Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books: The Year In Review

      Today my Dad took the kids to the Lawrence Hall of Science, and I settled down on the rug in the sun with not one, but three books, and cycled through, reading a bit of each.  Normally reading is reserved for the quiet evening hours when the real work of the day is done and there's time for a little pleasure, a little "mother culture" as Charlotte Mason would refer to it.  Those ideas, beyond a fifth grade level, so unlike the task of making a home, keep me sane, challenged and interested.
     Years ago I began keeping a journal of all the books I had read.  Nothing personal or thoughtful.  Just titles, authors, maybe some quotes or my reaction.  Then I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a reading contest between Karl Rove and George Bush and discovered that Bush, as acting president, was reading far more books than I was.  Surely I could find the time to up my numbers.  If I loved books the way I thought I did I'd be willing to turn off the telly and read instead.  So my goal is to read an average of a book a week, record it in the journal, and tally up my numbers in December.  I haven't met my goal yet.  I'm close and my numbers are increasing year by year but you won't find me cheating and reading only fluff.
     I don't make a plan, and often pull books at random off the college library shelves for a surprise delight, a new and unexpected knowledge (US Special Forces or Vermeer and UN War Crimes).  I read Christian books, books I don't agree with, fiction, non-fiction, classics, and some that are rough around the edges.  C.S. Lewis has some wonderful quotes on reading old books, letting the wind of the centuries blow through our minds, and with that in mind, I know that's an area for improvement.  Lewis recommended one old book for each new one, or at least a two to one ratio.  I have one remedy planned and I'll blog about that tomorrow.  So today I'll share my five favorites of the year, just bear in mind they're not must read recommendations, only the ones that I enjoyed.  And yes, it was hard to pick only five and strictly speaking there will be six's okay.  Most importantly they're listed in the order I read them, so I'm not choosing one favorite book - I couldn't.  Finally, although I'm linking all these books to Amazon, we always try the library first!

1.  The Kite Fighters and A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.  I'm making an effort to read my kids' school books and thought these were finely crafted children's literature.
2.  Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi  I was looking for  Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics) by Hannah Arendt and found this one beside it so I read them both and preferred Bascomb's book.
3.   Call to Spiritual Reformation, A: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D.A. Carson was my brother's book and I read through it at a sprinting pace.  I want to buy the book and read it again in a far more thoughtful manner.  This is a good book!
4.  Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by a Princeton and Harvard MBA grad.  I think no matter how you feel about the war you would enjoy this book.  There's also a good interview with Campbell you can find at NPR online.
5.  Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky (P.S.) by Paul Johnson.  This is one of those books people frequently referenced, and I enjoyed reading it for myself.  Enlightening and sad, they're not the men we need giving us moral advice on how to live our lives.
    There we go, and in only a few more days another year begins with a personal record to beat and a list of titles too long for the time I have available.  That's the fun of it.
To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with the men of unseen generations – such is a pleasure beyond compare.
-          Kenko Yoshida, 14th century Japanese Monk

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