Reminder: Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

Just a reminder that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge starts here a week from tomorrow on Feb. 1! More information and an extended book list is here (you don’t have to choose a book from the list: it’s just there for suggestions).

I’ll have a post here next Thursday where you can sign up to let us know you are participating and what you plan to read. I’m looking forward to seeing what your choices are!

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Book Review: The Man Who Was Thursday

ThursdayIn The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton, Gabriel Syme and Lucian Gregory both profess to be poets, but they argue publicly about the nature of poetry and anarchy, Gregory leaning toward anarchy and Syme a “poet of law, a poet of order; nay, … a poet of respectability.” Privately Gregory confesses that he really is an anarchist, and to prove it, he wants to take Syme to a meeting of a council of anarchists. Seven men make up the council, each with a code name of a day of the week, led by Sunday. Thursday has just died and Gregory feels sure he will be elected to fill his place. He swears Syme to secrecy.

After further discussion and the codes necessary to get into the meeting, Syme asks Gregory in turn to swear not to tell a secret of his own. After Gregory agrees, Syme confesses that he is a detective with Scotland Yard.

Don’t you see we’ve checkmated each other? I can’t tell the police you are an anarchist. You can’t tell the anarchists I’m a policeman. I can only watch you, knowing what you are; you can only watch me, knowing what I am. In short, it’s a lonely, intellectual duel, my head against yours. I’m a policeman deprived of the help of the police. You, my poor fellow, are an anarchist deprived of the help of that law and organisation which is so essential to anarchy.

As Gregory makes his speech at the meeting, he fears saying anything that Syme can use against the organization, so he comes across as very tame. Syme stands up with rousing words that get the meeting behind him, and he is elected as Thursday.

Undercover, he meets with the council to determine their plans so he can thwart them. But when one of the council, an old, frail man, follows him after the meeting, Syme tries several tricks to evade him, only to find him continually following. When they finally confront each other, Syme is stunned to learn that this man is also an undercover detective. And that’s just the first step in his discovering that all is not as it appears.

My thoughts:

This book is quite suspenseful all the way through, and the latter part becomes allegorical. I had not known that going in: before choosing this book, as I tried to read enough about it to know whether I’d be interested, but not so much as to spoil it, I had missed this aspect. I’m struggling with that same line between revealing too much yet wanting to share more in reviewing it.

It gets pretty weird at the end, and I wasn’t sure what the allegory meant. As I sought some more insight this morning, I came across part of an article by Chesterton in which he lamented, “I have sometimes had occasion to murmur meekly that those who endure the heavy labour of reading a book might possibly endure that of reading the title-page of a book.”

It is odd that one example occurred in my own case… in a book called The Man Who Was Thursday. It was a very melodramatic sort of moonshine, but it had a kind of notion in it; and the point is that it described, first a band of the last champions of order fighting against what appeared to be a world of anarchy, and then the discovery that the mysterious master both of the anarchy and the order was the same sort of elemental elf who had appeared to be rather too like a pantomime ogre. This line of logic, or lunacy, led many to infer that this equivocal being was meant for a serious description of the Deity; and my work even enjoyed a temporary respect among those who like the Deity to be so described. But this error was entirely due to the fact that they had read the book but had not read the title page. In my case, it is true, it was a question of a subtitle rather than a title. The book was called The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. It was not intended to describe the real world as it was, or as I thought it was, even when my thoughts were considerably less settled than they are now. It was intended to describe the world of wild doubt and despair which the pessimists were generally describing at that date; with just a gleam of hope in some double meaning of the doubt, which even the pessimists felt in some fitful fashion.

So realizing that it’s an allegory and being reminded that it was a nightmare helped me comes to terms with thinking I was reading a crime drama only to encounter the increasing weirdness near the end. It is a crime drama, but it’s also fantasy and philosophy.

But realizing it is an allegory also opens more questions as to what it all means. The biggest question most people have, according to my reading, is just who exactly is Sunday and what does he represent? Even the characters “see” him in different ways.

“I suppose you are right,” said the Professor reflectively. “I suppose we might find it out from him; but I confess that I should feel a bit afraid of asking Sunday who he really is.”

“Why,” asked the Secretary, “for fear of bombs?”

“No,” said the Professor, “for fear he might tell me.”

My usual go-to sources for analysis of the classics, Schmoop and SparkNotes, don’t include this book, but this article says it’s meant to be a riddle, like Job, in that everything is not explained, but we’re assured God is in control, and this article asserts that it “revolves around two of the deepest of all theological mysteries: the freedom of the will and the existence of massive, irrational evil.” The latter also suggests a plausible identity for Sunday.

