Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2011 Reads

The books at the top of the list I read before I started blogging, so I included on this list a short description of each book. For the books I've already blogged about, if you're interested in reading the post, you'll have to search the blog for it. I'm not sure how to include a separate link to each entry.

Super Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I enjoyed this book enough that I've put Freakonomics on my TBR. The authors seek to explore the hidden side of everything.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, by Anthony Esolen. Two thumbs up. He writes with his tongue in his cheek, as if he and his audience want to destroy the imagination of children. I did find his contrarian stance a bit tedious at times, but agreed heartily with his message.

Tales of the Kingdom, by David and Karen Mains. Tales like fables or fairy tales. Recommend for children.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself, by Harriet Ann Jacobs. A heart-wrenching, true, first-person account of being a slave in the American South leading up to the Civil War.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Interesting perspective, but with too much of a preoccupation with sex.

The Mind's Eye, by Oliver Sacks. Sacks must be a wonderfully humane doctor.

The Journal of John Woolman, by John Woolman. John Woolman was a prominent Quaker in early New England.

The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl. Pearl's works involving historical personages are gripping and thrilling,  but occasionally gruesome.

The Death of Corinne, by R. T. Raichev. To be honest, I don't really recall this work. I think it was a modern murder mystery set in England.

Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel. Odd, but intriguing.

The Bride Collector, by Ted Dekker. Far too gruesome for me.

The Brothers Boswell, by Philip Baruth. Literary, skillful writing, but with some brief explicit sexual scenes.

Portuguese Irregular Verbs, Alexander McCall Smith. Amusing stories about a professor.

Blue Shoes and Happiness, Alexander McCall Smith. One of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books, which I thoroughly enjoy.

The Stones Cry Out, by Sibella Giorello. Giorello is one of my best finds of 2011. Her books are mysteries.

The Rivers Run Dry, by Sibella Giorello

The Clouds Roll Away, by Sibella Giorello.

Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi. Ms. Aebi's father offered to buy her a sailboat, if she agreed to sail it alone around the world, or pay for her college education. She opted for the boat, and became the youngest, at age 18, to circumnavigate the world.

Chop Shop, by Tim Downs. A mystery with a fair deal of philosophical/ethical discussion in it. A bit gory in parts. I thought the ending rendered the ethical thrust of the book moot.

The Mountains Bow Down, by Sibella Giorello.

Some Fruits of Solitude, by William Penn.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, by John McWhorter. McWhorter tells the 'untold history of English.'

More Fruits of Solitude, by William Penn.

Enchanted Hunters, by Maria Tatar. Tatar discusses the importance of reading in childhood. She suggests that all the terms we use to describe avid young readers put them down. She suggests we use the term 'enchanted hunters' instead.

Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, by Octavius Winslow. An excellent book outlining the importance of drawing close to God throughout life, and the dangers of not drawing closer to God.

The Great Typo Hunt, by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson. A light-hearted, and yet surprisingly philosophical account of a cross-country road trip undertaken by two men looking for and correcting typos.

Manning Up, by Kay Hymowitz. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in current trends in America.

Plague Maker, by Tim Downs.

Factory Girls, by Leslie T. Chang. A fascinating description of life for women in China today.

Righteous Indignation, by Andrew Breitbart. Not nearly as compelling as Steyn.

Histories by Herodotus, books I-IV

I blogged about the remaining books on the list.

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry.

Unnatural Death, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

The Double Comfort Safari Club, by Alexander McCall Smith.

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennet.

True Grit, by Charles Portis.

A Child's Own Book of Verse.

Glorious Freedom, by Richard Sibbes.

My Old Man and the Sea, by David Hayes and Daniel Hayes.

Celebrating Children's Books, edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye.

Master Georgie, by Beryl Bainbridge.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke.

The Still Point: A Novel, by Amy Sackville.

Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart, by Carol Leonard.

ALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean, by Richard Logan and Tere Duperrault Fassbender.

Into These Hands: Wisdom from Midwives, edited by Geradine Simkins.

The Dog Who Came in from the Cold, Alexander McCall Smith.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Alexander McCall Smith.

Three Dialogs of Plato.

The Wordsmith's Tale, by Stephen Edden.

The Three-Arched Bridge, by Ismail Kadare.

The Golden Sayings of Epictetus.

On the Narrow Road, Lesley Downer.

The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli.

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.

Multiple Bles8ings, by Kate Gosselin.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs.

In the Land of Invisible Women, by Qanta Ahmed.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage.

The Horse that Leaps through Clouds, by Eric Enno Tamm.

eye of the god, by Ariel Allison.

The Hawk and the Dove, by Penelope Wilcock.

The Wounds of God, by Penelope Wilcock.

The Long Fall, by Penelope Wilcock.

The Unquiet Bones, by Melvin Starr.

Gargantua, by Rabelais.

