October 22, 2020

The 42 Books Beside My Bed

bookstoreI have a bookcase in my bedroom.  Unfortunately it is full.  So books that I am reading, have recently read, or hope to read, tend to get piled up next to my bed.  I did a bit of a tidy up recently and discovered much to my surprise that I had 42 books in, around, or under my bed.  All of them I have read in the past year (or two), or plan to read soon.  I thought it might be interesting to give a one line review for each one, and invite your comments on both the ones I have read and the ones that I have not yet had the pleasure to delve into.  I have listed them in broad categories of “Already Read” and “Not Yet Read” and then further divided them into Theological, Fiction, and Non-Fiction sections.

So, without much further ado…

Already Read

Theological Books

1. The Living Bible.  I thought I would avoid any unnecessary criticism by listing this one first. The version I like to read with my kids.  Recently we have read Ruth and James.

2. Power Praying – David Chotka.  My deepest prayer time in years occurred while leading a small group through this book.  (In hindsight not a great book for small groups though.)

3. Putting Jesus In His Place – Robert Bowman and Ed Komoszewski.  You won’t find a better defense ever for the Deity of Christ.  The book that I always wanted to write.

4. Beyond the Edge, 100 Stories of Trusting God – Evan Davies General Editor.  100 missionary stories from the 100 years of WEC International.

5. Operation World – Edited by Jason Mandryk.  The best prayer guide for praying for the needs of the world, country by country.  Published by WEC International.

6. Evolving in Monkey Town – Rachel Held Evans.  An autobiographical look at her evolution of faith and move out of fundamentalism over a six or seven year period.  I like reading Rachel, because she is asking the types of questions that I hear from many younger people.

7. The Evolution of Adam – Peter Enns.  If you want to be informed on what the Bible says, and doesn’t say about human origins, then this book is a must read.  His discussion on Paul is especially well done.

8. Love for a Lifetime – James Dobson.  I was recently sorting books to get rid of and added this to the pile when I realized that it had been a wedding gift from a friend.  Will give it one more read before deciding what to do with it.

9. Surprised by Hope – N.T. Wright (Dust cover only).  I like Wright.  I like his theology.  Others have raved about this book.  I found it very hard to get into, but did read most of it.  I passed in on to my Dad who had the same comment.

10. Hebrews and 1 & 2 Peter – John Calvin.  Borrowed it to use as reference material for my small group last year.  Was helpful, but if you are looking to buy a commentary, this is not the one I would run out and buy.

11. The Pastor – Eugene Peterson.  This is his story of his life and beginnings as a Pastor.  I seem to have a different reaction to Eugene Peterson than most people:  When I got through it I wanted to go back and count how much time he spent during the week in activities other than Pastoring. It sure seemed like a lot. His thoughts about the modern church would resonate with many at Internet Monk.



12. 419 – Will Ferguson.  Have you ever received an e-mail from Nigeria promising untold riches? In this fascinating and award winning novel, Will Ferguson takes readers deep inside the “world’s most insidious internet scam.”

13. A Certain Justice – P.D. James.  An excruciating read.  Avoid like the plague.

14.  Gamble – Felix Francis.  Felix continues the legacy of his father, Dick Francis, who wrote over 40 mystery novels based around the British horse racing industry.  All of the novels tend to be enjoyable, fast paced reads that are not too intellectually challenging.  Think John Grisham with hooves.

15. Half-Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan.  A story of Black jazz musicians trying to survive in France and Germany during World War Two.  Beautifully written, raw, and powerful.

16. And Thereby Hangs a Tale – Jeffery Archer.  I know I read it.  I can’t really remember anything about it.  That pretty much says it all doesn’t it?

17. The Stuart McLean Collection – Stuart McLean.  Canada’s best story teller (with apologies to Farley Mowat, Robert Munsch).  More than once I have caught people telling stories about something that happened to a friend of theirs, only to realize that they were in fact remembering not an actual humorous life event, but a fictional one from the lives of Dave, Morley, and their family.

