Ten Books I Want to Read Before I Die

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Some of my “Read Before I Die” Books

I posted a question at my Bob on Books Facebook page yesterday asking people to name one book they would like to read before they die. It seems that this is a popular topic. Here is a link to a Google search I did on the topic. It’s actually a worthwhile question to think about. We can read only so many books in a life, the length of which we have no way of knowing. One book available proposes a list of 1001 books.

Here’s my answer pared down to ten books. One of my criteria is that I’ve not read the book. The other is that I have the book already. That should warn you that it is probably a pretty idiosyncratic list. Don’t feel under any obligation to make it your list but use it simply as an example for doing this yourself.

  1. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age. It seems every other book I read references this book, and it seem a seminal work in helping us understand the time we are in.
  2. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism. There seems to be a sense that the horrors of Stalinism and Nazism can’t happen here. I think they can, and I’d like to know what Arendt, who wrote the classic work on this thinks.
  3. T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems and Plays. I have read poetry of Eliot since college and acquired this work several years ago.
  4. Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind. I’ve never read this and it was one of the books I inherited from my mom.
  5. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. Might be as close as we get to the reflections of a philosopher-king.
  6. Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans. Barth’s study of Romans rocked not only his world but the theological world around him.
  7. Ron Chernow, Washington. I’ve delighted in his biographies of Grant and Hamilton.
  8. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (3 vols.). I bought this set from a retiring pastor 40 years ago. I suspect Hodge and I might differ on a few things, but his rigorous thought will make the argument worth it!
  9. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity. This has been on my shelves only half as long, but this classic study of church history has been begging to be read.
  10. Honore de Balzac, Pere Goriot and other stories. My mother loved Balzac as a young girl. I have her whole set of Balzac novels, that came from her father. I think I want to read these for what they might tell me about my mom before I pass them along.

It would not be hard to add to this list, and if you ask me another time, I might come up with a completely different one. But doing this makes me ask, why have I waited so long on a number of these? Perhaps the time has come to wait no longer.

 

The Month in Reviews: August 2018

LeonardoMany book blogs focus on one genre of books. This is not one of them. I enjoy reading literary fiction, biographies, sports writing, history, and science fiction. I read a fair amount of “religious” material, particularly that which connects Christian faith with other aspects of life. My day job involves ministry with graduate students and faculty who are trying to make those connections, and I want to be a good companion with them on their journeys as well as progress on my own. You will find all of this in the books I reviewed in the last month. For those of you who are new to the blog and don’t know me well, I thought it might help to explain the eclectic mix you will find in this list. One other note: each book listed has two links. The title is linked to the publisher’s website and the word “Review” at the end links to my full review. I hope you will take time to visit both if you think the book sounds interesting.

loneliness of the long distance runner

The Loneliness of the Long Distance RunnerAlan Sillitoe. New York: Open Road Media, 2016 (originally published in 1959). A collection of nine short stories set in the pre-and post-World War II British working class, characterized by a strong sense of anger, alienation, and desolation. Review

kingdom collaborators

Kingdom CollaboratorsReggie McNeal. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press (Praxis), 2018. An affirmation of kingdom-centered rather than church-centered leadership and a description of eight signature practices that characterize such leaders. Review

Contemporary Art and the Church

Contemporary Art and the ChurchEdited by W. David O. Taylor and Taylor Worley. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Academic, 2017. Essays from artists, theologians, and church leaders participating in the 2015 Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) Conference exploring the conversation to be had between the church and contemporary artists. Review

Early Christian Writings

Early Christian WritingsVarious, Translated by Maxwell Staniforth, Revised by Andrew Louth. New York: Penguin Classics, 1987. A collection of early, post-apostolic Christian writings concerned with the organization, leadership, worship, conduct, martyrs, and doctrinal teaching of the nascent church. Review

Best Bible Books

Best Bible Books: New Testament ResourcesJohn Glynn, edited by Michael H. Burer with contributions by Michael H. Burer, Darrell L. Bock, Joseph D. Fantin, and J. William Johnston. Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2018. A review of commentaries, dictionaries, and other scholarly resources related to the New Testament, singling out those the contributors deem of greatest value. Review