It's Probably Nothing, by Beach Conger, MD.

The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz.

Devices and Desires, by P.D. James.

Read my Hips, Kim Brittingham.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.

After America, by Mark Steyn.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken.

Why Read Moby-Dick?, by Nathaniel Philbrick.

The New Road to Serfdom, by Daniel Hannan.

Crazy U, by Andrew Ferguson.

The Winged Watchman, by Hilda van Stockum.

The Wonder Clock, by Howard Pyle.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin.

Dead Aid, by Dambisa Moyo.

I Dreamed of Africa, by Kuki Gallmann.

How the West Was Lost, by Dambisa Moyo.

Tell Me, Pretty Maiden, by Rhys Bowen.

Wow. A total of 84 books (one I left off the list). A personal record, and that in a year in which I moved and had a baby. And started a blog. :-)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Books I've Loved Reading to My Children

I don't think the books on this list need any sort of introduction from me, being as they are classics.

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact, I think it's time to read this again.

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, and their Book of Norse Myths. Their book on Trolls is fun, too.

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The Arabian Nights Entertainments, edited by Andrew Lang. Also those color fairy books of his which we've read (we have not yet read all of them).

The Winged Watchman, by Hilda van Stockum.

The Wonder Clock, by Howard Pyle.

The King of Ireland's Son, by Padraic Colum.

A Picturesque Tale of Progress, by Olive Beaupre Miller, in nine volumes.

Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie.

Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White.

The Princess and the Goblin, and The Princess and Curdie, by George MacDonald.

Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi.

Scottish Seas, by Doug Jones.

Black Ships before Troy, by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Viking Tales, by Jennie Hall.

Reading this list makes me think of all the good books I haven't yet read to them. Sigh.

Books I Loved as a Child

Freckles, by Gene Stratton Porter. Freckles was long my ideal of manliness.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis. When reading this I experienced what Lewis in Surprised by Joy called 'northernness.' This book made me long for heaven.

Eight Cousins, by Louisa May Alcott. I delighted in the relationship the one little girl had with her seven boy cousins. It made me want brothers.

George MacDonald's fiction which was edited by Michael Phillips.

Brock and Brodie Thoene's books, especially the ones set during WWII.

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.

The Anne of Green Gables series, by L. M. Montgomery.

My Lady of Doubt, by I'm not sure who. This was a romance set during the American Revolution.

Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare. Is a 15yo still a child? There was a time in my life when I could recite most of this play, thanks to repeated readings and watchings.

Mostly, though, I read junk as a child.

Books That I Read Again and Again

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I have also read Vilette and The Professor by Bronte, and those would also be on this list, if I owned copies. I will admit, shameful though it be, that when I first read this book at around the age of 17, I was such a foolish little girl as to prefer St. John Rivers to Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester. Now one of my daughters has the middle name of Fairfax (for reasons of personal history, world history, and geography, as well as literature, just so you don't think I'm a little too attached to Mr. Rochester these days).

Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis. I am drawn into Orual's tale every time I pick it up. I read once that this book is just as much the work of Joy Davidman as of Lewis, that her influence and thought can be seen on every page.

Thursday Next books, by Jasper Fforde (I haven't read the latest installment.) I must admit that the first couple times I tried to read these, I just didn't get it. But then I did get it, and now I love these books. They are by far the lightest books on this list, but sometimes one needs something light. And I use terms from these books, such as 'echolocator' when I think an author has used the same word too many times in a row.

Perelandra, by C. S. Lewis. I was interested to learn that this book and Till We Have Faces were Lewis's own favorites among his works.

Glorious Freedom, by Richard Sibbes. I keep mentioning this book. You may have grown tired of hearing of it, but it means a lot to me.

Dorothy Sayers's mysteries, the other lightsome choice on my list. I think I had a crush on Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey ages ago, when I first read these books. The fact that I'm making that public knowledge would probably chagrin my husband, who holds Wimsey in contempt.

The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. I am amused by the butler who practices sortes with Robinson Crusoe.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I read this to my children most Christmases, mostly in a tip of my hat to my mother's tradition of reading it to me.

Silas Marner, by George Eliot. I think this is a lovely tale of a miser exchanging gold for golden hair, the love for inanimate objects for the love of another human being. This is one of the few works of fiction that I underline. That said, however, Romola by George Eliot deeply disturbs and depresses me (I've only read it once, and have no plans to pick it up again).

The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. One of the most philosophical mystery novels I've ever read. Don't judge this book by its movie, please.

I'm a little surprised to see how many mysteries made it onto this list.

And all of Jane Austen's works.

And Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Most Eye-Opening Books I've Read

I could also title this, 'Most Life-Changing Books,' or 'Philosophy-of-Life-Shaping Books,' or 'Books You Should Read' if I'm feeling bold enough, or 'Books You'd Benefit from Reading' if I'm not. I'll be culling books for this list from years worth of reading, so don't expect a separate link to a separate review of each title.