18. The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill.  Positively the best book I have read in several years.  His portrayal of the life and times of the various parts of the world in which his book is set is absolutely stunning.

19. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive – Alexander McCall Smith.  The eight in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series.  A charming series about a female detective in modern day Botswana.  Set in an area of Africa not far from where I used to live.  A very pleasurable read.  Start with book 1 and work your way through.


20. Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss.  A charming little grammar for word nerds like me.  Any book that can elaborate for 35 pages on the use of the comma, and do it with wit and humor is a winner in my eyes.

21. 1982 – Jian Ghomeshi.  Jian Ghomeshi is a bit of a cultural icon in Canada.  This is his autobiographical look at 1982 when as a 14 year old turning 15 he had dreams of being like David Bowie.  An interesting read, and a fascinating look at the music scene of that period.  Spoiled a bit by his descriptions of his first sexual encounters.

22. Drop Dead Healthy – A. J. Jacobs.  The author of The Year of Living Biblically, and The Know-It-All follow up with a book on everything that he tried to get healthy.  Humorous, but I got bored with it part way through.

23. End of the Spear – Steve Saint.  An amazing story of Steve Saint who takes his family to live among the natives of the Amazon who had killed his father Nate, Jim Elliot, and three other missionaries.  Highly recommended.

24. Beyond Belfast: A 560 Mile Walk across Northern Ireland on Sore Feet – Will Ferguson.  A very enjoyable read.  The country and the history of Northern Ireland come alive in this book.

25. Whenever I Wind Up:  My Quest for Trust, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckle Ball – R. A. Dickey.  A great gift for the sports fan in your home.  R.A. Dickey reveals a deep and complex,  but very fragile persona.  Might help explain the mixed results he had with the Blue Jays last year.

Not Yet Read

Theological Books

26. Let’s Study Mark – Sinclair B. Ferguson.  The study guide that Michael Spencer used when leading others through the Gospel of Mark.  I am avoiding reading it until after I have completed the first draft of Michael’s commentary so that I won’t be overly influenced by it.

27. Blue Parakeet (Rethinking How Your Read the Bible) – Scott McKnight.  Big Scott McKnight fan. Looking forward to this one.

28. What We Talk About When We Talk About God – Rob Bell.  I enjoyed reading Love Wins, not because I necessarily agreed with Rob Bell,  but because he was asking the questions that people in theological circles tend to avoid for fear of being branded a heretic.  I wanted to give another of his books a shot, though this seems to be written is a rather strange bullet point poetic style that I find rather disconcerting.

29. Out of the Comfort Zone – George Verwer.  George Verwer is the founder of Operation Mobilization, and has probably done more to advance missions than anyone else in the latter half of the 20th Century.  Prepare to be challenged.

30. What Good is God? – Philip Yancey.  Billy Graham’s favorite Evangelical writer.  Any thoughts from those who may have read this one?

31. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America – William Martin.  Not sure how this one ended up next to my bed.  Looks interesting though.

32. Inspiration and Incarnation:  Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament – Peter Enns.  This is the book that got Peter in trouble.  I bought this one at the same time as The Evolution of Adam.  The other book won the coin toss to be read first.


33. The Confession – John Grisham.  I always enjoy the easy reading of John Grisham.  Kind of like Dick Francis, but without the hooves.

34. The Way the Crow Flies – Ann Marie MacDonald.  Started it.  Very vivid imagery.  At 712 pages it became a question of is it worth continuing to read this one.  Dropped it when other books arrived.


35. Orr, My Story – Bobby Orr.  Ours is a hockey family.  Bobby Orr is a hockey icon.  It should have come as no surprise that there were three copies of this book underneath the Christmas tree.  Looking forward to reading this one.  Two copies next to my bed.  Makes up for Surprised by Hope just being a dust cover.

