Now You Know What I’ve Been Doing For A Year

I can’t help blogging the list of books I read this year, even though it’s the most boring blog post anyone can ever write, and the reason people make fun of blogs. This is the kind of blog post that I make fun of, actually. But here is the list anyway. I re-read a lot of books, went through a Dan Brown phase, read my first Wendell Berry (where has he been all my life?), read books by comedians, books for nerds, books for space nerds, books that preached the gospel of the Kingdom, and books that preached the gospel for me specifically. If you want to skip down, I picked just a handful of books to quote if you’re in the mood for a little substance.

1. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien (re-read)

2. The Martian – Andy Weir

3. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

4. Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

5. 101 Hymn Stories – Kenneth W. Osbeck

6. Palimpsest – Matthew Battles

7. Digital Fortress – Dan Brown

8. The Holcroft Covenant – Robert Ludlum

9. A Hope In the Unseen – Ron Suskind (re-read)

10. The Silver Chair – C.S. Lewis (re-read)

11. The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis (re-read)

12. The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis (re-read)

13. The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander

14. A Severe Mercy – Sheldon Vanauken (re-read)

15. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

16. Executing Grace – Shane Claiborne

17. Bossypants – Tina Fey (re-read)

18. Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (re-read)

19. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins (re-read)

20. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins (re-read)

21. The Davinci Code – Dan Brown (re-read)

22. Deception Point – Dan Brown

23. The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

24. Inferno – Dan Brown

25. The Street Lawyer – John Grisham

26. Angels and Demons – Dan Brown (re-read)

27. Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari

28. How to Survive a Shipwreck – Jonathan Martin

29. Out of Sorts – Sarah Bessey

30. Searching for Sunday – Rachel Held Evans

31. Spiritual Sobriety – Elizabeth Esther

32. The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho

33. Dreams and Visions – Tom Doyle

34. Leavings – Wendell Berry

35. Bittersweet – Shauna Niequist

36. – Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

37. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

38. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

39. Crime and Punishment – Fyoder Dostoevsky

40. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and someone else?

41. Swords Into Plowshares – Ron Paul

Quotes from “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander

People choose to commit crimes, and that’s why they are locked up or locked out, we are told. This feature makes the politics of responsibility particularly tempting, as it appears the system can be avoided with good behavior. But herein lies the trap. All people make mistakes. All of us are sinners. All of us are criminals. All of us violate the law at some point in our lives. In fact, if the worst thing you have ever done is speed ten miles over the speed limit on the freeway, you have put yourself and others at more risk of harm than someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of his or her living room. Yet there are people in the United States serving life sentences for first-time drug offenses, something virtually unheard of anywhere else in the world.”

African Americans are not significantly more likely to use or sell prohibited drugs than whites, but they are made criminals at drastically higher rates for precisely the same conduct.”

The absence of black fathers from families across America is not simply a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time watching Sports Center. Thousands of black men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away for crimes that are largely ignored when committed by whites.”

Okay that’s a little heavy, so here is a quote from “The Martian” – perhaps the funniest book I have ever read:

Astronauts are all inherently insane. And really noble.”

Some quotes from a book called “Executing Grace” by Shane Claiborne. It is a book about one of the things that makes America as uncivilized and barbaric as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and North Korea – the death penalty. (I know, right? Me and my opinions…)

“One landmark study showed that over half of the death sentences since 1976 came from 2 percent of the counties in the United States…We often say, ‘The United States practices the death penalty.’ But rather than referring to the country as a whole, it would be more accurate to say, ‘Texas has the death penalty. And Oklahoma, and Missouri…’ Or, to be even more precise…we might say just, ‘Harris County has the death penalty. And Dallas County. And Oklahoma County.'”

“…our churches would be empty if we killed everyone who deserved to die according to Old testament law.”

“Any Christian inclined to favor execution has what Brother Dale Recinella calls ‘the nagging problem of Jesus’ to deal with.”

Okay, another quote from the Martian to cleanse your palate…

All my brilliant plans foiled by thermodynamics. Damn you, entropy!”

This next book hit me at the right place and the right time, and I have not the words. It reminded me that Jesus is so Good with a capital G. So lovely, and so right and true and perfect in all His ways. “How to Survive a Shipwreck” by Jonathan Martin. It’s a little intense, so I promise to quote the Martian again when I’m done. (I’m working off the assumption that all of us are space nerds at heart?)

It does not really matter how you got here and why; and it doesn’t really matter if it was God or the devil or yourself or some ancient chaos that spilled up from the bottom of the sea. What matters now is that you are drowning, and the world you loved before is not your world any longer. The questions of why and how are less pressing than the reality that is your lungs filling with water now. Philosophy and theology won’t help you much here, because what you believe existentially about storms or oceans or drowning won’t make you stop drowning. Religion won’t do you much good down here, because beliefs can’t keep you warm when you’re twenty thousand leagues beneath the sea.”

Deep breath people, inhale…

This is the life hidden with Christ in God, where almost anything can happen at the top of things without disrupting the grace that lies in the bottom of the sea in you.”

PAUSE. Wipe your tears. RESUME.

This is the place in the depths where you can be cut off from your very self (as you understood it), and from the name your father gave you, and from the place where you grew up, and from the tribe that gave you language, and from the story that gave you meaning – only to find that nothing can separate you from the love of God.”


The storms that come will test us all, and it is entirely possible one comes to you that will end in your failure before the wind and waves recede. But the Spirit in the wind whispers the words of Jesus again, inserting your own name for Simon’s: ‘I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail – and even when you do…that your faith may even grow stronger through your failure.’”

And, as promised, more from The Martian to close us out:

As with most of life’s problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.”

Life is amazingly tenacious.”

Hmm. I wonder if “How to Survive a Shipwreck” and “The Martian” are actually the same story told two different ways.


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