Archive for the ‘Reading Lists 2009’ category

December 2009 Reading List

December 31, 2009

1.  The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel:  This book follows Lee Strobel, a journalist, as he interviews some of the top Biblical scholars and others, to answer his questions about the veracity of the “Jesus story” from historical, archaeological, and even psychological aspects.  It’s a really interesting book.  I found the section about the validity of the New Testament as historical documents particularly illuminating.  My only concern was that rather than talking to those who take the anti-Christian perspective he just kind of quotes them to the defenders.  I suppose, though, that actually interviewing them would have changed the concept of the book.  The book was written after his conversion but is based on his doubts before his conversion.

2.  The Shadow of the Bear by Regina Doman:  This is a retelling of the fairy tale “Snow White and Rose Red” set in modern times with a Catholic bent.  It’s an entertaining enough read, although not quite as original as Gail Carson Levine’s various retold fairy tales.  I plan to read the sequels, though.

3.  The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy by Elizabeth Aston:  I grabbed this Pride & Prejudice “sequel” off my shelf for a quick reread.  It follows Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter as she escapes from a disastrous marriage.  I love these books, although I think I found a continuity error in this one with one of her later books.

4.  Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, & Will Conrad:  I’m not really a fan of “graphic novels”.  I tend to find them unfulfilling.  However, this is the format that Joss Whedon has chosen to tell the continuing sagas of some of his beloved television shows.  So, being a fan of Firefly I decided to check this out.  I think they totally captured the characters.

5.  Serenity, Volume 2:  Better Days by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, and & Will Conrad:  Ditto.

6.  The Midwife’s Tale by Gretchen Moran Laskas:  This is a fictional story of an Appalachian’s woman experiences as a young midwife in the early part of the 20th century.  Her personal and professional story are both intriguing and sad as she loves a man who doesn’t love her and she must make tough moral decisions.  Parts of it reminded me of stories from my mother’s side of the family, who came from a similar area.

End of Year Wrap-Up

*I read 90 books in 2009

*I averaged 7.5 books per month.

*The largest number of books I read in one month was 11 (June).

*The least number of books I read in one month was 4 (September).

*I read more books during the first six months of the year (52) than the second six months (38).

*I’ve been debating whether I want to continue keeping track of my reading habits into 2010, but I think I would like to see how next year stacks up to this year.

*I must admit when I first started that I thought I might break 100; I was only ten away.  Maybe next year.

November 2009 Reading List

December 1, 2009

1.  Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen:  And the award for the biggest bitch goes to……  That’s a real toss up in this classic Austen novel.  I had forgotten how many unlikable characters there are:  Fanny Dashwood, Mrs. Ferrars, and Lucy Steele.  And while Elinor is obviously held up as the model sister in contrast to Marianne, the rash and impudent one, I couldn’t help pondering how in some ways Marianne is the more honest of the two.  She just kind of tells it like it is and has a low threshold for the assinine, which I admire.

2.  The Midwife by Jennifer Worth:  This is an amazing memoir of a young midwife in 1950’s England who worked under the direction of Anglican nuns in slums and poor Cockney neighborhoods.  My only gripe was that it was way too short.  I wanted to know more about the author’s experiences before, after, and during.

3. Discipline That Lasts a  Lifetime by Ray Guarendi:  I thought this was a really good little book about disciplining kids.  He makes a lot of good points about consistency while still being realistic.  I am seriously thinking about using some of his “writing as punishment” ideas.

4.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer:  Portal Through Time by Alice Henderson:  Everyone needs a little fluff from time to time.  This was a quick grab from the teen section at the library that fulfilled its purpose of being entertaining without straining my brain at all.

5.  The DaVinci Deception by Mark Shea:  I was looking for a different book by Mark Shea and came across this and figured what the heck.  I knew The DaVince Code was full of crap all ready, but I felt like seeing it all spelled out.  I think my particular favorite is when Dan Brown asserts that the name “Mona Lisa” is an anagram for the whole mystery devised by Leonardo DaVavinci, when the painting wasn’t even called that until years after his death.

