ON THE SHELF: Nonfiction titles for comfort and inspiration

Published 8:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2022

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week’s column features titles from our New Adult Nonfiction collection that may offer readers comfort and inspiration in these increasingly tough times.

Walter Brueggemann brings us a new edition of “Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible” by the late German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For hundreds of years, humans have been shaped by the Psalms. Even Jesus died with a psalm on his lips. Bonhoeffer believed that comfort, praise, and challenge could be found in the Psalter, that is why he published his book on the Psalms before the Nazis banned him from publishing. Bonhoeffer conveys the richness he felt in reading and studying the Psalms as well as reflecting on psalms of thanksgiving, suffering, guilt, praise and lament. He also teaches how to pray psalms along with Christ in order to gain a deeper understanding of your faith. This book also includes a biographical sketch of Bonhoeffer by his friend and biographer Eberhard Bethge.

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In “Things That Matter: Overcoming Distraction to Pursue a More Meaningful Life” by Joshua Becker, we learn to identify the obstacles that keep you from living with intention, and then discover practical ideas for letting go of those distractions today so you can focus on what matters most. By using practical exercises and questions, insights from a nationwide survey, and success stories for motivation, Becker helps you to:

  • Identify the pursuits that matter most to you
  • Align your dreams with your daily priorities
  • Recognize how money and possessions keep you from happiness
  • Become aware of how others’ opinions of you influence your choices
  • Embrace what you’re truly passionate about instead of planning that next escape
  • Figure out what to do with all those emails, notifications, and pings
  • Let go of past mistakes and debilitating habits

This is definitely a book about living well and overcoming the chatter of a world focused on all the wrong things. If we rethink the common assumptions of today and find satisfaction and fulfillment for tomorrow.

Author Susie Wise brings us “Design for Belonging: How to Build Inclusion and Collaboration in Your Communities.” Whether you are a parent, teacher, public servant or leader of any sort, your peer group is unlikely to thrive if the individuals don’t feel welcomed, included and valued for who they are. The author offers good news that feelings of inclusion can be designed into your organization. Though you cannot force feelings, you can use simple levers of design to allow belonging to happen naturally. For example, adding moveable furniture to a meeting space allows for a customizable space for your group size. You can also switch up the role of group leader regularly to increase everyone’s visibility or create a special ritual for people joining or leaving your organization to welcome fresh perspectives and to honor a job well done. Included are inspirational stories from leaders and scholars who have used these techniques to provide different approaches to providing everyone with opportunities to succeed.

Beloved, bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith brings us “In a Time of Distance and Other Poems” in his latest collection. Join him on an enthralling journey from Africa to Greece, London to North America to Mumbai, and back home to Smith’s native Scotland. This collection of poems celebrates the people, places, animals, and books of this journey. This is the first collection of poetry from the author, and it is filled with his signature wit and wisdom as he shares his unique incite and good-natured observations on life, love, and beauty.

“Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts brings us a guide to instilling hope and optimism into her readers’ lives with her latest “Brighter By the Day.” For sixteen years Robin Roberts has been an anchor of the popular morning news show and has helped millions of people across the country greet each day with heart and humility. By bringing a bit of positivity into each day, Roberts hopes to offer solace in even the most trying of times. She shares with readers the guidance she has received throughout the years as well as wisdom from her own struggles. She offers a window into how she feeds her own mind, spirit, and soul using knowledge gleaned from conversations with loved ones, spiritual practices, and life experiences. The biggest lesson she has to offer is that, like any skill, optimism requires practice and we must shift our mindsets and give ourselves permission to let our best intentions take root and grow.

“Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy” is by Mo Gawdat Chief Business Officer at Google’s [X], an elite team of engineers that make up Google’s futuristic “dream factory.” Gawdat applies his elevated skills of logic and problem solving to the issue of happiness. He does this by proposing an algorithm based on an understanding of how the brain takes in and processes joy and sadness. Then he solves for happy. In 2001, Gawdat realized that, though he was incredibly successful, he was not at all happy. He sets out to solve his problem from the perspective of an engineer: examining all the provable facts and carefully applying logic. Eventually, his hours of research and science proved successful, and he discovered the equation for lifelong happiness. Thirteen years later, his algorithm was put to the ultimate test when his son, Ali, suddenly died. He and his family turned to his equation and saved themselves from despair. Gawdat then had the idea of sharing this equation with the world to help as many people as possible become happier. No matter what obstacles we face, what burdens we bear, or trials we experience, we can be content with our present situation and be optimistic about the future.