What I Read this Year: Non-Fiction

I read some fantastic non-fiction this year. Can't wait to share so many of these titles with you!

Non-Fiction

Radical Womanhood – Carolyn McCulley**** An excellent and fascinating look at the history of feminism and the shape it's taking currently.

Comforts from the Cross – Elyse Fitzpatrick**** I already highlighted this book on the blog, but want to say again what a wonderful book it is! It never failed to convict me while offering truth with fresh and engaging writing.

The Prodigal God – Timothy Keller**** I already reviewed this book here, but let me say again, read it.

Same Kind of Different as Me – Ron Hall & Denver Moore*** An interesting story about two men from completely different backgrounds who forge an unlikely friendship.

Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of PersecutionKay Marshall and Michele Rickett**** A must-read for all Christian women, in my opinion. Stories from around the world about Christian women and how they deal with various forms of persecution. Each chapter includes prayer-points. Their example is one we women in America need for going through challenges and trials!

My Life in France – Julia Child**** I loved this memoir! I went into it knowing very little about Julia Child, other than what I'd been exposed to in Julie + Julia. That film caused me to be more interested in Child, and a friend recommended this title to me. Child's personality really comes through and I loved reading about her fascinating life, the details for French food, and how her landmark cookbook was written.

The Excellent Wife – Martha Peace** A really good book, although written more like a manual/curriculum.

A Praying Life – Paul Miller**** An excellent book about cultivating a life of prayer. But don't think of this book as a "how to." It's more of the story of one man and his family and what prayer looks like for them. It was such an encouraging and challenging book. Never has prayer seemed so necessary and desirable!

Hints on Child Training – H. Clay Trumbull**** This book really impacted my parenting and discipline. I made some effective changes that benefited all of us. Written by Elisabeth Elliot's grandfather in the late 1800's, this book still came off as fresh and relevant. With titles like "Denying a Child Wisely," "Training a Child to Self-Control," "Allowing Play to a Child's Imagination," and "Good-Night Words" this book is inspiring. Trumbull is wise and sensitive in his writing. Definitely will be rereading certain chapters for many years to come.

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to JoyNancy Leigh DeMoss*** A challenge to have a "gratitudal attitude" no matter what the circumstances may be.

Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasium, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen – John Piper** A look into the lives of three Christians who defended biblical truth in their age. I didn't know much about any of these men, and love how Piper draws application to our lives today from the lives lived by others.

Tortured for Christ – Richard Wurmbrand*** A classic, not for its writing but it's content. Wurmbrand endured indescribable cruelty at the hands of Communism. It can be hard to read because of this, although it's worth it. Wurmbrand doesn't center the book around excruciating details, although he gave enough to make me put the book down at times. But it's a testament to what God can produce out of trauma and pain for the good of many others. Because of Wurmbrand's experience, Voice of the Martyrs now exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide.

Naming the Child – Jenny Schroedel*** A hope-filled book on miscarriage and infant death. It brought tears to my eyes, but is an excellent book for both those who've have lost and child and those who've had friends who've lost a child.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus – Edited by Nancy Guthrie**** Advent readings from classic writers like Augustine to current ones like J. I. Packer.

What was your favorite non-fiction book this year?

What I Read This Year: Fiction

Interestingly, over the course of the last year I didn't share that much about what I read on this blog. However, I've been making up for that for the last few posts. So, it's fitting I end this unintended mini-series with my reading roundup from 2010.

First up is fiction. The first part of the year I read much less, given the fact I was in my first trimester and could barely keep my eyes opened past 8:30 p.m. And in the fiction department, I definitely read less than usual. Although my choice of novels was lack-luster at first, the quality improved as the year went on.

So Brave, Young, and Handsome – Leif Enger** I really loved Peace Like a River. So I approached this book which much excitement, but quickly got stuck. I just didn't find it compelling and had a hard time sticking with it. About mid-way it picked up and I enjoyed it, but I was not driven to finish it.

March – Geraldine Brooks*** The premise of this novel was very interesting. It took the character of Mr. March from Little Women and explored what his story might have been. Readers are quickly pulled into the drama of the Civil War as Mr. March seeks to find his place in the Union army. But in many ways this book is more about a marriage, the relationship between Mr. March and "Marmee." Parts of the book are tough to read, given that the book is set during the Civil War, but the novel as a whole is beautifully written. I also found myself losing momentum with this novel too, but pushed through and was glad I did.

