Last Summer’s Reads
Last summer, as some of the semester business subsided and as I flew back and forth to Bethesda, Maryland, every two weeks, I read many books. I completed Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken:A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, the remarkable story of Louis Zamperini, an initially unlikable character who not only became an Olympic runner in the Berlin games but survived an incredible adventure as a POW in the Pacific during WWII. As the subtitle suggests, it is an incredible story of redemption and forgiveness, and I won’t spoil the surprising ending.
I read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky, drawn from Mao Zedong’s quote, “Women hold up half the sky.” It is a sobering yet surprisingly hopeful account of how women around the world, despite being abused, exploited, and neglected, are transcending their circumstances and excelling.
I followed this with Carolyn Custis James’ remarkable Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women, a necessary complement to Kristof’s book, yet from a biblical and theological perspective. Some of her thoughts have inspired one of my future writing projects.
Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, was just fun; it was also informative as it explored why our homes (and most everything in them) developed over the centuries. Jim Collin’s How the Mighty Fall (I try to read every one of his books), was such a good treatise of institutional arrogance that I required all of President’s Council to read it together.
I was enthralled with Rob Gifford’s China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power, with his wonderful literary landscapes and his insightful, and often faith-based, conclusions.
I enjoyed writing recommendations for Bruce Fong’s The Wall, a critique of the homogeneity principle from the perspective of Ephesians 2, and Karl Payne’s Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization, and Deliverance, which, although I do not hold his position, is a good defense of his view.
Finally, I read Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I spent longer on this one, eventually writing a 3,000 word critical review for the fall issue of Multnomah Magazine.
A Game of Thrones Interlude
A bit weary of nonfiction reading and the numerous writing projects I committed to, including Unlikely Heroes, I decided to take a short reprieve and read a novel. Elise was into George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, so I loaded it on my Kindle and sped through, thinking I could soon get back to more serious reading. I was wrong. I discovered Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire was a septology (is that a word meaning seven books?). He has completed five in the series and has two to go.
Well, I became hooked on this medieval-esque fantasy of the Westerosi and the seven kingdoms, so I read the other four: A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons. Finally, in mid-February, I completed the fifth book at what I estimate to be 4,800 pages of reading. My brief interlude ended up being so much more.
I do not agree with those who say this is a Lord of the Rings for the twenty-first century. That’s giving it too much praise. But now I cannot wait to learn more about what happens to Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Stannis Baratheon, Cersei Lannister, Catleyn Stark, Brand Stark, Lord Jon Snow, and literally hundreds of other characters I’ve grown to love. Above all, what about the dragons?
Back to Normal, Almost
So this spring I’ve returned to serious reading again. I read Steve More’s inspiring, Who Is My Neighbor: Being a Good Samaritan in a Connected World, a short but highly motivational treatment of our Lord’s familiar parable in a global context.
And I finished Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, an unbelievable account of how the cancer cells of a poor African-American woman in the 1950s continue to live on today and have saved countless millions of lives.
And just when I was selecting my next title, Jani and Elise urged me to read The Hunger Games Trilogy. Now what?