SUMMER 2008 BOOKS
I included re-reads because they totally count.
1
Because They Hate – Brigitte Gabriel
A Lebanese Christian writing about her
experiences during the Lebanon war and her views
on Islam. I loved the autobiography part of the
book, and I think she should have left it at
that. It would have had the same impact and not
been quite so in-your-American-face. If it had
been written by someone else, who didn’t have
her background, it would have been way over the
top.
2
Salt: A World History – Mark Kurlansky
The history of the whole world, based on salt! I
wish I had thought of that. It varied between
being extremely interesting and a little dull
(an unexplainably long digression on the herring
industry) but mostly erred on the side of
awesome. And now I’m obsessed with salt. I’ve
always known it was delicious, who knew it could
be so fascinating?
3
Prince Caspian – C.S. Lewis
Return to Narniaaaa! I had been dying to read
this one again, but I had to wait until after I
saw the movie. Never read the book right before
seeing the movie.
4
The Voyage of the Dawn-Treader – C.S. Lewis
This one has always been my favorite. It’s the
one where the kids go sailing through the
islands with Caspian. It was still pretty
wonderful the sixtieth time around, but I kept
wondering how they’re going to turn it into a
movie! They’d better not ruin it. Grr.
5
The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver
I enjoyed it a lot. It’s about a lady who ends
up adopting an abandoned little girl and the
adventures they have together. After that salt
book, it was pretty light reading and had a
wider range of characters. It was funny, cute,
and kind of sad at the end. (The narrator dies.
Haha, kidding.)
6
The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare – G.K.
Chesterton
It starts out like a spy novel, and ends with
some really strange theological (?) stuff that I
am still chewing on. It’s a pretty short book,
but is witty, quotable, and plot-twisty. It
almost gave me a crippling fear of anarchists,
but left it a little hazy on whether or not
these anarchists actually exist…
7
The Year of Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs
Maybe the first book I’ve read that is about
religion but not written by a Christian. It was
interesting to read an agnostic’s thoughts on
all the laws in the Bible, which he followed
closely for a year. Not something I plan on
doing/being able to do/needing to do, but still
really thought-provoking.
8
The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
It’s nice and short, I read it in a few hours. I
had watched the actual lecture on the internet
already, but I would say the book is better.
Also sadder. And a little bit overrated.
9
The Discovery of Heaven – Harry Mulisch
Wacky theology, reeeally long, and had several
detailed descriptions of things I did not want
to read about. BUT once I got past that, I
really enjoyed it. It had a very interesting and
complex plot (as far as I can tell, it’s about a
scheme that the angels think up so they can get
the ten commandments back), and I plan on
reading it again sometime to pick up the billion
things I missed the first time.
10
The Secret of Father Brown – G.K. Chesterton
Although the premise was a little intriguing (a
mystery-solving Catholic priest), the stories
were not. It did make some unexpectedly
interesting points about sin and human nature
though.
11
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
I always thought that there were some things,
like logic and chronology, that were absolutely
essential to telling a story, but apparently
not. Absurdist and strange but absolutely
amaaaziiing…
12
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
It made me feel insane and like I deserve a
medal just for being female.
13
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
A fantasy story (I guess?) about characters in
novels interacting with each other, but it tried
too hard and ended up not being very
fantastical. It seemed like it had such good
potential… the idea of a villain kidnapping
literary characters sounded ok, but it just
ended up sucking the joy out of literature.
14
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Marquez
This book follows a family through several
generations as history repeats itself over and
over. There was not a wide variety of names used
for a large variety of characters, which got
confusing. I enjoyed it but don’t understand why
it’s a classic.
15
Surprised By Joy – C.S. Lewis
Happy sigh. This is Lewis’ autobiography and I
loved it. I knew the outcome (he becomes a
Christian; we all know that…) but it’s amazing
what all led up to it. And I think C.S. Lewis is
one of few writers that I would really enjoy
talking to.
16
The Silent Gondeliers – William Goldman
I was SO disappointed. I was expecting a nice
little fairytale (it’s by the same guy who wrote
“The Princess Bride”) but it had no wit or plot
or wonder or anything… I read it in an hour
though, so I did get some self-satisfaction from
that. haha.
17
A History of God – Karen Armstrong
Oh, the things I could say about this book…
When the author stuck to facts, it was extremely
interesting and thought provoking. BUT then she
started throwing in her own conclusions, which
were often questionable. The main problem of the
book, which you can just see from the title, is
that it is a very hefty topic, and however you
try and address it, you end up limiting God with
your little human brain.
18
The Bondage of the Will – Martin Luther
This one wins the most-frustrating-book-of-the-
summer award. It took me months to read, and
caused me great emotional turmoil. I haven’t
decided if I agree with Luther yet, but I did
decide he is a rather belligerent character. I
feel like I need to talk this one over with
someobody.
19
Dear American Airlines – Jonathan Miles
I was pleasantly surprised. It was sad and
hilarious at the same time, and the main
character was so well-developed I have to wonder
it it’s a bit autobiographical (in which case I
would be a little concerned about the mental
wellbeing of the author).
20
The 13 Clocks – James Thurber
This was a re-read, but no matter how many times
I read it, I think it will always be my favorite
children’s book. The villain is so villainy, and
the prince is so princely, and the Golux is so
Goluxy.
21
Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
I had never read the whole thing before, and I
have to say I loved it. Still, it was very
analogy-driven, which was helpful when he was
clarifying a concept, but I don’t think they can
always be used as proof for an argument. I
enjoyed it anyway of course.
22
Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie
This is yet another re-read. I actually finished
it ten minutes before the end of summer, so it
was kind of close. This book is wonderful
wonderful. It goes back and forth between being
hilarious and a little bit heartbreaking, which
I guess can be said of most of the books I like.
BOOKS FROM THE 08/09 SCHOOL YEAR
1
The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
A story about a missionary family that goes to
Africa, told from the perspective of the women
in the family. How in the world did I go so long
without reading this? It was AWESOME. Obviously
not a feel-good read, but interesting and epic
and tragic and sometimes kinda funny… I did
cry near the end, so you know it’s good.
2
Villette – Charlotte Bronte
Good heavens. I absolutely loved this book. I
identified with the main character a lot more
than I probably should have, and was extremely
involved emotionally at the end of it. I bawled
when I finished (it was pretty bad, I was at
work). This is not one I would expect someone
else to like, but I thought it was
wonderfullll….
3
The Little Prince – Antoine St. Exupery
Another re-read (like the twelve billionth time)
but it just gets better and better. It should be
required reading for the WHOLE WORLD.
4
A Hero Of Our Time – Mikhail Lermontov
This one I also loved (didn’t cry at the end
though. ha.) It’s an old Russian classic and
it’s a rolicking good time. It was full of plot
holes but fun and fascinating to read. Villains
(assuming that’s what the main character is)
have always intrigued me.
5
Bruchko – Bruce Olson
An American guy goes to the Amazon as a
missionary. It took me a while to get into it,
but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. God does
cool things.
6
Exodus – Leon Uris
GAH what an unsatisfying ending! The rest of it
was good though. I really enjoyed all the
historical background on the creation of the
state of Israel and thought it was fascinating,
although sometimes it got bogged down with stuff
like character development and romance and
stuff. Sheesh.
7
