Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009 Books Finished List

I'm planning to, Lord willing, continually update this list as I go through the year and finish books... not with a huge summary of each book I've read, but with a nugget of what I learned, what I thought of it, or some aspect of the book that was helpful/meaningful, whatever. (This listing will not include the dozens of books read aloud to our children for pleasure or as part of our homeschool this year.)

So if you're one of those people who at the beginning of the year asked me to write about each book I read, you can bookmark this post, and come back and check out the list at your convenience throughout the year. I will write about some, but not all, of the books I read on my main blog-- but here, I will list every single book with at least a small summary and my opinion of the book.
  1. Ephesians- (The Apostle Paul) - after visiting Ephesus in December, it was particularly interesting for me to consider what it would have been like for a believer then, walking around in that city, mulling this new letter that had arrived from Paul, and trying to apply it to life. I particularly love how this text gives us specifics about how to live as the Body of Christ... it's challenging and convicting and instructive.

  2. Abortion: The Silent Holocaust- (John J. Powell) - excellent book that uses the eugenics/evaluation of "who's worthy of life?" mentality that existed during the reign of Nazi Germany to understand and analyze the current acceptance and support of abortion. A Jesuit priest who worked as a hospital chaplain and other interesting posts, Powell shares his personal experiences of life and death and intertwines them with his analysis of abortion and where it will lead for the culture that sits idly by while innocent people die in their midst. EXCELLENT book-- very sobering and in some ways, depressing-- but it is a righteous depression, I think, that he brings about in his penetrating discussion of this tragic topic. Click here to read my extended review of this book.

  3. Lamentations - (Jeremiah?*) - This is not just a book that gives words to very deep grief, sorrow, and shame (as you would expect from the title), although it does accomplish this with mournful specificity. My favorite part of this book is how God is shown as sovereign and wholly wise in His dealings with men... even in the hard times. And how, even in the midst of depression and sorrow, God is the rightful resting place for our hope and faith. (*-authorship not expressly stated in the book, but authorship is traditionally attributed to the prophet Jeremiah)

  4. Women Who Make the World Worse- (Kate O'Beirne) - Good book; easy, fun read. I found her analysis of feminism to be quite helpful in exposing the basic lies, hypocrisy, and ironies of the doctrines of feminism. My favorite thing about the book is that O'Beirne is extremely well researched. She brings out skads of sources and studies and lays the truth bare, showing how so many of the claims of feminism have been completely dumped on their heads. If you're interested in debunking the basic tenets of feminism, or just want to see what wrong ideas feminism has injected into the minds of this last generation of Americans, get this book.

  5. Hinds Feet on High Places - (Hannah Hurnard) - Excellent allegory of the deeper Christian life. This book came at a pivotal time for me and has challenged me and given me imagery to describe many of the things I've faced recently. It is very visual and descriptive, which normally is off-putting to me, but was very helpful for instructing about and fleshing out certain aspects of the Christian walk. Why do Christians face so much sorrow and suffering? Why does God ask us to sacrifice things that are precious to us? Why is the way so clouded and unclear at certain times? This book delves into these things in a very understandable and challenging way. I highly recommend it.

  6. Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God - (Noel Piper) - This is a very encouraging, challenging, and easy-to-read book. Piper examines the lives of five Christian women (Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Rosaveare) over the last few centuries and encourages us with their faithfulness, their foibles, and the way God showed Himself faithful to them. This relatively small book can be quickly read and I believe it will be an encouragement and challenge to all who open its pages.

  7. Mark - (John Mark) - What a delight it is to read about Jesus. After a month of studying Lamentations, I needed it. :) Mark focuses in on Jesus' miracles, and shows the way that the people around Him just didn't get it. I was encouraged as I read through to note how often even the disciples did not understand what was being said, as Jesus' responses show me that He'll be patient with me too, knowing that I am but a weak vessel made of dust. I love the way that Mark just tells the stories of Jesus. My desire to know Christ more has both been met and been increased throughout this month of reading through the book of Mark.

