When my agent told me that she was heading to the UK for the 2013 London Book Fair (which starts today), I thought, “Man, that sounds amazing. I really want to go to a book fair.” Seriously. What could be better than a reading carnival?

After thinking about getting on another plane I realized that the only thing that could be better for me is being at home, so I decided to hold my own “Ordinary Courage Book Fair” this week. If you’ve been a member of our community for any time you know that I have a sidebar where I share the titles of the books that are literally on my nightstand (look down and to your right).

In addition to sharing my nightstand, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite book finds with you once every couple of months. I always appreciate it when someone tells me why they like a book and what they took away from the pages.

If you’ve seen my Amazon Shop, you’ll know that my taste in books is as diverse as my taste in music. When it comes to my iPod, I can go from Beethoven or Loretta Lynn to Vanilla Ice and Metallica. What my playlists have in common is the ability to move me. To make me roll down the car window and sing along, or simply to feel inspired.

The same goes with books. I don’t have a favorite genre or author. I just want to be transported or cracked open a little. I want to see myself – my dreams and fears and heartbreaks and hopes – reflected back to me in a new and meaningful way.

One thing that’s important to mention is that I don’t review books or do paid product endorsements of any kind. I read books that are recommended by friends or family, or, on occasion, I read books by people I know from the blogosphere. A lot of people send me books – sometimes I get ten in one week. I can’t read them all and I often donate them to the library at a home for women transitioning from prison back to the community. Please don’t send books.

I do, however, love and appreciate your recommendations in the comment section – that’s how I found The Book of Qualities – one of the two books featured today. The topic today is books that made me braver!

Books stacked on side table with glasses on top.

The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler

I’m so glad I found this book. It was published 25 years ago and it’s magical. Author J. Ruth Gendler explores all of the emotions and qualities that we know so well and brings them to life. Excitement wears orange socks. Faith lives in the same apartment building as Doubt, and Worry makes lists of everything that could go wrong while she waits for the train.

I learned so much about myself as she re-introduced me to these old friends – the ones that have travelled with me since birth.

Here’s what Gendler writes about trust:

“Trust is the daughter of Truth. She has an objective memory, neither embellishing nor denying the past . . .  her presence is subtle, simple and undeniable . . . Trust rarely buys round-trip tickets because she is never sure how long she will be gone and when she will return . . . She has a gambler’s respect for the interplay between luck and skill: she is the mother of Love.”

Isn’t that gorgeous? And true? And meaning-making? As a storyteller, I’m a huge fan of personification. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done this well.

This week I’m reading the book to my family at the dinner table. One quality per night – right after grace. It’s powerful.

Books opened to a highlighted page.

The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, and Live Without Regret by Richie Norton (He’s on @richienorton Twitter here)

Richie Norton‘s new book The Power of Starting Something Stupid is already getting me in a heap of trouble. As I was reading it, I made notes to Steve (my husband). When I was done I handed it to him and said, “This could change the way we live.”

It took me an hour to figure out what to share with you because every third page looks like the one in the picture. There are little pieces of wisdom everywhere. But here’s a truth that took my breath away:

“People wait.

They wait for the elusive day when they’ll finally have enough time (guess what? – you never will), enough education (there’s always more to know), enough money (no matter how much you make, someone will always have more) . . . People wait until that fateful day when they wake up and realize that while they were sitting around paying dues, earning their keep, waiting for that elusive ‘perfect time’ their entire life has passed them by.”

Not only did the “paying dues” get my attention in the most uncomfortable way – it also made me re-examine some old gremlins.

I love that Norton gives us a playbook. Real solutions to getting unstuck. This is a powerful book to read on the heels of writing (or reading) Daring Greatly. It’s the one-two punch of “Show up and be seen. Here’s the plan.”  I love his ideas on projects vs. abstract ideas, and I’m a complete convert to his SMART plan: Serve, Thank, Ask, Receive, Trust.

I’ll be back in a couple of days with some thoughts on three memoirs that I just finished. I hope you enjoy the book fair. If I could I’d send over some tea and scones so we could pretend that we’re in London – riding the book ferris wheel together.

I’d love to hear any suggestion or ideas for the Ordinary Courage Book Fair!