Saturday, January 15, 2011

Books of 2011

I have always loved to read.  Because I am in seminary, I rarely get to read for fun.  However, since I am graduating this year and hopefully transitioning to ministry, my reading habits will probably be pretty mixed.


So...how about I just list everything I read for this year, whether it was for seminary, for fun, for ministry, or for whatever?  Then at the end of the year, I will evaluate what I've done.




  1. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (Christmas present from my son!)
  2. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson (another Christmas present!)
  3. The Confession by John Grisham (ANOTHER Christmas present!)
  4. Cross Fire by James Patterson (YET ANOTHER Christmas present!)
  5. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (oh yes...Mr. King finally figures out to END his stories!)
  6. Big Man Coming Down the Road by Brad Smith (Okay...I confess that I already read this one but I love re-reading my favorites!)
  7. Ministry Loves Company by John Galloway Jr. (January short term seminary class)
  8. Congregational Leadership In Anxious Times by Peter L. Steinke (January short term seminary class)
  9. The Business of the Church by John W. Wimberly Jr. (January short term seminary class)
  10. Managing Polarities in Congregations  by Roy M. Oswald and Barry Johnson (January short term seminary class)
  11. The Tentmaking Pastor: The Joy of Bivocational Ministry by Dennis W. Bickers (January short term seminary class)
  12. First and Second Thessalonians: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching by Beverly Gaventa (gotta get ready for the Presbyterian ordination exam on January 29th)
  13. 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians by Victor Paul Furnish (doesn't hurt to have more than one good commentary when preparing for the Presbyterian ordination exams!)
  14. The Importance of Being Lazy by Al Gini (in praise of play, leisure, and vacations - and for a seminary class called "Sleep, Sabbath, and Surrender.")
  15. Wide Awake by Patricia Morrisroe (a memoir of insomnia written by a woman who has struggled with it for years.  Each chapter is a story of a different attempt to find a cure.  Another book for a seminary class called "Sleep, Sabbath, and Surrender.")
  16. Waiting for God by Simone Weil (a philosophy book written by a very young woman who wrote about beauty, art, God, and many other things.  The book was used in a class I took that focused on using art in formation and worship.)
  17. On Dreams by Sigmund Freud (written in 1911 because no one would read his "masterpiece" about dreams that he had written a few years earlier; here Uncle Sigmund tells us all about dreams, what they mean, how they work, and how much we should pay attention to them.  I'm just glad it wasn't all Mommy's fault.)
  18. The Promise of Sleep by Dr. William Dement (THE guru of sleep disorders in the US.  Bottom line?  Most sleep disorders will clear up on their own.  Other more serious ones can kill you.  Got it?  Now go take a nap!)
  19. Variations on a Blue Guitar by Maxine Green (a book for my arts in worship/formation class; the chapters are taken from various speeches on the use of aesthetic experiences in education.  The applications also fit in Christian education!)
  20. Art As Experience by John Dewey (I am racking my brain trying to remember if I read any of Dewey's  other works when I was in teacher college and/or graduate school.  If I did not, then SHAME on my education program for leaving this man out!  His ideas about instruction and art are wonderful!)
  21. Christianity, Art, and Transformation by John W. de Gruchy (another book for my arts in worship/formation class; this one was supposed to be the most difficult one to read - but I loved it! How important can art be in Christian worship?  Read and find out for yourself.)
  22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (a required book for my Arts in Christian Formation seminary class, but what a wonderful idea!  The premise is fascinating: supposed everything you did that was evil/wrong/bad was revealed in the way you looked to others...now suppose a portrait of you took on that appearance and you remained youthful and great looking?  How would it all turn out?  A classic story mauled by well-meaning English teachers the world over - but still worth it.  The graphic novel version is extremely well done.)
  23. The Sabbath World by Judith Shulevitz (pretty good book written by a Jewish woman who certainly knows a great deal about how Jews observe the Sabbath.  She is also very well read in Christian theology and seems to grasp the connection between Christianity and Judiasm as well as the connection between the Old and New Testaments.  Lots of good stuff here!)
  24. Swimsuit by James Patterson (Ah yes...now that seminary is OVER WITH, I can read for FUN and leisure.  Nothing better than a trashy crime novel by Patterson with his 120+ three-page chapters!  Oh what fun!)
  25. Vertical Run by Joseph R. Garber (an executive arrives at work, gets some coffee, looks up and sees his boss pointing a gun at him - and you think YOU'RE having a bad day at the office?  What happens when Dave manages to knock his boss out but finds heavily armed gunmen waiting for him in the lobby?  and WHY is everyone trying so hard to kill Dave?  The answer is the climax of this tense, tight, exciting novel.)