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but it
ended up being absolutely outstanding. Frankl
writes about his experiences at Auchwitz and how
they fit in with his life philosophy. I would
recommend it to anyone at all! I don’t usually
enjoy psychology/philosophy type books, but this
one was very insightful and tied in with a lot
of things I’ve been thinking about lately.
8
Magic: A Fantastic Comedy – G.K. Chesterton
This was a play about a magician, and it was
pretty short. I think it took me about an hour
to read. The dialogue was good, but the plot was
cheesy. Which is something I’m kind of beginning
to expect from good old GKC. It wasn’t as
magical or fantastic or comedic as the title
would lead you to believe.
9
Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton
Once I got into it, it was fabulous. I couldn’t
follow all of the Chestertonlogic, but I still
feel like I got a lot out of it. It was very
different from Christian books I’ve read before
–instead of starting with Christ and working
his way on to Christian doctrine, he went the
other way around. Quite fascinating and I and
will be pondering it for quite a while.
10
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
I’m not sure how I got away with not reading
this till now. I enjoyed it, but it was very
painful right up to the last page. Everything
I’ve read about it compared it to a nightmare,
which seems accurate to me..
11
A Handful of Dust – Evelyn Waugh
Very very odd odd book, not what I was
expecting. It was a weird cross between Heart of
Darkness, Saki, and O. Henry. It was funny,
tragic, and odd. I haven’t decided what I think
of it yet–there’s a fine line between “liked
it” and “what in the world did I just read.” I
heard that the last chapter was written first,
and the rest of the book was written to explain
how a person could get in that situation.
12
The Bell Tower – Herman Melville
This doesn’t count as an actual book, more of a
short story, but still. I’m not sure how I feel
about it. It was frustratingly ambiguous but
delectably dark (which is a good thing, and
delectably may not be a word). It had some good
things to say about pride and whatnot, but
mostly I’m not sure what the point of the story
was.
13
The Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning
Nothing I didn’t know before I read it, but it
was an absolutely stupendous reminder of how
much God loves us.
14
Hind’s Feet On High Places – Hannah Hurnard
A Pilgrim’s Progress-type allegory. Incredibly
cheesey, but once I learned to embrace the
cheese, I loved it. I wouldn’t call it a work of
staggering literary genius, but I now understand
why so many people dearly love this book.
15
The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky
So looong!! A lot of the time I didn’t
understand why characters were doing what they
were doing, but I loved them anyway and enjoyed
questioning their motives. I think I might like
living in a Russian novel.
16
The Thurber Album – James Thurber
Vaguely boring, but in a good way. I did not
like how the ends of chapters always tied
everything in cheesy tidy little bows, but I
forgive him because he’s Thurber. The chapter
about his mom was the best.
17
The Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne
Quite wonderful! It was not really a feel-good
read, but definitely a necessary read. I
recommend.
18
The Princess and Curdie – George MacDonald
Why would anyone ever end a book like that?? It
definitely ended any expectations I may have had
that there would be a threequel. Other than
that, it was fairly good. It was entertaining
but I don’t think I would recommend it to
anyone.
19
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
The whole time I was reading it, I kept
wondering why it’s a classic. But when I
finished it IT MADE SENSE. I’m still trying to
figure out exactly why. But I enjoyed it. It was
epic.
20
Dracula – Bram Stoker
So full of plot holes and dodgy theology, yet so
fun to read! Apparently there are SO MANY rules
you have to follow if you’re a vampire. Now that
I know what they are I could probably kill one.
21
The Castle of Otranto – Horace Wadpole
What a dumb book. It was supposed to be a gothic
horror novel, but mostly it was just dramatic
and hilarious–people kept getting accidentally
fatally stabbed, or kidnapped by pirates, or
lost in secret tunnels, etc. Until the end! Ugh
the end was horrible. I suppose I’m glad I read
it, but I would never recommend it to anyone
ever.
22
The Furious Longing of God – Brennan Manning
Another one of those great I-knew-this-already-
but-what-a-splendid-reminder books. It was short
but for some reason it took me a really long
time to finish.
23
The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare – G.K.
Chesteron
I don’t really understand it any better now than
I did the last time I read it, but I did like
it. Still. I decided that the helpful thing
would be to find out from GKC exactly which part
of the story is the nightmare.
24
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-
Dominique Bauby
I read this in high school, but I saw the movie
a few weeks ago and decided I should own the
book. The writing is beautiful and it is mind-
blowing to think about writing a book by
blinking. It made me appreciate the things I
take for granted, like talking, laughing, moving
my limbs, etc.
25
Putting Amazing Back Into Grace – Michael Horton
As I was reading this book, I realized what a
reformed young lady I am not. A lot of the
things that were said really bothered me, and I
need to talk to someone who knows this stuff
well. But in addition to the things I didn’t
agree with, there were also things that I very
much did. I’m glad I read it.
26
Archy and Mehitabel – Don Marquis
A book of poetry written by a cockroach. What
could be better? I swung back and forth between
hating and loving this book. I hated Mehitabel,
the cat, she was obnoxious, and also the
illustrations were dumb. BUT for the most part I
loved this book. “the lesson of the moth” is a
timeless classic, and there were several other
poems that I liked almost as much.
SUMMER 2009 BOOKS
1
Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
The author writes about her experiences staying
in Italy, India, and Indonesia. For the most
part, I really really enjoyed this book. It had
a lot of happy friendly “slumber party” theology
(which is actually how the book itself referred
to it) and the ending was a bit of a letdown,
HOWEVER, it made me want to travel the world and
have grand adventures of self-discovery.
2
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-
Time – Mark Haddon
This one is told from the perspective of an
autistic boy investigating the death of a
neighbor’s dog. I have a vaguely positive
feeling about it, but I didn’t think it was as
great as everyone says it is. It was
interesting, held my attention, and has stuck
with me.
3
A Severe Mercy – Sheldon Vanauken
This book is definitely not ashamed of its
emotions. It’s about a couple’s romance,
conversion to Christianity, friendship with C.S.
Lewis, and life-shattering tragedy. I haven’t
decided yet if I LIKED it, but I definitely got
sucked in and started bawling (you may be able
to guess which part). It definitely gave me a
lot to think about, and I realized that several
people I know and love quote it frequently.
4
Reflections on the Psalms – C.S. Lewis
The title is pretty self-explanatory. I started
this one last summer and never got around to
finishing it. I think I enjoyed it, especially
the final few chapters.
5
Lilith – George MacDonald
I loved it the first time, and it was even
better the second time. It was still mostly over
my head, but I realized that that’s ok. I love
the whole book, but especially the beginning and
end.
BOOKS FROM THE 09/10 SCHOOL YEAR
1
Pilgrim’s Regress – C.S. Lewis
Maybe it was just talked up too much to me
before I read it, but I didn’t think it was as
great as I’ve always heard. Another problem is
that I don’t know enough about philosophy, so
huge chunks went flying over my head. I felt
like I was too dependent on the running headers
on each page that explained the allegory.
2
The Complete Fairy Tales – George MacDonald
A fun assortment of fairytales, of varying
degrees of humor and allegory and
stupendousness. For the most part I loved them.
The first and last ones were my very favorite.
3
The Loved One – Evelyn Waugh
A charming tale of a pet cemetery worker who
falls in love with a makeup girl at a funeral
home. It was hilarious, but in a very dark
ironic way, and I didn’t know if it was
appropriate to laugh.
4
No Greater Love – Mother Theresa
Very good. She wrote her thoughts on various
topics like forgiveness, suffering, love,
prayer, etc. I kept having to find paper to
write down good quotes.

