I picked up The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin on our last vacation when we were wandering downtown and came upon a bookstore going out of business. (Yay for close-out sales. Boo for less bookstores.) This novel had been on my wish list because it’s about a bookstore owner with lots of literary references. After the death of his wife, A. J.’s life and business are spiraling out of control. But some chance encounters set his life on a new course. It was an easy and enjoyable read for vacation, though for the sake of moving along quickly I thought some of the plot wasn’t quite fleshed out. But I appreciated the characters and the literary references woven in.
C. S. Lewis Through the Shadowlands: The Story of His Life with Joy Davidman by Brian Sibley is sort of a biography of Lewis, but with specific focus on his relationship with his wife of only four short years. The book gives some background on both Jack (Lewis’ chosen name all his life) and Joy prior to meeting each other, then delves into their friendship and married life when they were both middle-aged. Jack was a confirmed bachelor who never planned to marry when he met Joy, but she turns out to be such an engaging and well-matched partner for him that he is taken with her. Sibley does a good job of showing how Jack’s personal life was affected and can be seen in his writings. It was a very interesting read and shows a side of the author not seen in his own autobiography (written before his marriage) which rounds out who this talented and brilliant man was.
I enjoyed reading N. D. Wilson’s fiction, The Ashtown Burials and 100 Cupboards series, and have heard a few interesting interviews from him about his writing and worldview. So I figured a nonfiction book by him would also be good. Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl is a collection of essays about…well, who knows. It seems to be a bunch of stream-of-consciousness observations about the world around us. But honestly, I can’t tell what the point is. I gave this a few chapters, but then just felt like I was wasting my time. I’ll stick to his fiction from now on.
Rosaria Butterfield referenced Missional Motherhood: The Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plans of God by Gloria Furman in The Gospel Comes with a House Key as her favorite book on motherhood. Since I really appreciate Butterfield’s view on things, I ordered this to give it a go. This is my second Furman book, and I am beginning to enjoy her writing and insight. From the outset, Furman asserts that the role of motherhood falls to all women because it is the role of nurturing – one we all instinctively do whether towards our own children, others’ children, our husband, younger women, etc. The first half of Missional Motherhood is a broad overview of Scripture, drawing out the thread of the redemptive story of God throughout. With this foundation, Furman then embarks on the second half which applies these big ideas of who Christ is – our Creator, Redeemer, Prophet, Priest, King, and Resurrection life – to our specific role as women. She shows how the person of Jesus affects and allows us to fulfill our role as nurturers, lifting the burdens placed on us by ourselves, our sin, and the world, and freeing us to trust and serve Him. This is a wonderful book that lifts our eyes higher than the day-to-day mundane grind to see the grand plan of God at work through our lives and the roles and responsibilities He’s given us. It was really helpful to remind me that my life is not about me, but about God’s glory. This is a wonderful book for women of any age and station in life.
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison is a memoir about his years growing up as an undiagnosed Aspergian. From his earliest memories, Robison portrays how he struggled to communicate and fit in, and how the difficulties in his home life forced him to learn to adapt in the world. He provides an inside view of how he sees and processes the world around him, and how some of his Aspergian traits helped in his career path. It was very interesting to get someone’s perspective of the world that is so wholly different from the way my own brain works. I especially appreciated his message that while his Asperger’s makes him unique, he came to learn it also makes him like everyone else – we all feel like misfits at times in life and long to be accepted for who we are.
Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies is a slim little collection of mini-biographies about great men of the faith and the influence of their mothers. Covering men of church history, past and present, Challies looks at the role their mothers played in their salvation and spiritual development. It was an easy, enjoyable read with meaty though short chapters you can read through real quickly. Each chapter also points out some practical lessons we can learn from these women of the past in how we nurture those God has placed in our lives. I really enjoyed this and got a ton of book recommendations out of it.
Grendel by John Gardner tells the story of Beowulf from the famous villain’s point of view. This novel provides a backstory for the monster leading up to his battle with Beowulf. It’s an interesting take on the story, lending some sympathy for Grendel. Gardner also uses this point of view to provide an outsider’s view of humankind, looking at some of its worst aspects. It was an interesting book, though some of it was pretty heady and philosophical, and over my head. Not one of my favorites.
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel is book one in the trilogy of the Themis Files. On Rose’s eleventh birthday she rides her bike into the woods only to fall into a large hole and land in a large metal hand. Later, body parts are discovered throughout the world. After assembling them all, a team scrambles to figure out what the giant is, where it came from, and what its purpose is. The premise is interesting, though overall it’s not a great novel. The characters are flat and the format doesn’t serve the story well – it’s written in a collection of interviews, correspondence, bulletins, etc. I probably won’t bother reading the rest of the trilogy.
We read The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung for a book study this year. This was a reread for me, you can see my original write-up here. It was a good refresher on important material, and I enjoyed going through it as a study group and working through the discussion questions. I’m interested in reading more on the subject of holiness in the Christian life with some books that go a bit deeper, but this is a great starter for any level, especially if theological books intimidate you.
I remember reading Beowulf in high school and really enjoying it, so I decided to read it again. This Old English poem was written between 900-1000 AD, but tells the story of a Scandinavian hero in the seventh century. Heaney’s translation has the Old English on the left page and the English on the right page. The story centers around three battles Beowulf faces, two in his prime and one in his old age, while looking at honor and loyalty to tribe and family. Though it sounds intimidating, it’s really quite an easy read, and the narrative is very engaging.