Review: Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy + Giveaway

Even though I could tell stories of not being popular in school or of not feeling quite at home as I questioned the theology taught by my very young youth group leader, I never felt completely rejected by school or church or society. I grew up flying under the radar, content with my small group of friends, ready to grow up and find my own path.

With that in mind, reading books like Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack by Alia Joy are important for me. They remind me of the very real struggles many in my peer group lived through as they fought for a faith that supported them.

Alia Joy tackles a host of weaknesses in her book: poverty, mental illness, body image, and physical health problems are all referenced as part of Joy’s faith journey. As she leans into a life that doesn’t fit the mold of an American Dream, Joy realizes that maybe her spiritual gift is the gift of weakness. Maybe the beatitudes are true – that those who seem rejected by society are the ones who are truly blessed.

I especially appreciated her reminders that the Bible is filled with characters we often overlook. I was especially impacted by her chapter called “Uncomfortable Love.” In it, she recalls the Bible story of the Good Samaritan, who cares for a beaten Jew (and his enemy) on the side of the road. Joy reminds us,

What is hard is not the man robbed on the side of the road, beaten and left for dead. I have felt those wounds in my very soul. What is hard is loving the priest and the Levite who crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by, presumably on their way to do their holy work (pg 105).

Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy

I’ve been thinking about that all week. Who are the holy people I have trouble loving? Often, it is easier to love those who are vastly different than me than to love those who look like me but have different political views. Joy reminds us throughout Glorious Weakness that we are all weak and in need of love; that our neighbors are those who are easy to love and those who are difficult. That God’s glory stretches to the most likely and unlikely of places.

Unfortunately, these stories of strength and perseverance are scattered in such a way that made reading Joy’s memoir difficult to follow. A lot of assumptions were made: That the reader has a fluent knowledge of evangelical language; that the reader has followed Joy’s journey on the internet so can fill in personal references easily; that the reader understands the wobbly timeline presented. I felt like I was always a few steps behind on the journey, struggling to keep up and follow along.

There was enough beauty and truth in this book to make me hope to read more from Alia Joy. I think she has more stories to tell and I hope she continues to hone her craft and strengthen her voice.

Giveaway! I believe this is a powerful book and will be an encouragement for the right person, so answer my question below and I’ll send one person my copy. (Giveaway closes on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.)

How have you leaned into your own weaknesses? How have you found strength from embracing those weaknesses?

I received this book free from the publisher via Baker Books Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Review: The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby

The first (and perhaps only) time I got in trouble in elementary school was in the first grade. Two boys started fighting and I watched them. I missed recess the next day because I hadn’t gone to tell a teacher. I remember sitting against the wall, inconsolable at the unfair treatment.

Looking back on this early memory, I still don’t condone this style of playground management. Punishing six-year-olds for standing by and watching certainly isn’t how childhood conflict should be managed.

However, this scene reminds me of how many white people fit into the structures of racism that have built the foundations of the United States. Maybe we aren’t personally responsible for the building of those foundations. Maybe our ancestors weren’t even living on American soil when those laws and systems were first put into place. But we’ve stood by and watched, benefiting from centuries of racism and inequity.

On the left: The book cover of "The Color of Compromise" by Jemar Tisby.
On the right: "The failure to act in the midst of injustice is itself an act of injustice. Indifference to oppression perpetuates oppression." Jemar Tisby

In The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby provides a survey of American complicity in racism. He tackles overt systems, like slavery and Jim Crow laws, and quieter ones, like many white Protestant churches staying “neutral” during the Civil Rights Movement.

Starting in the Colonial Era, moving through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and into the Civil Rights Movement coupled with the rise of the Religious Right and then into Black Lives Matter, Tisby gives a detailed but brief overview of America’s “original sin” of racism. I appreciated this survey format – while I would love to read a deep book on each of these eras, I simply don’t have the time at this stage in life. Tisby’s overview was just what I needed to learn more about the untold history of my country.

