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December 11, 2012

Fun, inspiration or wisdom? Readers can choose favorite flavor for holiday read

The Christmas season always brings out inspirational stocking stuffers and leisurely holiday novels. Getting high marks on all the book blogs is Linda Lael Miller’s “An Outlaw’s Christmas.” Another in her McKettrick Men series, this one finds Sawyer McKettrick heading out from the family’s Triple M ranch in Arizona to take a job as marshal in Texas in 1915. Upon arrival, he is shot and left for dead in the midst of a blinding snowstorm, only to be found by the prim and proper schoolmarm, Piper St. James. She takes in the shirtless stranger, but rumors are sparked by their seeming impropriety. Sawyer’s solution, marry him. If you are looking for a quick, fun read set at Christmastime, this is a winner.

For something a little more inspirational, former Guggenheim Fellow, Anne Lamott, just released “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.” In this slim volume, Lamott explores the ideas of asking for assistance, appreciating the good in the everyday, and feeling awe at the wonders of the world. Lamott’s thoughts on prayer give us hope when we run out of ways to fix the unfixable. Prayers range from Merton’s famous words, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I’m going. I do not see the road ahead of me…” to radical gratitude for whatever life throws our way and a simple “Wow” at the awesomeness of life. Lamott’s sensible take on prayer comes from growing up in a liberal, atheistic household where prayer and God were eschewed, a deprivation she understood even as a small child. Her views may still be a bit radical for some, but her experiences have given her a deeper insight into our need for everyday prayer.

And finally, when it comes to words of wisdom gained through experience, Nelson Mandela’s new book, “Notes to the Future,” is a compilation of quotes from his personal archives encompassing the last 60 years. From his imprisonment to being the first democratically elected president in South Africa and winning the Nobel Prize, Mandela passes on profound observations on leadership, democracy, and the transformative power of education that those who have lived an easier life often forget. Although he is critical of post-911 America, he is most inspirational when he talks about personal growth, being old, and the expectation to perform far above his real ability.

Some good food to go with your holiday reading is a must. With a little help from precooked ingredients to ease cooking time, your family will say “thanks” and “wow.”

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