Nadia Bolz-Weber, We Saw Her

Here awhile back, over a year ago, because I watch way too much online video, I found one of a woman named Nadia Bolz-Weber. She was speaking at some sort of youth rally and her message was really captivating, it got my attention, and I related to a lot of what she was saying. I admit I was somewhat surprised to learn she is a Lutheran minister. I know zero about being Lutheran, but she looked and sounded like what I’m used to, so I Googled her name, which led me to the website for her church in Denver: House for All Sinners and Saints.

Google revealed that Nadia is also a Patheos blogger and I was already reading a few blogs over there, so I subscribed to hers, too. So yeah, for a little over a year now I’ve been reading her blog/listening to her sermons. Well, I was super excited to find out a few months ago that she was writing a book and even more excited to find out there was a book tour, and even more more excited to find out that NYC was going to be a stop on the tour. As soon as there was a date, I made plans to go.

My husband agreed to go with me and we made our way waaaay uptown to West End Collegiate Church. There wasn’t as big a crowd as I thought there would be, but I’m always wrong about these things so I shouldn’t have been surprised. As much as I enjoy Nadia online, and as much as I enjoyed reading Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, seeing/hearing Nadia speak live in person was a lot better. She’s way laid back and it felt pretty low-key. I’ve never been to an event on any author’s book tour, so I had no idea what to expect. She read a few passages from the book and then she took questions. (She also raffled off a container of cotton candy, a Ramones cassette, a loaf of bread, a tattoo, and a ham. We didn’t win anything.)

There were a lot of clergy there, a lot of Lutheran clergy, so the Q&A at the end tended to be about Lutheran-y, minister-y things. It was pretty interesting, even to someone who is not 1) going to seminary, 2) planning to go to seminary, 3) currently a minister, or 4) Lutheran. Afterward, there was a book signing, but since I only had the ebook on my phone and you really can’t sign that, we didn’t stay. That could have been awkward.

I recommend Pastrix as a fascinating, humorous, and moving memoir. I also recommend hearing Nadia Bolz-Weber speak, either in real life or online. I promise you will be entertained, but you’ll also hear some very important things about God and grace.

My tiny head is in this image that I grabbed from Nadia's FB page.
My tiny head is in this image that I grabbed from Nadia’s FB page.

Best and Not Best Books of 2011

I keep track of the books I read all year and then divide them into two groups at the end.  Instead of worrying about favorite and least favorite books, I just choose which ones I would likely recommend to friends and which ones I probably wouldn’t.  My list is completely subjective and not in the least scientific.  It’s not even in any particular order!

Best Books

Half Broke Horses – Jeannette Walls
The Memory of Running – Ron McLarty
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
Zeitoun – Dave Eggers
Bossypants – Tina Fey
Magyk – Angie Sage
Room – Emma Donoghue
Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell
Decoded – Jay-Z
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
Beat the Reaper – Josh Bazell
Just Kids – Patti Smith
The Financial Lives of the Poets – Jess Walker
The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman
The Passage – Justin Cronin
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie – Wendy McClure
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
The Curse of the Wendigo – Rick Yancey
Johnny Got His Gun – Dalton Trumbo
50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days — Dean Karnazes
Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
Lies My Teacher Told Me – James Loewen
Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor
Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town – Nick Reding
The Isle of Blood – Rick Yancey

Not Best Books

Chinatown Beat – Henry Chang
The Hangman’s Daughter – Oliver Potszch
Brainbox – Christian Cantrell
The Second Ship – Richard Phillips
Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
Pagan Christianity: Exposing the Roots of Our Church Practices – Frank Viola
Mr. Peanut – Adam Ross
Here on Earth – Alice Hoffman
Love Wins – Rob Bell
Island of Lost Girls – Jennifer McMahon
Summer at Tiffany – Marjorie Hart
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks
Flyte – Angie Sage
A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
A Little Death in Dixie – Lisa Turner
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
22 Britannia Road – Amanda Hodgkinson
Death Wore White – Jim Kelly
The Gospel of Anarchy – Justin Taylor
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
Full Dark, No Stars – Stephen King
The Last Town on Earth – Thomas Mullen
Shine – Lauren Myracle
The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

I use Goodreads to keep track of what I read and what my friends read.  I definitely recommend it!

Movie Tie-In Book Covers

I hate ’em.

I doubt more books are being made into movies now than previously, but over the past couple of years there have been a large number of books I’ve personally read adapted for the big screen. That in itself gets annoying, but what’s starting to really get on my nerves are the book covers that change after the movie is made.

For example, this is what the book looked like when I read The Road:

The Road

This is what it looked like when the movie was made:

The Road - post-movie

This is what Water for Elephants looked like when I read it:

Water for Elephants

This is what it looks like now that there’s a movie:

Water for Elephants - post-movie


Seriously…I. Hate. Them.  I hate them for three reasons.

1)  The artistry of the cover is lost.  There are generally covers designed for various editions and/or countries and each has its own charm.  The movie tie-in covers are often no more creative than taking a frame from the movie and slapping some text on top of it.