For a while, I have been keeping track of the books I devour. This is to keep me from forgetting about them. This list is in reverse order and includes re-reads because they totally count. Let’s talk about books sometime!

RECENT READS

Bridge of Birds – Barry Hughart

Set in “an Ancient China that never was,” a young villager and an old wise man seek a cure for a plague. Their quest turns out to be more complicated, involving ghosts, evil dukes, monsters, tricky plots, ancient fairy tales, and suspicious coincidences. I’ve read this book several times, and love it more every time. Also it is hilarious.

Mystery and Manners – Flannery O’Connor

A witty and wise collection of essays and speeches by the fantastic Flannery. I would recommend this to anyone who likes to write and anyone who likes to read.

The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran

Before a prophet leaves his home, he leaves the townsfolk with some wise words to chew on. Some of them are good, but overall it seemed to me to be a pretentious book.

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

A child is born on the stroke of midnight the day India gets its independence, and his fate is inextricably linked to his nation. It’s a looong book, and I probably would have understood it better if I knew Indian/Pakistani/Bengali history… but MAN that guy knows how to tell a delightful story.

Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each ‘I’, every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.

Son of Laughter – Frederick Buechner

 

A retelling of the story of Jacob. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, and think maybe I missed something.

Miss Bossypants – Tina Fey

Tina Fey’s memoirs. It was pretty entertaining, although I probably would have gotten more out of it if I were in the TV/movie industry or if I had children.

Nonviolence – Mark Kurlansky

This is by the same guy who wrote that awesome salt book. This one was about nonviolence (hence the title), and was also delightful. The author is clearly biased though, which I guess could bother you if you are a fan of violence.

The Twenty-One Balloons – William Pene du Bois

A man sets off in a hot air balloon to travel around the world and has fabulous adventures involving diamonds! Volcanoes! Sophisticated islanders! Another favorite book from my childhood. Heartily recommended!

The Wish List – Eoin Colfer

A teenage girl dies and is unable to enter heaven or hell, since she has an equal amount of good and bad deeds. She is sent back to set things right. Obviously it had some really terrible theology, which I found irritating. I couldn’t get past that and did not think much of it.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E.L. Konigsburg

Two children run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and have adventures, including self-discovery. One of my favorite books of my childhood, and it lived up to my memories of it. So GOOD.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

The final book in the trilogy, the rebellion is in full force. The plot finally resolves, but not quite what I was expecting. Double the intrigue and double the violence.

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

Sequel to The Hunger Games; the government is putting pressure on the winners of the hunger games, and a rebellion is beginning. More fighting and intrigue! I liked it.

Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairytale – Frederick Buechner

I was instantly smitten by the title, and it lived up to my expectations. It helped me sort out some of the things I had been thinking about, and it was beautifully written.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

The premise of the book did not initially attract me much–24 teenagers are required to fight to the death as public entertainment in  a dystopian future America. It is dark and occasionally violent, but at a reasonable level for teens (and therefore for me) and extremely suspenseful. It ends on a cliffhanger, so consider having all the books of the trilogy handy before you start.

Soul Survivor – Philip Yancey

A story about a teenage girl growing up near the swamps of Indiana. She is perfect and good things happen to her. The end. I hated it, but I heartily enjoyed hating it.

Bonhoeffer – Metaxas

This was quite hefty, both in content and number of pages. It is a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who–if you are not aware–was a German pastor who was involved in the plot to kill Hitler. I had read some of his books, so it was enlightening to get more background on him. It gave me a lot to chew on; for example, the real role of the church, potential dangers of legalism, and the ethics behind assassinating someone. Read it so we can discuss these things.

City of Glass – Paul Auster

Speaking of books that went over my head, here’s another one. It starts out like a detective story, and builds up an interesting premise with a lot of intriguing questions, then leaves every single one of them unanswered. Frustrating. I think there are sequels, so maybe I’ll give those a shot. But probably won’t.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Kundera

A story about the relationship between a few Europeans. I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to explain. I was drawn to it because of the title. The book was beautifully written, but a significant amount of it went over my head. Also the characters’ morals were not admirable.

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes – Kenneth Bailey

A study of the gospels from a cultural perspective, written by a Westerner who lived in the Middle East for 60 years. He discusses episodes of Jesus’ life and looks at some of his sermons and parables, explaining the political and religious mindset of the times. I thought it was fascinating and heartily recommend it.

Home – Marilynne Robinson

A sequel of sorts to Gilead. It’s about another family in the town of Gilead, struggling with the return of their prodigal son. The book is not on the same level of genius as Gilead, but it is still marvelous, and ends on a hopeful note (which was a bit of a surprise to me).

Gilead – Marilynne Robinson

This was a reread from last summer, and I loved it even more this time, if that’s possible. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful book.

The Prodigal God – Tim Keller

An examination of the story of the prodigal son, focusing not only on the second son, but also the one who stays at home. It’s a great perspective-changer.

Don Quixote – Cervantes

Did not like! Ugh. It was so long and dumb. I’ve always enjoyed adaptations of this story, but I was disappointed in the original. The main character is less of a loveable dreamer and more of an arrogant, destructive lunatic. I see its value as a literary classic, but if you must read it, I recommend finding an abridged version.

A Third Testament – Malcolm Muggeridge

Short biographies on Augustine, Blaise Pascal, William Blake, Soren Kierkegaard, Leo Tolstoy, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It assumes you have a decent prior knowledge of each of these characters, which I did not necessarily have. Nevertheless, it was pretty good.

Five Children and It – E. Nesbit

A children’s book about five children who discover a psammead (sand fairy) in a sand pit, which grants them wishes. The children tend to speak before they think, which leads to hijinks aplenty. It was much funnier than I expected, and I really enjoyed it, although it did get a little instructive at times.

The Anthologist – Nicholson Baker

A novel about a poet trying to assemble and write an intro to an anthology, while meanwhile working through issues in his personal life. It took me quite a while to get into it, but once I did, I thought it was beautiful. Bonus – I learned and understood technical poetry terms!

