For the reading challenge category “a book you have started but never finished” I read Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis, the first book in his Space Trilogy. I have tried to read this book a couple times before but could never get in to it. But a friend convinced me it’s worth pushing through, so I’m working each book of the trilogy into a different reading category.
C. S. Lewis is mostly known for his children’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia. His fantasy/science fiction Space Trilogy, though, he wrote for adults and it’s a bit more weighty and philosophical. Out of the Silent Planet is about Dr. Ransom who is kidnapped from a pleasant walk in the English countryside and transported to the planet of Malacandra. Once there, he is able to escape his captors and wanders the new planet where he discovers new species, languages, and cultures. Ransom also comes to learn about the greater story of the universe and the true state of his broken home planet, Earth. It’s an incredibly imaginative work, though Lewis’ writing can be dense at times. The story tends to be more descriptive with action here and there. Though there were points I just had to push through, it was an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to the continuation of the story.
For the reading challenge category “a book someone tells you ‘changed my life’” I read What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions in Life by Edward T. Welch. My husband recommended this book because it “changed his life” when he read it in seminary by transforming how he interacted with others and viewed relationships.
What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? looks at the root of many of our problems in this life – fear/worship of other people. Welch discusses how we as human beings were built to worship, and whatever we worship rules our lives. We will either worship God or worship other people. Far too often we are driven by what others might think of us, or how to best be accepted; this need to be loved and accepted controls us. Welch helps us to see this problem, how it plays out in our lives, and how we can start to turn our worship to its right object, God. Welch lays out the solution in three things we must remember: who God is, who we are, and who other people are. When we remember that God is our holy Creator and Redeemer and that we are destitute sinners but for His grace that turns us into His children, we can begin to worship Him rightly. When our worship is God-centered instead of man-centered, we are no longer ruled by the need to be loved by people, but are able to give love freely and sacrificially. Of course Welch is not promising a quick fix; he readily admits fear of people is something Christians will struggle with all our lives. But as we see ourselves fall to that temptation, we must reorient our thinking again and again. Continue reading
Not long ago Ben and I went to a book sale a local college library was hosting, and I stumbled across Stephen King. I have never been interested in this author because I don’t like horror, but I recently discovered his works span much more than that one genre. The book that caught my eye was The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon because it was described as more of a dark fairy tale than a horror novel, and he wrote it as juvenile fiction. It sounded like something I could handle without suffering nightmares, so I decided to give it a try. I’m counting this one as my “book about a hobby” for the reading challenge.
“The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.”
This was enough to hook me, and is now one of my favorite first lines. So begins the story of nine-year-old Trisha McFarland who, while on a hike with her mother and brother, becomes lost in the northern stretch of the Appalachian Trail. As she searches for any trace of civilization, she battles the elements, exhaustion, and starvation. Her Walkman is her only connection to the outside world and gives her hope to persevere because she is able to pick up the Boston Red Sox games and follow her favorite player, the closing pitcher Tom Gordon. As her time in the wilderness stretches on, she imagines Tom joins her in the woods and gives her strength and courage to battle the evil stalking her. King is a master storyteller, and it is no surprise he is such a popular author. The story is fast-paced and engaging, while Trisha is a complex and sympathetic heroine. The novel is a wonderful tale of triumph over fear by finding unknown strength, and it is an interesting exploration of hope and courage. I really enjoyed reading this novel and would be interested in more Stephen King – as long as it won’t keep me up at night.
For the reading challenge category “a book about music” I read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.
Bel Canto is the story of a hostage situation at an embassy in an unnamed South American country. The novel follows numerous characters but is set in motion by the South American country throwing a birthday part for Mr. Hosokawa, a successful Japanese businessman, in hopes of wooing him into working with them. They lure Mr. Hosokawa to the country by employing Roxanne Coss, a famed opera soprano, to be the evening’s entertainment. Toward the end of the party, which is populated by numerous heads of state and successful businessmen, terrorists invade and take the guests hostage. The rest of the novel details their lengthy time in captivity, probing the interactions between the terrorists and hostages, and how the beauty, love, and joy of music begins to tear down walls between them. Patchett explores the connection between love and art, even amid the worst of conditions. Continue reading
My husband and I recently moved to a small town in Mississippi for him to be the pastor at the local Presbyterian church. Small town churches have been increasingly on our heart over the past year thanks to some excellent guidance and encouragement from friends, and we are so excited to live and work in this small town. But, like every kind of ministry, small-town ministry is a unique context, even each small town different and distinct from every other. As we made our move to this new world, a book came across Ben’s path specifically about ministry in small towns, Small Town Jesus: Taking the Gospel Mission Seriously in Seemingly Unimportant Places by Donnie Griggs. Ben recommended it to me and I am counting it as “a book about a current issue” for the reading challenge.
