Tag Archives: Allison Winn Scotch


I’ve had a growing stack of books on my desk for weeks now, waiting for a chunk of time to I could share them with you. There’s something here for pretty much everyone looking for a summer read:

How to Survive A Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin.  The author digs deep and shares with beauty and candor about what he learned after (in his words) “steering my own ship onto the rocks,” failing in his marriage and leaving the church he’d founded. The book has an unusual, almost mysterious style. Scenes are sparse, and there are no details at all about what happened. We’re left to wonder about the specifics of the shipwreck, as we can only see the aftermath. This bothered me at first, but then I saw an interview where the author said that the book was not a memoir, and that helped me to stop looking for the narrative arc and simply soak in the wisdom from what the author learned. I deeply appreciate this book and recommend it to anyone who has watched helplessly as their boat came apart…or been complicit in taking an axe to the timbers.

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch. I discovered Allison’s writing years ago because we have the same agent. Since then, I have enjoyed every one of her six novels, and this  might be my favorite to date. In the midst of a compelling plot, she captures so much of the angst of getting older and balancing who you are now with who you used to be. It reminded me of a longtime favorite, Plan B by Jonathan Tropper – high praise.

Onward by Russell Moore. I never imagined I’d find this much inspiration in a book by leader of the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t even mean that in a snarky way; only that were you to draw a Venn diagram with Southern Baptists & Vineyarders, you’d pretty much just see JESUS in the center overlap. But as it turns out, that’s enough.  This book is filled with sharp thinking, wise observations, and a keen perspective on the intersection between faith & culture. I’ve read a lot of books about navigating that space – this might be the most insightful. (Bonus: I discovered Moore’s work via his interview on the Phil Fischer podcast.)

Heart Made Whole by Christa Black. This was a miss for me – not enough clear story, too many heart metaphors. The author’s heart is an open door, a house with many rooms, a dark place waiting to be explored, a locked room she’s trying to open… I love a good image, but it’s a tool to help you say something, not a substitute for  figuring out what you’re trying to say. I also found it a little strange that she talks to her heart. It wasn’t for me, but several others have liked it, so check it out if you’re interested. (Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.)

The Pastor by Eugene Peterson. You know all those memes on “Adulting”? Eugene Peterson should be our guide. His story is poetic and yet really clear as he shares stories about the people and situations that shaped his thinking about how to be a husband, father, pastor and friend. Lots of wisdom here.

Book Report

In the midst of a CRAZY couple of months, I’ve read some good books. Some offered wisdom, others stirred up my imagination for how things might really work, and a few just let me escape for a few hours. Here’s a rundown in case you’re looking for something to read as we head into summer:

GRIT: THE POWER OF PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE by Angela Duckworth. I expected to like this one because I’m hearing about it everywhere, but I didn’t expect it to prompt an immediate change to my daily routine. There’s a lot to like in these pages, but my personal takeaway was about the power of a certain type of practice – where you have goals that are a bit beyond your capacity, keep track of how you practice each day, and look for outside help to get better.  Highly recommend.

WAKING THE DEAD: THE GLORY OF A HEART FULLY ALIVE by John Eldredge. This was a re-read for me, prompted by a friend who shared how a retreat led by Eldredge helped her through a really thorny patch in her life. I hadn’t realized how deadened my heart had become from so many years of loss and stress. This book helped me recognize the dead-ness and believe for resurrection. Such powerful stuff here. I’m going back through all the sections I underlined and asking God to heal those broken places. If you could use some help getting back to abundant life, this is a good one to read.

THE VERITAS CONFLICT: A NOVEL by Shanti Feldhahn.  And imaginative look at the spiritual battle over Harvard. A fast-moving plot held my interest, and I was intrigued by this attempt to show how angels and demons intersect with our everyday human lives. Fun to read, especially if you have a connection to Cambridge. Now that our church meets in Kendall Square, I’d love to see a similar story set at MIT.

DISRUPTED: MY MISADVENTURES IN THE STARTUP BUBBLE by Dan Lyons. Dang, this guy is funny. This is a grim, hilariously sarcastic look at the tech bubble from a former Newsweek writer who worked at Hubspot. It’s billed as “old guy works in hot young startup,” but the book goes way beyond that basic premise.  If you’re connected to tech, this is worth a look.

