2012 Reading List

9 01 2013

I didn’t read as much as I had hoped for in 2012. My original goal was 52 books, one per week. As a working mother, that was perhaps a bit ambitious. I only made it to 40.

The first list is the books I read listed chronologically. The second list, ordered by my rating and preference, gives a brief synopsis of each book followed by my opinion.

Overall, my favorite non-fiction read was 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, and my favorite fiction was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I also discovered three new (as in new-to-me) authors I can’t wait read more from: Jen Hatmaker, A.J. Jacobs, and Stephen Lawhead. Leave me a comment on your favorite books. I will read just about anything as long as it’s good: fiction, non-fiction, historical, sy-fy, young adult, Christian, memoirs, mystery . . .

1. Season of Betrayal by Margaret Lowrie Robertson
2. The Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas
3. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
4. The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
5. The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
6. Walking Ghost Phase by David Daugherty
7. Off the Deep End by W. Hodding Carter
8. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
9. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
10. Dear Stangers by Meg Mullins
11. In the Arms of Grace by LeChristine Hai
12. The Hidden Girl by Lola Rein Kaufman
13. The Girl Who Survived by Bronia Brandman
14. Swimming with Crocodiles by Will Chaffey
15. The Wedding Letters by Jason F. Wright
16. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright
17. Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs
18. House by Frank Peretti
19. Illusion by Frank Peretti
20. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
21. Just a Minute by Wes Stafford
22. Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
23. The Book of Vice by Peter Sagal
24. Eve by Elissa Elliott
25. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
26. Running for My Life by Lopepe (Lopez) Lomong
27. The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner
28. Goodbye is Not Forever by Amy George
29. Hood by Stephen Lawhead
30. The Kill Order by James Dashner
31. The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Thirteenth) by Lemony Snicket
32. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
33. Breaking Free by Beth Moore
34. Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead
35. Tuck by Stephen Lawhead
36. Ana’s Story by Jenna Bush
37. Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
38. Radical by David Platt
39. The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead
40. The Bible

The Bible
Yes, this book will always be at the top of my reading list. This marks year four of reading through the entire thing, and I never get tired of it. In fact, the more I read it, the more I desire to read more. It’s a wonderful circle. I continue to be challenged, rebuked, and encouraged, and I hope I always will.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
In an attempt to simplify her life, Jen Hatmaker came up with a carefully crafted list of seven areas of her life in which to mutiny against excess: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.

Like Hatmaker, I deeply desire simplifying my life, getting rid of stuff, living on less, and giving more to those who really need it. I am deeply intrigued by Hatmaker’s ideas on how to accomplish this and look forward to my own mutiny against excess, though I am not sure what it looks like specifically, yet.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Randy Pausch, a former professor of virtual reality courses at Carnegie Mellon University, writes his “last lecture,” literally and figuratively. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given just a few more months to live, Pausch puts his thoughts, wisdom, and advice in this short, sweet, easy read.

His words offer such insight and understanding, they bring us back to a world in which we should respect everyone, treat others with common courtesy, and pursue your own dreams to the fullest extent. This is a book I need to read at least once a year. You can also find the actual Last Lecture Pausch gave at Carnegie Mellon on YouTube.

Breaking Free by Beth Moore
Moore takes us through a Bible study on “discovering the victory of total surrender” to God’s design for our lives.

I realize I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m normally not a Beth Moore fan. I’ve read other books/Bible studies of hers which left me unimpressed. Most of this book didn’t do much for me either. However, the reason it is this high on my list has to with the last few chapters on taking our thoughts captive. I re-read this section every few days to remind myself of the truths and promises of God’s word on this topic. The way Moore presents it was new and captivated me.

Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs
After a bout of tropical pneumonia, Jacobs felt compelled to take on another monumental task—become as healthy as possible from head to toe. Over two years, he read countless health blogs and books, consulted with dozens of doctors and health experts across the country, and tried just about everything he could to maximize his health.

