LIFE IS MESSY by Matthew Kelly (2021): A Review

I have been reading so many novels lately that I turned to this little book that was donated to my Little Free Library as a change of pace. I do not read as much non-fiction as I should, but I have improved over the years to a fan of good non-fiction writing.

The author assures us that just because our lives are MESSY, we aren’t doing it wrong. He states that there is no way to prevent the messiness of life. “It’s what we do with the mess that determines everything.” He points out that “You don’t have to have it all together. Nobody has it all together.” In this book, Kelly helps the reader accept the mess. He even goes so far as to say, “…the radical acceptance of self, others and life may be the beginning of wisdom.”

We are wounded and broken, but that’s ok. Kelly even suggests that we could be put back together in a way that makes us more beautiful than before. He brings to mind the Japanese concept of Kitsug, where artists fill in the cracks and flaws of art objects with gold, making them more beautiful than the original. “We are each others wounded healers, ” he writes. Kelly grapples with his own messiness in his life and shows his findings from the struggle. Dealing with the question, “Will the hurt ever stop?” Kelly gives aid and comfort to his readers dealing with daily struggles and issues.

I found several things/sections to share with my students (ranging from 21-45 years of age), very applicable to writing and even some life lessons learned by the author. This is a very helpful book.



Not too long ago, My Better Half and I read Abrams’ The The Book of Joy as the selection for a book club he had joined. To me, it was ok, but only ok. For some reason, I had my own ideas about joy already.

Fast-forward to 2022. I read in a magazine a short ad for Jane Goodall’s The Book of Hope, written by the same author. In it, as in his book with The Dali Lama and Tutu, the author used the interview as his main tool.

Although it was written in 2021, I finally got around to reading it in this month, as part of my attempt to read 22 non-fiction books in 2022. Goodall’s subtitle, “A Survival Guide for Trying Times,” couldn’t be more revenant than today. I only knew Jane Goodall as the “Chimp Lady” who studied chimpanzees to learn more about human behavior. This exceptional woman, as important to ecology as Rachel Carson and her Silent Spring, offers HOPE to her readers, as well as sounding the alarm, as did Carson. Her forward to this outstanding book moved me, as did the photos of those who developed hope in extraordinary times of stress, calamity, and unrest. She has been the first of her sex to do so many thins such as go into the jungles of the Congo accompanied only by a photographer to study its wildlife in their natural habitat.

Goodall is officially the UN Messenger of Peace, and in forming her educational groups called “Roots and Shoots” of young people around the world, she has brought Hope to many third-world nations. She has taken positive action to cause hope for peace to come.

The most important takeaways from the book are Jane’s Four Reasons for Having Hope: The amazing human intellect, The reliance of nature, The power of young people, and The indomitable Human Spirit. Abrams uses these four reasons as the organization of the book. The personality and integrity of Goodall, herself, shines through like a beacon of hope for the book’s readers.


This is an update on a year-long study of Gratitude.

My “word” for 2022 is GRATITUDE. I adopted a goal of making a year-long-study of this concept. Many writers credit gratitude with providing happiness in our lives. One thing I had hoped to do was read books about gratitude. Here’s the third book I’ve read on the subject this year (Oliver Sacks, Gratitude was the first; Wake Up Grateful was the second; and this week I finished the third, Living Life as a Thank You).

This book’s subtitle says it all.

Nina Lesowitz’s and Mary Beth Sammons’ small book explores the positive power of gratitude. It guides the reader in an attempt to change “fear into courage, anger into forgiveness, and isolation into belonging.” Dealing with the benefits to gratitude, Living Life is something we need NOW. The chapter titled, “Ways to Stay Thankful in Difficult Times,” is particularly relevant during times of Covid, political division, and worldwide problems. Any one of these creates stress in the individual. Anecdotes about “individuals whose lives have been transformed by thankfulness” fill every chapter, inspiring and uplifting the reader. In a day of separateness, this little book teaches us how to stay connected with others by being thankful. Inserted throughout its chapters are practical tips on expressing gratitude. Snippits of wisdom head each chapter, causing me to take out my Gratitude journal and copy sage advice often. One quote that resonated with me as a takeaway is, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say, ‘Thank You’ ? “

To make a change in your level of happiness, this book recommends Gratitude.
Thanks Evin.

PRESENT OVER PERFECT by Shauna Niequest: “Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living”

This book includes a foreword by Brene Brown, and quite frankly, I am sure the author has read some of Brown’s books, for their philosophies are similar. This book encourages one to :”Live a life of meaning and connection instead of pushing for perfection.”

Niequist describes her journey and invites the reader to join her on it.

The author begins with these words, “A few years ago I found myself exhausted and isolated, my soul and body sick. I was tired of being tired, burned out, and busy.”

Ever been there? I have. Like the author, I have longed for “connection, meaning and depth,” only to settle for “busy.” Sometimes I have even chosen “busy” as a distraction to keep myself from thinking, from introspective thoughts and from searching deep within. Niequist explains a new way to live, incorporating grace, love, rest and play, which “changed everything.” Her challenge, first to herself, then to the reader is to find her “essential self.” She teaches us to embrace silence and stillness in her collection of essays. Her technique allows us “to be present in the middle of the mess and ordinariness of life.”

This author brought home the peace and gracefulness of her Lake Vacation home with her and has never lost it since. My favorite essays were “Learning to Play” and “The Spring of the Basketball Hoop.” Both describe the value of play, family, and friends. I would rate this 5 on a scale of 1-5 and would describe it as a “darned good read.”



