Hello, hello! August is almost over, and I wish I could say that autumn is around the corner. While it probably is actually around the corner for some of you lucky people, we still have a bit of a slog to get through here. The light is visible at the end of the tunnel though, if only just.
I think I would be remiss not to acknowledge that the world might feel a bit heavy right now. Global crises are at the forefront of our minds, and Covid has once again (or continued to) complicated the back-to-school process, work life, and so much for so many. It can feel like a lot. Here’s my gentle suggestion, based on what I try to remind myself to do when everything feels like too much: look around and do something to help someone else. If you are moved and able, find an organization to donate to or volunteer with helping refugees, veterans, or victims of natural disaster. But that’s not a possibility for everyone, and can frankly feel very overwhelming. In that case, look around in your life. Who can you send a note to? Does your local food bank need volunteers? Is there a single mom you know who could use a free babysitter for a few hours? Can you take a meal to someone, run an errand for someone, chaperone a youth group activity, invite someone to the park? Does your neighbor need some help with yard work? Do you know a teacher who needs help buying supplies for their classroom? We can’t solve the world’s problems, but we can be present and serve in our own homes and communities.
Now, on to books and such, shall we? Clearly, my summer heat strategy of hiding in my air conditioned house has paid off, because I have a nice hefty list for you this month! (Also helps that most of the books I read this month were either short or very fast-paced, breezy reads)
What I’m reading...
Adam spoke at Sooner Youth Camp this summer (where Jeremy and I have served for more than 15 years), and I was really excited when I heard about this book he’d written. Reading We Need to Talk felt like sitting down to a thoughtful, practical conversation with a friend about how to navigate what is often an awkward or difficult topic. It’s not a “what to say” book, but more of a “how to create an environment where kids and adults talk about difficult things together.” The book is short and to the point (by design), grounded in a Christ-centered world view, and full of compassion and love for kids and the adults who care about them. Adam also gives readers practical tools and further reading recommendations.
Gold Digger by Sanjena Sathian
I couldn’t put this book down, it was so engrossing. A teenage boy is struggling to feel motivated, despite pressure from his parents, immigrants from India who want only the best (i.e., Ivy Leage educations) for their children. He discovers that his neighbor and long-time friend has a unique method of gaining an edge academically and socially, and he wants a part of it. It was a fascinating novel about ambition, belonging, addiction, personal responsibility, and the pressure of both culture and family.
Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Midnight Library is one of the best books that I’ve read this year, and honestly might join my top ten list of favorite books of all time . Now, you may wonder why when you hear the premise: on the night a woman decides to end her life, she enters the “Midnight Library”, a place where she can visit other lives she could have lived. (kind of like Sliding Doors meets It’s a Wonderful Life). Despite the somber theme, it’s also poignant, heartwarming, and surprisingly profound. Humor and hope are threaded throughout the story, and keep it from feeling too heavy.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
This is science fiction that leans into the science, with a lot of detailed descriptions and scientific explanations of what’s going on, but, like a good science teacher, Andy Weir makes those science-y bits surprisingly accessible (or skippable, if you’re really not in the mood). Anyway, Project Hail Mary has a fantastic premise, great characters, and a satisfying ending.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry was a light and breezy friends-to-lovers romance with endearing characters and a fast paced plot. (open door for those who like a heads up).
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Mass food poisoning at Ami’s wedding means that the last two standing--her twin sister Olive and Ethan, the brother of the groom--go on the sick couple’s non-refundable Hawaiian honeymoon. Olive and Ethan don’t get along, so obviously shenanigans ensue. Ever since Anne and Gilbert, I have a soft spot for a good enemies-to-lovers romance and this one was funny, swoony, and with a refreshingly realistic conflict. (also mildly open door)
What I’m watching...
Val (documentary, Amazon Prime)
Apparently, Val Kilmer has spent most of his life with a video camera in his hands, accumulating what amounts to a warehouse full of video footage of his life. His documentary is surprisingly tender, a little sad, and supremely fascinating.
Reservation Dogs (TV show, Hulu)
This 30 minute show about four teenagers living on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma is only four episodes into its season, but so far I am really enjoying it. It’s funny, tragic, heartwarming, and emotionally complex with a strong sense of place and a great cast. There’s also a bit of magical realism going on, which is a little absurd, but in a good way.
Hamilton (Broadway performance on Disney+)
I know I am late to the party, but I finally watched Hamilton on Disney+ and it was (as expected) SO GOOD. Having listened to the soundtrack multiple times, I’d already been blown away by creativity and artistry of the music and lyrics, but unsurprisingly getting to SEE it really added so much to the experience. It was funnier, more heartbreaking, and just so, so good. I’d love to see it live someday and see what other actors might bring to the roles.
What I’m listening to...
I’ve been looking forward to this album all summer. To me, Sean McConnell’s music has this depth of quality that you get sometimes from artists who have been practicing their craft for a long time. The music ranges from fun and funky to quietly lovely, and the lyrics are a mix of off-beat, tongue-in-cheek, and thoughtfully deep. A+ for me.
Something I’m thankful for:
This is definitely a little thing, but I believe in being thankful for the little things...like getting a haircut in an empty salon. I LOVE getting a haircut, and the peacefulness of a quiet, cool salon with music playing and occasional friendly conversation with my stylist was just perfection.
That’s it for this month! I hope everyone has cool days ahead, and in the meantime (or if you live in the South), I hope the air conditioning is strong. Now tell me what you’re thankful for this month!