100 Book Challenge—Books #19-26

I’ve fallen behind in my blogging, so I thought I’d give a quick update on my reading challenge.

100 Book Challenge—Book #19 The Dairy and Gluten Free Kitchen  by Denise Jardine

Aunt Marie bought me this cookbook for my birthday this year and I loved it! It helped me find a lot more ways to cook gluten free. I’ve marked several recipes and hope to make them soon.

Book #20—Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

How can anyone not love Little Women? I’ve never read it before, but I had seen the movie as a child. The book far outstrips anything a movie could give. I love the moral lessons and the religious nature of the novel, I hadn’t expected quite so much of it. I now see why it’s a classic book for little girls to read.

Book #21—Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Again, I hadn’t read the book before, but I’d seen the movie. It was my favorite movie as a kid (introduced to me by my Hannah) and that movie was my first introduction to Austen. I love Austen and am in a quick way of being a most devout fan. I’m now reading Pride and Prejudice.

Book #22—The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson

I had read this in high school, but the content had become fuzzy. A short novel, it’s a compilation of three short stories. It’s quite good and a fun read. A little confusing because of so many characters having code names, but I was reading it in the hospital while Dad was sick, so that might contribute to the confusion.

Book #23—One: How Many People does it take to make a difference? by Dan Zadra

Someone bought this for me for graduation and I finally got to sit down and read it through. This is a fantastic book, a good book to read when you’re down or questioning your importance in the world. It helped remind me that God made us all for a reason. I loved the book so much that I bought another book by the same author. See below.

Book #24—The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu

This was a book that has been sitting on my shelf for some time and I finally got around to reading it. It’s like a precursor to Percy Jackson (really, I have to wonder if Reardon got some ideas from Ursu). It features a set of cousins who must venture into the underworld to save the world. Great book, highly recommended.

Book #25—The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I have been wanting to read this book for sometime. I started it as a kid and never finished it. Finally got around to it and LOVED it! It’s a great mystery story. I had a lot of fun figuring out the ending. Lots of twists and turns, great characters, and a good story of redemption and giving back. Well written children’s book! Recommend.

Book #26—Five: Where will you be five years from today? by Dan Zadra

I loved this one just as much as One. I recommend it for those who are currently trying to discern their future. It helps focus. Also, great inspiration for making your bucket list. 

100 Book Challenge—Book #17 and 18 Welcome to the Ark and The Flight of the Raven by Stephanie Tolan

100 Book Challenge—Book #17 and 18 Welcome to the Ark and The Flight of the Raven  by Stephanie Tolan

So, as a kid, Welcome to the Ark was my very favorite book. I read it so many times that my copy is kind of falling apart. Looking back, I totally understand why I loved it. I am what Steph Tolan calls an “ark kid.” The book is about a group of kids who are more or less loners, highly intelligent, awkward, and so different that others have a hard time accepting them. The only thing that makes it different from my childhood is that they actually have superpowers—they can connect with their minds to stop people with violent intentions from acting them out. There’s this whole idea of a quest and a community that I, as a kid, was so attracted to that I read and reread the book over and over, hoping that someday I would find an ark family where I could fit. While Echo is hardly that, I am incredibly blessed to have this community where I’m accepted and loved. I think in my heart of hearts, I’ll always long for the ark.

Now, given that this book is an all-time fave of mine, you would think I’d know that there was a sequel. Nope, I had no idea until I saw it on goodreads.com. So, I searched the libraries and when I realized I had no alternative, I went ahead and bought it. I don’t regret it at all. I loved this one just as much, as it followed the story of my favorite character—who had gone missing in the last part of the first book—explaining what happened to him. Also, there’s supposed to be a third that Tolan is working on, but she’s been working on it since 2001, so I’m not holding my breath.

I love these books. I love the way that the characters grow and open up. I love the story, the idea, the way it speaks to my heart. I love that the kids—children—are able to so drastically change the world with the power of their connections to each other. It’s a great book to read in an era where people are so “I” centered and don’t want to make real connections. In a world where facebook is how people connect, the idea of something so intimate as walking in each other’s memories and dreams, communicating with thoughts, and being able to dream together… it’s just so vastly different from the world that we live in that I can’t help but feeling attracted to it.

I would recommend this book for kids, particularly those who suffer from their blessing of being different.

100 Book Challenge—Book #16 Farming: A Handbook by Wendell Berry

100 Book Challenge—Book #16 Farming: A Handbook by Wendell Berry

Last fall, in one of their update emails, Amazon told me that this book would be coming out and I knew I wanted to read it. I almost pre-ordered it, but since I had so many other things I was trying to read, I decided not to and then lost track of it. This week, during my many library adventures, I found it on a random shelf and decided that Providence was calling me to read it.

