Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader



I was thrilled when the Headmaster of my daughters’ boarding school asked me to give a chapel talk on the topic “Why Read” over Parents Weekend. What a lovely invitation! What an honor! I worked quite hard to write a speech that I thought might be interesting to parents and students.

I practiced it in front of one daughter to get her feedback. Having worked on it for weeks, I thought it was – you know – pretty good.

When I finished, she had an odd expression on her face. She seemed to be struggling with competing emotions. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Mom,” she said. “But you need to throw that away and start over.”


“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t want to hear a bunch of book reviews,” she explained. “You’re gonna lose your audience in the first couple of minutes. You’ve got to say something real.”

I was still a little bit in shock at this point.

“Like – why did you read so much as a kid? Why do you read so much now? Why are books so important to you? You’ve got to put yourself out there.”

“But – ”

“I’m just telling you,” she said firmly. “You’ve got to be vulnerable if you want anyone to pay attention and if you want to have any impact.”

It was time for my husband to take her back to her dorm. I got ready for bed and got underneath all the covers.

“Are you okay?” my husband asked when he got back.

“I’m okay,” I said.

The next day, I started over.

Click on the link below if you’d like to hear my testimony…

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My sincerest thanks to Tad Roach for inviting me to give a chapel talk at St. Andrew’s School and for creating a countercultural community of kindness, radical empathy, listening, learning, questioning, and integrity. #ethos #BryanStevenson

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Mary & I at St. Andrew’s


  1. Well said. I loved hearing your childhood reading list – mine exactly except for Lord of the Rings (did not pick that up until marriage). It made me think about how sometimes I picked up a book just because it was on a coffee table at my grandparents’ house and I might be visiting – John Jakes’ North and South and the Thornbirds (oh my!). Great reading memories – thanks for sharing this wonderful talk.

    • Thank you so much, Patricia!! I love that out reading lists were so similar!! But: how did I forget to mention Narnia?! Xoxo

      • I am embarrassed to admit that I never read the Narnia series – but, I did read A Wrinkle in Time and the Dahl books. At some point, I gravitated to biographies from which I admit I found great inspiration. I went trick or treating as Dolly Madison one year if that tells you what a geek I was!

  2. What a joy to listen to your talk on books. I immediately understood your first two reasons for reading, but to form a more perfect union was a novel idea for me. I love your thoughts, insights, humor and voice. Please do more podcasts!

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement, Sylvia!! I truly appreciate it!! I’m so sorry I was not able to attend the Parthenon Gala last night… I understand it was a brilliant evening in every regard. They’ve been so lucky to have you. Xoxo

  3. Jennifer, this was the sermon I needed to hear this Sunday morning! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful message and reminder. I love your childhood reading list as well.. would just have to personally add Judy Blume. Xx

  4. Jennifer, your Chapel talk was such a happy start to my day! Thank you for sharing. OX

  5. Congratulations to a job well done!!! I was so proud to see my friend and fellow Nashvillian up there in chapel. Mason commented to me afterwords that you should be on the radio because your voice is so nice. I am so grateful for the St. Andrew’s community for my children and me. Thank you for making yourself vulnerable and inspiring me to read more books!!

  6. Proud of you….I’m sure you always come through.

  7. I loved listening to your Chapel Talk. It is always a joy to hear your beautiful, measured voice, warm personal reminiscences and insightful comments. You are an inspiration!

  8. Jennifer, I so enjoyed this well-written and cleverly delivered speech on reading! I made a few notes on books to pick up too. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Just listened to your talk… inspiring and hopeful! I, too, tried out for many things (many, many, many, things) and didn’t make the team until one day I did! Thank you for sharing yourself. You’re just a lovely person and I feel good trusting in the camaraderie of fellow readers! 😉

  10. Jennifer, I just listened to your Chapel Talk, and I think that you need to start touring. You are such a gifted speaker, and your message was so inspiring!

  11. Jennifer, I just listened to your Chapel Talk, and I think that you need to start touring! You are a gifted speaker, and your message was so inspiring.

  12. What a graceful and engaging presentation, dear Jennifer– am sure the critics of version 1.0 were immensely proud of you! (Picked up Less in the Nashville airport. What a treat!)

  13. Dear Jennifer,
    I love this post, and am so grateful to you for your brilliant talk!

  14. I am so glad I listened to this thoughtful talk. You were inspiring, engaging and authentic. Well done!! I have been reading a lot of non-fiction, I am now hungry to get back to a good novel. Thanks for the inspiration.

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