The Wondering Years by Knox McCoy

One of the biggest benefits I’ve gotten out of deep-diving into personality frameworks is the reminder that we all approach the world differently.  Looking through the lens of say, the Enneagram, has helped me to better understand these diverse perspectives and increased my ability to extend grace and compassion to myself and others as differences come in contact and often cause friction.

For the same reason, I love reading spiritual memoirs. They remind me that everyone’s journey toward Jesus is different. They remind me to extend grace to myself and others as we work out our faith. They remind me that God created us uniquely, for a purpose.

One such book just released – The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped Me Answer Life’s Biggest Questions by Knox McCoy.

In a voice that is humorous and perceptive, Knox shares pop culture anecdotes and analogies that have helped him make sense of life and faith. His ability to transition from funny story to personal reflection is seamless. Though I’ve never been punched in the face (unless you count my visceral reaction to Chapter 18: The Cancer) and don’t consider myself any sort of pop culture maven*, Knox’s stories and insights were infinitely relatable. Also, his footnotes are perfection.

The Wondering Years forever inducted into my cannon of re-readable spiritual memoirs and is easily one of my favorite books of 2018.

*The Popcast with Knox and Jamie is the only reason I ever kind of know what I’m talking about in regards to pop culture. And a lot of times, I don’t always know what they’re talking about. But I still tune in every Wednesday – it’s that good. Same goes with this book. I didn’t always catch the references, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit.

The lovely folks at W Publishing gave me permission to print an excerpt (which you’ll find below) and you can listen to Knox read the first chapter here. I’m also giving away two copies of The Wondering Years over on Instagram!

In case you were wondering… Some other favorite spiritual memoirs are

Without further ado, a snippet from Chapter Three: High Stakes.

Even though I’m a card-carrying evangelical Christian*, trust me when I say that this book isn’t a low-key effort to be like To Catch a Predator, wherein I burst into the consciousness of your soul and, over the course of these pages, make you accept your salvation from Jesus Christ**. At points in my youth, I was very much that person – and with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve developed some, uh, complicated feelings about that behavior and history. Instead, my goal here is to perform something of a spiritual audit of my own faith experience. (Or at leas that’s what my editor tells me. I’m really just here to make a ton of references to Saved By The Bell and hope for the best.)

I realize that makes us strange bookfellows. I mean, why should you care about me putting my faith under a microscope? That feels kind of intimate, no? Well, I guess what I’m hoping for is that you get from this what I get from watching The Profit.

For context, The Profit is a reality show starring Actual Rich Guy Marcus Lemonis. In each episode, he decides whether to invest in businesses that are in operational or financial trouble. To make his decision, he considers three principles: people, product, and process. In other words, are the people at the company hardworking, is the product viable and profitable, and are the processes in place for success? Once he identifies which of these things are broken, he takes steps to right the company, and there is much entrepreneurial rejoicing.

I like The Profit because it’s a good show, but also because I find Marcus’ thoughtful approach to business applicable to many areas of my life, especially my faith. When our faith isn’t as strong as it could be, where have we gone wrong? Is it the people, the product, the process? How do we right what’s broken if we don’t examine it?

And I realize I’m very casually tossing around the word faith as though we all distinctly understand what it means. To clarify, my use of faith is a generalized shorthand for everything encompassing my religious beliefs. In other words, faith is a lot like Mary Poppins’ purse: very simple idea, deeply complicated contents.

* Just kidding – we don’t carry cards. Too mark-of-the-beasty.

** What would this show be called? To Convert a Heathen? To Catch A Convert? Also I can’t believe this isn’t already a show on a Christian TV network.

Knox McCoy – The Wondering Years

 

What I’ve Been Reading Winter/Spring 2017

Short-ish reviews of what I’ve read so far in 2017!

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

A book I couldn’t resist from an MMD Kindle Deals email around the beginning of the year. I love mysteries but have to avoid them because of an overactive imagination and inability to forget creepy details when I’m home alone. If Jane Austen is involved I figured the murder couldn’t be too gruesome. I enjoyed this and would read others in the series.

What Women Fear: Walking in Faith that Transforms by Angie Smith

We are fans of Audrey Bunny in my household (I can’t read it without tearing up), but this is my first experience with Angie Smith as an author for adults. I listened to the Audible version read by Pam Turlow which was a little stiff (Angie’s sense of humor came off flat) but was still very engaged by this take on fear. Angie is real with her struggles with fear (that are definitely more than the average – she was hospitalized as a young girl because of anxiety). Tied with Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World by Susie Davis for most impactful books I’ve read about fear/anxiety.

