For the past several years it’s been my practice to do a review at the end of the year of the books that I’ve read, along with a few personal thoughts. It gets harder every year to carve out time to read, but I sure do love doing it when I can!
Teaching Musicians – A Photographer’s View
By Diane Asseo Griliches
A beautiful “coffee table book” that gives the reader a glimpse into the lives and studios of some of the great music teachers of our day. The book is a compendium of quotes, photographs, and brief biographical sketches of 57 master teachers. It was a wonderful source of inspiration to me in my teaching! Read full review here.
What is a Family?
By Edith Schaeffer
I loved this book! Mrs. Schaeffer’s writing style is vivid and poignant. I was immediately drawn into the very scenes she described, watching their family dynamics unfold before me. She captures the essence of family life and the purpose of family in a way I’ve never contemplated before. Each chapter is full of the beautiful possibilities that exist in a family environment, without neglecting the realities of the effects of our sinful natures and the sinful influences of the world around us. The book is full of both inspiration and practical ideas that are relevant for any family.
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
By Jeremiah Burroughs
One of my friends encouraged me to read this book in preparation for a talk I was asked to give on the topic of contentment. She even let me borrow her copy so that I could read it! Mr. Burroughs first published the book in 1648, and it is loaded with wonderful insights, vivid analogies, helpful explanations, and practical applications. One of the most striking explanations that I gleaned from the book is that most Christians don’t handle affliction or loss with contentment because they don’t expect to encounter such adverse experiences. This is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the example Paul sets for us of anticipating “bonds and affliction” in every city to which he traveled (Acts 20:22-23). Mr. Burroughs expounds on this and many other truths much more thoroughly than a brief review allows. I gleaned much from this book, especially in light of the personal experience God took me through to teach me the secret of contentment.
Let Me Be a Woman
By Elisabeth Elliot
This book of 49 short chapters is a collection of notes that Elisabeth Elliot wrote for her daughter on the meaning of womanhood. The notes were written in anticipation of her daughter’s impending marriage, so much of the advice centers on what makes a marriage successful, and the woman’s role in a marriage. This wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I gleaned a variety of little nuggets of wisdom that are equally applicable in the life of an unmarried woman. Here is one such nugget: “Nothing that has ever been worth doing has been accomplished solely through feelings. It takes action. It takes putting one foot in front of the other, walking the path you have agreed together to walk.”
Another thing that resonated with me is Mrs. Elliot’s admission that, “When I was both a writer and a wife I was sorely tempted to do nothing but housework because I love housework and I especially love doing it in order to make a home for a husband, but there were times when I had to tear myself away from the kitchen and get down to the study to do the harder job first, to “eat my spinach before I could have my dessert.”
I honestly love doing most housework as well, but during this season of my life it is not my priority. God has called me to do other things and I must content myself with doing what I can to contribute to the household operations, but know that I can’t spend hours every day cleaning, or organizing, or ironing, or experimenting with new recipes, etc. In every stage of life, we must earnestly seek God and be led by Him to invest our time and energies in the things that He has given us to do, keeping in mind His overarching design and role for women.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t
By Jim Collins
A fascinating documentation of the findings of an extensive research project on what causes some companies to make the transition from being a “good” company to a “great” company, while others fail to make the same transition. Twenty people, in addition to the author, comprised the research team for this project. The book identifies, defines, and then develops eight key ideas: Level 5 Leadership, First Who…Then What…, Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith), The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity Within the Three Circles), A Culture of Discipline, Technology Accelerators, The Flywheel and the Doom Loop, and From Good to Great to Built to Last. There are so many intriguing ideas and concepts discussed in this book that it would be impossible to highlight them all!