36. Wayne Gretzky’s Ghost – Roy MacGregor.  Another must read for me.  On an interesting side note, Roy MacGregor’s father was the author of half of the Hardy Boys books for which he received the princely sum of $100 each.

37. Mystery and Manners – Flannery O’Connor. A Christmas gift from Jeff Dunn.  The book is a collection of essays on the art of writing. High on my priority list to read.

38. A History of the World in 100 Objects – Neil MacGregor.  A collection from the British Museum that tells the story of civilization.  Looks very interesting.

39. The Palace Guard – Dan Rather and Gary Paul Gates.  When sorting through books that I wanted to get rid of recently, when this one caught my eye.  It ended up next to my bed as a future read.

40. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants – Malcolm Gladwell.  Malcolm always has an interesting take of life, and tends to back it up well.  Should be an interesting read.

41. 50 Canadians Who Changed the World – Ken McGoogan.  Another Christmast gift.  The title is pretty self explanatory.

42. 1D: Where We Are, Our Band, Our Story – No idea how my daughter’s book ended up next to my bed.  Might read it to help bridge the generational communication divide.

So there you have it.  The 42 books next to my bed.   I would love to hear your comments on any of these that you have read or would like to read.  I hope that this may have given you some good ideas for your future reading as well.


  1. Klasie Kraalogies says

    42 books – the Answer must be in there. 🙂

  2. Out of your 42 books, I have read three of them:

    Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans which I liked very much. She is honest, funny, thoughtful.

    What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell. I liked that too, I did a little review of it on Facebook. He, too, has a good sense of humor and I am one of the people who likes his style of writing. He writes the way I think.

    Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. Excellent!

  3. Your review of _Eats, Shoots & Leaves_ (#20) should have a comma after the word “humor,” because “and do it with wit and humor” is a parenthetical phrase. You can tell it’s a parenthetical phrase because you could take it out and the remainder of the sentence would still be grammatically correct.

    That said, I agree with your review that that’s a fun book for people who take grammar a bit too seriously. 🙂

    (Just making a grammar joke; no offense intended!)

  4. Oh, a discussion about books! I’m getting the vapors from excitement!

    I used to have 10-12 books that I carried in a bag with me at all times, until my wife started calling my olive drab military carry bag “Lee’s purse”. Here’s a few of my favorites….

    The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning – I read the Bible once, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it uses quotes from The Ragamuffin Gospel a good deal. I read this book at least once each year to remind myself of God’s love for us.

    The Glenstal Book of Prayer – Simple daily prayers from the Benedictine Monks of Glenstal Abbey. A treasure.

    Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works – Who can’t like the writings of a monk who thought a crusade would be a great way to get ruffians out of Europe? Seriously, “On Loving God” is an amazing work.

    Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede – And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen? Bede may not go that far back in his history, but the stories he recorded are fascinating to me.

    The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis – The first time I read this, I read the first three pages, over and over, for several days in a row. Maybe not the most widely-read Lewis work, but I think it’s his best.

    The Gospel of Matthew, William Barclay – Now before anyone gasps and proclaims he was a universalist, you must be made aware that none of that thought appears in his notes on Matthew. I haven’t read his other writings. His command of ancient languages and knowledge of history makes this an insightful, informative read.

    Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy (Mark Galli); Giving Church Another Chance (Todd Hunter) – Two great, easy to read explanations of liturgical worship, what it all means, and practical application to our spiritual lives.

    The Way of the Heart; With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life; Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons; In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Henri Nouwen) – If you’re looking to learn to be a charismatic, influential leader of a megachurch, Nouwen will make no sense to you. If you want to follow Christ, his writing will break your heart.

    Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation through the Book of Common Prayer, David DeSilva – Remember what I said about the Bible containing a lot of Brennan Manning quotes? There’s also lots of quotes in it from the Book of Common Prayer.

    For less spiritual reading, it’s Erskine Caldwell, Tolkien, Flannery O’Connor, and many, many others.

