrote of it last summer…

And here’s what Anita has to say now, including a new offer for a free study guide.

Spread the word! Have you read it? Always wanted to?

Concerning rain

Confession: I am a sunshine lover, but oh, the nice rich rain!

All day it has fallen; and if it nourishes even me, how must the grass feel?


It rained and it rained and it rained. Piglet told himself that never in all his life, and he was goodness knows how old–three, was it, or four?–never had he seen so much rain.

A. A. Milne, from Chapter IX: In which Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water


Little Brother’s Secret

When my birthday was coming

Little Brother had a secret.

He kept it for days and days

And just hummed a little tune when I asked him.

But one night it rained.

And I woke up and heard him crying;

Then he told me.

“I planted two lumps of sugar in your garden

Because you love it so frightfully.

I thought there would be a whole sugar tree for your birthday.

And now it will be all melted.”

Oh, the darling!

Katherine Mansfield


Rain in town is a joy all its own

Streetlights dripping

Cars swishing

All the umbrellas

Making comrades from strangers

Suited up, slick and shining

Lights in the windows are home and hearth

But I am out and about.


Rain in the country is another joy

A lush moist pattering

The full creek rushing, nothing else to be heard

Soft air lighted, grey and green, misting

I hear the grass growing, the warm earth drinking.

Richness luxury fertility.

Shari Zook

The second year

In Holes by Louis Sachar, Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to eighteen months at a boys’ penitential camp, where each boy must dig a five-foot hole in the desert every single day. Five feet across in every direction, five feet deep. “If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy,” some people thought. “The first hole’s the hardest,” the other boys assure him. After a grueling first day of blisters, backache, and sun, he drags himself back into camp and compares notes.

“Well, the first hole’s the hardest,” said Stanley.

“No way,” said X-Ray. “The second hole’s a lot harder. You’re hurting before you ever get started. If you think you’re sore now, just wait and see how you feel tomorrow morning, right?”

“That’s right,” said Squid.

“Plus, the fun’s gone,” said X-Ray.

“The fun?” asked Stanley.

“Don’t lie to me,” said X-Ray. “I bet you always wanted to dig a big hole… Every kid in the world wants to dig a great big hole,” said X-Ray. “To China, right?”

“Right,” said Stanley.

“See what I mean,” said X-Ray. “That’s what I’m saying. But now the fun’s gone. And you still got to do it again, and again, and again.”


The second year on a fixer-upper is the hardest.

The first year we were exuberant—the faults of the property didn’t matter, because we were going to change it all anyway. Fresh energy, fresh ideas, the newborn joy of acquisition. It was all ours!

We planted trees, bought animals, dug a garden, and mowed grass for hours and hours and hours.


One year later, much has changed, but less than we hoped. Most of our trees didn’t live, killed by frost or deer or lawnmowers. Most of our animals didn’t live, killed by cars or traps or wild animals. The energy flags. The ideas age. The rose rubs off.

One year later, we plant more trees, knowing they may not live. We get more animals, hoping, hoping. We expand the garden, plant the seeds deeper.

One year later, I draw less joy from the idea and more joy from the act. Much more. I spill countless seed packets into fresh earth, although I have little faith they’ll grow. I just like putting them in.

We’re smarter this year, knowing how to do things a little better, and also smarting, knowing that our mistakes are just beginning. This is the only way we know to learn: knowing better than last year but not as much as next year. The second year’s the hardest.

The undeveloped brushy parts of the property bothered us a little, last year—the scrap metal and old tires, the thistley areas and overgrown banks—but only a little. We had the rest of our lives to fix it up. This year we mind them more. We’ve lived here over a year, you know? We should have had time to get to them by now…

The second year’s the hardest.

Shari dug her shovel into the dirt.


“You’re right,” he said to X-Ray. “The second hole’s the hardest.”

X-Ray shook his head. “The third hole’s the hardest,” he said…

All too soon Stanley was back out on the lake, sticking his shovel into the dirt. X-Ray was right: the third hole was the hardest. So was the fourth hole. And the fifth hole. And the sixth, and the…

He dug his shovel into the dirt.

After a while he’d lost track of the day of the week, and how many holes he’d dug. It all seemed like one big hole, and it would take a year and a half to dig it… He figured that in a year and a half he’d be either in great physical condition, or else dead.

He dug his shovel into the dirt.


Stanley dug his shovel into the dirt. Hole number 45. “The forty-fifth hole is the hardest,” he said to himself.

But that really wasn’t true, and he knew it. He was a lot stronger than when he first arrived.

–Louis Sachar

Book giveaway

Profession: I have charming friends who write charming books.

One is Miss Anita Yoder, my friend from Poland by way of Ireland. We met remotely—and don’t you dare think “Internet” because it wasn’t. It was a lovely old-fashioned snail mail writers’ workshop, in which we were fined a postage stamp for every day we delayed sending the package.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but once, she had to put in a whole page of stamps.

In her defense, she was away from home the week the package arrived.

Which tells you how honorable she is.

She’s more than honorable. She’s spunky and witty and honest and fun. And she hates gushing, so I will stop there…

Since those virtual days, we’ve shared coffee and non-stop chat in person anytime we get a chance. We’ve prayed, laughed, gotten teary, shared Oreos and tea–and exchanged lengthy emails. I like her. A lot.


Anita wrote a book about the adventures of singlehood, because she noticed how easily one sees it as a slog through knee-deep slough or something, how one tends to mope and moan. She entitled her book “Life is for Living—not for waiting around.” Fresh air blows through it. Vigor, life, hope.


trying to keep the dog from eating the book

I love it, and I didn’t read it while I was single, but while I was married. Single and married women are not separate species, you know. We wrestle with similar Apollyons.

Even at young ages.


Have you read Anita’s book? You’ll enjoy it. In fact, I have a copy here to give away. See? This one is mine, but I have a brand new matching copy I’ll send to you for free.


If you would like to own it, leave a comment or drop an email to tell me why you’d like it… for yourself or for a friend. Sadly, only one of you will win the book, unless the Lord Jesus turns it into magic fish. The rest of you can go here and buy a copy for yourself.