Books in Review Q3 2019

It’s interesting how different phases of our life influence our reading. I definitely had a little more discretionary reading time with an international trip to and from Mongolia–especially when the in-flight entertainment was broken on the way back–and lots of driving time in the country, too.

But I also got a new job and you’ll see that influence as well.

This quarter’s reads:

  • Dear Mrs. Bird
  • The Second Foundation
  • The Persian Pickle Club
  • Mary Fielding Smith: Daughter of Britain
  • Camilla: A Biography of Camilla Eyring Kimball
  • Before We Were Yours
  • The Thing About Jellyfish
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
  • Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love
  • Becoming
  • Even This: Getting to the place where you can trust God with anything
  • Britt-Marie Was Here
  • Skyward
  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
  • Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict
  • Leadership and Self-Deception
  • The Power of Moments
  • Chief Customer Officer 2.0
  • The Four Disciplines of Execution
  • The Outward Mindset


Dear Mrs. Bird

By: AJ Pierce

A dear friend told me that she read this book and it reminded her of me. So of course I had to read it! Emmy is an aspiring war correspondent in London in the 40s. She responds to a publishing company ad that turns out to be a little (lot) different than she expected. I thought this was a delightful book with fun wit and lots of doses of grammatical beauty. Also some tears.

The Persian Pickle Club

By: Sandra Dallas

The Persian Pickle Club is a quilting group that gets together every week in the midst of the 1930s dust bowl in Kansas. As strange things happen in the town, one member sets out to discover what is going on. This was a quick, fun read with quite the surprise at the end.

The Thing about Jellyfish

By: Ali Benjamin

Audiobook: pretty good

This is a young adult novel. The story follows the experience of Suzy after she finds out her best friend died in a drowning accident. It is about a journey through grief and discovery. I didn’t like it that much most of the way through but then the end just got me, so I’m glad I finished it. Also, I learned a ton about jellyfish, so that was worth it, too.

Britt-Marie Was Here

By: Fredrik Backman

This book is not necessarily the sequel to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, but I pretty much think you should read that one first for some really good context. Britt-Marie leaves her cheating husband and ventures out to find a job, which lands her in a small run-down town. The use of language is just so great in this book and the story is sad and funny with a good dose of wonder as we discover who Britt-Marie is, right along with her.

Historical Fiction

Before We Were Yours

By: Lisa Wingate

Audiobook: A definite yes.

This was a heartbreaking read. The book is based on a true scandal connected to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Georgia Tann–an adoption agency director–kidnapped and sold poor children to rich families from the 1920s to the 1950s. Many of the children she kidnapped also simply vanished. While this story is fiction, it is based on compiled stories of survivors of the orphanage and those who eventually sought reunification with their family members. Definitely worth a read.


The Second Foundation

By: Isaac Asimov

Audiobook: Good

I listened to the first two in the Foundation trilogy, so I had to finish it. Basically, you need to read the first two so I won’t give anything away. However, there is, by virtue of the title, a Second Foundation and a desperate attempt to find it. The series is quite complex plot-wise, but fun to dabble more in the writings of one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers of Asimov’s time.


By: Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson’s venture into the young adult and sci-fi world and is an interesting read. Spensa is a teenage girl who is desperate to be a fighter pilot on the planet called Detritus. The planet is the home of humans who crash-landed there years before and who cannot escape because of the constant supervision and attacks of the mysterious Krell.


Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

By: Dani Shapiro

A memoir about genealogy? Um, yeah! My book friend recommenders are so on point these days! This author had previously written memoirs about family history and identity. Yet in this book, she writes of taking a DNA test, that leads her to discover many family secrets. Her journey to uncover how this shapes her new or perceived identity is fascinating, frustrating, and intriguing.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

By: Phil Knight

Audiobook: Great

This was a fascinating memoir covering the vision, the passion, and the struggle of creators Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman to make Blue Ribbon Sports (Nike’s original name) into what it is today. The struggle was real. And this book made me want to go running all day, every day. Did I, though? No. And that is probably the main reason why I don’t own a $30 billion multinational corporation.


By: Michelle Obama

Audiobook: Great

This audiobook is read by Michelle, and I found it very interesting to hear and learn of her life from her own inflection and emotion. I enjoyed learning about her and her husband’s background and some insights into what life is like in the White House. Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t particularly appreciate some of the grouping of all people in the opposing political party as being the same (and therefore presumed “bad”). I suppose it’s to be expected from politicians, but I don’t think it serves us to do that. But you may suspect that I would likely be more sensitive to that sentiment.