Rule Britannia – Daphne DuMaurier* I love DuMaurier. Rebecca remains one of my all-time favorite novels. I found this book at a library book sale and since I love the author, I picked it up. Glad I didn't pay more than twenty-five cents for it, though. It was terrible in many ways. Don't bother, just read Rebecca!

Possession: A Romance – A. S. Byatt**** Finally! The first novel of the year that absolutely captured me! Possession is gorgeously written. I'd often pause when reading, lean over to Josh, and say, "Just listen to this sentence!" Byatt is a master craftsman when it comes to the English language. She also created a fascinating book that merged history with fiction. The plot is about two academics who follow the clues in old letters to discover a connection and unknown relationship between poets from the 19th century. There are multiple layers of storytelling in this bittersweet story with themes of love, unfaithfulness and faithfulness, and of course, possession. My favorite novel of the year, hands down.

A Girl of the Limberlost – Gene Stratton Porter**** One of my pre-teen favorites and I reread it just for a "comfort" read. For those who love Anne of Green Gables, no doubt, they too will fall in love with Elnora, this novel's heroine. Elnora goes to high school against her mother's wishes, paying her way through by selling naturalia and moths from the Limberlost Swamp. The swamp also holds the secret of her father's death and her mother's lack of love for her.

Julie – Catherine Marshall*** Another reread from my teen years. A coming-of-age story about a young girl who's relocated with her family to a new town and helps her father's newspaper by writing for it. Labor issues, natural disaster, and tested faith are all themes in this enjoyable story.

Christy – Catherine Marshall**** I definitely didn't "get" all of this book the first time I read it, around the age of 14 or so. Most recently known for the TV series, Marshall's writing was rich and beautiful. Christy Huddleston leaves her comfortable home to teach school in Cutter Gap, a tiny community in the Smokey Mountains. She goes through culture shock, experiences that challenge her faith, and finds herself involved in a dangerous feud. I found this book a masterfully told story.

The Help – Kathryn Stockett**** This would be my second favorite book of the year! I already shared my thoughts on this book in my last post.

Please share your favorite fiction titles from the past year!

The Help

This year hasn't been my best year for novel-reading. But recently, I read a fabulous one that I had to pass on. I've been meaning to write a little review for a while, and found myself a quiet afternoon to share it with you today. After Christmas I'll be sharing all the books I read this past year, so come back if you want some more good titles to add to your reading lists!

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When I was a baby, my parents went to Georgia to visit family. It would have been sometime around the 1979 or 1980. It was hot and my mother mentioned taking me to the local pool.

"You don't want to go to that pool," my mom's uncle said. "That's where all the colored go (he used a different word). They're just not like us, you know."

That sentiment has been around a long time. No doubt it still exists in the hearts of some. Which is why a book like The Help by Kathryn Stockett is still needed even today.

Inspired by the memory of the African-American woman who worked for her family, Stockett tells the story of three fictitious women whose lives become interwoven in a potentially dangerous undertaking. Set in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s, two African-American women who work as "help" to white families end up becoming unlikely friends with the privileged white "Skeeter" Phelan, a recent college graduate. Skeeter embarks on a secret writing project telling the tales of black women who've spent their lives as "help." Skeeter also seeks to uncover what really happened to the beloved black woman who raised her and has mysterious disappeared.

This story is spellbinding, heart-breaking, and hopeful. Stockett does a fabulous job with creating three distinct "voices" for her three main characters, who each take their own turn telling their story. This is not a novel to miss!

Christmas Stories for Children

We have a special stash of Christmas books we pull out each year. I'm constantly looking for new ones to add to our collection. Here's a few of the titles we're currently enjoying:

Peter Spier's Christmas One of my favorite children's book illustrators, this is truly a picture book. No words. But lots of detailed illustrations which narrate in their own way one family's Christmas season.

The Foxwood Surprise by Cynthia & Brian Paterson The illustrations are the best part of this book. Three little animals look for ways to earn money to buy gifts and have a little adventure along the way.

