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The Power of a Good Story: 2019 Bridgeworth Summer Reading

A few years back, as my family was leaving Easter services, I turned to my husband and remarked how nice the service was- especially after a hectic crazy morning getting two little boys away from their Easter baskets and into their church clothes. He agreed and then my youngest son who was probably five or six at the time said, “Yeah….but they told that same story last year.” We all laughed and acknowledged that he was right …but we went on to talk about how our favorite stories are worth telling again and again.

My boys are now 20 and 15 and are leaders at a summer camp.  They still enjoy the camp stories and traditions as much today as they did when they were six and going for the first time. Since the camp was founded in 1928, there has been a celebration of Native Americans that includes telling the story of Princess Winnataska. All the campers, from age 5 to 15, gather around a huge bonfire as the leaders share the story of Princess Winnataska and her fight to save her people. As a leader – my son tells this story once a week for seven weeks. He knows it by heart and never tires of it. Neither do the campers who come summer after summer. That is the power of a good story.

When podcasts first surged in popularity, I admit I was a bit of a book snob and dismissed podcasts as a passing trend. I underestimated the power of actually listening to a good story. Turns out adults are no different than young children – we love getting lost in a good story as our kids.

Once again, the Bridgeworth family has gathered our favorite stories – book and podcasts – to share with you. We hope you find one to lose yourself in and discover the power of a good story.

Books

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Julie Ellis: Most weekend mornings I wake up super early and sit on our back deck with a cup of coffee. I love the sounds of the world waking up – birds chirping, leaves rustling, young kids playing nearby. And now I ALWAYS think about The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In this dystopian world – all those sounds of life are gone. A cataclysmic event has occurred and there are no signs of life – barren and dead trees, no birds chirping, no animals at all, no color at all – even the snow is gray and the sky is always dark  A man and his young son have survived and are in search of other survivors. They make their way slowly across the burned and desolate country with nothing but a pistol, the clothes on their back, and a rusted shopping cart. It is a hard look at the worst and best of humanity. But it is the thought of all that silence that still haunts me.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: A Novel by Gail Honeyman
Juile Ellis: When I first started reading this book, I did not care much for the lead character, Eleanor Oliphant. She is a socially awkward loner who says whatever she is thinking – there is no filter. The interactions between Eleanor and her office mates made me so uncomfortable…think Napoleon Dynamite as an adult. But then someone in the office befriends Eleanor and slowly we learn more about Eleanor and her past. I don’t want to give anything away, but when Eleanor caresses a cat for the first time – it is like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes. Magical. One of my favorite book passages ever. By the end, you have a whole new appreciation for Eleanor and dare I say, you will love her.

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
Julie Ellis: Sing, Unburied, Sing is a story of a 13-year-old boy, Jojo, trying to figure out what it means to be a man. His role models include his black grandfather who is his primary caregiver, but also his absent white father and grandfather, the memories of his dead uncle, and the ghost of a 13-year-old boy who haunts the prison where his father is being held. Set in rural Mississippi, Sing, Unburied, Sing touches on the ugly history of the South, the bonds of family, the legacy of poverty and violence, and the power of love.

Lincoln in the Bardot by George Saunders
Julie Ellis: I remember hearing an interview with the author of Lincoln in the Bardot on NPR – I was immediately intrigued – a ghost story told from the perspective of Abraham Lincoln’s recently deceased eleven-year-old son Willie. Willie is stuck in a strange purgatory where ghosts gripe, complain, quarrel, and bicker with each other as they fight for the soul of Willie Lincoln. It is such a good story and I couldn’t get over the imagination of the author to come up with the idea and to give the characters such insight as they all struggle to answer the question, “How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end.”