  8. A Celebration of Sex - (Douglas Rosenau) - I decided to read this book because it was highly recommended by Mark Driscoll. While I have some misgivings (one in particular: he talks about birth control very flippantly and brushes off what are clearly significant ethical problems with hormonal birth control methods), I found this book to be very thorough, and even despite my concerns, recommend it for virtually any Christian couple. He deals very carefully with specifics and offers very basic and very advanced detailed information for couples who need guidance in the beginning of a marriage, advice about specific problem areas (he addresses a wide range of potential problems), and encouragement in the area of intimacy. I have not seen such a helpful book that so very pointedly celebrates marital sex, written from both a Christian and a clinical perspective. This book is for both the newlyweds and the long-married among us; I believe it would encourage, inform, and/or assist any and all Christian couples in this area of intimacy.

  9. A Biblical Home Education - (Ruth Beechick) - This book outlined some new-to-me ideas, and expanded on Dr. Beechick's ideas on homeschooling, which I'd already read in many other places. Much of the book was re-hashing (for me), so I can't say it was anything incredibly insightful for me as a mom already a few years into homeschooling. BUT! If I was a new homeschool mom, trying to really get a feel for what is *necessary*, what some of my basic goals ought to be and what school should "look like", I think this book would be quite helpful. She does outline how to base your curriculum on the foundation of God's Word and offers some helpful critiques of each homeschooling "philosophy" out there. I enjoyed the book, and have dogeared a few pages for follow-up from me. I would be hesitant to recommend this book to a seasoned homeschooler, but for the mom with preschoolers or in her first few years of homeschooling, this can be an excellent vision-shaping book.

  10. The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World - (Nawal El Saadawi) - This book, written by an Arab feminist (which is an interesting designation, to be sure), is insightful to the worldview of conservative Muslims in the Middle East. She shares from personal experience and offers anecdotal evidence as she paints a very eye-opening picture that highlights severe differences between Western and Arab worldviews. Much of her book is based on and even devotes pages to outlining basic feminist theology. Feminism is the same the world over-- belittling a woman's role in the home, equating marriage to slavery, and blaming all the world's problems (and certainly all of women's problems) on men. Nonetheless, this is an interesting book because of its unique perspective and the subject matter which is difficult to hear about firsthand. I found myself often having to try to cut through the hype of individual stories (that seemed designed an chosen in order to shock and incite anger, rather than to inform) to get the basic themes of the Arab mindset. Nonetheless, I found this to be a helpful book for understanding the general roles and acceptable activities and characteristics of the average Arab woman, particularly those that are in Muslim-ruled nations. (*NOTE: This book was not on my 40-book list. I'm a rebel like that.)

  11. Esther - (Unknown authorship) - It was interesting to re-read this book at roughly the same time as the previous book... it gave me new insights to consider in greater depth the cultures (Persian/Babylonian) that contributed to the worldview of the modern Arab. I love the way God's fingerprints in moving people, shaping events, and causing His ultimate will to occur are so very obvious in this book. This book gives us the final historical picture of the world prior to Christ's return that we'll find in the Bible. God is still active and moving among His people, and yet they are in captivity, not able to identify openly with their God, and inwardly crying out for their Messiah. It's incredible to consider how God continually, throughout history-- and still today-- uses the lowly and the humble to bring about His purposes in the world. Esther offers us a picture of a beautiful woman, inside and out, who, while strong and resilient, affects the world around her by submitting to the authorities God brought into her life, staying steadfastly devoted to her Lord through prayer and fasting, and by listening more to even the quiet voices of the faithful people God has placed in her life rather than the noisy and imposing culture around her.

