Saturday, December 30, 2006

Books Read '06

It's been enlightening to keep a list of books I've read this year. I finished more than I would have guessed, but what's really of interest to me is how many I didn't finish--and all of them non-fiction! Many of them were given to me at the same time last year, for Christmas and then for my January birthday. I think I started too many at once. Should I give up non-fiction this year, or become more disciplined to finish what I start?

Mama's Bank Account, by Kathryn Forbes (I loved it--click for my review)

A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul, by Holly Pierlot (I loved this Catholic homeschooling mom's testimony of bringing order to her home and her soul through a daily rhythm of prayer and labor)

Night, by Elie Wiesel (eloquently concise--a quick read, but so powerful)

Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier (absorbing)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred B. Taylor (on tape) (brilliant children's literature, written from the perspective of a black family faced with segregation and racial attacks in the Depression-era South)

Lincoln, the Christian (I've misplaced the book and can't recall the author. My in-laws picked this up at a garage sale, and it was a fascinating read, as the author quoted Lincoln himself, and recounted interviews he had conducted with men and women who had known Lincoln. Whether the author was an actual historian or someone with an agenda to prove was a constant question in my mind, but it wasn't hard to give him the benefit of the doubt. I read much of this aloud to Papa Rooster while we were travelling in and around Lincoln sites this summer.)

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, by Ann B. Ross (delightful--click for review)

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology
by Eric Brende (really thought-provoking and a good read--click for review)

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd (on tape) (I loved the mother-daughter themes and imagery throughout, and wow, can this author do metaphors! Christians may need to overlook some syncretism with the Mary imagery, but doing so, I found it profoundly beautiful.)

The Chosen, by Chaim Potok (wonderful story of two Jewish fathers and their two sons; one father is a picture of legalism, the other of grace...yet there is a certain grace, born of love, given by each son. I especially enjoyed the inside look at Jewish scholarly culture.)

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell (one of the few non-fiction books on my list, you'll notice--but it's full of stories of how certain trends took off and reached the "tipping point" into wild popularity. Papa Rooster read this as a business book, but it's fascinating on a human interest level. It's not so much about selling things as it is about desseminating ideas.)

Blue Shoes and Happiness, by Alexander McCall Smith (on tape)

The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith (on tape) (these books are both part of the delightful The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency series)

Baa, Baa Black Sheep by Rudyard Kipling (this may be a short story, but my version is bound like a little book, so I'll count it. Sad and revealing.)

Digging to America, by Anne Tyler (on tape) (fascinating fiction about the American experience, from the perspective of an Iranian family and a thoroughly American one who are drawn together by the adoption of their Korean daughters)

Christ the Lord, by Anne Rice (yes, the author of Interview with a Vampire has found Christ--she shares that story at the very end of the book--and she has written this beautiful account of his life as an 8-year-old, the story of his family's journey from Egypt to Jerusalem to Nazareth. She does an excellent job, as the movie The Nativity Story does, of portraying the danger and political unrest of the times, and she portrays the young Jesus believably, as a child-like questioner of his own story.)

Read aloud to my kids and thoroughly enjoyed:

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Walk the World's Rim

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Johnny Tremain (we listened to this one on tape together)

...and many, many shorter books!


John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father, by Peggy Noonan (3/4 finished. The only reason I haven't finished this one is that Papa Rooster and I were reading this one aloud to each other on a road trip, and I keep thinking we'll read it again next time we're on a road trip, but then we leave it at home. He admires JP2; I admire Peggy Noonan. And vice versa, but...more this way.)

Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine D. Pohl (I'm 2/3 of the way through this fascinating survey of church history on hospitality. I'm highly interested in the topic, but I think she's using too many words to make her points. I suspect it's a dissertation re-worked into a book.)

Talking with God, Francois Fenelon (modern version by Hal M. Helms) (I'm 3/4 of the way through this one. It's so good, I don't want to rush it! I've been reading it devotionally, but obviously not daily. I think I need my own copy, though, to mark in--this one is borrowed.)

The Little Way of Saint Therese of Lisieux: Into the Arms of Love (compiled by John Nelson) (3/4 finished--a beautiful devotional read. In this edition, her letters are interspersed with Scripture and passages from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. Again, I need my own copy to mark favorite passages. Lent to me by the same friends who lent the above--thanks Barbara and Stephen!)

Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds by Thomas W. Phelan (halfway through. I see a trend here--this book also was lent to me, and I think I've been holding off on reading it because I want to take notes or something. It's very, very practical but I won't remember half of his great suggestions unless I write them down.)

Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher
Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge
When You Don't Desire God by John Piper
(I've read about one chapter of each of these books. They were all given to me at the same time last year, along with a number of these other non-fiction books and Mama's Bank Account. I tried to read the non-fiction first, and reward myself with Mama, but couldn't do it; Mama kept calling.

Next up:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield--as soon as Papa Rooster finishes it. (I gave it to us for Christmas, based on the recommendations of so many bloggers!)

For many more year-in-review booklists, see Semicolon's roundup here.


Anonymous said...

I'm curious what you thought of the parts of Captivating that you did read. I tried to pick it up because so many of the young women at the University where I attend have read it, and I thought it would be a good way to join in conversation. But, ugh, I found so much of it to be addressing the stereotype of women...and if you don’t fit the stereotype there is something wrong - and all of that under the name of Christianity. I found it to be such popular-fluff that I couldn’t finish it.

Jen in Seattle

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeannie!

Thanks for listing your books. I see we have some similiar interests, so if I may recommend 2 more you might enjoy -

Cold Sassy Tree. Ir ead it a long time ago, but still remember it as one of my favorites. It is a story set in a small town, really sweet.


Bee Season, Myla Goldberg

When you mentioned "Chosen" I thought of this. (Only because it is about a Jewish family) but it is a wonderful book, filled with JEwish mysticysm and really compelling relationships between the family members.

I too have a harder time finishing non-fiction, only because I think itmakes me think more, so I spend more time on it. I read about 2 books a week though, so what I have found works is to alternate reading on fiction and then one non-fiction, otherwise I would read nothing but modern fiction ;)

Happy New Year!


Anonymous said...

Oh...and I forgot to ask. Have you read the Church of England series by Susan Howatch? There are 6 books in the series, the first is Glittering Images. It's one of the best ficitonal accounts of how theology and psychology meet.

Jen in Seattle

At A Hen's Pace said...


I honestly didn't read enough of Captivating to be able to comment. The first chapter was kind of fluffy, but a good friend of mine got a lot out of it, though, so I'll probably get back to it eventually.

My husband has read some of Susan Howatch's books, and while he liked them, he felt they were tinged with Jungian spirituality; he says that, in an interview in Christianity Today’s Books & Culture magazine, she was reluctant to describe herself as an orthodox Christian. I've heard they were good reads though and very Anglican in setting, so I'm still planning to read them someday!

(A lit blog I like, Semicolon, gave Glittering Images a "qualified recommendation" here:


I LOVE Cold Sassy Tree--I've read it once and listened to it on tape twice!

I've heard the title, Bee Season, but haven't read it yet. Thanks for the recommendation! Good plan to alternate fiction/non-fiction--I'll have to try that. I don't get through 2 books a week anymore, though! Good for you!!


Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with you about the Jungian spirituality, and that can be a dangerous thing...but, at the same time, not everything Jung said was wrong, a great deal of it depends on how its contextualized. It's one of my favorite pieces of fiction, but I do recognize where it comes up short.

Jen in Seattle