Sunday, December 30

2012 Books in Review

This year I rediscovered a love for reading that I haven't felt since my high school book club days. Funny what starting over in a new town with no friends and TV season breaks will do, huh? I've actually been slacking in my reading now that we've settled into life here in the Memphis area, but I'm looking forward to hitting the books hard to start the new year. Without further ado, here's my reading list from 2012.

1. A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
2. The Sign of the Four - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
3. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
4. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
5. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
6. A Meal with Jesus - Tim Chester
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
8. Voices of the True Woman Movement - Nancy Leigh DeMoss
9. This Momentary Marriage - John Piper
10. Knowing God - J.I. Packer
11. Just Do Something - Kevin DeYoung
12. Tempted and Tried - Russell Moore
13. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
14. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Schaffer
15. The Runaway - Terry Kay
16. The Lords of Discipline - Pat Conroy
17. Murder on Astor Place - Victoria Thompson
18. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism - Mark Dever
19. The Testament - John Grisham
20. Awaiting a Savior - Aaron Armstrong
21. A Hunger for God - John Piper
22. Delighting in the Trinity - Michael Reeves
23. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
24. Conversation Peace - Mary Kassian

Sorry to those of you who might like these books, but I wouldn't recommend...
  • Murder on Astor Place may be the worst book I've ever read. With a terribly repetitive writing style and disgusting twists at the end to try to make up for an otherwise predictable plot, this book had me shaking my head.
  • I felt compelled to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay immediately after finishing The Hunger Games (which I devoured), but I wish I'd stopped after the first book. I was hoping to grow to like Katniss in the last two books, but instead I hated every decision she made. Her world devolved into a nightmare, but not in an interesting way. I came to expect that the worst would happen at every pass and in this way things became very predictable and tiresome. These were two long books of disappointment and death - not what I was hoping for on my beach vacation!
  • The Testament was my first Grisham novel, and maybe not the best to start with. I found it very slow-moving. A travel narrative was an odd choice for someone with such a straightforward, business-like writing style, and I think he tried to make up for it with laborious descriptions and lengthy dialogue. It was a long book and nothing special.
  • Speaking of slow-moving, A Prayer for Owen Meany may have taken me longer to finish than any other book I've attempted. I started it over a year ago and stopped many times since. I enjoyed very little of it except the occasional humorous story, but most of them are just quirky rather than funny. I found Owen less than compelling as a Christ-like, all-knowing wonder boy, which left me with a "so what?" attitude throughout the book. Without empathy for the characters this book was just a bunch of disjointed stories about people I don't like.
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp isn't on my list because I didn't finish it. I will qualify my criticism by stating that some of my most respected friends love this book and highly recommend it. Voskamp has a love-it-or-hate-it writing style, and unfortunately, I hate it! When I read it I was looking for serious encouragement and this just didn't cut it. The book is essentially the journal of a woman who learns to love life again by savoring the green of the grass and blue of the sky. I really tried to be encouraged by these things, but they only annoyed me.  I know that her purpose is to find joy in everyday things, but the things she chose for inspiration felt unoriginal and superficial. When I read this book I was battling depression and I wanted a Christian writer to show me how to fix my eyes on Jesus, not raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. That's where J.I. Packer came in.

Here are my favorite fiction books of the year...
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was nothing short of delightful. I wish I had ten more books like it to get lost in when I'm feeling down. Every once in a while I love to read something that is character-driven instead of plot-driven so that I can just enjoy the people. This was that book for me.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the opposite. Although the characters were intriguing, the plot had my eyes glued to the page until the end. I would love to read the other books in the series, but won't due to the very graphic nature of some of the pivotal scenes in this one. My understanding is that the next book delves into the heroine's violent past, which I'm sure will mean more rape scenes. I don't think it's worth it to read something so disturbing, but I'm sure they're otherwise spectacular books.
  • The Runaway filled my longing for a good Southern novel. If you like To Kill a Mockingbird, All the King's Men, The Help, or anything by Toni Morrison, you would probably love Terry Kay. He writes about Georgia, which fills my heart with joy, even if the stories he tells are often sad. The book was slow to start, but I didn't want it to end. It's written beautifully enough to be taught in an English class and engaging enough to read for fun.

And lastly, here are a few of my favorite spiritual growth books of the year...
  • Knowing God is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've ever read. It echoed so many of the beautiful things I learned about God while we were members at our church back in Georgia, so the whole time I was reading it I felt like I was saying a long goodbye to that chapter of our lives. What a precious gift to have all of those lessons condensed into one book! To read a whole post on my thoughts about this book click here.
  • Just Do Something is the book I've most recommended to friends since I finished it. It's relatively short and a fun read - so if you're interested at all, you should pick it up now! If you ever struggle with indecision, delaying responsibility, or fear of the unknown, this book will give you a swift kick in the pants. To read a whole post on my thoughts about this book click here.
  • This Momentary Marriage sums up everything I want my marriage to be like - a picture of the perfect love of Jesus. I often struggle with Piper's writing, but I enjoyed this book immensely. It's full of both practical and theological wisdom and a worthwhile read for anyone, including those who are single. To read a whole post on my thoughts about this book click here.
  • Delighting in the Trinity is a surprisingly readable book on a prickly topic. It's actually a fun read, not only about the dynamics of the Trinity, but God's character in general. It tackles big questions like, "What was God doing before creation?", "What is the role of each person of God in creation, salvation, adoption, etc.?", and "What does it mean that Jesus is the Word of God?" Reeves is great at expressing things that I already vaguely know in a much better way than I've ever thought or heard them.

Join me on GoodReads!

For a while I tried to blog in-depth notes on my favorite books, but that became a burden and took away from my reading time. Instead, this year I'll be rating and writing brief reviews on all of my books on goodreads - a helpful site that helps me organize my reading and follow my friends' updates on their books. Feel free to "friend" me by searching for Angelyn Vaughan. I'd love for us to spur each other on in our reading goals. 

Happy New Year!