Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Books: The Year in Review 2011

Last year I shared the five best of the year; my five favorite books. Here, again, the end of another year, another five best of the year. I finally met my goal of 52 books, or I will have met it at the end of this week. Too bad it can't be an ever increasing challenge. I am just about maxed out at 52, at least while I have kids under foot.

I am sorry to say that the books I chose this year were unremarkable. I chose too many at random off the library shelves. Picking five great books was easy; there was no overwhelming list of excellent titles. There were, of course, the books I read by Puritans. My goal was 12. I finished six. They were all good, but several were great, so I will list my favorites. But when I looked to other categories for favorites I was dismayed to realize I had enjoyed so few books.

What I need is a remedy. What I need is a carefully chosen book list. A good book list. I hate planning. I love living moment by moment, wandering library stacks day by day. But that didn't serve me well this year. I'm making a list and I'll share that tomorrow.

The book reckoning this year, in no order whatsoever:

1. Horatio Hornblower by C.S. Forester is one of Sam's school books. I'd like to read all my kids' school books, but that's not possible. Keep in mind: if your kids' school books are so boring you don't want to read them, your kids feel the same way. Hornblower was so fun I plan to order, and read, the entire series.

2. Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. There came a point in this book at which I couldn't put it down. I won't spoil it for you. I'll only point out even a lone Navy Seal can't survive alone. We need each other. Black Hawk Down was also excellent. I'm not especially interested in Mogadishu, but this is the book referenced by every other military book I've read, and I wasn't disappointed.

3. Adam Bede by George Eliot. Years ago I purposed to read every Eliot book. Then I realized how long her books are and what that entails. I'm now aiming for one book a year. This is my favorite of her books, so far. Next up will be Daniel Deronda. Austen's Persuasion ranks high, but if I counted Austen books I re-read they'd make the list every year. Jane Austen rises above the five best of the year.

4. Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel was one long learning adventure.

5. My two favorite Puritan titles were The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs and The Godly Man's Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil by Thomas Watson (which I loved as soon as I read the title). I highly recommend both of these. They are well worth a slow and thoughtful reading.

George Grant, at Grantian Florilegium, has an excellent post on the Literary Life. He quotes C.S. Lewis, who wrote:

Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors.  We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend.  He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world.  In it, we should be suffocated.  The man who is contented to be only himself, is in a prison.  My own eyes are not enough for me.  I will see through those of others.

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