Let Your Life Speak - Parker J. Palmer

Where was this book read? Over the course of many months, usually in the morning accompanied by a pen and a cup of coffee. 

Where did this book come from? Amazon. I know. Don't hate me. I try not to buy from the big "A" very often. I was told with great urgency that I needed to read this book and I couldn't find it in a few local bookstores so alas, Amazon it was. 

The Specs: Essays, vocation, wholeness, Quaker faith, personal truth, depression, and a definition of "leadership" that doesn't make you roll your eyes. 


On embracing reality and our multi-dimensional selves: 

"One dwells with God by being faithful to one's nature. One crosses God by trying to be something one is not. Reality - including one's own - is divine, to be not defied but honored."

"The God I know does not ask us to conform to some abstract norm for the ideal self. God asks us only to honor our created nature, which means our limits as well as our potentials... The God I know is the source of reality rather than morality, the source of what is than what ought to be."

"An inevitable though often ignored dimension on the quest for 'wholeness' is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident about."

How our inner consciousness has more power to ignite change than our external realities: 

"Consciousness precedes being: consciousness, yours and mine can form, deform, or reform our world. Our complicity in world making is a source of awesome and sometimes painful responsibility - and a source of profound hope for change." 

Palmer's refreshing definition of leadership:

"Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of 'hidden wholeness' because they have been there and know the way."

A thoughtful critique on how we view individual development today:

"But the master metaphor of our era does not come from agriculture - it comes from manufacturing. We do not believe that we 'grow' out lives - we believe that we 'make' them."

On finding instruction in the natural world:

"...abundance is a communal act, the joint creation of an incredibly complex ecology in which each part functions on behalf of the whole and, in return, is sustained by the whole. Community doesn't just create abundance - community is abundance. If we could learn that equation from the world of nature, the human world might be transformed." 

How important is it that I read this book? I dub this book required reading, especially to those who are 25 and under.

Buy it or borrow it? I'm glad that I bought this book because I made lots of notes inside it. It is small, inexpensive, and worth having in your personal library. 

An American Childhood - Annie Dillard

Where was this book read? At summer's dusk on my back porch; these were 90 degree days and I couldn't stand reading inside our air conditionless house. I finished this book on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

Where did this book come from? This is a shameful story. I checked this book out from the Seattle Public Library and then I lost it. I paid my fine to replace the book and then, because this always happens, I found it. I then decided it would be okay to keep the book since I had paid to replace it. It must be strange that a woman of late fines and book replacement fees wants to be a librarian.

The Specs: Annie Dillard's memoir about growing up in Pittsburgh in the 50's. I will give you 5ish words to describe this glorious book (or else I could go on forever): mystical, nostalgic, hopeful, and intricate in detail.  


“Skin was earth; it was soil. I could see, even on my own skin, the joined trapezoids of dust specks God had wetted and stuck with his spit the morning he made Adam from dirt. Now, all these generations later, we people could still see on our skin the inherited prints of the dust specks of Eden.” 

“If even rock was interesting, if even this ugliness was worth whole shelves at the library, required sophisticated tools to study, and inspired grown men to crack mountains and saw crystals--then what wasn't?” 

"...whole stacks at the library held books devoted to things you knew nothing about. The boundary of knowledge receded, as you poked about in books, like Lake Erie’s rim as you climbed its cliffs. And each area of knowledge disclosed another, and another. Knowledge wasn’t a body, or a tree, but instead air, or space, or being—whatever pervaded, whatever never ended and fitted into the smallest cracks and the widest space between stars.” 

"What is a house but a bigger skin, and a neighborhood map but the world's skin ever expanding?" 

“What I sought in books was imagination. It was depth, depth of thought and feeling; some sort of extreme of subject matter; some nearness to death; some call to courage. I myself was getting wild; I wanted wildness, originality, genius, rapture, hope. I wanted strength, not tea parties. What I sought in books was a world whose surfaces, whose people and events and days lived, actually matched the exaltation of the interior life. There you could live.” 

"Treasure was something you found in the alley. Treasure was something you dug up out of the dirt in the chaotic, half-forbidden, forsaken place far removed from the ordinary comings and goings of people who earned salaries in the light: under some rickety back stairs, near a falling down pile of discarded lumber, with people yelling at you to get away from there."

An excerpt of my favorite chapter, when Dillard recalls a time she was chased through the streets of Pittsburgh after hitting a mans car with a snowball.

"I would have died happy, for nothing has required so much of me since as being chased all over Pittsburgh in the middle of winter- running, terrified, exhausted - by this sainted, skinny, furious, red-headed man who wished to have a word with us."

An interesting quote on the difference between boys and girls in the 1950s...

"They had been learning self-control... We had failed to develop any selves worth controlling."

Should I read this book? Yes, a thousand times yes.

Buy it or borrow it? This book is full of beauty. Buy it so you can underline that beauty. 

The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion

Where was this book read? In the corners of rooms, on the bus, and in a warm cafe while I waited to meet a friend for dinner. 

Where did this book come from? At the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale.

The Specs: A memoir, acute observation to detail, grief and mourning, grappling for control, the vortex of "memory lane," California and New York, family, and ritual. 


"Read, learn, work it up, go to the literature. Information is control."

"One thing I noticed... was that many people I knew shared a habit of mind usually credited to the very successful. They believed absolutely in their own management skills. They believed absolutely in the power of telephone numbers they had at their fingertips, the right doctor, the major donor, the person who could facilitate a favor at State or Justice.... Yet at I had always at some level apprehended... that some events in life would remain beyond my ability to control or manage them. Some events would just happen." 

"Who is the director of dreams, would he care? Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?" 

"We were equally incapable of imagining the reality of life without the other... Marriage is memory, marriage is time." 

"We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will not be at all." 

Should I read this book? Absolutely. It now falls into my personal cannon of "grief literature."

Buy it or Borrow it? I would say either. It is a beautiful memoir, but I didn't feel as compelled to make as many margin notes, probably due to the sacredness in Joan Didion's story; it was hers to tell, not mine to note on.