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Let’s Read!

I love to read. And I really enjoy talking about the books I’m reading. You, too?

I’m going through my stack of recent “reads” and pulling from the books I’ve set aside “to be read” so that I can line up some reviews and suggestions for you. Most are non-fiction, but my summer reading goal includes giving myself space for some really good fiction — both classics and new titles. What would YOU recommend?

Here’s a start — three titles that have stayed with me long after I turned the last page. The first is a brand new release that I had the privilege of pre-reading while the author was editing it for her agent. The second is a memoir that set the standard for all future memoirs, including a new one by this author due to release in 2022. The third is by a “local” author (Goshen, Indiana) who is currently working on her third book. I’m re-reading it alongside other local readers.

I hope these three titles by female authors give you many sweet hours of reading.


Blended with Grit and Grace

Since publishing her first memoir, Sunlight Burning at Midnight, Jessica Ronne has been busy raising her blended family, starting a nonprofit organization for special needs families and hosting the podcast Coffee with Caregivers. She also recently made the big move from rural Tennessee to Michigan, where she and her husband, Ryan, are building a home for their eight children. Jessica’s first book takes the reader through her son’s special needs diagnosis, the loss of her husband to brain cancer and the journey to find her soul mate, Ryan, who also lost his wife. Sunlight lays the ground work for Blended with Grit and Grace, but they are two very different books. Just Keep Livin’ When Life Is Unexpected is the subtitle for Grit and Grace. In this sequel, the reader walks alongside the Ronne family as they learn what it’s like to have eight kids under one roof. Jess digs into her deep well of experience to share the routines, solutions, challenges and victories that come with developing new family traditions and finding ways to meet the family’s special needs. Ryan adds his insight as they talk about marital and financial issues, handling grief and building communication. The icing on the cake is the collection of tried-and-true big family recipes Jess has dropped into the story. Grit and Grace will give you hope and keep you humble as you travel your own parenting journey.

So Many Africas

I met author Jill Kandel five years ago, shortly after she won the Autumn House Press Nonfiction Prize. That honor resulted in the publication of her haunting memoir So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village. Jill’s dramatic retelling of the challenges she and her Dutch-born husband faced while living in Africa propel the reader into a culture and location most of us will never experience. In spare and elegant prose, Jill conveys her own struggle to assimilate, and to find her way back to herself and her North Dakota roots once the adventure ends. With poetic descriptions of the people and the villages where they made a home, Jill shares what it was like to become a new mother while bridging the cultural divide between herself, her husband and the natives she came to love. With a style that is both fluid and intimate, Jill shares an intense story of trauma, recovery and survival in a country that is as harsh as it is beautiful. Her upcoming book is titled The Clean Daughter: A Cross-Cultural Memoir. It will be released in January 2022 and I can’t wait to read it.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places

The Ministry of Ordinary Places is one of those books that makes you believe you CAN make a difference, even if you live an ordinary life in an ordinary community among ordinary people. The subtitle of Shannan’s book is Waking Up To God’s Goodness Around You and her point is that we all need to PAY ATTENTION and do the next right thing — which means simply being with people the way that Jesus was. With her trademark quirky wit and keen insight, Shannan gives us real-life examples of how she and her jail chaplain husband interact with their community, digging deep even when it’s exhausting and holding on for the good stuff that shows up when you least expect it. Shannan’s first book, Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted, sets the stage with her family’s move from the picture-perfect Flower Patch Farmgirl life in the country to a life “on the other side of the tracks.” I admit that I did “fangirl” Shannan after reading about her move to Goshen, trying to convince her that we need to be writing buddies. But I did not copy her hanging mug photo! I’ve had my favorite mug display rotating on a thrift store rack for years. So, at least we share that! Grab a copy of The Ministry of Ordinary Places and catch up on Shannan’s no-nonsense approach to WWJD before her next book hits the bookstore.


“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” ~ William Morris

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