6.  Avalon High by Meg Cabot:  Have I mentioned before how much fun I have reading Meg Cabot’s books?  They are just fun.

7.  Catholicism for Dummies by Rev. John Trigilio, Jr. and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti:  This is a great little reference book about Catholicism that’s not quite as overwhelming as the Catechism.  I am assuming that the authors doctorates are in theology rather than biblical archaeology, though, since they hold to the tradition that Matthew was the first Gospel written when most scholars agree that Mark was most likely written first and used as a template for Matthew.  There are many passages that I thought beautifully explained aspects of the Catholic faith that are often misunderstood.  And I’m glad that we decided to pick up a copy of our own.

*I started to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, but I just couldn’t get into it.  It wasn’t due to any sort of  snobbiness or complaint that Grahame-Smith “ruined the book”.  I think it’s a neat and fun concept.  I think what it boiled down to was that I was just not in the mood to read Pride and Prejudice in any form.

October 2009 Reading List

November 4, 2009

1.  Expressions of the Catholic Faith by Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D.:  I didn’t actually read all of this book.  I read about 2/3rds, though.  I think part of the problem was that the author’s understanding about the construction of the New Testament is completely based on tradition rather than Biblical archaeology or historical criticism.  It just goes to show that a nihil obstat doesn’t necessarily mean that everything in a book is factually correct.  It’s also an example of what you get when you have an art historian writing about religion.  Even though I loved his definition of transubstatiation as being the opposite of transformation, he started losing me when he said that Matthew was the first Gospel written.

2.  Boys and Girls Learn Differently by Michael Gurian:  Having already read his books The Wonder of Girls and The Wonder of Boys, I found parts of this book repetitive.  The book is oriented towards the classroom, and he generally disregards homeschoolers.  He also seems to orient everything with the assumption that all kids come from homes with either single parents or two working parents.  He advocates longer school days, so that kids won’t have to latch key it and will have time to learn extra life skills at school.  It sounds like torture, though, for those who do have a parent waiting for them at home to teach them those things.

3.  You’re Teaching My Child What? by Miriam Grossman:  This book was really great.  It goes over some of the things that are never covered in sex education classes that should be, and exposes how most promoters of “sex education” really promote “sex ideology” that has very little basis in science.  She is hardly unbiased in her disgust of groups like Planned Parenthood, but she makes a lot of good points…especially when it comes to the credentials of some of the people making policies and advising young people about their sexual health.  I highly recommend her book.  The information about pheromones, oxytocin, and cervical maturation makes the book totally worth reading.


ETA:  I knew I was missing something…

4.  True Darcy Spirit by Elizabeth Aston:  This Pride & Prejudice sequel follows Miss Cassandra Darcy, grand-daughter of Lady Catherine De Burgh, as a case of mistaken identity followed by a romantic error of judgment, alters her life forever.  This was third or fourth re-read of this book in my personal collection.

5.  Mr. Darcy’s Dream by Elizabeth Aston:  This is Aston’s most recent sequel, and follows two of Mr. Darcy’s nieces (Jane’s and Georgiana’s daughters) as they plan a summer ball at Pemberly so that Mr. Darcy can show-case his new and modern greenhouse.  This is the first book in which Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are actually seen rather than just referenced.  She keeps their appearance fairly short, though, with only Mr. Darcy having any dialogue.  I think part of Aston’s success  is that she does not risk ruining such iconic characters as Darcy and Elizabeth.

September 2009 Reading List

September 30, 2009

1.  All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque : I don’t know what to say about this book.  I am glad that I read it.  It takes a very deep look at the insanity of war, but not quite in the fun way that Catch-22 does it.  It gave me a much better understanding of World War I, but it was especially interesting to remember that it is written from the perspective of the “bad guys”.

2.  Star Wars Fate of the Jedi:  Abyss by Troy Denning:  The plot thickens…and after all these years I still love reading Han and Leia tease each other.

