Inspirational

Photo of sunrise coming over hundreds of shanties built on top of a huge public dump in Cambodia

The Rent Collector

By Wright, Camron Steve
5
Rated by Lisa H
Oct 7, 2020

When I saw the book cover of The Rent Collector, with a photo of tin and cardboard shanties built on a HUGE mound of garbage, I was curious and intrigued. The book cover was well worn, as it seemed to be a book that had been checked out and read by many. After reading The Rent Collector, it is now one of my favorite reads of the year.

The Rent Collector, by Camron Steve Wright, is a fictionalized account of a real family who live on the Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in Cambodia. Sang Ly and her husband Ki Lin are pickers at the dump, scavenging recyclables to sell to earn

Mighty Moe by Rachel Swaby and Kit Fox

Mighty Moe

4
Rated by Julia B.
Aug 26, 2019

Mighty Moe is a story that highlights the true essence of women's empowerment: incredible achievements and minimal recognition for said achievements. This is the story of a female named Maureen who, in the face of misogyny, ignorance, and conflict, achieved a record-breaking marathon time. The most compelling aspect of the book was that it is a true story. This book promotes empowerment and perseverance in the face of challenges. I was not disappointed with the book for any reason.

Aug 18, 2018

Dear Ijeawele begins with a young, new mother's question: "How might I raise my daughter to be a feminist?" This slim book is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's letter of response, acting as an encouraging and thoughtful manifesto for feminism, in fifteen funny, compassionate, and observant suggestions for loving empowerment.

Oh, I love this book, this essay, this letter. So well articulated, Adichie's work is quick and easy to read and underline.  I am in my twenties, and it's not that I am planning on raising a girl any time soon, but it is that I am continually raising myself as a female within

Survival Lessons

By Alice Hoffman
5
Rated by Cheryl M.
Feb 18, 2018

Alice Hoffman's Survival Lessons is a tiny, beautiful gem. While I have eagerly devoured all of Hoffman's fiction, I was not aware that she had written a non-fiction book or that she had survived a life-threatening illness. 

Survival Lessons details Hoffman's journey through cancer in the form of life advice. Eighty-three pages long, all the short chapters have the word "choose" in their titles: Choose Your Heroes, Choose to Enjoy Yourself, Choose your Friends, etc. Often displayed in waiting rooms for Oncology patients, Hoffman's book offers so much more than just survival lessons; it

Dec 8, 2017

As the follow up to Milk and Honey, I had low expectations for Rupi Kaur's second book, The Sun and Her Flowers. Having existed in the poetry community, I am familiar with the conflicting opinions about Kaur and her poetry. "Too simple," some say. "Fake deep," others say, rolling their eyes. Parodies sprung up across the internet, poking fun at Kaur's short, loaded style. However, many others nearly worshiped Kaur, resulting in her immediate climb to the top of The New York Times Bestseller list. Yet, I have stood on a middle ground, owning and dog-earing Milk and Honey, but also understanding

Oct 22, 2017

There’s no denying that women have made great strides since the days when Joan Cleaver dominated our stereotype. Today’s women can have it all—a successful and demanding career, a passionate, healthy marriage, and a rewarding home life complete with 2.3 children and a white picket fence. We can be power CEO’s during the day and domestic queens by night. Or can we? Women’s Liberation gave this freedom to women, but as we learned in the late 80’s from Hochschild and Machung and their theory of the Second Shift, this isn’t quite the emancipation we had imagined. In Dropping the Ball, Chief

Oct 17, 2017

Here’s a familiar situation that we’ve all been in -  you see someone you know that has recently lost a loved one, or is going through a serious illness, or recently got divorced and that little voice in your head says “do I say something or not . . .  I don’t know them that well . . . what do I say that won’t make matters worse . . . . " Well, here’s a practical and humorous guide encouraging us to go ahead, reach out and fumble; it’s better than not reaching out at all!

In short, colorful chapters, the authors share examples of their “Three Touchstones of Showing Up” – your kindness is

Sep 23, 2017

Hoda Kotb, winner of a Daytime Emmy Award as part of The Today Show, has penned Where We Belong, a collection of stories about people who were feeling unfulfilled, yet were able to get things back on track by simply following their own desires and passions. While some of the examples she shares are about extraordinary people with money and connections, there are also instances of everyday people with seemingly nothing more than a burning ambition to change their lives and the lives of others for the better.

