the book cover of Touching Spirit Bear

January Favorites 2024

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Right now, my desk (and floor and bedside table) are overflowing with books. I order way too many books online. I receive way too many from other authors. And then there are the ones I asked for (and received) at Christmas. I’ve also got a list of shows and movies to watch. And a podcast queue that holds more than I can handle as well.

Lucky for you, I’m only going to share the ones that I’ve loved, in hopes that you’ll find something here to watch, listen to, or read and enjoy:

1. Movie: The Holdovers

I loved this story of disruptive grace between a curmudgeonly teacher and a wayward student. (More of my thoughts about the movie here)

2. Memoir: Being Heumann by Judith Heumann

I’ve heard Judith Heumann’s name for years because she was such a significant member of the disability rights movement. Her memoir is funny, witty, and infuriating. She details the barriers she faced as a disabled young woman seeking equal standing within our culture. I’m so grateful for this overview not only of Heumann’s life but of the disability rights movement in general.

3. Fiction: Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

Fifteen-year-old Cole is banished to an island after he severely injures a classmate at school. This survival story is about reckoning with his family, and with himself, on a path to greater self-awareness and acceptance. That all makes it sound kind of fluffy and vague, but I loved the way it embodied themes of resilience and the need for a mind/body/spirit integration. (When I finished this book, I gave it to both William and Marilee. Peter then stole it, and read it too. Penny read it in school a few years ago. In other words, it is a YA novel, but I recommend it for everyone. Disclaimer: there are a few super violent scenes in the beginning of the book.)

4. Podcast: NPR Code Switch: Everyone wants a piece of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

I’m grateful for this conversation about the lasting legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the ways it has been distorted, and why it still matters…

5. Podcast: The Bible Project: What Does “Blessed” Mean?

I’m thinking a lot these days about what makes a good life, so I loved hearing these thoughts from the Bible Project on how to understand the Beatitudes as an unexpected portrait of the good life.

6. Podcast: NPR: Facing Death, A Poet Searches For Meaning

This is a beautiful and haunting conversation about faith and despair and what gives life beauty and meaning with Christian Wiman and Terry Gross.

7. NYT Opinion: A Terrible Phone Call and What Came Next

“The word ‘shared’ implies participation. When you share a meal, you are not merely one of two people eating. You are eating together. And so it should be with sorrow and joy.” What a touching, beautiful, and honest call to become people of true compassion.

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