Saturday, December 26, 2020

My Annual Book List

For the past several years, I've made it a habit to share my list of books I read for the year.  Once again, I'll add the caveat that just because it's on this list, doesn't necessarily mean I recommend it, just that I read it. For many I jotted down some impressions, but not for all. Now that we have only five days left in the year, and the next book I'm about to start is a long one, I'm pretty sure I won't finish anymore for this year's list. So, if by some chance I do finish it, I'll add it to this post, otherwise, here is the list for 2020, and I say, welcome to 2021…...

 And this is Jags, who was a fairly constant reading buddy this year.  There is something so comforting about a cat who snuggles in your lap while you read a good book.  

January 2020

  • In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life - Sinclair B. Ferguson (NF).
  • Land of Wolves (Walt Longmire) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Long Before Luther: Tracing the Heart of the Gospel From Christ to the Reformation - Nathan Busenitz (NF).  On Sunday evenings, our pastor will often recommend books to us, and this is one of them. In discussions with Catholics about the Reformation you often hear it said that the reformers were teaching something new when they insisted upon the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  Busenitz does an excellent job of tracing the doctine all the way from Christ to the writings of early church fathers and on to thinkers in the medieval church. Where those thinkers were basing their writing in scripture, this doctrine was clearly not an innovation at the time of Martin Luther. My favorite part of the book is the appendix where he shares "100 selected quotes from church history highlighting salvation by grace alone and the truth that believers are justified solely  through faith in Christ, apart from works."
  • The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage - Robert Lindsey (NF).
  • The Cyber Effect: An Expert in Cyberpsychology Explains How Technology Is Shaping Our Children, Our Behavior, and Our Values - and What We Can Do About it - Mary Aiken (NF). I have to admit, this one disturbed me a bit.  The author highlights some very necessary conversations we, as a society, need to be having about technology. I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed and kind of discouraged at the magnitude of the unregulated social experiment we are effectively performing with all our smartphones and internet saturation. I'd say this is an important read for anyone who spends any time at all navigating social media and cyberspace, and especially for those of us raising children in this new and sometimes terrifying environment.  Sometimes I find myself wishing we could turn back time and go offline, but that's unrealistic - the ship has sailed and now we need to take some long and hard looks at how to navigate this world we're in and protect our kids and arm them with wisdom as best we can.  Cyber technology IS affecting us, whether we want to admit it or not. 
  • Wish You Well - David Baldacci (F).  I loved this one.
  • The Names of the Dead - Kevin Wignall (F).
February 2020
  • The Pact - Robert Patrick Lewis (F).  I borrowed this for free with my Amazon Prime account because my Kindle kept offering it as a suggestion and it had reviews that made it sound exciting. I didn't finish or even get real far with this one.  I didn't hate it, per se, I just wasn't ever drawn in enough to care much about the people or what was about to happen to them. For such an exciting premise, the writing was kind of bland. It's pretty obviously a self-published sort of thing and really could have benefited from a good editor. Annoying grammatical errors and plot devices and such that a good editor would have helped the author to tighten up.  Characters were flat and unrealistic scenarios (like why did he just drive off and leave the nanny who obviously understood his need for preparedness and took care of his kids and the supplies and was worried herself, never to be mentioned again? Why not take her with them? Did he not care about her? Besides, then she would have been there to help watch the young kids who he kind of just leaves alone in their room for extended periods of time. Sure. Where is the ex-wife, why are they divorced, how did he get custody of these young children, does he care nothing about the mother of his children that she's not mentioned as a fleshed-out person, and he just leaves the nanny and apparently the ex-wife behind to face the horrors that are coming? How in the world did he get out of Los Angeles with no traffic, no mass panic ensuing if internet and phones are out and they're under mysterious attack?) Maybe it would have gotten better if I had kept on, but after about 20% into the book, I just didn't buy into it, got tired of all the "brother, bro" special forces blah, blah, blah telling, telling, telling about family and brotherhood ("show, don't tell!"), and while it has the makings of an interesting story, it just isn't written in a compelling enough way for me to want to spend the time reading it. 
  • The Pursuit of Holiness - Jerry Bridges (NF).
  • Last Man Standing - David Baldacci (F).
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis (F).  I've read this more times than I can remember, but I love the series.  My daughter and I are reading them together in the evenings.  I love that she still enjoys spending time together to read aloud - you never get too old to enjoy sharing stories together like that.  
  • Death of Kings (The Saxon Stories, #6) - Bernard Cornwell (F).
  • Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI - David Grann (NF).  This was very interesting and, like most stories about our country's history with the Native American tribes, tragic, parts just downright evil, sad, and hard to read.  But, though hard to read, I think it's important that these stories be told and not forgotten. 
  • Stepping Heavenward - Elizabeth Prentiss (F).  This is one of my very favorite books, I don't know how many times I've read it, but I love it more each time.  I read it again every so often just because I like it so much.
  • Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon Church - Lynn K. Wilder (NF).
March 2020
  • Split Second - David Baldacci (F).
  • The Turn of the Key - Ruth Ware (F).  Intense.  I couldn't put it down. 