You’ll come away inspired and testing your own feelings and asking yourself if you

Last Night I Sang To The Monster

By Benjamin Alire Sáenz
3
Rated by Scott S.
Sep 20, 2017

Having never experienced life in a rehab center I cannot speak to the authenticity or veracity of the setting Benjamin Alire Sáenz creates in, Last Night I Sang To The Monster. 18 year-old Zach is an alcoholic who comes out of a black out in a treatment center with no memory of how he got there. I can say the novel is populated by memorable characters who are engaged in emotionally resonant relationships in a visceral setting. And in those respects, Sáenz has succeeded in crafting a very effective and moving novel. While not all aspects of the novel work perfectly, it is clear that Sáenz has

Books for Living

By Will Schwalbe
4
Rated by Sarah A.
Aug 22, 2017

Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club, the true story of Schwalbe and his dying mother reading and discussing books together at the end of her life, now shares another meaningful book. Books for Living reveals how particular books have taught Schwalbe life lessons over the years. He says these are “books that prompted me to remember something, realize something or see my life and the world differently.” The book is written in short contained chapters that are quick and easy to read one or two at a time.

I was familiar with some of the books and I understand how he takes

Miss Sharon Jones! (DVD)

By Sharon Jones
5
Rated by Brent W.
Aug 10, 2017

Miss Sharon Jones! is worth seeing for Jones' performance in a little country church of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" alone. Her grit, power and will to sing are amazing. The film covers a critical period in her life with her band, the Dap Kings, when she is dealing with intense cancer treatments and, at the same time, trying to keep the group together. Her humor, bravery and explosive talent fill the screen.  

Having seen Sharon and the Dap Kings at the 2016 New Orleans Jazzfest, I wanted to see more performance footage, but recognize we are lucky to have any at all. The film is equally

Just A Kiss

By Denise Hunter
3
Rated by Bre H.
Jul 28, 2017

Riley Callahan and Paige Warren were best friends and spent many summers together growing up in Summer Harbor. One summer Paige came back from camp all grown up, and Riley fell in love with her and was determined to tell about his feelings. But then Paige fell for his older brother, Beau. Riley could not watch the love of his life go to his brother, so he joined the Marines. Riley would often remind himself that a Marine needs to improvise, adapt, and overcome. And he has to do just that upon returning home as a veteran and amputee with PTSD. He has to face everyone from his past--most of all

Driving Miss Norma

By Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle
5
Rated by Sarah A.
Jun 14, 2017

I first heard about the “Driving Miss Norma” Facebook page a few months ago and was excited to see that a book was in the works. At first glance, I thought the book might be too sentimental for my tastes, but I ended up loving it and its message, and I would really recommend it to anyone.

At 90 years old, Norma Bauerschmidt lost her husband of 67 years and within days received a diagnosis of stage 4 uterine cancer. Faced with a future of surgery, chemo and radiation, she decides instead to “hit the road” in an RV with her son and daughter-in-law and try to enjoy the time she has left. In

Apr 6, 2017

We have all taken personality tests that put us into one box or another in an attempt to better understand ourselves. In Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Cain analyzes the introvert/extrovert dichotomy with a particular focus on how introverts think and what motivates them. Cain argues that we live in an extrovert-centric society that values and praises the high achieving socialites over the less outgoing thinkers. Cain speaks up for and defends those whose voices have gone unheard for far too long.

Quiet reads like a text book, analyzing

Endgame

By DVD
3
Rated by Terri B.
Aug 27, 2016

Endgame, with Rico Rodriquez from Modern Family, is a make-you-feel-good movie inspired by true events. This independent film was shot in only nineteen days, and the children could work, at most, six hours per day. Other actors include Efron Ramiez, who played Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite, and Jon Greis, also from Napoleon Dynamite.

