Resolution Kept: Read 52 Books this Year!

After a couple years of reading more blogs than books, I was starting to feel frustrated with how my brain processed information and with my inability to focus on extended arguments and think deeply for long periods of time. The first book I read this year was Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains. This book confirmed my suspicions that skimming blogs and short articles was changing the way I thought. I decided to reclaim my brain’s ability to read long works and think more deeply, so I set the goal of reading a book a week this year. I had done that for 2-3 years a few years ago, but fell out of the habit. For a few months at the beginning of the year, I stopped reading blogs and just focused on reading books. I’ve started reading a select few blogs and websites again, but I’m continuing to focus on reading books for my main source of inspiration and instruction.

In July I wrote brief reviews of the books I read from January-June. I fully intended to write reviews every month so I wouldn’t fall so dreadfully far behind, but my focus this year was on reading, not writing. In the coming year, I plan to read an average of a book a week, but I also want to write more frequently to reflect on what I learn.

In the interest of full disclosure, I really read about 4 books a month, not truly a book a week. I generally take 2-4 weeks to read each book; since I read a devotional book in the mornings, fiction in the evenings, and non-fiction as I have time throughout the day, I read three books a month that way. About once a month, the stars align: I have the urge to rest and read, I have a compelling book, and I have the time to read. I can usually fit in a fourth book that way. During especially busy months (April and November, as you can see from the list below) I don’t read as much, but during school breaks (end of January-February, July-August) I am able to read more.

January – 9

  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
  • Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
  • 1776 by David McCullough
  • The Dubliners by James Joyce
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
  • Lit! by Tony Reinke
  • What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

February – 5

  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  • Is There Anybody Out There? by Mez McConnell
  • Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield
  • What is the Mission of the Church?  by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
  • How People Change by Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane

March – 3

  • Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer: The Abduction by John Grisham
  • Within Arm’s Length: The Extraordinary Life and Career of a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service by Dan Emmett
  • Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology by Andrew Naselli

April – 2

  • Desiring God by John Piper
  • Hammer of God by Bo Giertz

May – 4

  • Shades of Gray by Jasper Fforde
  • Don’t Waste Your Sports by CJ Mahaney
  • Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred by Carolyn McCulley
  • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June-5

  • Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper
  • Eyes Wide Open by Steve DeWitt
  • Fine China is for Single Women Too by Lydia Brownback
  • Writing Reminders by Jim Burke
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

July – 6

  • And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  • Multiply by Francis Chan and Mark Beuving
  • The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler and Jason Wilson
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

August – 4

  • Suncatchers by Jamie Langston Turner
  • Some Wildflower in my Heart by Jamie Langston Turner
  • By the Light of a Thousand Stars by Jamie Langston Turner
  • A Garden to Keep by Jamie Langston Turner

September – 5

  • No Dark Valley by Jamie Langston Turner
  • The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
  • Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner
  • Sometimes a Light Surprises by Jamie Langston Turner
  • Brokenness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

October – 3

  • River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Ministries of Mercy by Tim Keller

November – 2

  • Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow by Carl Truman
  • Proverbs: Wisdom that Works by Ray Ortlund

December – 4

  • Young, Restless, and Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists by Collin Hansen
  • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
  • Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People  by Calvin R. Stapert
  • The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

Total = 52

Books I’ve Read: January-June

At the beginning of the year, I resolved to read one book each week, picking up a habit I had formed several years ago but had neglected in the past year or so. I became aware that I was reading a lot of blogs and news articles online, but I was not reading many books. I could tell that my attention span was shrinking and that the way I processed information was changing, and I wanted to reclaim the ability to read for long periods of time and think deeply about subjects.

I intended to write each month about the books I read, but I ended up devoting more time to reading than writing. I would like to write longer reviews of some of these books, but for now, here are some short summaries and recommendations.

I’m going to just list the books in the order that I read them and not worry about classifying them at all.

January – 9 books (Note: I was on winter holiday for part of this month.)

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The-ShallowsThis book explained why I felt like my brain was changing and how my reading was affected by the internet. I evaluated my online habits, cut back on the amount of time I was online, and increased the number of books I read. It’s not necessarily wrong to read blogs and articles online, but I value the long-term, in-depth reading and thinking skills more than the skimming skills that internet reading develops. I highly recommend this book; it was fascinating, enriching, and motivating.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

Jesus-+-Nothing

I especially benefited from the first few chapters of this book, in which Tchividjian contrasts legalism and grace and exalts Christ as sufficient for all our needs; however, I thought the exposition of Colossians was a bit confusing in how he organized and explained the text. I also kept getting tripped up by some of the delineations he made between justification and sanctification, and I often didn’t quite agree with him. I’d have to re-read the book and take some more time to think through the doctrines to more clearly explain what I mean, but apparently I’m not the only one who had some concerns about this book.