  12. The Fruit of Her Hands: Respect & The Christian Woman - (Nancy Wilson) - This small booklet (at less than 100 pages of actual text, it's an easy read) is packed with challenging words and food for thought for Christian women, married & single alike. She accurately pinpoints what the perspective of the "modern" American women is on topics such as femininity, submission to one's own husband, motherhood, and marriage. Wilson honestly and poignantly shows the wisdom of Scripture that tells older woman to be in a position of mentoring towards younger women. She lays out why women should be students of the Word and understand theology. Naturally, she discusses the importance of respect (as the title suggests) in the marriage relationship, but a convicting area for me was her treatment of the topic of discretion and courtesy when discussing personal things. [Sidethought: I do wonder how this topic might be balanced a bit if we could peek in on the relationships of women in extended generational families, with their midwifery skills, menstruation tents, and communal interdependency, as was more common in biblical times. It seems a stretch to me that biblical texts saying that we should not run from house to house (which imply gossip and futile busy-ness to me) can then be taken to mean that we should not discuss intimate or private things among close women friends. But this is a side issue for me, just one I'm thinking through.] Her treatment of sexual intimacy in marriage was refreshing; it is rare (for me) to find a woman who is both biblical in her treatment of the marriage relationship and biblical in her treatment of sex; Wilson does this well. In whole, I found the book challenging... again and again, the theme of this little work is "Know Scripture", and "Respect your husband". Good words for any wife to hear reiterated, methinks.

  13. Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message - (Ravi Zacharias) - This book was a difficult read for me; I had to keep myself motivated to continue plodding through. It was helpful in a few areas, but it was not what I thought it was... namely, a primer on comparative religious philosophies. It is a methodical explanation of some of the philosophical disagreements between other faiths and Christianity, but it is not a comprehensive approach to understanding differences, nor does it offer an apologetic approach for dialoguing with or about other faiths. The most moving and inspiring portion, as well as the most convincing, was his chapter about the origins of moral behavior and why only a theistic view fully explains our innate sense of right and wrong. This seemingly-chaotic book has some helpful nuggets of truth and insight, but one must be prepared to look for the beautiful arguments and points amongst an abundance of words and lengthy treatments.

  14. 1/2 of "Trauma Room One" - (Charles Crenshaw) - I read the half that was available for free on google reader. :) This doctor claims that the wounds he saw 45 years ago in the 1st-response treatment room of President Kennedy at Parkland Hospital after the assassination do not match what was reported/released about the wounds that killed the President. This is a very entertaining book; he highlights interesting points in the middle of what is already a very engaging and emotional story. Still, by the end of the book (at least, the portion I read) I can't tell how pivotal of a role Dr. Crenshaw actually had inside the trauma room with JFK. If you're interested in the JFK assassination, this book provides a unique perspective that is worth the reading.

  15. The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town - (John Grisham) - This, like every other Grisham book I've ever read (which is nearly all of them), is highly engaging and thought-provoking. When we meet Ron Williamson, the central figure of the book, he's a young man with a promising baseball career in his future. As his hopes for a baseball career spiral out of his grasp, his mental health deteriorates to the point that he ends up living with his mom, sleeping half the day, and sitting on the couch for the rest of it. When a woman that lives in his same section of town turns up murdered, Ron Williamson, though he has no real connection to the case, becomes the prime suspect. Wrongful accusation, dirty cops, mental illness, small town life, life on death row, the death penalty, and more are all topics that Grisham tackles in this first non-fiction novel. I highly enjoyed it.

  16. What to Do on Thursday: A Layman's Guide to the Practical Use of the Scriptures - (Jay Adams) - The title may be unclear, but Adams aim is to help Christians to know how to wield Scripture in every day circumstances. Inside, he lays out a very practical, systematic way to really get to know the Word. This is a good, simple, easy-to-read book that will challenge and assist any believer in the everyday use of applying Scripture to real life situations.

  17. The JFK Assassination Debates: Lone Gunman versus Conspiracy - (Michael L. Kurtz) - This excellently researched and well-written book gives a broad and historic overview of the two major theories of what happened on November 22, 1963. Kurtz is a genuine expert, having researched and interviewed almost every angle and personality of this story of presidential assassination for over 40 years. He is also an academic, which lends credibility and fairness to the research he presents. While he is personally a proponent of the conspiracy angle, Kurtz's chapter on the lone gunman theory is a convincing and thorough case in its own right. Common questions associated with the Kennedy assassination, such as the role of the intelligence community, and connections with Cuba, are addressed in an engaging and clear manner. This is an excellent and readable book for anyone wanting to better understand the influences and major players that may have contributed to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; I highly recommend it.