Reading has taken a back seat as we packed and moved. We are getting settled in our house, unpacking and arranging, and I am slowly getting back into the groove with reading. A little book I kept in my purse along the way and picked up when I had a few minutes was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, which I put in the “humorous book” category for the reading challenge.
The Westing Game is the story of 16 strangers that are brought together for the reading of Sam Westing’s will, an infamous and eccentric millionaire. But the inheritance is not simple and straightforward. Instead, the heirs become competitors in a game of puzzles where the winner gets the fortune. This children’s story, the 1979 Newberry Medal winner, is full of quirky characters and endearing friendships. It’s a funny, quick read kids will enjoy as well.
For the reading challenge category “a book by a female author” I read The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty. I have not read much of Eudora Welty, and I have not read her since college. But I have collected several of her novels recently and was thrilled to dive into this Pulitzer Prize winner. I am particularly drawn to Welty because she lived in my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, and was alive during my lifetime. At one point, my husband and I even lived in the same neighborhood as her house, though she had passed by that time.
I picked up this little novel at the thrift store and it had a bit of writing in it already. I usually avoid buying books that are already written in because I want to write in them. But it was a very interesting experience to read someone else’s critical notes as I journeyed through the story; it was like a companion. They saw things I didn’t and gave me an additional perspective. Thanks Sally McDowell, ’83. Continue reading
For the reading challenge category “a book about Christian living” I read Joel R. Beeke’s book The Family at Church.
The Family at Church: Listening to Sermons and Attending Prayer Meetings is about as practical as you can get for a Christian living book. I feel the title is a bit misleading – while it certainly can be applied to families with children, it does not specifically focus on them and is a book every Christian should read to better engage in worship and the life of the church. At only 80 pages, it can be read in one sitting. The first section addresses the importance of sermons, as well as how to prepare, listen, and put them into practice after Sunday. The second section discusses the history and importance of prayer meetings and offers a specific outline you can follow. I found the first section extremely helpful and have tried to implement (though I need to do better) his suggestions. The second section was a bit heavy on the history, but still helpful. It did make me appreciate prayers meetings more. I highly recommend you take the time to read this affordable, little book. The effort you put in to read it is miniscule compared to the great benefits you will reap from it.
For the reading challenge “a book you own but have never read” I read Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, which has sat on my shelf since someone gave it to me several years ago. After a friend recommended Alan Paton, I decided it was time to finally tackle this book.
Cry, the Beloved Country is an emotional novel about the land, culture, and people of South Africa during a time of racial and political struggles in the 1940s. The story follows priest Stephen Kumalo as he journeys from the rural hills of the countryside to the seedy metropolis of Johannesburg to recover his lost sister and son. Kumalo’s journey to mend his broken family provides a comparison between rural and suburban life, as well as a commentary on the deterioration of tradition in the face of progress. Paton portrays his beloved country’s struggle to find its identity and purpose with insight and empathy. The author evokes a great sense of place with his poetic descriptions of the land and ways of the people. Though he candidly depicts the conflicts between black and white South Africans during this time period, Paton holds on to a hope that progress and tradition can coexist to create a unified, whole country.
My reading has significantly slowed down recently. I have been slogging through a novel that’s good but one I have to work at. That makes me less interested in picking it up when I have time. In addition, the last month has been a whirlwind of travel – between a week with our church’s youth group at RYM conference, and trips to Mississippi and Lancaster, PA, any free time I’ve had has been spent just trying to get my wits about me and pack for the next thing.
Oh, also Pokémon GO. I’ve gotta catch ’em ALL.