This was my first time reading Chesterton beyond an occasional witty quote, and his wit shines here, as in the irony of “law and organisation which is so essential to anarchy.” A few more examples:

If you didn’t seem to be hiding, nobody hunted you out.
___
His soul swayed in a vertigo of moral indecision.
___
“It cannot be as bad as you say,” said the Professor, somewhat shaken. “There are a good number of them certainly, but they may easily be ordinary tourists.”

“Do ordinary tourists,” asked Bull, with the fieldglasses to his eyes, “wear black masks half-way down the face?”
___
“My God!” said the Colonel, “someone has shot at us.”

“It need not interrupt conversation,” said the gloomy Ratcliffe. “Pray resume your remarks, Colonel. You were talking, I think, about the plain people of a peaceable French town.”

And the more philosophical:

This is a vast philosophic movement, consisting of an outer and an inner ring. You might even call the outer ring the laity and the inner ring the priesthood. I prefer to call the outer ring the innocent section, the inner ring the supremely guilty section.
___

But right up against these dreary colours rose the black bulk of the cathedral; and upon the top of the cathedral was a random splash and great stain of snow, still clinging as to an Alpine peak. It had fallen accidentally, but just so fallen as to half drape the dome from its very topmost point, and to pick out in perfect silver the great orb and the cross. When Syme saw it he suddenly straightened himself, and made with his sword-stick an involuntary salute.

He knew that that evil figure, his shadow, was creeping quickly or slowly behind him, and he did not care.

It seemed a symbol of human faith and valour that while the skies were darkening that high place of the earth was bright. The devils might have captured heaven, but they had not yet captured the cross.
___
Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front—

The second article I referred to has an interesting section on our only seeing “the back side” of things, tying it in with Moses seeing the “back” of God in Exodus 33:17-23.

I’m sorely tempted to go back and reread it now with the understanding of its allegorical nature and some of these insights. But I think I’ll wait. I saw reference in some of my research to an annotated edition which might be helpful. Meanwhile, I am glad to have read it and thankful to the Back to the Classics challenge for steering me towards books I might not otherwise have picked up. I found this book quite funny in places, especially in some of the dialogue, suspenseful throughout, and ultimately seriously thought-provoking. It’s a sign of a good book when it has you pondering it long after closing it.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carol’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Ghost Boy

Ghost BoyMartin Pistorius was a fairly normal boy living a fairly normal childhood in South Africa. But in 1988, at age 12, he came home from school with a sore throat. Over the next few days he lost interest in eating and only wanted to sleep. He ended up in a wheelchair, silent and unresponsive. The doctors explored psychological causes and then ran every physical test they could.

It took about a year for the doctors to confess that they had run out of treatment options. All they could say was that I was suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder, cause and prognosis unknown, and advise my parents to put me into an institution to let my illness run its course. Politely but firmly the medical profession washed its hands of me as my mother and father effectively were told to wait until my death released us all.

But at about age 16, he started “waking up,” or becoming aware, for short periods of time. By age 19, he was fully conscious. But he couldn’t let anyone know. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t control his limbs. Even when he did begin to regain movement and could lift his head up and down and smile, people didn’t recognize that the movements or expressions were purposeful. So he was trapped in his body for six more years. At times he was frustrated and angry. Other times he used his imagination to escape into fantasy.

I resembled a potted plant: something to be given water and left in a corner.

He lived at home, but spent his days at a care center while both parents worked. One of his caregivers, who used to give him massages to work his stiff muscles, thought he might be more aware than previously thought and arranged to have him assessed.

We come to rest in front of a large sheet of acrylic glass suspended on a metal stand directly in front of me. Red lines criss-cross the screen, dividing it into boxes with small black and white pictures stuck in some of them. These line drawings show simple things—a ball, a running tap, a dog—and Shakila stands on the other side of the screen watching me intently as I stare at them.

“I want you to look at the picture of the ball, Martin,” Shakila says.

And…he did. After a series of tests, both to test his responses and different kinds of communication devices, Martin was equipped with pictures of symbols he could stare at in answer to questions and eventually outfitted with a computer which gave him a “voice.” Learning to communicate was a long, painstaking process, but it was worth it.

“If someone does not expect or is not expected to achieve, then they never will.” (Dr. Diane Bryen)

Eventually he regained more motor control, went to classes, held down several jobs, and even married! He wrote Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped in His Own Body to share his story.

One of the hardest adjustments for him was making decisions. He could remember nothing from before his illness, and life had been structured around him for so long, he didn’t know how to make decisions at first. He was glad to be able to let people know his food was too hot or cold, he was thirsty, he’d like salt, etc. But even years later, when his girlfriend too him to buy some shoes, he was overwhelmed. He had only ever had the same kind that someone else had bought him, and there were so many choices, as well as the overstimulating atmosphere of so many people and loud music, that he broke down.