Witty to the core, Jacobs presents information across the spectrum from pseudo-science health fads that probably do more danger than good to research on peer-reviewed scientific studies published in JAMA. Among the dozens of topics Jacobs covers are toxins, acupuncture, juicing, noise pollution, barefoot running, and how to go to the bathroom properly—and there is a better way than what most Americans do. This book is insightful and humorous, and I would recommend it for anyone remotely concerned about their health.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is a novel about Liesel Meminger, a young girl living with a foster family in Nazi Germany. This is the story of how she became the Book Thief and how her love and hatred of words saved herself and others.

I think this is my new favorite work of fiction. I finished its 550 pages in just a few days—including many late nights followed by sleepy mornings. It is brilliantly written, captivating, amusing, and heart-wrenching.

The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner
Wagner explores “why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills (critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination) our children need and what we can do about it.

I must admit that I did not have high hopes for this book as it was required professional development reading over the summer for my work. While the first half was rather dry and filled with “old news” by now on the state of the American school system and all its failures, the second half had me intrigued, especially the anecdotal stories about a few schools who “get it.” I remember reading about these schools thinking, “I want to teach there. I wish we could do that where I teach.” I was inspired by their innovation and deeply challenged to rethink how I teach and what I teach.

Radical by David Platt
Platt asks us to consider how our pursuit of the American dream—more, bigger, better everything—has waylaid our pursuit of the life Christ wants us to live.

I most appreciated Platt’s challenge for his readers to join the Radical Experiment, a one-year journey into authentic discipleship in which one commits to: 1) pray for the entire world, 2) read through the entirety of God’s Word, 3) sacrifice our money for a specific purpose, 4) intentionally spend time in another context, and 5) commit our lives to multiplying community. I hope to take up this challenge in 2013.

Just a Minute by Wes Stafford
CEO and President of Compassion International, a child-advocacy sponsorship group, wrote this book of stories based on his years of travel to the world’s poorest areas and coming back to America to report on what he experienced. He is convinced that if “God stands a child before you, for even just a minute, it is a divine appointment” from which we have the chance to build it up or tear it down.

Stories came from internationally known figures like Nelson Mandela and Colin Powell as well as from those children fighting to survive amidst trash piles in the slums of the world. After each little snippet, I found myself praying, “Please, God. Help me do better.” I highly recommend this book to every parent, teacher, doctor—anyone who is involved with children in any regard. Sometimes all we have is just one minute to make a profound difference in the life of a child.

The Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas
Written by the same author of The Five Love Languages, this book offered a perspective on different types of apologies and why some apologies seem sincere to the giver but not the receiver. While I felt it was mainly a collection of redundant examples on how to apologize, I did appreciate the chapter on Learning to Forgive. Personally, accepting an apology is often more difficult than giving an apology.

“Forgiveness means that you will not seek revenge, that you do not demand justice, that you will not let the offense stand between the two of you. Forgiveness results in reconciliation. That does not mean that trust is immediately restored. Reconciliation means that the two of you have put the issue behind you and are now facing the future together.”

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
Jacobs, a self-proclaimed agnostic, attempts to live according to all biblical mandates and guidelines as literally as possible for one full year. What started as an “intellectual adventure of the most influential book in the world” became much more. Jacobs’ writing reminds me of Dave Barry—humorous and yet always with a moral or lesson close at hand.

My favorite line of the book comes in the introduction. “As with most biblical journeys, my year has taken me on detours I would never have predicted . . . I didn’t expect to, as the Psalmist says, take refuge in the Bible and rejoice in it.” My own experience echoes this sentiment exactly.

Goodbye is Not Forever by Amy George
This is the true story of George’s life. Her father was arrested by the KGB when she was a baby. As WWII progressed, she and her two siblings and mother were taken by cattle car to a slave labor camp. Surviving the horrors of Nazi Germany, the family finally emigrates to America where they start life anew in every way possible, most importantly, as followers of Christ.

Like every other Holocaust and WWII survivor story I’ve ever read, this one was fascinating. Even through such tragic events, hope remains. I am always reminded to be thankful for the ridiculously blessed life I live.

House by Frank Peretti
Two couples wander into an old “inn” in the middle of nowhere Alabama after freak car “accidents.” Little did they know they were wandering into their worst nightmares, literally.

