Leather Chair Reading! Fun And Thoughtful Summer Books!

Leather Chair Reading!  Fun And Thoughtful Summer Books!

As you scan the big, wide, wonderful world of the internet, it won’t take you long to realize that summer book lists are a dime a dozen.  That being said, I’m a huge proponent of checking out anything that gets us interested in taking a break from social media to actually opening up what we each consider a good “read-worthy” book.  Here’s a few I’ve read lately that I know will have you glad you took the time to curl up in a comfy, secluded corner somewhere to get lost in the entertaining wonders of the written word!

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 “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need!”  Tribute Journal

Tribute Journal’s Summer Book List!

Short: by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Short: by Holly Goldberg Sloan

“Unexpected things happen when you are young that change you…or maybe a better way to say this is, unexpected things happen when you are young that shape you.”  Holly Goldberg Sloan

This fun novel was a recent pick for a book club I attend…and boy, did I ever love every entertaining, laugh out-loud moment it provided!  This delightful book was inspired by the author’s own experiences of being the shortest girl in her class throughout her elementary grade school years, as well as her adventures of playing a Munchkin in summer theater production of “The Wizard Of Oz”.

The endearing story of “Short” is told through the matter-of-fact, pre-teen eyes of Julia Marks.  Discouraged about her lack of stature and grieving the loss of her beloved dog, Ramon, Julia isn’t looking forward to her summer.  To make matters worse, her mother signs her and her younger brother up to audition for a semi-professional community theater production of the “Wizard Of Oz” …and what does she get cast as?  That’s right, a munchkin!  During the course of the nearly daily rehearsals, Julia is introduced to the world of theater and the quirky cast of characters who make a lasting impact on her young life.

I grew a lot this summer.  Not on the outside, but on the inside.  And that’s the only place where growing really matters.

Julia Marks in “Short” by Holly Goldberg Sloan   

Aside from the ever charming character of Julia, I loved Julia’s neighbor, Mrs. Chang, a former prima ballerina, who Julia has no trouble convincing to become involved in the theater production as costume designer extraordinaire; she is a kick and even though she’s well into her 70’s, she eventually talks the eccentric director of the play into letting her and Julia be some of the flying monkeys who are strapped into make-shift harnesses as they fly across the stage in what becomes a highlight of the play.  Another subtle, yet wonderful relationship development that takes place in this book, is the new-found respect Julia finds for the tireless efforts of her mother as she starts to realize how much her mom just wants what’s best for her family…any mother can certainly relate to that plot line!!

I smile at mom and tell her something I’ve wanted to say all summer.  “Thanks, mom.  Thanks for making me try out for this play.”  I think I might have made being a mother totally worthwhile for her.  I will never forget the look on her face…mom has tears in her eyes and she’s smiling.  It’s an amazing look.  I have to remember how powerful it can be to say thank you.  Especially to the people you live with.  They probably least expect it.

As an adult, I dearly loved this book, and my two older granddaughters are also enjoying it as we read it together this summer.

The Rent Collector: by Camron Wright

Rent Collector quotes.

“Just when we think we have our own stories figured out, heroes arise in the most unexpected places.”  Camron Wright 

My husband gave me this beautifully written book as a gift this past Christmas.  My sister-in-law, who is an avid reader, suggested it as a “must read” when he inquired about a good book he could give me…and indeed “The Rent Collector” is  a mesmerizing book to read!

Typically, when an amazing story is discovered in a wonderful book and gains public acclaim, it might eventually be made into a movie.  In the case of “The Rent Collector” –it was a documentary film made by the author’s son while he attended film school, that inspired Camron Wright to make the characters come to life on the written page.  (You can read more about the documentary film here.)   

Sang Ly in the book The Rent Collector.

(Sang Ly with her husband and son via “River of Victory”)

The story is set in Cambodia just after the decline of the communist Khmer Rouge regime.  The two main characters, Sang Ly and her husband Ki Lim, live in Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in Cambodia.  Day to day life is hard enough when you have to make a living scavenging through the trash for recyclable, without the extra worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of the medicines that don’t seem to be working.  Although this story line may sound grim, the author’s eloquent message throughout the book is one of hope, determination and redemption.  Sang Li’s quest to save her son’s life takes an unusual turn when she finds out that the ill-tempered woman, Sopeap Sin, who collects their rent, has a secret that could eventually help Sang Li save her son.

