Monday, January 07, 2008

The Books of 2007

I'd been keeping track all through the year. I'm posting it because this is the only place where I keep track of this kind of stuff.

1. The Bible - Fantastic. I highly recommend that you read this book! (And I highly recommend the Bible in 90 Days program.)

2. Wild Swans by Jung Chang. You can read my thoughts about this book in this post about Wild Swans.

3. The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges - Here is a post about some of the major themes of the book that really hit me, and how I was processing them personally.

4. Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath - Here are my thoughts on this so-so book.

5. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - My take on this book starts in the middle of a post about my trip to New York, which is where I was when I finished reading it.

6. Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer - every Christian, go out and get this book right now. GO!

Oh, you want to know why? Here's why.

7. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - I read this book because I wanted to read Pride and Prejudice (see below) but it was checked out at the library. I was in the mood for a good story and I knew, after seeing the movie, that I liked S&S. So, I picked it up.

Much better than the movie. I even watched the movie again after reading and the movie was very disappointing.

Yay for Jane Austen. I couldn't put this one down. AND IT'S FICTION!

8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - A friend lent the movie to me and, after watching it, I was scratching my head trying to figure out where Darcy's profession of love came from. Seemed totally out of nowhere. (I subjected myself to several more viewings so that I could watch his mannerisms more closely and try to see if I could read more into them. All in the name of research, of course.) Ultimately I decided that I would like to read the book to see if Austen included more explanation of Darcy's feelings for Elizabeth. I was not disappointed.

The thing about reading these Austen books is that you have to sit through all the mundane tea parties and visits that these civil members of polite society engaged in. I had to wonder how they didn't suffocate from the boredom of it all. But, apparently, this was one of the things that Jane Austen was acclaimed for - capturing the mundane - but doing so through characters who were anything but.

One detail didn't quite make sense to me, but I will not even mention it because I think it is more than likely a misunderstanding caused by my difficulty in reading the language of the book.

As a modern reader, the only thing that could have made the book better was if we could have heard of their first kiss or their marriage or something like that. I suppose no proper English woman of her day would have written such things for the public...

And now I am realizing that I have made the book sound much worse than I really thought it. I loved it, actually. I certainly got what I wanted out of it, which was more of Mr. Darcy's feelings throughout the story. I believe I will read this one again. Even think I might like to own it. So how's that for liking it?

9. The Three R's by Ruth Beechik - A short book about natural teaching methods for young children. Eye opening, but completely logical ideas she presented included - not needing to teach children the names of letters in order to teach them to read (teaching only sounds, adding letter names later.) Similarly, not teaching mathematical notation (+, -, =, etc) until children are able to do these concepts easily in their heads. Teaching writing by having children copy good writing. Not worrying about spelling until around grade three. The need for manipulatives in math and separating this kind of activity from mental images and notation work.

I took away a lot of practical ideas for help with homeschooling, but, more importantly, I felt encouraged as I read that I could do this more natural approach (which I have found attractive, but scary, for quite a while.)

10. Every Woman's Battle by Shannon Etheridge - the best part came near the end of the book. It was a list of six (?) different relationship analogies that are described in the Bible. She ranks them in order of the intimacy with God that they portray. Personally, I found these very revealing. (Ironically, she credits this material to another author.) The rest of the book contained some good reminders for maintaining purity, albeit simply written, though her treatment of Scripture is hardly what I would call rigorous. (She uses the "just-as-if-I'd never sinned" to explain the doctrine of justification [shudder]. Such oversimplifications by a teacher always make me question whether the words are worth heeding at all.)

11. Persuasion by Jane Austen - By now, I am onto the pattern. There is a strong yet lovable heroine who has few negative qualities. She has a potential interest from and/or for another man who, to everyone seems quite the catch but, it is later revealed, is a scoundrel of the worst sort. And there is the other guy, the good guy, who ends up getting the girl.

Persuasion is a great story, but frustrating because we see so little interaction between the heroine and her eventual lover. So little. Worse - very little is told throughout the story of Captain Wentworth's feelings. Whatever is gleaned is through the eyes of Anne, who, hoping to regain his affections, can only be considered a biased judge of his intentions. At the end of the book, I was left scratching my head as to why he acted the way he did. He said he'd always loved her, but he didn't ACT like he loved her. I guess this is what makes it suspenseful... but that also makes it hard to believe. And maybe a little boring, too.