The book gave me much food for thought and challenged me to evaluate various activities and organizations in which I am involved, examine how its principles line up with biblical principles, and consider to what extent I could or should implement the ideas in my own life, business, etc. In hindsight, I wish I would have read the appendixes before the rest of the book, because they provide an excellent overview of how the research was conducted and the criteria and objectives upon which it was based. Here is a sampling of some of the insights I found especially intriguing:
“We have an itch that what we just accomplished, no matter how great, is never going to be good enough to sustain us.” (pg. 72)
“The beauty of the Abbott system lay not just in its rigor, but in how it used rigor and discipline to enable creativity and entrepreneurship…[they] used financial discipline as a way to provide resources for the really creative work.” (pg. 123)
“No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop…Rather, it was a quiet, deliberate process of figuring out what needed to be done to create the best future results and then simply taking those steps…” (pg. 165, 169)
An Hour to Live, An Hour to Love
By Richard Carlson and Kristine Carlson
A very short book that includes a letter Richard wrote to his wife three years before his unexpected death. In his letter, he answers the question, “If you had one hour to live and one phone call to make, who would you call? And why are you waiting?” In the second half of the book, Kristine pays tribute to her husband in the wake of his death and the beginning of her grieving process. Here are two thoughts that I appreciated: “We teach best what we most need to learn.” and “What about the future? What future? All I have is right now.”
Hidden Art (Now The Hidden Art of Homemaking)
By Edith Schaeffer
From painting to music to food to recreation, Mrs. Schaeffer offers suggestions for how the ordinary responsibilities of a day in a Christian home can involve creativity and originality. While each chapter is full of personal illustrations and practical tips, she presents a persuasive case that “a Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively. We are supposed to be representing the Creator who is there, and whom we acknowledge to be there.” I was challenged by her observation that “People so often look with longing into a daydream future, while ignoring the importance of the present.” Mrs. Schaeffer’s writing itself is beautiful, and the expression of her life is an inspiration to me! May I seek to infuse each day with the beauty of the Creator.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
Dad and I are both Shakespeare fans, and love attending his plays whenever we have the chance. One of our local universities was doing a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so Dad and I bought tickets for it. I always like to read the plays ahead of time, because it helps me keep track of the characters and the different story lines within the story. Shakespeare’s comedies are full of wit and humor, and I often chuckle to myself as I read them. In this one, Hermia and Lysander are in love, but Hermia’s father, Egeus, wants her to marry Demetrius. The case is presented to Theseus, Duke of Athens, who instructs Hermia to obey her father or be resigned to a life of singlehood. Thus follows the tale of an attempted escape through the woods, a love juice mistakenly applied to the wrong person, a tragic play, and a surprisingly happy ending.
The Sparrow’s Song
By Irma Stoll with Catharine Brandt
An autobiographical account of one girl’s experiences enduring the horrors of World War II. As a 15-year old German, Irma was taken captive by the Russian army and subjected to incomprehensible inhumanity. Even in the midst of this, though, Irma’s faith in God was unwavering. This was a short and easy read that reminded me of the horrific things that others throughout the world have endured.
The Life and Times of Archbishop James Ussher
By J.A. Carr
This biography was part of a package deal that included Ussher’s Annals of the World. I was curious to learn more about the man behind this incredible work, so I slowly worked my way through this account. If I had just been looking for a good story, I would have given up after the first couple of chapters, but I ploughed through, anxious to increase my understanding of this era in history. The style of writing did not capture my interest, and extensive use of footnotes rendered my attention constantly diverted between the main text and the supplemental information at the bottom of almost every page. Regardless, I plodded my way through, and find myself now in greater appreciation of Archbishop Ussher (1581-1656) and his tireless efforts and influence on behalf of the true Church in Ireland and England. His legacy as a learned and well-respected scholar is perhaps best summed up in a brief anecdote toward the end of the book, “On the first day of July 1643, the famous Assembly of Divines…met at Westminster…There had been some disputing as to whether the members should admit Ussher into the Assembly at all. ‘They had as good inquire,’ said Seldon, ‘whether they had best admit Inigo Jones, the King’s architect, to the company of mouse-trap makers.’”
By Jeff Myers
Over the years, I have read several books by Jeff Myers and listened to him speak numerous times. His style is very personable, and he is full of both inspiration and practical application. This is one of those small-sized books that should not be read through quickly. One needs time to ponder and process the information presented, to answer the questions that are asked, and to utilize the wisdom gleaned from Dr. Myers’ years of experience to develop more effective strategies for reaching the next generation. This is a fabulous and much-needed book for anyone who works with families, children, or young adults. I love books like this that have me scribbling in the margins, asking questions, penning related thoughts, and writing ideas for personal application.
