Books can entertain, educate, or even change one’s thinking.
When I looked back over the list of the 56 books I read in 2018, I was amazed at the variety and the things I learned. I learned some history while I was entertained, and I hope I learned something about writing. Several of the books changed my thinking. You can’t ask a book to give you more than that.
books that entertained, educated, or changed me or my thinking in 2018 are
listed here in alphabetical order by author.
Fascism: A Warning, by Madeleine
Taster, by V.S. Alexander
Atomic City Girls, by Janet Beard
by Mary Lynn Bracht
Over Grit, by Laleh Chini and Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi
Ocean to Cross, by Ann Griffin
Prayer, by Khaled Hosseini
Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris
Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic,
and Hopeful Spiritual Community, by John Pavlovitz
to Win: Samurai Techniques For Your Work
and Life, by David J. Rogers
Broken Girls, by Simone St. James
Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and
Fighting Back, by Jackie Speier
I have heard from a number of you since then. You have
offered encouragement and helped prop me up. Knowing I have blog readers in
quite a few countries from around the world in addition to those in the US who
cared enough to take time to leave comments has boosted my morale and helped me
to determine that I must continue to work on that historical novel I’ve worked
on off and on for a decade.
Even if there are days I can only write for 15
minutes, then that’s what I’ll do in 2019. Slowly but surely, I will finish
writing that book!
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir, by Janet Givens.
I’m thoroughly enjoying it. You can check out her website at
you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it and I welcome your comments.
continue the conversation.
What are some of the books that educated you or
changed your life or your thinking?
The first Monday of August has suddenly arrived, so it’s time for me to tell you about the books I read in July. I read a variety of books, including fiction and nonfiction.
Under the Skin, by Vicki Lane
I purchased this book a couple of years ago after reading Vicki Lane’s first four books in her Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries. If you follow my blog, you know I get my books almost exclusively from the public library. Library books keep piling up and causing me to postpone reading the books I own. I bought the paperback edition of Under the Skin at a wonderful independent bookstore in Asheville, NC. I dare you to go into Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe and leave without buying at least one book. It’s a great bookstore, but I digress.
When July came, I decided I was going to read Under the Skin, even if it meant returning a library book unread. In this book, Elizabeth Goodweather is visited by her sister who convinces her to attend séances at a nearby spa. The sister is hoping to make contact with her deceased husband. All sorts of problems pop up as it becomes clear that the sister is being stalked.
Chapters more or less alternate between this present-day tale and a story about two sisters at the same historic spa in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1880s. The present-day story held my interest more than the 19th century tale, but that’s just my personal observation.
My Beautiful Broken Shell was recommended to me by my librarian sister. It is a small book about how most seashells get tossed about and broken, but so do we humans. The author encourages us to embrace our brokenness.
I’m broken in many ways and sometimes I’m more than a little rough around the edges.
Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover
This is an entertaining memoir of a woman who was raised by strict Mormon parents in the middle of nowhere in Idaho. Her father is bipolar, and Ms. Westover does an excellent job of getting across to the reader just how unnerving being the child of a person with that malady can be. Tara’s mother reluctantly becomes a midwife at her husband’s insistence. The occupation gradually “grows on her” and she seems to like it.
I don’t want to give away too much of this true story. Suffice it to say that Tara goes from being “no-schooled” at home to attain amazing things in education.
Words We Carry: Essays of Obsession and Self-Esteem, by D.G. Kaye
I referred to this little book in my July 16, 2018 blog post, Words We Carry and White Privilege. That post probably left you with an overall good impression of the book. Although I liked the premise of the book, the latter part of the book came across to me as bordering on being Pollyanna while also being conflicting. The author writes about the importance of being your authentic self while recommending that you just put on some make up and act like everything is just fine.
Her parting message struck me as being akin put a smile on your face and a have positive outlook. That takes an enormous amount of energy for people with a chronic physical illness or depression.
Mysterious Tales of Coastal North Carolina, by Sherman Carmichael
This is a newly-published book from The History Press. I found it in the New Books Section at the public library.
The 170-page book is a collection of ghost stories from the 200-mile coast of the state along with a number of true accounts of ships being torpedoed and sunk by German U-boats during World War II.
I was familiar with a few of the ghost stories but most were new to me. The author did a good job of including just enough historical background about most of the places and stories. Each of the stories is one to three pages, making this a book that’s easy to pick up when you only have a few minutes to read.
I think I’ll purchase a copy to take along with me on my next trip to the coast.
A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community, by John Pavlovitz
Whether or not you agree with John Pavlovitz’s politics or his ideas for how to make church more responsive and Christ-like, I think you’ll find that his writing makes you think outside the box.
That said, Mr. Pavlovitz says a lot of things in his book, A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community, that I needed to hear and ponder. Much of what Mr. Pavlovitz said in this book brought to mind the recent capital campaign at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. That campaign was called “Growing God’s Table.”
We already had a sanctuary. We already had a building housing Sunday School rooms, offices, and an inadequate fellowship hall. What we needed was an expansion of our building that would incorporate more classrooms, an elevator to serve the old building as well as the expansion, and most of all — a much larger fellowship hall.
The new fellowship hall has made it possible for us to have monthly community free meals and other activities to which the public is invited. We’re growing God’s table at Rocky River Presbyterian Church, but we still have a long way to go. We are a work in progress. Mr. Pavlovitz’s book opened my eyes to even more possibilities.
