Leather Chair Reading! Books That Challenge Your Heart!

Leather Chair Reading!  Books That Challenge Your Heart!

I think we all love books where we can get lost in the fictional journeys of wonderful love stories and happy endings…but sometimes it’s good to read books that create thought-provoking insights and challenge our core beliefs, our fears and our daily routines.

"Leather Chair Reading" Books that inspire you to live better. www.mytributejournal.com

“Challenge your fears… find your potential!”  Bishop T. D. Jakes

Small Great Things  by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things book.

This book hit close to home for me, since it is about a nurse on a maternity/NICU unit.  I’d actually seen some of my co-workers reading this book over the last few years and was intrigued, but once I found out it was about a nurse and her legal wranglings for something she wasn’t guilty of, I decided the subject matter seemed a little too real, so to speak, and that reading this book might invite bad karma!?  But then, as luck would have it, I mentored a nursing student one day who convinced me that the varied and fascinating layers of the plot line would make reading this book well worth my time…and boy, was she right!

The brief summary on inside the cover flap of the book is enough to leave you on the edge of your seat…and believe me, every nail-biting chapter leaves you deeply riveted to the story being told.  Small Great Things, takes on contemporary issues that are prevalent in society today, and as a nurse, I couldn’t help but ask myself how I would have handled things if faced with some of the same circumstances!

“Ruth Jackson was a maternity nurse with more than twenty years experience.  During one of her shifts, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’d been reassigned to another patient.  The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, an African American, to touch their child.  The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery.  Does she obey the orders or does she intervene?”

Leather Chair Reading! Books That Challenge Your Heart!

I love that each section of the book is named after a different stage of labor; a nod to the character’s profession…and the rebirth, of sorts, that each character goes through during the course of this complex, but incredible story! 

Jodi Picoult tackles a myriad of tough subject matters from privilege and prejudice to justice and compassion in this novel.  At the end of the book, she also outlines how she did extensive research with a cross-section of people and communities represented in this profound story that is based on true events about a woman in Flint, Michigan, who really faced many of the scenarios detailed in this book.  Although, a little uncomfortable to read about sometimes, the author doesn’t offer easy answers to some of the age-old conflicts and inner turmoil that many people, even in this day and age, are still trying to fully grasp and find the peace of mind that comes with knowing that we can all do small things in a great way!

Martin Luther King Jr. quote.

The author references this quote in her book, explaining that any good we do, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have lasting repercussions.

A Shot Guide To A Long Life  by David B. Angus, MD

Leather Chair Reading! Books that Challenge Your Heart!

A Short Guide To A Long Life, may be  small in size, but contains simple and powerful guidelines on how to greatly improve the quality of life, at least as far as living more healthy is concerned…and in a literal sense, challenges habits we might have that keep us from living with optimal health.  I like that it is a handy guide of common sense practices that can help us develop new patterns of personal health care using mostly inexpensive and accessible tools that are based on the latest and most reliable research–you’ll find yourself referring to it often.  I especially like that the overall focus of this book is that we should all be better at taking charge of our health and wellbeing and that the code of conduct for physicians should be that of practicing preventative medicine!

“I want doctors to treat towards health…and not treat towards disease.”  Dr. David B. Agus

The book is cleverly divided into three concise and easy to understand sections…  1) What To Do  2) What To Avoid and 3) Doctor’s Orders –Dr. Agus believes as I do, that the more concise and doable healthy guidelines are, the more we’re apt to follow through with them.  Having worked in the healthcare profession for many years, I find this approach very refreshing!

"A Short Guide To A Long Life" by Dr. David B. Agus

Each chapter has memorable titles, (ie. “Get Naked”, “Get Off Your Butt More” and “Eat Real Food” to name just a few.) simple pencil drawings, and some questions your doctor should ask you so he can personalize your health care based on your physiology, genetics, value system and individual circumstances.  Dr. Agus also strongly suggests that…..

“If your physician treats you like a textbook patient…it just might be time to make a change!”      

I found the last chapter, Doctor’s Orders, which gives a decade by decade list of things you should routinely do to create a good health plan for yourself, especially helpful.  As with any recommendations found in this book, they are based on scientific research and follow the generally accepted guidelines in the medical community, but if you are experiencing symptoms or concerns that are not within the realm of “normal” for you–be sure to consult your personal physician as soon as possible.  I also love the Health Lists compiled at the end of the book–they are the ultimate “cheat sheet” that will help you remember key facts, rules and ideas, regardless of your age, for making healthy living a lifelong quest…including, Top 10 Actions to Reduce Your Risk for IllnessTop 10 Things to Help Educate Kids About Health and Wellness, Popular Weight Loss Myths, and Top 10 Most Useful Health and Medicine Websites.

Take care of your body quote.

This book will motivate you to take a good look at the overall health habits you have in place and what ones you might need to adjust to live even better.  It will also help you realize once and for all, to find a doctor who is invested in your health and who finds it not only his responsibility, but his privilege to help educate and care for your overall wellbeing…one who holds you accountable by asking all the hard questions. Helathcare cartoon.

I love the final bit of advice Dr. Agus gives…

“Don’t make living healthy too complicated…live your life, just try to live it better every day!”

Personal growth quote!

Have you read any good books lately that really touched your heart and helped you grow personally or challenged any bad health habits?

Here’s to happy hearts and healthy living! 

Love, Mary

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

Leather Chair Reading!  Cozy January Books!

After all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, January seems like the perfect time to get cozy by the fireplace and relax with a good book on those cold, winter evenings!