Born to Wander

Born to WanderMichelle Van Loon. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2018. An exploration of the theme of our pilgrim identity as followers of Christ, and how this makes sense of the seasons of transition and loss, and struggles for control in our lives. Review

the eye of the world

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time #1), Robert Jordan. New York: TOR Books, 1990. Following an attack of trollocs and a Myrdraal on Emonds Field, Rand and two friends, joined by several others, flee when they realize that they are the object of the attack, and somehow at the center of a web of destiny that may either thwart or aid the rise of the Dark Power. Review

rethinking incarceration

Rethinking IncarcerationDominique Dubois Gilliard. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. A call for Christians to address mass incarceration in the United States that considers its pipelines, its history, and proposes alternatives to prison and a focus not merely on punishment but upon restoration. Review

Tigerland

Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, A Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of HealingWil Haygood. New York: Knopf, (Forthcoming September 18), 2018. The story of the 1968-69 East High School Tigers championship basketball and baseball teams at a black high school in segregated Columbus, Ohio during the tumultuous aftermath of the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. Review

Adventures in Spiritual Warfare

Adventures in Spiritual WarfareWilliam P. Payne (Foreword by Charles H. Kraft). Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2018. A narrative of the author’s awakening to the reality of spiritual warfare and personal evil, and the resources and commended practices available to Christians for engaging that warfare. Review

Raise Your Voice

Raise Your VoiceKathy Khang. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018. Explores both why we stay silent and how we may learn to speak up about the things we most deeply care about, particularly in seeking a more just society for all. Review

Knowing and the Trinity

Knowing and the TrinityVern Poythress. Phillipsburg, NJ: Puritan and Reformed, 2018. How various triads of perspectives on both God and the world reflect the Triune God. Review

scars across humanity

Scars Across HumanityElaine Storkey. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018. A description of the global crisis of violence against women, possible explanations, and the measures being taken to address different forms of violence. Review

the reckless way of love

The Reckless Way of LoveDorothy Day, edited by Carolyn Kurtz, Introduction by D. L. Mayfield. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2017. A collection of Dorothy Day’s writings on following Jesus in the ways of faith, love, prayer, life, and communityReview

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci, Walter Isaacson. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018. A biography of da Vinci, from his illegitimate birth, his life long quest for patrons, his insatiable curiosity, his various artworks, and the notebooks, in which are revealed so much of the genius of da Vinci. Review

Book of the Month: The hands-down choice here is Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. This is a tour de force in every way in its exploration of da Vinci’s genius, surveying the notebooks, which are the particular record of that genius, and the works of art that made that genius visible. The book is printed on quality paper to properly render the works of art and other figures from his notebooks and drawings.

Quote of the Month: Dominique Dubois Gilliard’s Rethinking Incarceration is a thought-provoking challenge to a country, the United States, that leads the world in the number of people it incarcerates. This quote powerfully drove that home to me:

While the United States constitutes only 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of its incarcerated populace. Statistically, our nation currently has more people locked up—in jails, prisons, and detention centers—than any other country in the history of the world. We currently have more jails and prisons than degree-granting colleges and universities. In some areas of the country, there are more people living behind bars than on college campuses.

One out of every twenty-five people sentenced to the death penalty are falsely convicted. In many states, pregnant women are shackled to gurneys during their delivery. Thirteen states have no minimum age for prosecuting children as adults, such that children as young as eight have been tried and sentenced as adults, left vulnerable to trauma and abuse while living among adults in jails and prisons.

Eighty thousand inmates per day are locked in solitary confinement, where they are quarantined in a twelve by seven foot concrete cell (smaller than a standard horse stall), frequently for twenty-three hours a day, and are only allowed outdoor access and human interaction for one hour. This dehumanizing form of “incarceration” is more accurately defined as torture—a slow assault on the dignity of individuals and a strategic disintegration of their body and psyche.

