Since I’m reading the Bible in 90 days, I’m kind of mourning the fact that I don’t have as much time to read other books. Oh, how I love my books! 🙂 According to my Goodreads list, I read (or started) around 52 or more books in 2010. I read some real dooseys…books that challenged, books that changed my perspective, books that made my faith grow. Here’s a list of a few that I read last year that I heartily recommend:
The Hole in Our Gospel–Life. Changing. Probably the most influential book I read all year. Bottom line: we are commanded to care for the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, the helpless. This is the book that started my on-going conversation with God about childhood poverty and eventually led to our sponsorship of a Compassion International child.
Radical–If you didn’t get the message by reading The Hole in Our Gospel, this book will further pound you on the head until you get it. Word of warning: you will be challenged to do very difficult things, including rethinking “the American dream.”
The Glass Castle–This is not a faith-based book; it’s a memoir written by a famous journalist. Still, it opened my eyes even further to the impact of childhood poverty right here in the good ol’ got-everything-we-need U.S. of A. I can’t shake the image of a girl hiding in the bathroom at school (because she had no lunch money) then waiting for everyone to leave so she could dig through the trash to recover wasted food.
Too Small to Ignore–The President of Compassion International,Wes Stafford, wrote this book. It’s part memoir, part call-to-action. I loved the tales from his childhood growing up as a missionary’s child in his beloved Africa, loathed reading about experiencing abuse at the boarding school for missionary children and nodded along at his challenge to treat children with respect and give them a voice while still protecting their childhood innocence.
So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us–I confess: I never really understood the Beth Moore phenomenon. I picked up some of her books in the past and quickly set them aside because I couldn’t get into her writing style. Then, I did her bible study on Esther with the DVD accompaniment. Dang! That girl can bring it! I still prefer her spoken word to written, but this book cut right to the core of me. I’ve ALWAYS struggled with insecurity. Now I find myself repeating, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” (Proverbs 31:25). Read it & you’ll understand.
Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God–I just recently finished this book. I honestly didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. Kay Warren, wife of super-pastor (LOL!) Rick Warren, shared about her own personal time of surrender–God led her to become a Christian AIDs advocate when she had no clue and no desire to do it. I particularly liked how she wrote about the great hope she has in the church to do more good on social issues like AIDs, poverty, etc. She has worked with many government and secular groups that tackle these issues yet she has seen more progress made through the local church than anything. That’s encouraging!
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire–I’ve never read a more powerful book about prayer. It’s basically the story of the Brooklyn Tabernacle going from death to life, where homeless men and businessmen worship side-by-side and where the Spirit of God is working mightily. The pastor gives all the credit to their emphasis on prayer. During their Tuesday night prayer time, each person prays aloud at the same time, interceding for their friends, loved ones and themselves. I think that would be an awesome thing to do–to hear a chorus of prayers.
Lest you think I’m all work and no play, here’s some great FICTION books that I read this year. Let me tell you, fiction books are just as capable of challenging us as nonfiction!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn–I’ve always wanted to read this classic and did so after it was mentioned in The Glass Castle. It’s supposed to be fiction, but is rumored to have been based on the author’s own life experience. It’s the story of a family in Brooklyn, barely surviving in poverty. This book, like The Glass Castle, challenged my idea that parents who don’t take care of the basic needs of their children do not truly love their children. Both of those books featured dysfunctional families who had a deep love for one another, though their actions sometimes suggested otherwise.
The Help–Race relations is such a difficult topic, especially when you live in the South. How can a person feel both deep love and genuine repulsion toward the same person? This is just one aspect of the complicated relationship between white families and their “help” (set in the 1960s).
I grew up in the South and remember being so confused by adults who showed devotion and respect to certain black men/women, but would say the most horrible things about their race in the next sentence. It was as if there was an asterisk in their minds, excluding certain people from the racist statements that they made.
This book is a fantastic glimpse into the emotions of discrimination, but it also touches on issues such as friendship, bullying, marriage/dating, assault, parenting, following dreams, standing up for your beliefs in the midst of danger and more. I would recommend this to anyone over the age of 16 (it is definitely adult fiction). It was one of the best books I read last year and was hard to put down!