Tisby reminds his reader that even if specific actions of racism aren’t personal, white people in this nation have benefited from the imbalance of systemic racism. We need to recognize our complicity. The church needs to recognize its complicity. Too many pastors either overtly interpreted the Bible through a lens of white supremacy or allowed those misinterpretations by staying silent.

This book is not for people just starting out on the journey of racial reconciliation. This is for people who recognize their part in these pervasive systems and want to know more. This is a book for people who are seeking to read a more rounded history, who know that what they learned in school was the story of the victors. Even though I knew a lot of the pieces of history referenced in The Color of Compromise, it was still difficult to read that time after time Christians and the church failed to make the choice to take a side.

For those of you on the journey toward justice and reconciliation, who are ready to listen and learn, I highly recommend The Color of Compromise.

What’s the last book you read that took something you knew a little about and shifted your thinking?

As part of the launch team, I received an advance copy of the book from Zondervan. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Review: I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

Without a doubt, we live in a divided climate here in the United States. Churches are making decisions about inclusion and who can participate; business are reckoning with gaps in pay; and our political parties seem more extreme than ever. I’m not sure if this is actually true––America has been divided before to the point of going to war and literally fighting neighbors. But there is no doubt that our divisive opinions have framed the current narrative.

Cover: "I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening)" by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers.
The top half of the book is blue with a coffee drink showing the image of a donkey in the foam. The bottom half of the book is red with a coffee drink showing the image of an elephant in the foam.

In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), Sarah Stewart Holland, a Democrat, and Beth Silvers, a Republican, talk about their journey toward understanding. Politically different but with numerous similarities, these two started a political podcast to talk about current issues with perspectives from “the other side.”

I don’t listen to Pantsuit Politics so can’t comment on the tone of the show but as I read this book, I kept thinking that it would be more appropriate in conversation form. The topics are rooted in headlines of the past year or two. Even the format of co-authoring seems better suited to an audio conversation.

The book has practical and applicable advice on how to start your own political journey. Holland and Silvers give concrete examples and steps to remembering that the other side isn’t as evil or as different as you may think.

Perhaps that’s the point. Holland and Silvers may align with different political parties but for all other categories, they are the same: white, (upper?) middle-class, Christian, mothers, living in Kentucky. My guess is that both of them are more in the center of their parties so it is very easy to find commonality. I have a feeling that for the majority of us, this is true about those we disagree with––there are far more similarities than differences.

I wasn’t looking for a fighting book but I kept thinking about Desmond Tutu’s observation, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” I think it’s important to see the humanity in all people but I don’t think it’s important to simply “agree to disagree” or to let “you do you.” There are policies and points of view that cause actual harm to large swaths of our population. Part of aligning with a political party is supporting the tension of keeping systems in check and holding people and institutions accountable.

If you’re at a loss for how to have an enjoyable dinner with friends or family from “the other side,” this book may offer helpful advice. If you’re looking for perspectives on policies and politics from opposing points of view, this is a lukewarm offering.

Do you find it difficult to engage with “the other side”? How do you have political conversations? (Or do you avoid them?)

I received this book free from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Review: Loving My Actual Neighbor by Alexandra Kuykendall

When we moved to our cul-de-sac in the suburbs, I didn’t realize how intertwined our lives would be with our actual neighbors. My daughters dash across the street, inviting themselves into the house of their best friend. (I’m told this is ok because “we actually family, mom!”) Our neighbor two houses down keeps a stash of crackers at the ready for Elle, who only likes what Judi offers. When I called an ambulance to rush Frank to the hospital last October, I got texts from my neighbors, checking in and with offers to help in all manner of ways.

White and red text on a faded background of wildflowers in a forest.
Text reads: "Our neighbors––the people right in front of us––are not those we choose, but those we can choose to treasure."
Alexandra Kuykendall, Loving My Actual Neighbor

These relationships didn’t happen overnight. They took time and intentionality. It meant bringing my book out front so that we’d interact with folks coming and going. It meant accepting offers of dinner during tax season and hanging out in pajamas and sweats on snow days. Now I see these neighbors as an integral part of our family’s rhythms but I also recognize the work that went into opening our lives to our neighbors.