Mastermind of supernatural storytelling, Peretti does not disappoint with this one. Though it’s a classic good versus evil plot, there are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. I read the 372 pages (hard copy) in less than 24 hours. It was all the more real to me personally because of a dream I had (I Am The Light) on this same idea of dark and light just days before even hearing about this book.

Running for My Life by Lopepe (Lopez) Lomong
Lomong was kidnapped, at age 6, during a church service with his family and taken to a rebel camp in Sudan. As one of the smaller boys, he was passed over for training as a future soldier and left to fend for himself. Just a few weeks later, Lomong’s “three angels” helped him escape, and they made their way to a refugee camp in Kenya, where he spent the next 10 years of his life. He eventually makes it to America as one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, however, his story continues on through competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics on the American track team.

Lomong’s story is incredible. How this young man never lost his faith in God taking care of him amidst some of the worst of conditions possible for a human to live in, is inspiring to say the least.

Eve by Elissa Elliott
This is a fictional account of the Genesis stories of the creation of Adam and Eve, their banishment from the Garden of Eden, and the death of Abel. Eve adheres pretty closely to the Biblical account, although Elliott takes great liberty in the details, as one would have to.

I really enjoy reading historical fiction of Biblical stories and people, especially the women. This book did not disappoint. It was well written and much more thought provoking than I initially expected.

Ana’s Story by Jenna Bush
This is a true account, told through Bush, of the story of Ana, a 17-year-old mother living with AIDS in a third world Central American country. Ana’s life was difficult on: growing up in poverty, living with her abusive grandmother and her live-in boyfriend who also molested Ana and her younger sister, living with the secret of AIDS, and becoming a young mother.

Bush met Ana while working with UNICEF after graduating from college. This is a very quick and easy read, but an intriguing story nonetheless.

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson
Stephanie and her husband, Christian, were in a Cessna plane crash. He suffered burns over 30% of his body, she had 80%. She spent three months in a medically-induced coma as her body fought all odds to survive.

Stephanie’s story of overcoming death, fear, unimaginable pain, rejection, and judgment is inspiring to put it mildly. I appreciated her honesty as she shared her struggles throughout her recovery as well as how her faith not only saw her through the ordeal, but strengthened as a result.

Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
Called to Indonesia as a young missionary bride, Rose sets out to serve the lost in the years leading up to WWII. Once the war began, Rose and her husband were imprisoned in different POW camps. Suffering torture, abuse, malnutrition, and other illness, Rose survived to tell of her story.

I’ve read many books of WWII holocaust survivors, but this was my first glimpse into the life of an American POW in a Japenese internment camp/prison. Rose’s faith through her ordeal is inspiring. I’ve found myself thinking some of her same prayers lately, though my trials are far less severe, intense, agonizing than hers.

In the Arms of Grace by LeChristine Hai
LeChristine Hai was a child of the Vietnam War. Taken to an orphanage with her brother because her mother couldn’t offer them a safe life amidst the war in their homeland, this is Hai’s “rags to riches” story. Along with 100 other Vietnamese orphans, she escaped to the US, was immediately adopted and her life transformed. It was a long, twisted, depraved, sad, and deeply burdened life. Hai’s story is also one of grace, forgiveness, and finding peace and strength in God.

Hai’s is a fascinating tale—disturbing, sad, and sickening at some points, but filled with grace, forgiveness and sacrificial love at others. I couldn’t put this one down once I started, and as with any good autobiography, I now want to learn more about the Vietnam War and read more stories of those affected by it.

Hood, Scarlet, and Tuck by Stephen Lawhead
A spin on the classic tale of Robin Hood takes on a new life, new characters, and new meaning in an unexpected setting. These three books comprise the “Raven King” trilogy telling this epic story.

I always enjoy a well-written piece of fiction, and Lawhead’s trilogy was a nice break from some heavier non-fiction I’ve been reading. I enjoyed this one so much, I will probably devour his other dozen or so books once I get my hands on them.

The Paradise War by Stephen Lawhead
Two Oxford students find themselves in a mystical place where two worlds meet—our present world and the “Otherworld” of the ancient Celts. Passing through a vortal, they find themselves in the ancient world and in the middle of a fight between good and evil with cosmic catastrophe in the making.