Mary Fielding Smith: Daughter of Britain

By: Don C. Corbett

Although I thought I knew quite a bit about Mary Fielding Smith, when I read the book Saints, I was more intrigued by her story. Perhaps it was because I discovered she married at age 36, so something about that endeared her to me more than before. This biography was written by a descendant and there are very clear overtones of, what’s the word….gushiness? about her. But even seeing through all of that, Mary really was a remarkable woman of faith and strength and I admire her.

Camilla: A Biography of Camilla Eyring Kimball

By: Edward L. Kimball, Caroline Eyring Miner

One of my life mottos comes from Camilla Eyring Kimball, “Never suppress a generous thought.” As I contemplated this thought more than ever this year, I wanted to learn more about this woman whose motto I follow. Her biography quotes generously from her own writings, which I appreciated. There is much I want to say, but I’d just suggest reading this one. In the epilogue is some of her great optimism. “I love this life. I love the hot sun on my back as I work in the garden; I love to gather my family about me; I love parties; I love to read and to explore ideas and see new places; I love to visit the Saints and sense their vibrant faith. Living in this world has proven to be a voyage of continual discovery. I am reluctant to have it end. I am having too good a time.”


The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

By: The Arbinger Institute

This is a narrative-form book aimed at helping understand the nature of conflict in our hearts, homes, and relationships. It builds on the concept of us often seeking or wanting to be “at war” with someone. Seeking an enemy because we need to feel justified or right. As the book says, “Most wars between individuals are of the ‘cold’ rather than the ‘hot’ variety—lingering resentment, for example, grudges long held, resources clutched rather than shared, help not offered. These are the acts of war that most threaten our homes and workplaces.”

The concepts shared helped me remember to seek peace in my life instead of seeking war (war=seeing others as objects, seeing myself as better than others, and treating others in ways that “justifies” my own self-betrayal–acting against my better self). I have some work to do in this arena but the positive thing is that people can change. My heart has been a bit at war over some experiences of the past year, and I am learning how to instead seek peace.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box

By: The Arbinger Institute

Technically, this and The Anatomy of Peace are companion books. One for peace at work and one for the home. I read them out of order, but it doesn’t really matter. This has similar sentiments to the other about getting ourselves out of our box of self-justification. While I’m not totally in love with the narrative style, it does make for a quick read and it is more memorable than just straight-up leadership books I’ve read before, which probably means I’m more likely to change some things as a result.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

By: Don Miguel Ruiz

Audiobook: No…it was annoying

This is a self-help book a friend recommended. There were some good points in there, but I didn’t love it (maybe it really was because I didn’t like the reader). But the concepts are good, and I could do well to not take things as personally and make as many assumptions as I do (two of the four agreements).


As you may have read in other blogs, I recently switched jobs to the field of experience management. This reading is connected to that change.

Chief Customer Officer 2.0

By: Jeanne Bliss

If you are interested at all in customer experience or in trying to help a business focus on customer-needs first, this book is pretty much a must. I found it to be incredibly practical and insightful, with lots of examples of how to actually make it happen. A great read and I think Jeanne is brilliant.

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences have Extraordinary Impact

By: Chip Heath and Dan Heath

A great read to understand how to build experiences for customers based on what constitutes a memorable moment: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. After reading this, I wanted to just go everywhere and do everything to make everybody’s life experience wonderful!

The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves

By: The Arbinger Institute

I guess it was an Arbinger quarter, eh? This book helps shift the focus of an inward mindset (our own goals and ideas) to an outward mindset (taking into account others’ needs, objectives, and challenges). It’s a very quick read and is fairly simple, but another one to help build on shifting our frame of reference.

The Four Disciplines of Execution: Achieving your Wildly Important Goals

By: Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

This book shares the importance of setting a “wildly important goal” and looking at lag and lead measures to lead to that goal. As companies all over the world have been able to get employees to focus on a certain”wildly important goal”, they have achieved greater success, even amidst the “whirlwind” of the rest of the work they need to do. A good and educating read.

Here’s the book in a short video format, if that works better for ya. 🙂


Even This: Getting to the Place Where You Can Trust God With Anything.

By: Emily Belle Freeman

Several years ago, I had some pretty poignant thoughts on the concept of “Even This” (meaning that God could heal and fix “even this”–everything) and drafted some ideas for a blog about it. I wish I had because now the concept has been stolen, haha. Alas, this book is about understanding how we can learn to trust God even in the midst of all we go through in life that doesn’t seem to make sense. He can help with “even this”. I am not a huge fan of Freeman’s writing style, but it was an interesting read anyway.

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