3.  Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman:  I totally agree with Klosterman’s assessment that everyone wants “fake love”.  I also tend to agree that all probability is really 50/50.  I had to really push myself to read through the chapter comparing everything in life to a Lakers/Celtics rivalry.  I did find it amusing that he asks people what kind of speech he would give if at a party whose entire guest list include former sexual partners especially since I’ve only had one partner who happens to be my husband.  Something tells me he doesn’t hear that a lot.  Overall, it’s a very fun book to read.  One thing that struck me (being me) is the influence of his Catholic upbringing in ways that Klosterman probably doesn’t even realize.

4. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh:  I’ve heard this book recommended in Catholic circles but I’m not exactly sure why.  It does center around a wealthy Catholic family between WWI and WWII, but I don’t know that I would really call it a “Catholic book” thematically.  There were two things I found interesting. 1) Lady Marchmain was more concerned about her daughter marrying a non-Catholic than her son having a homosexual affair.  I find this interesting given the idea that society was more unforgiving of homosexuality back then than it is today.  Secondly, there’s a part where Sebastian Flyte (I wish I could find the exact quote) where he explains to Charles that Catholics see the world in a completely different way than most other people.  Charles argues otherwise because he just can’t see the world as Sebastian and his family do.  Interesting book; I’m glad I read it.

August 2009 Reading List

September 1, 2009

1.  So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel:  In preparation for the upcoming semester, I decided to reread the book that first made me consider homeschooling.  I always like this book because it uses personal narratives to teach you about homeschooling instead of dry facts and figures.

2.  Eat This, Not That! for Kids by David Zinczenko:  I first saw this series in our local used book store.  I decided to go with the version for kids since they are the main ones that I cook for.  It had a really good evaluation of the kids’ menus at various restaurants, and some ideas for at home.  I liked the assumption that I wasn’t going to be making every meal from scratch using all organic materials and the smoothies wouldn’t include yogurt I cultured myself.  And Bailey and I were able to have a good discussion about how the healthiest thing on the menu might not really be healthy just less unhealthy than the other things on the menu.

3.  Homeschooling: A Family’s Journey by Gregory and Martine Millman:  I had read this once before but grabbed it from a homeschooling/education display at the library as an impulse.  It was alright.  One thing that bugs me is how easy they try to make it seem to travel all over the world and take your kids with you.  I think it helps if you have an uber-flexible job like the father had, and if your job is probably covering part of the expenses for sending you to places like Rome or France.  It’s just not something that every homeschooling family living on one income can afford to do.

4.  E=Einstein edited by Donald Goldsmith and Marcia Bartusiak:  I read about two or three essays from this collection about Einstein.  They had a lot of detail about his various theories, which required more brain power to understand than I felt like expending.  Next time I’ll stick to a regular biography.

5. Homeschooling for Excellence by  David and Micki Colfax:  I think I may have also read this once before a few years ago.  Since these days I seek homeschooling books that discuss the experiences of others, it had that going for it.  I didn’t get too much out of the book, though.  Their lifestyle was so removed from mine, especially since they were homeschooling in the pre-internet era.  The resources now available to homeschoolers make it a whole different enterprise than it was for them.

6. The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian:  Have a post that should be published soon.

July 2009 Reading List

August 1, 2009
  1. Freedom’s Choice by Anne McCaffrey:  This is book 2 of the Freedom Series and an inspiring continuation of the story.
  2. Freedom’s Challenge by Anne McCaffrey:  Pretty good, but I’m not keen on the main character conceiving her children through drunken one-night stands, even with her spouse’s consent.
  3. Freedom’s Ransom by Anne McCaffrey:  I wouldn’t have ordinarily read these back to back, but I ran out of everything else.  I don’t know if it was just because I read these in a row or if the series kind of petered off like some of her other ones have.  But I think that she either should have stopped at three or written a fifth one.  This almost seemed like the start of a whole new story arc.
  4. I Like Being Catholic edited by Michael Leach and Therese J. Borchard:  Got its own post.
  5. How to Organize Just About Everything by Peter Walsh:  I kind of browsed through this book full of practical and sometimes just fun information.  I’m not sure about his page on “How to Homeschool”.  I think it would have been better if he offered suggestions for organizing homeschooling supplies or paperwork rather than a lame blurb about homeschooling itself.
  6. The Wonder of Girls by Michael Gurian:  Got its own series of posts.
  7. The Mystery and Meaning of the Mass by Joseph M. Champlin:  Finally learned the basic differences between the “Tridentine” Mass and the post-VII “Novus Ordo”.
  8. Star Wars, Fate of the Jedi: Omen by Christie Golden:  Nice enough, but reaffirmed my decision not to spend any money on getting my own copies of new Star Wars books.
  9. Being Nikki by Meg Cabot:  The second book in the Airhood series takes the mystery, intrigue, and fun to a whole new level.
  10. Amish Enterprise by Donald Kraybill and Steven Nolt:  This book takes a sociological look at how the lack of farmland has led many Amish into the world of business and its effect on them.  His discussion about the constraints on business that are self-imposed by Amish culture made me think of a lot of Pope Benedict’s latest encylical Caritas In Veritate.