I found this Lawhead book on our book shelf, and having enjoyed his Hood trilogy, I picked this one up. I enjoy his story lines set in ancient England as well as his writing style. I imagine I will go through all of his books during 2013.

The Wedding Letters by Jason F. Wright
In this fictional love story, Noah hits Rachel with his truck, and the two later fall in love. In the style of Nicholas Sparks, their road to the altar is filled with twists and turns.

I’m not one for fictional love stories, but what made this one unique were its underlying Christian values of what true love is. This was not just a story of love but also of honor and forgiveness. Wright’s concept of “wedding letters” introduced in this book is also a marvelous gift to any newly married couple.

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright
This is the first of Wright’s book about the Cooper family. The three children gather together after their parents die on the same night. They discover a box of letters their father wrote to their mother, once each week on Wednesday, over the course of their marriage. Memories are shared and secrets are uncovered.

I would recommend both works of fiction by Wright, but I would read this one first as it is chronologically the first. The characters and backstory are introduced and will make reading The Wedding Letters more meaningful.

Swimming with Crocodiles by Will Chaffey
Will Chaffey had just graduated from high school and decided to travel and work in Australia before heading to college. While on the continent, Chaffey met another adventurer, and together they attempted a trek across some of the most remote and dangerous primitive land in the Australia outback.

Reminiscent of Into the Wild, Swimming with Crocodiles was a fun adventure story. Chaffey’s detail of the trek, as well as little pieces of trivia regarding the land and creatures inhabiting Australia’s outback were intriguing as well.

Off the Deep End by W. Hodding Carter
Carter tells his story of “trying to swim his way through a midlife crisis.” An NCAA Division III All American swimmer in college, Carter decided to begin swimming again and attempt to qualify for the Olympic Trials in 2008.

Having just become addicted to triathlons at age 39, and being an incredibly poor swimmer, I enjoyed reading Carter’s story of personal struggles leading to personal triumph through swimming. Not only did working on achieving physical goals help him through his crisis, it also helped strengthen his marriage and his relationship with his kids.

The Girl Who Survived by Bronia Brandman
Bronia was 11 when the Germans invaded her hometown in Poland during WWII. This is Bronia’s story of courage, luck, determination, and kindness from strangers who helped her survive the horrors of Auschwitz.

I am always fascinated by true accounts of Holocaust survivors. While this was a short story, really written for a much younger audience, I still found it fascinating and worth my time.

The Hidden Girl by Lola Rein Kaufman
Lola’s family was killed by the Gestapo, and she was left to fend for herself against the Nazi invasion in her native Poland. This is Lola’s story of having to depend on the kindness of strangers as she survived WWII hidden in a dirt hole.

Like The Girl Who Survived, this was another short account, written for a young adult audience, of how young children survived the horrors of losing their entire family, going into hiding, concentration camps, Nazi raids, and more atrocities during WWII.

The Book of Vice by Peter Sagal
Sagal takes the reader on a delightful and enlightening trip from the strip clubs on the Strip in Vegas to its gambling halls to the “Swingers Shack” to the kitchen of Alinea, the hottest molecular gastronomy restaurant in the country—all in the name of “research.” Sagal explores the vices of humankind, how we got there, what we do while we’re there, and why we continue.

Humorous and insightful, it’s fun reading this book in the manner in which Sagal speaks as he hosts NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” news quiz show. The anecdotes were amusing and the actual research and psychology behind why we do what we do when we know we shouldn’t do it was interesting.

Walking Ghost Phase by David Daugherty
A group of students take a summer trip to Washington, D.C. before starting college, only to be there during a nuclear attack. They are mortally wounded with radiation poisoning. This is the story of how they come to terms with their imminent death.

I must admit upfront, that I work with Daugherty. This was his first published book, and I really did enjoy it. The plot was interesting with enough twists and turns to keep me not wanting to put it down. I hope he continues to write.

The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
Koppel, a young journalist in New York City, found a decades-old red leather diary among a dumpster of forgotten treasures from the bowels of her New York apartment building. She began reading the story of a young lady, Florence Wolfson, and her life from ages 14-19. Koppel and Wolfson became kindred spirits through their journey of retelling Wolfson’s life story.

