One upside of this COVID quarantine is the amount of reading I’ve gotten done while sheltering in place. I read twice as many books in April as I normally finish in a month. Ten instead of five, including The Middle Matters by Lisa Jo Baker. Read on for my impressions of each.
If you spot any that sound interesting, click through the Amazon referral links for more information or to order.
10 Books I Read in April:
Glad Tidings by Jennifer Flanders
First up is one of my own titles: Glad Tidings: The First 25 Years of Flanders Family Christmas Letters.
This is a printed collection I compiled several years back of the annual updates we send to family and friends. Doug re-reads all of these letters aloud to us every year at Christmas time. However, we did so much traveling in December, January, and February that we didn’t finish until April this year.
The children enjoy hearing all these old stories as much as their parents enjoy telling them. We laugh and cry and discuss the antics recorded in each letter ad nauseum. The little ones get a glimpse of what their older siblings were like growing up. And the letters serve as a poignant reminder of God’s faithfulness to our family through the years. If you’ve ever wished for a fly-on-the-wall view of what life in a large family looks like, this is a good way to get it.
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
I listened to Jen Wilkin’s In His Image audiobook in January. Having enjoyed that one so thoroughly, I immediately ordered None Like Him, as well.
Whereas In His Image focuses on ten divine attributes God calls us to reflect (His holiness, love, justice, goodness, mercy, grace, faithfulness, patience, truthfulness, and wisdom), None Like Him examines God’s omnipotence, omniscience, authority, and other limitless characteristics. She also discusses how humans err when we try to lay claim to characteristics that can only ever be true of God alone.
Wilkin’s writing is theologically meaty, but still very accessible. Although her books do not contain much fluff, her tone is soft, humble, and relatable. Which explains why I’ve already ordered yet another of her titles to add to my “to read” stack.
Restart by Gordon Korman
One of my sons gave me a copy of Restart for Christmas. His sister had read it and recommended it highly, so I think he was hoping if he gave Mom a copy, I’d read it aloud to the family.
And that’s exactly what I did.
We’ve read lots of Gordon Korman’s books over the years, but Restart is our new favorite (with the possible exception of Schooled). The storyline follows a class bully after he falls off a roof and wakes up with amnesia. His former life is a mystery to both him and the readers, slowly pieced together by the reactions of his classmates. Some seem terrified of him. Some act infuriated. And others seem eager to draw their forgetful classmate into mischief of the worst kind.
Mary Emma and Company by Ralph Moody
This was another read-aloud book for us last month. I’ve been going through the entire Little Britches series with my younger children and older grandkids. Many of whom weren’t even born last time we read this set aloud as a family.
Mary Emma and Company follows the Moody family as they move from Littleton, Colorado, to Boston, Massachusetts. This volume, like its predecessors, is as much a testament to hard work and ingenuity as to God’s gracious protection and faithful provision.
Little Britches learned so many wonderful lessons during his growing up years — lessons that will serve modern day youngsters just as well today as they did the Moody children more than a century ago.
The Middle Matters by Lisa Jo Baker
At 55, I’m probably a little past “middle age,” but I still thoroughly enjoyed Lisa Jo Baker’s book, The Middle Matters. Baker writes in a conversational tone, filling each chapter with heartfelt encouragement and witty observations.
Although her book is essentially just a collection of essays, it feels very cohesive, thanks to being cleverly arranged into sections such as “The Middle of Your Marriage Matters,” “The Middle of Your Living Room Matters,” “The Middle of Your Parenting Matters,” etc.
Baker does get a little sappy when writing about her kids. I’ll spot her that, as I’ve been guilty of doing the same. But her comments on marriage and hospitality are beautifully put and right on target. Neither of those sections escaped my doing a copious amount of underlining and making myriad margin notes.
The Illyrian Adventure by Lloyd Alexander
Between Frank Peretti’s Cooper Kids Adventures and Lloyd Alexander’s Vesper Holly Adventures, my once-reluctant middle reader has turned into quite the bookworm.
We finished Vesper’s Illyrian Adventure in April. Although this is the second adventure we’ve read, it is first in the series and introduces the protagonist, Vesper Holly, an intrepid 16-year-old orphan with well-honed powers of observation, insatiable curiosity, lightning-quick deductive skills, and disarming charm.
In the Illyrian Adventure, she and her uncle/guardian travel to a remote European kingdom to investigate an ancient legend, and there become embroiled in a dangerous rebellion.
Large Print Sudoku by Brain Games
I try to keep a Sudoku book going at all times, completing at least a puzzle or two a day. I’m hoping that and brushing my teeth left-handed will help ward off Alzheimer’s.
Current research indicates the brain-health benefits of mild mental challenges are negligible, but more taxing mental activities offer much greater protection. So I should probably skip the easy puzzles in the first sections of the book and head straight for the expert grids in the back. The harder sudokus inevitably force me to follow a guess to the end of the puzzle before doubling back and choosing another number to fit into the square in question. It’s almost like completing a maze.
I’ve finished lots of Sudoku books over the years. I start with the first puzzle and work one-by-one in order to the very end. But I prefer the format of these Brain Game editions to any others I’ve seen. The spiral binding allows the pages to lie flat as I work them, and the large print means I can see the numbers, even without my reading glasses. I ordered the next book in the series as soon as I finished this one, and am already 30 puzzles in on that one.
The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage edited Jim Daly
When Doug and I first married, we solicited advice from couples whose marriage had gone the distance. We received a wealth of wisdom for our efforts, and have endeavored to put into practice the concepts they shared.
Focus on the Family has done something similar in The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage. Here, in one slim volume, they’ve gathered pearls of wisdom from some of my favorite Christian authors. Writers like Gary Thomas, Greg Smalley, Jeff and Shanti Feldhahn, and Joni Erickson Tada all share candidly what has (and hasn’t) worked in their own marriages. I especially enjoyed the fact that, in the audio version of the book, each author reads his/her own chapter.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
I listened to the audio version of Peter Pan with my grandkids last month. Since it’s a classic, I thought it would serve them well to be familiar with it.
But it had been years since I read this tale to my own children. And after hearing it with fresh ears, I realize I must’ve only ever read an abridged copy aloud. Which is probably what I should have done with the grandchildren, as well.
In my opinion, Peter Pan is another of those instances when the movie improved upon the book. The kids agree with me on this point. We watched the beautifully filmed 2003 live action Peter Pan as soon as we finished the final chapter. But even Disney’s animated Peter Pan retains all the best parts of the book and cuts most of the things that made us wince.
Engaging with Atheists by David Robertson
In many ways, we are living in a post-Christian society. Even here in America’s Bible Belt where the majority of folks still claim to be Christians, our family routinely encounters people who more readily identify as atheists.
In fact, we’ve developed longstanding friendships with many such non-believers. But their worldview is so different from our own that we can sometimes feel as if we’re speaking completely different languages when we converse with them.
David Robertson’s book Engaging with Atheists offers practical suggestions for breaking down such barriers and opening a meaningful dialogue with those who disbelieve God’s existence. His suggestions are not meant to be bandied as weapons to get the upper hand in a philosophical debate. Instead, Robertson seeks to illumine a way we can — by God’s grace — speak to the heart of the atheists who cross our path by asking honest questions, listening to their responses with a desire to understand and connect, and prayerfully speaking the truth in love. What’s more, you don’t need a degree in theology to put these suggestions into practice. They are doable even for students, neighbors, and homemakers like me.
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