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

I’m a huge fan of Katherine Reay. She expertly weaves classic literature into her own narratives, creating page turners that will effect you deeply. Dear Mr. Knightley is still my favorite of her four novels, but Emily Price delivered Reay’s signature subtle spiritual themes around the enjoyable framework of food, Italy, art, and romance.

Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster

One of my 101 things in 1001 days was to read five books about prayer. Richard Foster’s was book number one! With similar accessibility to The Celebration of Discipline, Foster’s guide describes 21 types of prayer that help move us inward, upward and outward. I loved this book.

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines

A fascinating peak in the mind and heart of a man who realizes he’s an alcoholic and journals through his journey to sobriety. Slim and well-worth the read.

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth

The second of my five books about prayer was a complete departure from Foster, though I think he would approve of this practice. As someone whose perfectionism often stifles their prayer life, using a kinesthetic activity to focus your mind and heart on the subject of your prayers was intriguing and welcome.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another of my 101 things in 1001 days is to read the favorite book of 10 readerly friends. (This has lead to the discovery of gems such as The Penderwicks and Code Name Verity.) The Great Gatsby is one of the favorites of a friend I’ve had since childhood. I hadn’t read it since high school and then heard this podcast where Megan Tietz (of the Sorta Awesome Podcast) raves on an on about The Great Gatsby. I may have understood it better on this second read, but I’m still not a huge fan.

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister

Picked this up because the MOPS theme for next year is Free Indeed and my Input strength (yay StrengthsFinder) now compels me to consume everything within reach about freedom. Radical Spirit explores the 12 steps of humility laid out in the Rule of Benedict. Humility, to Joan, is the key to ultimate freedom in faith.

After reading the first few chapters, I realized I only needed to read the section addressing the spiritual implications of that step of humility to grasp all the concepts laid out in the entire chapter. And even those could have been said in a couple sentences. I did come aways with a few chewy nuggets but wonder if just reading the Rule of Benedict would have been more productive and insightful.

(I received this book from Blogging for Books for free but all opinions are my own!)

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Previous to reading this, I knew nothing about Russia’s involvement in WWII. Winter Garden explores mother-daughter relationships and the hardships endured by inhabitants of Leningrad before and after Germans laid siege to the city. The narrative flits back and forth between past and present. Fantastic read.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert

I was (and still am) in the middle of four non-fiction books and needed a light fiction read to break things up a bit. This was definite fluff. I enjoyed learning more about the Milwaukee food scene as the food writer gets shown the city by a chef, but the rest was unremarkable. A good diversion, tho!

What I’m Reading {Summer 2015}

Please don’t be alarmed by the length of this list. If pregnancy is the kryptonite to my writing, it seems to have the opposite effect on my reading habits. And this list is really what I’ve read from April thru August, not just over the Summer.

I kept my commentary pretty short since there are 29 books listed, but I’d love to hear what you thought if you read any of them or have recommendations! I also didn’t really describe what many of the books were about because this post would have been ginormous, so the links will take you to Amazon if you want to know more about one in particular. (Amazon links are affiliate.)

My Fall plans look like rereading Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, which I haven’t read since high school, in preparation for Katherine Reay’s third novel, The Bronte Plot, due out November 3rd.

What I'm Reading

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: Lovely, complicated story of forgiveness and family that made me want to surround myself with flowers.

Food A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan: Abandoned midway.

Longbourn by Jo Baker: I know Austen fans are split on this rendering of Pride and Prejudice. I fall in to the Nay camp.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple: This had been on my list since Shauna Niequist talked it up last year. An engaging and humorous read.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist: Reread. Loved as per usual.

Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Colllins: The setting of this particular novel is reminiscent of the little towns a wee bit North of where we lived in Idaho (Brandilyn lives very near where Tim and I used to live in Coeur d’Alene), which made for fun reading. I have to be careful though, with this type of novel, since the murder aspect can get in my head.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott: So many authors I respect love Anne Lamott, so I jumped on this for 25 cents at a thrift store. Struggled to get half-way and then didn’t want to waste precious reading time on finishing.