Jose, played by Rico Rodriquez, has a knack for chess, having played with his grandmother since he was five years old. Jose’s older brother, Miguel, is just as good at soccer as Jose is at chess, but their mother, Karla, only acknowledges Miguel’s abilities

Step by Step

By Candace Calvert
3
Rated by Lisa J.
May 2, 2016

It's been three years since her husband was killed in a freak accident and Taylor Cabot is making plans to start living again.  She’s made a moving-on list and is marking items off.  She's moved home, is getting active with the help of an activity tracker, and has replaced the donuts with healthier choices. She's even started spending time with a handsome plastic surgeon from the hospital where she works as an ER nurse. When her old friend, Seth Donovan, turns up at the hospital to train the crisis team, old feelings begin to resurface.  

While in San Diego to train crisis volunteers

Apr 5, 2016

I cannot figure out why this book is such an overwhelming success. I am very torn in my opinion of Marie Condo’s “konmari” method to declutter one’s life, finding some of the teachings notable, but overall unnecessarily extreme and impractically harsh. The main theme of the book is to simplify by ridding oneself of everything that does not “spark joy.” By going through possessions item by item, the konmari method will strip away all unused, superfluous and sentimental items that serve no immediate, direct purpose. Taking to heart the books methodology, I’d like to systematically go through

Mar 14, 2016

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Edwin E. Catmull  is a book about creativity but also about leadership from Catmull's perspective. He is the president of Disney Studios and the co-founder and president of Pixar Animation Studios.  Catmull's leadership philosophy is that everyone has the potential to be creative and to encourage that development is a noble pursuit for any manager.  He also outlines the blocks to creativity and how to overcome them. 

I first heard about this book while I was reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown.

Feb 24, 2016

Kristin Armstrong, a contributing editor to Runner's World, is a delightful writer as well as a dedicated runner.

Her reflections are gathered into different themes that allow her to cover a lot of ground (ahem) - family, friendships, self-reflection and self-esteem, relationships, goals both short term and long. And she does it all with a lot of inspiring, kind words and a ready wit.

Generally I'm not much of a fan of inspirational or self-help type books. They often have far too little content and far too many pithy phrases. But Armstrong's strength is in her specificity and

Thin Ice

By Irene Hannon
3
Rated by Lisa J.
Feb 17, 2016

Christy Reed has had a difficult year. First she lost both of her parents in a car wreck, then just a few months later her sister Ginny dies in a house fire. Just as Christy is starting to pull herself out of her grieving and begins to accept that she is alone in the world, an envelope arrives in the mail. The envelope is addressed in Ginny’s handwriting and is postmarked just a few days ago. What is going on, and where is Ginny?

Brand new FBI Special Agent Lance McGregor receives Christy’s call about the letter and reopens the case. There are many questions that need answers. Is Ginny

If I Run

By Terri Blackstock
4
Rated by Lisa J.
Feb 10, 2016

Casey Cox was twelve years old when she came home from school and found her father hanging in the garage. While the police investigators officially ruled her father’s death a suicide, Casey never believed that her father would kill himself, knowing she would be the one to find him.  Now, ten years later, Casey walks in to find her best friend murdered just inside his front door. Brent, a journalist, had been investigating her father’s death and the circumstances surrounding it in an effort to help her find peace and move on with her life.

Feeling that she won’t get a fair shake from local

All There Is

By David Isay
4
Rated by Hannah Jane C.
Oct 18, 2015

Reading All There Is is like being engulfed in a giant bouquet of love in all its vast intricacies.  While there are plenty of heartwarming, kissy-face snippets in this StoryCorps gem, many stories are edged with bittersweet moments of heartache, regret and loss. 

StoryCorps is “a very simple idea.  You make an appointment to bring in anyone you want to honor by listening.  When you arrive at the booth you’re met by a StoryCorps facilitator who takes you inside and sits you across a small table from, say, your grandmother.  You face one another, a microphone in front of each of you, and for

Aug 27, 2015

Having had 3 children graduate high school and then college, I’ve read and gifted my share of “go out there and do great things” type of inspirational books. A few that have earned my readership and admiration are Dr. Suess’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go, followed by Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art, Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life, and Ann Patchett’s What Now?