Some people caring for him were excellent. Some were thoughtless or just doing a job without care for the person inside the unresponsive body. “Do they really think that a limited intellect means a child can’t feel viciousness in a person’s touch or hear anger in the tone of their voice?” Something else that came to light after Martin began to express himself more extensively was that he had been horribly abused, especially in a longer term care facility that he had been placed in if his parents went on overnight or longer trips. He had been called names, slapped, pinched, handled roughly (thrown into a chair so hard he fell face first), neglected, and sexually abused.

He had a faith that sustained him:

The only person who knew there was a boy within the useless shell was God, and I had no idea why I felt His presence so strongly. I wasn’t exposed to the rituals and traditions of worshiping Him at church and knew that I hadn’t been before my illness because my family, although they believed in God, didn’t attend. Yet somehow I instinctively knew that He was with me as my mind knitted itself back together. At times it felt confusing to be surrounded by people, utterly alone and yet aware that God was my companion. Yet my faith didn’t waver. He was as present to me as air, as constant as breathing.
___

The one person I talked to was God, but He wasn’t part of my fantasy world. He was real to me, a presence inside and around that calmed and reassured me…I spoke to God as I tried to make sense of what had happened to me and asked Him to protect me from harm. God and I didn’t talk about the big things in life—we didn’t engage in philosophical debates or argue about religion—but I talked to Him endlessly because I knew we shared something important. I didn’t have proof that He existed, but I believed in Him anyway because I knew He was real. God did the same for me. Unlike people, He didn’t need proof that I existed—He knew I did.

One unsung hero in the book is Martin’s father. In Martin’s silent years, he heard arguments between his parents about his care. His father wanted to keep him at home. His mother wanted to put him in a full-time care facility, as the strain of his care was affecting their marriage and the rest of the family. But his father insisted Martin was still part of the family and needed to remain. His mother, for a time, distanced herself from Martin, so at home all his care fell to his father, who would get up early to feed and dress him and take him to the care facility, work long hours, bring him home and feed, bathe, and put him to bed. Basically, he didn’t have a life beyond work and caregiving for years, and he did it without complaint. Martin appreciated his “quiet and steady presence,” and eventually his mother came around as well, helping him tirelessly to increase his “vocabulary.”

This book is sad and horrifying on one level, considering all that Martin endured. But it’s inspiring on another that he triumphed over it. I particularly loved what he said as he was falling in love with the girl who would become his wife: “I’ve lived my whole life as a burden. She makes me feel weightless.”

It encourages me as my mother-in-law has become less and less responsive that perhaps she does hear and perceive more than she can express, and even if not, the way she is handled will make her feel secure and loved even if words aren’t getting through.

It also angers and saddens me that such abuses and inhumane treatment goes on in care facilities. We’ve come across our share of both good and bad caregivers in the various facilities my mother-in-law has been in. That Martin should have suffered such abuse is atrocious, but that in some cases, other caregivers observed and laughed is just infuriating. And the fact that more than one could wheel him away long enough to privately sexually abuse him without anyone questioning what was going on, where they were, why they were gone so long shows up the need for better monitoring. Unfortunately, in our experiences and I am sure all over the world, those places are woefully understaffed.

But it inspires me that some caregivers went the second mile in their concern and care. The one who first noticed that Martin seemed aware and responsive used to talk to him while she worked, and that’s one thing that caused his responsiveness. After trying to make a connection with others and failing, Martin essentially shut down inside himself. As this caregiver talked with him, he would look at her and follow her with his eyes. That she would notice this and then act on it speaks so well of her. That should be the norm, but too often facility caregivers slog through the everyday thankless monotonous tasks on autopilot. We have had our share of excellent caregivers as well who take time to interact with the patient as a person and notice the details that make a difference in their care and comfort.

Some readers would want to know that there are a couple of bad words in the book, and the section on Martin’s sexual abuse is graphic but not titillating and is mostly contained in one chapter. There is a video of a TED talk with Martin here, and a sweet interview with his wife here. They made this video and submitted it along with the manuscript when they were seeking a publisher for the book:

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Carol’s Books You Loved)

Reading Plans for 2018

I have enjoyed reading ever since I first learned how, and the past few years I’ve benefited from being more intentional in my reading rather than just picking up the next thing on the shelf. I’ve wanted to incorporate classics, non-fiction, and new books as well as getting to more of my beloved fiction and some of the older books I have on hand. A few reading challenges have both helped me in those ways and made it fun to do with others. So one of my favorite things to do is map out my reading plans for the year. Many of the challenges overlap, so that helps – otherwise I’d probably only be able to do one. I’ve been tweaking it year by year to be more purposeful and yet have some flexibility in case I come across something during the year that I want to read that isn’t on any list. Last year was one of the best in all those ways, so I am hoping this year will be as well.