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Julie Ellis: This was easily one of my favorite books in a long time. It is the story of a teen girl raising herself alone in the marshes of North Carolina during the 1960s. The story goes back and forth from present day to her childhood as her story unfolds and she matures into an adult. And there is a good mystery woven in as well. The writing and descriptions of the land, water, and nature are beautiful and I found myself wishing the book was illustrated. It is a coming-of-age story that is reminiscent of both Barbara Kingsolver and many young adult novels. At times you have to suspend belief – my kids can’t find their socks but this 6 year old finds a way to survive alone in a marsh? But if you can allow yourself to fall into the story, it is a gorgeous lyrical story and you may find yourself longing for a visit to the nearest marsh.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Julie Ellis: Atul Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, named one of the world’s hundred most influential thinkers by Foreign Policy and TIME, and co-founder and chairman of Lifebox, a global not-for-profit implementing systems and technologies to reduce surgical deaths. The Checklist Manifesto is non-fiction….and scarier than almost any fictional horror stories. Gawande argues that the volume and complexity of what we know have exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. In his words, “Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.” He argues that the best strategy for overcoming failure is a checklist. He gives numerous examples, most medical in nature, of where a checklist has and will continue to help humans avoid fallibility. The Checklist Manifesto is a good reminder that anyone, no matter their profession or how complex the task, can benefit from a simple checklist.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer
Tara Henderson: While some may recognize the title as a Netflix film, the book itself far exceeds the film – as most books tend to do. Set at the end of World War II, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is written in the form of letters where readers are introduced to Juliet and her correspondence with the quirky, yet endearing locals of Guernsey, a British Channel island. The letters recount the German occupation and the surprising creation of a local book club that brings together the unlikeliest of friends. A heartwarming story of loss, courage, love for one another, love for literature, and even, sometimes, love for their enemy. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will warm your heart and serve as a reminder that delicious food, a good book, and close friendships may offer strength and hope amidst the darkest of days.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Laura Rhoades: When I read the reviews for this book, it seemed to be love-it or hate-it with little in-between.  I fell into the love-it camp. Kostova captured my attention with her descriptions of places – France, Greece, Turkey, Romania – and the characters she created in each.  Her heroine takes you on a journey through past and present as she searches for Dracula, providing a historical backdrop along the way.  A great summer read for anyone who imagines himself or herself in distant lands on a suspenseful adventure!

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Indelible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff
Monica Willis: Bob Goff sees the world in a different way – he finds joy in everything and everything he does is fueled by Love. He doesn’t just talk about change, he really IS change. Learn to see your life as a great adventure and find joy in the everyday.

 

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
Patti Black: Laura Vanderkam opened my eyes about how we really use the 168 hours in a week. It encouraged me and gave practical tips on how to use those hours to focus on the things that matter most to me.

 

Beneath a Scarlett Sky by Mark Sullivan
Patti Black: The true story of an Italian teenager Pino Lella who finds himself an unlikely hero after his family home is bombed by Allied troops during WWII. He joins an underground railroad to guiding Jewish citizens over the snowy mountains of the Alps and into neutral Switzerland. His parents force him to enlist as a German soldier in an effort to protect him. After an injury prevents him from continuing his guide work in the Alps, he is recruited to be the personal driver for General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most powerful commanders. As a personal driver for the German General, Pino secretly documents troop movements, observed the building of the Gothic Line, learned the locations of tank traps, land mines, and ammunition tunnels. And he relayed crucial info to the Allies using his uncle’s short wave radio. Near the end of the war, as thousands of Nazi troops were on the run, Pino is asked by the Americans to be a guide one last time leading one final escape from Italy. His mission is to drive an important, high-ranking Nazi from American custody to the Austrian border where he could be safely interrogated for the intelligence he possessed about Hitler’s Reich. The high-ranking official was none other than General Hans Leyers. There is so much more to the story and it wouldn’t be complete without a beautiful woman, Anna, competing for Pino’s attention. You have to keep reminding yourself – this really happened.