    • Great comments about the Ragamuffin Gospel. Yes, the Bible seems to capture, er…I mean, Manning seems to capture the sense of grace that’s evident in the Bible and Jesus’ ministry. As I’ve told most people I know, “The Ragamuffin Gospel almost does a good a job of describing God’s love for us than the Bible itself.”

      • “…AS good a job of describing…AS the Bible itself” (Or something like that. Too early in the morning.)

    • Yea! People still read!

      • Bede is fascinating. The Weight of Glory is one of my favorite Lewis books. Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible set on the entire New Testament is excellent study material. Beyond Smells and Bells is a good introduction to liturgical worship. Along similar lines is Robert Webber’s Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail (both the original edition and the new revised edition).

        • Funny, I’ve never read “Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail”, but I love “The Younger Evangelicals” and “Ancient-Future Time”. Todd Hunter’s “Accidental Anglican” is a good one, as well.

          • Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve read other of Webber’s “Ancient-Future” books. “Ancient-Future Time” is on my wish list.

    • Don’t know Erskine Caldwell, but Lee – Tolkien and O’Connor “less spiritual”?? 😉


  5. Better get 42 more, Mike.

    You’ve got a long way to go. (especially with those theological books – one will never get there )

    Try some Forde, or Paulson.


  6. It is interesting you had that reaction to Peterson’s book. My reaction was completely the opposite–I came away with the impression that the whole direction of Peterson’s life had been spent on being and becoming (by God’s grace) the best pastor he could be. Maybe you didn’t see that a big chunk of the memoir was about the in-between times–that he left out most of the everyday particulars of being a pastor. Like anyone writing a good memoir would do. Or maybe I’m just seeing something that isn’t there!

    • Grant,

      I think that just about everyone has the opposite reaction to Peterson than I do. Here is one thought though: I once found read the musings of a Pastor who charted the his blogging activity against the number of Baptisms in his church the following year. He did this over several years. He found a significant inverse relationship between blogging and baptisms. Knowing how much time Peterson spends on writing and other activities I just had to wonder how that impacts his effectiveness as a Pastor.

      • Michael:
        Much of what he now writes is retrospective. He retired from pastoring in 1991. He started pastoring in 1962.
        Here is his writings while he was a pastor:

        A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (1980)
        Run With the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best (1983)
        Traveling Light: Modern Meditations on St. Paul’s Letter of Freedom (1988)
        Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination (1988)

        Looks like he was 18 years in harness before writing. Is that enough?

        • Peterson was at the same church (Christ the King, in Bel Air, MD) for many years before he made the switch to full-time writing and teaching. So Men’s point is a good one, and accurate AFAIK. (From reading the biographical blurb on his book jackets plus assorted publishers’ capsule bios.)

  7. Funny to read today as we have spent some time “cleaning/reorganizing” such stuff. Even though I love anything on early American history (how in the world did this nation begin?) I find my 7th or 8th year reading daily the Bible in different formats (presently in a chronological read). Ever since The Lord took me out of depression (long story) and a heart attack, I find my hunger in His Word. Amazing to me how much I forget and am reminded graciously to refocus. Thanks for God’s renewal heart.

  8. The Dan Rather is a fun read about the cast of characters from Richard Nixon’s presidency. For the best treatment of Watergate, check out “The Wars of Watergate”. You’ll probably get to it when you’re in your 80’s and absolutely no one remembers what the word “Watergate” means.

  9. Ah, a book list. How you tempt me to click over to Amazon, and fuel my bad habits. Sigh…

    But, while I am at it: does anyone have recommendations on material for toddlers/young kids? I’m on the hunt for kid’s books, Bibles — anything really — that kids like and that you found to have good art/storytelling. (I am not sure what I mean by good, except that sometimes religious literature for kids seems overly cute or over-the-top preachy. I prefer to err on the side of telling a good story.)

    We found a ton of things for advent/Christmas, but now Christmas is over.

