Happy New Year! It’s 2018!
Here’s my annual recap of books our family read the last twelve months. You may notice that my reading list for this last year includes mostly children’s books. In tallying it up I realized that, besides the Bible and miscellaneous books I’ve started but haven’t finished yet, I’ve only actually completed five books for myself this year.
Oh well. The kids and I covered quite a bit of ground in the children’s department—I’m sure they’re satisfied with my lopsided reading list. 😉
The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. Both doctrinal and practical teachings on the role of the wife. Peace encourages women to focus on the Lord and His gospel in their marriages, doing all that they do as unto Him, rather than for selfish gain.
Whether her husband is a faithful Christian man or an unbeliever, God wants every Christian woman to be a godly wife—an excellent wife.
The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders by Gregg L. Frazer. Dr. Frazer is professor of history and political studies at The Master’s College (I was briefly in correspondence with him concerning my own manuscript). I first read an article he had written in an issue of Answers in Genesis several years ago. I was rather shocked then—and pleasantly surprised—to find a major Christian publication conveying a view as unpopular—but historically sound—as Frazer’s.
His book is excellent. He delves into the multidimensional nuances of the Founding Fathers’ key political and religious beliefs in a way I’ve not seen done by anyone else. Taking neither the position of the secularists—who claim the Founders were deists, and deny any serious religious influence—nor the position of the “Christian America” advocates, who have romanticized the Founding era and misrepresented the Founders’ true beliefs—Frazer brings sanity to the debate, illuminating the theistic rationalism of the key Founders of this country. He then explains how this theistic rationalism (which had its focus on moralism and avoided theology) became the basis for the American civil religion—a “God and Country” sort of “Christianity,” focused on patriotism and moralism. Every American should read this.
Both the secular and Christian America schools of thought, then, are warmly received by their intended audiences. Consequently, there is little motivation to investigate the evidence and to make an independent analysis. This book presents the results of such an independent analysis and finds both views wanting.
Anthem by Ayn Rand. This was a short and interesting read. A story written in poetic form, it decries collectivism and exalts individualism. From a political standpoint, I share Rand’s perspective on many things. However, we take two vastly different philosophical paths to arrive at similar political conclusions. Rand sees man as God, which is her ultimate argument for individualism. She sees life as being an ode, an anthem, to the ego of man; everything revolves around man the creature. Rand was a very libertarian-minded thinker, but she rejected God and therefore had no objective basis for morality. Her life philosophy was tainted accordingly—and this creaturely pride profusely bleeds through Anthem.
And as we all undress at night, in the dim light of the candles, our brothers are silent, for they dare not speak the thoughts of their minds. For all must agree with all, and they cannot know if their thoughts are the thoughts of all, and so they fear to speak.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. A classic tale of censorship. The job of Guy Montag and his fellow firemen is to start fires—not put them out. Shooting kerosene through their hoses instead of water, they burn down houses that contain books (all but comic books, sex magazines, and trade journals are banned). Minorities might be offended by certain books, and man must be kept happy, distracted from what his government is doing. Intellectualism is a dirty word. The populace must keep themselves busy with pleasures and distractions, with sports and entertainment, but must never think, for thinking is dangerous—and might offend someone. (Note: there’s a fair bit of language.)
“…We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?…”
The Fallacy Detective by Nathanaiel and Hans Bluedorn. Fun book from the homeschooled Bluedorn brothers! Using simple language and many humorous illustrations, Nathaniel and Hans explain the basic forms of bad reasoning and logical fallacies. This is a book I intended to get my kids when they were older (recommended for ages 13 through adult), but when I found a used copy one day for $4, I nabbed it and read it myself. This will be fun to go through as a family—each short lesson has lots of discussion questions (there are 36 lessons in all). I’m thinking this might be a great book for family dinner-time table-talk someday. 😉
Order a copy for your family before these books disappear off the shelves! No parent pursuing the highest standards of academic attainment for their child would be without this book! The study of logic is an ancient and honored tradition!
Oh wait…did I just make use of propaganda techniques like “exigency,” “snob appeal,” and “appeal to tradition”…?
Torturer: “You are a heretic. You can’t prove that you aren’t one, so you are a heretic. Confess, or we will stretch your body out until you are a foot taller.”
Accused: “Ha, you did it—you committed a fallacy! I learned all about it in a book called The Fallacy Detective.”
Torturer: “That’s enough cheek out of you. Brutus, give the wheel another turn.”
So that’s about the extent of my personal reading this year. Here follows the list of children’s books the kids and I went through together:
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’ Dell. A classic children’s tale of a female “Robinson Crusoe,” marooned on an island for many years after her people left. This is actually based on a true story. The kids found it fascinating.
Until that summer, I had kept count of all the moons since the time my brother and I were alone on the island. For each one that came and went I cut a mark in a pole beside the door of my house. There were many marks, from the roof to the floor. But after that summer I did not cut them anymore. The passing of the moons now had come to mean little, and I only made marks to count the four seasons of the year. The last year I did not count those.
