What I'm Into - Summer 2015 :: Sarah Bessey


Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee :: Oh, the book of books this summer. My thoughts are still such a swirl on this book. I can’t seem to articulate them. I loved it for what it was though. But I have to point you towards my buddy D.L. Mayfield’s essay about this book – it’s on the money. If you only read one more thinkpiece about this novel, make it that one.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed :: Profane and sacred all at the same time. It’s not for everyone but it made so very glad to be alive.

Americanah by Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie :: Absolutely gob-smackingly brilliant. I couldn’t put it down. Complex, wise, funny, real, and interesting.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay :: This was a fast, fun, and delightful read – great for a summer day. I figured out the twist within about a second but that didn’t make it any less fun to read all the way through.

The TruthΒ According to Us by Annie Barrows :: One of my perpetual comfort reads is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which was co-written with Annie Barrows, so I was very excited to see her new book at the library. I snatched it up and devoured it in a weekend. Again, a great summer book, a fascinating story, with such fantastic and strong female characters.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish :: This one is a classic for a reason. I read it, nothing much new but still a helpful resource.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion :: I had this one sitting on my side table for months. I just couldn’t seem to pick it up, always preferring to read something else first. Well, I reluctantly picked it up when I’d finished all the other reading on Friday night and did not put it down until I was done. I had misjudged the story and the cover but once I started, i fell in love with these characters. A delight.

Scape by Luci Shaw :: Luci Shaw is my favourite living poet and this is her new volume of poetry. It’s quintessential Luci. I want to be her when I grow up.

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert :: I’ve been doing a bit more reading about the Enneagram, thanks to my friend, Leigh Kramer, who is an Enneagram Coach. It’s been helpful in many ways (I’m a Type 9, if you’re into that sort of thing). (For the uninitiated, it’s an ancient form of personality types/temperaments.)

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God by Lauren Winner :: I would buy this book all over again just for the chapter on God as birth-giver/midwife. I adore everything Lauren Winner writes – she’s impeccable – but this was a great book.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo :: Unpopular opinion confession: blergh. I didn’t like this book. I mean, I get it, “what brings you joy?” is a great question. But I felt like this book was wildly unrealistic, especially for those of us with a houseful of children or a partner or, you know, any sentimental attachment to the world.

Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson :: Sally Clarkson is one of my favourite mothering writers (two of my favourites are her The Mission of Motherhood and The Ministry of Motherhood). She’s a bit more conservative than me in many ways and her family’s habits/values differ at times but I love having older women like her write about how they raised their children and kept their home and did life as a family. I find such value in her words for that aspect of my life. It’s so encouraging for us “in the trenches” – kind of like having a mothering mentor in a book.

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin :: Zzzzzzzzz. Waste of time, I’m afraid. It’s one big book of common sense.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr :: A brilliant and wonderful book. It took me a while to get into it but I stayed with it since, you know, Pulitzer and all. And boy, did it pay off. Such a beautiful story.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan :: I never can resist a bit of Angolophile lit. A bit raunchy at times but a fun read, for sure.


My big obsession this summer has been Broadchurch. Oh, my goodness. People. We devoured this show. It is masterful – the performances, the script, the story, the cinematography, the music, all the things. Cannot recommend it enough.

I’m also still going through Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Or as my son, Joe, calls it “That Fast-Talker Girl Show.” I’m into Season 2 and I’m feeling very suspicious of Jess right about now. Careful now, Rory. HARVARD.


I drank the Kool-Aid for Alabama Shakes and whoa, cannot get enough of this.

What is there even to say after that, right?

My favourite “Christian-y” album right now has been John Mark McMillan’s latest, You Are The Avalanche. I love his songs – no one in the at genre writes or sounds like this guy.


Okay, I rarely get bossy with you, my friends but I am about to get bossy. If you are a writer or a creative of any sort, you need to go right now to iTunes and subscribe to Elizabeth Gilbert’s new podcast “Magic Lessons” based off the ideas in her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (which will likely be on my Fall What I’m Into, already pre-ordered, amen). Each episode is super short – 15-20 minutes – which works beautifully with my life. I rarely have a full hour to listen to ANYTHING so this is ideal. The language can be a bit adult occasionally but really, it’s brilliant. Creatives, you need to be listening to this one. #WriterCrush

So that’s it for summer so far! We still have a bit of time left here as school doesn’t start until the second week of September.

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




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  • Jenivere

    My son always calls Gilmore Girls the ‘La-la’ show. Lol

    Thanks for all the reviews! Can wait to get into the Lauren Winner book.