Current Reads: Edgar Andrews, What is Man? explores the contrast particularly between materialist and Christian worldviews of what it means to be human. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and her Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream uses personal interviews as well as historical narrative to render a portrait of this president who carried out the Kennedy dream in social policy only to have so much of it, and his own reputation, undone by the quagmire of Vietnam. Answering Why is written by a Cleveland area author who explores the skills gap in the workplace and how effective career education can answer the “why” for the rising generation to pursue a particular line of work with passion and excellence. Invitation to Retreat by Ruth Haley Barton is an insightful guide for anyone going on retreat that not only answers the question of why we all should, but also the practices and questions that help us enter into retreat, encounter God, and return to daily life with the insights of this time. Two other books I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into this month are Alan Noble’s Disruptive Witness and Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well. Imagine that–reading about reading!

Here’s hoping that you find something good to read this month.

Books For Independence Day

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Benjamin Franklin from a painting by David Martin (1835)

“A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.” Benjamin Franklin

Today is Independence Day in the United States, the birthday of our country. What was born on that day was not only a nation but an idea eloquently expressed in the Declaration of Independence in these opening words:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

In these words are an assertion of the equality and human rights inherent in being a human being created by God. Government does not confer these but rather exist to secure these pre-existing rights, and properly derives its power to govern from these rights-bearers. Finally, there is the opening of an argument for the revolt the Founders led.

Along with a military revolution was an intellectual revolution led by some of the most brilliant political thinkers of the day. Franklin was wise enough to recognize that a thoughtful and well-informed citizenry was crucial in every generation if what was gained and established in our nation’s birth not be lost to anarchy or tyranny.

Might it not be appropriate amid our celebrations to resolve to enhance our understanding of the history, ideas, and challenges that have shaped the American experiment? One could conceive many lists to do this. One work not appearing in the list below that may be essential as any would be The Debates on the ConstitutionThis is not a single work but a series of letters and articles capturing the arguments about the shape our constitution would take.

Here are ten others, most of which have been reviewed at Bob on Books:

  1. The Glorious CauseRobert Middlekauf. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Perhaps the definitive account of the Revolutionary War, part of the Oxford History of the United States.
  2. John AdamsDavid McCullough. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. There are many full-length biographies of the founders. Adams is lesser known than some, but worthy of attention for his intellect, his courage, his efforts on both sides of the Atlantic for American freedom, and the incredible correspondence between him and his equally brilliant Abigail.
  3. The Return of George WashingtonEdward J. Larson. New York: Morrow, 2014. This narrative not only offers one more reason why Washington was the indispensable man, but also shows the difficulties of governance under the Articles of Confederation that led to the U.S. Constitution, and recounts the debates that gave us that Constitution. Review
  4. Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates the Defined AmericaAllen C. Guelzo. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009. These debates in 1858 when these two were running for Senate (Lincoln lost) define the discussion around slavery. Guelzo helps us understand the extraordinary phenomenon of these hours long open air debates, the substance of each debate, and their significance in the lead up to the Civil War.
  5. America’s Original SinJim Wallis. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016. The thesis of this book is: “The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the near genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another.” The author raises the question of whether we will face that history, understand the deeply engrained character of racism in our society, and begin a walk toward freedom from racism’s burden. Review
  6. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson. New York: Vintage, 2011. The story of the black migration to the north and west following the failure of Reconstruction, and how it changed the lives of families who made that migration and the cities to which they moved. Review
  7. The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand ForDavid McCullough. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. A wonderful collection of addresses by the author, mostly at college commencements, articulating some of the defining and distinctive qualities that define America at its best. Review
  8. The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, Jon Meacham. New York: Random House, 2018. Just recently published, it narrates the battle between the politics of fear and the politics of hope for our national soul. Meacham gives examples of leaders of both parties who led with hope, even when challenged by a politics of fear. Review
  9. The Global Public SquareOs Guiness. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013. Guinness argues for the critical importance of the human right of the freedom of conscience that undergirds our freedom of speech. Most societies through most of history have ruled by power and violence. The first amendment protections of our country are exceptional and worth not only protecting but extending to other countries, reflecting the equality of all human beings. Review
  10. Confident PluralismJohn D. Inazu. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.  Recognizing the deep fissures in American society and the necessity of maintaining some kind of civil union in the face of the scary alternatives, this book explores the constitutional commitments and civic practices that make that possible. Review

There are hundreds of others, of course, that might be included. I suggest these because they help us understand ourselves at our best and less than our best. They help us understand the ideals that have shaped us, and the compromises we have made with those ideals. They explore what hope there may be for an America that is plural in character–a people of many nations and beliefs–yet dedicated to the idea of e pluribus unum–out of the many, one.