In her newest book, Loving My Actual Neighbor, Alexandra Kuykendall sees the need to love our actual, right next door neighbors as well. In a divided world, remembering to love the people who live along our daily routes is important. We don’t really get to choose our neighbors and so getting to know them and immersing ourselves in their lives is a practical way to break down walls and misconceptions.

She says, “Our neighbors––the people right in front of us––are not those we choose but those we can choose to treasure.”

Alexandra Kuykendall, “Loving My Actual Neighbor”

This is easier said than done and Alex offers seven practical stories and steps in Loving My Actual Neighbor. From asking questions to actively listening and honing our empathy, Alex grounds her steps in story and scripture, reminding us that loving our neighbor is the most important of the commandments. Each chapter ends with a call to action, a reflection, steps to practice, and a scripture to guide you on the journey.

Loving our neighbors can be overwhelming, for a myriad of reasons from perfectionism to social anxiety. Alex takes the guesswork out of connection and helps dismantle the idea that loving our neighbors is something out of the realm of possibility.

If you have neighbors, you need to read this book. Alex will encourage you, push you, and help you remember that loving our neighbors can become second-nature. And what a gift that is.

What are ways you love your actual neighbors? What are some challenges in loving the people right next door?

I received this book free from the publisher via Baker Books Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon,any purchase you make supports this site.

Review: Sparkle and Change Bible

I still remember my first “real” Bible. It was a Precious Moments illustrated version, either with a white or pink cover. I loved having what felt like a grown-up Bible. The only downside was that the translation was the New King James Version and as a young reader, it was hard to connect with this language.

In this past year, Bea has become an avid and independent reader. Not only can she read the words in her favorite chapter books but she understands the story and themes. I’d been wanting to find a new Bible that would better fit her reading level but was having trouble finding a kid-friendly cover that wasn’t the New King James Version.

Enter: The Sequin Sparkle and Change Bible not only is the cover that fun “mermaid sequin” that is on everything but the translation is the International Children’s Bible – specifically translated with young readers in mind. I love that it isn’t a paraphrase but the actual Bible, just in language that is slightly simpler. In fact, at first glance through some of my favorite verses, I had trouble distinguishing the differences between “adult” translations.

But my 6-year-old notices the difference! She loves reading the verses, especially those highlighted for memorization. We’ve had the Bible just over a week and the pages are already dogeared. She sleeps with it at night at reads it first thing in the morning.

I love that this translation is building her confidence as a reader and in turn, building a love for reading the Bible. If you have a young, independent reader in your life, I’d highly recommend this translation!

Do you have any favorite Bibles for young readers?

I received this book free from the publisher via BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest opinion. Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

The Red Couch in 2019

For the past year and a half, I’ve been leading the Red Couch Book Club for SheLoves Magazine. Our mission is to help our readers dive into issues of social justice, reconciliation, and a renewed sense of the gospel. One of my favorite things is curating books that deepen understanding and broaden the narrative. I’m excited to announce our selections for 2019 over at SheLoves. I hope you’ll check them out and join our discussion!

I don’t know about you but 2018 just zipped by! I can’t believe we’re already announcing our Red Couch selections for 2019. (And, if I’m honest, I’m already thinking about what we’ll be reading in 2020…) The books we read this year were some of my favorites and, as always, I’m amazed at the timing of each. Sometimes I wonder if I’m sorting through the titles well or putting them in the best month and am in awe of how world events, personal epiphanies, and discussions in SheLoves all seem to support and extend the conversation through the titles we read.

This year, we’re trying something new. We’ll be doing six official books as well as our six “off month” books that we’ll discuss exclusively in our Facebook group. We’ll also be reading “six-month books.” These titles are ones that take a little longer to read. They are rich and slow and are meant to be savored. I’ll introduce them in an off-month but we’ll return to the themes throughout the subsequent months, as we take our time.