The Hunger Games series–Imagine a future where the United States as we once knew it is no more. The country has been restructured into districts, each with their own purpose/job. No one is allowed to leave their district except for the one day out of the year when names of youth are drawn from each district to participate in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are basically a government-controlled reality t.v. show of sorts. In fact, it is so government controlled that they can change the environment to force participants into situations which are more exciting for the audience. The main difference between reality t.v. and the Hunger Games: participants fight to the death.
The story follows Katniss who finds herself in the Hunger Games after she volunteers to take the place of her little sister whose name had been drawn for the event. Obviously, she survives the first game (or there wouldn’t be a trilogy) but finds herself at odds with the government. She becomes a symbol of hope for the people of the Districts, and an uprising begins to overturn the dictatorial rule of the Capitol.
At the heart of the Hunger Games series is the question: “If placed in similar circumstances, would I look out only for myself or for others?” and “Are some things worth fighting for?”
Finally–young adult fiction that is smart and captivating without dripping in overt sexuality and/or filled with self-destructive behavior (minus the murdering of Hunger Games participants, of course) AND adults will love it, too!
Unwind–Following a war between pro-life and pro-choice factions, an agreement has been made: termination of pregnancies is no longer allowed in the United States, but once children reach the age of 13, they can be “unwound”–that is, they can be taken apart piece by piece and their “parts” can be used to heal others. Basically, if a teenager is “good for nothing,” he/she will be unwound and become good for something, living on through others. The story follows several Unwinds who are on the run.
This book was described to me in a number of ways:”weird,” “awesome,” “scary,” “chilling,” and “one of my favorites.” It was wonderfully written with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. It will keep you guessing throughout. The subject matter is unique and doesn’t dwell on the pro-life/pro-choice arguments, but rather how the Unwinds feel about their destiny and how they will survive until their 18th birthday when they can no longer legally be unwound. It’s a great book for group discussion!
The Book Thief–This book is a bit of a challenging read. There are lots of literary elements that will either intrigue you or drive you nuts (constant foreshadowing, the narration written in third-person from Death’s point-of-view, the choppy writing style and bold-print blurbs/news flashes that interrupt the reading flow), but what really matters is the story.
The story is about snowmen in basements, kisses that never happen, accordion music after dinner, open windows, swearing as a sign of affection, teddy bears for fallen soldiers, the taste of stolen apples, promises kept and the power of words. It’s mostly about risking your own life for the sake of another and/or LOVE–Liesel’s German family hiding a Jewish man in their basement during Hitler’s reign and the bond that develops between them.
If the weird writing style doesn’t turn you off, then the fact that this is a HUGE book or that it has a LOT of swearing might. I threatened several times to quit reading, but in the end I’m glad I finished.
Listening for Lions–The story follows Rachel, daughter of missionary parents who run a hospital in Africa. Her life is simple and fulfilling until her parents die in an influenza outbreak (this is historical fiction set in the early 1900s). Left with no family and the prospect of being sent back to the orphanage that her parents were raised in (of which they told horror stories), she instead finds herself being entangled in the elaborate scheme of her greedy neighbors to take on the identity of their dead daughter in order to reclaim the family fortune. Will she reveal her identity or will others discover it? Will she be sent to the orphanage or prison? Will she ever return to the Africa she loves?
Things I liked about this story: imagery of Africa and its people; Rachel’s understanding that she is not merely a victim in the hoax, but a willing participant (responsibility for choices); Rachel is smart, caring, kind and determined…a great protagonist for young adults; the storyline kept you guessing throughout.
On the downside, I did think that some of Rachel’s thoughts and behaviors were too advanced for her age. I didn’t feel like her grief for her parents was adequately explored, though the plot moved so quickly after their deaths that she hardly had time for grief.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has been a while since a story so captivated me that I wanted to read straight through to the end. Again, it’s young adult lit, but there’s a LOT of good YA lit on the market (like this one) that adults would also enjoy.
If you are a reader, I would highly recommend joining Goodreads. It’s a great place to keep up with what you’ve read, what you want to read and to get recommendations from others. I’ve discovered many books that I wouldn’t have read otherwise due to the reviews on Goodreads! If you want to add me as a Goodreads friend to follow my reading lists/reviews, go right ahead! 🙂