In no particular order:

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. A cookbook? Yes, but so much more. This book has changed the way I look at food (though you might not be able to tell by looking at me).

The Closed Circle, by David Pryce-Jones. Mr. Pryce-Jones offers an illuminating description of Arab culture in this book.

Glorious Freedom, by Richard Sibbes. I would put in The Bruised Reed by Sibbes as well, but for the fact that I'm still reading it. I read Glorious Freedom when I was going through a period of depression, and Sibbes's book graciously pointed me to the only true consolation of the believer. I think, however, that The Bruised Reed might be even more powerful.

Giving Birth, by Catherine Taylor. Alright, my eyes were already opened to the message of this book before I read it. However, this is the book I give to people who are willing to have their eyes opened to the possibility of having a safe birth outside of the hospital.

The Trivium, by Sister Miriam Joseph. This book is so life-philosophy-shaping that I haven't even gotten all the way through it. I've decided that if I can but teach the contents of this book to my children, that I will have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams at home schooling.

Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg. I understand so much more about totalitarianism and its evils for having read this book.

Shepherding a Child's Heart, by Tedd Tripp. This is, hands down, the best book about child-rearing I have ever read.

Endangered Minds, by Jane M. Healy. This book informed my understanding of how to instruct my children. It's time to read it again.

Tending the Heart of Virtue, by Vigen Guroian. This book first underscored for me the importance of reading imaginative literature to my children. I am very grateful I read this book when my oldest children were still quite young. I see the influence of this book everywhere I look in my house, and hear the influence of this book in almost every conversation with my children (they often speak in a sort of courtly way, thanks to the fairy tales they took in with their mother's milk).

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, by Walter Marshall. Another book along the lines of Sibbes's books: sanctification is a work of the Spirit.

Oliver Sacks's works make me want to become a neurologist.

Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray. I read this for the first time as I was being introduced to Reformed theology. Powerful stuff.

Knowing God, by J.I. Packer. I read this one also when I was being introduced to Reformed theology. The God of Knowing God was so much bigger than I had ever imagined, or been taught.

Heaven and Hell, by Edward Donnelly.

Les Miserables, the movie with Liam Neeson. OK, it's not a book but a movie, but the Lord used it to bring me to a deep conviction of my legalism. I identified with Javert.

The first half of How Civilizations Die, by David P. Goldman certainly makes the list, and I expect the second half will, too. I expect, in fact, that I should start again at the beginning just as soon as I get to the end. Better and broader than Steyn's After America.

One list done! Here's to more happy list-making in the coming days.

Oops, I forgot Who Killed Homer? by Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath.

On Lists

Apparently 'tis the season for making lists. I love lists of books. I've been reading other people's lists, and realized, I could make my own! Yippee! As I lay in bed last night, instead of sleeping, I thought about all the different sorts of book lists I could make, which was a list of lists, or at any rate an actual, if not written, list of potential lists.

Can you tell that I'm excited at the thought of making my own book lists?

So, time permitting, which is to say Little Ceasar permitting, I will be typing list upon list and inflicting them upon you in the next few days.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The New Road to Serfdom, by Daniel Hannan

This was a more uplifting, heartening read than Steyn's After America. Daniel Hannan is a British member of the European Parliament. He loves British liberties, and believes they are thriving best in America. He wrote the book to warn Americans not to allow their country to follow down the path of socialism that Britain and Europe are skipping down.

I was especially interested to read an outsider's take on America. He pricked the bubbles of many European myths about America (such as, that American television programming is trash in comparison with European television).

He explained that much of the legislation which passes the European Parliament is what he calls 'declamatory lawmaking.' The MEP feel they 'ought to do something about it,' and so they pass a law, whether or not their law will make any difference.

Where Steyn paints with the boldest colors and broadest brushes available to convey the truth of his message, Hannan writes with more precision.

This book lifted my pride to be an American. I'd recommend it to any lover of America.

On Commenting

I want to thank those who have commented on my blog posts. I enjoy the opportunity to interact about these books, even if only over the internet and not in person. Your comments also help me think more deeply about what I've read. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why Read Moby-Dick?, by Nathaniel Philbrick

True confession: I have not yet read 'Moby-Dick.' It has long been on my TBR (To Be Read) list, but I was happy to leave it near the bottom of that list. Reading Mr. Philbrick's book, in which he not only poses but answers the question of the title, definitely excited me about the prospect of reading 'Moby-Dick,' and raised 'Moby-Dick' several slots on my TBR list.

Mr. Philbrick wrote in an engaging manner. He used short chapters, which I appreciate, because I could pick it up for a few minutes and complete a chapter (a small accomplishment with a big emotional satisfaction). I was a little surprised, though, at how often he managed to turn his discussion of 'Moby-Dick' into a condemnation of American slavery.