I love Wendell Berry. I love the way he writes, the words he uses, the way that his poetry echoes the song in my heart. I love the way that reading his words make me feel like I’m laying down in the field at home or sitting on the front porch of my grandparents’ old house. I love Wendell Berry.

This book is no different. It’s mostly poetry, some of which I had read before, but most of it is new to me. And then, there is a small verse play, which is beautiful in its own way.

I can’t really describe Berry’s poetry to someone who hasn’t read him. He’s wonderful. Please read him if you haven’t. Even my dad loves his work.

One of the poems that I loved was the first in the collection. I thought I would share it.

The Man Born to Farming

The Grower of Trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,

whose hands reach into the ground and sprout,

to him the soil is a divine drug.  He enters into death

yearly, and comes back rejoicing.  He has seen the light lie down

in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.

His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.

What miraculous seed has he swallowed

That the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth

Like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water

Descending in the dark?

100 Book Challenge—Book #15 The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

100 Book Challenge—Book #15 The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

I had meant to read The Great Divorce for some time, and after prodding from our professor, Dr. Cavadini, this summer, I thought I might as well. My dad bought it for me for Christmas a couple years ago and I just hadn’t taken the time to read it yet.

The book is about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory and, like Lewis’ ideas about the afterlife portrayed in The Chronicles of Narnia, the image of death and of God is unlike traditional theology, yet so fitting and so good. I love it.

If you haven’t read it yet and would like a nice, short read, go for it! It’s lovely language, as always for Lewis. 

100 Book Challenge—Book #14 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

100 Book Challenge—Book #14 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I’ve already written about the impact that reading this book has been having on me. I can’t say this enough: it is a FANTASTIC BOOK! I’ve been meaning to read it ever since I saw an article on it in Whole Living back in January 2011.  Then, last week, I saw it on the shelf at Meijer and bought it. I feel like God must have really wanted me to read it, because I’ve been trying not to buy new books (I have too many to read as it is). But this one was a blessing.

The author spent a year trying to be happier. This isn’t the story of someone who went out trying to change the rest of the world. Instead, she is trying to change herself to make herself a better friend, wife, and mother, similar to the movie If a Man Answers. And I have to say, her work is admirable.

Each month, she focuses on a different aspect of her life to work on and comes up with resolutions that she checks in a very Franklinesque manner. She does research on happiness and on each area, which I admire. She’s a true bibliophile and seems to love reading, writing, and just books in general as much as I do. I think I’ve found my literary soul mate.

Also, even though she’s agnostic, she has a deep love for St. Therese of Lisieux. So, I have to give her credit for that.

She loves quotations and lists. I have to admit, part of the reason I love this book so much is because I feel like it makes me feel more normal.

She makes a list of her “12 Commandments” (a practice I think I need to take up) and a list of “Secrets of Adulthood” that she has learned in her life.

I highly recommend this book. Please, please read it.

100 Book Challenge—Book #13 Living Your Strengths by Albert L. Wiseman

100 Book Challenge—Book #13 Living Your Strengths by Albert L. Wiseman

I’ve already written about how fascinating I find the Strengths Finder test. The book, which I had to buy in order to take the test, is very helpful as well. In addition to showing how knowing your strengths can help in ministry, it also gave stories of different people and learning to use their strengths as well as providing Bible verses for each strength to pray over.

It also gave me a deep desire to learn more about the strengths finder and look into strengths coaching to go along with spiritual direction. It might be a good idea for our retreat center.   

100 Book Challenge—Book #12 The Way of Ignorance by Wendell Berry

100 Book Challenge—Book #12 The Way of Ignorance by Wendell Berry

It’s hard to write a review of a compilation of essays, particularly ones as diverse as Berry’s essays. Some are religious, some are purely environmental, but all speak to my soul. Wendell Berry has been a personal favorite since my week at Bethlehem Farm when Jake Olzen introduced him to me. Since then, I’ve been in love.

I think there is much to learn from him, even when I don’t agree. His love and firm belief in the beauty of nature and his wonderful language, so thoughtful and elegant in spite of his country boy tongue, deliver his message well.

I would recommend reading this book or anything else he writes, particularly his poetry. For my friends who are more theological, the reason I bought this particular book was that I wanted to read his essay “The Burden of the Gospels.” His reflection on what it means to live life more abundantly is thought provoking, though no always exactly in agreement with what we might hear in our classes. But Berry is wise, as he should be in his late seventies, and wonderful to listen to. I recommend him.  

