I’ve read some GRRRRREAT books lately. I can’t help but reflect that I’m pretty lucky: it’s rare that I read a book I don’t like. This is in part because I’ve just gotten over that desire to finish every single book, in part because I’ve gotten better at picking what I will actually read (before I pick up something I don’t like), and in part because of pure luck.

Today, I’m focusing on three recent nonfiction reads, but I promise to talk about the piles of fiction I’ve been enjoying. The thing is, some of that requires brain cells I can’t tap into right now. So you get nonfiction first.

Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers

By Kate Hopper

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I got this book through the Amazon Vine program, though I’ve stopped getting as many books (or even really looking at the books available) because, well, I am buried in books. (I’m not complaining, mind you.) Plus there are tons of other cool things I can get through Amazon Vine, so why add to the books I can’t get to yet?

This book, though, caught my eye and I broke down and ordered it. I’m a writer, after all, and a mother! This book looked like it was for me!

And…it was. I’ll admit, I was a bit afraid this would be too much “do this, do that” and not enough advice or help I could actually use, but Hopper, as it turns out, is a talented teacher. She doesn’t just tell you what to do, but uses a wide variety of examples–from mothers, no less–and she’s down-to-earth in her approach. For example, she doesn’t suggest you get up every morning at 3 AM to write (though that may be what works for you). She advocates writing, yes, and gives you tools for doing that, but she’s not militant or unrealistic. I appreciated that.

One of the best parts of this book, for me, was getting encouragement from a fellow mom-writer, someone who has multiple kids, is working in the world and in writing, and who has a life beyond the page. Some of the writing books I’ve read, while excellent, seem like they don’t apply. Hopper has combined her expertise in writing with humor and practicality.

Have you ever thought of writing? Not sure how to start or where to begin or what to do? This book will be a great guide for you.

If, like me, you have a clue but need a cheerleader or a refresher or hey, a break from a certain kind of reading you might find yourself constantly immersed in, I’ll bet you will love and appreciate this book just like I do.

Overall, highly recommended, especially for fellow mom-writers.

Wish You Were Here: Travels through Hope and Loss

By Amy Welborn

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

How could I not pre-order this book? It came highly recommended from all my favorite people, and so I did. And then, then it sat for quite a while on my to-read shelf. And then it took me far longer to read than it should have, given its length.

It hits me a little close to home. It gets me crying and sentimental and unable to be in my own company.

What makes this book great is not just the fact that Amy Welborn is a young widow who traveled with her kids to Sicily in the wake of her husband’s unexpected death. It’s great for the fact that Welborn shares herself candidly, with no icing or halos. It’s great for the fact that there are others, like Welborn, who are mired in grief and forging forward anyway, invisibly, silently. It’s great for the fact that Welborn makes everyone and every place a character, with texture and depth and feeling.

What makes this book readable is not just that Amy Welborn is a master of the craft, a wordsmith of awesome proportions, a woman who knows how to say what she means to say. It’s readable for the good writing, the expert editing, the weaving and plotting and feeling that’s in every word.

What makes this book heart-wrenching and real is not just that Amy Welborn is brave and honest and colorful. It’s heart-wrenching and real because of the word choices, the phrases, the heart that comes through at every turn. Did she relive things as she wrote? Was it torturous to bare her heart to the world?

I’m not usually a fan of memoir, but this book breaks through my prejudice and forces me to consider life. It doesn’t preach, and yet it shares a message that’s wholly Catholic, completely Christian, and absolutely provocative.

Highly recommended, just like everyone said it would be.

Holiness for Everyone: The Practical Spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva

By Eric Sammons

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I’m a big fan of Eric Sammons and his book-writing. When he wrote me and asked me to take a look at this one, I couldn’t say no. His last book was one of my favorites, after all, and I was curious after seeing the title to this one.

It’s not a biography, but more like a braid of St. Josemaria’s wisdom and spirituality and the life we all struggle to live. Sammons does a great job of keeping it real, of making the theories into practices that apply even to me.

I found myself marking this book, thinking of the people I would share it with, and considering rereading it, right away, so that I could tackle it more slowly, in a more devotional way.

I have a copy of The Way around here somewhere (I think it’s tucked in a drawer of devotional stuff), and I remember enjoying the little tidbits within it. It ended up tucked away because…well, we moved, I had other things to focus on, and on and on.

Sammons compiles St. Josemaria’s writings and thoughts into his own, using them to punctuate the point he’s making and demonstrate the example we should strive to set.

I was a bit surprised how I enjoyed this book, honestly. I agree with the premise: holiness IS for everyone, yes. But I don’t necessarily want to be told how to be holy. I don’t quite have enough humility within me to accept a sermon, but the way Sammons and St. Josemaria pair up, it’s like a talk with a good friend.

Sammons reclaims the word “spirituality” from the wet-behind-the-ears and rather lame approach so many people have to it and makes it something tangible. It’s not easy, he makes clear, but it’s also not any harder than so many other things. “Holiness is not,” he writes, “a matter of following certain rules set down by a superior. Nor is it a predestined result that God determines for certain members of his creation. Holiness, rather, is a living relationship between a loving child who wants to please his father and a father who gives his child everything he needs to succeed.”

Holiness is about family, and our family, he reminds us, using the in-the-dirt-of-life rationale of St. Josemaria, is comprised first and foremost of God himself.

Highly recommended, especially if you’re weary of spiritual reading, looking for a light in the tunnel, and maybe just looking for refreshment in your faith journey.