Reading List June 2009

June 30, 2009

1.  Math Doesn’t Suck by Danica McKellar:  “Winnie” from The Wonder Years is all grown up and sharing her love of math with teenage girls.  It’s a fun little tutorial for girls that are struggling with math-phobia with lots of encouragement to no longer fear being labeled “smart”.  Personally, this was kind of like a trip down memory lane.  Terms like “prime factorization”, “greatest common factor”, and “lowest common multiple” have had no relevance in my life in close to 15 years.  As I looked through this book, I became increasingly aware that one reason most people despise math is because it is taught in ways that have no relevance to students beyond its effect on their grade point average.  I use math every day in cooking, shopping, and budgeting, but I vary rarely think about the terminology or protocols involved.  Again this reinforces, the ways my children should be able to experience math in more real-world situations by being homeschooled than they would by studying it strictly in textbooks and on blackboards.  I guess I already wrote that post, though.  (See “Mathematician’s Lament”)

2.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling:   After re-reading Half-Blood Prince last month, it seemed natural to re-read book 7.  I spent one late night hyped up on caffeine pondering where they will split the book, what scenes will be omitted, and which concepts will be combined when they make it into two movies.  That might require its own Harry Potter Predictions post down the road.

3.  Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper:  Harper is a fellow WKU graduate who apparently used to write for the  College Heights Herald, although a year or two after my time on the Hill.  Her debut novel is a cross between Meg Cabot and Anne Rice, which is a good thing in my opinion.  The book is slightly racier than my usual taste but was a fun read, and I plan to keep an eye out for the sequel coming out in a few months.  And who knew that there was actually a genre called “paranormal romance”?

4.  The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer:  Got its own post.

5.  Lentenlands by Douglas H. Gresham:  An interesting insight into the marriage of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman through the eyes of Joy’s younger son.

6.  Darth Bane:  Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn    :  I’ve never really been inspired to read the Star Wars prequel novels very much.  I much prefer to keep up with Han, Leia, Luke, and their kids.  This one caught my eye for some reason, and I look forward to reading its sequel soon.

7.  It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh:  I scanned this book but it’s less about reorganizing your house and more about reorganizing your mindset.  He made a good point about how the cost of replacing something you “might need someday” is often less than the cost of keeping clutter around.

8.  Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready by  June R. Oberlander  :  I was not impressed with this book which lists activities to do each week with your child from birth to age 5.  I found some of the activities really unrealistic for the ages to which they were assigned.  This might be a good book for the first time parent at a loss for something to do or as a random book of ideas, but I don’t think much of it as designed.

9.  Everything You Know Is Wrong by Russ Kick (editor)  : This collection of essays makes one question the difference between a conspiracy theory and good detective journalism.  Of course, it’s easier to believe some of the ones that have actual documentation.

10.  Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey:  I love McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series, and I really like the Rowan series, too.  I’ve been kind of hesitant to try some of her other series until now.  I really enjoyed this offering, and I look forward to reading the sequels.

11.  Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto:  I have so many thoughts about this book swirly in my mind I don’t know where to start.  It definitely needs its own post…or two.