I ask a simple question. I ask myself: What was the very best moment of the day? The wonder of it was, I told them, that this one question could lift out from my life exactly what I will want to write a poem about.

The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf – Gerald Morris

A girl goes to Camelot to seek help for her sister, who is being held captive in their castle. This was one of my favorite books in middle school, and I am happy to say I still consider it pretty great. It is funny and has a sweet ending.

Till We Have Faces – C.S. Lewis

A retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the perspective of Psyche’s oldest sister. In this story, the sister loves Psyche dearly, and the book is her complaint against the gods. I read it in high school, but I got much more out of it this time. So good! So many layers! So gospelly!

It was no ugly sound; even in its implacable sternness it was golden. My terror was the salute that mortal flesh gives to immortal things. And after–barely after–the strong soaring of its incomprehensible speech, came the sound of weeping. I think (if those old words have a meaning) my heart broke then.

When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

Twilight – Elie Wiesel

A novel about a Holocast survivor who interviews psychiatric patients who believe they are characters from the Bible. I enjoyed it. It left a lot of plot points unresolved, probably on purpose, but it was definitely thought-provoking.

Where are you, Pedro? If only you could stand beside me at this window. To look at this tree, this sky, to become one with them if only for a moment. When our eyes touch them, they become part of us and something infinitely precious is born. Now let the whole world be silent. As for you, madmen, come closer. Life does have meaning, and we shall seek it together.

Where was I before I was? Before, I was a bird, Ezra would say. Before, I was the chirping of a bird, my father would say. Before, I was the branch that supported the bird. I was the rustling of the wind in the leaves. I was the soul that intercepted the rustling and offered it, like a prayer, to the lost wanderer. Before? I was a prayer.

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

A collection of writings about life in Paris, published posthumously. If I were more familiar with Paris, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, or alcohol, I probably would have gotten more out of it. Even though it didn’t always hold my attention, I thought it was very beautifully written.

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

Bread of Angels – Stephanie Saldana

A woman spends a year in Syria as a Fulbright scholar, learning the language and culture. It’s a little like “Eat, Pray, Love,” but deeper, grittier, lovelier, thoughtfuler, and overall SO MUCH BETTER.

And now this, God becoming man, the timeless entering time. Which is worse, a God who remains distant, or a God who enters the world, a God who exists in war? A God who must now also be in anguish?

The Bridge of San Luis Rey – Thornton Wilder

A bridge collapses, killing five people, and a monk studies their lives in an attempt to find why this particular calamity happened to them. How had I never even heard of this book before??! I loved it. It is beautiful.

But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ouselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet – Madeleine L’Engle

A sequel to A Wrinkle in Time–the kids are all grown-up and saving the planet (nay, the universe) from nuclear war, with the help of time travel and a unicorn! I hadn’t read this in years, and I still loved it.

Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut

A classic about the bombing of Dresden, with some aliens thrown in. I loved the way the story was told. Chronology is overrated.

2010 READS

The Magician’s Elephant – Kate Decamarillo

A children’s book about a boy looking for his sister, a quest that is helped along by an elephant that fell through the opera house ceiling during a magic act. It was a surprisingly dark book, but I really enjoyed it.

Towing Jehovah – James Morrow

In this (fictional!) story, God dies and falls into the ocean. The dying angels put a priest and an oil tanker captain in charge of towing his body to the Arctic for burial. It was a good read, but not very satisfying; it kept raising questions and then abandoning them.

The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis

A bus carries a group of people from hell to heaven, where spirits try, with varying rates of success, to convince them to stay. SO GOOD! Last time I read it, I didn’t know what to expect, and the plot took me by surprise. This time I had more appreciation for the great things it had to say and the intriguing way it looks at the afterlife. Very thought-provoking.

The Weight of Glory – C.S. Lewis

What a spectacular book! It is a collection of sermons or papers by Lewis, and they are all wonderful. Each one felt like it was written specifically for me; every chapter addressed something I had been thinking about, and I ended up with a surplus of food for thought.

Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller

I had trouble getting into it at first and was slightly irritated at his apparent lack of respect for doctrine. Once I got into it though, I wanted to underline every sentence. It’s a little basic, but sometimes (usually) that’s what I need.

Orlando – Virginia Woolf

The story opens on a young man in Elizabethan England and by the time it ends, (s)he is now a 30-something year old woman in England in the 1930’s. The story is quite odd (obviously), but it’s told so beautifully! I loved it. My favorite was her romance with Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, Esquire, for reasons that I would love to discuss with anyone who has read it.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

Loveable misfit children searching space for their father. There’s a reason why this book is a timeless classic–it’s so good! And yes, there is such thing as a tesseract.

St. Francis of Assisi – G.K. Chesterton

I enjoyed it, but I was disappointed that GKC assumed I had already heard all the fun little stories about St. Francis and the woodland creatures, which I guess is what I was hoping this book would be. Instead it examines the significance of a few events in his life. Also, it seems like it is trying to refute specific arguments (do people argue a lot about St. Francis? Apparently) by pointing out contradictions. If it sounds like I disliked the book, it’s mostly because I had reeally high hopes for a book about a fascinating person by one of my favorite authors. It was good.

Radical – David Platt

The subtitle on this one is something about “taking back your faith from the American Dream,” and since I’ve been reconsidering the American Dream for a while now, that’s what originally intrigued me. Everyone should read this! It does a great job of explaining what the gospel is and why our response to it should be so radical.

Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges

Short stories by an Argentinean author. Some I liked more than others, but they all made me think, and some of them gave me goosebumps. I like how interconnected his stories are; there are some very interesting themes running through them.

In Praise of English – Joseph T. Shipley

I saw this on the library shelf and it caught my eye because I’m a nerd. I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters on the history of English and word formation, but had trouble pushing through the rest of the book, which was more about the literary abilities of English. Still, the writing style was engaging and it felt like the author had a lot of fun writing it. And any book that quotes Chesterton has to be a good one.

The Doubtful Guest – Edward Gorey

This book is probably about ten pages long, but hey, it still counts as a book. It tells the (rhyming) tale of an odd creature in sneakers that comes to live in a family’s house, wreaking havoc on the household. It is hilariously odd, with a pinch of creepiness. The illustrations are my favorite; everyone looks so dramatic.

The Everlasting Man – G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton talks about humanity’s history and search for God through mythology and philosophy, and how those needs and desires are met and exceeded in Christ and Christianity. It’s a little long, but fascinating, witty, deep, and I think everyone should read it. Start with Orthodoxy, but make sure you get around to reading this one too.

The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis

I started this a long long while ago and was scared to get back into it. It’s kind of a downer. Or so I thought. What a great book! The tagline on the cover is “How human suffering raises almost intolerable intellectual problems,” which is quite intimidating. But Lewis does an amazing job of tackling these intolerable intellectual problems in a way that is both profound and easy to understand. I recommend this book to the entire world.