So, amid the fireworks and picnics and family gatherings, I hope you will find a moment to reflect on the ideas as a nation that make us what we are, and perhaps to grow in your understanding of our rights, leaving no room for the ignorance that is the seedbed of tyranny. Perhaps a book from this list might help!

Books on Books

20160601_204859One of the ways you know you are a bibliophile is when your reading includes books on books, or bookish subjects! Margaret Aldrich posted a great list recently on BookRiot of 100 Must-Read Books about BooksWhat particularly impressed me about this list were the number of fiction books that “give books a starring role.” About the only one on the list I had read was Fahrenheit 451, and that in my adolescence! One things bibliophiles always like is finding a whole new treasure trove of books. In this list I think I found one.

The non-fiction list was equally delightful. Roughly, it divided into two kinds of books. One was lists of great books, or the experience of reading them. We have for example, 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die by Peter Boxall. Books like these are a great shortcut to discovering interesting books you’ve not heard of. I discovered there is even a website based on the book where you can go through and check off all the books on the list that you’ve read and compare your reading with that of others.

The other part of the list are books having to do with various aspects of our passion for reading. One that looked intriguing was At Home With Books: How Booklovers Live With and Care for Their Libraries.  Personally, I am more on the end of being interested in what is between the covers, but there are many people who collect and lovingly display books and a number of books on this list discussed this aspect of our love of books. One that I reviewed not too long ago is about The Man Who Loved Books Too Much describing the search for and character of a book thief, and why he loved stealing and collecting books. There was one book that I thought aptly described my own life as a bibliophile: The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man’s Struggle with the Monthly Tide of the Books He’s Bought and the Books He’s Been Meaning to Read by Nick Hornby. The title nails it for me, particularly if you add in the books that show up in my mailbox or on my doorstep from publishers to be reviewed.

I was surprised not to find David Denby’s Great Books, describing his decision at forty-eight to enroll in Columbia’s two core courses on the Great Books. In a similar vein, the list did not include the account of the birth of the “Great Books” phenomenon, A Great Idea at the Time (reviewed here). I suspect that this idea has fallen out of favor with the rejection of the idea of a canon of literature and the interest in more diverse books and voices. The World Between Two Covers sounded like a great way to read one’s way around the world.

I also have a couple on my TBR stacks (pictured above) that I did not find here that look interesting. One is Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co, by Lynne Tillman. This is the story of a classic New York City bookstore from its opening to its closing. So many bookstores have a lifecycle like this, and leave behind a legion of fans who loved hanging around them. The other is BiblioTECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, by John Palfrey. I’m intrigued with the whole question of how libraries are defining their mission with the advent of so many new technologies.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Margaret Aldrich’s post is that it part of a whole other genre of writing about books, of which BookRiot and Bob on Books are a part. There are a whole group of us who are not writing books about books per se’, but in the serialized format of blogging are doing what amounts to the same thing. Perhaps we are trying to recover, in the words of another title on Aldrich’s list, The Lost Art of Readingperhaps because we believe the assertion of the subtitle, that “books matter in a distracted time.”

Of Books and Brownies

brownie

I work with a collegiate ministry at a big Midwestern university with groups of graduate students and faculty. I love this work because of the intelligent people I get to interact with.  (I often wonder what I am doing in the room!). One of our favorite traditions in the grad fellowship is our Books and Brownies Night. It really is just about that simple. Invite people to bring their favorite brownie recipe (or equivalent) and books they’ve enjoyed or found significant in their lives. Add milk, and off you go. I kept a list, and I think you will agree there are some interesting and unusual choices, including a couple textbooks! (These are grad students after all!). So, without further ado, here is the list:

Jonathan StrangeJonathan Strange & Mr Norell, Susanna Clarke. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2005. Historical fiction set in 19th century England where two magicians meet up to change history. This looked like a ridiculously long book that our grad student read in a ridiculously short period of time, so it had to be good. I understand BBC has turned it into a TV series.