1776 by David McCullough

1776-mccullough

McCullough expertly weaves details from primary sources into a gripping narrative of the people and events of this incredibly important year in America’s history.

The Dubliners by James Joyce

dubliners-joyce

I taught Joyce’s story “Araby” in British Literature and remembered reading one of these stories (turned out to be “The Dead”) in a college-level class, so I was interested to read the entire collection. The stories can stand alone, as they were used in those survey classes, but they make much more sense in the context of the other stories. I understood the themes and appreciated the imagery more after reading them with the other stories. Joyce is a master at capturing a mood through vivid details and dialogue. That mood, however, is often melancholy, and the themes explore frustration and disillusionment with life, so don’t read this book if you’re already feeling a bit sad.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

the help

I watched the movie based on the book on the international flight home and promptly read the book as soon as I arrived. I loved the characters and dialogue in both the movie and the book, but of course, the characters are developed more in the book and I loved them even more for it. This book is about a particularly disturbing and evil time in America’s history, and the social and relational issues were not resolved neatly by the end of the book. One of my friends expressed disappointment that none of the story lines had happy endings, but I think the author intended this to be a book about life as it really is and not life as we wish it to be. I thought this was a tremendously moving book (I laughed and cried my way through it), and I highly recommend it (I’ll probably re-read it soon).

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is an amazing novel–beautifully crafted, challenging themes, engaging characters, dialogues, and descriptions. The target audience is young adult readers, but I absolutely loved this book.

The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

the_hole_in_our_holiness

At the end of last semester, Dave preached a series of sermons about God’s holiness. This was an excellent follow-up book and it reinforced those truths in my heart and mind. This was a readable, fairly short book with great exposition of Scripture and specific, relevant applications.

Lit! by Tony Reinke

Lit by Tony Reinke

This was a great follow-up book, for me, to The Shallows. It further confirmed that I needed to focus on reading and cut back on forms of online reading and entertainment. I appreciated Reinke’s theology of reading, his style of writing, and all his recommendations and advice about reading. Honestly, though, if I weren’t already a reader, I don’t think I would have liked this book and I can’t imagine giving a book about reading to someone who doesn’t like to read (despite the glowing testimonials to the contrary on the back cover). All the people who read and recommend this book love to read already.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

What_the_dog_saw

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books and this compilation of articles from The New Yorker was no disappointment. I could go on and on about all of the things I learned in this book (I wrote 2-3 pages in my reading journal about it) and it has provided much food for thought and conversation this year. Highly recommend it.

February – 5 books

Forgotten God by Francis Chan

forgotten_godI knew that we were going to be studying the doctrine of the Holy Spirit this semester, so during the holiday I read this book. While Chan addresses the major texts on the Holy Spirit and deals sufficiently with the theological study, the strength of this book is its warm pastoral tone and devotional encouragement to recognize the way the Spirit works in our lives and to pursue a relationship with Him.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield

Butterfield-The-secret-thoughts-of-an-unlikely-convertThis is a fantastic book that everyone should read! Rosaria Butterfield was a liberal, lesbian, tenured English professor in women’s studies, who through gracious interactions with a pastor and reading the Bible multiple times for a research project became a believer in Jesus Christ.

The first sentences of Marvin Olasky’s interview with Rosaria Butterfield are a good introduction to the author and provide a short summary of her book: “Rosaria Butterfield was a tenured professor at Syracuse University, until God used her desire to write a book on the religious right, and the friendship of a biblically orthodox pastor, to draw her to Christ. She became a voracious Bible reader, gradually saw that her new beliefs required her to upend her former life, and has now described what happened in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.

Is There Anybody Out There by Mez McConnell

Is there anybody out thereMez McConnell, author of Is There Anybody Out There?, was a homeless drug addict and convict who was redeemed from his sins and now serves as a pastor of an inner-city church in Edinburgh. You can watch a short video of his testimony here.