And, just like Pride and Prejudice, after the couple are united, the reader finally gets to be with them in private! And, just like Pride and Prejudice, the two of them spend several pages talking about who misunderstood what and how mortified they were at this or that, and yada, yada, yada. And all I was really thinking was "shut up and kiss each other!"

But that's me.

A good book, but I think I liked Pride and Prejudice better.

12. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner - Oooh. This was a good one. Maureen recommended it to me, but for some reason I didn't think I'd like it.

I was wrong.

I love this book because it is about taking a deeper look into expert advice and conventional wisdom. I tend toward skepticism - I question people's conclusions and squint my eyes when people make causal links that don't always seem logical. This book was just the thing. Look deeper. What does the data say?

The authors made what I think is an important distinction between causality and correlation of data sets. And the definition of "conventional wisdom" was refreshing. From school test results to crime statistics to the outcome of Sumo tournaments, the authors looked at data and made some surprising discoveries.

So very interesting.

Probably the last thing I needed was what this book ended up doing - it made me a little more skeptical of what the "experts" say. Of course, what this book also did is remind me that maybe skepticism in that regard isn't such a bad thing after all.

13. Emma by, who else? Jane Austen.

Oh, by the way, we need to ALERT THE MEDIA... this book is a NEW. WORLD. RECORD. Not only have I read 13 books this year, but 5 of them are also FICTION... and not a single one was, ahem, a children's book either.

I think Emma is my favorite. I still can't decide if I think she is far too self-absorbed to deserve my liking her, but then I think "this is fiction so, it really DOESN'T MATTER." Still, I like her. And I think I like Mr. Knightley better than any of the other heroes of the other three I've read. He's sensible, polite, responsible, considerate, and he doesn't mince words. And, he can fall hard for a girl and isn't ashamed of it. So he is not as "hard" as Darcy; we get to see more of him than we do of Wentworth; and I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER enough about the guy in Sense and Sensibility to offer any comparison, so that should speak for itself.

So there, Emma is my favorite. The only thing that might make me change my mind would be finding out that I misinterpreted a bunch of that old English writing and the story isn't really what I think it is.

Which is totally possible.

I might actually finish another book this year.

(Pick yourself up off the floor.)

And now for the list of Books I started this year and WANT to finish, but didn't:
1. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard - because, even though it is good reading, it's some kind of heavy. And heavy hurts my head.

2. The Hiding Place by Corey Ten Boom - because I know how it ends, and I have a hard time sleeping at night when I read real stuff like that. And I don't need any more stuff to make me feel all kinds of angst. I am good at angst all by myself.

3. What The Bible Says About Parenting by my main man, John MacArthur. This is the one I thought I might finish before the end of the year. Then there was a little change in my end-of-year plans when I realized that I had incorrectly knit (knitted?) 52 rows of a sleeve for a sweater that I NEED to get done before the baby I am making it for outgrows it. That was about four days worth of work down the toilet. But, hey, with the sentence structure of this very paragraph I have pretty much thrown all the rules of grammar and composition down the toilet too.

Just keeping with the theme, y'all.

Next up, we have the list of Books that I got for Christmas and will definitely be on my reading list for next year:

1. A Peculiar People by Rodney Clapp

2. How Should we Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer.

3. The Bible by God. I didn't really get it for Christmas, but I am getting ready to read it again. I'll let you know how it turns out.

And the list of Books that Have Been on my Reading List That I Really (I MEAN it) Want to Read This Year, Finally. Alleleuia, Amen.

1. The Tipping Point. And I don't remember who wrote that. Gladwell?

2. Hard to Believe. MacArthur.

3. Money, Sex and Power (AKA The Challenge of the Disciplined Life.) Richard Foster

4. And maybe I will finally get around to finishing In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. I really, really want to finish that one.

And finally, the Books I started this year and will not ever, even if you pay me, though I doubt you would, but even if you did, I wouldn't finish reading, ever:

1. The Good Earth by Pearl Buck - because I got half way through the book and realized that I absolutely did not care about what happened to the main character (I forget his name.) I didn't want to read any more about him or his life. I just didn't like him.

2. A Circle of Quiet by the lady whose name I can't remember. Madeline L'Engle, perhaps. It just didn't grab my attention.

3. Unexpected News. (Author - ???) Again, it just didn't grab me. I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to learn what it had to offer, but it just wasn't interesting.

Only three. Pretty good, eh?

Thank you. Thank you very much.

How many you think I can read in 2008?