Friday, January 01, 2016

My 2015 Reading List

 Books I Read in 2015




My reading pace definitely dropped off once my sabbatical ended and I started commuting to Rochester three times a week, but still, I got some good reading in this year (and listened to a lot of good audio books too!) (Here's a link to my goodreads page with all of these books, in case you want more details, since I'm too lazy to link to all the books on Amazon this year...)

1-3. Dashner, James, The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure. 

Not my favorite series ever or anything, but I enjoyed these. 

4.     Aslan, Reza, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

I like his writing style - quick-paced, narrative, compelling. He makes the scene come alive. But his biblical scholarship I didn't find convincing. He gives all the New Testament texts equal weight, while I think most mainline biblical scholars have a much more nuanced understanding of the differences between the authority of Mark and John, for example. His arguments against a traditional understanding of the identity of Jesus are predicated on a literal reading of the gospel texts to begin with. 

5.     Mack, Sylane, Convinced!

This is a personal story of a woman's experience with childhood sexual abuse and her faith journey as a result of that abuse. It was painful to read, certainly, and tragic. But the most tragic part of the read for me was that the author told a woman at her church about the abuse while it was still ongoing and the woman told her that she needed to forgive her abuser. She did nothing to help her out of the situation. She did not contact authorities. She did not tell the child it wasn't her fault. I was so appalled by this. The author and her siblings never got the help they could have. I spent the whole book imagining what some true intervention, counseling, read adult help could have done for this family, these children. 

6.     Stookey, Laurence Hull, Let the Whole Church Say Amen! 

We used this book in our Lay Servant class for United Methodists seeking additional training in the area of prayer. Stookey's book is as much a book on grammar as it is a book on prayer. I had participants in the class who I had to talk out of never wanting to pray in public again, because they were so overwhelmed by all the things they ended up feeling like they were doing wrong. Stookey discusses a lot of compelling prayer issues/topics, but he doesn't leave much room for those who pray differently, and doesn't offer much nurturing encouragement along the way. 

7.     Poehler, Amy, Yes Please

I just didn't really like this. I felt like Poehler felt like she was supposed to write a book because Mindy Kaling did and Tina Fey did. I haven't read Bossypants (yet) but Kaling is a hilarious writer. Poehler - her book felt like she didn't enjoy writing it, and it showed. And I think with this glimpse into her life - I liked her a little less than when I started.  

8-12.     Riordan, Rick, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan's Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian. 

Again, like the Maze Runner series, I enjoyed these, though not near the top of my favorites list. I liked the first couple and the last book better than the others. And I liked that my brain could recall learning some of this mythology at one point, though I had forgotten some of the details since whenever we had a unit on this in Social Studies.  

13.     Ferguson, Dave and John Ferguson, Exponential: How You and Your Friends can Start a Missional Church Movement

I can't remember how I came upon this book. Theologically, I have some differences with the authors. But I found their approach compelling and inspiring. I've thought about it a lot over the past year, although I have yet to approach work with my congregation in any similar kind of way. 

14.     Fulgham, Nicole Baker, Educating All God’s Children

We read this book in one of my research project groups. Education reform isn't an area about which I'm most passionate, although it is certainly desperately needed. Fulgham makes a strong case for why all people of faith should care, and offers ways to get involved.  
15.  Slaughter, Michael, Dare to Dream

I am not a huge Michael Slaughter fan. If he hadn't lost me before, he definitely lost me when he came to our annual conference to speak one year and demonstrated how great he is at push-ups while he was talking. Nonetheless, we read this book in a clergy study I was in, and then I used it with my congregation. It is accessible, and helped us start talking about our vision for our congregation and our lives. 

16.  Edelman, Marian Wright, The Sea Is Wide and My Boat Is So Small

I picked up this book thinking to use it with my research group, but opted for Fulgham's book instead. Still, I read this. Edelman is a poet and prophet. This is an easy read full of essays/poems that will inspire and challenge. 

17.  Hudson, Trevor, Questions God Asks Us 

We read this book in my clergy study group. Each chapter reflects a different question posed to us in the scriptures. The questions make for some deep reflection and soul wrestling. 