What is the Mission of the Church?  by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert

mission-of-churchThis is a great book–clear logic, tons of Scripture references to support their points, and  straightforward explanations of the gospel, missions, and the debates in the Church about how to carry out that mission. While I haven’t been caught up in those trendy discussions about “missional living,” I have read a bit on the blogs about these things and, as a missionary, I am interested in how people support missionaries and carry out evangelism in their own churches. This book served to reinforce what I already believed about missions and further clarified and confirmed in my mind what the Bible says about missions. I really enjoyed the authors’ style and could easily follow the flow of the book; I actually read and listened to it twice this month.

How People Change by Timothy Lane and PAUL DAVID TRIPP

how-people-change

This is a fantastic book about the Biblical process of sanctification, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I have never worked through a book so slowly, so thoughtfully, or so deeply. I literally have 30 typed pages of notes and reflections on this book. And I still felt like I should re-read it as soon as I finished it.

I can’t begin to summarize the teaching in this book, because I just wanted to write short snip-its in this post, and I could go on for pages about it. But go out and buy this book and read it slowly and thoughtfully! God will change your life as you read this book and study His Word.

March – 3.5 books

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer: The Abduction by John Grisham

Theodore Boone The AbductionAfter all the deep reading I did in February, I was ready for a light novel. This was the second book in the Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer series that I have read. I love almost everything by John Grisham, but I have especially enjoyed the Theodore Boone stories. Theo is a realistic character with emotions, limitations, and personality. He’s obedient, intelligent, and thoughtful–the kind of kid you would want your preteen to be like. The story lines are also realistic; Theo is called “the kid lawyer,” but he’s only able to defend friends in animal court and help friends with investigations that his parents, actual lawyers, have to defend in court.

Within Arm’s Length: The Extraordinary Life and Career of a Special Agent in the United States Secret Service by Dan Emmett

Secret Service

A friend recommended this book because he enjoyed it, but honestly, I liked his enthusiastic summary of the book more than I liked the actual book. I thought Emmett’s writing style was dull and wordy, and he repeatedly built up the tension in a story only to say that danger was averted, which is a good thing when your job is to guard the president, but a bad thing when you’re telling a story. I did enjoy his behind-the-scenes accounts of working in the White House and his comparisons of the presidents he protected.

Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology by Andrew Naselli

let-go-and-let-god-a-survey-and-analysis-of-keswick-theologyThis was an extremely helpful book for me, but it’s a dissertation, so it’s not the kind of book everyone will want to pick up. I grew up with a church background similar to Andy Naselli’s and could identify with the salvation, assurance of salvation, dedication to Christian service kind of sermons and decisions that were emphasized in church, chapel, and camp services when I was growing up. I have also been influenced by Keswick authors and missionaries, such as Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, and Andrew Murray. This book greatly aided in my understanding of sanctification and holiness, and it righted some wrong ideas I had about how God works in believers.

If you don’t feel up to reading the book (though it is remarkably well-written and easy to follow for a dissertation), I recommend that you read this journal article that summarizes the history and theology of the early Keswick movement.

(Read from, but did not finish) The Cross of Christ by John Stott

the-cross-of-christI read this book during Lent (though I don’t officially observe Lent, I find it beneficial to focus my reading on the gospel and Christ during the weeks leading up to Easter). I didn’t finish it because I was also studying the gospel of Luke, and I read the book slowly and carefully, using the study guide and taking notes. It was a thought-provoking book, and I look forward to finishing it next year during Lent.

April – 2 books (April was a rough month for me)

Desiring God by John Piper

piper-desiring-god

I don’t know why I didn’t read this book earlier. I loved it and it was extremely beneficial for me to read and think through each issue. Piper’s basic premise is “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” and he demonstrates from Scripture how that philosophy-theology touches each area of our lives. This is a comprehensive, philosophical, theological book that bears re-reading, thoughtful reflection, and careful application. I plan to read it again soon.

The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz

Hammer of GodOur group read the second of the three stories during our Wednesday night meetings. Each story in this book focuses on the pastor of a Lutheran church in Sweden. The stories are loosely connected, and each tells of the pastor’s coming to saving faith in Christ and of the implications that has on his ministry. Yes, you read that correctly. . . the pastor in each of these stories came to believe in Christ, after completing seminary and preaching in a church for several years. We had some great discussions as we compared the pastor’s situation to our own and talked about some common issues we have faced growing up in a Christian family, going to church, attending Bible college, and living with other believers. It can be very easy to just conform to expectations, and not make your parents’ or teachers’ faith your own.

