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Payback Jack Makes Editor's Picks

The editor of The Freestone Times Selected Payback Jack as a top Texas Read

Curated from the bookshelves of Editor, Karen Leidy


It is possible that I may have bought at least half  my weight in books this year. Especially if you include the potential heft of kindle versions in corporeal form.

A few titles came to mind as I was working out a Christmas gift list for family and friends. Here are an armful deemed worthy:


Some What Smallby Trev Cimenski (2023)

Found this young man on Instagram, reading short thoughts about his day through a lens of sadness and melancholy. His voice is inviting and his rumpled good looks reminiscent of the great romantic poets.

Some What Small is Cimenski’s second book of poems.

Small enough to tuck in the same pocket as your phone, with line drawings of a moth butterfly and a little boy chasing his hat.

The poems speak to the loss of a beloved one, and the struggles of getting through the simple tasks of everyday life.

I am in love with his writing and plan to purchase every book this poet chooses to write.


My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorryby Fredrik Backman (2013)

My mom gave me this book, and I gave it to a friend.

It is a charming story that surprised me in to laughing out loud. I cheered, then cried, and was finally left smiling at the absolute beauty of it all.

It reminds us how important the magic of childhood can truly be, and the strength that stories can give us.

Backman is a Swedish author who had another book that served as the basis of Tom Hanks’ movie from last year, “A Man Called Otto.” If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend that, as well.

I’ve already decided on which of his books I plan to read next.


Payback Jackby Timothy Gene Sojka (2021)

Speaking of authors to read again and again, I have it under good authority that book number four by this Southeast Texan writer will be coming out next year!

Still, his first novel will always be a favorite of mine.

If you enjoy thrillers in the vein of John Grisham, then this author may be your cup of sweet tea.

In this story, a widowed farmer publicly executes a convicted child murderer when a legal loophole removes the inmate from death row.

While on the run through rural East Texas (with a stopover at Sam’s Original Restaurant on page 102), he quickly becomes a media sensation. But what happens when he gets his day in court?

This book had several twists and turns, and then one more twist that I had not considered.

An entertaining ride that will make you think.

Visit online at to read the first few chapters of Sojka’s next book, Claws.It comes with a warning:  This one is nuts.


Living for a Livingby Jamal Jivangee (2019)

It’s a seemingly innocuous question that gets asked as a way to make small talk with people we meet for the first time, “What do you do for a living?” meaning the manner of work we do to earn money to pay the bills.

Ask this Life Coach and Podcaster that same question and that “work” becomes instead our individual calling that makes each of us come alive.

Jivangee invites his readers to put their focus on living as a path to the good life.

His desire is to help others shift from a mindset of survival – constantly chasing after the dollar – to an economy of love and gratitude that recognizes the abundance that already surrounds us.

This will be my third reading of Living for a Living, and I am still learning to incorporate its wisdom in my day-to-day.

Learn more by signing up for the author’s mailing list at


Returning to Eden:  A Field Guide for the Spiritual Journeyby Heather Hamilton (2023)

Another book of wisdom that I started ingesting this year.

This author shares my love of myths and legends – those stories that entertain while sharing universal truths about the world we live in and the relationships that mold us.

She takes the familiar tales from Sunday School and delves deep to mine the hidden wisdom, making the bible stories new again.

Drawing from personal epiphanies and life-changing struggles, Hamilton draws her readers along for the journey as “…Jesus flipped the table of my life.”

Buckle up.

This book is distributed by Quior Publishing, a boutique publishing company owned by authors.


Body of Truth:  Poetry After 50by Stephonia Roberts (2022)

If you ever have the opportunity, do not hesitate to seize the experience of listening to storyteller and spoken word artist, Stephonia Roberts.

She. Is. The Queen.

Even now, as I read one of her many books of poetry, I can hear in my mind the cadence of her delivery, loud and clear.

This book speaks of the wisdom of women who have reached that prime age when they no longer care what anybody else thinks of them. A powerful time of life.

It also comes from the experiences of a woman of color. Strong, defiant, and beautiful.

At times playful, at others thought-provoking, but always forthright and fearless.

This Fairfield native lives in Fort Worth where she nurtures flowers and herbs, and raises butterflies. She also creates organic skin and hair care products, available online at, which might make for another great gift.


Idiot’s Guide to ForagingBy Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen, PhD (2015)

If you ever looked out your window and wondered, “Can I eat that?” then this book is for you.

Filled with pictures and illustrations to help you identify the weeds, flowers, and berries that grow wild.

This book also includes recipes for cooking the edible portions of each plant.

There are tips on the best practices when foraging (never overharvest), and considerations for safety (beware the poisonous mimics).

Merriwether is the creator of, which was established in 2008.

Both his parents’ families ate foraged foods to survive during the Great Depression, and they passed their knowledge onto him.

He has led several foraging classes over the years throughout the state of Texas.

This is a must-have reference book.


That’s my top picks for today. Happy reading this Christmas!

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