But J. K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives may take this genre to a whole new level. This book is the graduation speech she gave at the commencement for the Harvard Class of 2008. She didn’t write the best selling series of all time

Taken

By Dee Henderson
4
Rated by Lisa J.
Aug 10, 2015

Matthew Dane was a police officer until his daughter was kidnapped and missing for years.  He then left the force and started a private detective service so he could continue the search for his daughter.  Once his daughter was found, he was able to help her adjust to life outside of captivity and then help other families in the same situation.  

Shannon Bliss went missing at the age of 16.  Now, almost 12 years later, Matthew finds a woman waiting for him outside his hotel room claiming to be Shannon Bliss.  She is seeking his assistance in reuniting with her family and bringing down the

The Dark Tower, and Other Stories

By C. S. Lewis
1
Rated by Amanda H.
Jul 12, 2015

I picked up a book of C. S. Lewis’s short stories for a staff exercise in genres with Faith-Based and Inspirational Fiction. The Dark Tower and Other Stories contains some of his science fiction as well as faith-based works, so as a sci-fi fan I was eager to combine the two. Then I started reading, and my hopes swiftly plummeted. The first story is “The Man Born Blind,” a heavy-handed tale of religious allegory. Our main character has been blind all his life and has recently undergone an operation to cure it, but remains puzzled and frustrated afterwards by his inability and others’ inability

The Bounce Back Book

By Karen Salmansohn
5
Rated by Hope H.
Jun 4, 2015

Sometimes you feel yourself spiraling downward, and you don't know what to do next. Or maybe next has involved seeking comfort all too frequently in your chocolate stash. I hear you. Recommended to me by a good friend, I picked up this book.

The Bounce Back Book: How to Thrive in the Face of Adversity, Setback, and Losses is packed with nuggets of uplifting, empowering, actionable wisdom. Salmansohn uses a conversational tone and plenty of humor to share her 75 tips for bouncing back from one (or a multitude – what she calls "The Vortex") of life's challenges: life and death, career

May 30, 2015

Bless This Food is a collection of graces from many traditions - Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. I came across this title in my quest to find dinner prayers that were more resonant with my family than the standard one I had been taught as a child or the simpler ones that I had prayed with my own children when they were younger.  Adrian Butash begins by beautifully describing the intimate relationship that humans have with food and the God or gods who are the source of that food and explains why saying grace and giving thanks is a universal phenomenon.  Bless This Food is

Comet's Tale

By Steven D. Wolf with Lynette Padwa
4
Rated by Hannah Jane C.
May 7, 2015

Comet, a rescued greyhound, will win you over with her lovable, graceful and insightful personality.  Steven Wolf rescues Comet from the horrors of greyhound racing, and in turn she rescues him when his debilitating back injuries leave him disabled and unable to participate in everyday life. 

Shortly after adopting Comet, Wolf stumbles upon the idea of training her to be a service dog.  Comet learns how to open doors, provide stability so that Wolf can hoist himself up, and even pulls Wolf’s wheelchair around the local airport.  While Comet is not your average working dog, she tackles every

Here Burns My Candle

By Liz Curtis Higgs
5
Rated by Margaret O.
Apr 27, 2015

Lady Elisabeth Kerr, a Highlander and sympathetic of the Jacobite cause, has not hidden her support of Prince Charles and his rebel army.  Now her husband, Lord Donald Kerr, has decided the cause is a worthy one and he and his brother have both decided to back the prince.  Lady Elisabeth’s widowed mother-in-law, Lady Marjory, is not at all excited about her two sons going into battle, but is caught up in the excitement the prince has stirred within their town of Edinburgh.  Lady Marjory makes no secret that she has switched her loyalty and has even financially backed the prince with more than

This Is Who I Am

By Rosanne Olson
5
Rated by Caitlin T.
Mar 29, 2015

Wow. There is no other word for this book but wow.

This is an incredibly powerful work of art that combines nude photos of women of all ages, ethnicity and body shape with short essays written by the woman posing, describing who they are and how they feel about their body. Each picture is uniquely crafted to be simple yet exquisitely beautiful by merely depicting women in a raw, honest way. 

While the pictures may be what initially attract readers (it’s hard not to be intrigued by a book with a naked woman on the cover), it is the stories that truly make This Is Who I Am so moving. There