As stated on the cover of this book:

The Rent Collector powerfully illustrates how anyone can quite literally “rise from the ashes” so to speak, in the most unlikely of places.

I read about an interview Mr. Wright gave when “The Rent Collector” was first published, where he states that hope is sort of an innate thing that we should all hold on to in our hearts…

Things get terrible and things get bad, but we always look to better times; I think that is how we should always live no matter our circumstances.

I guarantee that this book will have a powerful impact on how you view your own life and how you choose to resolve the challenges you face.

Choices That Change Lives: by Hal Urban

Choices That Change Lives by Hal Urban

“Our lives are the direct result of our choices, and the most important choices we make become our character traits…the ones that lead to fulfillment and peace of mind.”  Hal Urban 

This book is a follow-up to Hal Urban’s best seller and one of my very favorite books, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter Most”.  (You can read my journal entry on that book here.)  Hal Urban’s books are so joyful to read; he has the rare ability to entertain and enlighten without getting preachy.  As a former high school teacher, college professor, and single father who raised three sons, his stories are insightful and the wisdom he’s gained through his own process of self-evolvement can’t help but inspire you to more fully develop your capacity to live a rich and rewarding life.  I keep both these books handy so I can use them as a ready reference for those times when I find myself in need of a little extra “food for the soul” –so to speak!

Hal Urban quote: We live by choice, not by chance."

In the introduction of this book,  Mr. Urban recalls that all too often in his travels, he found that people were intrigued with the concept that he’d mentioned in his previous book…

I recall vividly that while on a media tour for my book, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter Most” –all every radio or TV host wanted to talk about was the chapter on making choices…you would have thought that I’d made some startling discovery that was going to dramatically change millions of lives.  But the truth is, choices have been around for as long as mankind.  It’s truly amazing how many people are either unaware, or forget, that they’re making choices all the time–little ones that are fairly unimportant, and big ones that can change our lives for good or for bad.  This book is about some of those big choices.

When I first read this book, I just picked out the chapters with the characteristics and choices I thought I needed to work on the most–I mean who doesn’t need to take a good close look at being more humble, patient, kind and courageous…right?  However, when I picked up the book again and reread it from front to back, it dawned on me that so many choices we make in life are interrelated and applied simultaneously as we strive to live our best lives.

The advice given at the end of the book is one of the key reasons why I love Hal Urban’s observations and astute insights into everyday life.  He says:

While reading this book, you may be thinking the same thing I was thinking while writing it.  What person could possibly practice all these qualities and virtues every day?  I thought of two who probably did–Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa.  The world doesn’t produce a lot of people like these two Nobel Peace Prize winners, but it does produce a lot of regular people like you and me who want to grow, who want to be the best persons we can be, and who want to lead lives of joy.

I hope you are all having the best summer, full of all the things you love–I also hope it includes a good book or two!  My cute dad, who always seemed to have a book in his hand, loved this quote…Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on reading.With this thought in mind, I’d love to know of any good books you’ve read lately or are reading now that have made an impact on your life.

–Here’s to happy summer days and good reading!  Mary 

Leather Chair Reading! Books That Celebrate The American Spirit!

Leather Chair Reading!  Books That Celebrate The American Spirit!

I think it’s fair to say that we may all be a little weary of the grueling political process we’ve experienced in the past several months as we anticipate the election of a new president of the United States.  Sometimes it seems that the very principles our founding fathers fought so hard for in establishing this great country are being compromised.  The campaign rhetoric got so bad one night, that I found myself browsing my husband’s expansive library of American history books to find a few that would help restore my faith in everything I love about this great land of America.  For this Leather Chair Reading journal entry, I have chosen a few of the books I love that helped me remember, more intimately, the immense sacrifices of past generations as they fought for the many freedoms we now enjoy, as well as reenergize my belief in the great American spirit!

