Best Of..., Recommended Readings, Weekly Reader
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The books I read in January 2022

Each month I have a goal to read five books on a variety of topics and from different genres. Here are the books I read in January 2022. If you click on the title, you’ll go to the longer post on More to Come. Because I have begun a winter break, the posts for February and perhaps March may not be up until April, but I continue to read and will eventually get around to them. Enjoy!

Entangled Life: How fungi make our worlds, change our minds & shape our futures (2020), is a vibrant and vision-changing work. As his name suggests, Merlin Sheldrake can conjure up delightful prose and mind-blowing connections that educate, charm, enlighten, and broaden the reader’s understanding of fungi — that indispensable part of life on earth. Sheldrake’s first book reads like a page-turning adventure story right from the beginning. He has managed to inject a sense of wonder — and more importantly, a wonder-filled joy — into his study. We are all the richer for it.

How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, democracy and the continuing fight for the soul of America (2020) is Heather Cox Richardson’s searing, provocative, and masterful history of how America’s competing claims of equality and subordination have been used by oligarchs to tap into the extraordinary strength of the ideology of American freedom to undermine freedom and liberty for anyone who is not white and male. After their defeat in the Civil War, they regrouped and aligned with business and extraction interests in the West to create a new political power based on hierarchies and exemplified by Goldwater, Nixon, and Reagan that changed our country’s trajectory toward equality. How the South Won the Civil War is full of surprises, wisdom, and insight.

Historic Houses of Worship in Peril: Conserving Their Place in American Life (2020) is Thomas Edward Frank’s look at the meaning of these community landmarks and the implications of the rapid change that is reshaping the physical and cultural landscape around them. This is not a “how to” book of preservation but is written with the intention of helping the reader reconsider assumptions, learn more about the meaning for those who experience these places, and perceive more clearly their place in society. It led me to think of the historic houses of worship that have shaped my life, thoughts I share in the post.

Your True Home: The everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh (2011 — compiled and edited by Melvin McLeod) has been part of my daily reading, so when the news came this month of the passing of this wise man, his work was very much on my mind. The 365 meditations in Your True Home are focused on the monk’s embrace of mindfulness. Each meditation is only a few sentences in length, but the brevity is part of what contributes to their power. Meditation #22, which coincides with the day of Thich Nhat Hanh’s passing, is entitled The Lamp of Mindfulness.

We have a lamp inside us, the lamp of mindfulness, which we can light anytime. The oil of that lamp is our breathing, our steps, and our peaceful smile. We have to light up that lamp of mindfulness so the light will shine out and the darkness will dissipate and cease. Our practice is to light the lamp.

What if Everybody Squeezed the Cat?
What if everybody squeezed the cat!

If Everybody Did (1960) by Jo Ann Stover is the first book I remember reading as a child. It had been on my mind recently, so I reread it this month and found that the quirky children’s book with the funky illustrations is a primer on how to live together. We are all a mess of contradictions so living in community is difficult enough in normal times. These are not normal times, in part because too many people in public life today clearly never internalized the lessons found in this classic.

Enjoy reading!

More to come…


The Weekly Reader series features links to recent books and articles that grabbed my interest or tickled my fancy. 

Bookshelves image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay.

This entry was posted in: Best Of..., Recommended Readings, Weekly Reader


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. I had a nice email this morning from a friend, former colleague, and reader. It read in part:

    “I hope your winter break goes well. I’ll miss your blogs and music posts but I’ll survive. If I get desperate I will go to your archive. All is good in Chicago….

    Your book recommendation related to the world of fungi was very interesting and reminded me of a title that might be of interest to you: “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohllleben. It’s a pretty quick, but worthwhile read.

    Good luck on your writing and editing. I will look for your wisdom this spring.”

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