Reading Choices

A couple friends have asked me how I decide what to read. For the most part, it’s random and I read whatever appeals to me! I am forever making up reading lists for myself and then just picking up whatever looks interesting at the moment.

A few years ago, I made a list of Books Everyone Should Read; I based the list on recommendations from a variety of sources and also listed books that I loved or were influential in my life. While I was working on that list, I wrote a post about a meme that was going around (100 Books: A short rant and a long post) and referenced several book lists there. Then I made up my List of Books I Should Read, and updated the list last year.

I try to read a variety of classic and modern fiction and non-fiction in various disciplines (Christian living, theology, history, education, literary analysis, psychology, science). I generally read Christian living type books in the morning as devotional literature and fiction or light non-fiction in the evening before going to bed. I usually read the lengthier, more difficult non-fiction works throughout the day as I have time.

This year, I am going to try to be a little more organized in my book reading. I want to read more from my List of Books I Should Read, so I am going to bring some of those books back to China with me next semester. I am also going to focus on specific topics in my devotional reading (holiness, missions, emotions) and non-fiction reading (China, biography/autobiography, teaching), and I plan to read more poetry and drama.

Here’s a sample of some of the books on my reading list for this year. As usual, my list is too long to be feasible, but it reflects my goals for the year and my plans to read more strategically.

Fiction

  • Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: Babylon Revisited
  • Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man
  • William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury
  • Robert Graves: I, Claudius
  • Joseph Heller: Catch-22
  • Earnest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day
  • Rudyard Kipling:  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
  • Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita
  • Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient
  • Erich Maria Remarque: All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses
  • John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
  • Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence

Drama and Poetry

  • Eugene O’Neill: Long Day’s Journey into Night
  • George Bernard Shaw: Pygmalion
  • Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Robert Frost
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • John Milton

Non-fiction

  • Robert Alter: The Art of Biblical Narrative
  • George W. Bush: Decision Points
  • Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking
  • Li Cheng: Song of a Wanderer
  • Malcolm Gladwell: David and Goliath
  • George Marsden: Jonathan Edwards
  • Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Christian living

  • Jerry Bridges: Respectable Sins; The Disciplines of Grace; Pursuit of Holiness
  • D.A. Carson: The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story
  • Tim Challies: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment
  • Bryan Chapell: Holiness by Grace
  • Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Surrender; Holiness
  • Elisabeth Elliot: The Path of Loneliness (re-read)
  • Ronald Horton: Moodtides (re-read)
  • D. Martyn Lloyd Jones: Spiritual Depression
  • 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; When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy; Let the Nations Be Glad! 

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.

Recommended books

A little while ago I wrote a post about some book lists and noted which ones I had read, and then I asked which books you think everyone should read. I’ve also been working to put together a list of books I think everyone should read.

Now, the books I have listed below were chosen based on a variety of factors. Many of these books are personal favorites that I have read several times. All of these books have made some kind of impression on me and have affected my view of literature and the world. In some cases, the worldview is overtly anti-God or amoral/immoral, but the book helped me understand other cultures and how other people think. The point of this list was to recommend a variety of books from a variety of perspectives, not to give recommendations of “squeaky clean” literature (though some are pretty free of graphic, offensive elements, they may have philosophical issues I don’t agree with).

With the exception of the poets and preachers, whose works I have only sampled (their body of literature being so large it is hard to read their complete works), I have read all of the works listed, so please feel free to ask, if you’d like a more specific analysis of the book.

I’ve chosen a wide variety of books for this list. Some are modern popular fiction; some are ancient epic poems. Some are “classic” modern fiction, with many potentially offensive elements; some are books by Christian authors generally written for a Christian audience.

I’ve also had to reconcile myself to the fact that this list is not going to be perfect. I’ve pondered the choices for far too long and keep making changes. Okay. Disclaimer over. Here’s the list.

Fiction:

  • Louisa May Alcott: Little Women, Little Men
  • Laurie Anderson: Chains, Forge
  • Jane Austen: Emma, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice
  • Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
  • Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre
  • John Bunyan: The Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game
  • Kate Chopin: The Awakening
  • Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone
  • Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe
  • Don DeLillo: White Noise
  • Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities
  • Tim Downs: The Bug Man series
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes stories
  • Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
  • E.M. Forster: A Room with a View, Passage to India, Howards End
  • Thomas Hardy: Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
  • Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les Misérables
  • Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
  • Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
  • C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia, Space Trilogy, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce
  • Jack London: The Call of the Wild, White Fang
  • Lois Lowry: The Giver
  • Daphne Du Maurier: Rebecca
  • Baroness Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • George Orwell: 1984, Animal Farm
  • Alan Paton: Cry, the Beloved Country
  • J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter series
  • Salman Rushdie: Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Shalimar the Clown
  • Alexander McCall Smith: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective series
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Cancer Ward
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
  • Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
  • Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Jules Verne: Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse
  • Markus Zusak: The Book Thief

Drama:

  • Anton Chekhov: The Cherry Orchard
  • Johann Goethe: Faust
  • William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, The Tempest, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado about Nothing
  • Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest, The Ideal Husband

Poetry:

  • Dante Alighieri: Inferno
  • Beowulf
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Sonnets from the Portuguese
  • Robert Browning
  • Amy Carmichael: If
  • E.E. Cummings
  • Emily Dickinson
  • John Donne
  • T.S. Eliot: The Waste Land
  • Robert Frost
  • George Herbert: The Temple
  • Homer: Iliad, Odyssey
  • John Milton: Paradise Lost
  • William Shakespeare: Sonnets
  • Sophocles: Oedipus Rex
  • Edmund Spenser: The Faerie Queene
  • Walt Whitman

Non-Fiction:

  • Mitch Albom: Tuesdays with Morrie
  • James Bradley: Flyboys
  • Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt: Freakonomics
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Malcolm Gladwell: Blink, The Tipping Point
  • Ron Hall and Denver Moore: Same Kind of Different as Me
  • Marcus Luttrell: Lone Survivor
  • Greg Mortenson: Three Cups of Tea
  • Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father
  • Dave Ramsey: Total Money Makeover
  • Lynne Truss: Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  • Virginia Woolf: A Room of One’s Own

Christian Living:

  • The ESV Study Bible
  • Valley of Vision
  • Jerry Bridges: Trusting God, The Pursuit of Holiness
  • Francis Chan: Crazy Love, Forgotten God
  • Henry Cloud & John Townsend: Boundaries
  • Mark Dever: What Does God Want of Us Anyway?
  • Kevin DeYoung: Just Do Something
  • Jonathan Edwards: sermons
  • Elisabeth Elliot: The Path of Loneliness, A Chance to Die: Biography of Amy Carmichael, Through Gates of Splendor, Shadow of the Almighty, Let Me be a Woman
  • John Fawcett: Christ Precious to Those That Believe
  • Greg Gilbert: What is the Gospel?
  • Nancy Guthrie: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross; Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
  • Joshua Harris: Dug Down Deep, Stop Dating the Church
  • Ronald Horton: Mood Tides
  • Mary Kassian: Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild
  • Tim Keller: Prodigal God, Counterfeit Gods
  • C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity, God in the Dock, Surprised by Joy, The Problem of Pain
  • C.J. Mahaney: Living the Cross-Centered Life, Humility: True Greatness, Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (ed. Mahaney)
  • Carolyn Mahaney (and daughters): Shopping for Time
  • Carolyn McCulley: Radical Womanhood
  • John Piper: Desiring God, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, Don’t Waste Your Life
  • David Platt: Radical
  • Layton Talbert: Not by Chance
  • A.W. Tozer: The Knowledge of the Holy
  • Donald Whitney: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
  • Philip Yancey: What’s So Amazing about Grace?

Christmas music, part 6

I purposefully saved this last topic for the end of the series, because I view Handel’s Messiah as the epitome of Christmas music. (Note: I realize it would have made a lot more sense to post this earlier in December, but I didn’t have time to pull all of these resources together earlier in December.) I purchased the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir’s recording this year and have enjoyed listening to it repeatedly. I love that the text of the Messiah is Scripture and that in 2 hours and 20 minutes the Messiah tells the story of the prophecies of Christ’s birth, His incarnation, His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, His power to break us free of sin, and His second coming. What a wonderful way to tell this amazing and incredible story!

Today, I just want to list some resources for you as you read about, listen to, or sing along with Handel’s Messiah.

I have fond memories of going to Messiah sings with my dad and of the performances and annual sings in my voice performance class at BJU. If you’re interested, you can get a free score here.

I’ve also found these websites helpful whenever I want to look something up about the Messiah: the program notes on National Public Radio, the program notes from the Oratorio Society of New York, and the very thorough notes and textual comparisons on Minnesota Public Radio.

This month, the audiobook Handel’s Messiah by Calvin R. Stapert is free on christianaudio.com (sorry for the late notice!).

You may have already seen this video (since the one I’m posting has had over 6,800,000 hits), but I get goosebumps every time I watch it. It’s amazing to hear such glorious praise to God being sung in this cathedral-like shopping center.

This one is pretty cool too and has had over 28,000,000 hits!

Christmas music, part 5

I didn’t get to finish writing this post before Christmas, but I still wanted to post it and finish the series.

I wrote about traditional Christmas songs and you can read the post here, but today I’d like to list some new songs that speak clearly about Christ’s incarnation and God’s plan of redemption. (Several of these songs come from the albums New Irish Songs: Incarnation and Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man).

“Joy Has Dawned Upon The World” by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

Joy has dawned upon the world,
Promised from creation—
God’s salvation now unfurled,
Hope for ev’ry nation.
Not with fanfares from above,
Not with scenes of glory,
But a humble gift of love—
Jesus born of Mary.

Sounds of wonder fill the sky
With the songs of angels
As the mighty Prince of Life
Shelters in a stable.
Hands that set each star in place,
Shaped the earth in darkness,
Cling now to a mother’s breast,
Vuln’rable and helpless.

Shepherds bow before the Lamb,
Gazing at the glory;
Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story.
Gold—a King is born today,
Incense—God is with us,
Myrrh—His death will make a way,
And by His blood He’ll win us.

Son of Adam, Son of heaven,
Given as a ransom;
Reconciling God and man,
Christ, our mighty champion!
What a Savior! What a Friend!
What a glorious myst’ry!
Once a babe in Bethlehem,
Now the Lord of hist’ry.

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Books Everyone Should Read

While I’m thinking about it, what are some books that you think everyone should read? And don’t worry about coming up with your top 100 books! I’m interested in hearing what your favorite and must-read books are. I’m probably going to post my list later this week after I’ve given it some more thought.