Great DivorceThe Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis. New York: Harper Collins, 1945. Recommended as a great rendering of theology through story about the choice between heaven and hell and Lewis’s contention that the people in hell are there because they have chosen it.

If on a winters nightIf On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino. New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1982. This is actually of book of ten novels, alternating with a male and female reader. Sounds different, but was loved by the math grad student who shared it!

Principles of BiochemistryLehninger Principles of Biochemistry (6th edition), David L. Nelson and Michael M. Cox. New York: Macmillan Learning, 2013. One of our biosciences grad student thought this was simply the best basic text on biochemistry and one he kept as a reference.

Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers, David McCullough. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. The story of these two Dayton, Ohio men (and their sister Katherine). Determined, intellectually curious and rigorous experimentalists who had the “(W)right stuff” to be the first to succeed at powered flight, while risking their lives in the process.

On Such a full seaOn Such a Full SeaChang-Rae Lee. New  York: Riverhead Books, 2014. A dystopian novel set in future urban America heavily populated with “New Chinese.”

parable discoveryThe Parable Discovery: First Century Discipleship, Jeffrey L. Curry. Roanoke, TX: See Again Press, 2004. The student recommending this book said it made the parables of the gospel of Matthew come alive as a discipleship manual.

Galactic DynamicsGalactic Dynamics (2nd edition), James Binney and Scott Tremaine. Princeton: Princeton, 2008. Recommended by one of our graduate astrophysics students. It is described on the publisher’s website as “the most widely used advanced textbook on the structure and dynamics of galaxies and one of the most cited references in astrophysics.”

Paradise LostParadise Lost, John Milton (edited and introduced by John Leonard). New York: Penguin Classics, 2003 (originally published 1667). Fascinating retelling of the Eden story and the conflict between Satan and God. An annotated version is important for getting the most out of Milton’s epic poem.

Change of HeartA Change of Heart, Thomas C. Oden. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. One of the prominent theologians of the late 20th century describes a conversation with a Jewish friend that changed the whole trajectory of his life and scholarship.

Blind Man's BluffBlind Man’s Bluff, Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew. New York: PublicAffairs, 1998. A narrative drawn from hundreds of interviews of American submarine espionage during the cold war.

QuietQuiet, Susan Cain. New York: Broadway Books, 2013. Cain writes about the gifts introverts bring and the ways the differences between introverts and extroverts are rooted in our neurophysiology. The book stands out as, not a complaint against an extrovert-oriented society, but as an affirmation of the gifts introverts are to their friends, family, and communities.

Well, that’s the list. To be honest, I think I might like to read anything here I haven’t read, including the textbooks!

A few disclaimers:

  • I should note that the editions in this post may not match those shared.
  • Also, where possible, the links to the books are to the publisher. I prefer not to direct people to a particular online bookseller unless I cannot find a publisher website for the book.
  • Finally, in a post like this, I am simply passing along the recommendations of individuals. These books are not endorsed by Bob on Books, or the graduate fellowship of which the students are part.

With that, I hope you will have fun checking out some titles of which you may not have heard. And maybe think about having your own version of Books and Brownies!

Snowbound

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A past snowstorm in Columbus, January 25, 2014

A number of my friends spent this past weekend “sheltering in place” as Winter Storm Jonas (what a cool idea to name snowstorms!) blew through the Ohio Valley and up the east coast. This one missed us by less than 50 miles. We had flurries but no accumulations in beautiful Columbus.

One of the delicious things about being snowbound is the thought of some extended time to curl up with some good books and a warm drink while the snow flies outside (at least as long as the power stays on!). Digging out comes soon enough. Time now to savor that delicious thought of what to read during those extended hours.

So I was thinking, what books would I like to be stuck with in a snow storm? In this case, I decided to answer the question by looking through my TBR stack and picking some that looked most interesting. Here are five I wouldn’t mind being stuck with for a few days:

Last LionFlourishingNine TailorsFools TalkGreater journey

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965, by William Manchester and Paul Reid. I’ve waited for years for the final volume of Manchester’s biography of Churchill, covering World War 2 and the years following. Hopefully Reid preserved Manchester’s magnificent style.

Flourishing, by Miroslav Volf. He explores the importance of religion in a globalized world. I like the idea that someone doesn’t see religion as a problem and I’ve appreciated the other books he’s written even when we don’t agree.

