Best Of..., Recommended Readings, Weekly Reader
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The books I read in March 2023

Each month my goal is to read five books on a variety of topics and from different genres. Here are the books I read in March 2023. If you click on the title, you’ll go to the longer post on More to Come. Enjoy.

Masters of Tonewood: The Hidden Art of Fine Stringed-Instrument Making (2022) by poet and author Jeffrey Greene is dedicated to exploring how fine stringed instruments acquire the mysterious personalities we admire when they are skillfully played. Wanting to see the birthplace of these magnificent instruments firsthand, Greene takes us on a delightful tour of the seven European “musical forests” where the conditions are such that the Norway spruce can thrive. Along the way he visits with luthiers who take carefully selected pieces of wood and craft them into prized pieces of art in their own right, tonewood millers who carefully cut and prepare the logs for sale around the world, and the foresters who tend to these “renewable gardens” that are under attack by multiple forces in the modern world. It is a pleasing and illuminating deep dive into a fascinating world, skillfully written with the clarity of a poet and the love of an artist.

AMEN? Questions for a God I Hope Exists (2022) by Julia Rocchi is full of wisdom, vulnerability, and questions asked in an open and seeking spirit. Julia’s is a questioning faith where she invites the reader to join in her journey. Essays, quotations, poems, and prayers probe the mysteries that make up life. One reviewer sees in this honest and hopeful exploration, “a psalter for the post-modern, exhausted age.” Julia writes of a God who is imminently approachable and ready to answer our deepest questions. In the blog post, I interview Julia about the role and importance of doubt, mystery, prayer, and community in her spiritual journey. AMEN? is for those who seek to cultivate vulnerability, gratitude, and awe to enrich the precious time we have on earth.

Eight Perfect Murders (2020) by Peter Swanson begins as we learn that bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw once wrote a blog post for his store’s website titled Eight Perfect Murders that listed the genre’s most unsolvable murders. He is surprised when an FBI agent shows up in his Boston store to ask questions about the list. She has studied a number of unsolved crimes and has a hunch that someone is working their way through the list and leaving dead bodies in their wake. Someone else is also interested in the list and in Malcom, a killer who seems to know much more about the bookseller’s life than he’s ever told anyone. In his investigation into who is committing these murders, Malcolm — to his horror — finds death in places where he didn’t expect it. The plot keeps twisting, and the reader is brought along to see if the killer can literally get away with murder.

The Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross (2020) by Jon Meacham reminds us that “The work of discerning — or depending on your point of view, assigning — meaning to Good Friday and the story of the empty tomb is a historical as well as a theological process.” There is no better guide through this process than the Canon Historian of the Washington National Cathedral and the author of several seminal books that look at religion’s impact on American society. A life-long Episcopalian, Meacham’s hope in writing this slim volume is to provide illumination to readers so that they may make more sense of the cross “in a world too much given to the competing forces of hostile skepticism, blind acceptance, or remote indifference.” When asked how he can believe in God, Meacham replies that his belief is based “on the same evidence” as with his belief in love. “Both are invisible forces with visible effects.”

Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life (2023) by Dacher Keltner is a scientific and personal look at awe, the feeling we get when we’re in the presence of something vast that transcends our current understanding of the world. For a number of years scientists studied reactions like fear and disgust, “emotions that seemed essential to human survival.” Keltner’s book takes us on a review of a different set of emotions. As humans, we’ve survived “thanks to our capacities to cooperate, form communities, and create culture that strengthens our sense of shared identity — actions that are sparked and spurred by awe.” As it takes us beyond our normal ways of thinking, awe moves us, empowers us, stretches us, and can transform us.

More to come…


NOTE: Click on the month to see the books I read in January and February. Also check out my Ten tips for reading five books a month.

The Weekly Reader links to written works I’ve enjoyed. I hope you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry. 

Image by tank air 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.


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