I really tried to ask the question, Who is telling this story? as I picked the books. Could the same idea be told from the point of view of an Indigenous woman or a person of color? As I thought about themes and ideas, I tried to dig into the gaps in my own point of view and hopefully, this will help us all view stories in new ways. Head over to SheLoves to find out our selections!

The Case for Rereading Novels: A Guest Post


Rereading novels is one of my favorite memories of childhood. Curled up with an old friend, each time I got lost in a story, I’d learn new things about life through the characters. From classics like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to easy reads like Peanut Butter and Jelly, rereading was a rhythm of my reading life. It’s only been a recent change that I’ve stopped the practice and I miss it a lot.

Our guest author Melissa Chan, the designer of Literary Book Gifts, makes the case for rereading. Check out her shop for some great bookish gifts and scroll to the bottom for a special offer!

The Case for Rereading Novels

These days, with the sheer quantity of new novels coming out every day it can seem like one needs to devour books at the speed of light just to keep up. It can even be a challenge to only read all the current bestsellers, let alone any other books that catch your interest. Choosing where to devote your reading attention is a far more time-consuming task than just picking up a book and diving right in. I am a big supporter of diversifying one’s reading list to include titles and authors of all genres. Reading books by more than just one author will help you expand your horizon to find books you would never have thought you might have enjoyed. However, I love rereading books as well.

When there are so many new titles out there it can seem like a waste of time to read novels you have already read. Here are a few of the reasons why I personally love rereading novels. Perhaps it will get you thinking about picking up one of your favorite books again.

Themes are stronger the second time

I think most of us would agree that the very best books have timeless stories and themes that stay with us long after we put the book down. I’ve been fascinated when rereading passages of Moby Dick by Herman Melville at just how much I had missed during the first read through. In the case of Moby Dick, Melville’s writing is so descriptive and the plot so exciting that I tend to get caught up in it easily and forget about everything else. When picking up a book again for the second time, I already know what happens. This can bring more of a focus to the ideas, themes, and character development. In addition, there is time for reflection since the book was last read, allowing our minds ample time to understand, appreciate, and think through the story itself.

Rereading certain quotes or sections

Owning a few of my books in hard copy and audiobook has allowed me to mark up a few of them for my favorite quotes and passages. Books are a lot more than words. The narratives and characters can have such a powerful meaning to us. Experiencing their stories alongside our own can help us get through difficult times in our lives. Being able to quickly read a few pages from book I’ve already read can put me in a different mood right away. This is can be a big help considering that you never know what you are going to find when you open up a new book from an author whose work you’ve never read before.

Books never change, but people do

As time goes on we are different people than the ones we were when we read the book for the first time. A book to a child or teen can speak differently than to an adult. Books we read when we are young, perhaps in the school curriculum, will have entirely different meanings to us 20 or 30 years later. The lives we have lived in between influence how we read, and what we think about when we experience the story again. Reading books over a long period of time can show us how we have changed as people. Despite the words never changing in the book, people will always change and the reading experience is always a new one.

While I love rereading some of my favorite books, I don’t believe it is always the best strategy. When you are new to reading in general or to a particular genre I encourage you to explore. Find as many books as might interest you and read the first pages with an open mind. I know that I had thought I had found all of my favorite authors until I found Flannery O’Connor’s work. Her novels and selected stories are now a part of the list that I enjoy rereading all the time.

Melissa Chan is the designer of Literary Book Gifts,  an online gift shop for book lovers. She loves rereading novels, listening to audiobooks, and spending time in the library.

What about you? Are you a re-reader or is your to-read stack too high? How do you balance the comfort of old books with the discovery of new tales?

If you’re looking for bookish gifts, check out Melissa’s shop, Literary Book Gifts. She’s offering 20% off to my readers with the code ANNIERIM20. (I especially love the Tree of Life tote!)