The Triumph of John and Betty Stam
By Mrs. Howard Taylor
This book is the reason why I love reading missionary biographies! Mrs. Taylor recounts the early lives of both John and Betty, sharing what God did in them individually before bringing them together in marriage. As single young people and later as a married couple, John and Betty were wholeheartedly dedicated to God. The influence they had on others and the fruit they bore in their ministry is clearly attributed to a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Even though this book offers just a glimpse into the lives of these two incredible people who literally offered their lives as a living sacrifice as a result of their missionary work in China, I found myself incredibly challenged and inspired. Truly, it is the faithful testimony of such men and women of God that reignites my own passion and spurs me on to expend my time and energy for the sake of my precious Savior.
The Treasure Principle
By Randy Alcorn
After reading, “Heaven” last year I was eager to get my hands on some other books by Randy Alcorn. I had heard good things about this book, and Mom picked up a copy for me in one of her thrift store excursions. The book introduces and explains the Treasure Principle (You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead), followed by six Treasure Principle Keys: 1. God owns everything. I’m His money manager. 2. My heart always goes where I put God’s money. 3. Heaven, not earth, is my home. 4. I should live not for the dot but for the line. 5. Giving is the only antidote to materialism. 6. God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.
Marketing Strategies for Writers
By Michael Sedge
Although this book had a number of helpful and specific ideas, the primary thing that I took away from reading it was the realization that I have no desire whatsoever to establish a career as a writer. J He shares some of his own strategies for making connections with people, planning and preparing well in advance for opportunities that may arise in the future, and handling a freelance writing business professionally [though I would question the ethical nature of a few of the ideas…]. This is a great resource for those who are looking to build up a business as a freelance writer, and holds some helpful tips for those of us who just need all the help we can get when it comes to marketing.
The Princess Adelina – An Ancient Christian Tale of Beauty and Bravery
By Julie Sutter
Knowing that the Coghlan family, of the hilarious Life In a Shoe blog, were the ones who discovered, edited, and highly recommended this book, I was excited to purchase and read it. I saved it until Noelle and I made our trek out to Colorado in June for the CHEC homeschool conference. We read it aloud on the way out there and found ourselves captivated by the engaging story. It was an inspiring retelling of the how God used the faithful devotion of a young woman to shine forth the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Scotland.
Love in the House
By Chris and Wendy Jeub
The first day of the CHEC homeschool conference, I had the privilege of meeting Chris and Wendy Jeub, parents of 15 children. After talking for a while, Chris asked if I would be interested in trading books. So I gave them a copy of Pajama School in exchange for two of their books. This book was written primarily as a follow-up to a TLC series called, “Kids by the Dozen” that featured their family in addition to two others. The Jeub’s tackle some of the most popular arguments against letting God control your family size, and offer many nuggets of wisdom and practical advice that will benefit families of any size. I especially appreciated the chapter, “Bringing Order to the Chaos” in which they share how they train their children to have proper behavior. They state, “There is a role for discipline, but there is a bigger role for instruction,” and then share an innovative approach they have used to effectively instruct their children. Ultimately, Chris and Wendy share some of the heartache that they experienced that reminded them of the primary importance of love in a family.
Love in a Diet
By Wendy Jeub
This was the second book that Chris and Wendy included in our book swap. After giving birth to 15 children, one might expect Wendy to be overweight and out of shape, but in this quick read Wendy shares real-life strategies that she uses to stay healthy and maintain an attractive figure. Discipline really is the key (as with most things in life!), and this is a great book for someone who needs a little inspiration and help to get started on their own journey of weight loss and better health.