The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers. One of the few mysteries of Sayers I haven’t read!

Fool’s Talkby Os Guinness. I’ve appreciated Guinness’s work since I read The Dust of Death during my student days forty years ago. This was a 2016 Christianity Today award winner and explores the question of how one might speak persuasively in the best sense of the word with regard to matters of faith. And yes, he is from that Guinness family. Now there is a thought, Guinness and Guinness!

The Greater Journey, by David McCullough. I have loved everything McCullough has written and I suspect this book about “Americans in Paris” will be no exception.

It would have to be some snow storm to finish all these books, particularly the Churchill book. The thought of getting started in each of these books is fun though. And truth is, you might see these in my reviews sometime this year anyway, snow storm or not!

OK, so my tastes may be different from yours. What books would you like to have with you if you were snowbound?

What I’d Place in a Little Free Library

Little Free LibraryI posted yesterday about Little Free Libraries, the free lending library you can “Steward” in your front yard. At the end of the post, I asked what books you’d put in a Little Free Library if you had one. So, it is only fair that I give a list of a few of the ones I’d put in there.

This is an interesting exercise, because at least some of the books I read wouldn’t be ones my neighbors would be keen about. So, here’s the compromise between things I feel good about and that I think others might like. Tell me what you think:

First of all, some children’s books:

  • Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. We always loved reading this aloud to our son.
  • Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak. Great pictures and story to address children’s fears.
  • Good Night Moon, Margaret Wise Brown. We loved saying good night to the moon and everything else!
  • The Cat in The Hat, Dr. Suess–either this or one of the others. We always loved Yertle the Turtle.
  • I Am A Bunny, Ole Risom with illustrations by Richard Scarry. Our favorite board book and frequent baby gift. The illustrations are amazing.

Then some books for older children and young adults:

  • Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White. I first heard this story in 5th grade and we read it aloud as a family.
  • Carry on Mr. Bowditch, Jean Lee Latham. Tells the story of a young sailor who becomes a renowned mathematician.
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle. A sci-fi book with strong character values.
  • Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury. Evokes a mix of summer vacation memories and fantastic elements.
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis. I feel like this book is the Wardrobe to the whole series of Chronicles of Narnia.

Adults: Fiction

  • Bel Canto, Ann Patchett. Just read it, her best in my opinion, and something I think both men and women could like.
  • Surreality, Ben Trube. Have to get my son’s in here. Besides, I really think if you like techno-thrillers, you’ll find it as good read. Kept me up at night!
  • Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie. Her most famous, and introduces you to one of her most famous characters.
  • The Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters. The first of her Amelia Peabody stories. We have loved following Amelia Peabody from one hair-raising adventure to another.
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr. I think this is one of the best science fiction books, an early post-apocalyptic book envisioning a post-nuclear world.
  • Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy. I thought some of his early stuff was best.
  • Shoeless Joe, W. P. Kinsella. The book that served as the basis for the movie Field of Dreams. A wonderful tale for anyone who loves baseball.

Non-fiction:

  • The Wright Brothers, David McCullough. Ohio boys who were the first to figure out powered flight. Well-told by this master historian and biographer.
  • Great by Choice, Jim Collins. One of the best business books I’ve read.
  • Genome, Matt Ridley. Fascinating science writing on the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make us who we are.
  • Destiny of the Republic, Candice Millard. The fascinating tale of the short presidency of James Garfield, another Ohioan, and the crazed assassin and incompetent doctor who contributed to his untimely death.
  • Unbroken,Laura Hillenbrand. Tells the story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic-level runner and POW.
  • Shiloh, Shelby Foote. His account of the battle of Shiloh and a great introduction to this great Civil War historian.
  • Both-And, Rich Nathan. This is a book written by a pastor in my home town that talks about how the church can overcome the polarities that are tearing apart American society. He articulates a picture of what many of us long for church to be.
  • Prodigal God, Timothy Keller. He takes the parable of the prodigal and turns it on its head, showing that the real prodigal is the father, who represents God, prodigal in his love for both is profligate and self-righteous sons.

Of course, there is probably not a single person who would agree with this list. And that’s the great thing about Little Free Libraries. You can add your favorites to someone else’s while discovering something new for yourself.