  26. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (the same author who wrote the first book in this list; but this story did not interest me as much as the vampire tale involving Abraham Lincoln.  Perhaps it was because the author very closely followed the style of the original Pride and Prejudice author, Jane Austen.  Just didn't hold my interest as well...gotta confess.)
  27. The Jester by James Patterson (If I keep making fun of Patterson's three-page chapters and choppy writing style, then why is this the third book of his that I've read this year?  This one is an unusual historical fiction novel set during the Crusades.  It's also one of my favorites!)
  28. Long Lost by Harlan Coben (I must remember to thank my dear mother for introducing me to this wonderful mystery/suspense author.  His favorite character, Myron Bolitar, receives a call from an old flame who is in trouble in Paris.  Of course, Myron goes there immediately and finds himself in the middle of an international "situation" involving terrorists, French police, shadowy figures, and lots of action.  An excellent read!)
  29. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (a great teen novel...post-apocalyptic America is divided into 13 zones.  Each zone must send two participants to an annual fight-to-the-death match for the entertainment of the country - and to remind everyone of the power of the Capitol.  Katniss Everdeen is the latest fighter when she volunteers to take the place of her beloved younger sister.)
  30. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (I won't spoil the story by revealing anything of the plot...book two in the Hunger Games series...an excellent story!)
  31. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (the final book in the Hunger Games...what or who is the "mockingjay" and why is it so central to the story?  A terrific conclusion to the series.)
  32. The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde (no, the author's last name is NOT a misprint.  This story takes a while to get going, but once it does - it is hilarious!  It is based on various nursery rhymes; for instance: the detective in charge is Jack Sprat, his partner is Mary Mary Contrary, he investigates a break-in at the bears' cottage, and he is also chasing the hard-to-catch Gingerbread Man.  Pretty entertaining and very cleverly written.)
  33. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (unbelievably true story of a World War II hero and former Olympic runner...the struggles this man endured are an inspiration to anyone who believes in the triumph of the human spirit...GREAT book!)
  34. James Madison by Garry Willis (biography of the fourth President of the United States...the more I read about our former Presidents, the more disgusted I am with our electoral choices, the blantant political pandering, and the unbelievable mistakes that Presidents make...oh wait!  That all happened to Madison!)
  35. Where the Wild Things Are by William Stolzenburg (no, this is not the children's classic by Maurice Sendak - although that's a great book.  Remember Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth?  Well, this is ecology's discussion of what happens when all the great predators disappear.  Lions and tigers and bears - oh my!)
  36. Bum Phillips: Coach, Cowboy, Christian by Bum Phillips and Gabe Semenza (an autobiography by the beloved former coach of the Houston Oilers; Bum talks about growing up in east Texas, how he got into football, his days as a Marine in WWII, his coaching exploits, and - most important of all - his faith in Jesus!  A refreshing book by a Texas orginal!)
  37. Tenderness by Robert Cormier (a psycho killer meets a disturbed victim...what happens when they get together?  Weird book, weak ending but with a twist I admit I never saw coming!)
  38. Drop Shot by Harlan Coben (second book I've read this year by this author...here our hero Myron Bolitar tries to unravel a complicated murder that is somehow tied to a similar murder six years earlier...lots of twists and turns in this entertaining murder mystery).
  39. Mark's Story: The Jesus Chronicles by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (the two authors who wrote the Left Behind series tell the story of the writer of the Gospel of Mark; they use the stories from all four Gospels as well as the two letters of Peter to add an authentic ring to the passages).
  40. Busted Flush by Brad Smith (my FAVORITE author!  Sure wish he would write more books more quickly!  In this one, a carpenter named Dock Bass has inherited an old farm house just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  As he begins remodeling the place, he finds a hidden room walled up with various gadgets and inventions from the 1860's.  One of them just might turn out to have a recording of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address.  And there are sure some "interesting" characters who would love to get their hands on it.)
  41. Alex Cross' Trial by James Patterson and Richard Dilallo (another Patterson novel with three-page chapters and a choppy plot...but I LOVE it!  Here, a lawyer named Ben Corbett is in Mississippi during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt investigating local lynchings for the President.  There, he meets the ancestor of Alex Cross: Abraham Cross, a righteous black man determined to assist Ben.  The question that never seems to be answered comes up again:  Can a black man get justice in the South?)
