Tuesday, December 27

2011 Books in Review

One of my goals when I started this blog was to keep track of my progress in reading books and record my thoughts about them. I even made a tab just for books, but as you can tell it hasn't seen much use. That's okay though, because I've spent some of the time that I would have been blogging reading instead (but mostly on facebook and pinterest).

So, instead of going book-by-book, I've decided to post a reading summary from the whole year, brief reviews of my top three favorites, and set some goals for next year's reading.

2011 Books
Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
The Mysterious Incident at Styles - Agatha Christie
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Financial Peace University - Dave Ramsey
Guide to Georgia Vegetable Gardening - Walter Reeves
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
Chosen by God - R.C. Sproul
Same Kind of Different As Me - Ron Hall, Denver Moore
Ministering Cross-Culturally - Sherwood G. Lingenfelter
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
The Tears of the Giraffe - Alexander McCall Smith
A Praying Life - Paul Miller
Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches - Russell Moore
Hudson Taylor - J. Hudson Taylor
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
Persuasion - Jane Austen

Some of these books I loved and others I didn't, but here are my thoughts on the top three books of 2011.

1. Chosen By God - R.C. Sproul
Written 25 years ago, this treatise on the doctrine of predestination has become a contemporary classic. I would highly recommend this book, not just to those who consider themselves Calvinists or reformed, but especially to those (like me, before I read this book) who have always thought of predestination as murky theological waters. It's not a big book, but it's dense, and it took me a few attempts to finish. This book, in combination with sermons from our church and others I've listened to online, has given me a much better understanding of the mysterious balance between the sovereign authority of God and his boundless grace.

2. The Help - Kathryn Stockett
I was one of the millions of people this year who read and loved this book. Set in Jackson, Mississippi at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, this inspirational story examines the lives of black maids and the women they work for. This book was unexpectedly funny, lighthearted, and powerful. The characters were absolutely delightful and the Southern idioms were perfectly authentic. It's been a long time since I've allowed myself to become so consumed by a story, and like all wonderful books I was sad to put it down. If you've only watched the movie, which was wonderful, but lacked the richness of the book, do yourself a favor and read The Help.

3. Adopted for Life - Russell Moore
Michael got a free download of the audio version of this book from www.ChristianAudio.com (check out their 50% off sale on audio Bibles here) and once we started it I wanted to keep driving until we'd heard it all. I plan on purchasing a hard copy and going back to it over and over again. This book serves to remind the church that the gospel of Jesus is really about adoption: becoming the sons and daughters of God. Inasmuch as God has loved us and given us the rights of children without any prior claim to these blessings, so we as the church are to love orphans. Much like the relationship of Jesus and the church is mirrored in marriage, so the sovereign grace of God to sinners is mirrored in the relationship of adoption. Moore, who has adopted two children from Russia, addresses both the "why" and "how" of adoption without getting mired in details that don't apply to those of us who aren't parents in the process of adoption. This book confirmed our desire to adopt at least one child in the future, made us really excited about being parents someday, and moved us to marvel at the riches of God's grace in adopting us as his wayward children.

My Plan for 2012
One thing I found helpful this year was to keep a note on my phone with a list of books I'd read and ones that I wanted to read. Any time I got bogged down in one book I encouraged myself to press on so that I'd be able to move another title from the "To Read" list to the "Already Read List." So, here are some books leftover from my phone list from 2011.
2012 Reading List
Money, Possessions, and Eternity - Randy Alcorn
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
2020 Vision - Bill and Amy Stearns
The Girl w the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
Knowing God - J.I. Packer 
In the Skin of a Lion - Michael Ondaatje
The Master Plan of Evangelism - Robert E. Coleman
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Sacred Marriage - Gary Thomas
Sookie Stackhouse series - Charlaine Harris
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter - Jennifer Reese
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting - Milan Kundera
I've had a recent exciting development when it comes to reading. In addition to the iBooks app that allows me to read classic public domain novels for free, my new Audiobooks app (the $1.99 version, not the free one) lets me listen to the same books on my phone. Of course, listening to these books makes a long drive fly by and helps me plow through books I might otherwise not finish. But my new favorite thing to do is to turn on an audiobook while I'm doing housework. It's always a struggle for me to put away laundry (clean or dirty) in the bedroom and to iron my clothes for work. But fortunately these tasks are quiet enough that I can focus on the book while I'm cleaning and the work is over in just a few chapters. So here's a list of public domain books I'm hoping to read and/or listen to over the next year.
Public Domain
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie
Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie
Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

2012 Scripture Reading
In addition to these books, I'm excited to have a plan for scripture reading this year. Michael recently found this post from Tim Challies about a 10-Chapter-Per-Day reading plan. This sounded like insanity to me, since I haven't been consistent in scripture reading since we got married. But after thinking about it, I think it's going to work well. The idea is to read a large quantity of the Bible quickly rather than steeping slowly in a short passage. Instead of reading 10 consecutive chapters (which inevitably means getting bogged down), you read a chapter from each daily: the gospels, the Pentateuch, the New Testament letters (two daily), the Old Testament wisdom literature, the Psalms, the Proverbs, Acts, and the Old Testament History and Prophetic books. The quick pace of this plan means that by the end of the year I will have read through each of these sections multiple times. It also means that if I get behind I still will have covered enough ground to maintain my progress. Check out this link to download the reading plan and handy bookmarks to keep you in the right places.

So, what do you think? Are there any books you would add to my list?

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