Missionary Stories with the Millers by Mildred A. Martin. A collection of true, exciting stories about Christian missionaries. I read this book to the kids; Bri could hardly stand for me to put it down, lol. I read it first as a young teenager, and I remember it making a profound impression on me; it really strengthened my own faith. It’s written by a Mennonite, but only a few of the stories are about Mennonite missionaries.
The featured missionaries include such well-known men and women as David Livingston, Hudson Taylor, and Amy Carmichael, as well as less-known figures such as Alvin Frey, Jack McGuckin, and August Eicher. Twenty-nine stories in total.
Lying motionless, he waited for another bullet, but none came. “If I keep still, they may think I am dead already,” Gary thought with sudden hope. Eyes closed, he listened alertly. Yes, the voices of the attacking guerrillas were fading in the distance as they trooped off up the trail!
Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne. A charming collection of sundry poems written by the author who created the Winnie the Pooh stories and all their memorable characters. Both of my kids enjoyed this book.
When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me…
The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter by Beatrix Potter. In this book, we made our way through all the tales we had not previously read together by individual chapter books. From Peter Rabbit and farmer MacGregor to little Pig Robinson, Potter’s entire collection of stories was here, including those she never published/released to the public during her lifetime. Obviously an avid lover of nature, her quaint little animal characters and their stories often highlight simple moral lessons.
Jemima Puddle-duck was a simpleton: not even the mention of sage and onions made her suspicious.
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. Of life, of love, of beauty, this is the classic tale of a friendship between a spider and pig. After we read the book together, the kids watched both the movie and the old classic cartoon.
“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
Stuart Little by E. B. White. This rambling and humorously outrageous tale about a mouse named Stuart (pardon me, he only looked very much like a mouse in every way), was written by the author of Charlotte’s Web. The ending was so abrupt that when I turned the last page and announced the story was over, Brianna gave me a dumbfounded look and exclaimed, “What!? That can’t be the end! There has to be more! What!?”
He wiped his face with his handkerchief, for he was quite warm from the exertion of being Chairman of the World. It had taken more running and leaping and sliding than he had imagined.
The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever New by Marty Machowski. Machowski breaks “big” theological concepts down into simple, bite-size pieces, making them accessible for even very young children (for whom it is written). Each teaching is related to something familiar to children in order to help them understand it.
Covering everything from the inerrancy of Scripture, to the doctrine of the Trinity, to gospel terms like “justification,” “sanctification,” etc., it’s a fairly comprehensive introductory to theology for little tikes. At one point, after reading about the substitutionary atonement of Christ in the book, Marcus excused himself to go to his room to pray. He came back and told me, “I told Jesus I believe on Him.”
Occasionally (rarely) I came across a concept which I chose to approach from a little bit different angle or explain in a little bit different wording than the book, but overall I think the book helped my kids grasp some really good stuff.
Oak trees sprout from acorns and toads begin as tadpoles, but God never had a beginning… The day ends when the clock strikes twelve. The race ends at the finish line. But God never ends.
The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. They were all here: Milne’s classic, beloved stories of a boy and his bear.
“Oh! Piglet,” said Pooh excitedly, “we’re going on an Expotition, all of us, with things to eat. To discover something.”
“To discover what?” said Piglet anxiously.
“Oh! just something.”
“Christopher Robin didn’t say anything about fierce. He just said it had an ‘x’.”
“It isn’t their necks I mind,” said Piglet earnestly. “It’s their teeth.”
Pharaoh’s Boat by David Weitzman. Written for children, this is the story of the boat that Cheops had buried with him (in pieces) for his journey to the afterlife. It was discovered in 1954 and assembled for the first time many years later.
As they dug, there suddenly appeared an old stone boundary wall. Strange. They weren’t expecting to find a wall here… Had the wall been deliberately built there to hide something?
Julie Andrews’ Treasury for all Seasons (poems selected by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton). “Maria” of The Sound of Music (Julie Andrews) collected these poems and songs celebrating the seasons, months, and special days for children. From Emily Dickinson to Jack Prelutsky, many authors’ poems are featured here (180+ pages). While there was a couple I skipped over (due to theme or for some other reason), this was a very nice (and fun!) collection, each page sweetly illustrated by Marjorie Priceman.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
Backyard Explorer Leaf and Tree Guide by Rona Beame. This kid-friendly pocket-book is filled with illustrations, photos, and descriptions related to all things trees. It explains basic scientific categorizations and facts in simple terms, contains photos of many leaves for tree identification, and has a section on nature projects. Fun little book—perfect for toting on nature walks!
Have you ever brought home a leaf and wondered what kind of tree it belonged to? …Then get set to go on an exciting nature hunt!
Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. An oldie but goodie, this collection of stories includes tales from ancient Rome to 18th century America: Julius Caesar, George Washington, William the Conqueror, Robin Hood and King Alfred—the legends of these and many other characters are told in short-story form.
At last the day came, and then the very hour. Damon was ready to die. His trust in his friend was as firm as ever; and he said that he did not grieve at having to suffer for one whom he loved so much.
So that’s it! What stories/books have you and your family enjoyed this last year?