"Leather Chair Reading" Books that inspire you to live better. www.mytributejournal.com

In our family, we still love giving and receiving good books for Christmas gifts…it gives us something to look forward to come January when the weather is bleak and schedules are a little less hectic.

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”  Garrison Keillor

Here are a few cozy January books I highly recommend!

Prayers For Sale  by Sandra Dallas

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

In all the many books I’ve read over the years, there’s only a handful that I can honestly say I couldn’t put down…this book was one of them!  Much of the story takes place in the mountain mining town of Middle Swan, Colorado–so getting cozy under a big quilt or a warm afghan is a necessity as you read about the cold, harsh winters the people endured there as they worked hard to eek out a living under brutal weather and living conditions.  The story takes place in 1936 when the great depression has ravaged the country and jobs are scarce.  The main character, Hennie Comfort, befriends seventeen year old Nit Spindle and her husband, who have come to find work in Middle Swan.  Hennie and Nit create an instant bond over their shared love of quilting, as well as the deep heartache both have suffered from having lost a child.  Hennie doesn’t sell prayers, not really, but her wise nature and deep commitment to helping the people of her community seems to make them believe that she is more in tune with a higher power than most.  I think one of the main reasons I loved this book so much was because Hennie’s resilient spirit reminded me of my maternal grandmother, who raised my mother and her six brothers, mostly on her own, since my grandfather traveled often, and for extended periods of time for work with his insurance business.  Hennie Comfort and women like her, have a work ethic and common sense approach to life that can’t help but inspire you to be a more selfless and loving person.  This book shows you that friendships truly have no boundaries if you sincerely care about each other.

"Prayers For Sale" by Sandra Dallas

How To Find Love In A Book Shop  by Veronica Henry

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

A wonderful friend recommended this book for our neighborhood book club…and what a treat!  The title and cover art alone make you want to go find a cozy spot and get lost in the pages of this fun book!  One review of this book states that, “…it is a delightful story of a bookshop, its devoted new owner, its loyal customers, and the power of books to heal the heart.” —and indeed it is that, and more.  In fact, as you can imagine, some of the best stories aren’t told within the books sold, but rather from the customers themselves that frequent the Nightingale Book Shop.  Although Emilia gave a deathbed promise to her father to keep his beloved book shop open, where he fell in love with her mother, she faces some of the same dilemmas many small business owners face today…that of keeping things afloat while big property developers put undue pressure on her to sell out to large company conglomerates.  Compounding the fate of the book shop even further, is the tremendous debt her father had accrued before he died.  Even though there are a lively cast of characters, (and I loved them all) who create several storylines…from the introverted but sweet chef, Thomasina, who came on Tuesday afternoons to browse the cookery books, to Sarah, the owner of Peasebrook Manor, who used the escape that a good book provides to hide a special secret of the heart…the author is an amazing storyteller and develops each one in a compelling and heartwarming way.  It’s truly an enchanting story of the power of community–and books!  It’s a cozy January “must read”!

Leather Chair Reading! Cozy January Books!

“A town without a little book shop…is a town without a heart.”  Nightingale Book Shop owner, Julius, in “How To Find Love In A Book Shop”

Number The Stars  by Lois Lowry

"Number The Stars" by Lois Lowry

I read this gem years ago with my kids when they were in elementary school, but when my oldest granddaughter received this book for Christmas, I rummaged through my bookcases to find it and read it again.  Lois Lowry has written many wonderful children’s books, but this one is by far my favorite!

The story told in this book is based on historical fiction and the events that took place in 1943 during World War II, when thousands of Danish Jews were helped to escape to the neutral country of  Sweden in order to avoid being relocated to concentration camps by the German Nazi’s.  The book centers around the Annemarie Johansen and her family, who risk their lives to help Annemarie’s Jewish friend, Ellen Rosen, by pretending she is their late daughter, Lise, who had died earlier in the war.  The author states that the book’s title is from a reference in Psalms 147:3-4, where God states that he has numbered all the stars and has named each one of them…which seems befitting since so many innocent lives were lost due to the treacheries of this war.  It also ties into the special Star of David necklace Ellen wore that becomes a significant symbol of Annemarie’s courage when she breaks it off Ellen’s neck when Nazi soldiers raid the Johansen’s apartment early one morning, thinking they are illegally harboring the Rosen family.

"Number The Stars" book quote.

This novel received the Newbery Medal Award in 1990, which is given to a distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  One award reviewer stated, “Like the main character, Annemarie, young readers are protected from the full implication of the horrendous events of World War II, but will get caught up in the suspense of her courageous run as courier on the night of the family’s escape from Copenhagen.”  I also read where Lois Lowry traveled to Denmark to do research and conduct interviews for the book, and took the photo of the girl on the cover shown above that was used on many editions of the book.  If they haven’t heard about it already, introduce your children to this book and read it with them; they will surely develop a deeper appreciation for the freedoms they enjoy today due to the sacrifices of those who lived before them–including many children!

In this day and age, it seems more important than ever before to turn off the distractions of our TV’s and technical devices for a while, and pick up a good book.  I hope you’ll find the ones I’ve listed here as enjoyable as I did.

Open a good book quote.

What are some good books you’re reading now that we could add to the cozy January book list?

–Love, Mary


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 make 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!

Leather Chair Reading! International Children's Book Day! www.mytributejournal.com

 “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 play 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 recyclables, 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 who collects their rent, Sopeap Sin, 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