100 Book Challenge—Book #9-11 The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

100 Book Challenge—Book #9-11 The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Yes, I finally gave into all the hype (just in time for the movies) and read the trilogy… which I finished in less than three days. I literally stayed up all night reading the last one because I NEEDED to find out how it would all end.

The first book was wonderful, but disappointing in the lack of character development, although looking back I think I was a little too hard on Katniss, who wasn’t exactly given a lot of time for processing all the experiences she was having. The later books are definitely better at this, as she learns to cope and learns more about who she is.

These books are well written, and I think are a good response to the crap that kids have been reading (Twilight, for example). They also have a message that should be listened to about the state of government. Futuristic novels usually do.

The characters are lovable, the world believable (perhaps because like Tolkien, Collins has written of our own world while integrating strange new things that make it seem almost foreign but familiar at the same time). I truly loved these books and continue to think of them and process them. If you haven’t read them, do. They are REALLY good books.

Side note: The movie was also good. I enjoyed it immensely. However, nothing will ever beat a good book, no matter how good the movie (or cute the actor) is.

100 Book Challenge—Book #8: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

100 Book Challenge—Book #8: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write about this book. My list of “to blog” things has gotten so long, I knew I just couldn’t put it off anymore.

I finished this book at the end of February, and now it’s almost a month later. I wish I could say that I took this long because I’ve been thinking it over, but really I have just been avoiding it. In many ways, this book hit me a little too close to home and reminded me of a relationship in my life that has more or less blown up… similar to Orual and Psyche’s, only Orual is actually right in this case.

At any rate, it’s a well written, thought provoking book (could we expect anything else from Jack?).

Another reason that I had difficulty with the novel is that the gods are the bad guys (or so it seems), which is completely against my life! But it’s a great story on sin and forgiveness and the way in which our own egos can cause us to fall. Then again, that’s what Tolkien would say every story is about… but I digress.

I recommend this book highly, and if you do read it and discover a deeper meaning, please send me your thoughts! I think this book would be good for discussion. 

100 Book Challenge—Book #7: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I’ve been hearing a lot about The Help lately. In fact, last semester, Sr. Helen Prejean (yes, the famous author) recommended it to me personally while we were having dinner (sorry for the bragging, I just feel really cool when I say that). I knew I wanted to read it to see what the hype was all about, but I didn’t get a chance until now. Unfortunately, I cheated and watched the movie over Christmas Break. It’s a great movie, first of all. I loved watching it, and watching it with two of my favorite women (Teresa and Hannah Mugel… best friends forever!) made it even better. So, needless to say my expectations for the book were pretty high. I was not disappointed.

Stockett’s use of multiple viewpoints made the story even more enjoyable. I loved hearing what was going on in Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeters’ heads. The switching back and forth wasn’t too confusing, since they say at the top of the chapter who is narrating and I think that the unique viewpoints that you get are worth the trouble.

It was interesting to me that the author took it upon herself to give the viewpoint of an African American maid when she herself is white, but as she says in the afterward, while she will never truly understand what that was like, trying to understand it is vital. I think that trying to understand is important, and it helps us recognize that we’re really all the same, no matter what seems to separate us.

The story itself is beautiful. The world it takes place in is bittersweet—there is the simplicity of an age now gone, but there is the deep poverty in the human conditions caused by living in a world so dominated by hatred, fear, and inequality. It saddens me greatly that these things happened, it gives me a feeling of relief to know that (mostly) those days are past for the African American community.

But, after a long talk with my dear friend, Sarah, I am reminded that things are very much the same now as then, but instead of the African Americans fighting for their civil rights it is now the Mexican immigrants trying to feed their families. I think that Stockett’s book can open our eyes to the way in which we allow a barrier of race (and, sometimes language) to make us forget that we are all made in God’s image and likeness. I hate to think of how often the same attitude of the women in the book is present in women today who treat their Mexican maids the same way that these women treated Aibileen and Minny. Perhaps this is something to think about.

100 Book Challenge—Book #6: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

100 Book Challenge—Book #6: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The author of my favorite series, the Percy Jackson series, is back with a new series called The Heroes of Olympus. This new series involves the same characters that I loved in Percy Jackson, plus a new spin on the Grecian world that I love so much: Roma. Even my favorite Roman myth, Lupa (sorry, anyone who lives in Rome long enough falls in love with that statue) shows up.

So, I don’t think I really have to say much about why I love this book. It’s my Greek gods and culture and language with my Roman mythology. I feel like Rick Riordan must love me to write such a book!

Read it. (But read the other series first.)