  18. Keys to the Deeper Life - (A.W. Tozer) - This challenging book, more than 50 years old, could have been written to the church today. Tozer's description of modern evangelicalism as operating almost entirely on a mental level, without continual reliance on the Spirit, is right-on, except perhaps that he gives too much credit to the church for pursuing truth. Sadly, it seems that even that mental pursuit has been abandoned in the 55 or so years since he wrote this book. Though small in number of pages, this book is rich with encouragement! I'm confident that his challenges to be filled with the Spirit, to separate from the world, and to live an integrated (heart, soul, mind, and spirit) Christian life will stir the heart of any child of God blessed enough to read the book.

  19. I read the first 10 chapters (which is all I intend to read) of Russ Baker's massive book, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces that Put it in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America - (Russ Baker) - This is a very interesting book, but I certainly would not take it all as fact. While his notes section at the back is long, there are many things he asserts without documentation that are not "common knowledge" and, therefore, should be supported with references, articles... anything. Because he doesn't, I don't know how many things are mental leaps of a conspiracy theorist and how much is fact. My husband bought it for his own interest but suggested I read the first portion to get more information about Bush's role in the CIA/Cuban goings-on of the early 60's. As an addition to my Kennedy assassination research, all the info about Bush the elder as a CIA agent in the 1950's-1960's was quite fascinating. Summing up, it's not an amazing book, but it's certainly interesting, and if you don't know much and want to get a history of the Bush family, it really is an eye-opening read.

  20. The Well-Trained Mind - (Wise & Bauer) - Undoubtedly, every homeschooler will encounter references to and followers of this book and the method presented inside. Because I have had it on my shelf for a few years, and it looks like quiet a lengthy tome, I was not prepared for how easy of a read it is. This book is more like a short philosophy of education, with a survey of the material and books to be covered in each grade, according to Wise & Bauer. Except for roughly the first quarter of the book (the philosophy part), it is almost entirely composed of lists and suggestions, organized by subject matter and grade. I am thankful that we'd already homeschooled for a number of years by the time I read this book, so that I don't feel it necessary to follow it in order to raise thinking children. To be honest, thanks to the incredible Sonlight forums and the awesome homeschooling moms I've "met" there, I didn't encounter anything wholly new or unique in TWTM, but I'm glad to have read it, and may occasionally refer to it as we progress in our children's educations. I can see how this would be a real gem for some moms who are looking for structure and affirmation about what will be "enough" for and help their children thrive in their home school.

  21. Mommy, Teach Me To Read - (Barbara Curtis) - Barbara was kind enough to send this book for my growing library of homeschool/teaching-themed books after we met through the blogosphere last year. It is certainly not a book of some educational "expert" peering down with studies and graphs and theories... this is the book of a mom who has taught many children (including her 12!) to read, and wants to help you do it easily and naturally. If you are looking for a simple book with an easy-to-follow method, this could be a good fit for you. One interesting inclusion is a small appendix with ideas for teaching lefties how to write, listing out specific hand placement and approaches for using with that unique slice of the population that is left-handed. Barbara also has much experience with special needs children, and brings that to bear in the book as well.

  22. Sacred Marriage - (Gary Thomas) - This is, bar-none, the best book on marriage I've ever read. Mr. Thomas clearly lays out God's plan of sanctification, maturity, blessing, and growth through a Christian marriage. I highly recommend it to any man, woman, married or hoping to be married. Happily married couples will find further encouragement; struggling couples will find challenge and hope; future married people will be informed about God's higher purpose. It really is the most solidly biblical portrayal of marriage and intimacy and God's plans that I've yet encountered. Read it.