  42. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (third in the series and yes, I've read the other two; Lisbeth Salander—the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels—is under close supervision in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: when she’s well enough, she’ll stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will have to prove her innocence, and to identify the corrupt politicians who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer years of abuse. And, on her own, she will plot her revenge—against the man who tried to kill her and the government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.)
  43. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (a white woman writes the story of three black maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962; the maids each tell their stories of what goes on in those various households, and the scandal that erupts when their book is published puts them all at risk; an important book that is emotionally raw and VERY difficult to read...also, almost impossible to put down!)
  44. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (first, you have to acquire a working definition of "ragamuffin."  Then you can read this wonderful book and see how NONE of us deserve the love, understanding, forgiveness, sacrifice, and especially LOVE of God - but we get it anyway!)
  45. Second Grace On The Left by Darynda Jones (catchy title...interesting premise: a young female private investigator named Charley Davidson is the Grim Reaper and hangs around with Satan's unwilling-to-be-evil son; she solves murders for herself and her detective father and uncle with her "unusual" skill set.  You would think this would be a clever, exciting book to read...and you would be WRONG.  It was confusing, lurched from action scene to action scene, and just barely held together along a plot line that only sounded good.  No recommendation.)
  46. Panic in Level 4 by Richard Preston (same author of The Hot Zone...this is sort of a non-fiction Tales From the Darkside: Ebola in Africa, people with a rare syndrome who literally eat off their own fingers, two brothers who build their own super computer with mail-order parts so they can explore pi, and what is happening to the forests of America?  All these stories make you wish we were smarter and better organized as a civilization.  Excellent book!)
  47. Ice Trap by Kitty Sewell (a British surgeon receives a letter from a 13-year old girl living in Canada's Northwest Territories stating that he is her father.  What follows is a journey back to a remote posting in the Northwest Territories as Dr. Woodruff must confront events he thought were left in the past.  Along the way, he encounters two women - one that he hated and one that he loved.  Both have startlingly different claims on him.  Excellent book with lots of twists and turns!)
  48. Touch by Alexi Zentner (another book set in the frigid cold of northwest Canada...what am I thinking?  In this one, Stephen returns to the town where he grew up to bury his mother.  As he does, he encounters stories, memories, and a few unusual ghosts of the past.  An interesting book to read; this author does a masterful job of describing the surroundings in great detail without becoming tedious about it; really makes the reader feel you are there.)
  49. The Poet by Michael Connelly (a crime-beat reporter in Denver discovers that his detective twin brother's suicide is actually a murder; then he discovers that someone is not only brutally killing children around the country but then stalking the homicide detectives who investigate the cases.   A creepy story with excellent twists and turns and an ending that most will not see coming.)
  50. When the Killing's Done by T.C. Boyle (what happens when two VERY different environmental groups argue over exactly how to handle the various animals that should (key word: should) inhabit a small island off the coast of California?  A fascinating read with LOTS of environmental politics worked out.  Both sides are right, both sides are wrong, but both sides are INVOLVED!)
  51. The Coffin Trail by Martin Edwards (set in rural England; Daniel Kind and his girlfriend escape London's too-busy lifestyle for a cabin in the Lake District; they soon discover that an old unsolved murder continues to hang over the heads of the local residents; Daniel becomes friends with a police detective, Hannah Scott, who worked for his estranged father; the twists and turns are somewhat confusing but the plot and the ending are good enough to sustain the reader.)
  52. The Cipher Garden by Martin Edwards (okay...I confess that I love reading novels in a series; in this one, Daniel Kind teams up with Hannah Scott to solve another unsolved murder, but this time it is an anonymous letter that starts the search; the relationship between Daniel and Hannah is intriguing: Daniel wants to know more about the father who abandoned his family when Daniel was a child, and Hannah wants to share information about the same man who was her mentor and friend for several years; meanwhile, the murderer seems to evade capture until a series of clues are found by both Daniel and Hannah; good book!)
  53. The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards (the third in the Lake District series of mysteries; this one has two bodies being found in a deep abandoned mine shaft, but the bodies were killed 50 years apart; coincidence or the same killer?  Again, Daniel and Hannah team up to try to find the killer; this time, the reader is left wondering who actually did the killing...part of it is solved, but part is not!)

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