So these are the challenges I will participate in. For the first few I’ll just list the challenge and will share what books I’ll read when the time comes. Then I’ll list the challenges where I have already chosen what to read.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge is hosted right here during the month of February! More information is here as well as an extended book list. On Feb. 1 I’ll post a sign-up post and share then what I’ll be reading.

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Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June, so I will share at that time what I will read for that challenge.

aliterarychristmas-buttonTarissa also hosts the Literary Christmas Challenge for the last six weeks of the year. The main rule: read Christmas book!


Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts the Back to the Classics Challenge. She comes up with categories and we come up with a classic at least 50 years old to fit each category. She also gives away a prize – a $30 gift card to Amazon.com or The Book Depository. You get one entry for the prize drawing for six categories completed, two entries for nine categories completed, and three entries if you complete all twelve. We don’t have to name the books, but it helps me to do so, and we are allowed to change during the course of the year. As with each of these challenges, more information is provided at the links above. So the classics I am going to aim for this year include:

1.  A 19th century classic. Something by Dickens or Wilkie Collins. I have unread books by both of them, so I’ll need to decide later which to choose.

2.  A 20th century classic (published before 1968). I am thinking about The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve always been a little wary of it, so I haven’t quite decided. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (1903)

3.  A classic by a woman author. Adam Bede by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans)

4.  A classic in translation (Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language.) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870)(Finished 1/26/18)

5. A children’s classic. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)(Finished 2/3/18)

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction, which she goes on to say can be a detective or spy novel. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. (1908)(Finished 1/18/18)

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

8. A classic with a single-word title (no articles). Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

9. A classic with a color in the title. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

10. A classic by an author that’s new to you. He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe

11. A classic that scares you (due to its length or it intimates you in some way). The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. I have come close to reading it many times and then backed away, but Tarissa’s review encouraged me toward trying it.

12. Re-read a favorite classic.Many would fit this category. I am thinking David Copperfield, but we’ll see.

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Adam at Roof Beam Reader hosts the TBR Pile Challenge to encourage us to get to those books on our shelves, Kindles, or TBR lists. For this one we have to name the books we are going to read, along with two alternates (in case we can’t get through a couple on our list), and we have to have owned them for at least a year, so any book on our To Be Read pile published 2016 and earlier qualifies. And! Adam offers a prize: a drawing for a $50 gift card from Amazon.com or The Book Depository! Tempting for any book lover! So here is what I plan to read for this challenge:

  1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett(Finished 2/3/18)
  2. The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton (Finished 1/18/18)
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  5. Adam Bede by George Eliot
  6. He Fell in Love With His Wife by Edward Payson Roe
  7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870)(Finished 1/26/18)
  8. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  9. Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His own Body by Martin Pistorious (Copyright 2013, Finished 1/8/18)
  10. Going Like Sixty by Richard Armour
  11. Sins of the Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason
  12. Another Way Home by Deborah Raney

Alternates: Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin and Mozart’s Sister by Nancy Moser (2006)(Finished 1/28/18)

As I finish them, I’ll come back and link the title to my review.

mount-tbr-2017Bev hosts the Mount TBR Challenge to also encourage us to read the books we already own, but with a few differences. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed. We don’t have to list the books yet (although some books for the above TBR challenge will count for this one as well), but we do have to commit to a level. I am tempted to try for Mt. Vancouver (36 books) since I passed that last year, but I think I’ll keep my options open and commit to Mount Blanc (24 books). The one main rule here is that the books have to have been owned by us before January 1, 2018. But that means every book in my house and Kindle app on Jan. 1, even the ones I just got for Christmas, count! I appreciate that because too often I push my newer books back behind the ones that have been sitting there for a while.

So I think that will keep me busy for a while. 🙂 People often ask me how I get to so much reading, so once I wrote Finding Time to Read. On the other hand, last year I read 76 books, but some blog friends read twice that! So I’m not at all in the “big leagues” when it comes to reading, but I do love it for various reasons.

Do you make any reading plans for the year? What do you look forward to reading this year?

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Book)

Book Review: Gospel Meditations for Christmas

GM4Xmas-product-cover-front-NEWGospel Meditations for Christmas by Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, and Michael Barrett is the latest in their “Gospel Meditations” series (some of you might know Chris Anderson as the author of hymns such as His Robes for Mine and My Jesus Fair). The booklet is divided into 31 pages, one a day through the month of December (or any time, really, since these truths are eternal). Each page lists a Bible passage to read and then delves into some facet of the passage for a handful of paragraphs. The primary focus of the book is the Incarnation, and different aspects of it that the book covers are Christ’s humility, holiness, human ancestry; His being our peace, our mediator, our shepherd,; prophecies and promises about him; various names applied to Him; His Deity and humanity; and more. Quite a lot for 31 pages!