The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes Picked this up at a library book sale since it's illustrated by Tasha Tudor. A sweet book about a little cat that finds a new home at Christmas. Gingerbread recipe and icing in the back.

Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado A young carpenter in Bethlehem gives a gift to the newly born Christ-child.

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown A simple little poem about Christ's birth. Whimsical and romantic, it's still a book we enjoy.

The Day Before Christmas by Eve Bunting A sweet book about a little girl who goes to the Nutcracker for the first time with her grandfather. Who Was Born this Special Day? by Eve Bunting A simple story for young children about Jesus' birth.

The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden I love this story about a little girl searching for a home. Illustrated by another of my favorite illustrators, Barbara Cooney.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston A tear jerker about a little girl named Ruthie who is waiting for her father to come home from war and must donate the "perfect Christmas tree" to her town's Christmas play.

These are a few of our favorite Christmas books for children. What are yours?

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

I've been benefiting from the readings out of the book Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, edited by Nancy Guthrie this advent season. With chapters by John Piper, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Saint Augustine, Tim Keller, and Francis Schaeffer just to name a few, I'm finding myself thinking about Christ's birth in freshly meaningful ways. I highly recommend it!

A Humble Heart {Ungrind}

Note: A version of the following article first appeared on this blog back in May as part of my With Child series.

If ever there was an inconvenient pregnancy, it was Mary of Nazareth's. Her pregnancy was miraculous, but it also put her in a tenuous situation. As a virgin engaged to be married -- worse case scenario -- Mary could have been stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Who on earth would actually believe her story?

There are so many details I wonder about. What did her parents say? When she went away to visit Elizabeth for three months and came back starting to show, how did she deal with the gossip? Did she remain silent or did she share the angel's message? Was she laughed at and ridiculed? After all, even her betrothed, Joseph didn't believe her story at first.

I wish I knew. But what I do know is that Mary did not bring up these potential challenges and fears to the angel who visited her that miraculous day, although they must have come crashing into her mind the minute the angel told her she'd conceive a child.

Continue reading . . .

(Image: www.ungrind.org)

Let's Not Forget

During this season of giving, I want to point you to some worthy non-profits that do amazing work throughout the world. International Justice Mission

I first became aware of IJM's work through the book Terrify No More. You can read my review of it here. Also, a friend of mine recently interned with them on assignment in Asia. I love the work they do, working to stop sex trafficking and slavery. If you want to be apart of what they do, browse the gifts you can give through their organization on their site.

The Voice of the Martyrs

I've been familiar with this organization for many years. However, it was just this year that I read Tortured for Christ, which tells the story of VOM founder, Richard Wurmbrand. It's a hard book to read, but one that is needed to be read. I subscribe to their monthly newsletter and prayer alerts (all of which are free). It's so important for us American Christians to remember and support our fellow sisters and brothers who do not have the freedom we enjoy.

Shared Hope International

Their tagline is Prevent. Rescue & Restore. Bring Justice. Shared Hope works both domestically and internationally to eradicate sex trafficking and slavery with an emphasis on women and children.

Sisters in Service

I was first introduced to Sisters in Service by hearing the founder speak of her book and ministry via podcast. I quickly bought her book, Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution. You might think this book would be a downer, but it's not. It's full of hope. The women whose stories that are shared between the pages of this book are amazing and joy filled. We American women would be good to learn from them. In many countries, being a woman means you have less rights than men in that culture. And if you're a Christian woman, you're rights often are completely obliterated. You could face job loss, loss of husband and home, your children, and even your life. The stories are organized geographically by country, and at the end of each chapter are prayer points. I think this book is a must read for every Christian woman.

I hope you may take a second look at some of these ministries that do such an important, life-giving work around the world. At a time when many of us are so blessed to have food, shelter, and an abundance of gifts under the tree, let's remember others who could benefit greatly from our assistance.

What's your favorite non-profit to give to?

Playful Learning

I used to say I never won anything. I can no longer say that. I've won enough to last me for a while! First was the camera lens. Now I won this awesome writing caddy stocked with supplies. I won it through a Simple Homeschool giveaway. It arrived this week and I'm so excited to give it to the boys for Christmas. Although, truth be told I'll probably be more excited about it than them. I'm a sucker for art supplies! What a fun win!