    • Robert Munsch – Highly recommended – Great stories for young kids

      Max Lucado also has some great Children’s books. Try these for age 4 and up.


      • Michael, we have to read “Love You Forever” over and over again to our toddler. He loves it

        We haven’t tried “Paper Bag Princess,” but that clearly needs to be acquired.

    • Some older, but timeless books that can be read to toddlers are the Mother West Wind series by Thornton W.Burgess. For older children, Strawberry Girl and other books about children growing up in various parts of an earlier United States, by Lois Lenski are excellent. Of course, again for older children, Wilder’s Little House books are classic. These are not religious books, of course. Also for older children, The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis are outstanding. Tolkien”s The Hobbit is another one.

    • Best children’s book illustrator ever: Jan Brett.


    • The Jesus Storybook Bible has some fantastic artwork.

      • And let me add that great work to my list. It’s not often I can read The Jesus Storybook Bible to my girls without getting teary-eyed.

        • Well, that’s a ringing endorsement! I was wondering about this book. I liked the art/writing style from the small selections I can see online.

          I did gather from one review that the way the Lord’s Supper might be problematic from my POV, but that’s not a deal breaker if the rest is great.

          On a related note, has anyone run to the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook?

          • Sally Lloyd-Jones attends a Presbyterian church (Tim Keller’s Redeemer in NYC), I know, so I’m sure her views on the Eucharist would reflect that…

  10. “Hebrews and 1 & 2 Peter – John Calvin. Borrowed it to use as reference material for my small group last year. Was helpful, but if you are looking to buy a commentary, this is not the one I would run out and buy.”

    Mike, I am curious and have two questions…

    First, you said the book was helpful with your small group. How so? What did you find that folks in your group liked about it? Second, you stated that you would not recommend buying it as a commentary for Hebrews and 1 & 2 Peter. Why not? Price? You don’t agree with some/most of his comments and/or you find it difficult to read and explain to others?

    Thanks, Mike.

    • Hi Calvin Cuban,

      As a small group we were actually going through N.T. Wright’s small group study on 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, which was pretty decent. As the leader of the study I try to read beyond the study guide to help offer insights into the passage which we are looking at in a particular week. So the group did not get direct exposure to John Calvin’s work, but rather indirectly through me.

      I did not say that I would not recommend it, I said that “this is not the one I would run out and buy.” There are better more readable commentaries out there on these books.

      For example for 1 Peter I would recommend Peter David’s commentary in the NICNT series.

      • Thank you; that answers my questions. I agree that Calvin’s works, like those of Jonathan Edwards, are not the easiest read out there. Therefore, I concur that for a small study group study it is best to use something expressed in a contemporary vernacular.

        And thank you for the links.

  11. Bring it up to 44 with some more fiction entries:
    1. Morgenstern’s The Night Circus
    2. Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane
    (I recommend these fantasy novels to everyone when books come up…)

    • I made a facebook comment that I actually missed two books that I recently read, Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide. They were still down in the TV room. They are the second and third books in the Endor’s Game series. As an aside, my son read the first book just before seeing the movie, and recommended not watching the movie.

      • I enjoyed the movie, but it has been 15 years since I read the books so I could not say how much of the book made it into the movie (from memory: most of it). I think the movie didn’t do a very good job at the end of capturing the emotional turmoil Ender went through at the close of the novel. But then again, that kind of thing is better portrayed in writing. (I do remember reading the Shadow series and being increasingly unimpressed the further I got through it….)

      • When I heard “Ender’s Game” was coming out as a movie, I re-read the book. The book holds up very well…phenomenal pacing. I read the whole thing in a flight from Seattle to Nashville. Just as good, maybe even better, than I remembered it.

        The movie was okay. Not the worst translation of a book to screen, that’s for sure, but certainly not as compelling as the book, either. I did like it, though.