Mr. Pavlovitz calls out Christians who are so busy “doing church” activities that they sometimes forget that forming relationships with people is the most important thing we should be doing. Sometimes we treat one another badly and sometimes we fail to treat strangers with the love and compassion demonstrated by Jesus Christ. We all need to make the table bigger. God’s table is big enough for everyone.
I purchased this ebook several months ago after following the author’s blog for quite some time. His blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said (https://johnpavlovitz.com/,) is always thought-provoking.
Since my last blog post
I spent some time with long-time friends who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in Raleigh, NC. It was good to get away for several days, make some new friends, and reconnect with some people I hadn’t seen in a long time.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m trying to finish reading several books I started in July. You’ll find out in my September 3 blog post how that went.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments
In my blog post on June 18, 2018 “Had a family once.”, I wrote about the opening line of the prologue to Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner: “Had a family once.”
Central American Refugees – “Had a family once.”
I can’t get that line out of my head. “Had a family once,” must be how the refugees at the US-Mexico border feel. Children have been separated from parents and there was, obviously, no plan in place for the uniting of those families. What a logistical nightmare now, and all the result of an ill-conceived change in US Government policy. “Had a family once.”
Young soccer team and coach in Thailand
As I write this, the world is watching and holding its collective breath as valiant attempts are being made to rescue a dozen young soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. Those boys, their parents, and their coach must have spent many hours in the past two weeks thinking, “Had a family once,” and praying they’ll still have their families intact when this ordeal and rescue is over.
African Slaves in America – “Had a family once.”
My interest in genealogy and local history recently led me on a fascinating trek into the lives of some people of African descent who were slaves in Cabarrus County, North Carolina in the 1800s. That sounds like a long time ago, but it really isn’t when you think in terms of a person’s lifespan and generations within families.
“Had a family once.”
Caroline had a family once.
In the records of Rocky River Presbyterian Church, Caroline, infant daughter of slaves Nat and Marie owned by R. Biggers, was baptized on August 16, 1835. Caroline, a slave of George Leroy Morrison, joined the church April 29, 1859. Was this the same Caroline?
Yes, she was! There is a bill of sale dated October 30, 1856 in which a 22-year-old woman named Caroline and her two children (Robert, aged about four years and an unnamed infant about three months old were sold by Rebecca Biggers to George Leroy Morrison.
The idea of slavery is repulsive, but seeing an actual bill of sale makes me physically ill. Having this information, I owed Caroline a few hours of my time to try to determine if she survived to be free after the American Civil War. What I was able to piece together was surprising and thrilling.
1863 Cabarrus Tax Assessment
In 2004, I compiled a list of the records of the more than 900 slaves who were baptized at and/or joined Rocky River Presbyterian Church between around 1820 and the end of the Civil War in 1865. The 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment List gave details about some of those slaves such as age, physical condition, and monetary value.
George Leroy Morrison died May 6, 1860. The 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment states that his brother, Q.C. Morrison was guardian of four slaves: Abram, aged 45 and valued at $1,100; Caroline, aged 26 and valued at $1,400; Robert, aged 9 and valued at $900; and Matt [name was probably Nat] aged 1 and valued at $100. Q.C. Morrison died in the Civil War on August 7, 1863.
According to the 1863 Cabarrus County Tax Assessment, Rebecca Biggers had a 55-year-old slave named Nathaniel. He was valued at $100 with the notation, “cripple.) Rebecca did not have a slave named Marie at that time, but we know from church records that Nat and Marie were Caroline’s parents.
Armed with that information, I wanted to know more. I wanted Caroline to survive the War, gain her freedom, and have a life. She’d “had a family once.” Did she have that same family after the War?
Yes, she did!
The 1870 US Census of Cabarrus County, Township One finds Caroline, wife of Albert Morrison, along with children Robert, Nathaniel, Edward, and Albert.
According to the agriculture schedule of the 1870 Census, Albert and Caroline Morrison owned 40 acres of improved land valued at $200 along with farm machinery valued at $15. They owned livestock valued at $100 and reported how many bushels of wheat, Indian corn, and corn they had raised in 1869.
And, by the way, Albert Morrison was one of the five elders elected at the founding and organizational meeting of the African-American church that was formed by former slaves who had been members of Rocky River Presbyterian Church. Originally called Rocky River Colored Presbyterian Church, it soon became Bellefonte Presbyterian Church and is still going strong in Harrisburg, NC.
The next record of Caroline
The next time we find a record of Caroline Morrison is in the Cabarrus County, NC Wills and Estate Papers. “The widow Caroline Morrison & family” of seven children received a one year’s dower on March 30, 1876.
1880 US Census
Caroline Morrison is the head of a household in Township One in Cabarrus County, NC when the 1880 federal census is taken. Sons Edward, Albert, Eugene Mc., and John are in the household along with Caroline’s granddaughter, Harriet.
Summary of my research
I won’t go into all the details of the rest of my research into the life of Caroline Morrison. Suffice it to say that I found marriage licenses for her sons, Nathaniel A. and Albert. Albert (Jr.) and his wife and children are in the 1900 US Census. I even found a 1925 death certificate for Albert (Sr.) and Caroline’s son, Robert. He was employed at the Southern Railway Railroad Shop in Forsyth County, NC.
Did Caroline have a family? Yes, she most certainly did!
Until my next blog post
There’s no telling what interesting history tidbits I’ll uncover. I love this stuff!
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover and several other small nonfiction books.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I didn’t work on my novel last week, but I had a rewarding time researching Caroline Morrison and writing about my findings.
Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it!