SPIRITUAL SOBRIETY: STUMBLING BACK TO FAITH WHEN GOOD RELIGION GOES BAD by Elizabeth Esther.  I expected this to be a memoir, but it’s more of a 12 step program for people recovering from cult-like or abusive religious situations. It’s not a light read, but I think it will be a helpful, hopeful resource for many people as Esther shares what she’s learned about moving forward.

And Here are a couple of books I’m looking forward to:

IN TWENTY YEARS: A NOVEL by Allison Winn Scotch.  I love her books.

HOW TO SURVIVE A SHIPWRECK: HELP IS ON THE WAY AND LOVE IS ALREADY HERE by Jonathan Martin. I don’t know much about this guy but I’ve heard good things.

The Theory of Opposites

UnknownI’m a longtime fan of Allison Winn Scotch as a person (her blog is a treasure trove of good advice for writers, and she was LOVELY and generous when my first book came out, writing a post that made me feel so good I still remember it) and as a writer (I’ve loved & raved about each of her novels), so when I got the chance to review an advanced copy of her latest, I jumped at it. In her notable, unique style,  THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES takes on the question, What happens when you think you have it all, and then suddenly it’s taken away? 

The main character, Willa Chandler-Golden, is the daughter of a bestselling self-help author who built his career on the idea that everything happens for a reason. She’s spent her life wrestling with this legacy, but is doing pretty well building a life for herself. Then her husband proposes a two-month break to see if they can live their lives without each other. She loses her job, her ex-boyfriend finds her on Facebook, and her best friend Vanessa lands a gig writing for Dare You!, a hot new reality TV show. Vanessa lures Willa into dares of her own – dares that run counter to her father’s theories of fate and might change everything…

My favorite part of the book is the friendship between Willa and Vanessa, who pushes her (relentlessly but with great humor) out of her comfort zone. It’s a reminder of how important friends are as we find our way. I love how Allison writes books I can’t stop thinking about, and how she takes her characters through life’s thorny situations in a way that is both inspiring and entertaining.

Five stars. A captivating page turner.

(Here’s the link to Allison’s author page if you want to check out her other titles)


Recommendations, What I’m reading, What I’m looking forward to…


Coming Clean: A Memoir by Kimberly Rae Miller. Fascinating story of growing up as the child of two hoarders. She paints her parents as vivid, multi-dimensional characters.  A page turner AND a great reminder that despite a desolate, imperfect childhood, things can turn out okay.

Stage Performance by Livingston Taylor.  Recommended by a musician friend. Great insights into working hard and how we “show up” for our responsibilities, especially the care we take to showcase what we have to offer.  (Re-reading that sentence, I’m not even sure it makes sense. Just read the book…it’s Inspiring!)

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron. A burnt out pastor has his faith revived as he follows the path of Saint Francis. Not the type of book I’m drawn to, which made it rather surprising that I enjoyed it so much.

The Buy Side: A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess by Turney Duff.  A memoir from a high school friend who went on to much bigger & wilder things after he left our small town in Maine.  Great writing, and an interesting  story of building a life and then tearing it down…and then building back up again. I’ve recommended this book to friends and family members from all demographics, and all have loved it. Highly recommend.



The Happiness Advantage: The 7 Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor.  A lot of synthesis here of other positive psych material, but this book probably does the best job of laying it out in terms of specific application.  And the author has a great sense of humor, which is a nice touch

Finding Spoons: A Love Story on Two Wheels by Victoria Merriman. I got to read this in draft form and loved it then, so it’s especially fun to see the finished book. A fun and crazy-inspiring memoir by a friend who traveled the country, BY HERSELF, on a bike. She camped in people’s YARDS, and on giant bales of cotton, among other places.  Just incredible. You’ll love it.


Looking forward to:

Still Writing: The Pleasures & Perils of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro. Out today! I love Dani’s other books, so I’m hoping to have a copy in hand for my next trip to sit on the beach in the autumn sunshine :)

The Theory of Opposites: A Novel by Allison Winn Scotch.  Confession: I’ve already read this & it’s FANTASTIC. I’ll do a full blog on it closer to it’s pub date in November, but if you want a treat to look forward to, go ahead and pre-order.