Plumb Tuckered Out: 100 in 2013

shelf As I was packing the last of our stuff last week and put July's books from 100 in 2013 in a box to haul to our new place, I realized I'd only actually had time to read half of one of them. Half. Of one. Of eight.

A few days later I was sitting next to a friend and she commented something about my time and the commitments on my plate currently. "I'm convinced you wouldn't be so pressed if it weren't for a certain book project you undertook," she said wryly. I don't usually use adverbs after "said," so you know it must have been said wryly. Point taken.

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At the beginning of this project I said, "I don’t have time to read 100 books in 2013. I didn’t have time in 2012, and I don’t foresee ever having the time to commit to such a project. If you know me at all, you know the possibility of failure is rarely a reason to not try something. Mumbo-jumbo about not setting yourself up for failure has never appealed to me much and so there is a very real possibility that I will hit March or September and get plumb tuckered out. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I won’t feel too badly if it does. The point is, I’m going to try (read full post here)."

Well, here we are, it's not even August first and I'm plumb tuckered out. And I would like to feel badly about that, but I don't. Since January I have read 56 and a half books. That might be small peanuts to some people, but it's a treasure trove to me. I have discovered books that will go down as some of my favorite pieces of literature. I have been challenged, stunned, and bored, I have skimmed, reread, and underlined more sentences than I have since college.

But I'm tired y'all.

Not tired of reading. But tired of consuming. While reading Wendell Berry last month, I realized I wanted to give him my entire attention and I just couldn't, not at the pace at which I was going. It seems somewhat unfair to take someone's life work and give them a cursory glance.

So I'm pressing pause on 100 in 2013. I don't think I'm quitting, but I might get to the end of 2013 and have renamed the project 67 in 2013. It doesn't have the same ring, but goodness gracious, it's still more than I've ever read in a year.

I know so many of you have loved the short reviews I've been doing and I have no plan to stop them. I may not do them monthly, or I may, but with less books, I don't know. But I will continue to do short reviews as best as I can.

Thanks for following along on this journey—and if you bought me a book for the project that I haven't reviewed yet, make sure you look back in the coming months—it will show up sooner or later!

 

 

June: 100 in 2013

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night in a sort of middle of the night panic. It was nothing really. I just remembered I hadn't posted June's 100 in 2013 and it's the middle of July. What that should tell you is two things: 1. I need a personal assistant because [s]he would never forget such things. 2. I am human.

It should also tell you a third thing which is that I didn't actually finish June's books until a week ago, and even then I didn't finish one of them entirely. But more on that in a bit.

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (or Karen von Blixen, whichever you prefer) has long been one of my favorite tales. It is beautiful writing from start to finish and it's been about six years since I first read it. Story aside, every sentence is pure poetry.

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. This is one of the books every month I mostly skim. The reason for that is simple: I read enough articles and blog posts saying similar things often enough. However, that said, I think it is still an important book particularly for the YRR movement and even more particularly for those who accuse the YRR movement of being lax in their pursuit of holiness. Within the context of grace and justification, DeYoung delves into sanctification and its implications on the Christian's growth.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson will probably top the list of Most Memorable Books read this year (of which The Brothers K and The Meaning of Marriage hold sole positions thus far). I have heard about Robinson's writing for a year now and this book was like eating a perfectly ripe peach, drinking the finest wine, and sitting at the feet of a hundred ancestors. I have heard many say it was difficult to get into in the beginning, and I would agree, but give it 50 pages, please. You will not regret it.

The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry. This is the aforementioned book that I did not finish in its entirety. It includes 21 of Berry's essays and each one is more spectacular than the one before (though, nothing, in my opinion, tops A Native Hill, which is my favorite essay of his). I read 16 of them before feeling like it would be best for me to set it aside for a few months. Part of the challenge of this 100 in 2013 has been the speed at which I'm reading and the inability to truly ingest fully. Berry deserves that and I aim to give it to him.

Notes from the Tilt a Whirl by N.D. Wilson. I wanted to love this book, I promise. I very much wanted to love it. Wilson is a fine wordsmith and I think there are many who will identify richly with this book, but I'll be honest, I had a hard time following his direction and even harder grasping some concrete ideas. This might be a book I revisit in a few months or years when I can give it more time.

Still by Lauren Winner. This is my second time through Winner's second memoir, this one sub-titled Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis. I eagerly read her previous books and recommend them highly, but this one was hard for me yet again. The writing itself is lovely and the way she works through her faith in a somewhat disjointed and beautiful way is exactly what a faith-crisis ought to be, but her conclusions again left me sadly wanting.

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Review here.

Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous. I'm one of the suckers who bought this book simply to see if I could figure out who the author was by the writing style, I admit it. Conclusion: I have no idea who wrote it, except that they are probably associated with my associates. Who knows? It could be you. But that's missing the point, isn't it? The point is to embrace the unknownness we are so lax to embrace in a world of platforms and pulpits. Point taken. If this is a struggle for you, I recommend the book highly.