  • Gordie LaChance

    I’m re-watching (since the initial run) The Wonder Years. And it still holds up. The episode “Dance With Me” is still incredible. Actually the whole first season, which is as far as I’ve gotten.

    And for music, iamamiwhoami’s album Blue is maybe my favorite ever. The song Chasing Kites is like a soundtrack for my life these days. Check out the video on YouTube

    • I watched that show when it was out back in the day but re-watching it now as an adult it seems so much sadder and more beautiful than I remember. I should try to rewatch that one, great recommendation, Gordie!

  • No way, I also just read The Royal We last weekend. Stumbled upon it by accident. LOVE me a Kate and William rip off πŸ™‚

  • Debora

    I love knowing what others are reading. It broadens my horizons. I’d like to recommend Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee. I’ve read it several times and have gotten many of my friends to read it too.

    • Sounds fascinating, Debora – will have to check it out. Thanks!

  • I could offer commentary on almost all the books you mentioned but I must say I’m relieved you stuck with All The Light We Cannot See. I’ve been meaning to ask if you finished and what you thought and I’m so glad you liked it! I loved The Rosie Project but I’m going to save you time: skip its follow-up The Rosie Effect. Completely horrid. Thanks for the Enneagram shout out! Also: I am Team Jess forever and always. Just you wait.

    • Thank you for the warning! I was going to read it but I’ll save myself the trouble and keep Don unsullied. And I can’t imagine being Team Jess right now….Will have to wait and see. We’ve just crashed the car and I’m ALL KINDS OF MAD at him.

    • Team Jess? No. Just no. Maybe season 6/7 Jess, but not season 2/3. Blergh. He’s such a punk!! I was always Team Dean, but now I’m team no one. Dean is a little intense.

      I made it through The Rosie Effect, but it made me all kinds of angst. I don’t have time for that!

  • This kinds of posts are why my To Read list is hundreds of books long! And I love it. This week I read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler and Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingslover and darnit I love me some Kingslover. Everything I’ve ever read by her has made my heart glad. Zelda Fitzgerald was fun, too, because historical fiction is my jam.

    I’m so glad you’re watching Gilmore Girls! I’m so glad Netflix makes Stars Hollow so accessible!

    • I’m so glad to hear that about Z – I have picked up and put down that exact book a hundred times at the library and so now I will pick it up! I love historical fiction, too.

  • I loved reading this, Sarah, thank you. I have ADD when it comes to podcasts for some reason, unless I am in the car, but I will listen to Magic Lessons, since you insist. πŸ™‚ I picked up King Lear for the first time last week and was blown away by its brilliance and sadness. And I have been re-watching Star Trek the Next Generation which is awesome even though my feelings for Captain Picard are a little bit over the top. And I continue to watch the Bachelorette partly because it is fun, junk TV, but also because it is fascinating to me how the participants — and the viewers — accept without question the bizarre situation they’re in and all the rules that govern their new reality. It is like some kind of dystopic world, like The Maiden’s Tale or The Lottery, except that the participants have walked into it willingly.

    • Yes, King Lear! I am reading Buechner’s Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale and he references King Lear often in it, which has made me want to re-read it. And everyone needs a junky show, IMO. πŸ˜‰

      • Buechner is the reason I picked up King Lear! He talks about it in a lot of his books. Have you read Buechner’s Speak What We Feel, Not What We Ought To Say? Incredible look at four writers — G.K. Chesterton, Mark Twain, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Shakespeare — and their works that were the most “written in blood.” It was an incredibly inspiring book for this aspiring writer.

      • Oh, and I forgot to say, I LOVE that Enneagram book, and love the Enneagram so much in general. It has taught me so much about myself, helped me to admit some really hard things and helped me to understand and focus on my real talents and passions. (I’m a four.) And it has helped me to understand relational dynamics with other types, too.

  • Christine

    I’m a type 9, too!
    And I’ve just started reading TLCMoTU, but I have have similar thoughts to you on it.

    I recommend the tv series A Place to Call Home, its been called the Australian Downton Abbey. But its more intense than DA (not for children IMO). Takes place in the 50s. Great acting and photography.

    And for music, I just started listening to Godfrey Birtill, and would recommend his music.

    • Place to Call Home – on it! Thank you, Christine!

