books that will make you feel smart

Well, actually I can’t really make any promises. But I AM a bit of a nerd, and reading non-fiction books about different places (and things and times, but mostly places) makes me feel like I’m learning things.

I love to learn things.

And share things.

Here’s what I’ve read lately. (all these links are to my Amazon Affiliate Account, so if you buy something I linked to, I’ll get rich instantly)

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (Jennifer Worth)

I heart memoirs, and ever since I met Tara Livesay online and learned about Heartline Haiti (providing free maternity care for women in Haiti), I’ve been super-intrigued by women giving birth in hard places. Mostly third world countries, but in this case: in the slums of post-war London. The author left her comfy home at 22 to be a midwife among nuns, and this is her story of the people she met and babies she helped deliver.

I loved this book and would love to read more like it. And HA. As I was getting the link just now, I noticed it’s the first in a trilogy: Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse and Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End. I just reserved them both at the library. (and yes, I know this is a PBS mini-series–I’m partial to books but may have to check it out)

The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster (Jonathan M. Katz)

Speaking of Haiti. Haiti breaks my heart. So much hard, so much hurt, and it just keeps piling up on top of everything that’s already there. This book was amazing. I feel like I have a much better grasp of Haiti and the earthquake and why it’s so hard for them to crawl out from under so much poverty and oppression. I know it’s just one author’s opinion, but I felt like he was someone I could trust (feel free to prove me wrong if you know something I don’t know). He was working in Haiti when the earthquake hit and stayed there for 2 more years after that. If you have a heart for Haiti, you should absolutely read this.

Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America (Jeff Chu)

Oh, friends. You need to read this book. We all need to read this book. I haven’t had the energy to get involved in any gay marriage debates online (or otherwise), and I don’t know that I ever will. There are a lot of things I don’t know (and I was so smart a few years ago–what happened?), but there’s one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt: I want to love people like Jesus would (does) love them, and so I’m devoting some time and energy and prayer to finding out how to do that. And I’m not just talking about gays. I’m talking about my husband and kids, my neighbors, the poor, people I don’t agree with, people who sin differently than I do, etc.

This book was so well-written, so thoughtful, so brave. To stick our noses in our Bibles (aiming them at a handful of specific verses of course) and ignore/berate/condemn the voices of those around us who identify as gay AND love Jesus? Not cool. And I think Jesus would take the time to listen. And love. (No promises, but I’d like to talk more about the book after some of you have read it.)

A Walk Across the Sun (Corban Addison)

This book is actually a novel, but it’s about human trafficking in India and totally could’ve happened. Ahalya and Sita (17 and 15) are orphaned by a tsunami and then sold into slavery. This book follows them on their horrifying journey into the world of human trafficking. If you haven’t heard/read much about this topic, it will open your eyes big-time. I’ll be honest though. Knowing what I know about sweet little kiddos in Cambodia, there were times when I thought, this isn’t nearly as horrific as what’s happening to not-much-older-than-toddlers in Svay Pak.

If you want to know more about human trafficking, I highly recommend starting with this book. The story is compelling and is just like countless others that are really, truly going on in our world right this minute. In the coming months, I’m going to share more resources and ideas for how we can help fight this evil with God’s hope and light.

What Is The What? (Dave Eggers)

This one’s actually (technically) a novel too. But only because the narrator couldn’t remember details and conversations word for word from his past. It’s pretty much a true account of one boy (man’s) life from age seven when he had to leave his home in Sudan to walk and walk and walk (and starve and fight off beasts and watch his friends die) to “freedom” in Ethiopia.

Disclaimer: I got to page 322 and had to take it back to the library, because someone else was waiting for it. I’m going to check it out again and finish it. So eye-opening and sobering. Makes me want to do more for others in war-ravaged countries and the refugees right here in my own backyard.

Read any good books (preferably non-fiction) lately that I need to add to my To-Read List?

15 thoughts on “books that will make you feel smart

  1. Shannon Wheeler

    I loved Michael Hyatt’s “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World,” because I really am curious to understand how to use social media well, and he’s very specific and gives practical tips and is a Christian, which I love that he makes a point of sharing.

    “The Slave Across the Street,” by Theresa Flores
    “Girls Like Us,” by Rachel Lloyd
    Both about trafficking primarily in the US, and I especially love Rachel Lloyd’s voice as an author. She’s able to be very funny even in the middle of talking about painful, hard stuff that blows my mind to even consider and has really changed how I look at things pertaining to prostitution in America. I could not put this book down. Amazing!

    “No Other Gods,” by Kelly Minter

    “Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You To Do,” by Chrisitne Caine (started but haven’t finished)

    “The Writing Life,” Annie Dillard (started this and haven’t yet finished)

    “In the Presence of My Enemies,” Gracia Burnham (POWERFUL, powerful missionary memoir… wow… God’s grace is like wow….)

    In my Kindle to read:
    “Toxic Charity” Robert D. Lupton
    “Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life…” Robert D. Lupton
    “Godspeed: Making Christ’s Mission Your Own” Britt Merrick
    “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers…” Loung Ung (thought of you!)
    “Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal,” Conor Grennan
    “Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters,” Jon Acuff
    Tom Davis’ – “Priceless” and “Scared” (novels but I have enjoyed his non-fiction)
    “The Me I Want to Be,” John Ortberg

  2. Beth in the City

    Then Places, Mary DeMuth. And I want to read Does Jesus Really Love me – thanks for the recommendation. I would probably like to talk about it after I’m done. 🙂

  3. Gaylene

    Well, I admit that my books right now are for school (working on my Doctorate), but the best of them is Great by Choice by Jim Collins & Morten Hansen and Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath.
    For Work: Leading at a Higher Level by Ken Blanchard
    Fiction, when I get the time:
    When Jesus Wept by Brock & Bodie Thoene
    Damascus Count Down by Joel Rosenberg
    Non Fiction:
    Nelson Mandela
    Israel at War by Joel Rosenberg, Also Implosion by same author
    Soul Serfer
    My One Word

    1. Marla Taviano

      My husband looooooooves Joel Rosenberg. And this is a man (my husband) who hasn’t read a book in the 15 years we’ve been married (except for Joel’s in the past year or two).

  4. Addie

    Just got done with “Not For Sale” by David Batstone – its about human trafficking/slavery and also has a part about Cambodia in there, which made me think of you… very good.

  5. Jill Foley

    Right now I’m reading A Dream So Big by Steve Peifer.

    Also re-reading Scared and Priceless by Tom Davis (both fiction, but good stories and worth reading)

    Past reads that are worth reading:
    Beyond the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo
    Half the Sky – Nicholas Kristof

  6. Elizabeth Hutchison

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lax
    Someone knows my name (fiction, but based on fact)
    Kisses from Katie
    Basic Economics

    Thanks for the suggestions, Marla! I must –repeat, must–meet you some day. I’m thinking coffee…food…talking about books and kids and Jesus all day!

  7. Mallory

    Hi Marla! I’m guessing you’ve already read it, but I just recently finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom and loved it! For anyone who hasn’t, it paints a beautiful picture of loving those who are (really!) hard to love and being thankful in all circumstances, among other things.

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