The Zahir – Paulo Coelho

A writer’s quest to find his missing wife leads him on a journey of self-discovery. There’s a lot of nonsense about divine energy and love and the universe and basically I was not impressed.

The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie

I have no idea where to even begin describing this book. It opens with two Indian men falling out of a plane over the English Channel, and follows the wild changes their lives take after this event (one changes into a devil and the other into an angel). It’s pretty strange. This book made a significant portion of the world furious with Rushdie, and I can see why it was so offensive. On the other hand, he is an amazing storyteller, and the story itself is pretty impressive. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but I enjoyed it.

The Final Solution – Michael Chabon

During WWII, an elderly English detective takes on a case of a missing parrot (there is also a murder involved, but that seems to be secondary). The parrot, which belongs to a little Jewish refugee boy, sings strings of numbers in German that are suspected to be secret Nazi codes. Short and sweet.

The Island of the Day Before – Umberto Eco

I enjoyed the premise of the book, which is too complicated to even summarize well, but it involved spies, shipwrecks, the mystery of longitude, timezones, the moons of Jupiter, an orange dove, an imaginary evil brother, the Flood, and unrequited love. That said, it was SO STINKIN UNNECESSARILY long. If it had been a sixth of the length, it would probably be one of my favorite books.

Finding Nouf – Zoe Ferraris

A murder mystery that takes place in contemporary Saudi Arabia. It’s a complex and (to me) unfamiliar culture, so that was intriguing.

Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton

The last time I read this book, I don’t think I fully grasped its greatness. It is basically GKC’s intellectual journey toward Christ–he describes how he gradually plotted out a worldview based on his instinctive convictions and discovered that it was Christianity. I LOVE this book. It is hilarious, sharp, thought-provoking, and sincere, and I want to hug it.

The Unlikely Disciple – Kevin Roose

A college student transfers to Liberty University for a semester, a super conservative college. I thought it was very well written for the author being such a youngster, and it was also enlightening to see the Christian culture described by someone who finds it so foreign. Basically it’s like a study-abroad experience for him. I liked it.

The End is Now – Rob Stennett

A small Kansas town is confronted with signs that the rapture is approaching, but only for them. The plot was predictable and the writing style was conversational (which is not how books should be written), but I still enjoyed reading it.

The Unburied – Charles Palliser

Another one of those murder mysteries that take place in the academic world. It seemed needlessly complex, and I had a lot of trouble trying to get into the story. There were a lot of unlikeable characters and predictable plot twists, but it was still intriguing. I’m still trying to put together the puzzle pieces from the nonpredictable parts.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs – Chuck Klosterman

The subtitle is “A Low Culture Manifesto,” and it’s a series of essays on miscellaneous aspects of American culture. It swings back and forth between disturbing (for so many reasons) and completely HILARIOUS. I would also describe it as thought-provoking, although the author seems to think his opinions on everything are universal. I think my favorite chapters were the ones on fake love, The Sims, and the Left Behind series. Also the interlude on cats and socks.

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino

This one is difficult to describe. There are about ten opening chapters to different novels, which abruptly break off, interspersed with another story about the person trying to read these novels. Beginnings of books have always been my favorite, so I immensely enjoyed this style. As I was reading it, I couldn’t imagine that the end could possibly be satisfying, but it definitely was. What a strange, evasive book with trapdoors in it everywhere. It was the best book about books I have ever ever read.

Trilby – George du Maurier

Three bohemian friends in Paris and their relationship with an Irish washerwoman named Trilby and the German pianist Svengali who hypnotizes her. A melodramatic, slow-moving book, and preachy and sentimental at times, but good.

Tales of Moonlight and Rain – Ueda Akinari

A collection of Japanese ghost stories. I think it’s somewhat important in the world of Japanese literature, but thanks to cultural differences, my appreciation of the stories was somewhat lacking. I hesitate to use the word “dumb,” so I’ll just say that I didn’t enjoy it so much.

Clockwork – Phillip Pullman

A children’s story about the figures in a German village’s clock. It’s a quick read, and very very dark! Lots of murder and machinery and talk of fate. I enjoyed it though, and it seems like a story that I would have enjoyed when I was a youngun too.

How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read – Pierre Bayard

I hated it. It didn’t really have much to say, and the things it didn’t say, I disagreed with. As the title suggests, there was no point in my reading it.

Night – Elie Weisel

This is one of the most famous books on the Holocaust, but I hadn’t read it before. Man, it’s a doozie. I kept crying while I was reading it, usually in public. After I finished it, I started at a wall for almost an hour. That said, it is a wonderful book and everyone should read it.

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

A pop-psychology book about intuition and hunches and when you should and shouldn’t pay attention to them. Some of the points the author made seemed contradictory to me, but overall I found it intriguing.

Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson

I have been hearing good things about this book for a while now, and I must admit it is pretty good. It’s the story of how Mortenson built dozens of schools in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan. The tone of the book was grating to me (it was very worshipful of Mortenson), but the story itself is amazing and inspiring.

Momento Mori – Muriel Spark

A group of elderly Londoners try to figure out who the mysterious person is who keeps calling them to say, “Remember you must die.” This plot point intrigued me, but mostly the story followed their social drama instead. And that did not intrigue me. I didn’t like it much.

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

The intertwining stories of a 15 year-old runaway under an Oedipal curse and an old man with the ability to talk to cats. Suspenseful and puzzling and philosophical and dreamlike. For the most part I enjoyed it.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

An intriguing tale of the events leading up to and the hubbub following a murder on a college campus. The characters are members of a tightly-knit Ancient Greek class, and some of the conversations they had among themselves sounded like things my friends would say. I enjoyed getting sucked into the plot. Good good.

Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer discusses what Christian community should look like. I was looking forward to reading this, and I was a little disappointed. A lot of it seemed to be his personal opinion presented as fact. However, since community is something I’ve been ponderously pondering lately, I’m glad I got his perspective on it.

Gilead – Marilynne Robinson

It is written as a preacher’s memoir/letter to his young son, which I realize is not really an enticing description. There is not much of a plot, it is just a slow-moving, graceful book that is sometimes funny and sometimes sad. It is well-written and I thought it was amazing. AMAZING, I say. It gave me a lot to think about, and I think I could read it over and over and get something new from it every time.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich – Leo Tolstoy

The title describes the plot quite well – it’s the story of a man’s trajectory toward death, and his physical, emotional, and spiritual state along the way. I don’t think I’m giving anything away to tell you that he dies in the end. A painful read but so good!

The Ball and the Cross – G.K. Chesterton

A Catholic and an atheist keep trying to duel each other but encounter difficulties. When I first started reading this, I hated it and felt like it was too smug for its own good, but as the story went on, I started to reeeaally enjoy it. It’s somewhat similar to “The Man Who Was Thursday,” and equally rereadable.

The Moon Pool – Abraham Merritt

A science-fiction story published right after WWI about a scientist who goes looking for a mysteriously disappeared friend. It’s basically a cheesy fantasy story with longwinded faux-scientific “explanations” for the far-fetched parts. I hated it, but I enjoyed hating it. Don’t bother reading it.

