Top 10 of 2014

Okay, I know, I know, I’m super late at getting out my list this time around.  Usually I try to get this out before Christmas in the event you may want to purchase any of my recommendations during your holiday shopping, but the holidays have come and gone, and, well, that’s just how things go.  However, if you’re looking for some reading prospects for 2015, it’s not too late.  So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 list from my reading adventures last year (in no particular order).

Silent Spring

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

This book is heralded as “the classic that launched the environmental movement” (as you can see from the cover) and celebrated its 50th year last year.  I don’t know how much of the information is out-dated, as DDT is referenced regularly when speaking of chemicals, but the practices of containment and treatment of pests and unwanted herbs, i.e. weeds, are still typical today of those described in Carson’s book all those years ago.  As a biologist, Carson was able to describe scientifically the destruction to plants and animals and entire ecosystems that occurs with uninformed and unrestrained use of chemicals to treat nature.  With widespread use of chemicals, even if they are advertised as “safe” nature and humanity have experienced many unintended consequences that often are “misdiagnosed” or are reported to stem from other causes than what science would prove to us.  The case studies and scientific research in this book are fascinating and thorough.  Her language is easy to understand, and the information within this book’s pages may help you see grass, trees, fish, crops, weed killer, and bug spray in an entirely new light.

 

Seeds of Contemplation

Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

What a lovely book about the slow life and the spirit of man meeting the Spirit of God.  Merton has often been seen as an important voice in Catholic mysticism and interfaith connectedness and in this book, he highlights a common theme in much of his writing: the contemplative life.  This book, written in 1949, is a poetic collection of essays revolving around a lifestyle of drawing away and of being drawn in, of embracing the mysteries of God without distraction, for in silence and solitude the soul of man finds his spirit’s song.  Because I’ve been seeking to foster a more contemplative spirit these past years, I found this book to be confirming and encouraging in my endeavor to rest peacefully in God’s presence.  If this is you, and you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to read this wonderful book.

 

Small Wonder

Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver

I don’t think there is a book by this woman that I don’t love, so if you are not a Kingsolver fan, then don’t attempt this one.  But if you, like me, are a fan, this one will surely not disappoint.  Small Wonder is a collection of essays that have a naturalistic bent–travels in forests, birds, earth, orchids, ocean waves, and the overall rapturous quality of this planet we call home, not to mention the relationships we have with all creatures great and small.  Kingsolver, along with being an accomplished writer, is also a biologist.  As such, when writing of rainforests and frogs and tropical birds her sentiments are not only poetic but are also rather compelling for they are founded on good science.  I don’t know what to say except that this is a book worthy of every book shelf ever.

 

Travels in a Donkey Trap

Travels in a Donkey Trap by Daisy Baker

This one was a bit of a departure for me.  In fact, I was on a hunt to read a biography/auto-biography and picked this one, at random, off the library shelf, and was pleasantly surprised.  Here’s the thing with this one, it’s no literary achievement and might better be suited to something you would find in the young-adult section; however, it is written from a different time and a different place which is likely to make it difficult for a young audience.  In a word, this book was “charming.”  Baker is an aged woman who records her experiences of purchasing a donkey and trap (small wagon) and the ensuing time spent with her beloved pet.  While this book is simplistic, it is also colorful and descriptive–I was transported to her world, in her time.  I closed the book wishing to travel a day or two with Daisy and her donkey, that’s why it made this year’s top 10 list.

 

Xianity After Religion

Christianity After Religion by Diana Butler Bass

For quite a long while now, I’ve been consumed with the idea of where the institutional church is headed, and I have my ideas.  Then, early summer, I decided to do some research.  After hitting up some library shelves and seeking solid foundations, I happened upon this book.  Wow!   I say “Wow!” because, in essence, it summarizes so much of what I think concerning the future of the church and so much of what my personal research had concluded.  Therefore, if you are ready to dive into a book that is concerned with the direction of the institutional church going into the future, and what this might mean for the Christian of today, this book is for you.   But know this, while this book is compelling, it does tend toward the academic.  It isn’t a textbook and is more readable than that, but it isn’t an easy, after-work-kick-your-feet-up-and-relax-in-the-recliner kind of book either.  Nevertheless, it is well-worth the effort.