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not For Sale by Rachel LLoyd
Deborah Powell: A survivor of human sex trafficking herself, Rachel Lloyd chronicles the lives and struggles of the girls who enter her ground-breaking New York City program (GEMS: Girls Educational & Mentoring Services) – a program designed to help those who are in “the life”. The stories are raw, gut-wrenchingly honest and will open your eyes to the very darkest of worlds that exists in public, right under our very own eyes. Lloyd’s book forces you to re-examine your own perceptions of human trafficking and the impact that it has on the victims and society as a whole. Most importantly, she sheds a beacon of hope that, with trauma-informed care, education and mentoring, many of these women can be freed from the chains that bind then into “the life”.

The Reckoning by John Grisham
Lynne Monk: Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, and committed a shocking crime.  Pete’s only statement about it—to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family—was: “I have nothing to say.” He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave. In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete’s defense attorney tries desperately to save him.

Beowolf by Seamus Heaney
Jeff McCormack: It’s not TV-MA, but if you liked Game of Thrones, give Seamus Heaney’s bilingual edition of Beowulf a try.  It’s probably been what, 20, 30 years since it was assigned in high school, college, maybe? It’s worth a voluntary and leisurely revisit, even if you, like this review’s author, skipped GOT all together. Heaney’s interpretation makes the plot easy to follow without sacrificing the poetic feel. The sea is called the “whale road,” and Beowulf is praised for not beating up his thanes when he is drunk.  You can see the hands of the early monks as they transcribe the text and have the characters offer prayers and praise to God Almighty within this originally pagan saga. Speaking of pagans, this was written back when being a Geat was a thing, and if you were one, you didn’t come from Sweden, you came from Geatland. The story is full of courage, strength, loyalty, and adventure.  There is even a strong female character, Grendel’s mother, who is mighty enough to almost kill the hero, Beowulf, who is the strongest man on Earth.  When you read the Old English page next to the current mode (I’m pretty sure that cynnes means “kin”, ic means “I” and word means “word”.  I’m still trying to figure out hleapen leton), the reader may wonder, how did our language evolve from there to here, and where will be in another 1,000 years.  SMH.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Brandi McCormack: This is a beautiful and touching story for the whole family. Edward’s experiences help him to grow in unexpected and truly miraculous ways. Read it together, at bedtime, on the beach, or in the car. Grown-ups might even enjoy it more than the kiddos!

 

The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama Bin Laden  by Robert O’Neill
Peyton Jones: The Operator is an autobiography written by Robert O’Neill. O’Neill chronicles some of his early life experiences that lead him to becoming a Navy SEAL. In the book he describes some of his more famous missions which include the attempts to rescue “Lone Survivor” Marcus Luttrell, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips from Somali Pirates, and of course, firing the three famous shots that killed the world’s most wanted terrorist.

Stephen Gunter:
Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann: This one is probably better for younger kids because there really isn’t much to the story, but the illustrations are great and when they get tired of the story there is a pink balloon that moves throughout the book that’s fun to try and find. Great for working on animals and animal noises as well.
Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos: Hilarious, well written, and every parent can relate to their kid(s) having “bad mustache days”
Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton: really anything by Sandra Boynton. There’s a song by Davy Jones that goes along with it that will get stuck in your head for days, but watching my little girl dance along with her stuffed penguin is cuter than I can explain.
The Little Boy/Girl Who Lost Their Name by David Cadji-Newby:  You can personalize this one which makes it special, and your child is unlikely to ever outgrow the story. Beautifully illustrated and super fun read.

PodCasts

The Dropout – Many in the Bridgeworth office are obsessed with the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the company she founded – Theranos. Was she really the next brilliant Stanford dropout and the next Steve Jobs who just needed a little more time to make her revolutionary blood testing invention work? Or was she a brilliant pathological liar who defrauded millions from her famous and wealthy network which included Henry Kissinger and George Shults? The podcast includes three years’ worth of investigative research, interviews, and testimony. We can’t come to a conclusion but will be eagerly following her trial set for later this summer.

Bold Future: Birmingham based podcast by local entrepreneur Jeremy Carter. He interviews successful Alabama business owners and leaders. He says: Each week you’ll hear an interview on a particular leadership topic with a leader who is making a difference in the world. The episodes are less than 30 minutes long and are chalked full of great thoughts to help you grow. My challenge to you is to find one or two insights that you can apply to your life right this second.