By Art Sanborn
Since we finished The Princess Adelina on the way out to Colorado, I did some scouting around at the conference to find another book to read on the way home. This one came highly recommended as I tried to decide between the many biographies offered at the YWAM booth. We were not disappointed! In fact, this is one of the most entertaining and inspiring stories I have ever read! After launching the first chapter with the harrowing experience of becoming a quadriplegic in a surfing accident, Mr. Sanborn goes back in time to recount their family’s preparation for and commencement as missionaries – at first in Thailand, but then elsewhere throughout the world as God led. Story after story of God’s amazing provision and answers to prayers fill the pages of this book. I was convicted of my own lack of faith and propensity to do things without taking the time to really seek God’s direction, and challenged to live a life more fully devoted to seeking God and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those around me.
Pathway to Freedom – How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives
By Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg begins by outlining the threefold use of the law: 1. The Civil or Political Function of the Law, 2. The Pedagogical Function of the Law, and 3. A Rule of Life for Believers. The following two poems encapsulate the essence of the law, not for justification, but as an expression of our lives once we have been justified:
When once the fiery Law of God
Has chas’d me to the Gospel Road;
Then back unto the holy law
Most kindly Gospel-grace will draw.
Not the labors of my hands
Could fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
The rest of the book is spent going through each of the Ten Commandments (one per chapter), discussing their relevance and application to our lives today as Christians.
Kept for the Master’s Use
By Frances Ridley Havergal
This is a little gem of a book! A friend recommended it to me multiple times, so I was finally able to track one down and order it. Author of the familiar hymn, “Take My Life and Let it Be,” Havergal discusses the importance of letting God not only take, but also keep, every aspect of our lives for His purpose. There are so many wonderfully inspiring and convicting insights in this heartfelt collection, but here are a few that were especially so:
“The life that fears to come to the light lest any deed should be reproved, can never know the blessedness and the privileges of walking in that light.”
“When we are aiming at generalities, we do not hit the practicalities. We forget that faithfulness to principle is only proved by faithfulness in detail.”
“If the hands are indeed moving at the impulse of His love, the simplest little duties and acts are transfigured into holy service to the Lord.”
“The more we sit at His feet and watch to see what He has to say to ourselves, the more we shall have to tell to others.”
I absolutely loved the chapter on “Our Intellects Kept for Jesus,” but of course I can’t relay it all here. It is rich! The whole book cannot help but draw the reader’s heart closer to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Made to Stick
By Chip Heath and Dan Heath
My friend Lydia and I borrowed this audio book from her brother Caleb to listen to it on our road trip at the end of summer. It was incredibly fascinating and could be applied to many different areas. The subtitle, “Why some ideas survive and others die” nicely encapsulates the main premise of the book. The Heath brothers have spent years observing and analyzing the components of a successful idea. Using the acronym SUCCES, they explore each of these components in depth, supplemented by helpful illustrations and examples. The six components are: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotion, and Stories. Full of practical ideas and thought-provoking insights that can be applied in any sphere of life, it assisted me in thinking through the strategies that I employ in teaching, speaking, writing, and developing creative initiatives.
An Eschatology of Victory
By J. Marcellus Kik
This book was referenced in another book that I read several years ago, and it’s been on my list to read ever since. One of my sisters gave it to me for Christmas last year, so I was excited to finally get to read it! While I do take issue with some aspects of Kik’s interpretation, on a whole I found the book thought-provoking and inspiring. The book is split into two sections, with the first containing an overview of Matthew 24 and Revelation 20, and the second containing a more in depth study of these two chapters. This did result in some amount of repetition, which seemed a bit peculiar.
Kik definitely makes some key points that all Christians would do well to consider. Many unconsciously hold to a premillenial view of eschatology and think that that’s the way things will be just because they’ve never taken the time to study the Scriptures or explore these teachings for themselves. We have been trained to think of certain biblical passages in a futuristic way, rather than understanding them in their proper historical context. This, in turn, leads to all sorts of false claims and teachings that can have the effect of sabotaging the efforts of Christians who are seeking to advance God’s kingdom in every sphere of life. I highly recommend the intentional study of eschatology for all Christians because one’s views on this matter – whether conscious or unconscious – greatly affect many areas of life.