18.  Rowell, Rainbow, Attachments

I've confessed in past years that I got hooked on Hunger Games fanfiction. It's really a little worse. I also follow a ton of Hunger Games tumblrs. This is because some of my favorite fanfiction authors also post shorter stories on tumblr, or highlight stories I night not otherwise hear about. They are also, I've found, a great source for picking up on the best new YA literature (and, ok, some not-so-great YA literature too.) Through tumblr, I happened on Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (see below under audiobooks.) It immediately found a place on my favorite-books-ever list. So of course I immediately set out to listen to or read all of Rowell's other books. Attachments was one I read. Not my favorite, but only because everything of hers I've read is great, so they can't all be the best. Still loved it. 

19.  Kelly, Joseph, Behold How Good It Is: Jews and Catholics in Rochester

I started working at St. John's Meadows in June, a retirement community in Rochester, NY. One of the residents there recommended this book, by a local professor. We're an interfaith community at St. John's, with large Jewish and Catholic populations (Protestants too, of course), and the book recounts local interfaith history between Jews and Catholics, especially over the last several decades. I read the book, and then was able to get Dr. Kelly to come speak at St. John's. It was a great event, and we had great attendance from all of our faith communities. 

20.  Weems, Lovett, and Tom Berlin, Bearing Fruit: Ministry with Real Results 

This year at Apple Valley, the church I serve, we've talked about being Fruitful, Prayerful, Invitational, and Missional - that is how we are talking about God's dreams for our congregation. I found this book as a resource to help us focus on fruitfulness, which is our overarching theme/keyword. We found this really helpful as a congregation, and some of my parishioners have really taken their challenges to heart, starting new ministries because of how this book encouraged them. 

21.  Brown, Bren√©, Rising Strong 

This was another read with our clergy group. I'll admit I expected to hate it, writing it off as "pop psychology." And after a few chapters, I still held that view for the most part. But then partway through, the chapters started resonating with me. I found (find) myself thinking about her book frequently. I was moved to tears more than once with a "yes, that's me, I experience that" kind of reaction. And I immediately lent the book to a friend who I thought would also find it helpful when I was done. 

22.  Lehr, Teresa K., Lighting the Way: A Celebration of the First One Hundred Years of St. John's Home

One of the residents at St. John's shared this with me. This book focuses mostly on St. John's Home, the skilled nursing care part of the St. John's family. This book wouldn't really interest folks who are not familiar with St. John's, but it was pretty interesting to me as someone who works there. The book also provides a fascinating look at the changes in how we care for the elderly among us in general. 

23.  Goodwin, Craig L., Year of Plenty

I just finished this on New Year's Eve, just in time to count it in my 2015 books. Goodwin recounts a year he and his family changed their eating and purchasing habits, buying used, buying local, eating sustainably, growing their own food, building relationships with those from whom they bought food, etc. Nothing earth-shattering here, but I really appreciated reading a story like this from a Christian author (pastor) who acted from a faith perspective. He writes about the emptiness resulting from our consumeristic/materialistic culture, and offers this example of intentional living as a way to counteract that, in small ways. I was inspired. 

Selected Audiobooks: I usually choose light, fast-paced stuff to listen to so I stay alert while I drive. Here are few standouts: 

Evanovich, Janet, and Goldberg, Lee, The Job, The Chase, The Heist - I used to be a huge fan of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, but they've gotten pretty awful over time. These books, co-authored with Lee Goldberg, based on a fun pairing of an FBI agent and a world-class thief, are funny and light and remind me of Evanovich's earlier Plum books. 

Rowell, Rainbow, Eleanor and Park, fangirl - Eleanor and Park is one of the loveliest books I have ever read. It is just a beautiful story. Love, love, love it. Fangirl was also pretty awesome, and especially enjoyable since it focuses on twin sisters who are into fanfiction. (The book is way better than that sentence implies.)

Condie, Ally, Matched trilogy - The first book was pretty good, and I thought the series was surprisingly good. But books two and three were bad and worse. Disappointing. 

Cass, Kiera, The Selection trilogy - Ok. Not great. Not awful. 

In progress: 
Kaling, Mindy, Why Not Me? - This will probably be done in the next couple days, and is awesome, of course. 
Smith, C. Christopher and John Pattison, Slow Church - I've been reading this (appropriately) SLOWLY. It is just not moving right along for me. It may still be in this section of my review next year. 


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