  • The Faith of America's Presidents - Daniel J. Mount (NF).
  • The Black Echo - Michael Connelly (F). 
  • The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (F).
  • Prince Caspian - C. S. Lewis (F).
  • Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation - Brad Ricca (NF).
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek - Kim Michele Richardson (F). This was really good. Made me cry several times. Very interesting, historical fiction, and well-written - I cared very much about the characters.
April 2020
  • Code Talker: The first and only memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers of WWII - Chester Nez, Judith Schiess Avila (NF).
  • The Dutch House - Ann Patchett (F).  
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C. S. Lewis (F).
  • Need to Know: Your Guide to the Christian Life - Gary Millar (NF).
  • Hour Game - David Baldacci (F). 
  • The Silver Chair - C. S. Lewis (F). I'm reading these out loud to my daughter, and it's been so much fun.  There have been several times I had to stop reading for the tears.  I just love these books so much. 
  • The Letter for the King - Tonke Dragt (F). This was a serendipitous find. We were introduced to it when we stumbled across the Netflix Original series loosely based on it. We liked the series ok except for the obligatory plot device Netflix seems to always throw in that we don't care for, but when we saw it was based on a book we'd never heard of, we were intrigued.  It turns out that this book was originally published in the Netherlands in 1962 and translated from the Dutch into English in 2013. The Netflix story line veers pretty significantly from the book - basically it turns into a different story.  They basically used the very first part of the book, kept the names and places the same and changed the story fairly significantly. The book is delightful - definitely written as an older children's book, though as an adult I was able to enjoy it very much (which, according to a C. S. Lewis quote I love would make it a very good children's book indeed), and as a translation sometimes the language is a little stilted, but overall it is a good, clean story of chivalry, knights, honor, adventure, and friendship.  I enjoyed it enough I went ahead and bought the sequel to read also.  And, another serendipity is that now I've been introduced to Pushkin Children's Books, which has this on its About page on its website: "Pushkin Press was founded in 1997, and publishes novels, essays, memoirs, children's books - everything from timeless classics to the urgent and contemporary. Our books represent exciting, high-quality writing from around the world: we publish some of the twentieth century’s most widely acclaimed, brilliant authors such as Stefan Zweig, Marcel Aymé, Teffi, Antal Szerb, Gaito Gazdanov and Yasushi Inoue, as well as compelling and award-winning contemporary writers, including Andrés Neuman, Edith Pearlman, Eka Kurniawan and Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. Pushkin Press publishes the world's best stories, to be read and read again." That sounds interesting enough to investigate, I think. 
  • Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ - Russ Ramsey (NF).  I liked this very much, and I'm keeping it to read again in the future.
  • The Horse and His Boy - C. S. Lewis (F).
  • The Camel Club - David Baldacci (F).
  • The Magician's Nephew - C. S. Lewis (F).
May 2020
  • All Things For Good - Thomas Watson (NF).
  • The Last Battle - C. S. Lewis (F).
  • The Guardians - John Grisham (F).
  • Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose - Aimee Byrd (NF).
  • The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time series, #1) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • The Secrets of the Wild Wood - Tonke Dragt (F).
  • The Magician's Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society - edited by John G. West (NF). This was very good.  Some was a bit philosophical and a little hard for me to follow, but overall very interesting. I especially appreciated the last section on society, and I found the last chapter eye-opening, helping me to grasp why there seems to be such a polarization and disconnect with people today and why it is almost impossible to have a rational, calm discussion when we have differing views.  We truly are dealing with a vast difference in how we view the world, and it's rather frightening.  
  • An Unequal Defense - Chad Zunker (F).
June 2020
  • The Collectors (The Camel Club, Book #2) - David Baldacci (F).
  • Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens (F).  I enjoyed this one. It's rare these days that I find a book I have a hard time putting down.  This was so well-written.
  • The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time Series, #2) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • Out of the Silent Planet - C. S. Lewis (F).
July 2020
  • Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis (NF).
  • Perelandra - C. S Lewis (F).
  • Just Mercy:A Story Justice and Redemption - Bryan Stevenson (NF). Recommended.
  • The Screwtape Letters - C. S. Lewis (F).
  • Beartown - Fredrik Backman (F).
  • The Nickel Boys - Colson Whitehead (F).  This was heart-wrenching to read, and so well-written, one of those books that will stick with me for a long time.  Recommended. 
  • That Hideous Strength - C. S. Lewis (F).
  • The Holiness of God - R.C. Sproul (NF). Highly recommended. 
  • Us Against You - Fredrik Backman (F).
August 2020
  • The Bark of the Bog Owl (The Wilderking Trilogy, Book 1) - Jonathan Rogers (F).  I loved this! I can't wait to share it with my daughter.  I know she will love it too. I found this when our pastor wrote about it on the Cripplegate blog. You can read his recommendation here
  • 1984 - George Orwell (F).
  • God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies - Costi W. Hinn (NF). This was good.
  • Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom - David W. Blight (NF)
  • Ann Judson: A Missionary Life for Burma: A Biography, Including Selections From Her memoir and Letters - Sharon James (NF).  This was a beautiful account of a remarkable woman and a life well lived for the glory of Christ.  
  • The Secret of the Swamp King (The Wilderking Trilogy, Book 2) - Jonathan Rogers (F).
  • The Way of the Wilderking (The Wilderking Trilogy, Book 3) - Jonathan Rogers (F).
September 2020

  • Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng (F).
  • The Song of Seven - Tonke Dragt (F).
  • Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters - Abigail Shrier (NF).
  • You're Not Enough (And That's Okay): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love - Allie Beth Stuckey (NF).
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness  (The Wingfeather Saga, Book 1) - Andrew Peterson (F). This was so good! I love Andrew Peterson's music, and some time ago I learned that he had written these books for middle school aged kids, and I wanted to try them.  A few years ago, I bought the first one for my daughter for Christmas, but she didn't really get into it at the time and I got busy with other things and forgot about it. Then I saw that he was announcing that he had republished the series with new, beautiful illustrations and I remembered that I had wanted to read them, and I ordered the new version of the first book.  My daughter snatched it up first and LOVED it, so I ordered the second book and books three and four are also preordered for when they release in October.  I very much enjoyed this first book and can't wait to read the second one when my daughter finishes it. I love it when we find books we can read together and enjoy together like this.  
  • Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape From the Democrat Plantation - Candace Owens (NF).
  • Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour - Sinclair B. Ferguson and Derek W. H. Thomas (NF).
  • North! Or Be Eaten (The Wingfeather Saga, Book 2) - Andrew Peterson (F).
October 2020
  • The Monster in the Hollows (The Wingfeather Saga, Book 3) - Andrew Peterson (F).
  • The Warden and the Wolf King (The Wingfeather Saga, Book 4) - Andrew Peterson (F).  Wow.  This series was so good.
  • The Juvenilization of American Christianity - Thomas Bergler (NF). 
November 2020
  • The Dragon Reborn (The Wheel of Time Series, #3) - Robert Jordan (F).
  • The Beekeeper's Promise - Fiona Valpy (F).
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon (F).
  • Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (F).
  • Show Me Your Glory: Understanding the Majestic Splendor of God - Steven J. Lawson (NF).
December 2020
  • The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of Time Series, #4) - Robert Jordan (F). 
  • Echo Island - Jared C. Wilson (F).
  • The Christmas Train - David Baldacci (F).
  • Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents - Rod Dreher (NF).  This was quite sobering and eye-opening, and I recommend it.