May – 4 books

Shades of GrEy by Jasper Fforde

Shades of GrayThis book is in no way related to another book that has an unfortunately similar title. One of my friends said, “I thought it was rather bold of you to read that book out in public, but then I realized the title wasn’t the same.” First, I would never read That Other Book, and second, I hoped that people would know by my character that I wouldn’t read That Other Book. Alas . . .

I have read several of Jasper Fforde’s novels (all of the others are in the Thursday Next series, which I love!), and I love his style and humor and characters. This book is quite different from the Thursday Next series; it’s a distopia in which people can only see colors from one segment of the color spectrum and are known by that color family (the Reds, Yellows, Greys, etc). The families try to maneuver up to the coveted Violet end of the spectrum through arranged marriages and other political shenanigans. I was intrigued by the story, the distopian world, and the characters; however, in the last couple of chapters the story took a disappointing turn, and I’m not sure I’ll continue reading the series.

Don’t Waste Your Sports by CJ Mahaney

Don't Waste Your SportsI recently started to train for another half-marathon, so I decided to read this short book about a Christian philosophy of sports. It was a helpful, little book, but it only took a few minutes to read . . . literally, a few minutes. The audiobook is only 45 minutes, which is shorter than most sermons I listen to. I imagine the target audience is the stereotypical jock who doesn’t like to read, but I would have appreciated a little more depth (see Ryan Hall’s Running with Joy for a more in-depth Christian philosophy of sports); however it was a good reminder to do all to the glory of God, including running half-marathons.

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred by Carolyn McCulley (re-re-read)

Did I Kiss Marriage GoodbyeI’ve read this book several times–this time with the ladies for our Wednesday night Bible study. I enjoyed our discussions and this book has many practical, everyday applications.

This is the best book on singleness I’ve ever read. This is the best book on the Proverbs 31 woman I’ve ever read. If you are a woman, married or single, you need to read this book.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The-Cost-of-Discipleship-by-Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-195x300

I especially liked the first few chapters of this book, in which Bonhoeffer contrasts cheap and costly grace. The next few chapters on the 10 commandments were also helpful.

June – 5 books

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper

fifty-reasons-why-jesus-came-to-dieThis is a great overview of Christ’s atoning work for mankind, and Piper examines this marvelous work of grace from many (well, 50) perspectives. Like a jeweler slowly rotating a diamond to look at every sparkle and facet of the precious gem, Piper dazzles us with Christ’s love, mercy, and grace.

Eyes Wide Open by Steve DeWitt

eyes-wide-open-steve-dewitt

This is a fantastic book about beauty and how a Christian can enjoy God’s beauty through Scripture, Jesus Christ, creation, art (of every genre and form), and relationships. I loved the thought-provoking study questions and the lovely reflections on true beauty.

Fine China is for Single Women Too by Lydia Brownback

fine-china-is-for-single-women-too-lydia-brownbackHaving just read Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? this book was a bit redundant; however, it met a need in my life. I read this book in one sitting one morning during my devotional time. I needed this timely reminder to be content in Christ.

Writing Reminders by Jim Burke

writing-reminders-jim-burkeI’m revising our writing curriculum and turned to master teacher Jim Burke for some guidance. I’ve benefited often from his English Teacher’s Companion and this book was equally as helpful to me. If you teach English, you need to read Burke’s books!

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
the-hobbit-jrr-tolkien

I recently watched the new movie of the Hobbit (loved it!) and was inspired to re-read the book (loved it more!).

Total # of books read in 2013 thus far = 28

So, there you have it–all the books I’ve read so far this year! Overall, it’s been a good year of reading, and I’m looking forward to the next 25 books or so that I read this year.

‘Tis the Season for Book Lists: Reading List for 2013

A couple of years ago I wrote up a reading list for myself. I am notorious for making up book lists and reading plans and then abandoning those lists for whatever strikes my fancy. For the past couple of years my reading has been all over the map, and not at all what I planned on reading.

