This week, I head to South Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with my family. My parent’s house will be packed to the hilt with my sisters and their children. I remind you there are 22 grandchildren between us! We will laugh, tell stories and joke, relish good food, walk the river and ride horses, wash an infinitude of china and cutlery, give and receive parenting advice, swap recipes, and my very favorite, share our top book recommendations. We have my mom to thank for instilling in each of us a true love of reading. Following is a sack-full of books to relish during the holidays! There is something here for everybody; poetry and historical fiction, biography, spiritual memoir and a travelogue/cookbook from a favorite chef.
***One last thing, this time with your family and friends celebrating Thanksgiving is precious. It’s not going to be perfect, but it can be sacred. Show up with the best version of yourself. Pack patience in your luggage. Try out your gentle side. It is becoming on everyone. Commit to seeing the best in the person sitting across from you at the table. Pass a word of encouragement or compliment with the sweet potato soufflé. I promise it will be well-received! Find the one person at the table that could use a word of hope (that would be all of us!) and gift it. Say ‘thank you’ a ridiculous number of times for just the chance to be together. We have no idea what the future holds for any of us. Time is fleeting. One day it will not always be, so relish it! Family remains God’s favorite stage for us to learn and practice love, to forgive and be forgiven, to laugh and play (and not take ourselves so seriously). Make memories, not drama. Just love.
Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Devotions by Mary Oliver
Devotions by Mary Oliver is a “lighthouse” of inspiration for the spirit. Her luminous words, “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life” is a rallying call to the soul. Oliver masters the spiritual feat of locating the divine in all things. Devotions is a collection of 100 of her finest “living” words. I just gifted this book to one of my dearest friends, a fellow devoted “light-bearer” in the world. This would make for a beautiful Christmas present!
Leonard Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
Could there be a more mysterious, exciting, daring, creative genius than Leonardo Da Vinci? I have read many novels about the artist, but this is my first biography. I am drawn to creative people and the way they see the world. Walter Isaacson would tell you the secret to Da Vinci’s genius was his boundless curiosity for life: nature and engineering, art and science, technology and human relationships. Touted for his meticulous research and attention to detail, Isaacson immersed himself in the artist’s private journals and notebooks to uncover a man determined to participate in life to the fullest. For my husband’s recent birthday, I gifted him this book, inscribed, “From one Renaissance spirit to another!” Da Vinci made history this week. His last discovered painting, Savior of the World, sold for a record 450 million dollars. Apparently, Da Vinci’s Jesus was commissioned by King Louis XII of France over 500 years ago. Any ideas of the new owner?
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Love all of God’s creation, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in all things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to understand it better everyday. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.” The quote comes from the Russian Classic, The Brothers Karamazov of which I have just begun to read for the first time! A gripping drama much like Anna Karenina and War and Peace, with beautiflly-rendered characters, love triangles, philosophy and spiritual memoir, Russsin culture and history. I am taking this book into Winter hibernation with me.
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
I don’t know what to say except ‘thank you’ Shauna Niequist for the sucker-punch to the soul. I have been a fan of her work for years! I loved Bread and Wine and Cold Tangerines. In Present Over Perfect, Niequist asks the question, “Are you living a life of meaning and joy?” Her personal journey is one that I believe many of us can identify. Plagued by the “superwoman” syndrome to be all things to all people all the time, she woke up one day and decided this was not her destiny. She began to make some “love tweaks” that brought her back in line with her soul, her purpose and connection with her family and friends. In every chapter, we are gifted with hard-won nuggets of wisdom to encourage deeper, sweeter and more joyful living. I was especially moved by the story of her neighbor in a tuxedo in the last days of his life. Niequist was stressing about life’s vicissitudes when just down the street a father was putting on his tuxedo to tape his children’s future wedding toasts, only days left to live. Niequist really got me thinking about my priorities. How I spend my time. Who gets the best of me. Am I always stressed? What do I have to do or change to focus my life on what matters the most. For me, that is loving and being present with my family, strengthening my inner life and experiencing the adventure and joy of life in the time I am blessed. This is one of those books that you will underline, ear-mark and read aloud to your spouse and friends!
l’appart by David Lebovitz
My Paris Kitchen, the wonderful cookbook by David Lebovitz has prime counter space in my kitchen. I think I am drawn to Lebovitz because he is actually living my dream of living and loving and cooking in Paris. Years ago, this well-known chef left his post at Chez Panisse in Berkley and followed his heart, nose and soul to Paris. His new book, l’appart, chronicles his day-to-day life living in the heart of the city from shopping at the markets, dealing with the “kinks” of living in a foreign country, buying his first apartment and cooking through all of it! Lebovitz includes wonderful recipes at the conclusion of each chapter. This book will be perfect when the Winter sets in, and I long for Paris dreams.
A Column of Fire by Ken Follett
Could there have been a more wonderful story than Follet’s, The Pillars of the Earth? Often I wish I could return in a time capsule to the epic 12th century cathedral-building love story! I have waited patiently for Follett to create another period drama to invest my heart once again! I have high hopes for A Column of Fire, set in 15th century England during the religious upheaval between Protestants and Catholics. A love story, some royal intrigue, blood-shed and promised redemption, here I come!
I would love to hear what you are reading right now!!! I am also working on a spiritual book list to post after the holidays!
Live in Hope,