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“There is nothing so wrong with America that faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizen’s cannot cure!”   Dwight D. Eisenhower  

“1776” by David McCullough

1776 by David McCullough

“The eyes of all America are upon us as we play our part; posterity will bless or curse us!”  Henry Knox

If you are a fan of Pulitzer prize winning author, David McCullough, like my husband is, (don’t even get him started on John Adams, McCullough’s book written just prior to this one) you know he always does extensive research.  In 1776 McCullough focuses on a single momentous year in the fight for American independence, rather than any one individual, although George Washington definitely takes on a starring role.  If you have ever wondered how a bunch of unruly farmers, so to speak, end up defeating the great monarchy of England, you’ll learn from this book that it was done with a great deal of suffering, determination, ingenuity…and perhaps a bit of divine intervention!  McCullough details both sides of the conflict, and how England underestimated abiding hunger for victory.  Besides a new respect for George Washington and his ability to garner an unwavering loyalty from those he led, you’ll also see that he had the rare gift to learn from the criticism he received from other commanders.  When Washington learned that other military leaders considered him to be hopelessly indecisive, he considered their views, agreed with them and made himself more decisive.  An unlikely hero in this book was Henry Knox, a small, rotund Boston bookseller, who trekked over wintry, frozen terrain to bring much needed ammunition from Fort Ticonderoga to help American soldiers be victorious in the battle at Yorktown, a pivotal turning point in winning the Revolutionary War.  On the book jacket it states that 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.  In reading this book, I was in awe of all the players that, by no small coincidence, came together to help America gain its freedom!

“A More Perfect Union” by Dr. Ben Carson with Candy Carson

A More Perfect Union by Dr. Ben Carson

“Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution for ordinary men and women, in clear, precise language; they intentionally made it short enough to read in a single sitting.”  Dr. Ben Carson

My husband and I picked this book up long before Dr. Carson made his bid for the 2016 presidential race.  I had read his autobiography, Gifted Hands, and liked his thoughtful, determined approach to life.  We read a few chapters after purchasing the book, then got busy with other projects, so it sat neglected on my nightstand.  But when the constitution became such a focal point of the current presidential race, we decided it was time to become better versed on this document drawn up by our founding fathers as a fundamental directive that helps to define key points that promise to protect the rights of the citizens of the United States of America…even amid all their varying viewpoints.  Dr. Carsen so profoundly states, “I wrote this book to encourage every citizen to read and think about the Constitution, and to help defend it from those who would misinterpret and undermine it in our age of political correctness…it’s so important to defend the Bill of Right, which guarantees our freedom to speak, bear arms, practice our religion and much more.” 

The Constitution. A More Perfect Union!

The Preamble to the Constitution says, “The purpose of this document is to create a more perfect union of this blessed nation!” 

May we all be empowered, in some small way, to protect that union and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves.  I also loved the insights from Dr. Carson’s wife, Candy, as she put a female spin on the privileges we are afforded as a result of upholding the Constitution.  (If you really want to treat yourselves, get the audio version of this book, Dr. Carson’s kind voice is such that listening to him read this book can’t help but restore any lacking faith you may have in the great American Spirit!) 

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I actually read this book some time ago with a neighborhood book club; and while I’d like to think of myself as somewhat of a dedicated learner about World War II, I have to admit that I found I wasn’t too knowledgeable on the Japanese element of this horrific war.  Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini who learns to channel his youthful defiance into being a world-class runner who eventually makes his way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  But when World War II breaks out he finds himself enlisting as a United States airman.  I found this book to be a hard read sometimes as it documents Zamperini’s perils of being lost at sea after his plane is shot down over the Pacific Ocean and the brutality he eventually faces as a Japanese prisoner of war.  I loved learning that the author was able to interview Zamperini many times as she wrote the book, and was able to find out first hand that his character, even in old age, exemplified hope and humor amid his memories of the most desperate of human conditions!  I later saw the movie based on the book that was produced by Angelina Jolie, who said Zamperini taught her about having faith.  “There’s just something greater than all of us…and it’s uniting and beautiful!”   Wonderful wisdom to keep in mind as we each face life’s challenges, whatever they may be.  

The great American spirit of Louis Zamperini!

(Louis Zamperini in 2014 at 97 years old.)

“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him…was not the pain he had suffered, but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.”  Laura Hillenbrand on Louis Zamperini

I  hope I can learn to love deeper when facing adversity…and may we all learn to truly cherish those who have forged the way for America to exist as it does today, and honor its greatness by the way we live!

I Love America quote.

Please share what books you’d recommend about American History and its great spirit that are a “must read”?     