By the way, for right now, probably the way I will support Little Free Libraries in my area is to visit that box a few blocks away, and add a few of these books, and see what they have that I might like.

So, if you were to take one from and leave one with my hypothetical Little Free Library, what would you take, and what would you leave?

 

 

A Different Best-Seller List

seven-habits-highly-coveyI’m a sucker for a book list–any book list. I’m always curious about what others find interesting enough to read. Best-seller lists tell me about what lots of people are interested in reading. That doesn’t mean I run out to buy the book, but rather that it gives me some ideas, when I talk to readers, what they might be reading. For lists that include “backlist” books, I’m always interested to find out how many of these books I’ve read, and the “holes” in the list give me ideas for things I might want to pick up some day.

AbeBooks, an Amazon company specializing in used, rare, and out of print books, came out with an interesting list recently that combines “book list” and “best-seller” list. It was their list of the 100 bestselling used books since 2000. The surprise for me was that at the top of the list was Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. They had an interesting explanation of why this came in ahead of more significant literary works like To Kill a Mockingbird (number 2) or one of my favorites that I did buy at a used bookstore, East of Eden (at number 44). They said, “This is a book that many people want to read, but no one wants to keep.”

Actually, that is an interesting statement, because to some degree, this must be true of every book on this list, because these all are used books. For various reasons, the original purchasers didn’t want to keep them, but others want to read them. Truthfully, there are a number on the list I would agree to this being true: Khaled Hosseini’s books, The Five Languages of Love by Chapman, One Hundred Years of Solitude, to name a few. I’m glad I read them, but had no desire to read them again or have them hanging around.

There are some I’ve read that I wouldn’t part with (my heirs might or probably will however!): East of Eden, and anything by Hemingway would be on the list as well as C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. And there are some I’d never touch, including the recent novels of Stieg Larsson and Eat, Pray, Love. (Sorry if that offends anybody–books are like ice cream and everyone has their own taste).

Then there were some I would like to read or re-read someday. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby are up on myu list of re-reads. Believe it or not, I’ve never made it through Gone with the Wind and given my love of all things Civil War, I probably should some day. Freakonomics and The Tipping Point are on one of my TBR piles. I’ll probably re-sell them as soon as I read them (if I do).

One of the most interesting things this reflects is the whole world of used bookselling. The truth is that probably over two-thirds of the books I read are used, or from a used bookstore. The new books I get, I almost always buy at significant discount or get free. I think one of the commandments in my universe is “thou shalt not pay full price for a book”. This means that the person who wants to read a book but not keep it is one of my best friends!

So, are you curious how many of the books on the AbeBooks list are ones I’ve read? To make this fun, I will invite you to guess, and post the answer on Friday.

Books and Brownies 2015

brownieA cold winter night, brownies, and milk, and good friends sharing about books they’ve enjoyed. A simple idea but one that always yields not only new ideas of books to read but also new bonds with those friends. Last Friday, some graduate students from the Christian Graduate Student Alliance met to do just that. This year, I thought I would include (not verbatim) some notes I took about the books they shared.

Creation Regained by Albert M. Wolters. We often talk about things in terms of good or bad. Wolters suggests we consider what God’s created purpose for those things might be.

Playing God by Andy Crouch. This book applies Wolters suggestion to the idea of power, which can corrupt and be corrupted but actually reflects what it means for us to be in God’s image.

Modern Pheasant Hunting, 2nd Edition by Steve Grooms.  The decline of the pheasant population necessitates more sophisticated hunting techniques. Recommended by a pheasant hunter as the one leisure book he’s read recently in graduate school!

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. The book explores in beautiful writing apartheid in South Africa through the story of two families caught up in tragedy and the efforts of a black pastor to pursue forgiveness and reconciliation.

Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger. Catcher was the first novel in English read by the Japanese student who recommended it. He deeply identified with the title figure. He also particularly loved the short story “At the Dinghy” in Nine Stories.

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. This Christian fiction from 1869 explores in diary form the basic longing to follow God more deeply while struggling with the tensions of human, sinful nature.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. Each month focuses on a different quality of character that the Bible upholds for women. The woman who recommended it also appreciated Evans discussion of Proverbs 31 in its original Jewish context.

