I was inspired by Kathryn’s blog post to put up my own list of summer books. As I worked up a list, I realized that I have not read a complete non-fiction title this summer, I just sort of start them and then lose steam and move on to something else…. The exceptions are books I have read over a longer period of time (started before the summer) and just happen to have finished this summer. Fiction, on the other hand, I read quickly, sometimes in one night!
First the non-fiction. I finished The Happiest People on Earth just as school ended. This is an amazing and inspiring book! Demos Shakarian was the founder of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association, but the book is about so much more than that. It’s autobiographical and God did some amazing things in his life. He’s not a preacher, a gifted speaker, a prophet, or any sort of flashy person – he’s a dairyman who found his role as a “helper” to others who are those things, and he believes from his own experience that when we find the job God has for us, we become the happiest people on earth.
I also finished reading Crazy Love, which I got when Francis Chan marked his 3 of books down to free over Easter week on the Kindle store. I’ve read several things recently that share this emphasis that faith and works are tied together not because we have to work to prove our faith but because true understanding of who God is and what he’s done for us leads us to serve him and love others out of love for and thankfulness to God! It goes with Radical (read between last summer and early this spring) as a book that I want to re-read, underline, and spend time digging into the Word to confirm and live out.
And I finished Rosalind Goforth’s collection of autobiographical episodes Climbing. She was the wife of Jonathan Goforth, who my house at school is named after, and I’m really grateful to my mom for getting me this book off my wishlist for Christmas! Actually Mom gave me all 3 of these books, come to think of it. Rosalind, like Demos, saw some amazing things in her life, and reading about someone who lived here during the early 20th century amazes me and makes me realize that I don’t know the Chinese culture from a century ago very well. How much of the changes I think I see since then are due to internal events, how much due to interaction with other cultures, and how much due to what Rosalind and those like her taught? Next I want to read Goforth of China, because she kept referring back to it much like the young woman in a certain Jeeves & Wooster story who was writing a book about birds to impress Corky’s uncle and ended up marrying the uncle.
Oh, dear, I just realized I read one other non-fiction, and in just a week or two as well: Paco, the Cat who Meowed in Space by Homer Hickman. A short story from the later in the man’s life who was the boy that “October Sky” was about (OK that sentence is terrible but hopefully you get the meaning!) It was fun, but unless you like both space and cats (like I do) you probably won’t care to read it.
Other non-fiction read but not finished: Common Sense by Thomas Paine – I read the introduction and then just a bit of the actual pamphlet around July 4th because I was thinking of the line in 1776, “The people have read Mr. Paine’s ‘Common Sense.’ I very much doubt Congress has.” Interesting fact I learned: he was an Englishman who’d only been in America a few months when he wrote it, and most of it isn’t specifically about America but more about his political views in general, which held that government is a necessary evil that should be as small as possible and were not fond of the aristocracy (should I really use the form “were” in that sentence since I’m talking about “views”? It doesn’t sound right). I also learned when I read part of Founding Brothers that Paine opposed George Washington in something late in Washington’s time as president, and like pretty much everyone who opposed Washington, it was his ruin. Not that Washington attacked him, just that a man already known in his own lifetime as the Father of our country is not someone against whom lesser mortals can win any sort of popularity contest.
I read some of Victory over the Darkness, which shares some of Crazy Love‘s assertions about right beliefs being foundational to right actions. For instance, Romans and Ephesians both start with theology and then move into practical living – we need to know who we are in Christ before we can experience victory in our walk. And I read some of Amish Roots. I still have that one out of the library because I’d like to read more. It is made up of excerpts from many sources telling about the Amish way of life. I found it earlier this year when my students were working on a project about the Amish but didn’t have time to read it then, so I made a note to myself to read it this summer. It’s nice to know more background on them before I teach that lesson again, and it’s fascinating reading!
Moving into fiction, I gave Lilith by George MacDonald a try. I like The Princess and the Goblin and in a way this feels like a grown-up version but despite wanting to like it for the author’s sake and the title’s sake, I don’t think I’ll ever finish it. Also in the fantasy genre, I read some books by Sherwood Smith, beginning with Court Duel & Crown Duel, moving on to A Stranger to Command, and finally a pair of short stories about the main character’s offspring titled Remalna’s Children. The novels were in general predictable but fun, and like Twilight the most fun was the bonus material at the end where she told part of the Duel books from the man’s point of view! (Duel is about the woman and Stranger is about the man.) I was left hungry for more about those characters but uninterested by the descriptions of her other stories. I also read Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George – I enjoyed her Dragon Slippers series earlier this year from the library and absolutely LOVED Tuesdays at the Castle, but unfortunately I’m not thrilled by the description of her other books either, and this one confirmed that they’re not worth the price to download. Someone donated her Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow to the library though, and I’m waiting for it to get into the system so I can check it out and give it a try for free 🙂 But on the subject of authors I’ve lost enthusiasm for, Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures had a hard time holding my interest. I’m still looking forward to more books by him (I still haven’t read them all), but I’ve found he’s not a guarantee of a good time. It had its moments, though, and it was fun to see Gaspode the talking dog getting a bigger role in a story. I also love the little tidbit that the main character, who is lazy, keeps in great physical shape because he rationalizes that having well-toned muscles means it takes less energy to do things than if you were out of shape and had weaker muscles. What good reasoning!
