December 24, 2019
Note From Rochelle
As I come to the end of another year, I am grateful for you. Thank you for being loyal followers.
I’m out of the office starting today through January 5. I am looking forward to reading, writing and hanging out with my family.
Today’s tip gathers book recommendations from some of my favorite writers.
Flood Your Holidays with Books
By Rochelle Melander
In Iceland, people celebrate Christmas Eve with jólabókaflóð or Yule book flood. The publishers in Iceland tend to release most of their books late in the year. The literary residents of this country buy them up and give them for gifts every Christmas. Most families open gifts on Christmas Eve and spend the evening reading their new books.
I’m always looking for my next great read. For this year’s holiday reading guide, I invited the people I interviewed to share their favorite read of the year. Enjoy!
Silvia Acevedo, author of the God Awful mythological series
I’ve enjoyed many books this year, but one that stands out to me is The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection, edited by Colby Sharp. Sharp invited more than 40 bestselling, award-winning, diverse authors and illustrators to create two story-starters, one to be answered by a fellow creator and the other placed at the end of the book for the reader to try. Each creator in turn answered a prompt.
The results were unexpected, fun, and creative, and manifested in prose, poetry, and art. There is something here for all readers, and it was a delight to see how accomplished creators answered the call. Contributors include Kate DiCamillo, Lemony Snicket, Debbie Ohi, Linda Sue Park, Jewel Parker Rhodes, and others. What a wonderful way to present the inventiveness of these talented creators!
Connie Habash, author of Awakening from Anxiety: A Spiritual Guide to Living a More Calm, Confident, and Courageous Life
I’m actually just finishing up this book as I write, and it’s been engaging and motivating. The Year of Less by Cait Flanders inspires me to look at what I really need and let go of what I don’t. I’ve wanted to deepen my commitment to simple living, and this book is the catalyst for me to do so! She bares her heart, too, with honest stories of her struggles with alcohol, eating, and shopping… and her triumphs of creating a life she loves with less.
Kathryn Haueisen, author of Asunder
By far the best book I’ve read this year was Becoming Mrs. Lewis about the long friendship between Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis, known as Jack to his closest friends. She was an accomplished, award-winning author herself, but trapped in a bitterly unhappy marriage to an alcoholic. From across the Atlantic, C. S. Lewis provided emotional support. Later, when she want to England to research her next book, he provided housing. Eventually he provided the security of marriage. Their letter and verbal exchanges are poignant and deep. The author writes the book as an autobiography and did enough research that she pulls it off beautifully. I had to keep reminding myself, this was not Joy’s actual writing, but rather that of the author, Patti Callahan.
J. Mercer, author of Triplicity
I have seven favorites from 2019 and as I sat narrowing them down, I asked myself which I’d be most sad to not have read. Though I’d recommend them all, this speaks to which hit me the hardest, which stayed with me, which, dare I say, became a part of me… “Some books you read. Some you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up heart and soul.” – Joanne Harris. So then there were three. I said some really nice things about two of them on my Instagram page (check in there toward the end of the year for the full seven) One has been my go-to recommendation lately, but the other feels more important. So there it is: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. “Nearly at a loss for words,” I said. “Read it for its heart – read it for its perfection.”
Jon M. Sweeney, author of The Pope Who Quit
I recently wrote a round-up piece of favorite books of 2019 for America magazine. I named The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison, ed. John F. Callahan and Marc C. Conner (Random House, hardcover, $50., 1,072pp.) as my book of the year. Beyond Ellison’s Invisible Man, I didn’t come to his correspondence knowing much about the author. But I found him fascinating, and the book is edited and introduced beautifully. Letters are organized chronologically by decade, beginning in the 1930s when Ellison was a student at Tuskegee Institute during the Great Depression, writing home mostly to his mother, before leaving for New York, where he meets Langston Hughes and slowly begins to transition from music to writing. In the ‘40s there are lots of letters to Richard Wright (Native Son). Throughout, there’s wisdom on myth, ritual, jazz, the blues, blackness, exile, tragedy, lying, friendship, art, how to fight, love, and bravery. I loved it.
That said, let me mention also the book from 2018 that was my favorite, and which I never had the opportunity to name in print: Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser (Picador, 2018 paperback reissue, $22., 625pp.). I have essentially raised two generations of children: my eldest is almost 27, my youngest is 8. I’ve loved Wilder’s autobiographical novels about the old West and have read them many times to my kids. But I’m also writing a biography now about Black Elk and I recognize all that’s troublesome about the ways of pioneer families like Wilder’s, not to mention the narrative they’ve fed us. All this complexity is handled deftly by Caroline Fraser. She tells a big story, and very well.
Rochelle Melander, author of Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination, and Increase Productivity
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (Highway 59 #1) introduces the reader to Darren Matthews, a black Texas ranger with deep roots in the state. When we meet Matthews, he’s determined to find out the truth behind the murders of two people in Lark, Texas–black lawyer passing through town and a local white woman. The book explores race, class, family, and more. Don’t miss it.
About the authors
Silvia Acevedo is a journalist and novelist. Her most recent book is God Awful Rebel, the third and final book in her God Awful mythological series. Silvia is also co-regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators-Wisconsin.
Rev. Connie L. Habash, LMFT, is a spiritual mentor, psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and author of Awakening from Anxiety: A Spiritual Guide to Living a More Calm, Confident, and Courageous Life. Connect with her on her website, https://www.AwakeningSelf.com
Kathryn Haueisen writes fiction, non-fiction, and articles about people and situations making a positive impact on our global village. She writes from Houston where she shares her life with her husband and spoiled miniature poodle. Whatever money she makes from writing she either gives to people doing worthwhile things or spends traveling. Visit her online at: https://howwisethen.com/
J Mercer’s latest novel, Triplicity, won both a Moonbeam and a Readers’ Favorite Book Award, and her next will be coming out in 2020. Follow her on Instagram for more book recommendations and writing tips.
Jon M. Sweeney is an independent scholar and the author of over thirty books including The Pope Who Quit, which was optioned by HBO.
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach and artist educator. She is the author of eleven books, including Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity.
A note on the links: Yes, those are affiliate links to Amazon. I receive a tiny percentage of the profit on any purchase you make. But if possible, I encourage you to shop for these books at your local independent bookstore.