        I’ve been intending to pick up and re-read “Speaker of the Dead,” just haven’t gotten around to it. I remember liking that one a lot, too, as it was quite different than “Ender’s Game” but compelling in its own way.

    • How is the Gaiman book? I am a dyed the wool Gaimaniac, having read American Gods, Neverwhere, Stardust and all Sandman.

      • I’d say it is pretty good, but not Gaiman’s best (imo). Closer to a young adult style book, from those mentioned it’d probably be closest to Stardust (or Coraline) in feel, with a bit of American Gods thrown in. Trying to sum it up in one sentence: a modern day fairytale, for those adult enough to miss childhood.

        • I agree pretty much w/Khazidhea’s assessment. The only minus to it is that it gives you the typical Gaiman experience of wanting MORE at the end and being sad because there are no more novels of his to buy since you already have them all.

  12. I am usually reading some mystical christian writer on and off…. but I love history… currently working on a biography of James Longstreet, my favorite confederate general, (aside from Lee of course and yes… I am a damn yankee… also like Hancock, Grant, Sheridan and Sedgewick). Once in a while entertainment fiction like the Amber series by Zalazny, but for the most part I got to read the tech stuff to keep up so I can’t go through a lot of books in a year… not enough bandwidth….

    I usually run from anything published from Zondervan and I can’t read any of the self help applied bible stuff… especialy if it has to do with marriage/relationships/sex etc. I do like NT Wright.

    • As a kid (growing up in New Orleans), whenever I played with my Civil War miniatures I pretended I was James Longstreet! Also a Zelazny fan (Chronicles of Amber).

  13. I love how Canadian this is. Ghomeshi is great. As is Half Blood Blues.

  14. David Cornwell says

    “What Good is God”, by Yancey::

    I read it only because it was a gift from my daughter.Here is the review I gave on Amazon a few years ago:

    Truthfully the book is disappointing. Although parts of it are interesting enough, I think the title is misleading. I grew bored with many parts and lost interest. In the sections he would give his outlook on a place, group, or situation, followed by a sermon. I’ve never really liked printed sermons anyway, and this didn’t improve my outlook.

    An exception was the section on C. S. Lewis. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and it was very thought provoking. Other parts woke me up at times also.

    The author is an intelligent and insightful author. I just do not think this one of his better books. Maybe I didn’t drink enough coffee while reading it.

    • I enjoyed “Disappointment with God”. What’s your favorite Yancey book?

      • I also must add that Yancey has the one of the best afros I’ve ever seen. Pretty good for a white guy.

      • Disappointment with God was a book that helped me out of my 5+ year spiritual desert. I appreciated how Yancey took on a tough topic and didn’t answer with trite, cliche Christian answers.

        • Wow praise God for that. I’m about half through “Jesus I never knew”. Have you read that? Thoughts?

          I saw you mentioned “Ragamuffin Gospel” too. I’m halfway through it too. Good stuff.

          • Yes, praise God for “Disappointment with God.” I can’t convey how much Yancey’s take on the topic helped me reconnect with God. I remember that once, back when I was reading it, I told a fellow congregant I was reading a book titled “Disappointment with God” and she replied, “Oh, I’d never be disappointed with God.” I just shrugged and thought, “Well, good for you if you’ve never felt the absence of God’s presence before.”

            The other book by Yancey that I really liked is “What’s so Amazing about Grace?” Haven’ read “Jesus I Never Knew.”

            Re:Ragamuffin Gospel…my dad and I just discovered that book last year, just before Manning passed away. We were like, “Why have we never heard of this before, why are we just now reading it, what would’ve happened had we NEVER discovered this book?” Wonderful stuff. I also recommend you-tubing some of Manning’s speeches. Riveting.

          • Disappointment with God would fit in well with Chaplain Mike’s post yesterday on depression.

            While I was reading yesterday’s post I remembered a bumper sticker that says, “Stress only happens to people who give a s#*t.” I suppose that’s true of depression, and of disappointment with God. I hope your friend doesn’t get taken by surprise someday.