Here’s the reading list I wrote in 2011 with notes about what I’ve read thus far:

My Reading List

Fiction:

  • Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart [2011]
  • Richard Adams: Watership Down
  • Mitch Albom: The Five People You Meet In Heaven  [2011]
  • Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Laurie Anderson: Speak
  • Julian Barnes: A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters   [note: started and abandoned in 2011]
  • Jorge Borges: Ficciones
  • Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Albert Camus: The Stranger
  • Truman Capote: In Cold Blood
  • Willa Cather: Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote
  • Tom Clancy: The Hunt For Red October   [2012]
  • James Fenimore Cooper: The Last of the Mohicans
  • Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment
  • Theodore Dreiser: An American Tragedy
  • George Eliot: Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss
  • Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man
  • William Faulkner: Absalom! Absalom!, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury
  • Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender Is The Night, Babylon Revisited
  • Margaret Mitchell: Gone With The Wind
  • Robert Graves: I, Claudius
  • Thomas Hardy: Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Joseph Heller: Catch-22
  • Earnest Hemingway: A Farewell To Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day
  • Henry James: Portrait of a Lady, The Turn of the Screw, The American
  • James Joyce: Dubliners
  • Ken Kesey: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Rudyard Kipling: Kim
  • Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • D.H. Lawrence: Sons and Lovers
  • Sinclair Lewis: Babbit
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love In The Time Of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Toni Morrison: Jazz
  • Bharati Mukherjee: Tree Bride
  • Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita, Pale Fire
  • Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient
  • Marcel Proust: Swann’s Way
  • Ayn Rand: Anthem, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead
  • Erich Maria Remarque: All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children
  • Louis Sachar: Holes
  • JD Salinger: Catcher in the Rye
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
  • John Steinbeck: East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men
  • Bram Stoker: Dracula [2012]
  • William Styron: Sophie’s Choice
  • Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • Robert Penn Warren: All The King’s Men
  • Eudora Welty: The Optimist’s Daughter
  • Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence, The House Of Mirth

Drama:

  • Edward Albee: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot
  • Henrik Ibsen: A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler
  • Arthur Miller: The Crucible
  • Eugene O’Neill: Long Day’s Journey into Night
  • Peter Shaffer: Amadeus
  • George Bernard Shaw: Pygmalion
  • Neil Simon: The Odd Couple
  • Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
  • Tennessee Williams: The Glass Menagerie

Poetry:

  • W.H. Auden
  • Anne Bradstreet
  • Robert Browning
  • Emily Dickinson
  • John Donne
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Robert Frost
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • Langston Hughes
  • Ben Jonson
  • John Keats
  • John Milton
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • William Carlos Williams
  • William Wordsworth
  • William Butler Yeats

Non-Fiction:

  • George W. Bush: Decision Points
  • G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man
  • Malcolm Gladwell: Outliers [2011], What the Dog Saw
  • C.S. Lewis: The Abolition of Man, The Four Loves
  • George Marsden: Jonathan Edwards
  • Sarah Palin: Going Rogue
  • Mark Twain: Autobiography of Mark Twain [note: I started this one in 2012. Part 1 is 972 pages and I’m only 44 pages into 262 pages of introductory material!]

Christian Living:

  • Jerry Bridges: Respectable Sins, Transforming Grace [2011], The Disciplines of Grace
  • D.A. Carson: The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story
  • Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Choosing Gratitude [2011]
  • Kevin DeYoung: The Good News We Almost Forgot
  • D. Martyn Lloyd Jones: Spiritual Depression
  • Bob Kauflin: Worship Matters
  • Tim Keller: The Reason for God, Ministries of Mercy, Generous Justice
  • David Kinnaman: unChristian [2011]
  • Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
  • Beth Moore: Praying God’s Word [2012]
  • J.I. Packer: Knowing God
  • John Piper: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy, Let the Nations Be Glad! Battling Unbelief
  • Paul Tripp: A Shelter in the Time of Storm [2011]

Planned Reading for 2013

This year, I want to be more strategic and disciplined about what I read, because I, once again, have grand plans for the reading I’ll do this year. I still want to read many of the books on the list I created in 2011, but some excellent books have been published or purchased since that I have added to my ever-growing list.

A few years ago I made the goal of reading one book a week (and I kept it for about two years!), but I’ve kind of slacked off from that pace of reading–and sadly, at times, reading in general. So this year, I am challenging myself again to finish one book a week.

Some of these books are really long (500+ pages) and I always find books throughout the year that I want to read but weren’t planned, so I’ve left myself some wiggle-room.