Most of the books I mentioned on my Nonfiction November posts were books I had already read, but the Third Week, we were asked to list several books that might make us “experts” on a given subject. The subject I chose was “Gratitude.” This is an account of my progress on adding nonfiction books to my TBR shelves.

This year finds me more a reader of nonfiction than ever before in my life. Nonfiction November and your posts have given me suggestions for more nonfiction books I want to read in 2022.

Let’s deal with the books on week 3 that I thought would teach me about “gratitude.”

I am asking for The Little Book of Gratitude for Christmas. Would somebody put a bug in My Better Half’s ear, please?

Kaplan’s Gratitude Diaries is coming on interlibrary loan from a library in Houston.

I am going to search TONIGHT for a library that has or can get for me: Thanks! How the Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier and Works of Gratitude: Mind, Body and Soul.

I asked for recommendations for books on gratitude on that 3rd week post, and my “Little Sister,” Deb Nance of Readerbuzz came through for me. She listed four books that are available in our Alvin library and a long list of other books from her study of Happiness that have gratitude as part of their titles. These are books she has already read and enjoyed–an invaluable resource.

I wish Deb and I looked as good as these two do as we discuss books at one of our houses.

I even printed out the two lists and will take them with me on my trips to the libraries I plan to make this coming week. I had hoped to do this gratitude reading during December, and it l looks like things are right on schedule.

What books have you added to your TBR this month? Hopefully some nonfiction to celebrate Nonfiction November. This has been a “growth experience” for me and has changed my attitude toward reading nonfiction altogether.

Thanks, Evin.


Although I finished this challenge early in March, six non-fiction books, I have read nearly twice that many since January 1st.

I took on the challenge hesitantly because “Non-fiction has never been my ‘thing'” I now have to amend my statement, for I have come to love non-fiction and the benefits reading in this genre provide.

My latest “read” was John C. Maxwell’s

Maxwell is a well-known leadership coach and has written many excellent books.

This 2013 publication is timeless, its lessons ones that the reader can apply immediately to his/her professional and personal life. Maxwell believes that “every loss can become a positive learning experience.” He discusses examples of dealing with setbacks. Facing problems, failure, and losses, for business people and those in other leadership positions are difficult, but this inspiring “handbook” can be very helpful.

Just as I tell my Advanced Writing students, “Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect,” Maxwell tells his readers, “Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is.”

My favorite chapters were “Change: The Price of Learning,” which I recommend to all us Senior Citizens who tend to be ‘set in our ways’ and “Improvement: The Focus of Learning”, which can be applied to my teaching needs.

This is a quick, interesting read, one which any reader will come away from with something useful

I loved Maxwell’s book!

THINK AGAIN by Adam Grant: A Review

One of the best non-fiction reads so far this year

The subtitle, “Knowing What You Don’t Know,” let’s us know this is a book about the value of rethinking. Taking tests as a student, I was always told “Go with your first instinct and never change answers; don’t overthink.” Grant says just the opposite. He complains that when we get an idea, we freeze it and seize it, and hold on to it too many times. Because we are human, we enjoy living in our “comfort of conviction” over the “discomfort of doubt.”

There is something for everyone in this book: for teachers in the chapter “Rethinking the Textbook, which has excellent ideas to teach ‘rethinking;’ for young people who are in a quandary over making a career decision or life plan; for mid-lifer crazies who are in a career crisis; and parents, who want their children to be able to solve problems that don’t even exist yet. It is especially applicable to business bosses and leaders who wish their companies/organizations to be effective and efficient.

Timely answers for NOW, for Covid questions, NASA examples and experiences from his own kids and family fill the book with readable and relatable anecdotes that keep the reader turning pages.

It is a “darned good read’ and very helpful in dealing with life.


This is probably one of my best non-fiction reads this year, right up there with I’m Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come (see review on this blog). Note the subtitle under the box on the cover for an accurate description of what the book is about. “This is a book that asks, ‘How do we change?’ and it answers with ‘In relation to others.’ ” Gottlieb explores the relationship between patient and therapist with real-life anecdotes from her patients and from her own sessions with her therapist that make us laugh, cry, and smile.

Gottlieb is a psychotherapist who also writes an advice column for The Atlantic magazine. Her personal, sometimes breezy writing style kept me turning pages way past bedtime.


Just after New Year’s, I finished Melanie Shankle’s The Church of Small Things, in hopes of fulfilling a 2020 goal of reading books recommended by blogging friends. This one was recommended by Deb Nance on her blog, Readerbuzz, as a book to improve one’s mood and uplift their spirits…and it did just that!

The cover of the audiobook along was a delight –all hot pink and gold scroll and included everything from an elephant to a wee mouse. Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond wrote about her delight with the book in the foreword, and describes it as “dry but warm humor.” Church deals with “the small moments, the small memories, the small achievements of the author’s life, and in turn’s, helps us appreciate our own.

Although “we live in a culture that celebrates the BIG accomplishments,” the author invites us to examine the “smallest, most ordinary acts of daily faithfulness.” For me, it reminded me to “live in the moment” and fully appreciate the everyday, smallest blessings.

Shankle’s lists of “Things I wish I’d known (in college, when I was a kid, etc.)…” are interspersed throughout the book and are not only amusing but helpful when it comes to coping with life’s daily troubles and trials.

I highly recommend this book. It will indeed uplift and inspire.


A new post begins on this site today, “Sunday Stats”–statistics, that is.

Today’s stat comes from Why We Sleep, a non-fiction book I’m reading on Kindle. The author is dealing with Americans not getting enough sleep to be  wholly functional:

“It is disquieting to learn that vehicular accidents caused by drowsy driving exceed those caused by alcohol and drugs combined.” (p.5)