Books I Read in 2015

Now that it’s nearly one month into 2016 and nearly two months since I last posted on this blog, it feels strange to be posting and possibly a little silly to be posting a summary of last year’s reading. However, as a few friends had asked for book recommendations recently, and I was feeling more and more scared of posting anything the longer I left it, I figured I’d just go ahead and post this list.

For now, I will simply put an asterisk next to the books that I’d heartily recommend…then in a later post, I may (or may not) get around to explaining why I recommend them. Just keeping it real, folks!

And just to keep it really real, on the device I’m currently using, I can’t work out how to highlight the titles in order to italicise them…sorry!

Fiction

*The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

*Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

The Housemaid’s Daughter by Margaret Mutch

*The Spare Room by Helen Garner

The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party Bub Alexander McCall Smith

A Light in the Window by Jan Karon

Academy Street by Mary Costello

*The Storied Life of A.J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

*A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

*Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

*The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

*Paper Towns by John Green

At the Water’s Edge by Sarah Gruen

Station Eleven by Emily St.John Mandel

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Suspect by Michael Robotham

The Dust That Falls From Dreams by Louis de Bernieres

*Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

After You by Jojo Moyes

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann

*Wonder by R.J Palacio

Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith

Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

 

Non-Fiction

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Suprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter

*The House of Grief by Helen Garner

*My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

*Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

*Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

 

Biblical and Applied Theological Books

*Invest Your Suffering by Paul Mallard

*Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Alberry

Hearing the Spirit by Christopher Ash

Sing the Songs of Jesus: Revisiting the Psalms by Michael Lefebvre

Finding God in the Psalms by Tom Wright

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

*The Road We Must Travel by Chan, Peterson, Hybels et.al

*Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness by Dale Ralph Davis

*True Word for Tough Times by Dale Ralph Davis

New Testament Wisdom for Everyone by Tom Wright

The 3D Gospel by Jayson Georges

*Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung

*Heading Home by Naomi Reed

*Connected: Living in the Light of the Trinity

 

 

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Lists: Top Tips, Goodnight Thank Yous, and Blessings

If we’re to write using lists in today’s challenge, I might well start with this trusty old post card that is usually pinned to a noticeboard in my kitchen.

10 Tips to Stress Less:

  1. Remember to get your zzzz’s
  2. Talk out your troubles
  3. Notice something beautiful
  4. De-clutter your life
  5. Do more of what makes you feel most alive
  6. Practice compassion
  7. Learn to listen and be heard
  8. Delegate
  9. Plan date nights with your friends
  10. End the day well
Ten Tips to Stress Less

Ten Tips to Stress Less

Tonight, I had the unexpected delight of minding other people’s children. Not that I expected it would be awful or demanding. I just didn’t expect that it would be a delight.

I arrived to find the kids fed, dishes done and a meal kept warm for me. The kids and I played my all time favourite ‘quieten down the kids’ game – ‘Boxes’ – not putting the kids in boxes – rather that little game of dots on a page eventually joined up into boxes.

This was followed by staggered bedtimes, strictly adhered to. Some reading aloud to the youngest, some quiet companionable reading with the older siblings. Followed by tuck-ins and bedtime prayers. I asked each child for some things from their day, for which we could thank God. Here’s a collected summary:

  1. Friends
  2. Fun at school
  3. Comfy beds
  4. Term being half way through
  5. Holidays coming soon
  6. Books to read
  7. Sleep
  8. Friends in another country

While we’re in the business of saying thank you, I could list some things from my day, for which I am thankful to God:

  1. An afternoon nap when I needed it
  2. Chocolate that my brother left in the fridge
  3. An easy-reading book
  4. Quiet companions to read with tonight
  5. Some final duties completed for the year
  6. A good-morning pat, for the Stella the cat, on the outside mat
  7. Work companions, including a lovely catchup with one not seen for a while
  8. Purple flowers everywhere
  9. Friends to pray with
  10. A roof over my head

Tonight, while reading with the youngest before he was tucked in and wished a good night, we read these words, spoken from a mountain by Jesus, to his disciples and a great crowd of people:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Matthew Chapter 5)

As I left the youngest child’s bedroom, turned out the light, and said goodnight, I heard him quietly say from his bed, ‘God bless!’.

God has blessed me, indeed!

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #10

Today brings us to the end of Ten Days of Ten Things I’m Thankful For. Not that I’ll cease being thankful! At least my aim is to continue quietly in this vein over the coming days and weeks.

This morning, after fulfilling my usual Monday morning duties at work (that’s introducing out visiting speaker for the week), I headed in to speak with my boss about the possibility of taking a day off each week for the next few weeks – I’ve been struggling to keep up with life and work since arriving in this country and the struggling was getting the better of me. After a helpful chat, he sent me out with the instruction to take a couple of weeks off – effective that hour!

So I, and my pot-plant, walked back out of the college grounds, into my car and down the road to my apartment. And here I am – prescribed rest and quietness.