      • Christine

        The cheapest place to watch it may be Acorn ($5/month here).There are two seasons available, and I think they recently finished filming season 3. Not sure when 3 will be available here. Here’s their fb page: http://www.facebook.com/officialaptch

  • On How to Talk so Kids Will Listen -I know it’s considered a classic, but what does it actually go into? I’ve wondered, since I’m so new at this mom thing, what books that are ‘classics’ are worth keeping around and reading in order to prepare myself, haha.

    • It’s very practical – scripts, illustrations, “say this and not that” stuff. Lots of scenarios and practice habits for re-training against frustrating interactions, particularly with smaller children. All good stuff.

      • There are SO MANY books that I kind of get thrown at me as must-reads and sometimes I think they sound wonderful and sometimes I just don’t know. I’ve been a bit gun-shy on parenting books after a friend of mine insisted I read a certain sleep-training book and its advice just went against every single parenting instinct I had and I couldn’t do it, it was too harsh. I couldn’t just walk away from a crying 3 month old baby!

  • I wanted to read 10 memoirs this year and needed some more suggestions. This is what my FB community offered up: The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls); The Liar’s Club (Mary Karr); Lit (Mary Karr); No Higher Honor (Condoleeza Rice) It’s What I Do (Lynsey Addario); Yes Please (Amy Poehler); Bossypants (Tina Fey); Truth and Beauty (Ann Patchett); My Paris Dream (Kate Betts); The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion); Infidel: My Life (Ayaan Hirsi Ali); Redeeming Love (Francine Rivers); The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom); Let’s Take the Long Way Home (Gail Caldwell); Drinking: A Love Story (Caroline Knapp); How to Be a Woman (Caitlin Moran). Would be interested if you have a suggestion for my list more in the Christian writer genre/spiritual memoir.

  • Oh you are not wrong about Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast. I’ve listened to a couple of the episodes TWICE. That’s how good it is. And I’m first on the library list for when Big Magic comes in, but I think I’m just gonna pre-order the book. Side note: I also agree about Gretchen Rubin’s latest. Not my favorite.

    • That one with Cheryl Strayed was all kinds of YES for me, so glad I’m not alone in my love of that little podcast.

  • Totally with you on Liz Gilbert’s podcast. I’ve never read Eat Pray Love (I know, I know, execute me now….) but heard her on another podcast discussing creativity and her story – and wow! So love this podcast.

    Recommendation – The RobCast. Liz Gilbert was on this podcast, and there’s some amazing guests and some great insight. My number one recommendation of all podcasts.

    Have a great summer Sarah!

    • I haven’t listened to the Robcast yet – will have to get on that! Thanks, James!

  • Jenny M

    The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (creator of the Moomins). I didn’t know she had written some adult literature. Apparently The Summer Book is a literary classic in Scandinavia. I’m absolutely loving it! It is simple, beautiful and life affirming. It also has very short chapters which is very helpful for those of us who read for a few minutes after collapsing into bed at the end of the day.
    I regularly listen to a podcast called Nomad. Two British blokes interviewing a wide variety of theologians, names I knew like Tom Wright, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans and many I didn’t. It’s meaty stuff and thought provoking. Takes an hour of concentration. The blokes have a bit of chit chat at the start of the podcasts which personally isn’t my cup of tea (sorry, guys!) but they ask really great questions which open up interesting discussions.
    TV I’m on catch up with back series of Downton Abbey before the final series starts this Autumn. Personally I don’t think it is as well written as people have told me (structure rather than dialogue) but it is addictive all the same!

    • All of these sound right up my alley, Jenny – thank you!

  • Crystal Wuthrich

    Kin by Lesley Crewe I’m always fascinated by Canadian books, they seem so rare and though it’s set on the east coast and I’m from the west coast it still felt deliciously home like. It’s tragic and raw but I laughed out loud all the way through.

    • I do love Canadian lit, too. I actually made a list of some of my favourite lesser-known ones a while ago. http://sarahbessey.com/in-which-i-share-10-books-by-canadians-i-wish-the-world-would-read/ I’ll have to give that one a read!

      • Crystal Wuthrich

        I’m with you on a Tangled Web and Blue Castle, have you read Blythes Quoted yet? I’ve just started reading Alice Monroe and I’m loving her πŸ™‚
        I’m also in love with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society! I picked it up at Talize one day and had no idea what a treasure I’d found. I didn’t realise she’d written something new, I’m excited to check that out now too!

  • Love your list and all the great details. I agree with you re that tidying book. I really can’t understand all the hoopla about it. strange book. I am a three on the enneagram. Interesting insights with this. I love finding new things to watch and read so you provided lots for me today. Thank you. I didn’t know about Elizabeth Gilbert’s new stuff so will check that out. Thanks again….