The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck

An epic story about a farmer and his family in early 1900s China. It was amazing! How have I not read it before? I got sucked into the plot with all its ups and downs and complex characters. There’s a lot to be taken away from this book. It’s slow-moving but wonderful.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke

A reread, and what a splendid reread it was! It’s a (quite long) story about two English magicians during the Napoleonic wars, trying to revive the glory days of English magic. It’s like the darker, colder version of Harry Potter, but it’s still fun. I picked up on a lot more this time around, and enjoyed it immensely.

The Reason for God – Timothy Keller

A well-thought out and well-presented apologetics book. The first half answers common complaints against Christianity, and the second half explains why Christianity makes sense. Obviously its not completely unbiased, but it is still a very fair in its treatment of the different perspectives. I heartily recommend this for everyone, no matter where you currently are in your faith or whether you have any.

Misquoting Jesus – Bart Ehrman

A very interesting book about textual criticism of the New Testament. The author is a former Christian who obviously has a bone to pick with Christianity, and his one-sided perspective got a little tedious at times. Still, it was very thought-provoking and I learned a lot.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

How is this book so amazing??? It is so uplifting. And no, that is not codeword for “depressing.” It is sometimes sad, but never depressing. If you are unfamiliar with this masterpiece, it is written by an Austrian psychiatrist who survived the concentration camps. He has some good things to say about suffering, love, humanity, and the meaning of life. READ IT.

The Human Zoo – Desmond Morris

A look at humanity from a biologist’s perspective. I enjoyed it to some extent, but it was SO objective that I thought my head would explode. It basically says that everything a human does can be explained through biology, and makes a lot of comparisons to things that gorillas do. Interesting yes, but I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone.

A Geography of Time – Levine

I read this one for a class, and it does a good job of removing you from what you think is normal and showing how differently various cultures perceive time. You would be surprised how refreshing that perspective-change feels. I heartily recommend this book, especially if you are a stickler for punctuality or just spend a lot of time with people from other cultures.

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I posit that this is the BEST NOVEL EVER WRITTEN. I’ve always heard that redemption is what makes a story good, and this book is dripping with redemption. I get so attached to the characters. The way the story revolves around the interactions of three or four families is probably unrealistic but all the interconnectedness makes for a good plot. Plus, Javert is the best antagonist ever! And oh the epicness that ensues when grace and justice clash near the end. Also, Hugo is an amazing writer. I love this book dearly and could talk about it till the moon falls into the earth and makes a crater and we all fall in. But I’ll stop there.

The Hidden Dimension – Edward T. Hall

Also for class, of course. I enjoyed it a lot though! Overall it’s a discussion of proxemics, which is the study of distance or something, but I think it would be enlightening for anyone interested in American culture, anyone else’s culture, art, interpersonal communication, architecture, cities, city planning, Norwegian rats, etc. It might take some patience but has a lot of important things to say.

Cratylus – Plato

This one was research for my senior essay. It consists of Hermogenes, Socrates, and Cratylus debating what makes a name good or bad. It’s a very logical dialog, so easy to follow, and they say polite things like, “That’s elegant, Socrates!” Basically, don’t read it unless you are interested in Ancient Greek word games or the philosophy of language.

China Road – Rob Gifford

I read this for class. The author, a British correspondent for NPR (or something) traveled across China on Route 312, the Chinese equivalent of Route 66. It is extremely interesting and well-written, and a good way to learn about China’s past, present, and future, and peek into the lives of the people. I heartily recommend this to everyone! Also it has beautiful shiny pages of pictures.

Muslims, Christians, and Jesus – Carl Madearis

This book summarizes the beliefs of Islam, and does a really good job of putting that in perspective with the gospel. It focuses on finding common ground in the person of Jesus Christ rather than trying to win converts. Several of the points seemed applicable to life in general as a Christian, not just living among Muslims.

Peter & Max – Bill Willingham

Basically a retelling of the Pied Piper story, but more dramatic and violent than you have ever heard it before, and with appearances by assorted other fairytale characters. It’s a spinoff novel of a comic book series called “Fables,” and I did fine not having read that. I enjoyed it for the most part.

This is Your Brain on Music – Daniel Levitin

A very interesting look at the connection between our brains and music – why humans have emotional reactions to certain music, etc. For such a sciencey book, it was an easy read, and there were many moments where I would gasp in shock at some amazing little factoid.

Unaccustomed Earth – Jhumpa Lahiri

A collection of short stories that are all somehow related to the generation/culture gap between Bengali parents and their American-raised children. This is a pretty big thing for all the stories to have in common, and I thought it made all of the characters and plots run together. I don’t know, maybe they were supposed to. It was ok.

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

This one takes the cake for Most Complex Plot Ever. It’s a Sherlock Holmes-style murder mystery that takes place in an abbey in 1327 Italy, with all kinds of shenanigans taking place simultaneously – theological and political issues dividing the Church, the Inquisition, heresy, the seven trumpets of Revelations and possible coming of the Antichrist, power struggles among the monks, etc. The ending was kind of a letdown, but in a spectacular way. I enjoyed it but found it long and hard to read and occasionally understand. Someday I hope to read it again, but not before researching church sects and learning Latin.

2009 READS

Pedro Paramo – Juan Rulfo

Hmm. I thought it was pretty much amazing, but I don’t think I really GOT it. I’ll have to read it again. I loved the way it jumped around in time and perspective and tense and you’re still able to (mostly) understand the story (which is surreal and pretty good but seemed very incomplete to me).

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon

This one is a murder mystery that takes place in Alaska, in a Jewish city that was set up after the nation of Israel failed (which, just to clarify, it didn’t; this is one of those alternate history deals). I very much enjoyed this premise and the conspiracy they uncover, and the sprinklings of Yiddish and Hebrew. Other than that, it wasn’t great, and the film noir writing style irritated me.

One Door Away From Heaven – Dean Koontz

Aliens and suspense! I couldn’t put this book down. However. I didn’t like it too much. It was too much like reading a movie–the witty banter, the depiction of women, the explosions, the tidy ending, etc.

Out of the Silent Planet – C.S. Lewis

I read this one long ago, when I was a youngun, and I appreciated it a lot more this time. It’s a science-fiction story about a man (who is a linguist! Woohoo!) who travels to Mars, so it’s good as far as stories go, but it also makes a lot of interesting points about human depravity.

Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones

A fairytale about a girl who gets enchanted and has to break spells on other people before hers is broken. It had an engaging plot, but after I finished it I realized I didn’t like it much. It was cheesey and tried to hard to be complex.

Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

WOW. This book is epic. It’s about a wealthy English Catholic family and their interactions with a young man. Up until the end, I thought it was about sin, but surprise! It’s about grace. I liked it A LOT. I can’t imagine recommending it to anyone, but I thought it was amazing.