          • I will have to youtube his speeches now. Thanks Rick.

      • Disappointment with God worked for me too. I can’t remember much about it (10 years ago +) so it must be time to pull it out again. All of Yancey’s books are good, though.

        • If you haven’t already, check out the “visual” version of “What’s So Amazing About Grace”. Its pretty impactful.

          • There’s also a “visual edition” of the Ragamuffin Gospel. In fact, it was my thumbing through that that made me want to read the “full” version.

      • I’d agree with those recommended so far, to add to that I really enjoyed Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference, though it was very much the right book at the right time situation when I read it.

  15. I know it’s been out for awhile now, but “Glorious Ruin” by Tullian Tchividjian has helped me understand how suffering can be freeing through Christ. It’s on my re-read list for this year.

  16. Randy Thompson says

    P.D. James, an “excruciating read”?!?!
    Never, ever, ever!!!

    By the way, if you want to lighten up a bit, try Jack Handey’s “The Stench of Honolulu.”

    Not edifying (at all). Not great literature. Simply, brilliantly funny. A terrific time-waster, especially when you really need one. I commend his “Deep Thoughts” series too.

  17. Lots of interesting sounding stuff, Mike. I like a good mystery, and am a big fan of the #1 Ladies – these are among the few books I buy new nowadays – I try to use mostly the public library and ABE Books, to try to curb my habit somewhat… Re Peterson, I think he didn’t begin to write for publishing until later in his life, and probably was much more involved in his pastoral work at the time he was a pastor than he was in writing.

    You might consider taking C.S. Lewis’ advice and read some old books, too. Lee mentions Bede. Gregory of Nazianzus’ “Five Theological Orations” are hard, but are well known for the defense of the deity of Christ. St Basil reads easier, even on difficult subjects.

    And then there’s “On the Incarnation” by St Athanasius, which every serious Christian ought to read, and know – I find the old St Vladimir’s edition, the one with the translation by Lewis’ friend, Sister Penelope, more readable than the new one. Sr Penelope’s translation with Lewis’ introduction has been printed by other companies since St Vlad’s put out the new one and discontinued the old one, but watch for typos. Did you know A. wrote this when he was in his early 20s?

    Or Irenaeus’ “Against Heresies.” Or any number of others at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, most brief and easy to read in one sitting. For a daily quote from people who wrote the old books, which might also serve to whet your appetite for them, see enlargingtheheart dot wordpress dot com (which is also quite visually appealing to me as a blog).


    • Hi Dana,

      As far as older books go. I love reading the Church Fathers, especially the Ante-Nicean fathers. I have in fact read the entire Ante-Nicean library through several times. (Including Irenaeus.)

      The early evidence for the church believing in the Deity of Christ is overwhelming. One of my fun experiences was taking a J.W. tract on what the Church Fathers believed, and finding all the references. Then the next time they came back I had the opportunity to let them read the quotes in their context. I said, “I don’t blame you for believing what you have been taught, but you can see from reading this material for yourselves that whoever wrote this tract was intentionally decieving you.” They left white faced.

    • Dana, thanks for the enlargingtheheart blog recommendation. I cruised around in there a bit; it’s like an encyclopedia of early and medieval church authors.

  18. Thanks for the book list.

    Here’s what I do with books I’ve finished reading — I make a pile of them at the end of the year, donate them to the libary, and take a write-off.

  19. David Cornwell says

    I’d like to read in my bedroom, however my second floor is basically unheated (actually two small vents from central heat, one in bathroom, one in main bedroom). And Marge goes to bed an hour or two or three before me!

    Downstairs we have a large combination room for television, computers, and my desk. This is where my bookshelf is. But mostly I read in the living room and sometimes have several books on the floor or other places that I’m in the process of reading. I’m looking for a small bookshelf of some type for the living room for those books.