100 Book Challenge—Book #5: Joshua by Joseph F. Girzone

100 Book Challenge—Book #5: Joshua by Joseph F. Girzone

I started this book as a 6th grader in Sr. Ellen’s class. She loaned it to me, but I had to give it back before I finished it. I had wanted to finish reading it for some time and when I found it in the St. Vincent de Paul booth at UDCM 2011, I knew it was time.

I’m glad I did finally finish reading it. It’s not the best writing ever read and not as fulfilling as I would like, but it delivers a good message and certainly provides a lot to meditate over. The main character, Joshua, is actually Jesus (I’m not spoiling anything here, it’s pretty obvious from the beginning) and he is visiting a small town. The meditations over the Church and the clergy as well as religion in general make the book worth reading, although I find it frustrating that the author is so focused on the problems without giving us any suggestions for solutions. I was also frustrated because I feel like the author must have some personal problems with the Church in their background that they kept bringing in. The big problems that Joshua was talking about in the Church are not the issues that most people have with the Church and I was getting a bit annoyed by the end because the author was putting his agenda into Christ’s mouth (which is really never a good idea).

All things accounted for, I think it’s a good book, but not a perfect one. It’s worth reading if you have some spare time.

100 Book Challenge—Book #4: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

100 Book Challenge—Book #4: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

This book is one that I read as a child, I think in Middle School at St. Pats in Mrs. Meusch’s class, if I remember correctly. I couldn’t remember the plot really, it was all jumbled in my mind. My dear friend, Kevin, was talking about it one night and I admitted that it had been a very long time since I’d read it and he said I should try it again.

I have to admit, I wasn’t as impressed this time as I remember being and I felt that it went by too fast, as though there were an entire section in the middle missing. I did like all the religious language spread throughout that was mixed with the normal sci-fi adventure story. I think it could have been better written, but reading it in one night after finishing Out of the Silent Planet probably wasn’t being fair to the poor book. Besides, it is a children’s story and I was enthralled with it as a child. I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys children’s fantasy stories and particularly recommend it to budding young readers.

(Also, perhaps part of my negative reaction is related to the fact that I feel a little too close to Charles Wallace, too understanding of his arrogance in his knowledge… I will admit to that, though perhaps I shouldn’t.)


100 Book Challenge—Book #3: Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

100 Book Challenge—Book #3: Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

Since I first began as a philology major at the University of Dallas, people have been telling me I need to read Lewis’ Space Trilogy, which features a philologist (based on my own dear John Ronald Reuel Tolkien) as the main character. I, of course, wanted to read the book, but as a philology major (and later a philology major in exile), I never had the time. Deacon Mike Brooks, my high school youth minister and mentor, insisted that I read it. Daddy bought it for me for Christmas in 2010, but I didn’t get a chance to crack it open until Christmas break 2011. Then, I accidentally left it at home when I came back to Indy and I couldn’t finish it until Hannah brought it to me on my birthday (thanks, Han, you’re a life saver!).

Of course, I loved it. I mean, how could I not love something Lewis wrote? I especially enjoyed the philological ramblings and I seriously would love to know more about the language on Malacandra. Lewis’ language for the book, Old Solar, was fun, though not as complex as the ones Tolkien derived for his world (although, I’m not an expert in Old Solar, so maybe it is. It’s curiously like Latin in its grammar, particularly its pluralization).

Yet, in addition to my own language-geekness, I dearly loved the myth and the story. There was a sort of implicit, not exactly spoken but talked around, explanation of original sin that reminds me greatly of what one finds in The Silmarillion. And when I came to the end and discovered that the “silent planet” was in fact our own, it was quite a revelation.

Lewis did not disappoint me in this one. It’s easy enough to read and enjoyable. I highly recommend it.

100 Book Challenge—Book #2: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

100 Book Challenge—Book #2: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

I first encountered this book in Lit Trad IV with Dr. Roper. We read the chapter “How to Write a True War Story,” which I will admit was a great introduction to the novel even if it came from the middle. After reading the chapter in class, I wanted to read the whole novel last year but didn’t get a chance to. Last semester, one of my housemates mentioned something about the novel and I thought I’d pick up a copy while I was in Dallas over Christmas. I grabbed a copy at Half Price books for $6.98.

I truly loved reading this book. It was a telling narrative not only about the war and the experience of war, but also about the importance of stories: what they mean to those listening, to those telling.

Many of the stories that O’Brien told reminded me of my dad and the experiences he had in Vietnam and Okinawa. Some are sad, some are gruesome. They are very real, whether they actually took place or not.

I highly recommend this book.