The best way to give you a flavor of the book is to share a few quotes from it:

Only as man could He die as a substitute for other men. And only as God could He suffer infinitely, paying for the sins of all the redeemed. (Day 4)

Escaping judgment begins with acknowledging that you deserve it. (Day 5)

Matthew begins his account of the good news with a record of Jesus’ ancestry. This isn’t some boring list of personal details that Matthew came across in research and decided to include as space-filler. No, this genealogy is Matthew’s attention- grabbing introduction, and it’s jam-packed with significance. (Day 7)

Consider whether your mental picture of Jesus fits the picture that Micah paints. The King that was born in Bethlehem is no longer a cherubic Baby. He’s a strong Shepherd, a majestic King, and the greatest military Commander of history. Jesus is the returning King and Judge before Whom every human will give account. Jesus is no longer a small Baby evoking your tender sympathy; He’s the world Sovereign demanding your total submission before it’s too late (Acts 17:31) (Day 9)

Having a biblical view of Jesus shouldn’t only lead you to lifelong submission; it should also lead you to patient perseverance. Like Micah’s original audience, we may respond in faith, yet die, having never seen the promises fulfilled. We must let it sink in that Micah’s generation never saw God make good on these words. Like them, we may spend our entire lives in unfulfilled longing. But if this Christmas prophecy that Micah uttered makes any difference to us today, it should fuel our persevering hope in God’s promises. Christian, even though we’re almost three millennia removed from Micah’s prophetic messages, keep longing for the return of the Shepherd-King from Bethlehem. Don’t lose heart. (Day 9)

What is a word? Don’t overthink it. It’s basically a means of communication. It’s a message, spoken or written, from one person to another—a form of revelation…Jesus Christ is God’s best and final communication to mankind. The Bible is God’s inspired Word. But Jesus is God’s incarnate Word—God revealed in human flesh. One of Christ’s great purposes in coming to earth was to reveal the unseen God. The apostle John returns to this motif throughout his writings. (Day 13)

This experience was so deeply satisfying for Simeon that he could say: “Now I’m ready to die.” God doesn’t promise us (like He had promised Simeon) that we’ll get to physically see Jesus before we die. But God does promise everyone who follows King Jesus that we will see His face and live in His presence after we die, and forever! To know and love and see the Lord is what we were made for. So the only way we can die in peace is if we have embraced the gospel by faith and if we are confident that very soon we are going to see the King with our very eyes. (Day 27)

Christmas sentimentality doesn’t help in tough circumstances. As I look back over the past decade and remember what Decembers have looked like for me, I recall many happy memories, but a lot of hardships, too. At Christmastime I’ve visited halfway houses, nursing homes, and funeral homes. I’ve received news of birth defects and of strokes, of terrorism and of persecution. And I’ve spent much time with loved ones who still don’t see their need for Jesus. When such burdens weigh heavily in December, Christmas lights don’t help. But Christmas truth does! (Day 31)

This is an excellent resource to focus your hearts and minds on Jesus and what was involved in His coming as well as many ways His incarnation should affect us personally.

(Sharing with Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesdays, Coffee for Your Heart, the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge, Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday, Carol’s Books You Loved)

Top 12 Books Read in 2017

I like to pull from the books I read this year to note the exceptional ones. These were not all published this year: in fact, I don’t think any of them were. I just got to them this year. It’s hard to choose this year: there were only maybe two or three that I did not like at all. But here are the ones that especially stood to me, in no particular order. The titles link back to my reviews.

1. The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung. I like how this children’s book places some of the individual narratives in the Bible within its overarching framework in a simple and easily readable style.

2. God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Jennifer Rothschild, for asking the hard questions and, by experience and Bible study, coming up with reasonable answers.

3. Love in Hard Places by D. A. Carson didn’t draw me in with its style, but it did make me think and convict and instruct me.

4. Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer. The story of the rise of Veggie Tales was fun, but Phil’s dealing with the death of a seemingly God-given dream spoke volumes to me.

5. Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. I’m often intrigued by outside-looking-in stories of people confronting Christianity. When someone is at first indifferent and then strongly opposed, what finally causes everything to click and fall into place for them?

6. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy might seem a strange one – why would a book about someone’s dying top anyone’s favorites list? But we all have to face it at some point, and this was so poignant and so beautifully written, it stayed with me long afterward.

7. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner involved two timelines, connected by tragedy and a scarf.

