mitten strings: a thursday list of turning-point books


It is Thursday, and that means it is list time.  In the new year, when I set my sights on participating in Lists with Friends, using Amanda’s prompts linked below, I thought sooner or later I’d run into a prompt that defied the list format.  I thought I’d met my match in today’s nudge to write, “mitten strings.”

Ah, but the first thing that popped into my mind was Katrina Kenison’s marvelous book, Mitten Strings for God. And from there, a list began unfurling in my mind, of before-and-after books, books that changed me, books that read me as much as I read them. This list is not complete. I hope it is never finished.

  • In the months after I was married, on a bookstore ramble, I discovered two volumes by Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and The Cloister Walk. Both spoke to me, as a poet and a person of faith, at such a deep level.  At that point in my life, I needed a wider landscape in which to navigate my faith, a less constricted spectrum than what I’d known.  Norris, and L’Engle and Merton and Nouwen with her, gave me that.
  • More recently, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Father Gregory Boyle widened and deepened my sense of what it means to love others in the light of God, what holiness looks like.
  • In terms of self-exploration, Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain came immediately to mind. I think of these books as ones that helped me understand my own operating system, helped me to unpack the ways I have related with others and interacted with the world. That both are readable and relatable is a bonus.
  • Last year, when I delved back into writing, the books poemcrazy and Writing Poetry From the Inside Out pulled me up short from my free fall of expectations and nerves, and reminded me that word play can be fun, can be woven into the fabric of the day, and can, when I forget myself enough and send my loud inner critic on an errand out of town, yield up a poem.
  • Finally, as a parent, Kenison’s Mitten Strings for God and Beth Kephart’s Seeing Past Z (which I wrote about in more detail here), have been books like friends, coming along beside me, whispering to me that what I observe in our family rhythms, what I know in my heart that I want for my boys, is possible, sustainable, sane.

When I open a box with an arrow and swoosh, or lug home my stuffed canvas bag from the library, in addition to hoping for prose that stuns me with beauty or carries me out of my corner and into another world, some part of me hopes that one book will make me stop hard, turn around and realize that I know a truth I did not know before, and it has made me over, made me better.

Seeking midwinter inspiration with other good folks

writing along in February at Write ALM

Joining in: Lists With Friends 2014


4 thoughts on “mitten strings: a thursday list of turning-point books

    1. adailyportion Post author

      Oh Amanda, I think you would especially love Kephart, both her memoirs and her YA fiction– House of Dance and Small Damages come to mind. Don’t you just love a book list? I know I love yours!

  1. Jennifer

    I love book lists! They lead to good conversation. 🙂
    My oldest graduated last year, my middle one is a senior this year, and my youngest is in 6th grade. I read the follow up book to Mitten Strings last year, and I felt the same way about it that you did about Mitten Strings. Keep “The Gift of An Ordinary Day” tucked away in your lists for later… you will appreciate it one day, when the kids are launching. (Doesn’t that seem impossibly far away? I know it does… it still seems that way to me, with regards to my 6th grader. But I have learned this: “The days are long but the years are short…”)

    I enjoy Brene Brown’s video talks but I’ve not read her book(s). I may add that to my list!

    One more: Dakota is currently in my amazon cart. I read “Acedia and Me” (also by Norris) a couple of years ago, and it was so encouraging, validating, and enlightening! I learned a lot about myself, but her spiritual life is also very inspiring. I long for quietness, solitude, contemplation… and then when the opportunities do come, I find that it (surprisingly) still takes great self-discipline.

    It is good to find a few who are wandering along similar paths. I had a few minutes this morning to catch up with you, and I’m so glad I did! It has been a long, rather isolated winter here in the sunny south (for our family). I tend to be picky about the places I visit online, but your blog is always “safe –” a pleasure and a comfort. Thank you for that! Hope you have a lovely week…

    1. adailyportion Post author

      Jennifer, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. In fact, I have read Kenison’s other memoirs, written since Mitten Strings. Perhaps it is my own way of seeing the road ahead, and being thankful that such a sensitive, gifted soul has traveled them ahead of me! Brene’s TED talks were my introduction to her thinking as well, but Daring Greatly unpacks in such an accessible format the way shame affects our whole operating system for life.
      I so appreciate what you said about my blog feeling like a safe place. I am so thankful for those bloggers who have created, for me, a place that feels gentle and kind and quiet in the noisy web.
      Have a lovely day!


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