Fiction:

  • Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Laurie Anderson: Speak
  • Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov
  • Rudyard Kipling: Kim, Jungle Book
  • C.S. Lewis: Till We Have Faces
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love In The Time Of Cholera
  • Audrey Niffenegger: The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient
  • Erich Maria Remarque: All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children
  • Louis Sachar: Holes
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
  • Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • Eudora Welty: The Optimist’s Daughter

Drama:

  • Eugene O’Neill: Long Day’s Journey into Night
  • George Bernard Shaw: Pygmalion
  • Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead

Non-Fiction:

  • Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking
  • Malcolm Gladwell: What the Dog Saw
  • C.S. Lewis: The Four Loves
  • George Marsden: Jonathan Edwards
  • Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
  • Tony Reinke: Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books

Christian Living:

  • Jerry Bridges: Respectable Sins, The Disciplines of Grace
  • Tim Challies: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment
  • Bryan Chapell: Holiness by Grace
  • Steve DeWitt: Eyes Wide Open
  • Kevin DeYoung: The Good News We Almost Forgot, The Hole in Our Holiness, What is the Mission of the Church?
  • Jonathan Dodson: Gospel-Centered Discipleship
  • D. Martyn Lloyd Jones: Spiritual Depression
  • Bob Kauflin: Worship Matters
  • Tim Keller: The Reason for God, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness
  • J.I. Packer: Knowing God
  • John Piper: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, Let the Nations Be Glad! 
  • John Stott: The Cross of Christ

‘Tis the Season for Book Lists: This Year’s Reading

‘Tis the season for reflective blog posts. And ’tis the season for posts about books.

This past year, I was particularly bad about recording the books I read, so I’ve had a hard time remembering all the books I read in 2012. In the past, I kept notes or wrote a blog post a month about my reading, so it was much easier to remember what I’d read and to pick out my favorites; however, this year, I wrote few posts about what I read. In addition, I am not at home, so I can’t peruse my shelves to remember what I read!

I read mostly Christian living type books, but read a few biographies,  non-fiction books (mostly about missions), and novels (unfortunately, several of the novels were a waste of time and not books I’d recommend, so I didn’t list them below). So, without further ado, here are some of the books that I read this year:

Christian Living:

  1. Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in our Daily Lives by Wendy Alsup Horger
  2. Jesus + Nothing =Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
  3. Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore
  4. A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love  by Milton Vincent
  5. King’s Cross by Timothy Keller
  6. Crazy Love by Francis Chan (reread)
  7. How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp (I’m not quite finished with this one yet, as we’re using it for our ladies’ Bible study, but I read most of it this year.)

Bible Studies:

  1. By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity by Wendy Alsup Horger
  2. The Message of Ephesians by John Stott
  3. The Wisdom of God by Nancy Guthrie

Fiction:

  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  2. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  3. Calico Joe by John Grisham
  4. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  5. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
  6. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

Non-Fiction:

  1. The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing our Brains by Nicholas Carr
  2. In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed
  3. Running with Joy by Ryan Hall
  4. Cross-Cultural Connections by Duane Elmer
  5. Culture Shock! China by Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner
  6. China’s Christian Millions by Tony Lambert
  7. Teaching Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Learning and Teaching by Judith E. Lingenfelter and Sherwood G. Lingenfelter

  8. The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor by Howard Taylor (reread)

Favorite books:

Favorite Books 2012

Memoirs

[Note: while looking over my posts about books I’ve read, I found this one that I apparently forgot to finish and publish. I started writing this in March 2012.]

Over the past few months I’ve read several memoirs. I’ve been fascinated by the stories and have enjoyed most of these books immensely. Most of these books have been short, easy reads, but I’ve walked away with at least one main, helpful idea. (For a short article explaining the difference between memoirs and autobiographies, click here.)

I’ve also pondered the profusion of memoirs in recent days. It used to be that another person would write your biography toward the end of your life or after you died, but now many people are writing memoirs. Again, I’ve found these books to be interesting, but I have also wondered if the recent flood of memoirs are a product of the self-absorbed culture we live in.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the memoirs I’ve read recently:

Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox

This book incorporated autobiographical sketches of Michael’s childhood and rise to fame interspersed with accounts of his diagnosis and struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. For about 10 years he tried to ignore the PD, but he finally realized that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in denial and alcoholism. After meeting with a therapist and facing the disease head on, he started to make progress in how he handled the disease and eventually started the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

To be honest, for the first half of the book or so, I was pretty disgusted with how Fox lived, both before and after the initial diagnosis. But I think he was also disgusted with how he was living, so when he hit bottom, he was motivated to get help and change.