8. The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate involved an old anonymous manuscript, a search for its author, a story within a story, the history and trials of a little-known race, and well-drawn settings between new York City and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

9. The Magnolia Story by “Fixer-Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino. A highly enjoyable read.

10. Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung. Short but packed with good stuff.

11. The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser. Two girls opposite in many ways become close friends in the 1930s. Friendship, class differences, crises of faith, life in the South, family secrets, and even some mystery.

12. Middlemarch by George Eliot. Not only was I glad to have finally conquered this tome, but I loved its many characters and layers.

It has definitely been a good reading year, and I am looking forward to the next one! What was your favorite book of the year?

Semicolon invites us to share our end-of-year bookish lists as well as regular reviews on her Saturday Review of Books this week.

(Also sharing with Faith on Fire, Literary Musing Monday, Semicolon)

Books Read in 2017

The last week of every year I like to make a list of all the books read during the year. The ones from January or February seem like such a long time ago. I’ve divided them into categories, which I think makes them easier to peruse. I used to distinguish between audiobooks and ink-and-paper books, but so often I do look up passages from the physical book that I don’t think it really matters. But for the record, most of the classics were audiobooks as well as a few of the others.

So here goes! The titles link back to my reviews.

Classics:

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Lavender and Old Lace by Myrtle Reed
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
The Story Girl by Lucy Maude Montgomery
The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington was included in the book Uncle Tom or New Negro, listed under Secular non-fiction and counted there.

Christian non-fiction:

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung
Daily Light on the Daily Path compiled by Samuel Bagster, not reviewed, read yearly for decades now.
ESV MacArthur Study Bible
Eight Women of Faith by Michael A. G. Haykin
Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More  – Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior
Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging by J. I. Packer

God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Jennifer Rothschild
How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart
Jane Austen: Christian Encounter Series by Peter Leithart
Lessons I Learned From My Grandchildren by Delia Halverson. Not reviewed. Not recommended. Disappointing.
A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon by Sophie Hudson
Love in Hard Places by D. A. Carson
The Magnolia Story by “Fixer-Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino
Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer
No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God by Aimee Byrd
A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Design for Women Mentoring Women by Susan Hunt
Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung
What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever
What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up by Jamie Janosz

Secular non-fiction:

Between Friends: Craft Projects to Share by Charlotte Lyons
French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook
Songs of a Housewife: Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Uncle Tom or New Negro?: African Americans Reflect on Booker T. Washington and UP FROM SLAVERY 100 Years Later edited by Rebecca Carroll.

Christian/inspirational fiction:

All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin
All Things New by Lynn Austin
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson
Grow Old With Me by Melinda Evaul
If the Shoe Fits: A Contemporary Fairy Tale by Sandra D. Bricker
June Bug by Chris Fabry
Love of the Summerfields by Nancy Moser
A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin
The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron
The Sandcastle Sister by Lisa Wingate
The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate
The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate
The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson
Snapshot by Lis Wiehl
The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate
The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser
The Tidewater Sisters by Lisa Wingate
Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson
Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin
Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson
To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon
Two Roads Home by Deborah Raney
Unlimited by Davis Bunn
Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin
Waiting for Peter by Elizabeth Musser
Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser

Other fiction:

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Christmas reading (I don’t usually make this a separate category, but I read quite a few short novellas this year):

Evergreen: A Christiansen Winter Novella by Susan May Warren
Gospel Meditations for Christmas by Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, and Michael Barrett (not quite finished with this but will be Dec. 31)
The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren
Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh
One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg
Sarah’s Song by Karen Kingsbury
The Shoe Box by Francine Rivers
Silver Bells by Deborah Raney

That’s 76 books by my count! Goodreads has me at 74, but I have a couple here not listed there. I think it’s a pretty good combination between fiction and non-fiction, old and new.

In just a few moments I’ll share Here are my top picks from this list.

Semicolon invites us to share our end-of-year bookish lists as well as regular reviews on her Saturday review of books this week.

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

mount-tbr-2017For the past few years, Bev has been hosting the Mount TBR Challenge to encourage us to read the books we already have on our shelves or in our Kindle apps. Every 12 books read is another level or “mountain” climbed.

I only committed to Mount Blanc (24 books), but right near the end of the year I thought I had made it to Mt. Ararat (48 books). But then while preparing this post I saw I had one book listed twice! 😦 So I fell just short and can only claim Mt. Vancouver (36) though I read 47.