This is Uncomfortable with Reema Khrais
Julie Ellis: Each week, Reema Khrais digs into the unanticipated ways money affects relationships, shaped identifies and often defines what it means to be an adult.

 

In the Dark
Jonathan Millican: In March of 2019 the notoriously silent Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas surprised those in court by speaking up during arguments and asking just his second question in a decade. What sparked the question was the case of a Mississippi man accused of killing four people. The man, Curtis Flowers, has been tried six times prior for the alleged 1996 crime. In Season 2 of the In the Dark podcast reporters investigate how, despite Curtis victories in appeal after appeal, the prosecutor just tries the case again. What does the evidence reveal? And why does the justice system ignore the prosecutor’s record and keep Flowers on death row?

Gangster Capitalism
David Ward: Gangster Capitalism takes an in-depth look at white collar corruption and scandal. Season one follows the 2019 college admissions scandal, aka “Operation Varsity Blues”. The episodes dive into the story and details of how some of America’s wealthiest families subverted the system to get their kids into prestigious colleges and universities.

Before Breakfast
Patti Black: Start your morning with productivity advice that will take your day from great to awesome. In each bite-sized, daily episode of Before Breakfast, I’ll share a time management strategy or an answer to a listener’s schedule question. I’ll help listeners make the most of their time, both at work and at home. The mission is to give listeners practical tools to feel less busy and get more done.

KwikBrain
Patti Black: Kwik Brain is a fun, fast-paced show designed to help busy people learn and achieve anything in a fraction of the time! Your coach, Jim Kwik (his real name), is the brain & memory trainer to elite mental performers, including many of the world’s leading CEO’s and celebrities. In this easy to digest bite-sized podcast, you will discover Kwik’s favorite shortcuts to read faster, remember more, and ‘supercharge’ your greatest wealth-building asset: your brain. Whether you’re a student, senior, entrepreneur or educator, you will get the edge with these simple actionable tools to sharpen your mind, enhance your focus, and fast-track your fullest potential. Get show notes, Jim’s latest brain-training, and submit your questions ina private community.

How I Built This
Jeris Gaston: How I Built This is a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity, and insight — told by the founders of some of the world’s best-known companies and brands. Longtime NPR correspondent and host Guy Raz speaks with change-makers and risk-takers, who tell stories about hustle, perseverance, and the sheer joy of creating something … from nothing.

White Lies
Jeris Gaston: In 1965, Rev. James Reeb was murdered in Selma, Alabama. Three men were tried and acquitted, but no one was ever held to account. Fifty years later, two journalists from Alabama return to the city where it happened, expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved and uncover a story about guilt and memory that says as much about America today as it does about the past.

Planet Money
David Ward: The economy explained. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening.

 

My Favorite Murder
Monica Stoudemire: My Favorite Murder is the hit true crime comedy podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Since its inception in early 2016, the show has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic, interactive “Murderino” fan base who come out in droves for their sold-out shows worldwide. A top 10 regular on iTunes’ comedy podcast chart, My Favorite Murder has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Atlantic, Nylon and Rolling Stone magazine. Aside from being avid true crime enthusiasts, Karen Kilgariff is a stand-up comedian and television writer and Georgia Hardstark is a writer and host for the Cooking Channel.

Part-Time Genius/How Stuff Works
Crystal Bowles: Will and Mango have lots of questions. Why do rats keep outsmarting humans? Will it ever be possible to live without sleep? Was Genghis Khan a progressive mastermind? Is cryonics real? And what is, definitively, the strangest place worth visiting in the US? (Many important historians are counting on them to figure it out!) Every episode packs incredible research, fun-filled quizzes, nerdy interviews and a giant, head-scratching question into one super fun show. So, grab your headphones and join us already! Will Pearson & Mangesh Hattikudur – founders of Mental Floss – award-winning magazine and website.

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