I’ve mentioned this like 734 times before, but I LOVE a good book.  I love how it can make you think.  I love how it can take you into a different world.  There are two that I’ve read lately that I keep thinking about.

The first is EducatedI chose it when it was my turn to host because I was already half-way through it as recommended by lots of people around me, and I was hooked to that thing I tell you!

(more info. and reviews on that book here)
I got Dave to read it too, and a couple of my non-bookclub friends who I had a little “mini” book club lunch with on the side to discuss the ins and outs of that thing.  It’s a memoir of a woman (Tara Westover) chronicling how she grew up and it’s fascinating, heartbreaking, inspiring, and so thought-provoking.
I’ve been thinking since I read that book about a million things, but one of them is what it means to be educated.  Sure, there are a lot of different definitions, but I love thinking about the kind of education we get from life experiences and how they affect our lives.  There was one part in the story where Tara, after educating herself and getting herself into a prestigious study abroad program, finds herself with a group of people exploring on a windy and somewhat precarious terrain.  She explains how she looks around and finds that everyone is crouching low to the ground, groping for direction and wonders at the fact that she is standing straight, bracing the wind.  Easy.  I think about that analogy to life.  She was prepared through the tough things she had done in life, not just for that windy patch but in general.  She had learned and was uniquely able to do certain things because of the things she had been through.  Made me wonder what my unique capacities are, and what I can do to push and grow and learn from them.

I kind of botched that example…hopefully it makes a little sense?  Bottom line is that that book sure made me think.

But the main book I want to talk about right now is called A Place for Us:
It is HERE.

Guys, I know this is going to sound dramatic, but I think this is my favorite book I’ve ever read.

For reals.

It is SO good!  So much packed into that thing, and you know how things hit you differently depending on what you are doing and thinking about at the time?  Well, this one hit hard on parenting and religion and mercy and love.  It was so beautifully written and took me right into the life of a Muslim family from India living in America going through tough, and sometimes beautiful things.

Things that made me think.

And think hard.

I talked a little about how much I was loving this book when I was talking about moments over HERE, but there’s just so much more!  I adored getting to be in the mind of the mother, of the daughter, of the son.  Things they worried about, how they interpreted their religion and life.

But most of all I loved getting to be in the mind of the dad at the end.  Oh my goodness, so much to think about.  Everyone has their own story, that’s for sure.  Made my heart so full and brought me to tears so many times.  Maybe it’s just because I’ve got some parenting things rolling around in my mind lately, but man alive, GOOD STUFF.

I keep thinking I need to do a whole series of blog posts about different takes on different things that hit me in that book, I just wish I could have a giant book club with all blog readers about different questions that came up in my mind (we did have the best book club discussion about this book…late into the night and I loved it).  Trying to get Dave to read it.  So much to talk about!

For now though, because I may not ever get to that “series” I wish I could carve out time to do, let’s just leave on these three points:

1)  I love how this book weaves in so many thoughts on religion.  How these parents want the best part of their religion to reach and settle into their children, because it has given them so much happiness.  But how each of the three children explore and figure it out in their own ways.  One of them takes a pretty tough road, and is constantly trying to figure things out.  Made me think about all our journeys to find religion, and faith, and what makes sense with our own personal connections with God.

2)  I love the parenting in this book.  How those parents try and try again.  They make mistakes and mess up despite trying their very best the best way they know how.  I can so relate to that!  I love the depiction of communication and how it is learned and how it grows.  I loved the little things, like how one of the daughters wishes her parents would compliment her and all the good things she does as they dote and cheer on her brother, who needs that encouragement so much more.  Made me think about praising and pushing and how different kids need it in different ways.  I loved that one of the daughters became a doctor because her parents pushed it, not because she would have chosen it herself, and what a beautiful path it turned out to be for her.  What things should we help push our kids on like that, and what do we let them just figure out?  I could obviously go on and on about the parenting stuff I learned from that book.  Maybe I really will get to that “series”!

3)  But the part I loved the most was about mercy.  I love this quote, “we must imagine for each other, seventy excuses before landing on a single judgement.  And also refrain from judgement because we do not know, when one is alone, how repentant his heart [we do not know the secret sorrows others are carrying].  I love that the dad recounts in the end, “Of all my mistakes, the greatest, the most dangerous, was not emphasizing the mercy of God.  Every verse of the Qur’an begins by reminding us of God’s mercy.”

What a good reminder.  We are all flawed.  We all have so much to work on.  But how beautiful to have that velvety thought running through our minds, “GOD IS MERCIFUL.”  And He, as a loving parent, forgives us all our trespasses and lets us try again and again.  And again.

It is a GOOD book.  If you read it (or have read it), come tell me your thoughts.  I wish I could discuss it every day:)

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  1. so humbling and touching that the Qu'ran reminds us of God's mercy as does the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3)…That just came to mind so i thought i would share!