 

The Nesting Place

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

This is the perfect coffee table book that’s meant to be read and not just sit on the coffee table.  While it is filled with lovely photos and littered with DIY ideas, it’s really a book about blooming where you’re planted when it comes to decorating your home.  Ms. Smith had been a seasoned renter, living with ugly walls, shaggy carpets, and outdated counter-tops not of her own choosing, and yet she set out to make every house a lovely home, no matter how long or short their stay would be in that place.  This book is an encouragement to those who feel discouraged stylistically in their own abodes.  It’s a book about possibilities and the kind of risks worth taking.  It’s about not taking life too seriously, and a reminder that, for the most part, home mistakes are really the cost of another gallon of paint.  All the trial and error is worth it.  For the person looking to make some changes to their interior, on a budget, and maybe not knowing where to start, this book is for you.

 

The Secret Message of Jesus

The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian D. McLaren

How would our Christian faith change if Jesus became the center?  And what if the real Jesus was different than the one we’ve learned about in Sunday School?  And if there is a more historically accurate Jesus, then we would be forced to reevaluate his teachings, right?  That’s really the premise of this whole book by McLaren.  While many have discounted McLaren as being theologically unsound, too liberal, or even rebellious, this book is really worth reading.  You are not required to believe what he believes, but it will cause you to think–maybe outside your normal ways of thinking.  And in my opinion, thought-provocation is so important to personal growth and deeper faith.  No doubt, for some, this will stretch the box a bit, but for others, this book will be refreshment to the soul (and the mind) as it was for mine.

 

Learning to Walk in the Dark

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

I am a fan of this woman, and this latest book hit the spot.  When I read her books, I get a sense of being emerged in deep waters, and this one is no different.  It is a book of reflection; of looking at the darkness of life and not recoiling from it.  It is about embracing mystery, discomfort, the unknown and even the painful known.  It is about rejoicing in our dark moments with the same kind of reverence and revelry and we do the light times, when all is revealed as good.  Instead of labeling light as good and dark as bad, what if they were both good, just different.  This book is about her journey of contemplating and embracing the dark, and her encouragement to the reader to begin their own exploration, laying all fear and caution aside.  For the real journey of life can’t be had if one will not explore the dark parts.

 

Old Books, Rare Friends

Old Books, Rare Friends by Madeline B. Stern and

Leona Rostenberg

This was also one of those library let’s see what this one is all about books.  And once again, I was taken in.  It’s the autobiography of two old friends and their life-long passion for learning and books that culminated in a renowned rare book business.  This book really covers the scope of their lives, from their upbringings, college studies, world travels, boyfriends, book finds, and their long-time friendship, not to be confused with rumors of a long-standing sexual relationship.  These are two “mature” women who have seen much of life, embraced many experiences, taken some roads less-traveled, and through it all, have remained true to their passions.  And it has served them well, very well.  Read their story, and see what incredibly remarkable women this book is all about.

 

Interruped

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

What happens when you’re traveling along in life, doing pretty okay, and then, Wham!  God blindsides you (in a good way), but your happy little life gets totally rearranged? What’s a girl to do?  Well, this is Hatmaker’s story of just that, and her realization that this is what God wants to do for, in, and through so many of us.  As a collector of people, Hatmaker doesn’t just want us to get a view of what happened, she invites us to travel with her and get messy, too. Her excuses become our excuses.  Her acceptance becomes our acceptance.  Her new path becomes inspiration for our new path.  Her passion ignites our passion.  See what happens when revelation meets real life.  Jen’s story is funny, profound, moving, and inspiring.  It’s one you won’t want to miss out on!

 

As always, happy reading!  And if you have any suggestions you’d like to pass my way, I’m always up for a good suggestion and a good read!

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