Extraordinary Chickens by Steven Green-ArmytageThis is a coffee table book of photographs of the many varieties of chickens showing what an incredible bird (and the closest living relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex). A veterinary student interest in poultry veterinary work recommended this one.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This was a best-seller post-apocalyptic book that is far better than the movie in exploring the scenario of adolescents trained to kill or be killed in the hunger games.

The Academic Job Search Handbook by Julia Miller Vick and Jennifer S. Furlong. This book provides everything a grad student aspiring to jobs in academia needs to pursue the job search including timelines, samples of vitas in various disciplines, how to accept or decline an offer, and more.

The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian. This book was also recommended last year and the woman recommending it this year not only picked up the book as a result of last year’s recommendation by Skyped with a friend from Houston who read it with her.

I loved this last recommendation because it illustrates the joy of sharing books that have touched our lives–they may touch the lives of others as well. Personally, I realized that I’ve never read J.D. Salinger, nor particularly wanted to. My Japanese student friend intrigued me enough that I just may.

Perhaps the list and the stories might motivate you to try a “books and brownies” night some time soon! What books would you add to this list?

Links to earlier Books and Brownies Lists:

2014

2013

 

 

Bob on Books New Year’s Resolutions

IMG_2263I took some time over the past week to do some thinking about some directions for “Bob on Books” in 2015. Looking back at a similar post from the past year, I was able to do some of the things I came up with and also saw the blog go in some totally unanticipated directions. I suspect this year will be the same, so no guarantees but here is what I’m thinking:

  • Reviews: I will continue to review what I read and what interests me. At the encouragement of my son, I will probably throw in a few more graphic novel reviews –this is obviously a big segment of publishing and one that I find more intriguing than I thought I would. I also want to try to review more new books but look for me to weave in some old stuff that I’m interested in as well!
  • Interviews: This is something I want to try this year, particularly in conjunction with reviews. Some of the authors are people I know, or might like to, and I hope in at least some cases that this personal touch might interest you in their work. I’m also thinking of throwing in a few interviews with bookstore owners (particularly independents), perhaps someone working with libraries, and maybe others connected to the world of books.
  • The Reading Life: In case you haven’t noticed, I think reading, and engaging the world of books, is one of the things that can be life enriching. I want to continue to look for new slants on reading, perhaps profiling some other famous readers, as I did Teddy Roosevelt this year. As there are new technological developments that affect reading, I will explore those as well.
  • Bookstore Reviews: As time permits, I want to do something I tried last summer which is to review bookstores I visit. I might try to extend this to some online sources as well (though not Amazon, of which I think we probably all have our own opinions!).
  • Book Lists: I will do several kinds of things this year. I love getting folks together to share their favorite books and will probably do a few posts passing these along. Each month, I will post my “The Month in Reviews” list which will have all my reviews of the past month. I will also do some “category” lists of books I’ve reviewed in different categories. And look for my own “Best of the Year” post at the end of 2015, Lord willing. I’m looking forward to finding out what books I really like as well!
  • Posts on other things besides books: Oddly enough, these have been some of the most viewed in the past year (see my Bob on Books Top Ten Posts of 2014). Some of this is plain unpredictable–sometimes I just find something I want to write on and people really like it–or not! I plan to continue regular posts on Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown into the spring, which would cover a year. After this, I may post more occasionally, depending on how many new ideas I get for this series. I also will continue posts connected with my church’s Going Deeper blog, which are every other week reflections on our pastor’s messages.  And look for some posts on themes related to higher education as I do some research on “the changing university” over the next six months, related to a presentation I will be giving this summer.
  • Blog appearance: I will continue to tweak the appearance of the blog including categories to make this more usable–feedback from those of you who follow (no spammers please!) is welcome! At some time, I might even explore a face lift!

Blogging is social. I would love to know what you think of these ideas and wouldn’t mind hearing those “I wish he would write on…” ideas. The common thread for me that holds together the different things I write is engaging with others about the good, the true, and the beautiful as we encounter this in the experience of books, reading, and life. Your engagement with this blog is what makes writing a joy. I look forward to more of that in 2015!