Miracle at Higher Grounds Cafe by Max Lucado: My first encounter with Lucado’s fiction. Kind of predictable, but good characters and a really neat perspective on spiritual warfare.

The Secret of Mirror Bay by Carolyn Keene: I’m a huge Nancy Drew fan and still pick them up every once in a while for a light, quick read. This one is set in Cooperstown, NY which is 20 miles from where my parents live.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Incredibly well-written. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn: What would happen if it were illegal to use an increasingly large number of the letters in our alphabet?… Lots of fun for the English major types.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: First but won’t be my last of Rainbow Rowell.

The Nesting Place by Myquillin Smith: Loved everything about this book. I’m a horrible unpacker and avoid putting decor up because it may not be perfect or the best place to put it, so The Nesting Place was like a needed and beautiful kick in my decorating bum.

Rules of Civility by Amor TowlesWas on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. Left me kind of depressed, though it was well-written.

All Dressed Up by Scarlett BergFun, light read that felt like a mash-up of Robin Jones Gunn and America’s Next Top Model.

First Impressions by Charlie LovettAlso on MMD’s Summer Reading Guide. Jane Austen + mystery + antique books = loved it!

Bossypants by Tina FeyI expected to love this one because I think Tina Fey is quite funny. Abandoned half-way. I’ll stick with Mindy Kaling and Ellen DeGeneres.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie KondoI’ve done some simplifying before, but the KonMari method of evaluating everything you own by asking, “Does this give me joy?” really seemed to resonate with me. People get up in arms about the oddities in this book (which do exist, mostly due to cultural differences), however, I think it’s worth looking past. Since reading it in July, I’ve tidied our books (never thought I’d do that), clothes (even the hubs jumped on board!), our files, the kitchen (another one I didn’t think needed any work), my hard-copy photographs, and various boxes from the garage. We’ve taken endless loads to Goodwill. I’m much more mindful of what we own and what we purchase.

The Road to Yesterday by L.M. Montgomery: A nice collection of short stories from an author I love.

Well Fed & Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan: Though we don’t eat Paleo, these two cookbooks have provided amazing inspiration and recipes for cutting back on sugar and preservatives while amping up our protein and vegetable consumption.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee: Our son’s middle name is Atticus. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of TKAM and the Finch family. I’m not sorry I read this (mostly from a literary history and criticism stand point), but it’s definitely not going to be for everyone.

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster: Finally read the book that Dear Mr. Knightley a fantastic read) is loosely based on. Quick and very enjoyable.  The movie, with Fred Astaire, was great too.

All Things New by Lynn Austin: Lynn Austin is a reliably good Christian fiction author. Her novels are always well researched and engaging. Having recently read Go Set A Watchman, the Antebellum setting of this particular novel was timely.

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle: Wasn’t the best mom-memoir I’ve read. (Surprised by Motherhood is one of my favorites.) I wouldn’t be opposed to reading one of Melanie’s other two books – one on marriage, the other on friendship.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Fantasy isn’t generally my genre, but I really enjoyed this book (another from MMD’s Summer Reading Guide).

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer: I apparently had something going for epistolary novels this year… Utterly lovely book written in letters. Wonderful characters.

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker: I don’t want to be too nit picky about this book because I adore Jen Hatmaker. Let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite of the three books that I’ve read (plus her blog). It was good, I think I just had REALLY high expectations.

We {HEART} Books: the virtual book exchange wrap-up!

I love many things about reading – the ability to be whisked away into a world different than my own, the ability to learn, explore, and relax among the pages – but the thing I love most, is the community reading promotes. There’s something to be said for the connections forged over words and authors and stories.

A book exchange is the perfect example of the community to be made around books and reading. The only thing to make a book exchange better is to expand the invitation to the world. That’s what we did with We {HEART} Books, a virtual book exchange that connected book lovers from around the world.

I decided not to participate in this year’s exchange because of James’ due date being so close to all the festivities. Even though I didn’t exchange a book, I have so enjoyed the community developing in the Facebook group. I loved hearing about people’s book/reading preferences. I loved seeing people post photos of the books they received. Now it’s time to read about everyones book exchange experience.

If you participated, please link-up your post or pictures. If you didn’t, enjoy these reflections.

{A major THANK YOU to the exchange co-hosts, Kalyn and Katie, who put so much work into making this happen!}

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