Books I Read in ’18

Why do you care what books I read? I don’t know, but I’m thinking some people are like me and work on recommendations.

Did you ever wonder why there wasn’t a rating system for books, though? I do. Especially when I want to suggest a good read for my young teenage daughter! Is it R? PG-13? G? Who knows? Hey, maybe now I have my idea for Shark Tank.

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These are random old books I did not read. Kindle makes it really hard to take artistic photos of books you did read.

Anyways, here are a few books I read in 2018:

  • A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller: I just can’t say enough good things about this book. It resonated with everything I appreciate in a book that is geared towards inviting me closer to God and growth in my walk with Jesus. I gave it to lots of people at Christmas. And, it’s really cheap and short so you have no excuse to not read it.
  • Paul and Gender by Cynthia Long Westfall: This is a graduate level academic kind of book and it really challenged me. It shone some light on big issues within the church regarding the interpretation of certain passages on men and women. I’m still pondering it and figuring out what it means for my daily life. But, I believe it is an important read no matter where you fall on the Complementarian/ Egalitarian spectrum.
  • The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer: This was a delightful read. Laughter, tears, sorrow, and joy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the letter format employed. I loved imagining the scenes referred to in part in letters. Pick this up when you need to unwind and relax. It’s a good one. In writing this post, I discovered the author died before publication. She never lived to see the success of the truly wonderful story she created.
  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Backman: Well, I love this author and he delivered again in this thought-provoking book about how we see life and the people we love. It’s also about courage to face our fears and the freedom it brings. Oh, and it will make you laugh and cry which are the marks of truly great books, in my opinion.
  • The Stand by Stephen King: I can’t recommend this one. It is definitely rated R and it disturbed my sleep. Reading this was a huge break from my normal selections and I’m not sure I’ll read any more of Stephen King’s books. The surprising thing about this book (the reason I’m even telling you I read it!) is that he understands sin, righteousness, punishment, and grace and brings it to very vivid life. Sin is evil and he understands it in the mild forms we often pass over, and also in the trajectory evil takes. It is chilling and too horrifically true. The only positive thing I can say about seeing that is that Jesus and His Way stands out. King also brings to life right things. Things as they should be and the constant push and pull we experience as humans choosing between the two. Stephen King knows his Bible really well. I found that really interesting. I still recommend his book On Writing. 
  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: This was a thought-provoking read on race, racism, and how it looks today. It’s a primer on the issues of modern-day racism and white supremacy in a fictional story. If you want to delve into these issues, this book is a good step into the shallow end.
  • The Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance: I enjoyed this memoir about Vance’s life. It is thoughtful and brings to attention a section of society that doesn’t often get  highlighted. It resonates with my idea that most people we meet are culturally different from us in some way even if they are citizens of our own nation. And, that we often share cultural similarities across different socio-economic realities. It’s a good read and doesn’t feel too academic.

So, what will I read in 2019? I’m not sure. My friend put up some good books on a recent post. I like to work on recommendations!

I’ll also be reading numerous academic books in preparation for 3 or 4 seminary minimesters this summer. Pray for me! Ha. I guess I should read some more fiction before I get swallowed up by footnotes.

Recent Good Reads

I’m a reader. Most people who know me know this about me. I read every night before turning out the light. When I’m not reading, I wane in creativity. I have trouble switching off my thoughts at the end of the day and reading helps me turn the page to a new day.

Haha. I punned.

Seriously, reading is awesome and I love sharing a good book with someone. I’ve read fiction for enjoyment. Non-fiction for education. Biography. Fantasy. Young Adult. Children’s literature. It’s great.

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Most books I read on my kindle, but I needed a photo. I’ll tell you what, 1917 encyclopedias make for interesting reading. 

These are my favorites of the last year.

A Gentleman in Moscow. Wow. So creative and smart. A joy to read and especially rich if you’ve read any of the Russian authors of the past. My personal take away was the challenge to live fully the life I’m given with all the parameters I face.

An added bonus is that you’ll feel smarter after you read this one.

Little Women. I ran out of books one night and trolled my Kindle for something to read or reread and found Little Women. I’d read it before but I read it again. This time, I came away with a renewed value for my role as a mother. She’s not the main character in the book in some ways, but Marmie is always there waiting, watching, knowing, and loving her girls.

I also identified with each sister in some ways and gained much from how they resisted their personal temptations. It gave me insight on my own road to maturity.

A Man Called Ove. I don’t want to give anything away, but this book is a must read. Do not watch the movie before you read it or you will lose the amazing experience the author unfolds in the way he tells this story. Be warned, there are some dark themes and some language.

In the end, it opened my eyes a bit wider to the importance of community in some very real and good ways. It’ll make you cry, so grab the tissues!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I read this because I read A Man Called Ove. This is by the same author. Its a bittersweet story of the loss of a grandparent from the eyes of a child.

In so many ways, we see our lives like children too. Maybe that’s why I liked the story. Again, Backman writes a strong theme of community. And, the writing is just great too.

Jane Eyre. Those Bronte sisters. So dark and gothic! I read Jane Eyre recently and was stunned. I’d read it before and the big thing I got was old, obsessive man. Young woman. Weird love story. Crazy lady in the attic.

Reading it again, I saw so much more. An orphan girl who never, ever had a place or belonged. No family. No love. No respect. She then faces the ultimate temptation. A family, a kind of love, belonging… but at a price. Loss of dignity.