Most of my memories of him are post-diagnosis and post-acceptance, so I’ve always admired his strength and courage and advocacy for others with Parkinson’s Disease. I was glad I read the book, because it’s an honest portrayal of the struggles one goes through with such a serious diagnosis, and it was a helpful reminder that we all have positive things we can be thankful for even when going through a difficult time.

A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio by Bob Edwards

I remember listening to Bob Edwards on NPR’s Morning Edition when riding to school as a child and teenager, and I still often listen to NPR as I commute to work. As I read the book, I remembered some of the stories he covered (In particular, I remembered his conversations with Red Barber and the sad announcement of Barber’s death on the show, and his coverage of the Gulf War), so it was interesting to read the background and to get an insider’s perspective of the formation of NPR and the daily workings of the radio station.

Of course, as you read about his departure from NPR and some of the disagreements with managers there and his divorce from his wife, you have to remember you’re only getting his perspective on the issues.

As expected from a radio host, this memoir was well-written and engaging, and since I had heard him so much on the radio, I could hear Edwards’s voice narrating it in my head.

Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli

This was a troubling, grotesque, accurate account of the depraved torture and mass murder and “scientific research” that took place at the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz. I cannot overemphasize how awful  it was to read portions of this book. I could only handle small portions at a time and only during the day, because I didn’t want to be haunted by the book at night. I felt like it was important to read this book, though, to remember the victims and to be warned/conscious of the depths of the depravity of human nature.

[Note: I had planned on writing more about these books, but since I completely forgot about this post, my reviews of the next three books are shorter than I originally intended.]

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs 
by Elissa Wall

I’d been hearing more about cults and I think Warren Jeffs had been in the news around the time that I picked up this book. I was glad I read Elissa’s story as it helped me understand how someone can get involved in a cult, and it showed how difficult it is to escape a cult, but over all, I thought this book was poorly written.

Let’s Roll by Lisa Beamer

This was a tremendously moving book. It was difficult to read, because I knew what happened to Todd and dreaded getting to that part of the book, but I was encouraged by both Todd’s and Lisa’s testimonies of Christian growth, and I was challenged by Lisa’s faith in the Lord during the tragedy she experienced.

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

My pastor’s wife recommended this book to me and we had several good conversations about it. This was one of the most interesting books I read in 2011. I still think about it often, actually; in many ways, it has shaped my thoughts about love, marriage, death, Christianity, and literature. This book deserves a re-read and then several blog posts about it.

For now, let me summarize the basic story. Sheldon and Davy met in college and fell deeply in love. Both were bright, literary-minded, well-read, articulate people, and they thought deeply about life and wrote beautifully about love and life. The first part of the book glimmered with their exuberant love for each other. Both were agnostics at the time, and it was obvious that their love for each other their god.

While studying at Oxford, they became friends with C.S. Lewis, and partly owing to his influence, they became believers–first, Davy, then a few weeks later, Sheldon. That’s an important point, because Davy seemed truly focused on God, often praying that their love for each other would not hinder their love for God, while Sheldon seemed to believe in God as a way to be nearer to Davy. This became especially apparent when Davy prayed that God would take her life, if it meant that Sheldon would love Him completely.

Shortly after returning to America after Sheldon’s graduate studies were completed, Davy developed a mysterious illness and was eventually diagnosed with a virus that had attacked her liver, and she died within six months. The rest of the book describes Sheldon’s grief and includes his correspondence with C.S. Lewis as he worked through his response to his wife’s death. The book’s title comes from a phrase in a letter to Lewis that he used to describe how God was dealing with him after Davy’s death; he saw her death as a “severe mercy.” Through Davy’s death, he became more devoted to God and the church.

This was a moving, thought-provoking book that is difficult to summarize adequately in a short post. I would love to re-read it and write more about it. If you have read the book, please comment and share your thoughts!

Calico Joe by John Grisham

A father’s devastating choices. A baseball player’s promising career cut short. A boy’s dreams dashed.

During the summer of 1973, eleven-year old Paul Tracey watches from the stands as his father, a pitcher for the New York Mets, beans Joe Castle in the head. When Warren Tracey is diagnosed with cancer decades later, his son sets out on a mission to reconcile his father to Calico Joe, and he finds a measure of understanding and reconciliation himself.

