If You Give a Youth Leader a Book… Part I

If you give a youth leader a book… chances are she’ll want to read it right away. But, she’ll need some time away from school and work to get to it. Thank goodness for time off after Christmas! For the next three Fridays I will share short reviews of the books I’ve read over break. Please let me know what you’ve been reading using the comments.

Part I: Books Recommended by Youth
Part II:  Books for Parents
Part III: Books for Worship Leaders and Ministry Candidates
Part IV: Children’s Books

Originally this post was titled, “Books for Anyone.” But l I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered what they have in common- they were both given to me by high school students. If a youth recommends a book to you, read it. They are hoping you’ll discuss it with you. This doesn’t happen every day. It is a special gift. Read. It. Then, invite them to chat over a smoothie. Be one of their strong trees.

Part I: Books Recommended by Youth

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This book was given to me by my oldest daughter. I’m not sure she knew it, but I love reading memoirs. This one offers a view of mental illness told by a young woman whose tenacious friends and family refuse to give up on her as hallucinations overtake her. As a journalist, the author uses research, interviews, records and her memory to re-create the events of the month she lost. She doesn’t’ stop with facts. Throughout the book she offers reflection and insight into her quest to make sense of what has happened to her. What I find most compelling is the way she offers herself and those around her grace, love and understanding in the toughest of situations.

If read in a group, this book offers rich opportunities for conversation about health care access, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, and unconditional love. A fascinating read.

You Don’t have to be Wrong for Me to Be Right by Brad Hirschfield

My niece first told me about this book over Thanksgiving. When I saw her at Christmas, she gave me her copy.  This book opens with a discussion of how religious fanaticism hinders people’s ability to have conversations and relationships with people of differing views.  Rabbi Hirschfield makes a strong case for developing interfaith relationships. He also offers new insights into the relationship between forgiveness and justice. The most powerful thing about reading this book was that it was given to be my niece. It was reminder that youth are looking for caring adults to have deep conversations with. Intergenerational relationships are the cornerstone of faith development. I hope to invite her to talk more about this book over a hot chocolate and honored to be someone she thinks of when reading a book like this.


The idea of writing my own book has been on my mind for a year now. During the January break from classes, my writing time will be focused on discerning how to proceed through a Bookwifery course. 

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