Read it!

To Kill a Mockingbird. I recently read this book again as an adult. It is a literary and cultural goldmine. Told from the perspective of an 8 year old daughter, it challenged my soul to feel the pain of those around me who suffer under the heavy weight of prejudice and have for centuries.

I need to have a book club so I can process it. My brain is full of thoughts and questions!

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This is getting long, so I’ll stop here for now. Another post is bouncing around in my mind of those books that have mentored me more directly in ministry. Its kind of a silly division of lists, though. In some ways, both fiction and non-fiction alike are taken, evaluated, and incorporated into my life in some way.

So, don’t put down fiction because you think you’ll get more from a christian living or self-help book. Literature has a unique way of leading us too.

And, definitely never put down your Bible. Its at the top of all my lists.

Waste not…

DSC_0141Buried in my blog drafts from our life in East Asia 4 years ago…

Our family is reading Farmer Boy right now as our bedtime story.  It makes me feel a lot better about the minimal chores I expect my children to accomplish.  They understand their charmed life and gain vision on all they really can do!

We all listen with rapt attention to the descriptions of life before electricity, refrigeration, and machinery.  Clothes are precious because the yarn comes from sheep shorn on your own farm, wool spun by diligent hands, made into fabric and sewn by expert fingers.  A rip in clothing is no excuse to throw it away, mending is a crucial skill.

The food is fascinating too.  My kids salivate when Laura Ingalls tells of donuts, oatmeal, and apple pie for breakfast…all in one day!  Life on the farm seems like an adventure especially when you get your own oxen.  Little do they know, they observe daily a life similar to the one described in Farmer Boy.

We are city folk who live in the midst of an agrarian society.  We see strange things that are only strange because we are 2 generations removed from the farm.

Yellow millet sometimes covers the medians of roads right up to the solid white line. One time we drove over some crops laid on the road. The cars driving over beat out the grain.

Vegetables like the one pictured lay out to dry in odd places along fence posts, on house roofs, anywhere there is sun really.  Pickled vegetables make up an important part of the diet. I ate a wonderful dish of dried green beans the other day.

Many homes still don’t own refrigerators in the countryside or if they do they are unplugged when someone deems it frivolous to be on.  Lamps turned on inside a house in the daytime is an anomaly and deemed quite wasteful. A neighbor was seriously perplexed one day to see our whole family playing outside and our lights on in our apartment.

Cars rarely carry only one person and most people ride bikes or use electric bikes. They, too, often hold multiple people. Frankly, bikes are generally easier to use to get around the neighborhood than cars.

The average household trash can is the size of one normally found in an American bathroom.  It is emptied once a day and mostly contains vegetable peels. Ironically, while hosting many of the world’s worst polluted cities, the average citizen produces very little waste.

A few days before Thanksgiving, my friends began inquiring if anyone was going to use the turkey carcass after our meal. She, of course, was the lucky winner. As our friends divided up the leftovers from Thanksgiving including the turkey carcass (for porridge), the broth from the turkey (for noodles), and the side dishes (to eat the next day), I admired their skill in frugality.

I often choose convenience over limiting waste. I don’t fall far from my American heritage even after more than a decade overseas.

There is much to admire in the resourcefulness needed to live a life of such little waste and such thankfulness for what is provided from God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Reading Elisabeth Elliot

I remember hearing Elisabeth Elliot speak in college.  The packed room filled with women and a few men as I sat towards the back with a few friends.  Passion and Purity ranked high among the must-reads of my college crowd at the time.  I thought it a strange book…a bit over the top.  Now, she stood telling me she thought girls should wear skirts.  I’m sure I smirked.

Now, 16 years later I still hold to a different view on skirts but I sit more and more often at the literary feet of Elisabeth Elliot.  I liken her to a spiritual grandmother, a little old-fashioned in some areas but consistently delivering piercing truth.  Truth pierces the heart and draws me into closer fellowship with the Lord…when I listen well…I, the young granddaughter of the faith.

These Strange Ashes, A Chance to Die, and now The Path of Loneliness rank at the tops of my list for the beginning Elisabeth Elliot mentee.  Meat for the soul I call them.

These Strange Ashes recounts Elisabeth’s first year on the field and it still speaks to what one can expect the first year on the field.  I lend my copy out and make it clear I expect it back!

A Chance to Die takes a thorough look at the life of Amy Carmichael.  Elisabeth doesn’t shy away from Amy’s strengths and weaknesses.  Wrestling with the complexity of Amy’s character and her service give me great hope for what the Lord can do through me with all my “complexity.”

DSC_0241The Path of Loneliness required me to choke down a destructive mental barrier as I saw it on a friend’s shelf this past week pondering what book to borrow.  I don’t like to tell people when I am lonely.  I even wanted to hide this book while I read it instead of leaving it on my side table!  Ahh…pride!  Today I finished the book and I just might start at the front and read it again copying down favorite passages.  I might end up copying the whole book.  I do plan to buy a copy… plus a few to give away as I feel led.

Passion and Purity…well…I still need to go back and pick that one up again and rethink it.

I read Elisabeth Elliot now expecting to feel the rub and pull involved in taking a vigorous hike towards greater trust and obedience to the Lord.

As with any hike, the anticipation and joy of the summit compels more strongly the farther I get on the hike.

What author or book challenged you lately?