Bev also devised this fun exercise, pairing familiar proverbs with the book titles we’ve read. Here are mine:

A stitch in time…[keeps] All Things New.
Don’t count your chickens…[with] The Silent Songbird.
A penny saved is….[is] A Proper Pursuit.
All good things must come… [to] A Place of Quiet Rest.
When in Rome… [take a] Snapshot.
All that glitters is notThe Golden Braid.
A picture is worth aA Portrait of Emily Price.
When the going gets tough, the tough getTwo Roads Home.
Two wrongs don’t makeTraces of Guilt.
The pen is mightier than….the Love of the Summerfields.
The squeaky wheel getsThe Sweetest Thing.
Hope for the best, but prepare forA Little Salty to Cut the Sweet.
Birds of a feather flock…[to the] June Bug.

I’ve already posted all the books I read in 2017 listed alphabetically within genres, so this list will be redundant to those who have already read my complete list. These are the already-owned books I read this year, in more or less the order I completed them. I’m adding the publication dates to make it easier for Bev since one rule for this challenge is that the books have to have been published before 2017.

  1. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner (2014)(Finished 1/9/17)
  2. The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson (2015)(Finished 1/10/17)
  3. The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson (2016)(Finished 1/15/17)
  4. The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines (2016)(Finished 1/17/17)
  5. The Sea Glass Sisters by Lisa Wingate (2013) (Finished /24/17)
  6. June Bug by Chris Fabry (2009) (Finished 1/26/17)
  7. The Tidewater Sisters (2014)(Finished 2/7/17)
  8. Twelve Years a Slave (Finished 2/8/17)
  9. Two Roads Home by Deborah Raney (2015)(Finished 2/15/17)
  10. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson (2016)(Finished 3/5/17)
  11. How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth (2003) by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (Finished 3/13/17)
  12. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron (2016)(Finished 3/21/17)
  13. Snapshot by Lis Wiehl (2014)(Finished 4/9/17)
  14. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1872)(Finished 4/19/17)
  15. If the Shoe Fits (2013)(Finished 4/24/17)
  16. A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (2002)(Finished 4/25/17)
  17. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay (2016)(Finished 5/5/17)
  18. Waiting for Peter by Elizabeth Musser (2015) (Finished 5/9/17)
  19. Love of the Summerfields by Nancy Moser (2015) (Finished 5/16/17)
  20. Eight Women of Faith by Michael A. G. Haykin (2016)(Finished 5/23/17)
  21. The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser (2001)(Finished 5/31/17)
  22. Grow Old With Me by Melinda Evaul (2010)(Finished 6/5/17)
  23. Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin (2009)(Finished 6/18/17)
  24. Songs of a Housewife: Poems by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1997)(Finished 6/27/17)
  25. A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin (2007)(Finished 7/3/17)
  26. Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin (2008)(Finished 7/11/17)
  27. Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More – Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior (2014)(Finished 7/13/17)
  28. The Thirty-Nine Steps by Robert Buchan (1915)(Finished 7/18/17)
  29. All She Ever Wanted by Lynn Austin (2005)(Finished 7/21/17)
  30. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (1886)(Finished 8/30/17)
  31. All Things New by Lynn Austin (2012)(Finished 8/3/17)
  32. Unlimited by Davis Bunn (2013)(Finished 8/5/17)
  33. The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate (2014)(Finished 9/23/17)
  34. God Is Just Not Fair by Jennifer Rothschild (2014)(Finished 9/28/17)
  35. MacArthur Study Bible ESV (2010)(Finished 9/23/17)
  36. Jane Austen: Christian Encounter Series by Peter Leithart (2010)(Finished 9/30/17)
  37. Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer (2008)(Finished 10/15/17)
  38. The Sandcastle Sister by Lisa Wingate (2015)(Finished 10/22/17)
  39. The Sea Keeper’s Daughters by Lisa Wingate (2015)(Finished 10/19/17)
  40. A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon by Sophie Hudson. (2013)(Finished 11/10/17)
  41. Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser (2016)(Finished 11/25/17)
  42. Sarah’s Song by Karen Kingsbury (2004)(Finished 12/4/17)
  43. Silver Bells by Deborah Raney (2016)(Finished 12/9/17)
  44. Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh (2015)(Finished 12/10/17)
  45. One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg (2015)(Finished 12/19/17)
  46. The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren (2009)(Finished 12/25/17)
  47. The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung (2015)(Finished 12/16/17)

I enjoyed this impetus to get to some of the books I have stacked up! I’m looking forward to participating again this year, and if you’d like to as well, the information about it is here.

Book Review: The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.

Most of the time we tell children isolated Bible stories. Jonah and the big fish. Daniel in the lion’s den. The three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. David and Goliath. Stories capture attention and imagination, and they’re probably also easier to convey to a child than, say, the outline of the book of Romans. The danger with knowing just individual stories, however, is that we miss the big picture, the way they fit into the overarching story of the Bible.