I Run to the Hills
By C. Maggie Woychik
After conducting an interview with me on her great, Encouraging Emerging Authors blog, Maggie generously sent me a copy of this book – hot off the press! I Run to the Hills is a collection of reflections on the Christian Journey. It’s a mixture of allegorical snippets, Scripture passages, and personal thoughts from Maggie. One can’t help but appreciate Maggie’s heart and love for the Lord, expressed in these reflections.
Against the Tide – The Valor of Margaret Wilson
By Hope Irvin Marston
This is part of a “Chosen Daughters” series that I saw advertised and on sale through Grace and Truth Books. After reading through the synopsis and a couple of the endorsements, I decided to order the series of four books to share with my sisters as an engaging way to learn more about the history of the true Church of Jesus Christ. This book is set in 17th century Scotland and highlights the persecution the Covenanters faced because of their refusal to acquiesce to the demands of King Charles II. Written for younger girls, there were a few places where the literary license employed by the author seemed a bit contrived, and I took issue with a few negative character depictions that weren’t adequately addressed in my opinion, but it was still a quick, enjoyable read.
Wings Like a Dove – The Courage of Queen Jeanne D’Albret
By Christine Farenhorst
This book transported the reader back to 16th century France, introducing Jeanne D’Albret when she was a little girl. Cameo appearances of Monsieur Jean Cauvin (now known as John Calvin), Monsieur Farel, and Theodore Beza give the book context in the bigger story of the Reformation. In particular, one gains a glimpse into the part the Huguenots played and some of the prominent royal figures throughout France and Navarre, with brief references to other of the European monarchs. The writing style of this book was colorful and engaging, and felt considerably more authentic than Against the Tide, in my opinion.
Inside the Kingdom – My Life in Saudi Arabia
By Carmen Bin Ladin
Written by the sister-in-law to Osama Bin Laden, this account gives an enlightening look into the oppressive culture of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Carmen is the wife (though now divorced) of Yeslam, one of the 54 children of the family patriarch, Sheikh Mohamed. His brother is the now infamous Osama Bin Laden, alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Bin Laden’s amassed their wealth through the formation of the Bin Laden Organization – a construction company that was employed to rebuild Mecca and Medini, thus making them revered throughout the country.
Carmen tells of her own childhood, meeting and marrying Yeslam, experiencing American and Middle Eastern cultures, and eventually leaving her husband and Saudi Arabia to provide an upbringing for her three daughters free of the oppressive Islamic religion. As I read this, I couldn’t help but feel that while the author is candid about some things, there were many things that were colored more favorably than reality would reveal, and there is much of the story that has been left untold.
Love Worth the Wait
By Sandy Weyeneth
The first person account of a young woman who faithfully served the Lord and waited for Him to bring her a godly man to be her husband – even though she had to wait 39 years for him to arrive! Some friends of the author gave me this book knowing that I might disagree with certain aspects (the man Sandy met and married was divorced), but thinking that I might enjoy it anyway. Much of the book was an up-close and personal look at the way the relationship transpired through e-mails and interwoven with narration. As an older unmarried person, I could certainly relate to some of the things that Sandy shared, but there were others that were outside my frame of reference (she had been involved in other romantic relationships prior to meeting Randy). I did very much appreciate the purity and integrity that is evident throughout this real-life story of two people who are earnestly seeking the Lord’s will in their lives and relationships.
Love Has a Price Tag
By Elisabeth Elliot
An eclectic compilation of vignettes culled from a column in the Christian Herald magazine, each chapter contains snippets of Elisabeth Elliot’s thoughts and life experiences. Having heard her speak on several occasions, I could almost hear her quiet, but authoritative, voice imparting Scriptural truths to her readers on a wide variety of topics. I love Mrs. Elliot’s way of addressing the reality of culture in a no-nonsense way, eschewing modern conventions of man in favor of solid biblical principles, yet always writing with color, life, and a deep love, undoubtedly forged while walking in the presence of the Lord through the “valley of the shadow of death.” From reflections on family life to the work of a writer to thoughts on animals to dedicated service to God, each short chapter is engaging and thoughtful.