what to read when it's too hot to breathe, plus an interview with author Chad Alan Gibbs
Hello, friends! I’m in my usual dog-days-of-summer-August funk, in which the heat and humidity threaten to break me and I want to do absolutely nothing. Fortunately, reading and writing can be done in the comfort of my air conditioned home. I also like to perk myself up looking at pictures from earlier summer adventures, preferably while eating some delicious fresh summer produce, which is really the saving grace of August. School has been postponed until September 8, which I think will be good, but the kids are getting restless. Fortunately on that front, the littlest has a birthday in a week which means we get a few new toys to distract them!
Saving Ruby King, by Catherine Adel West. This book is one that rips your heart out and puts it back together again. The author does a great job with all the different character voices, including the church itself, which provides a bit of zoomed out perspective. I loved how she wrote a story that was so tense with secrets and hurt, and while the ending wasn’t an everything-wrapped-up-in-a-bow-tidy ending, it was satisfying and hopeful.
Be the Bridge, by Latasha Morrison
Latasha is a wise, patient, and gentle teacher. Be the Bridge is a blend of history, personal stories, Biblical perspective, and practical action steps to actively pursue racial reconciliation. It’s inspiring when read on its own, but would be an excellent book to read as part of a Bible study or book club.
A Man of Honor, or Horatio’s Confession, by J.A. Nelson. I knew virtually nothing about this book before I read it (although I guessed by the title that it was Hamlet adjacent), and it was a really fun read. The story takes place after the events of Hamlet, as told by Horatio. It’s action-packed political intrigue with a wonderfully strong sense of place. Also, I happened to listen to it on audio, and the narrator was excellent.
The Glass Hotel by Hilary St. John Mandell
I really enjoyed The Glass Hotel although I find it’s a little hard to summarize because there’s not really a big, overarching plot. Similar to the author’s book Station Eleven (which I also loved), it’s more about characters, themes, and loosely connected micro-plots. I fully understand that kind of novel isn’t everyone’s jam, but when done well it is right up my alley--and this one is done well. It’s about connection, choices, compromise, and ghosts (I’m just re-reading this sentence and wishing there was a good “c” word for ghosts).
Folklore, by Taylor Swift. I’ve not ever had much interest in Taylor Swift’s pop music (it’s not bad, just not my usual listening preference), but her new album is right up my alley. It’s moody and mellow, with beautiful music and catchy lyrics that tell stories. It’s the kind of album I can play on repeat and not get tired of. (tip: if you decide to give it a listen, there’s a “clean” version if you prefer to avoid explicit lyrics).
Pantsuit Politics podcast. I don’t regularly listen to this podcast, but I’m always glad when I do. It’s nice to hear political analysts whose discussions are nuanced and gracious. I might not always agree with them, but even when I don’t I walk away with something to think about. They recently did a four part series called “How to Be a Citizen”, a sort of primer on engaging in the political process in the US, and the “Media Literacy” episode especially was excellent.
We watched the original Mary Poppins for our family movie night this week, and it made me so happy! Mary Poppins was one of my absolute favorite movies as a kid. We’ve already listened to a few of the songs from the soundtrack, and the kids have been talking about their favorite parts, so I think it was a win. (I also really enjoyed Mary Poppins Returns, so I’m looking forward to watching that with the kids sometime in the next few months too).
Like I mentioned above, I’m grateful for the upcoming birthday in our house. It’s nice to have something to look forward to, and something to celebrate. I’ve also been extra grateful all summer for our Amazon Music subscription. Music is important to me, and being able to listen to such a vast library is wonderful, especially when we’re home a lot. The kids have figured out how to play their favorites too, and I like that they’re able to connect with music and develop their own interest in it.
Meet the Author: Chad Alan Gibbs
And here we are with the second installment of my new favorite thing, where you all get to hear a little bit from an author I admire! Chad Gibbs is the author of Two Like Me and You and The Rome of Fall. I absolutely ADORED both of these books. They’re a wonderful combination of funny and heartfelt; depth and poignancy surrounded by razor sharp humor. Without further ado, meet Chad Gibbs...
What is your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite part of the writing process?
Least favorite is the first draft. It's so easy for me to lose momentum. But I love every draft after that. Once there is something to work with and improve I'm energized by the process, but putting those first words down can be a trudge.
2. Where is someplace you feel most at home?
Auburn, Alabama, where I live now. I went to college here, and still remember visiting for the first time. It somehow felt more like home than my hometown, even though at the time I was a fan of a rival school. I met my wife in school here, and we were gone for seven years while she completed medical school and her residency, but we moved back in 2010 and it's hard to imagine ever leaving
3. Tell us about someone who has inspired you creatively.
I'm blown away by Colson Whitehead. I read his book The Noble Hustle when it came out. It's a hilarious account of his adventures at the World Series of Poker. Then to see him switch gears and write two powerful and haunting novels (The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys) that both won the Pulitzer Prize is just amazing. Though I'm not sure if he inspires me creatively, or makes me want to quit because he's just so good what's the point in trying.
4. What kind of books do you gravitate towards in your own reading life?
I like to think I'm an eclectic reader. So far this year I've read 16 books, 10 novels and 6 non-fiction, and it's a random list. I do gravitate toward books with humor though.
5. What is your super power?
The ability to find humor in almost any situation. Also, I can take a nap any time of day
6. One of the best pieces of advice you've ever gotten?
Don't assemble your baby's crib in the living room while watching television, because it will be too big to move down the hall to their room. As for writing advice, everything Anne Lamott says about first drafts.