–Mary

Leather Chair Reading! A Life Changing Book!

Leather Chair Reading!  A Life Changing Book!

Although we have enjoyed an unusually warm fall season here in Utah where I live, the night air is starting to turn cooler, so it seems the perfect time, (before the busy holiday season) to come home after a busy day and wrap up in a warm afghan for a little while and read a chapter or two in a good book!

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To change ones life:  Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly.  No exceptions.”  William James

For this “Leather Chair Reading” journal post, the book I’m going to share with you literally changed the trajectory of my life and helped me and my husband redefine our true priorities at a crucial time for us when balancing work, family and time together seemed a little off kilter.  It is a book you’ll want to keep handy so you can refer to it often, because we all know it often takes constant reminders to help us keep what’s most important in our lives in good perspective!

Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter!  by Hal Urban

Leather Chair Reading! Life Changing Books!

“The author has put into wise bite-size pieces some of life’s most important truths.  Read, learn, and enjoy!”  Obviously, I was intrigued after reading this quote on the inside cover of the book, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter!”, while browsing through some bookshelves several years ago when my husband and I were on a “bookstore date” one of our favorite kinds of dates, so how could I not buy it!

The author, Hal Urban, was a high school teacher for several years, and then a professor at the University of San Francisco, but more importantly, as far as I’m concerned, he raised three sons as a single father, and in this role realized pretty quickly that he had a limited amount of time to get his priorities figured out.

This book is the kind of book you’ll tend to want to devour in a single sitting, since you can’t help but anticipate all the amazing changes that are sure to take place in your life when you finish the last chapter!  But realistically, since this book does requires some self-introspection, reading each chapter carefully, even taking time to make notes in the margins, rewards the reader with time to really ponder all the individual topics, and then know better how to implement the lessons learned into daily living.  As the wise literary scholar, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived in order to be understood.” 

Mr. Urban states in the introduction of his book that he wrote it for four reason:

 ◊ Because they don’t teach how life works or what is essential in school.

Because most of us need help in discovering how good we can really be.

Because old fashioned truth never goes out of style—-even with a new generation.

Because we are never too young or too old to learn life’s greatest lesson…and the time is always right.

I love the common sense approach taken with each lesson so that people from all walks of life can ultimately empower themselves to live better lives.  For example, in Lesson 4, titled:  “Attitude Is A Choice–The Most Important One You’ll Ever Make!” the author shares a personal story of how he slowly put the pieces of his broken life back together after a painful divorce.  In so doing, he tried hard to live by the creed of World War II prison camp survivor, Victor Frankl, who believed that the ability to choose our attitude in any given circumstance should be valued as one of man’s most celebrated freedoms!  “We can’t adjust every situation to fit our lives perfectly, but we can adjust our attitudes to fit all situations.”

Good attitude quote.

Lesson 6: “Being Thankful Is A Habit–The Best One You’ll Have!” talks about an experiment Mr. Urban did with his students throughout the years of his teaching career; he would simply asked his students to go for twenty-four hours without complaining.  I will admit, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read that the first response from his students was usually to complain about the assignment, but this was only the first part of the assignment…he also asked his students to list things they were thankful for, then read that list four times a day!  The author then goes on to describe the significant changes in his student’s demeanor as they entered his classroom after the experiment, “There were more and bigger smiles, eyes appeared to be open wider and bodies seemed more alive.  Was it magic?  No, just appreciation.  Thankfulness does wonders for the soul!  When we focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong, life improves considerably!”  

Probably the lesson I related to the most was number 11: “There’s No Substitute For Hard Work!”  I was blessed to have parents who taught me that motivation is fantastic and goals are great, but nothing happens until hard work is added.  It’s the last lesson, number 20, that often stumps me the most: “Life Really Is Quite Simple, Don’t Insist On Complicating It!”  While we live in a complex world, it doesn’t mean we have to live complicated lives.  In the final chapter of his book, Mr. Urban intuitively states, “Living a more fulfilled life is often as simple as looking for the best…in the world, in others and in ourselves!  Doing this will unlock your mind to a treasure chest of life’s opportunities and possibilities!” 

Be Happy Quote

I will always treasure “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter!” as a reference guide on how to be authentic and live my best life!  

I’d love to know about any great books you’ve read that have inspired you to live better. 

–Mary