    • It was a strange book, wasn’t it? And the whole “thank your shoes” thing was a bit much for me.

      • Don’t forget to thank your socks!! I am just afraid that if I followed through and threw everything out, I would be sad I got rid of sentimental stuff in 5 years. And I feel that she doesn’t leave much room for sentiment.

  • HBurns

    I love your ‘What I am Into” and I wrote down several books on your recommendation and excited to give them a read. Yay! Thanks xo

  • Haha on summer-less Stars Hollow! You’re right – always with the sweaters and boots there. And yes, we love the Ivy and Bean books here, they were my eldest daughter’s first “chapter books” a couple years ago. Can’t wait for the little girls to hit them, too.

  • Krista

    Watching: only Yankees ply baseball at this point in the year– every.night.

    Reading: A Fellowship of Differents, The Lucifer Effect, and Jesus Have I Loved But Paul?

    Listening: Hillsong/Mumford and Sons

    Thanks for all the book recommendations:)… Gonna go check them out!

  • Casey Steinert

    I’ve declared this summer the summer of the perfect omelette and the summer of the public library. πŸ™‚ I’m perfecting omelette making and devouring books, so thank you so much for your book list! Our school year doesn’t start until August 26, so I’ve got lots of time left to keep reading. πŸ™‚ Jesus Feminist is actually on my “Ohmygosh, I read the most amazing book this summer! You have to get a copy for yourself!” list. Gilmore Girls is such a favorite here at my house that we’ve worn out DVDs. I’m not even kidding about this. So glad they are on Netflix now!! I’m not a big podcast listener, but I’ve been faithfully listening to Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before) and her sister, Elizabeth Craft’s podcast, “Happier,” and I adore it.

    • Oh, that’s so great to hear, Casey – thank you! Makes my day. πŸ™‚

  • Lindsey Paulson

    I loved Americanah! What a fantastic writer.

  • Nisha Varghese

    Also a must read Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

  • Some great book recommendations here — thank you! I have read 2 of Adichie’s other books and loved them, so I’m eager to read Americanah soon. I was also glad to hear about Annie Barrows’ new book; I just finished re-reading The Guernsey Literary…Society this week. It’s so lovely. All the Light We Cannot See is fantastic isn’t it? Such an interesting structure and original characters.

    I just finished Longbourn by Jo Baker (told from viewpoint of Pride & Prejudice servants) — really well-written page-turner of a book. Also recently read The Light Between Oceans, which was another excellent novel.

    • For some reason, i couldn’t get into Longbourn, which is odd for me – I adore Jane Austen spin-off fiction. Maybe it was just a slow start and i failed to persevere. But I haven’t heard of The Light Between Oceans, will keep an eye out for it. Thanks, Jeannie!

  • Richard Rohr is really fun, isn’t he? I need a good deal more learning about the Enneagram before I begin to understand, but Rohr’s book was so helpful. I think the Enneagram would be great for marital counseling. Learning about it has made me much more sympathetic. . . we all have our besetting sins, haven’t we?

    Most of my summer reading so far has been about the Holy Spirit, preparing for a sermon. I was pleased and delighted when that took me back to Catherine Marshall’s books. She’s one of my favorites, for sure.

    Re: television, have you seen the BBC miniseries “The Crimson Field”? The storyline is that of a field hospital in World War I, and the story is told from the perspective of the women there–the Matron, the Ward Sisters, the trained nurses, and the young volunteers. I love military history, but often the women’s stories are completely overlooked except perhaps as the love interests of the soldiers. This show is different. Perhaps a tad soap-opery at times, but I don’t mind that.

    Happy summer!

    • Yes, the sin aspect of the Enneagram can be both frustrating and helpful at the same time. And I haven’t read Catherine Marshall in forever, what a gift for you to be spending time studying that topic. I haven’t watched The Crimson Field – will have to check it out. I love the “women’s side” of typical male stories like Bletchley Circle so this sounds good. Thanks!

  • Every year fall hits and I feel the need to return to Stars Hollow – it’s when I started to watch it, and the seasons always starts in the fall, and it’s just a perfect match.

  • I’m such a book nerd, and love getting new recommendations! And I love talking about it (hence me taking over your comment section. ahem. sorry about that!). Can’t wait to put new reads on my wishlist!

