Let’s be honest. My Goodreads list says I’ve read (completed) 129 new books this year. (I don’t count re-reads). I just read an article by a woman who read 164 books. I’m envious. Here’s the honest part, though: I can’t do that. I still like to sleep, crochet, eat, exercise, see my kids, work, visit friends, talk to my spouse, and play with the dog. She might be able to do all those things AND read 164 books. More power to her. I’m me.

And you’re you! It’s tempting at the start of the year to set a lofty reading goal. (This may be the sermon only I need to hear. I beg your indulgence.) If it brings you joy to think of stretching your reading beyond work or genres or race/gender/nationality/sexual orientation/etc of authors or to read books with only yellow covers, then set that goal!

If you’re a slow reader, but you want to read something outside of work related things once a month and that one item is an Archie Double Digest, then get your comic on.

If you like the idea of reading more, but you can’t figure out how to do it- maybe this is the year that you embrace audiobooks or short stories or poetry or essays. There are books out there for every kind of reader. Be gentle with yourself and your goals. Strive for habits (more reading) and not outcomes (all the Russian classics in Lent).

As for a recommendation to start 2016, An Improbable Friendship: The Remarkable Lives of Israeli Ruth Dayan and Palestinian Raymonda Tawil and Their Forty-Year Peace MissionIt can be an alphabet soup of acronyms and a mind-swirl of names and places. Yet, we’re talking about two women, one married to a high-profile Israeli military officer and the other the mother-in-law of Yasser Arafat. These two women have lived history.

The narrative is heart-breaking, frustrating, and inspiring at once. If you have a church book group that likes a challenging read, this would be an excellent book for them. It covers the modern history of the region, densely but readably. The women, Ruth and Raymonda, are forces of nature and forces for peace. Even when they are at odds with each other, they still want to see peace in that region.

I recommend this book because almost all of us can use more information, more background, more nuance in our understanding of the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. This book gives that, along with two indomitable forces that go by the names Ruth and Raymonda.

As we close the book on 2015, I wish you peace, joy, and satisfying page turning in 2016.

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