books 2011

When my books lie on the end table, stately but unread, I start to get nervous.  Things are busy around this place, sure, but there should still be space for growing through books.  I feel a little malnourished, you know?  So I keep my lists of books-to-read and books-I’ve-read to remember what a good diet of books is like.

2011 was a year of pregnancy and birth, with two bigger boys rollicking through the house.  That considered, I am very happy with what all books fell into my hands this past year.  Here is the complete list:

1. The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeanette Walls.  Raw and disturbing, and a beautiful read nonetheless.  Walls reflects on her years growing up under the (non)supervision of her parents.  The parents end up homeless; she ends up a writer for MSNBC.

2. Creative Connection, by Linda Dillow.  Kind of made me yawn for the most part, with little kicks in the pants here and there in helping me remember how to value my husband.

3. The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives, by Peter Scazzero.  Good.  A church that’s vulnerable and transparent?  Who’d-a thought it?

4. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan.  Not as memorable as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but definitely another log to the fire in the category of responsible eating.

5. The Hunger Games, Book 1, by Suzanne Collins.  Okay, it really made me mad, to tell you to the truth.  I was completely hooked to the story (Good job, Collins.), but it didn’t resolve.  At the time, I believe I said Collins has bowed to the sick government of marketing, just as the characters in her story have bowed to Panem.  I vowed not to buy any of the books (but I’m not sure I can keep from reading them).

6. Labor of Love: A Midwife’s Memoir, by Cara Muhlhahn. Not a literary masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe worth the free Kindle download.

7. The Witches, by Roald Dahl.  I listened to the audio on the sneak because I knew my then-4-year-old Isaiah would be entranced.  It was fascinating, spooky, exciting.  I never liked hearing about witches until Roald Dahl tackled them.

8. Organic Disciplemaking, by Dennis McCallum and Jessica Lowery.  There’s a lot here for a baby disciplemaker such as I am.  It wasn’t the most riveting read, but it gave me good things to chew on.

9. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, by Sarah Buckley.  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.  This book is filled with research regarding common pregnancy and birth issues such as gestational diabetes, cord clamping, ultrasounds, cosleeping, and more.  Buckley treats you like someone with a brain.  An important book.

10. Memoirs of a Woman Doctor, by Nawal El Saadawi.  A short, worthwhile story of a female doctor in a male-dominated Egyptian society.

11. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, by Todd Burpo.  Although I had my suspicions, it was hard to argue with this boy’s account.  Read it for no other reason than to join in a discussion with the scads of people who have already read the book.  It actually came at a timely moment for me, in helping shape my view of Jesus as warm and relatable.

12. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver.   You know how it is when really good novels just seem to scream with life, their stories just bursting to be told?  This is one of those.  It made me good and angry.

13. Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis.  My favorite novel of the year.  The characters are so entrancing, and the story so complex, you may want to start the book over as soon as you’ve finished.  I’m pretty sure I’ll have to reread it in the next couple years.  This novel — a retelling of a Greek myth — is much different than Lewis’s other works.

14. Generous Justice, by Timothy Keller.  A worthwhile discussion of the theology and practice behind extending justice.  Effective and fairly short.  Chapters five and six are my favorites.

15. Better Birthing with Hypnosis, by Michelle LeClaire O’Neill.  Meh.  The book includes some valuable exercises for preparing for labor, but the method seems too stringent to warrant its own book.

16.  Birthing from Within, by Pam England and Rob Horowitz.  So beautiful and versatile, this childbirth preparatory book helped me more fully enjoy my pregnancy through rest, meditation, and especially artwork.

17. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott.  A refreshing re-read for me, but not as surprising or funny the second time around.  Maybe I’m getting used to her.  But still, Anne Lamott and I — we’re soul sisters.

18. A Mother’s Heart, by Jean Fleming.  A slightly inspiring read on how to dream God-sized dreams for your children.  Was it about that?  That’s what it made me think I probably ought to do, but my brain is a little fuzzy, as I read this in bed in the days after Ray was born.  I think it could be good, but I didn’t put much energy into reading it.

19. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  What can I say?  It was a good read, with dynamic characters, but mostly it made me mad.  Not because of the racism that happens throughout the story (though it imaddening), but because, in 2009, this book still had to be written by a white woman.  Really?

20. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for WomenWorldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Could this be required reading for every American?  Please?  In raising awareness and inspiring action concerning injustices toward women, this book is a gold mine.

21. Possessing the Secret of Joy, by Alice Walker.  An intense novel, and an appropriate follow-on to issues raised in Half the Sky.  It is not for the faint of heart.

22. Love in the Driest Season, by Neely Tucker.  Not a book I could fall in love with, this account chronicles a Washington Post journalist’s adoption of a girl from Zimbabwe.  Accidentally(?) raises questions about the international adoption scene.

23. One Bite at a Time, by Tsh Oxenrider.  Good as a list of ways to organize your house; not good as a “book.”  Do e-books give themselves the license to be sub-par in quality?

24. How Children Learn, by John Holt.  Holt’s personal case studies create their own argument for valuing the natural intelligence of children.  I recommend this for all parents and teachers of young children.

25. One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.  Although I failed to savor the second half, this New York Times bestseller is climbing the charts for a reason: it really is a good book.  Beautifully written.  Life-changing.

26. A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study, by Jen Hatmaker. If you’ve seen the cover of this baby, you know why I was suspicious.  Although I could ditch her spicy, girly tales with which she tries to draw you, Hatmaker’s application tips for studying the Bible are the real deal.  Empowering.

If you’ve recorded your reads for 2011, post a link in the comments.  I’d love to have a peek at your bookshelves!

Coming soon… the list of books vying for my attention in 2012!

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