Upon finishing the book in March, two interesting events occurred. One, I learned Wolfson had died just three days earlier, age 96. Two, I was getting ready to head to New York for a few days, chaperoning a group of high school students. I had walked many of the streets Wolfson frequented in her youth, but I saw them through a different lens on that trip. What a difference a story can make in how you see the world around you—a world you thought you knew—in a different light.

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs
Author of The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs challenged himself to read through the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Taking a little over a year, this is a humorous compilation of random facts he learned as well as insightful look into his relationships with those who supported him—some more than others—during this process.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Dr. Elwin Ransom is kidnapped and transported to Mars where his captors intend to plunder the planet of its natural resources and offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the strange creatures who inhabit the planet. Ransom escapes and falls into the hands of the creatures he was trying to avoid.

As with any of Lewis’ works, Out of the Silent Planet, the first book of his Space Trilogy, offers many a unique allegory between Christianity and life on the planet of Malacandra as well as social commentary on human society.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
Emerald Torrington prepares to celebrate her birthday with a few dear friends at Sterne, her home in remote England. A terrible train wreck brings dozens of passengers to Sterne’s doors seeking shelter for the night. During the evening that ensues, nothing goes according to plan. The birthday celebration is ruined by a wicked parlor game and the youngest Torrington decides that this was the perfect time for her Great Undertaking.

A fun, quirky novel, the setting and characters reminded me of Downton Abbey. The Great Undertaking, in particular, was quite comical, and the ending gives a surprising twist.

Season of Betrayal by Margaret Lowrie Robertson
Lara McCauley goes to Beirut in 1983, against her better judgment, with her journalist husband. Her marriage disintegrating, she becomes friends with a Polish journalist and gets a part-time job as a broadcast film editor. Naïve to the core, she unwittingly sets in a motion a deadly set of events in an already war-torn country.

I doubt I would have picked this book up had I realized it was a novel at the onset. I thought it was a true-story, but it is not. This novel was somewhat interesting, but I had a hard time getting into the main character, Lara. While a victim of circumstance, she also created plenty of her own calamities through sheer stupidity.

Illusion by Frank Peretti
Dane loses his wife of 40 years, Mandy, in a fiery car accident. Through a top-secret government project, she really doesn’t die, but comes back as her 19-year-old self in present times and must learn to adjust all the while possessing strange new “meta-physical” talents she can’t comprehend.

I normally like Peretti’s work, but this was not one of them. I found the long descriptions of magic shows and tricks dull and redundant. I skimmed over much of the book and was a little disappointed in the ending; it was almost anti-climactic in its brevity.

The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Thirteenth) by Lemony Snicket
The Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, find themselves on an island inhabited by a group of castaways and led by a mysterious man named Ishmael. Here, they discover more secrets relating to their dead parents.

I had read the first 12 books years ago and then forgot about the final one. Caleb began reading the series this summer which is what spurred me on to finally finishing this one. The first book was clever, but each one after followed the same formula, and they became a little too predictable. They may be fun reads for young adults, but it’s not a series I would read again.

The Kill Order by James Dashner
Sun flares hit the earth causing most of mankind to die. Of the few survivors, who form settlements in what is left of America, a disease of rage and lunacy takes hold.

This was definitely one of the more forgettable books I’ve read this year. I skipped much of it as it was sadly repetitive. I can only reading so many pages of how two guys ran down a hall from their would-be captors and dove through a door. This is the prequel to the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series; though I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it through those three books.

Dear Strangers by Meg Mullins
Oliver’s father died unexpectantly and days later, the baby they were to adopt was given to another family. Oliver spends the next 21 years searching for his almost-brother, much to the chagrin of his sister and re-married mother. In a strange turn of events, Oliver finds this young man and confronts him, only to lose him to a gun-shot wound to the head from his step-father.

This work of fiction was awkward, painfully slow, and a chore to finish. It’s not one I’d recommend to anyone.

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3 03 2013
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones | Pleasure of Reading

[…] 2012 Reading List (tokickapigeon.wordpress.com) […]

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