I found this quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne about Herman Melville worthy of consideration: "He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other.'

I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks they ought to read 'Moby-Dick' but lacks sufficient enthusiasm to begin.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken

A children's book I read, not surprisingly, to my girls. Poor, orphan Sylvia Green is going to live with her rich cousin Bonnie. Bonnie's parents are about to leave on a long journey for the sake of Bonnie's mother's health. They have hired a distant relative to look after and teach the girls in their absence. But Miss Slighcarp, that distant relative, is not all that she seems to be. There follows a series of adventures for the two girls, which concludes happily. My girls were enthralled, and I was happy enough to comply with their repeated requests for more, and more, and yet more. They have commissioned me to search out other books by Joan Aiken.

After America, by Mark Steyn

Inimitable. Irresistible. Bleak. Hopeless. Grim. Hilarious. These are the words that come to mind when I read Mark Steyn. As Ann Coulter said, 'Only Mark Steyn can write about the decline of America and leave you laughing.' Take this sample, for instance, in which Mr. Steyn describes American descent into Big Government paternalistic socialism as resembling European descent into Big Government paternalistic socialism: 'This isn't a bright new future, it's a straight-to-video disco-zombie sequel: the creature rises from the grave to stagger around in rotting bell-bottoms and cheesecloth shirt terrorizing a new generation. Burn, baby, burn, it's a Seventies-statist disco-era inferno!'

The picture Mr. Steyn draws is so bleak I found myself asking why I ever brought children into such a world. I'm grateful that this world is not ultimate, that I have a hope beyond this world.

If you are a lover of small government and big liberty, if you like to read insightful and incisive commentary about America and the trajectory she is on, read 'After America,' sigh, and push back. If you aren't and don't, read 'After America' and be persuaded to take a different view of matters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Dickens, a man who uses adjectives in a liberal manner, gave rise to a new adjective himself: dickensian. 'A Christmas Carol' is a dickensian tale. Who reading this post (all six of you, if I'm lucky) doesn't know the story? I love the beginning, with its discussion of the deadest piece of ironmongery. I read it to my girls, who enjoyed the story a great deal. It prompted many deep discussions with them about morality, liberality, and salvation. Can a man save himself?

If you've not read 'A Christmas Carol' yet, don't wait.

Read My Hips, by Kim Brittingham

This book, written by a self-described 'fat girl,' decries our society's skewed perception of weight. She argues, not that being fat is healthy, but that an obsession with becoming thin is unhealthy, and that a culture-wide push to make people feel guilty for not being thin is a mistake. Ms. Brittingham often strikes a funny note as she discusses her experience of being fat in a culture that worships skinniness, her early attempts to lose weight, and her eventual acceptance of herself as she is.

I would neither recommend this book particularly, nor suggest that people avoid it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Devices and Desires, by P.D. James

What can I say? I love a good mystery, and P.D. James writes good mysteries. Good novels, really.

In 'Devices and Desires' Adam Dalgleish has to decide what to do with a home he has inherited from his aunt. He decides to visit it on holiday before making a final decision. At this time a serial killer has been terrorizing the area. Dalgleish finds a body. Is she a victim of the serial killer, known as the Whistler? Or is another murderer on the loose?

I kept asking myself as I read the book why I likes James's work so much. I think it has to be her characters, and Dalgleish in particular. I like him as a character, as a person. He's a police detective and a published poet. I think he's something of a philosopher as well. I sympathize with his introversion.

If you like to read mysteries, can handle a tense one with some sexual content (but not of a titillating sort), and you haven't yet tried out P.D. James, don't wait. I understand she has a new one out set in Pemberly. I'm eager to get my hands on that one.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Being a Novice Blogger

I think I just accidentally deleted a blog post, in my attempt to respond to someone's comment on it. Oops! Deb, if you see this, I'm sorry.

A List

Because once again I am several books behind. Has it really been nearly a month since I last blogged? Shocking and shameful.

The Hawk and the Dove; The Wounds of God; The Long Fall, a trilogy by Penelope Wilcock. I thoroughly enjoyed each one and highly recommend them to any fiction reader. This trilogy tops this list of books; it is my favorite selection here.

It's Probably Nothing, by Beach Conger, MD. Fun and mostly true recollections of a country doctor. The author also wove in some history of medicine. I would recommend this to those who enjoy reading true medical anecdotes.

Gargantua, by Rabelais. This reminded me of Sterne's Tristram Shandy, in terms of the bawdiness and the frenzied pace of its humor.

The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz. A true account of a bid for freedom from a Siberian concentration camp. Seven men escape; who makes it to British India? They have recently made a movie of this book, but I can't speak to that, as I haven't watched it yet. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in accounts of survival in extreme situations.