  23. Beautiful Girlhood (Ed. by Karen Andreola) - Wow. I wish I had had this book when I was growing up (I could have, just didn't know it). I can't wait to review this book as our daughter grows, and one day (maybe around age 10-13, depending on the girl), place it in her hands and read it together as she prepares for womanhood. What a beautifully written book about what girlhood and womanhood truly ought to be.

  24. Genesis - I read through the book of Genesis in August preparation for our family vacation to Egypt. Some things I noticed in this read-through(focused more closely on Egypt this time) was that in the very first mention of Egypt (with Abraham-- chap 12), there is already a Pharoah and Egypt is a thriving nation. Sarah becomes a part of his harem for a while because of Abraham's half-truth (12:19). Hagar was given as a slave from Pharoah (12:16) to Abram... and when her son is born and grows into manhood, she procures an Egyptian wife for him (21:21). When Joseph is promoted as 2nd only to the Pharoah (41:38-21), he's given a wife that's the daughter of a high priest from Heliopolis (still a suburb of Cairo--41:45). Joseph settled his family in some of the best parts (45:18-20, 47:11) of Egypt (which was quite a gift, since Gen 13:10 calls Egypt a very beautiful land). Still, Israelites were already hated by Egyptians (despite Joseph's high rank)-- Joseph's Egyptian servants refused to sit with Joseph or his brothers (43:32). Joseph was given unusual latitude in the gifts/privileges given by Pharoah in exchange for his wise plan that ended with all Egyptians being owned, in body, land, and material goods by the Pharoah (47:20-21). Both Jacob (49:33-50:3) and Joseph (50:26) benefitted from Egyptian techniques of mummification. Interestingly, in the translation I brought with me (NLT), Egypt is literally the last word in Genesis.

  25. Home Making (now printed with a new title: "The Family") - (J.R. Miller) - I really enjoyed how Miller went through the various relationships that exist in a home (Husband-Wife, Father-children, Mother, children, Brothers-Sisters, Brothers-Brothers, etc.) and sketched a biblical picture for the potential for growth, encouragement, and love in each relationship in the Christian home. This was a beautiful book, and I highly enjoyed it and recommend it.

  26. What Our Mothers Never Told Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman - (Danielle Crittenden) -VERY VERY interesting read. Nearly everything I've stumbled across as I've tried to purge my brain of feminist theology was presented and tackled in this book. Crittenden offers up clear, research-based criticisms of each leg of the proposed feminist journey through life and why it does women wrong. At the book's end, she provides an interesting proposal for how to navigate life as an informed, modern women. This should be required reading for the young women in our society.

  27. Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex - (Dillow & Pintus) - I'd read this before, but it's always good to be reminded of the freedom and delights that are ours by God's design in the realm of marital intimacy.

  28. The Christian Home School - (Gregg Harris) -This book was written more than a decade ago, when homeschooling was still largely a statistically insignificant thing, when Joshua Harris was still unmarried and living at home, and when the Harris twins were kidlets. It was insightful and helpful for me to read what Mr. Harris & his wife were doing even then that has helped to sharpen and shape some of the most challenging and determined Christian young people of our generation. Harris' ideas about homeschooling, parenting, and life will be encouraging for Christian parents who seek to be intentional and interactive.

  29. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society - (Eugene Peterson) -Loved, loved, loved this. Gracious and truthful. Full of challenging, biblical perspective, Peterson has a way of digging deeper into Scripture and mining out precious thoughts for further meditation and conviction. I enjoyed mulling over this book over the course of the summer.