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These are the last of the books to be packed for our upcoming move. You see how much I love you? I keep things unpacked for you.

May: 100 in 2013

We're on month five of #100in2013 and I'll be honest, I didn't know if I'd make it this far. By far the most common question I've gotten about this project is "Are you on schedule?" The answer to that is yes, sort of. I scheduled the books out throughout the year because I knew if I didn't, I'd read all the most interesting ones (to me) at the beginning and be bored still toward the end. However, along the way I've realized I might have scheduled myself into a frenzy, so this month I let myself be a little flexible with what I read. A good choice. photo

Won't Let Go Unless You Bless Me by Andree Seu. She's always been an impressive Christian writer to me. I love the way she thinks and her dry sardonic wit. This is a short book full of her essays and I highly recommend it if you're looking for good writing, memoir or devotional style.

What is the What by Dave Eggers. This is a beast. This book was tough for me. I love Dave Eggers and this book was no exception, but the content (on the Lost Boys of Sudan) is rough. The most poignant part of the book, though, came for me in the purpose of its title. It has stuck with me so strongly this month that I may do a whole post on it at some point, so be looking for that if you're curious.

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis. One of my favorite of the Narnia books. Talking horses? Who wouldn't love it.

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. I liked this book. It's a fairly big book (nearly 500 pages), but it was a quick read for me. Carolyn tells her story with surprising detail. I couldn't figure out if the book was meant to be a love story or her journey to faith, but by the time I read the last page, I realized it was both—they just happened to be simultaneous journeys.

The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor by Jonathan Rogers. I enjoyed this biography of one of the greatest short story writers of our time. I've known O'Connor's story since college, but this book shed some new light into the life and times of this beloved writer. Flannery's life was not easy, but it was the quintessential "writer's life" and Rogers tells of it well.

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. I've had this one on my shelves for a while. I loved Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Cron, but I was less inclined to read a novel by him. However, it was good timing that I read this one when I did. Chasing Francis is the story of a man in the middle of a faith crisis who goes to Italy on a spiritual journey in which he discovered St Francis of Assisi. I found myself weeping by the end of this book at the lengths to which God goes to help us see Him fully.

Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, & Eric Geiger. Before I started this one I tweeted, "About to start Creature of the Word; time to see if my pastors told the truth about us." Shore nuff, they did. No church is perfect, and in some ways, a large-multi-site church likes ours might hide her blemishes in the crowd while at the same time be a display of sorts for churches all over the world. In this book, the authors did a great job of showing how when it's all said and done, the Church is built up of individual sinners who are all captivated by and creatures of the word. My heart was freshly encouraged by reading this.

High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver. To read Kingsolver is to love her. I've never read anything of hers that I wasn't completely captivated by, and this book is no different. High Tide in Tucson is a compilation of essays by Kingsolver on everything from evolution to traveling to war to memory. I loved it.

April: 100 in 2013

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This photo is missing two books. One I returned to its owner and one I misplaced somewhere in our house...

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver I read this book every few years and always in April. I'm grateful for parents who invested in us early the value of eating whole and healthy foods. (I remember the first time I had Kraft Mac and Cheese I was afraid my mom could just SMELL it on me...) One thing I love about Kingsolver's book, besides her always stellar voice, is the premise of this book, which is to eat whole, healthy, and locally. It's a discipline, and one which is much more difficult in the DFW metroplex, but supporting local farmers, businesses, and entrepreneurs is always worth it. I highly recommend this read (especially on the cusp of summer!)

Life After Art by Matt Appling Matt blogs at Church of No People and has reached out to me several times to just appreciate Sayable. Whenever I've read his thoughts I've been blessed to see the balanced and careful voice he brings to otherwise volatile conversations. In Life After Art, Matt talks about taking risks, living in beauty, and every person's design to create as we were created. I was encouraged to read this short book if only for my own creatively zapped soul. I'm in the middle of a very dry season creatively, partially because of the heavy demand to produce, this book just refreshed and reminded me of the Ultimate Creator.

