What I’m Reading

Any day in which one needs a nap before noon is probably not going to be remarkably productive.

I had great plans for my day today. I knew that I had to help Tiger with a school fundraiser in the morning, but after that, I intended to work in the yard and clean my house. And now, it’s noon, and I haven’t accomplished much except the fundraiser. Well, and a nap.

So while the day is still young, and I may yet find the gumption to put on some grubby clothes and work in my yard, it may also just turn into a reading and knitting day.

I logged onto Goodreads today to see where I am in my reading challenge and realized that I have actually finished 10 books so far this year. This is quite an amazing thing, I think. My goal is to read 75 books this year, but I don’t know–looking at my upcoming schedule and considering the kinds of things I read, it seems a rather lofty goal! I am inspired, however, by my recent reading of Decision Points, by George W. Bush. Not only is President Bush quite a prodigious reader, but he also frequently mentions books that influenced him. So, while I certainly didn’t need to add anything to my reading list, I did manage to put about four more books on my Goodreads “To Read” shelf just by finishing Decision Points.

It may interest some to know how I choose what I’ll read next. I attempt to mix up my non-fiction and fiction endeavors so that I can approach things with a “clean palate,” so to speak. Within my fiction/non-fiction reading, I’ll try to vary my genres, too, so that I’m not reading history after history or fantasy after fantasy. Part of this is to avoid getting bored with any one thing, but part of it is also to attempt to approach everything with a fresh eye.

So in honor of my first couple of months of reading for 2014, here’s what I’ve managed to get through so far this year:

Literary and General Fiction

Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell: I’ve read this book many, many times in my youth, but one of my girls had checked it out from the library, and I saw it sitting on the shelf, so I indulged again one evening when I just needed something comforting and entertaining. It was as wonderful as the first time I read it. Five stars.

Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin: I realized I never finished my review of this book on my Goodreads shelf. I’m still not sure, to be candid. It’s a very good story, but I feel like perhaps I missed a lot due to lacking cultural context. Four stars, though, because the writing is very good.

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros: A beautifully lyric, deeply symbolic series of vignettes. Lovely writing; this book reminded me why I love writers of Latino heritage. There is something really poetic about the way they use language. Four stars.

A Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell: Another case of missing a lot due to lacking cultural context, I think. This is the first in a massive saga of four books; each of the four contains three novels in itself. I will not be reading the next three (nine) books right now. While there were places where I laughed aloud, and while I did enjoy the picture of Britain between the two world wars, I just felt like I was missing a lot. The books did get bogged down in extensive descriptive passages, too, which I think may be a particular trait of British authors. Three stars.

A Death in the Family, by James Agee: A wonderful story that captures a family in the aftermath of a sudden death. So many beautiful, evocative passages in this book. My only criticism would be that in places, the writing veers more toward stream of consciousness, which is not really my preference. Still, I do highly recommend this one, if for no other reason that its brilliant representation of faith and how people of differing views deal with grief. Five stars.

History/Biography

Decision Points, by George W. Bush: I really enjoyed this book. It’s very well-written; it captures President Bush’s warmth, character, and humor so well that one can almost hear him narrating this book. It’s clear that, while one can disagree with the decisions Bush made during his presidency, he certainly approached each one thoughtfully and deliberately. And I respect him immensely for being charitable and gracious to his political opponents. Five stars.

Theology, Doctrine, and Christian Living

The Lost Virtue of Happiness, by J. P. Moreland and Klaus Issler: I wrote a bit on the blog when I first finished this one, but it’s worth noting that I found this book very enlightening and challenging. I did not care for the exercises at the end of each chapter, but overall, the book provided much good food for thought. Four stars.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton: Overflowing with joy and excitement, this book is a must-read for followers of Christ, if only to remind us of how deeply joyous our journey with Him should be! Chesterton’s witty, occasionally rambling style only serves to add personality to one man’s journey of faith. Five stars.

The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis: I think every follower of Christ should spend a great deal of time reading Lewis. I know some strict evangelicals are particularly troubled by his leanings toward universalism, but I think much too much is made of those troubling places in his writings. His theology is still deeply classical, and his clarity of thought is worth studying to give us all a clear picture of how we should approach apologetics. While The Problem of Pain isn’t quite as easy or accessible as Mere Christianity, it’s still a must-read. Five stars.

Fantasy/Science Fiction

Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King: When I finished this one, I just sat back, wiped my eyes, and whispered, “wow.” What a ride! King has a remarkable ability to take the reader on a breathless journey of epic proportions without losing sight of his ultimate plot or goals. This book is heart-breaking and beautiful and exciting all at once. Five stars.

Next up: I intend to finish Cold Case Christianity, by J. Warner Wallace, and then I’ll be moving on in the Dark Tower series with Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King. I also intend to fit J. C. Cassels’ Sovran’s Pawn in there somewhere, as well as keep plugging away at The Federalist Papers. I’m basically reading The Federalist Papers a bit at a time–one every couple of days or whenever I get a few minutes to really process the ideas within them. It’s slow going there–I’m just not the intellectual giant that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were! My next biography will likely be Ike: An American Hero, by Michael Korda. I picked it up for $1.50 at Salvation Army one day, so as long as it’s taking up space on my shelf, I may as well read it!

If you are on Goodreads, I’d love for you to connect with me there. If you aren’t on Goodreads, I highly recommend it. Once you’ve rated enough books, the site will make recommendations based on your ratings. I love the Goodreads app on my phone, too–it has a scanning feature that has proven invaluable when I see books I want to read. I can scan the barcode in the library or bookstore and add the right version to the appropriate shelf on Goodreads.

With that, I suppose it’s time to pull on my work boots and pull some more blackberry brambles . . . Or maybe just pick up my Kindle and curl up in my chair . . .

Till next we meet . . .

J M

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