    When I left the ministry, because of moving expenses, I gave away many books to a pastor who seemed glad to receive them. Some were expensive reference books of various types, theology, biblical material, and other stuff that I’d accumulated over many years. A few weeks after giving him this gift, he divorced, moved, and gave up his denominational connections. I had some choice opinions of the man after this, uttered in theological condemnation terminology. Since then I’ve talked to him several times, and he’s never uttered one word about the books. I don’t like to hold grudges because of what they do to me, but this is one I’ve had problems resolving. (Writing this, I may have come up with the correct answer. Writing helps!)

    Now I have far fewer books. Fiction I mostly read on my Nook reader. But non-fiction I like to be able to mark and write on the pages. And gradually my book inventory is increasing once again.

  20. Lauren Smith says

    What a fantastic list! I especially want to check out he Good Husband of Zebra Drive. Great reviews as well :-). You might also enjoy Eliot Hartford Bailey’s new book, “Chasing A Miracle.” The concept put forth in the book is very engaging and relevant, if forces you to reflect on the common feeling everyone has that ‘everything happens for a reason’. Loved it! You can find the author’s website here: http://eliothbailey.com/

    • If you do pick up the seerries by Alexander McCall Smith, I’d recommend starting with the 1st book (The Number One Ladies Detective Agency) rather than jumping in with The Good Husband… The series works best when read in order, and you’ll have lots more reading to enjoy as a result!

      I also really like McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series (fun read about the lives of loosely interrelated characters who live in Edinburgh) and his Sunday Philosophy Club books ((same city, very different characters and focus). It took me a while to warm up to the latter, but now I’m a fan and love the way he had developed the characters.

  21. P.D. James – Mike, is this the only book you’ve read by her? Because I have to say, please give her work another try. She’s amazing.

    I haven’t read anything by Ian Rankin, but lots of people seem to love his detective stories – pretty hardboiled, and all set in Edinburgh, Scotland. He even appears briefly in one on Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street books.

    If you like British mysteries, try Canadian author Alan Bradley’s wry and funny Flavia de Luce series. The 1st one is titled The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I find myself both very asmused by the characters and nasrrstion, and slightly horrified by the goings-on per crime. Really fun stuff, and easy to read. (Also hard to put down!)

    • Narration, that is… I want to attack Android autocorrect!

    • numo,

      I was looking at the list of P.D. James books. Some sound vaguely familiar, but nothing really memorable. So yes, this is probably the only one I have read of her work. Small sample size, your experience may vary.

      • Christiane says

        if someone is interested in P.D. JAMES’ work,
        the Brits have done some mystery shows based on them . . . they are very, very good; but (caveat) portions are very ‘dark’ and not for the faint of heart

        These dramas center around the detective-character, ‘Adam Dalgliesh’,
        and some can be accessed on youtube.

        When I say ‘dark’, I’m not kidding . . . quite graphic in parts, I’m afraid, so be warned. You might want to stick with the books instead.

    • For great British fiction, read Susan Howatch’s “Starbridge” series of six novels, also known as the “Anglican” series. It’s about the inner workings (and dirt) of several clergy families in the Church of England, from the 1930s to the 1960s. A friend of mine, a retired Episcopal bishop, said that he and his fellow clergy used to wait patiently until each one came out and then ask each other, “Has she been reading my journal?”

      If you’re only going to read one, start with #4, Scandalous Risks. It’s probably the most tragic, with great character development, and a good stand-alone novel even without the others—but best to start at the beginning, Glittering Images, and work your way through. Glittering Images is a bit dark, but a good foundation for the later ones.

      Her final series of three, the “St. Benet” series, is really dark—psychological thrillers with drug addiction, paranormal, and gay prostitution, all in a Christian setting. Ahem. With God all things are possible. NOT to be found in Christian bookstores. Don’t go here first; read the Starbridge series.

  22. I just finished Holy Ghost Girl by Donna Johnson. A relentless narrative of tent revival era. Terrific read.