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves Perhaps one of the most important books I'll read this year, this surprisingly easy to grasp book on the trinity will claim that spot. I came into the past few years with a fuzzy at best and faulty at worst view of the Trinity, and understanding it has absolutely transformed the way I pray, the way I trust, and the footsteps I follow. Reeves takes the complex mystery of the Trinity, holds it tightly in his capable hands, and turns it from every side to show the beauty of our communal God.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo This was a quick read partially because the story is so riveting. Rebecca is growing up in a pastor's family in the south and things seemed idyllic until a nightmare reminiscient of something the KKK would do began. The most astounding part of this book, though, is not the horrific events of her childhood, but the forgiveness and joy she walks in currently. If you've ever experienced deep pain, I would just encourage you to read this simply for the testimony present.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis Somewhere in the past month I began to realize freshly that the enemy has it out for me. I don't know what it was, I knew I was busy and pressed from every side, but I was also just dealing with latent sin and spiritual laziness. I felt discouraged and disheartened with numerable things. I felt defeated around every corner and I was just sitting in it. One morning on my way to class I was thinking about this book and had a minor epiphany for my own life: the enemy is plotting against me and my home, planning and devising ways to knock me down. He hates me. He hates me. And he hates you. This short read is always a reminder of whose I am not, but also a reminder to be active in fighting the enemy.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis This is my second favorite of the Narnia books principally because of Puddleglum, I'm not gonna lie. I mean, who doesn't love Puddleglum (much to his chagrin)?

Undercover Woman by Conway Edwards  (not available online) In doing some research together for a summer project, a friend of mine asked me to read this and give him three pros and three cons. I stumbled over the pros, to be honest. It was not the principles that I struggled with, but the projection present in this short book. I can't recommend this book because of some problematic things I noted; however, it was a good reminder of how important it is that we are under authority.

Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman I'm just so encouraged by how many books are being published for women about the worth of the gospel in their homes. Last month's Fit to Burst felt like an anomaly, but Gloria Furman has penned its equal! Glimpses of Grace takes the mundane, difficult, and joy-filled parts of life and points the reader full into the gospel at every turn. What a rich, rich treasure this book is. If you're a mama especially, please buy this book. I think it will encourage you deeply.

Thanks to Gloria Furman, Josh Overton, Alison Luna, Philip Bleecker, & Matt Appling for this month's books!

100 in 2013: March

I anticipated a busy March and April, so I scheduled fewer weighty books for these two months. Lesson learned: I should have put fewer books, instead of the same amount of slimmer books. I rearranged April because of this. I just didn't find reading the same amount of books manageable for how busy this month has been (classes, work, and a fairly constant stream of visitors). That said, I still did my best to read thoroughly. photo

I'm on a bit of a Holocaust trail these days. After a visit to the Holocaust museum and two documentary viewings, I realized that Elie Wiesel's Night was on the list for this month. Score! I don't know how I got through school without reading this slim volume. Wiesel's retelling of his experience at Auschwitz and then Buchenwald was stirring, revolting, and vivid. I look forward to reading his other books as soon as this year is over.

Next up in the land of Narnia was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is historically my second least favorite of the books (don't worry folks, it's all uphill from here =)).

Evangelical Feminism by Wayne Grudem has been my slow and steady read of the month. It wasn't difficult to ingest, but I wanted to ingest it fully, even the most difficult parts. I've always been very interested in feminist readings because I am innately interested in how women are wired and function best. This book is not so much a theology of complementarity, as much as it is a treatise against more liberal arguments. I appreciated very much his thorough and seemingly objective thoughts. I am even more curious now to read some of his opponents, as well as the larger volume he wrote in defense of his position.

I've always wanted to read a PG Wodehouse and now was my chance! How Right You Are, Jeeves made it onto the list for this month and I was absorbed immediately. You can't help reading Wodehouse in a British accent because he writes it so fully like Brit. He's a master of words and I could see how some of my favorite writers (who list him as a favorite author) have slipped some of his style into their own writing. A great gem. I'll be reading more of him. Someday...

Tell Me A Story by Dallas's own Scott McClellan was next up. I only had a few empty spaces to fill this year and I left most of them open to do author reviews for up and coming authors. Scott is a twitter and blog friend, and I've been looking forward to his book for a while. I was not disappointed! In a time when so many tell stories and get published quickly, there are few who tell stories that centralize back to the gospel, and Scott shows this well. If you're a writer, storyteller, speaker, or communicator, I recommend this book for encouragement and instruction.

The winner of March is easily Joe Thorn's Note to Self. There are few books that have affected me like Valley of Vision, a book of puritan prayers, and so it is of no surprise to me that Thorn is also a fan of VoV. Note to Self reads like a modern day VoV, preaching solidly to oneself about issues that affect us all. I want to buy a copy of this book for everyone I know, so if you only purchase one from this list, make it this one. The notes are only one or two pages each, easily read in a few minutes and enough encouragement for the whole day.

But the runner-up for March is easily Rachel Jankovic's Fit to Burst. This is a book about motherhood and I feel the furthest from motherhood as I've ever felt, yet there was nothing in this book that I didn't need right this minute for my own life. Rachel talks about parenting, but does it without once mentioning a method or theory. Instead she simply talks about how God parents us and how we discipline ourselves as believers, and so as parents. I was deeply encouraged, especially for the season of discipleship that I'm in in life.

Thank you to Jennifer Upton, Chris Hartgarten, Alison Luna, & Scott McClellan for this month's books!