The pot plant is still experiencing some fragility in its return to full health. So, though the students and staff at work were delighted to see its return today, I trust they will be even more delighted to see it even more strong and healthy in a few weeks’ time. I trust that I too will follow the plant in its trajectory toward well-being.

Today I am thankful for:

1. Over-hearing the tail-end of a talk this morning, from 1 Peter, reminding me that God does his best refining work in us through our trials and confusion.

2. Encouragement regarding my work so far.

3. Permission to leave that work behind for a while.

4. A wise boss that not only gave permission to rest, but gave suggestions in order to make that rest even more restful.

5. A cancellation on a meeting with a student – before I even had the chance to make the cancellation myself!

6. A book to read.

7. Sunshine on my back as I read it.

8. God’s free, unending love for me – without me having to barter with him.

9. A dinner tonight with my family.

10. Hope to hold onto.

Ten Things I’m Thankful For – Day #4

As I prepare to go to bed,* the wind and rain are lashing against the windows of my apartment. It’s nights like these that my thankful thoughts go immediately to warmth and shelter.

Tonight I finish the day thankful for:

1. A roof over my head.

2. Windows that close.

3. Curtains that dampen some of the drafts.

4. A beautiful quilt that kept me warm as I read a book on the sofa.

Duck Egg Blue - I trust the ducks have somewhere to hide tonight.

Duck Egg Blue – I trust the ducks have somewhere to hide tonight.

5. A fascinating, illuminating and sobering book to read.

The book just happens to co-ordinate with the quilt!

The book just happens to co-ordinate with the quilt!

6. Bed socks to keep my feet warm – in and out of bed.

Warm Feet - Warm Heart

Warm Feet – Warm Heart

7. A bed.

8. Today’s promise of an end to the heat of summer.

9. The subsequent anticipation of wearing clothes that are more ‘wintery’ and therefore more to my liking 🙂

10. A visiting speaker at work today, bearing good news of many who’ve found lasting shelter under eternal arms.

* I wrote this last night. It’s still raining and blasting a gale this morning. I read the Daily Prompt just before I went to sleep and then couldn’t get the song out of my head ‘…red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue…I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.’ It will likely be some days before we see a rainbow anywhere.

Books I’ve Read – 2014

I’m really bad at remembering what books were about after reading them. So I’m afraid the list below will not include reviews. However, I will highlight a few that have managed to stick in my mind and why:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – From time to time, I find myself sitting opposite women who are finding it really hard to see a way forward in a marriage where communication has all but broken down. This novel explores what it might be like to wake up one day having forgotten the past 10 years of your marriage, and how issues that seemed so significant in the daily grind lose their grip.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I don’t remember much about this book. But I do remember identifying a little with one of the single women in the book and I remember the heartache of bravery while trapped in an awful situation.

The Rosie Project by Grahame Simsion – I just loved this book! It made me laugh out loud (in public) and weep a little out loud (in private).

In the list below of Christian Books/Applied Theology, I find it too difficult to pick favourites. I feel I had a good diet of things to apply and learn from this year. However, the ones that crop up pretty much every day in my thoughts and speech are: True Friendship by Vaughan Roberts, And So to Bed by Adrian Reynolds, and A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Fiction

Eventide Kent Haruf

Perfect Rachel Joyce

Benediction Kent Haruf

A Faraway Smell of Lemon Rachel Joyce

The Storyteller Jodi Picoult

The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd

The Engagements J.Courtney Sullivan

Life After Life Kate Atkinson

The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty

The One Plus One Jojo Moyes

What Alice Forgot Liane Moriarty

Instructions for a Heatwave Maggie O’Farrell

We Are Completely Beside Ourselves Karen Joy Fowler

The Brightest Star in the Sky Marian Keyes

The Hypnotist’s Love Story Liane Moriarty

Longbourn Jo Baker

Sister Rosamund Lupton

At Home in Mitford Jan Karon

Painter of Silence Georgina Harding

Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty

We Are All Made of Glue Marina Lewycka

The Rosie Project Grahame Simsion

The Last Anniversary Liane Moriarty

The Universe Versus Alex Woods Gavin Extence

The Light Between Two Oceans M.L Stedman

Fangirl Rainbow Rowell

Lila Marilynne Robinson

Short Stories

Varg In Love Alexander McCall Smith

To Build a Fire Jack London

Memoirs

Garlic and Sapphires Ruth Reichl

Tender at the Bone Ruth Reichl

Notes From a Small Island Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson

Christian Books – Applied Theology

Ordinary Hero Tim Chester

The Heart of Singleness Andrea Trevenna

True Friendship Vaughan Roberts

If I Should Die Before I Wake K. Scott Oliphint and Sinclair B. Ferguson

Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity Michael Card

And So to Bed: A Biblical View of Sleep Adrian Reynolds

The Single Issue Al Hsu

Eating Heaven: Spirituality at the Table Simon Carey Holt

Life Together Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition Andrew Purves

How People Change Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God’s Sovereignty Joni Eareckson Tada

Table Grace: The Role of Hospitality in the Christian Life Douglas Webster