    My podcast loves lately have been The Popcast, which is all about what popular culture things we should pay attention to and what we should ignore, and I just love the chemistry the two hosts have. Also, Gilmore Guys, which I love because I am a huge Gilmore Girls geek and hearing about the shows from their perspective (one who was a fan from the get-go, and one who is just watching it for the first time) is so fun. Honorable mention to Sorta Awesome with Megan Tietz and Off Camera with Sam Jones. But all of those are about an hour.

    • I adore Sorta Awesome, too. I just listen to it in 5-10 minute stretches so it lasts a bit longer. πŸ™‚ And I’ve heard of the Popcast but not Gilmore Guys, will have to check them out, thank you!!

  • Sarah, have you read Luci Shaw’s book Breath for the Bones? It is about creativity and the Christian faith. I included some excerpts in the back half of this poetry post in 2012: http://virginiaknowles.blogspot.com/2012/02/shimmer-and-shadow-poem-p52-photos-more.html

    • Yes, I’ve had it for a few years – loved it!

  • Kristin S

    Sarah, what a list! Thanks for sharing. I just added a slew to my queue at the library.

    (Hate to point out a typo but… “Lauren Winner” as the author. I know you know that and fingers just move fast.)

    • Kristin S

      Oh, I’m currently empty for offerings but thankfully there are a plethora of comments ahead of mine. I’ve been away from home for work for almost 12 weeks. I’m itching to get home to “normal” and that includes trips to the library!

    • Oh, good gracious, thank you! Can’t believe I typo-ed her name.

  • I listened to Liz Gilbert’s podcasts (that quote in the first episode, WHOADANG), and immediately had a creative crisis and cried. Then I voxed some of my creative cheerleaders and blubbered all over them (with adult language, of course). I love a lot of what she said, but I struggle with the fact that all of her creative advice for mothers is for mothers of children more than 3 years old.

    So, on top of all the things you do, I’d like you to get on top of creating a podcast for moms of tiny tinies, and how it is that you (yes, you, Sarah!) make life and creativity work together with tiny beans.

    I’ve been trying and failing to read much this summer, but I am working my way slowly through the absolutely paradigm-shifting Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    Otherwise I’m finally on season 10 of Bones (which I’ve power watched since Seren was born), and we LOVED watching Daredevil on Netflix (brutal violence, but incredible thoughts on faith and justice).

    • Oh, girl. I hear you. Podcasting isn’t anywhere in my future but maybe I could find a way to write about it. Are you thinking more practical here-is-what-I-actually-do stuff or more philosophical? I do think it’s worth exploring and talking about because it’s such a unique time of life. Particularly for those of us who have budget limits, right?

      • Honestly, I’d like the more philosophical first. The details can be worked out in my every day life, and while learning *your* details might be helpful to me (and others) they won’t be as applicable to my day to day as the philosophical background that you use as a creator and mother. I’m thinking of something like your Practices of Mothering but with the creative/writer in mind. πŸ™‚

        (As hell to the yes on the budgets…)

  • Love your “contrary opinion” on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m approximately #247 on the waiting list at the library for that title, but I’m not necessarily on pins and needles with anticipation. πŸ˜‰

    I tried “Own Your Life,” but couldn’t get into it. My soul in this season yearns for more practicality and more poetry – this book fit in neither of those categories. I do admire Sally Clarkson though.

  • Lindsy Wallace

    Can’t wait to listen to the podcast! You should get bossy more often;-)

  • I added “The Truth According to Us” to my library book list. I LOVED The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! I’m also excited about the new Lauren Winner book. Thanks for reminding me about it. I appreciated “Own Your Life” and adored “All The Light We Cannot See.” I mean, just that title alone!

    Broadchurch had to be one of my favorite series of all time. At least in the mystery genre. The story and cinematography alone were incredible! Can’t wait to see season 2. The library has it but I needed some sleep before delving back in again.

    Also, I appreciated your video about your creative process. I have 4 kids as well (and a 7 month old) and blog, write articles, and last year worked on a book proposal and now have an agent although no publisher yet. People tend to ask me the same question and I struggle to answer it. The truth is it’s just really important to me. But that means sometimes we don’t do as many extra curricular activities, sports, and playdates as it seems others might do at times. But the trade off is worth it. Look forward to other questions and answers.

  • Candice Cohlmia Unger

    I’m loving podcasts this summer. Here are a couple of my favorites: RadioLab (award winning stories and investigation) that are super compelling and intriguing and Java with Juli where conversations around today’s engaging topics are considered around Biblical principals.