what I'm into :: summer 2016 Sarah Bessey

It’s been far too long since we’ve chatted about something fun like books and I think we could use a bit of fun. I am, as my husband lovingly calls me, a pseudo-hermit bookworm (it’s one of his favourite endearments for me – right along with “absent minded genius.” Someday – when the fear of the moment has dissipated – ask me about the time when I thought someone had kidnapped one of the tinies because she wasn’t at after-school-pick-up and so I caused a minor panic at the school only to have my husband remind me patiently that I had given permission for her to go to a friend’s house after school. Oops, stand down, RCMP, stand down.).


I need to tell someone about the books I’ve been reading because Inspector Gamache is my new hero and I want to live in Three Pines, Quebec (well, I think would like to live there…it does seem rather murder-y by my tastes).

So let’s talk about what we’re into right now, eh? Can’t wait to hear your lists in the comments – you all were the ones who turned me onto Inspector Gamache and so I’m eternally grateful.


The Inspector Gamache Books by Louise Penny. I’ve heard of these books for so long but I’m not a huge true crime person. (Okay, so I’m highly sensitive and even the previews of shows on HBO give me nightmares) But I do love a good mystery and I love good characters so I decided to give it a try as a treat to myself. This series is now one of the great delights of my life this year. I’ve devoured all eleven books in short order – they are glorious. The first couple of books start out as typical “solve-this-murder” sort of books (without being gory or cruel or gratuitous, it’s more about the story and the characters) – very satisfying Saturday night read – but as the books go forward, the layers and complex storytelling becomes even more clear and right around book three or four you begin to realise that everything is connected and everything means something and something major is unfolding and OMG MUST KEEP READING. it’s a deeply human series with flawed and beloved characters whom you grow to love deeply for their very flaws and their courage. (I need someone to share my unreasonable love for Jean-Guy.) (And Myrna.) (And Clara.) (Also is anyone else ravenous for food while reading these books? they make me more hungry than even the Pickwick Papers did. These folks are always sitting down to some luscious meal.) Here are the books in order. Just go ahead and order all eleven right now to save yourself the panic of finishing one without having the next one right beside you:

  1. Still Life
  2. A Fatal Grace (In earlier Canadian editions, it’s called Dead Cold)
  3. The Cruellest Month
  4. A Rule Against Murder
  5. The Brutal Telling
  6. Bury Your Dead
  7. A Trick of the Light
  8. The Beautiful Mystery
  9. How the Light Gets In
  10. The Long Way Home
  11. The Nature of the Beast
  12. A Great Reckoning (because of course I’ve pre-ordered)

In other reading lately…

Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order, and Grace by Luci Shaw :: This is one of Luci’s prose offerings (I”m a huge fan of her poetry) and there are flashes of real intimacy in the essays, glimpses into her struggle and wrestle with God, her doubt and her wonderings. Those moments almost sneak through and peek at us in the essays – which are all about order and beauty and found grace. It’s a beautiful book of course but I found it also made me sad and contemplative, it will stay with me.

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life by Eugene Peterson :: I haven’t read Eugene Peterson’s work for a few years but this book reminded me why I love his work so much. He has the pastoral knack for taking big theological things like the resurrection and making them so accessible and necessary to the rest of us. He’s refreshing and curmudgeonly and I underlined most of this book.

The Givenness of Things: Essays by Marilynne Robinson :: I loved Gilead, Home, and Lila so I picked up Marilynne Robinson”s book of essays but it took me a loooooong time to get through them. They were more aimed at a Calvinist and American mind-set (neither of which I shared) and they were quite dense. I’m glad I read them and I learned a lot, but this isn’t a book I’ll re-read. My favourite line from the book comes early: “The spirit of our times is one of joyless urgency.” Ouch and amen.

How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living by Rob Bell :: I deeply appreciate Rob Bell’s work and usually enjoy his books quite a bit but this wasn’t one of my favourites. While I enjoyed it, I’ll be damned if I can remember a word of it as it wasn’t his usual bold and new themes.

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay :: Brilliant, uncomfortable, blistering, funny, sad, whew. This woman is the ministry of making us uncomfortable in all the best ways because she makes us better. I didn’t track with all of the pop culture essays because our tastes are different but who knew that a feminist critique of Sweet Valley High was what was missing from all of our lives until now?