2)  The movie tie-in cover shows the emphasis of the movie script, which is often completely independent of the plot of the book.  There are very few film adaptations that are true to their books.  Misleading covers are the result.

3)  Using a frame from the movie forever associates a book with the stars on its cover.  I understand that the new covers are being marketed to people who probably won’t read a book unless it has been a movie first and they’ve already seen it, really I get it.  But the actors are playing a role and they’ll move on; the book’s character lives on without changing.  Half the time the actor cast in an adaptation doesn’t even remotely resemble any description of the character they’re portraying.

I’ll own up to being a bit of a snob:  Those of us who read a book for the sake of reading it and NOT because it became a movie already have an idea of that the characters look and sound like before script and casting ever happen.  It’s entirely possible that my deep dislike for these covers is tied in to a general dislike for film adaptation.  But I don’t think so.

Best and Not Best Books of 2010

2010 was the year of series and sci-fi…because that’s a lot of what Amazon was giving away.

Best of 2010

The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt
Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand – James Barron
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West – Gregory Maguire
The Alienist – Caleb Carr
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
The Nanny Diaries – Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Nanny Returns – Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver
The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist
Howard’s End – E. M. Forster
Angelology – Danielle Trussoni
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi
Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates – David Cordingly
No Dominion – Charlie Huston
Half the Blood of Brooklyn – Charlie Huston
Every Last Drop – Charlie Huston
My Dead Body – Charlie Huston
In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer – Irene Opdyke
Mudbound – Hillary Jordan
Deception Point – Dan Brown
Push – Sapphire
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski
Septembers of Shiraz – Dalia Sofer
Swimming Lessons – Rohinton Mistry
Darkness on the Edge of Town – Brian Keene
A Scattered Life – Karen McQuestion
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America – Erik Larson
Bright of the Sky – Kay Kenyon
A World Too Near – Kay Kenyon
The Brooklyn Follies – Paul Auster
The Trial – Franz Kafka
AWOL on the Appalacian Trail – David Miller
Note by Note: A Celebration of the Piano Lesson – Tricia Tunstall
Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload – Mark Hurst
Soul Identity – Dennis Batchelder
Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France – Peter Mayle

Not Best of 2010

The Pawn – Steven James
The Rook – Steven James
Cape Refuge – Terri Blackstock
Southern Storm – Terri Blackstock
Al Capone Does My Shirts – Gennifer Choldenko
Flags of Our Fathers – James Bradley
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
More Blood, More Sweat, and Another Cup of Tea – Tom Reynolds
Petals from the Sky – Mingmei Yip
The Angel of Darkness – Caleb Carr
His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, #1) – Naomi Novik
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Ireland – Frank Delaney
Beautiful Lies – Lisa Unger
A Memory of Wind – Rachel Swirsky
First Flight – Mary Robinette Kowal
Tinkers – Paul Harding
Her Last Letter – Nancy Johnson

Bit Literacy in 2011

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I think they set you up for failure–except for the year I vowed not to sing any Sheryl Crow songs–and I’m not making a formal resolution for 2011. HOWEVER, I am going to attempt to work more efficiently next year using some of the methods found in a book called Bit Literacy.

The author, Mark Hurst, is right when he says most of us have too many bits coming in and too few going out and he is also right when he says most of the problem is a lack of organization dealing with 0s and 1s.  I am certainly guilty of using my email inbox for storage and an oversized to do list.  I’m also guilty of walking around with another to do list on a legal pad–that I have to transfer to another piece of paper when it gets too long or too many items get marked off.  And I’m also guilty of having dozens of small post-its stuck all over the place at my desk.

The gist of Bit Literacy is that you empty your email inbox every single day and that every email is read or skimmed, then put in its proper place.  A large part of “proper place” is a task or to do list.  Mr. Hurst suggests using his own service,, to accomplish this task.  I am signed up for a trial and I do like the way it works.  I am also familiar with something called Remember the Milk and I’m going to check that out as well.  There appears to be a number of others, too, that I’ll likely peruse.  (I like to peruse.)  Since most of my tasks are going to be work-related, whatever application I use will have to be the easiest to use from my desk.

Bit Literacy also has organizational ideas for all other file storage, from pictures to text, and comes with a long list of recommendations.  Some are a bit elementary, like learning to type.  Others are a bit…optimistic.  The author suggests that most, if not all, documents be created in plain text and never really addresses the fact that Microsoft Word and other word processing software is used to make documents look a certain way.  I don’t think co-workers will appreciate getting long swaths of text from me or anyone else.  If humans wanted to read that way, Word wouldn’t have been created in the first place.

I have an efficient file system for personal and work media management, so I skipped most of Mr. Hurst’s recommendations for naming and locating files.  I also skipped his “media diet” section.  I have no intention of consuming fewer bits.  😉   I think overall the best ideas I’ll walk away with are those on email and to do list management.  I definitely plan to try them and hopefully I’ll be able to work more efficiently while also preserving records of the work I do.

(For the record, Mr. Hurst, I think it’s kind of crappy that you can download your book for free from the Apple iBookstore and everyone else has to pay.  Just sayin’.)