I’ve read almost all of John Grisham’s books and thoroughly enjoy them, but I like the non-courtroom fiction the most. If you like John Grisham’s books, you’ll like this one, and if you also enjoy baseball, you’ll appreciate this one even more. Set against the backdrop of Major League Baseball, the baseball stats and details permeate the story. As anyone who loves baseball or has a family member who loves baseball knows, those stats come as easily as breathing, and John Grisham moves easily between the world of baseball to the private stories of the men and boy in this story.

Grisham tells a story well, and he weaves heart-warming moments and painful memories into a memorable story. The scene in which Calico Joe and Warren Tracey meet after decades of isolation, bitterness, and hardship and is full of grace and forgiveness. I was struck by the depth of Calico Joe’s forgiveness and his kindness towards the man who had hurt him so deeply.

This book will be released on April 10, 2012, and I recommend that you find a copy at your local bookstore or library to read as baseball season gets underway.

Opening line: “The tumor in my father’s pancreas was removed last week in an operation that lasted five hours and was more difficult than his surgeons had expected” (1).

Closing lines: “Two hours later, I’m on the plane headed home. I read my letter and again felt the pain of a broken little boy. I put it away, open my laptop, and begin writing the story of Calico Joe” (194).

Favorite line: “New York sports fans are rabid and well-informed, and they do not suffer from a lack of opinions” (51).

Line that most reminded me of my brother’s love for sports: “I knew their ages, birthplaces, heights, weights, and all their stats. I did not deliberately memorize all this data. I simply absorbed it” (61).

Highlights: Interesting characters; snappy dialogue; moving reconciliation scene.

Lowlights: The first 3-4 chapters were a little disorienting with the first-person narrator and flashbacks, but then I settled into the story. I also had to flip through the first few chapters to figure out the narrator’s name. Predictable plotline; as my dad said, “You knew early on where the story was going, and then it went there.”

Final thoughts: I enjoyed this book and recommend it as a quick, pleasant, summer-time read.

Full Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it on my blog. Many thanks to Doubleday for this book! I enjoyed reading it and have started passing the book around to family members so they can read it too.

Kathy Reichs’s novels

I forgot that I was going to write a series of posts about mysteries, until I re-read my post “Whodunit?”. So, here goes . . .

I was going through a Bones withdrawal this summer, so I decided to read one of Kathy Reichs’s novels. I found her first Tempe Brennan novel, Deja Dead, for a good price and read it on my nook. My local library has some of her books, and I picked up Fatal Voyage the last time I was there. I stink at writing plot summaries, so you can read short ones, if you click on the links above.

I had been forewarned that the books are quite different from the TV series, and they are, but I really liked the books, too. With a couple of qualifications.

The stories are told from Tempe’s perspective and in the first person; Reichs handles the first-person expertly.  I like Tempe and the other characters; they’re realistic and their relationships unfold in a realistic manner. At first, I was a little irritated at how slowly the inter-personal stories were unfolding, but the books focus mostly on Tempe’s solving the crime, just as Tempe is focused more on her work than relationships. However, in the books, Tempe is older and has a family and more friends than she was initially portrayed in the TV series. In the books, Tempe’s not as blunt, but her language is much worse.

This brings me to my first qualification for the books–there’s A LOT of swearing, especially in Deja Dead. I almost didn’t finish the book because of that, but I was into the story from the first chapter, so I kept reading . . . I’m still debating with myself about whether I should have stopped. There was no point to the swearing and it struck me as terribly unprofessional that all of the professional characters were swearing so much. Maybe it’s realistic that detectives and forensic anthropologists swear non-stop, but I have read other books in the same genre that avoid swearing.

The crimes and methods of solving the crimes are realistic. You get a sense of the time and all the tedious work that it takes to solve a crime, without the book’s dragging on. The writing is crisp and the details are vivid. Maybe too vivid. In Deja Dead, Tempe is threatened and intimidated by a serial killer and she discovers her best friend’s corpse while in the final stages of tracking him down.  Tempe’s grief and horror at the crime are palpable. Fatal Voyage opens with gruesome descriptions of plane crash victims, and when one of the characters in that opening scene vomits at the sight of the crash, you feel like vomiting too. Fatal Voyage had much less swearing than Deja Dead, but the descriptions of the crash and the final crime scene (which involves cannibalism) were sickening.

While I liked the books overall, I’m not sure that I can handle them.

Have you read any of Kathy Reichs’s novels? If so, which ones? What did you think of them?