This year’s literary challenge (#Read2016) is perhaps the best thing I could have chosen to expand my literary awareness.
Diving into unfamiliar genres, exploring unusual topics, and discovering new-to-me authors has already been an adventure. (Read January’s update to see what I’ve enjoyed so far.) Even the “hunt” for titles shows me new things about my literary tastes, whether my dislike of traditional classic novels or my love of the old poetic masters.
I was happy to discover some great literary gems in February — and some short ones too. Despite it being a short month, I finished quite a few books — however half of them were fiction, and only three were over 150 pages.
Here’s what I explored in February (includes affiliate links):
Christians and Alcohol, by Randy Jaeggli
Category: Book about a current issue
This book transformed my view of the Christian’s responsibility to abstain from alcohol, and gave me a strong foundation for explaining my conviction against drinking. Jaeggli develops his thesis by a thorough logical progression through history, beginning with the quality and purpose of wine in both Old and New Testament times, and continuing through to the vast array of alcoholic beverages available today. If you’ve ever wondered about the implications of drinking a single glass of red wine or a small serving of craft beer, then this book is a must-read. It’s short and easily readable, full of factual arguments that are reasonably presented and thoroughly documented. Read my full review here.
I Am A Church Member, by Thom Rainer
Category: Book your pastor recommends
A helpful – and short! – reminder of what church membership really involves. It only took about an hour to read, but it contained so much truth about the individual’s responsibility to care for others with their local church. Even as a lifelong church member, there were some aspects I’d never really considered — like chapter 5’s exhortation to lead your family to healthy church membership — and found other chapters a useful and timely reminder of my responsibilities to pray for the church leadership, and faithfully and determinedly reach out to other attenders. My pastor recommended it to all regular church attenders, and I would second that suggestion.
Saint in the Wilderness, by Jess Carr
Category: Book that changed someone’s life
This biographical novel about Robert Sheffey greatly influenced my husband during his teen years. Written in story form, it contains a depth of well-researched information about Sheffey’s itinerant preaching ministry, his vibrant prayer life, and his familial challenges, as well as a broad overview of the camp meeting movement during the 1800’s. Unfortunately, while Sheffey was a great example of someone single-mindedly focused upon exhorting others to respond spiritually, he was perhaps not the greatest example of a husband and father. However, there is much good to glean from his life and I especially appreciated the glimpse into something that so strongly impacted my husband.
Roverandom, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Category: Book for children (#2)
I already read a children’s book for this challenge, but I just discovered this book at our library and wanted an excuse to read it. It was a fun read, especially considering Tolkien never wrote this for publication — it was originally a story he made up to distract his own son from a lost toy dog, and it wasn’t actually published until after his death. I especially enjoyed this edition with the introductory explanations by Christina Scull, as it pointed out many of Tolkien’s veiled references to other contemporary works of his day, classic mythology, and even aspects of his published stories like The Hobbit. If you’re a fan of Tolkien’s literature, you’ll definitely want to read this little gem!
I stumbled across the BBC Father Brown series at our library in January, and decided to watch the first season based on a friend’s recommendation… and found it surprisingly delightful. Being a book-lover, I then looked for the original G.K. Chesteron stories. While they are quite different than the tv series (for instance, the stories rarely place Father Brown in his home village), I enjoyed reading about the sleuthing priest who always got a confession and managed to impart some piece of wisdom along the way. In fact, I enjoyed them enough that I’ve already downloaded the second volume of stories on my Kindle!
I explored classic novel categories for hours trying to find a new-to-me story that sounded interesting… and discovered how little they appeal to me. There are a handful of classics I enjoy, however, and I finally decided to re-read my absolute favorite. If you haven’t yet dipped in Tolkien’s work, this book is an excellent choice to start with. Not only was Tolkien a masterful story-teller, his characters and mythology was so well developed that you almost forget it’s just fiction. Along with an enjoyable story-line and relatable characters, it also serves as a thought-provoking study of courage and loyalty.
Co-Active Leadership, by Karen & Henry Kimsey-House
Category: Book about leadership
This is one of the books our company promoted last fall. Although leadership is a concept I struggle to identify with right now, considering my current season of life, this book offered some relevant suggestions for how I can serve as a leader in different capacities, despite not holding any traditional “leadership” roles. I liked the Co-Active approach to the topic, although I disagreed with some of underlying worldviews guiding their pursuit of success. But as books on leadership go, this was fairly innovative in its approach to fostering leadership qualities among people in many different roles at work or at home.
A Retrospect: The Story Behind My Zeal for Missions, by J. Hudson Taylor
Category: Biography of a notable Christian (#2)
This was another re-read for me, but this time I went through it with my husband. The chapters are short, but Hudson Taylor’s writing style is very compact and he relates a lot of information in just a few pages. While the stories of his adventures are interesting, the spiritual truths that he draws from his circumstances are profound and incredibly relatable… especially to someone (like me) preparing to enter the mission field. In fact, those spiritual lessons make this perhaps one of my most life-changing books! Note: I recommend this updated edition — not only is it free for Kindle, but it’s been slightly modernized from the original version and is very readable.
In This Mountain, by Jan Karon
As you can see, this book doesn’t fulfill any reading challenge requirements, but I was feeling under the weather and wanted a comfort read. And a good character-based novel like one of the Mitford series is definitely that. I love visiting the colorful citizens of Mitford — Bill and Rose, Dooly, Puny, J.C., Emma, and of course Father Tim and Cynthia — and getting to observe everything that happens in the small North Carolina town. For being such a small town, life is rather eventful! Note: If you haven’t read any of the Mitford series yet, I’d highly recommend starting at the beginning.
What have you been reading lately?
PS – Find me on Goodreads to share what you’re reading and follow my progress for #Read2016!