The year is drawing to a close, and the list of books I can expect to finish in 2016 is shrinking fast. Trying to finish well, while not neglecting the rest of my life, is a daily challenge.
Here is what November brought my way:
1. A classic novel: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I had been staring at this category all year, wondering why I hadn’t filled it yet. Several times I started to pick up To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my all-time favorites, thinking I would read it again to fill this category, but something stopped me. I looked at several other classics on my shelf, including several I have never read, but they just didn’t seem right either. Then early this month, I was at the library to get the movie Rookie of the Year to watch with the kiddos to celebrate the Cubs’ World Series win, and I saw this book on a display. In that moment I knew that reading this book was the next logical step in this year of being awakened to the racial oppression still prevalent in our country. I have always heard of it, but never read it. I was actually a little scared to read it, and I did not come away unscathed. It will remain in my mind for weeks to come, and will be added to my own bookshelf as soon as possible. I cried reading the injustice and cruelty, and I rejoiced at the genuine faith in a redeeming Savior presented in the characters that must also have been present in the author. Should be required reading for all believers.
2. A book someone tells you “changed my life”: Desiring God, by John Piper. This book has been hugely influential in my husband’s life, to the point that he said since he read it years ago, there have been more days that he has thought about some part of it than days he hasn’t. I remember when he first read it and talked about it nonstop. He wanted me to read it back then, but sadly, I wasn’t much interested in reading for godliness, only for pleasure. Which is ironic, considering the theme of this book. If I had been interested in reading for true pleasure, lasting pleasure, I would have eagerly devoured it. But I was fooled by temporary pleasures of crime novels and “Christian” romance and settled for pleasures far too small. Read Desiring God, and you’ll get what I’m talking about. If the language of Piper goes in circles a bit too much for you, which at times it does for me, then try reading The Dangerous Duty of Delight, which is a condensed form of this book. Also, listen to a few of his sermons or podcasts, then try reading again and imagine his voice reading to you. This helps me tremendously. 🙂 While I still don’t rate it in my top three or maybe even five, it’s definitely a book worth reading and one that helps me think rightly about the perspective I need in life.
3. A book written by a Puritan: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs. This, however, may have moved up to my top three even on this first reading. Never has a book outside Scripture met me so completely where I am at the moment of reading it. This book was indeed a jewel, and I can’t say enough about how God is using it in my life. It warrants its own blog post, which is coming soon.
4. A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrick Backman. This was a blind pick. I went to the New York Times Bestseller website, picked some titles that didn’t look like they would have objectionable content, and headed to the library with my list. After two strikes, this was the one actually on the shelf. It was a very creative story, although I’m not much for fantasy and there was a fantasy element to it. There was some language, enough that I wouldn’t let my 13-yr-old read it, but it wasn’t to the extent that I felt the need to put it down without finishing. It was an entertaining read, and I am trying to find some good secular fiction, but this one won’t be one I’ll want to revisit.
5. A book about the Second World War: Flags of our Fathers, by James Bradley. After reading The Dead and Those About to Die a couple years ago, which is about the landing at Normandy, I realized that I enjoy reading military history. I don’t always understand the tactical descriptions and I can’t always picture the terrain and formations, but the stories are riveting. This book was no different. Telling the background, war experiences, and later years of the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, it was a fascinating and surprisingly easy read. To read about a 14 year old who lied about his age to get into the military, then made the landing at Iwo Jima and was the youngest recipient ever of the Medal of Honor, in the midst of the stories of college students today who needed therapy sessions with play dough to cope with the election results–well, it was deeply satisfying to read of such valor, and I pray that such stories are not extinct in our own day.
6. A book about sports: Cubs 100, by Dan Campana and Rob Carroll. This was given to my husband after the Cubs’ historic World Series win, so I quickly commandeered it to fill a slot on my list. It was a quick, enjoyable read, filled with stories of Wrigley Field experiences by players, employees, and fans. My favorite was the story of the man in the pink hat, since I had seen him during the games without even realizing that he had a story. It really made us want to take our kids to Wrigley. Someday… Maybe next year… It seems these are still mottoes of Cubs fans.
7. A book about philosophy: The 20 Hardest Questions every Mom Faces, by Dannah Gresh. Ok, so this category choice is maybe a stretch, but I made a commitment to read and review this book (it also has its own post coming soon) and I’m running out of categories. Besides, our philosophy of parenting involves taking our questions to the Lord and seeking Him for wisdom, so maybe it’s not that much of a stretch after all. Disclaimer: I did not actually do the prayer and journaling exercises at the end of each chapter. I did read the whole book, though, and it was really very good. Chapters dealt with issues such as making decisions about school, clothing, language, phones, food, activities, and even how many children to have. I so appreciated her honesty–she readily disclosed what her family has done, but was adamant that their choices do not set the standard for other families. So much room for differences, so much room for grace. It was extremely refreshing. I heartily recommend it to every parent, and I will probably go back to it to actually use the prayer guides on some of the chapters.
One more month to go in 2016, and there are so many books I wanted to read that I won’t have time to finish! This challenge has been one of my favorite parts of 2016. 62 and counting…