Two more fantasy titles: I signed up for a Secret Santa exchange on LibraryThing a year and a half ago, picked up the books from the States last summer, and finally got around to reading them this summer when, after reading all those other fantasy books, Amazon recommended Graceling and I said to myself, “That cover looks familiar. I think it’s on my shelf!” I enjoyed it quite a bit apart from the main character’s determination never to marry matched with her decision to take a lover. Sigh. I skipped the sequel Fire after reading a free excerpt and some reviews but then downloaded Bitterblue and enjoyed that quite a bit as well. Although apparently this author really has something against the institution of marriage, it doesn’t come through as much in her third book.
The other book I got from that LibraryThing exchange was Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay, a piece of middle-grades modern fiction set in England that centers (centres?) on a girl in an artistic, eccentric family who discovers that she’s actually an adopted cousin, and withdraws from the family at that revelation. When her grandfather, who she’s felt connected to due to his really being her grandfather, dies, he leaves her in his will an “angel. The stone angel.” No one has any idea what he means, but Saffy is determined to figure it out. It was fun to read something so different from my life – from her older sister in driver’s ed who brings along small pets to each lesson and finds left turns much easier than right turns (because of course they drive on the left in Britain), to her younger brother who sits on his windowsill in an attempt to overcome his fear of heights so he can be a polar explorer when he grows up, to the youngest one eating a tube of non-toxic paint and freaking out the social worker… Fun and a nice story, with a great climax that involves the nervous-driving sister, the scared-of-her-driving brother-navigator, and the little sister in the back seat penning signs to show other drivers such as: “It was a squirrel. It was dead. She’s crying. Don’t try to pass us now. I’ll tell you when it’s safe to pass.” On the other hand, an attempt to read the adult novel Saving Alice so I could discuss it with Amy W. fizzled. It was depressing and I just couldn’t make myself read it through, even though it was from a “Christian” publishing house. Now that Amy’s told me how it ends, I don’t regret that decision!
In the realm of dystopian fiction, I read Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. She’s created an interesting world set in an almost-empty future Chicago where people belong to 5 factions based on virtues – Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Amity, and Candor (go get a dictionary if you don’t know what those mean – but I’ll admit I was mis-pronouncing the first one as A-beg-nation instead of Ab-ne-gation for the whole first book and I didn’t know what it meant either so I’ll give you that one for free – it’s self-denial.) There are also factionless (homeless) people who have failed initiation to the faction they chose. The main character is 16 and must choose whether to stay in her family’s faction, where she doesn’t feel she fits, or to choose a new faction and turn her back on her family; meanwhile there’s more going on than meets the eye (of course). There’s a third book to come and the end of book 2 was the moment of a big reveal, so I’m looking forward to finding out the rest of the story this fall or winter!
And my final book for this list is The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I read it all evening and night when stranded in Beijing an extra night after masters class ended, I missed my train, and then had to wait for morning to get a flight to ZZ. I like books that make me laugh, and it’s not too hard to make me smile or even chuckle, but this book gave me two deep, loud belly laughs, and that’s rare. It was such fun to read! Frankie is a sophomore at an exclusive boarding school and finds herself the girlfriend of a boy who’s involved with a secret society that doesn’t really do much (hey, they’re high schoolers) but which is male-only, a situation which of course she can’t let alone. Her methods of joining in the fun and her frustration at the boys’ blindness to her involvement and the deeper meaning of the stunts they pull are well-written.
In one extra bit of book-related experience, I’ve been watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube. It’s a modern version of Pride and Prejudice in “vlog” form (dramatized of course not a real vlog!) These YouTube videos are at times PG-13 (take a moment to imagine what Lydia Bennet’s unbridled flirting and man-chasing would look like in modern American culture and you’ll understand) but overall are a whole lot of fun to watch as someone who enjoys Jane Austen! Beware, it’s still ongoing, so you can’t watch to the end yet! Maybe 1/4 of the way through? She’s barely met Wickam (captain of a swim team in town for competition) and now she and Jane are staying at Bing Lee’s house. To give you a taste at how they adapt it, I was wondering how they were going to swing that since Jane’s having a cold isn’t reason enough in this day and age! Their mom decided that their house needed to be renovated and their whole family was thus going to stay in cousin Mary’s small house for 2 weeks. Bing offered to let the two older sisters stay at his place instead. These adapters are ingenious. I already have a guess at what’s going to take the place of Charlotte Lu marrying Mr. Collins (who we met when the girls were at at Vidcon)…