  30. A Voice in the Wind - (Francine Rivers) - "Mark of the Lion" series, book 1
  31. An Echo in the Darkness - (Francine Rivers) - "Mark of the Lion" series, book 2
  32. As Sure as the Dawn (Francine Rivers) - "Mark of the Lion" series, book 3

  33. A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family - (Mary Ostyn) - Oh, I loved, loved, loved this book. Though we'd never previously interacted, Mary wrote me privately a few months ago and offered me a copy of her book. I was so excited to read it, and (living overseas) just received it last week, and devoured it in just a few days' time. It was such a great book, and I am so happy to be able to highly recommend it, without reservation. Mrs. Ostyn has such a beautiful way of presenting truth in a gracious and helpful way. There were many practical tips I underlined and dog-eared so that I can return to the book and put some things to use in our home, and there were so many times when I wrote in the margin (or said), "Yes!" This book will make the mother of a larger-than-average brood feel right at home, but there are so many great ideas and mothering "tools" that a one-child mom could find plenty to challenge and encourage her in this delightful book.

  34. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University - (Kevin Roose) - This book presents American evangelical Christians with a rare opportunity -- to see ourselves through fresh eyes. Now, not everything that happens at Liberty University reflects norms of American Christianity, and not everything that Roose notes is necessarily accurate or fully informed, but I believe he did a good job of trying to fairly evaluate a controversial place (Liberty U), started by a controversial man (Jerry Falwell), and populated by young people who are part of a controversial group in America (conservative evangelical Christians). His fresh straight-from-the-secular-cesspool perspectives on worship, doctrine, cultural practices, dating, spiritual transformations, and more are insightful and worth reading for anyone who seeks to understand the cultural divides and contrasts that exist in American politics, religion, and society. I'm glad to have read it.

  35. America's Cheapest Family: Gets You Right on the Money - (Steve & Annette Economides) - This is a great book for getting tips/ideas/inspiration for spending less money, saving money, and being creative with what you have. The Economides family has raised four kiddos to adulthood, making an average of $30,000 per year. They take vacations, enjoy hobbies/sports, and dress well while saving money and living on what most people would consider a near-poverty-level income. I'm sure you could find more "technical" money advice in a Dave Ramsey/financial-focused sort of workshop/book. BUT- the Economides' book is focused on doing well as a family. They give practical tips and ideas I'd never thought of before. I got the book for fairly cheap, and certainly got my money's worth. I'm happy to recommend the book to anyone who wants to raise a family in a frugal and money-wise way.

  36. Cranford - (Elizabeth Gaskell) - This was such an enjoyable read. Set in 19th century England, this book is remniscent of Jane Austen, but I personally found Gaskell's story to be more witty and less predictable. It includes deeper and more insightful character studies, and more subtly instructive moral lessons. There were so many times when I laughed out loud-- the book really is full of parts that are just that funny. I'm typically a quick fiction reader, but Gaskell forces you (in a wonderful way) to slow down and really savor each insightful sentence or vignette. I really, really enjoyed the book.

  37. No Graven Image - (Elisabeth Elliot) - Wow. What a powerful book this is. Elliot pulls no punches in this, her only novel, as she presents life for a young woman trying to serve God in Ecuador. The picture painted is not black and white, not easily digestible... but very thought-provoking. The sovereignty of God, the "why"s of life, pain, suffering, guidance, confidence in His will... it's all questioned here in novel form. I greatly enjoyed and am glad to recommend this book. It's not an easy read, but it is a valuable read, and the questions it raises are certainly ones we should all ponder to be sure we're not creating a god of our own image-making but actually seeing and knowing and serving the God who is.

  38. The Complete Father Brown Stories - (G.K. Chesterton) - What fun these mysteries are! Written by one of the premier Christian thinkers of the last century, these short story mysteries are witty, extremely well-written, cleverly planned, and each story is short enough to read in a 15-minute reading session before bed (perhaps my favorite part). The central character is a humble but sharp-as-a-tack priest who employs humor and keen insights to solve some of the most baffling mysteries. His method of solving crimes doesn't always lead to arrest... as he is a priest, he concerns himself more with the state of the souls of criminals he encounters, and his actions reflect his aims. I'm still working through them... it's one fat book, but I've read nearly a dozen so far and if you are a connoisseur of good quality fiction or mysteries in general, it is quite likely that you will immensely enjoy this collection.


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