That’s Not What I Meant – Deborah Tannen

This was a requirement for a class, and I ended up being intrigued. It’s written by a linguist about semantics and conversational style, and I wish I had read it long ago. I always assumed that my communication style was the same as everyone else, but alas, it is not so! Oh, the heartache that could have been prevented if I had read this earlier.

No Greater Love – Mother Theresa

Very good. She wrote her thoughts on various topics like forgiveness, suffering, love, prayer, etc. I kept having to find paper to write down good quotes.

The Loved One – Evelyn Waugh

A charming tale of a pet cemetery worker who falls in love with a makeup girl at a funeral home. It was hilarious, but in a very dark ironic way, and I was never sure if it was appropriate to laugh.

The Complete Fairy Tales – George MacDonald

A fun assortment of fairytales, of varying degrees of humor and allegory and stupendousness. For the most part I loved them. The first and last ones were my very favorite.

Pilgrim’s Regress – C.S. Lewis

Maybe it was just talked up too much to me before I read it, but I didn’t think it was as great as I’ve always heard. Another problem is that I don’t know enough about philosophy, so huge chunks went flying over my head. I felt like I was too dependent on the running headers on each page that explained the allegory.

Lilith – George MacDonald

I loved it the first time, and it was even better the second time. It was still mostly over my head, but I realized that that’s ok. I love the whole book, but especially the beginning and end.

Reflections on the Psalms – C.S. Lewis

The title is pretty self-explanatory. I started this one last summer and never got around to finishing it. I think I enjoyed it, especially the final few chapters.

A Severe Mercy – Sheldon Vanauken

This book is definitely not ashamed of its emotions. It’s about a couple’s romance, conversion to Christianity, friendship with C.S. Lewis, and life-shattering tragedy. I haven’t decided yet if I LIKED it, but I definitely got sucked in and started bawling (you may be able to guess which part). It definitely gave me a lot to think about, and I realized that several people I know and love quote it frequently.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

This one is told from the perspective of an autistic boy investigating the death of a neighbor’s dog. I have a vaguely positive feeling about it, but I didn’t think it was as great as everyone says it is. It was interesting, held my attention, and has stuck with me.

Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

The author writes about her experiences staying in Italy, India, and Indonesia. For the most part, I really really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of happy friendly “slumber party” theology (which is actually how the book itself referred to it) and the ending was a bit of a letdown, HOWEVER, it made me want to travel the world and have grand adventures of self-discovery.

Archy and Mehitabel – Don Marquis

A book of poetry written by a cockroach. What could be better? I swung back and forth between hating and loving  it. I hated Mehitabel, the cat, she was obnoxious, and also the illustrations were dumb. BUT for the most part I loved this book. “the lesson of the moth” is a timeless classic, and there were several other poems that I liked almost as much.

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace – Michael Horton

As I was reading this book, I realized what a reformed young lady I am not. A lot of the things that were said really bothered me, and I need to talk to someone who knows this stuff well. But in addition to the things I didn’t agree with, there were also things that I very much did. I’m glad I read it.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby

I read this in high school, but I saw the movie a few weeks ago and decided I should own the book. The writing is beautiful and it is mind-blowing to think about writing a book by blinking. It made me appreciate the things I take for granted, like talking, laughing, moving my limbs, etc.

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare – G.K. Chesteron

I don’t really understand it any better now than I did the last time I read it, but I did like it. Still. I decided that the helpful thing would be to find out from GKC exactly which part of the story is the nightmare.

The Furious Longing of God – Brennan Manning

Another one of those great I-knew-this-already-but-what-a-splendid-reminder books. It was short but for some reason it took me a really long time to finish.

The Castle of Otranto – Horace Wadpole

What a dumb book. It was supposed to be a gothic horror novel, but mostly it was just dramatic and hilarious–people kept getting accidentally fatally stabbed, or kidnapped by pirates, or lost in secret tunnels, etc. Until the end! Ugh the end was horrible. I suppose I’m glad I read it, but I would never recommend it to anyone ever.

Dracula – Bram Stoker

So full of plot holes and dodgy theology, yet so fun to read! Apparently there are SO MANY rules you have to follow if you’re a vampire. Now that I know what they are I could probably kill one.

2008 READS

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

The whole time I was reading it, I kept wondering why it’s a classic. But when I finished it IT MADE SENSE. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why. But I enjoyed it. It was epic.

The Princess and Curdie – George MacDonald
Why would anyone ever end a book like that?? It definitely ended any expectations I may have had that there would be a threequel. Other than that, it was fairly good. It was entertaining but I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone.
Exodus – Leon Uris
GAH what an unsatisfying ending! The rest of it was good though. I really enjoyed all the historical background on the creation of the state of Israel and thought it was fascinating, although sometimes it got bogged down with stuff like character development and romance and stuff. Sheesh.
Bruchko – Bruce Olson

An American guy goes to the Amazon as a missionary. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. God does cool things.

A Hero Of Our Time – Mikhail Lermontov

This one I also loved (didn’t cry at the end though. ha.) It’s an old Russian classic and it’s a rolicking good time. It was full of plot holes but fun and fascinating to read. Villains (assuming that’s what the main character is) have always intrigued me.

The Little Prince – Antoine St. Exupery

Another re-read (like the twelve billionth time) but it just gets better and better. It should be required reading for the WHOLE WORLD.

Villette – Charlotte Bronte

Good heavens. I absolutely loved this book. I identified with the main character a lot more than I probably should have, and was extremely involved emotionally at the end of it. I bawled when I finished (it was pretty bad, I was at work). This is not one I would expect someone else to like, but I thought it was wonderfullll….

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

A story about a missionary family that goes to Africa, told from the perspective of the women in the family. How in the world did I go so long without reading this? It was AWESOME. Obviously not a feel-good read, but interesting and epic and tragic and sometimes kinda funny… I did cry near the end, so you know it’s good.

Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie

This is yet another re-read. I actually finished it ten minutes before the end of summer, so it was kind of close. This book is wonderful wonderful. It goes back and forth between being hilarious and a little bit heartbreaking, which I guess can be said of most of the books I like.

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

I had never read the whole thing before, and I have to say I loved it. Still, it was very analogy-driven, which was helpful when he was clarifying a concept, but I don’t think they can always be used as proof for an argument. I enjoyed it anyway of course.

The 13 Clocks – James Thurber

This was a re-read, but no matter how many times I read it, I think it will always be my favorite children’s book. The villain is so villainy, and the prince is so princely, and the Golux is so Goluxy.

Dear American Airlines – Jonathan Miles

I was pleasantly surprised. It was sad and hilarious at the same time, and the main character was so well-developed I have to wonder it it’s a bit autobiographical (in which case I would be a little concerned about the mental wellbeing of the author).

The Bondage of the Will – Martin Luther

This one wins the most-frustrating-book-of-the-summer award. It took me months to read, and caused me great emotional turmoil. I haven’t decided if I agree with Luther yet, but I did decide he is a rather belligerent character. I feel like I need to talk this one over with someobody.

