Monday, January 14, 2019

January 2019 Quick Lit: what I've been reading

Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly Quick Lit linkup, where we share short reviews of what we've been reading. Since my last book post (which listed everything I read in 2018), I've read three nonfiction books.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brene Brown. 
This is the latest by the bestselling author of Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and other books -- all of which address issues of shame, vulnerability, wholeheartedness, and courage. In this book Brown's focus is leadership, and while many of her examples and anecdotes are from the corporate setting, the principles are applicable to any situation where we work with others to accomplish tasks and strive to foster and maintain a culture of empathy, trust, and openness. 

Brown's work can at times seem a little repetitive because she deliberately reviews and builds on principles from previous books. I also get impatient sometimes with the terminology she creates like "rumbling" and "key learnings" -- but when she gives real-life examples that flesh these concepts out (often based on her own mistakes and misunderstandings), I always find them relevant and memorable. I particularly appreciated her chapter on values, where she encourages readers to zero in on their two primary values and examine whether their actions reflect those values. Overall I really enjoyed this and always take away something valuable from her writing.


Educated by Tara Westover.  
In this gripping memoir, Westover recounts her life growing up on an Idaho mountainside as the daughter of survivalist Mormon parents. Distrustful of government and full of end-times paranoia, her parents forbade their children to attend school and lived in isolation, stockpiling food, fuel, and ammunition in preparation for doomsday. Westover spent years working in her father's scrapyard, enduring emotional and physical abuse from her father and one of her brothers, until she was able to leave home and attend Brigham Young University and eventually Cambridge and Harvard. She details her complex and painful relationships with various family members, her struggle to affirm her womanhood, and the challenge of telling one's own story in the face of others' conflicting versions. Excellent book.


White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided By Privilege by Amy Julia Becker. 
In this thoughtful book, Becker explores the concept of privilege by discussing many different aspects of her own life: her wealthy, secure upbringing in North Carolina (with black household staff); her experiences as a mother of a child with Down Syndrome; her discovery that what we call "answered prayers" may have more to do with privilege and connection than with "God's blessing"; her exploration of how people of colour are (or are not) depicted in children's books; her attempts to pray and fast for healing across political divides; and more.

Toward the end Becker says, "I now understand two things about privilege that I didn't understand before. One, that privilege in and of itself is not a sign of God's blessing but rather a fact of my life that can be used for good or ill. Two, that what our culture calls privilege is a mirage, a false understanding of what it means to live a good life, and that the true privilege of my existence comes in the undeserved favor I have in being one who is loved by God, loved by others, and able to love in return." Thought-provoking and beautifully written.


What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments.

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