Biggest StoryTo try to rectify that, Kevin De Young wrote a book called The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden. “Snake Crusher” comes from Genesis 3:15, where part of God’s judgment on the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve is that some day their offspring would bruise the serpent’s head, the first foretelling of Christ’s coming. Designed for 5-11-year-olds, the book is 129 pages and ten chapters, yet most of the pages contain only one to a few sentences, and some pages are entirely illustration.

The story begins with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, their perfect, beautiful life, and their temptation and fall. It progresses quickly through Noah, the beginning and growth of the sons of Israel, the kings, the prophets, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Major themes of the Bible are emphasized throughout the stories: People continually sin and sin requires judgment. Though people reject God and His ways, He still loves them and seeks them. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about a coming righteous Deliverer. He lived the perfect live we could not and gave Himself for our sins so we could finally be reconciled to God.

Re the time of Noah:

Things got so bad so fast that God decided to start over. The people on the earth were terribly wicked in their hearts, all the time, every day, nonstop.

They didn’t deserve to enjoy God’s world anymore.

So God took it from them.

Or, more exactly, he took them from it.
_____

It just didn’t seem right that the One destined to crush the Serpent would be crushed himself. So when Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, died on the cross that Friday afternoon, it seemed a shocking evil beyond belief.

And it was. The worst thing that’s ever happened in the world.

But it was also the best thing that’s ever happened in the world. Just as we would expect from God. And just as God planned it.

We break promises, so God keeps his.

We run from God, he comes to us.

We suffer for sin, so the Savior suffers for us.

The book does a wonderful job accomplishing what it set out to do. The Bible’s overall story is told simply and clearly, with the individual stories taking their place within the “big” story. This is an excellent resource for children, especially for parents to share with children.

The only negative for me is the illustrations. There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re not bad at all – they’re just not to my own tastes. These images from the book are from Amazon:

Snake crusher 1

Snake crusher 2

Snake crusher 3

I like more realistic than stylistic illustrations. Plus a lot of it just seems too busy for me. Susan, from whom I won the book in a drawing some time ago (thank you, Susan! I’m sorry it took me so long to get to it!) described them as almost Ukrainian. Nothing wrong with that – it’s just a matter of taste. Other people seem to love it, according to the reviews, and perhaps a child might enjoy looking at some of the “busier” pages and seeing all the elements.

The book is a high quality hardback with a ribbon bookmark. The story itself is excellent. Highly recommended.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)

What’s On Your Nightstand: December 2017

Nightstand82The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand the last Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

It’s the last Nightstand post of the year! In the next day or two I’ll post my whole list of books read this year and then my favorites, but for now, here’s what’s gone on in the reading department since last month.

Since last time I have completed:

What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever, reviewed here.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare, reviewed here. A young Jewish man in the first century works covertly with a band of freedom fighters to throw off Rome’s oppression, but hearing the preaching of Rabbi Jesus makes him question. A Newberry medal winner and a nice read.

Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser is a fictionalized biography of Martha Washington, wife of the U.S.A.’s first president, reviewed here. Very good.

French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano, reviewed here. Interesting!

Sarah’s Song by Karen Kingsbury, reviewed here. A woman facing her last Christmas in a nursing home feels compelled to share her love story with a nurse. Good.

Silver Bells by Deborah Raney, reviewed here. A new reporter gets off on the wrong foot with the boss’s son and befriends a crime victim whose story she’s covering. Loved this one.

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh, reviewed here. An empty-nester mom goes into depression upon learning that none of her children will be home for Christmas, and her husband tries to restore her Christmas spirit. Very nice.

The Shoe Box by Francine River, reviewed here. A boy in foster care carries a shoe box with him all the time, but doesn’t show or tell what’s in it, until he feels a need to give his dearest treasure. Very short, but sweet.

One Enchanted Christmas by Melissa Tagg, reviewed here. An author falls for the cover model for her book, but when she visits his family farm, she discovers all is not as she thought. Delightful!

The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren, reviewed here. A mom gets roped into being the football team mascot – a trout – and heading up the church Christmas Tea and peacemaking between differing factions. Funny but with some probing questions and applications. Excellent.

Evergreen: A Christiansen Winter Novella. by Susan May Warren, reviewed here. A couple faces an empty-nest Christmas in different ways and realize they have unresolved issues causing a chill in their relationship. Poignant and very good.

That’s not as much as it looks like – the last seven were novellas, some very short, one of them more of a short story.

I’m currently reading:

Gospel Meditations for Christmas by Chris Anderson, Joe Tyrpak, and Michael Barrett.

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Up Next:

I’m totally not sure yet! I got  stack of new books for Christmas, plus over the next few days I’ll be working on reading challenge choices for next year, so I will have some idea after that.

Happy reading!