A History of God – Karen Armstrong

Oh, the things I could say about this book… When the author stuck to facts, it was extremely interesting and thought provoking. BUT then she started throwing in her own conclusions, which were often questionable. The main problem of the book, which you can just see from the title, is that it is a very hefty topic, and however you try and address it, you end up limiting God with your little human brain.

The Silent Gondeliers – William Goldman

I was SO disappointed. I was expecting a nice little fairytale (it’s by the same guy who wrote “The Princess Bride”) but it had no wit or plot or wonder or anything… I read it in an hour though, so I did get some self-satisfaction from that. haha.

Surprised By Joy – C.S. Lewis

Happy sigh. This is Lewis’ autobiography and I loved it. I knew the outcome (he becomes a Christian; we all know that…) but it’s amazing what all led up to it. And I think C.S. Lewis is one of few writers that I would really enjoy talking to.

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Marquez

This book follows a family through several generations as history repeats itself over and over. There was not a wide variety of names used for a large variety of characters, which got confusing. I enjoyed it but don’t understand why it’s a classic.

The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

A fantasy story (I guess?) about characters in novels interacting with each other, but it tried too hard and ended up not being very fantastical. It seemed like it had such good potential… the idea of a villain kidnapping literary characters sounded ok, but it just ended up sucking the joy out of literature.

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

It made me feel insane and like I deserve a medal just for being female.

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

I always thought that there were some things, like logic and chronology, that were absolutely essential to telling a story, but apparently not. Absurdist and strange but absolutely amaaaziiing…

The Secret of Father Brown – G.K. Chesterton

Although the premise was a little intriguing (a mystery-solving Catholic priest), the stories were not. It did make some unexpectedly interesting points about sin and human nature though.

The Discovery of Heaven – Harry Mulisch

Wacky theology, reeeally long, and had several detailed descriptions of things I did not want to read about. But once I got past that, I really enjoyed it. It had a very interesting and complex plot (as far as I can tell, it’s about a scheme that the angels think up so they can get the Ten Commandments back), and I plan on reading it again sometime to pick up the billion things I missed the first time.

The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver

I enjoyed it a lot. It’s about a lady who ends up adopting an abandoned little girl and the adventures they have together. After that salt book, it was pretty light reading and had a wider range of characters. It was funny, cute, and kind of sad at the end. (The narrator dies. Haha, kidding.)

The Voyage of the Dawn-Treader – C.S. Lewis

This one has always been my favorite chronicle of Narnia. It’s the one where the kids go sailing through the islands with Caspian. It was still pretty wonderful the sixtieth time around, but I kept wondering how they’re going to turn it into a movie. They’d better not ruin it. Grr.

Because They Hate – Brigitte Gabriel

A Lebanese Christian writing about her experiences during the Lebanan war and her views on Islam. I loved the autobiography part of the book, and I think she should have left it at that. It would have had the same impact and not been so in-your-American-face. If it had been written by someone else, who didn’t have her background, it would have been way over the top.

Prince Caspian – C.S. Lewis

Return to Narniaaa! I had been dying to read this one again, but I had to wait until after I saw the movie. Never read the book right before seeing the movie.

Salt: A World History – Mark Kurlansky

The history of the whole world, based on salt! Wish I had thought of that. It varied between being extremely interesting and a little dull (an inexplicably long digression on the herring industry) but mostly erred on the side of awesome. And now I’m obsessed with salt. I’ve always known it was delicious, who knew it could be so fascinating?

The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

Short and sweet. I had watched the actual lecture on the internet already, but I would say the book is better. Also sadder. And a little bit overrated.

The Year of Living Biblically – A.J. Jacobs

Possibly the first book I’ve read that is about religion but not written by a Christian. It was interesting to read an agnostic’s thoughts on all the laws in the Bible, which he followed closely for a year. Not something I plan on doing / being able to do / needing to do, but still really thought-provoking.

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare – G.K. Chesterton

It starts out like a spy novel, and ends with some really strange theological (?) stuff that I am still chewing on. It’s a pretty short book, but is witty, quotable, and plot-twisty. It almost gave me a crippling fear of anarchists, but left it a little hazy on whether or not these anarchists actually exist…

The Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne

Quite wonderful! It was not really a feel-good read, but definitely a necessary read. I recommend.

The Thurber Album – James Thurber

Vaguely boring, but in a good way. I did not like how the ends of chapters always tied everything in cheesy tidy little bows, but I forgive him because he’s Thurber. The chapter about his mom was the best.

The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky

So loooong!! A lot of the time I didn’t understand why characters were doing what they were doing, but I loved them anyway and enjoyed questioning their motives. Apparently that is a Dostoevsky trademark. I think I might like living in a Russian novel.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but it ended up being absolutely outstanding. Frankl writes about his experiences at Auchwitz and how they fit in with his life philosophy. I would recommend it to anyone at all. I don’t usually enjoy psychology/philosophy type books, but this one was very insightful and tied in with a lot of things I’ve been thinking about lately.

Hind’s Feet On High Places – Hannah Hurnard

A Pilgrim’s Progress-type allegory. Incredibly cheesey, but once I learned to embrace the cheese, I loved it. I wouldn’t call it a work of staggering literary genius, but I now understand why so many people dearly love this book.

The Ragamuffin Gospel – Brennan Manning

Nothing I didn’t know before I read it, but it was an absolutely stupendous reminder of how much God loves us.

The Bell Tower – Herman Melville

This doesn’t count as an actual book, more of a short story, but still. I’m not sure how I feel about it. It was frustratingly ambiguous but delectably dark (which is a good thing, and delectably may not be a word). It had some good things to say about pride and whatnot, but mostly I’m not sure what the point of the story was.

A Handful of Dust – Evelyn Waugh

Very very odd odd book, not what I was expecting. It was a weird cross between Heart of Darkness, Saki, and O. Henry. It was funny, tragic, and odd. I haven’t decided what I think of it yet–there’s a fine line between “liked it” and “what in the world did I just read.” I heard that the last chapter was written first, and the rest of the book was written to explain how a person could get in that situation.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

I’m not sure how I got away with not reading this till now. I enjoyed it, but it was very painful right up to the last page. Everything I’ve read about it compared it to a nightmare, which seems accurate to me..

Magic: A Fantastic Comedy – G.K. Chesterton

This was a play about a magician, and it was pretty short. I think it took me about an hour to read. The dialogue was good, but the plot was cheesy. Which is something I’m kind of beginning to expect from good old GKC. It wasn’t as magical or fantastic or comedic as the title would lead you to believe.

Orthodoxy – G.K. ChestertonOnce I got into it, it was fabulous. I couldn’t follow all of the Chestertonlogic, but I still feel like I got a lot out of it. It was very different from Christian books I’ve read before–instead of starting with Christ and working his way on to Christian doctrine, he went the other way around. Quite fascinating and I and will be pondering it for quite a while.
Advertisements