The Year in Books

l8snwgunqbu-gaelle-marcel“So many books; so little time” is a quote attributed to Frank Zappa (according to Goodreads). I agree. C.S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” As a tea drinking book reader, I concur.

My goal every year is to read a book a week, or fifty-two, and every year I come close. Last year’s total was forty-nine. Almost.

I love to read your book lists and recommendations. Here are a few of mine:


The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.  Most of my family read this one, and we all enjoyed it. It is well written and tells the story of a young man who figuratively grew up as part of a crew team. Boat building, rowing, personalities, and the depression in the background add color to this excellent book. It reads like fiction.

Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman,  Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Isaam Smeir. If you don’t know much about the refugee crisis, this book is important reading. Biblical basics about a Christian’s attitude toward refugees, the tremendous difficulties that refugees face, and how we might help them are among the insights that the book offers.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans was an interesting read, although it wasn’t quite as engaging as I had expected.

Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber. This book reminded me that Christians are all over the map when it comes to their their appearance, their witness, and even their language. Who said we should all be typical Christians? Not Jesus.

The Road to Character by David Brooks. I expected a lot from this book, and it didn’t quite deliver. The last chapter, however, made the book well worth my time.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. If I were a doctor this would be essential reading.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Vance wants to communicate the difficulties that people from his community face in this world. “Why didn’t our neighbor leave that abusive man? Why did she spend her money on drugs? Why couldn’t she see that her behavior was destroying her daughter?…It would be years before I learned that no single book, or expert, or field could fully explain the problems of hillbillies in modern America. Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith.”

I read a number of books on rest, work and play for a retreat that I taught in the spring: The Radical Pursuit of Rest by John Koessler, Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark, and The Rest of God by Marc Buchanan, Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller, Work Matters by Tom Nelson, The Art of Work by Jeff Goins, Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper,  Play: How it Shapes the Braim Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, MD.  They were all insightful.


The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George was a nice easy read. A book store on a boat in Paris is the setting and the bookshop owner who recommends books to heal the hearts of his customers is the protagonist. His own heart, still suffering from a lost love, is the only one he can’t seem to fix.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I had never read this coming of age classic, and I’m glad I did.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. This is another WWII novel (there seem to have been a lot of them lately), and it’s a good one. Cleave’s story shows us, on a personal level, what war does to individuals.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. This novel tells the story of a 104 year old woman, a middle aged man who can’t quite get a handle on life, and an 11 year old boy. Aren’t you curious?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. There has been a lot of buzz around this book already, so I’ll simply say that it peels the layers off of a curmudgeon to expose the heart buried under a lifetime of stoically handled trials.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  A little bit like A Man Called Ove, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry tells of a man who is crotchety and who runs a bookstore. (There are a lot of bookshop books lately too – people reminiscing of the old days when browsing at a book store meant flipping through paper pages?) People come into his life and re-energize both A.J. and his book store.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. For the first three quarters of this book, I didn’t like it much. The “nest” is the term that four siblings dubbed the inheritance that they would all receive when the youngest turned 40, and they all had big plans for the money. Most of the book tells their not-s0-likable stories. The end of the book, however, shows us how people change for the better when they are pushed from the nest.

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny. Every year I look forward to the next installment in Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, and this one was worth the wait.

And I read the Bible, which is still the best book around.

What are you reading?


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Christmas: Evidence of God’s Love

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Jesus love me this I know. As a child I sang that song, and as an adult I have always known that Jesus loves me. But…sometimes I forget. At times I’m not so sure. Christmas provides an especially good opportunity … Continue reading

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Two Qualities of the Early Church That We Should Pursue Today

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The church, made up of Jesus’ followers, is his body on earth. It has been brilliant and influential at times, weak at other points in history, and increasingly divided over the years. Amazingly, the imperfect church is still God’s designated witness, his hands … Continue reading

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Election Musings

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Election day is weeks away. I’ve always taken my vote seriously, for I believe that we have been given the privilege of a voice and that we should use it to the best of our ability. Making a decision in this election, however, … Continue reading

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Are You Seeking God’s Kingdom or Your Own?

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Money, success, and self-actualization are driving motivators in our culture today. Millennials will stay at jobs roughly two years before looking elsewhere for personal satisfaction. That is not necessarily a bad thing. They view jobs where they can make an … Continue reading

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Riding a Bike and Conquering Fear

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Do you remember the day that you first learned to ride a bike? Recently my grandson ditched his training wheels and is now pedaling with joy and growing confidence.   My daughter said that the day after he had accomplished this two-wheel triumph he made … Continue reading

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How Do We Know If We Are Walking by the Spirit?

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Walk by the Spirit, Paul told the Galatian believers.  Sure; easier said than done.  How do I know when my actions are Spirit driven and when they are not?  We human beings are quite capable of convincing ourselves that we’re living by the … Continue reading

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2 Overlooked Truths about Prayer that Change How You Pray

I recently ran across a binder from my days in Moms in Prayer.  The resulting prayer flashback taught me a few things. Ten years ago I was no doubt frustrated that God didn’t answer more of my prayer requests right away. The process of reviewing two … Continue reading

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Three Steps to Follow Jesus when Making Tough Decisions

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We all follow leaders. The question is, who’s leading? Most of us follow some combination of our peers, people we admire, advertising, media outlets, and most importantly for Christians, Jesus. As a Christian, my desire is to follow Jesus more … Continue reading

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Dare to Hope

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Have you ever stifled your hopes to avoid disappointment?  Me too. A lifetime of being a Chicago Cubs fan has taught me not to get my hopes up.  When I was a kid I watched or listened to every game possible, … Continue reading

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