  2. I read both of these books this week and loved both as well. I think A Place For Us might be one of my favorites too! Wow, it touched me so deeply. I highlighted on my kindle a TON of the quotes from the Dad at the end and mostly sobbed through his thoughts. It was such a beautiful story about loving our children, but not completely understanding the depth of that love and how to share it until we can step outside of it (or look back on it, as this Dad did). It made me want to be a more patient and loving mother and not harp on all of the little things at my house! Thanks for your recommendations and thoughts! Hope you're all doing well. xoxo

  3. I've heard of Educated, and I think it's on my 'Want to Read' list in Goodreads. A Place for Us sounds amazing; I'll have to add it too. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. A Place for Us is one of my faves – the story and writing is gorgeous. Isn't the father's perspective the best one to end with? Such mercy and grace, regret and heartbreak.

  5. Wow. These are next on my book club suggestion list!

    I think you possibly COULD have an online book club! Just announce the book and the "discussion" date (to take place in comments) about a month out? Your blog always generates interesting comments, so perhaps a lively discussion could ensue!

    Also, random but I read Pope Joan on your recommendation and absolutely loved it! Thank you!

  6. Please forgive me for being off topic here but I have an unrelated question I am hoping you might be able to help with. I am wondering what camera you might recommend for a 13 year old boy who is interested in photography and videography. Thanks! Lea Pisarik in Oklahoma:).

    1. Hi Lea! This is a tough question because there are so many options out there! It depends so much on how much you want to spend and what kinds of capacities you are most interested having. The camera market has changed quite dramatically since I purchased my Canon 6D…I know at that time there was a really good 70D for videography, but for a 13 year old I don't think I'd recommend anything that pricey. I'd just look on photography websites for good reviews and keep in mind that if you buy an SLR camera, a good lens can be more expensive than the camera itself. Good lenses make all the difference.

      Not sure if that helps at all! Sorry I am a little out of the camera loop at this moment in time! Keep that boy interested! Photography is so much fun!

    2. Thanks so much for replying at such a busy time of the year Shawni! I greatly appreciate it. I will start reading the reviews and see what's out there. I have a lot to learn:). Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. I love your book recommendations! Those both sounds like books I need to read, and A Place for Us sounds like one I need in my life asap! Love, love, love that it encourages tolerance for faith journeys, parenting, and best of all…mercy! Thank you!!

  8. I just finished Educated this week. It has really stuck with me. I loved it and it made me think as well! Thank you for talking books here!
    I'm fresh out of a book, so I'll try A Place for Us now. Thank you for the suggestion! Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. I just finished A Place for Us and am so so so glad to have a space to talk about it as I can't stop thinking about it, especially the end! I, too, was struck by the religion and parenting themes in the book, and it also made me think a lot about appearances, and the things we parents do (or don't do) for the sake of how it may appear to friends, family, and also strangers! It also made me think (hard) about the expectations we parents put on our children and how these influence who they are and who they ultimately turn out to be as adults. And the mercy – good gracious, the mercy. For parents, for children, for everyone – over and over again. Thanks for the great recommendation!

  10. I loved Educated ad passed it along to my son and my Mother and my sisters . . . and we are reading A Place for Us Now for our book club this month. It's beautiful.

  11. Dear Shawni, I am a long-time reader of nine years and a huge fan of your blog. Thank you for recommending A Place for Us. You are so right – what a thoughtful/thought-provoking book with a powerful and moving ending. I've been hearing a lot of interviews recently about the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and think you might really enjoy that book based on some of your posts about technology and social media. Sending you best wishes from Switzerland, Laura

    1. I'm so glad you guys read this! I want to read it again and wish we could have a little book club about it! So many things to think about!

      p.s. Laura I'll have to look up Digital Minimalism, thank you for the recommendation!

  12. Shawni, how I wish you had been around when I first read this book right after it came out. Oh my gosh!!! It is my favorite of all time and I am almost 70 and have been an avid reader all my life. I would have loved to have someone to talk to about this story when I finished reading it. And how amazing that this is the author’s very first novel. Can’t wait to see what she does next. As a mother of seven grown children, I have witnessed their struggles in life, some much more serious than others, but the message of this book, mercy, is just so powerful. My kids are all doing well now, thank goodness, but we had some very rough years along the way. One of my favorite lines from the book comes on the last page, as the father talks to his son in his heart and talks about the afterlife he says, “Some of us will go to heaven right away, and others will have to repent, the hellfire cleansing us of our sins first. And if what we have been taught is true, I WILL NOT ENTER WITHOUT YOU. I WILL WAIT BY THE GATE UNTIL I SEE YOUR FACE. I have waited a decade, haven’t I, in this limited life?”
    Still can’t read it without tears flowing. I am so glad you found this book and have turned others on to reading it. Thanks for all you do. Love you and your family, especially your incredible parents. What an amazing example they have been to the world.
    You and I actually went to school together. We were both in the Social Work program at BYU, I was one of the non-traditional students. So grateful for all I learned there. It sure has helped me in my parenting of adult kids.

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