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia :: I didn’t like this book for most of the time I spent reading it but then there was a twist there at the end that genuinely shocked me and made me finish the book. I didn’t really like any of the characters and I confess I’m not a huge “band kid” (I was more the kid smoking under the bleachers than the kid joining extra curricular clubs) but it was a great weekend read.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield :: To celebrate Jane Austen, a crop of “modern re-tellings” of her works were released recently. I read most of them and this is the only one worth your time in my opinion. It’s hilarious, un-put-down-able, summer evening OMG kind of read. Jane is a yoga teacher, Kitty and Lydia are addicted to CrossFit, Bingley is famous for appearing on a reality show like the Bachelor and I am here for it. If you’re looking for an easy summer read that just works somehow, this might be your fun pick.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem :: I’ve always loved Gloria Steinem’s books – she’s an incredible writer – but this one about her travels is just wonderful. I particularly loved her stories about the early days of the feminist movement and the “talking circles” – how simply gathering women together and letting them tell their stories – was what gave the movement it’s power and connection.

Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary by D.L. Mayfield :: I read an advanced copy of Danielle’s book and wrote an endorsement for her. This book is inconvenient and necessary, hopeful and unflinching, humble and wry; it is as ferocious as love. During this age of the Church when we too often worship worldly obvious success, we need to receive D.L. Mayfield’s ministry of subversive truth-telling.

Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity by Katherine Willis Pershey :: Another one I recently endorsed! “Very Married is the book we have all been waiting for: hopeful, inclusive, practical, theological, honest talk about the complex sacrament of marriage as both reality to be lived and metaphor to be embodied. Pershey is a pastor at her core, and on every page of this book, her calling is evident and wholehearted. I’m grateful for her honesty, for her wisdom, for her work in this conversation. Now when I’m asked to recommend a book about marriage, I finally have an answer: Very Married!”

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes :: I picked this one up on a whim in the library and I’m so glad I did. A quick read but maybe that’s because I couldn’t put it down. The book is funny and candid and honest but what is most striking to me is her voice – her ability to write with that unique and strong voice is incredible.

I read quite a bit more these past few months but this is enough to share! You can find me on Goodreads for most of the books I’m reading as I go along.

TV & Movies

We did finish the second season of Broadchurch, of course (which is AMAZING AND EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH IT) but other than that all my favourites are on hiatus or gone altogether now. I keep trying to find a new show to enjoy on Netflix but I’ve swung and missed with everything from The Good Wife to Father Brown to Grey’s Anatomy (which I stopped watching back on in Season Six and so made a half-hearted attempt to get back into it but NOPE and NOPE).

So I’ve been re-watching the Ninth Series of Doctor Who (which is the most recent) and I’m going to go ahead and make a controversial statement without qualification or apology: that was the best season of Doctor Who ever. Ever ever ever. My mouth is hanging open by the end of every episode: I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve had my brain broken. The characters, the relationships, the story, the social commentary. I just rewatched the two-parter of the Zygon invasion (stay with me here) and that 10 minute monologue of the Doctor’s at the end brought me to tears all over again. Phenomenal.

I haven’t seen a movie in a dog’s age but I’d love to see the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Love & Friendship but who are we kidding, we all know I don’t watch movies.


Okay, fine, so I’m on the bandwagon and totally obsessed with the Hamilton Broadway Cast Recording right now. I used to be a staunch Loyalist but Alexander Hamilton and Lafayette are making me rethink….


Richard Rohr on The Robcast Episode 86– this is Rob Bell’s podcast which I almost always enjoy but this interview with Fr. Richard Rohr blew my mind and made my friend Kelley and me use up our 15 minute limits on Voxer repeatedly. So much to consider and think about here! I love podcasts that make me think.

10 Friends Every Woman Should Have on Sorta Awesome Episode 54 – this is my favourite “putter around with friends” podcast. More of a girlfriend chat show, I love to listen to it when I’m out on an evening walk by my lonesome or even cleaning the house. This episode is a must-listen. I loved it and totally agree – no one friend can be “everything” to us and so the freedom found in building a “life council” is pretty amazing.

Mary Oliver on On Being with Krista Tippett – Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets and yet I’ve never heard her voice! This was such a treat. I found myself walking twice as long as I meant to walk just because I wanted to keep listening. It’s an old episode which they rebroadcasted in honour of her birthday.

I’ve been on a few more podcasts myself recently – you can check the full list of my podcast appearances right here.

Jesus Feminist is on sale!

And a bit of good news: My publisher just put everything on sale so you can grab my first book “Jesus Feminist for just $3.99 ebook edition or $9.41 in the paperback. (for USA customers) Not sure how long that will last.

Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith is also on sale (by the looks of it, $9.40 for the paperback which is more than 40% off!) so check that one out, too.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading or listening to or watching as we head into summer, too! Always out for a good recommendation.


Detective novels and late nights,


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