Friday, 21 August 2015

A "Self-Portrait" in Books

My birthday was this week, and to celebrate it, here are 45 books I have loved during the past 45 years.

Because I'm limiting this list to books that are available in English, I've had to leave out a lot of my Finnish favourites, and so the "self-portrait" is not quite accurate. But it's a fair glimpse into my reading history and what sort of books appeal to me.

An another caveat: I didn't include the Holy Bible in this list. It's the book I read the most, but it's really in a category of its own.

Ten favourites from my childhood 

 A.A. Milne: Winnie-the-Pooh

Elisabeth Beresford: The Wombles

Kenneth Grahame: Wind in the Willows

Eleanor Estes: The Moffats

Astrid Lindgren: Vi På Saltkråkan (Seacrow Island)

Enid Blyton: the Adventure series

Laura Ingalls Wilder: Little House in the Big Woods (and the series)

L.M.Montgomery: Rilla of Ingleside

L.M. Alcott: An Old-Fashioned Girl
James Aldridge: The Marvellous Mongolian

The last one gets to represent my horse phase. Most of the horse books I devoured were by Finnish or Swedish authors, probably not available in English.

From teen years and early twenties

Mary Stolz: By the Highway Home

John Steinbeck: Travels with Charley

J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings

Douglas Adams: The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

Fynn: Mister God, This is Anna

It was difficult to think back to those years. I know I read a lot, but what did I enjoy the most? I must have forgotten many good books, but if I remember a book as a significant reading experience about thirty years later, it must have been important.

Jane Austen - and other fiction favourites from the last two decades

Jane Austen: Persuasion

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen: Mansfield Park

Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen: Emma

Elizabeth Gaskell: Cranford

Barbara Pym: Excellent Women

Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time

Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night

C.S. Lewis: The Screwtape Letters

Adrian Plass: The Sacred Diary of of Adrian Plass Aged 37 3/4 (and the entire series)

Adrian Plass: Stress Family Robinson (and its sequel, The Birthday Party)

Jeff Lucas: Helen Sloane's Diary (and its sequel, Up Close and Personal)
Robinson, Marilynne: Gilead

For all other authors, just one favourite book (or series) has to represent them. But Jane Austen and Adrian Plass are special.

A bunch of biographies and other Christian non-fiction

Sheldon Vanauken: A Severe Mercy

Joni Eareckson: Joni

Corrie ten Boom: The Hiding Place

Norman Grubb: Rees Howells: Intercessor

Brother Andrew: God's Smuggler

Elisabeth Elliot: Through Gates of Splendour

J. Gunnar Olson: Business Unlimited

Nick Vujicic: Life without Limits

Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyt, Prophet, Spy

Karen Swallow Prior: Fierce Convictions

C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity

John White: The Fight

Loren Cunningham: Making Jesus Lord

Jennifer Saake: Hannah's Hope

Tim Kimmel: Grace-Based Parenting

The last category was a hard one to select and limit. I've read so much. I tried to pick those books that meant a lot to me at the time I read them and that have stayed with me a long time after I read them; the ones I'd recommend and buy as presents to others etc. But I could have added many others, too. (And again it's not the full picture, because many influential books have been by authors whose works have not been translated into English.)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Selected summer reading (August QuickLit)

Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy to share our recent reads.

Jacqueline Woodson: Brown Girl Dreaming

Life story in poems. Jacqueline Woodson writes about her family, about living as a child in South Carolina and then in New York, about being different (not just racial issues but also being raised as a Jehovah's Witness), and about finding her voice as a storyteller and writer.

So good to see the world from someone else's point of view.

Here's a little quote from one poem. It's about her finding a picture book at the library, "the picture book filled with brown people, more brown people than I'd ever seen in a book before."

If someone had taken
that book out of my hand
said, You're too old for this
I'd never have believed
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story.

Karen Ehman: Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

A sensible, balanced look at using our words wisely. Many of the points and principles weren't exactly new to me, but served as a good reminder nevertheless. I also appreciated that Ehman's primary focus is not the mouth but the heart - examining the motives why we speak or don't speak - and that she writes candidly about her own struggles.

Jon Ronson: So You've Been Publicly Shamed

Ronson researches various kinds of public shame and humiliation and the way people have survived it - if they have survived it. He starts with a couple of cases where people have been humiliated on the social media. Since I don't use Twitter or Facebook (and don't live in North America), I had no idea of how far this can go and how much or little is needed to spark it.

As a look into the darker sides of social media and our modern culture, this book is fascinating and not a little frightening.

Rob Lilwall: Walking Home from Mongolia: ten million steps through China, from the Gobi Desert to the South China Sea

Lilwall is a Brit but his home is now in Hong Kong. Thus, walking home from Mongolia means walking through China. Lots of arduous effort, plenty of comical moments, some serious thoughts and a good dose of self-deprecating British humour. 

Griff Rhys Jones: Rivers: a voyage into the heart of Britain

Griff Rhys Jones made a TV series about British rivers and wrote a book about the experience. Apparently, the point of the series was to explore the history and the present day of the rivers as well as to entertain the audience by putting Jones into all kinds of difficult, risky and potentially funny situations in various means of transportation. Jones writes with a wry sense of humour and if you want to learn about history and geography, you'll get that, too.

Monday, 3 August 2015

New on the Stack in July

June was all about reading the books I had been 'saving for later' earlier in the year, but in July I went to the other extreme...

Linking up with Sheila at the Deliberate Reader.

Travel books galore

I got a lot of travel books, all for pretty much the same reason: they looked interesting, and reading a good travel book is a bit like taking a trip yourself.

Christopher Somerville: The golden step: a walk through the heart of Crete

Somerville is a travel writer, but this time he went to Crete to travel for pleasure, not for work. (It was sort of a 50th birthday gift from his wife.) It is apparent that he knows the country pretty well from previous visits, but on this walking trip, he also finds places and experiences that are new to him.

Rob Lilwall: Walking Home from Mongolia: ten million steps through China, from the Gobi Desert to the South China Sea

I enjoyed Lilwall's earlier book (Cycling Home from Siberia). This sounded just as promising. I like his blend of British humour, funny adventures and heart-searching.

Walking through China is something I am not likely to attempt myself, ever - so I'm glad I can read about someone else taking on the adventure.

  Griff Rhys Jones: Rivers: a voyage into the heart of Britain

Griff Rhys Jones writes about making a TV series on British rivers. 
(I haven't seen the series, but the book makes it sound pretty interesting.)

A mixture of history, geography, adventures with various means of transportation etc., humour, personal reminiscences... And a dog named Cadbury. :) (A chocolate Labrador. Of course.)

Not just travel - expatriate experiences

All borrowed from the library.
Why: As with travel books, I find it interesting to learn more about other countries through someone's personal experiences.

 Mailis Hudilainen: Minu Peterburi
 Ede Schank Tamkivi: Minu California

Two books from the same series: Estonian expats write about their experiences in a particular place. These ones are about St Petersburg and California. (I've never been to California, and the last time I was in St Petersburg, it was still called Leningrad...)

Saara Ojanen: Mekongin mutkassa (Along the Mekong river)

A Finnish NGO worker's experiences in Cambodia, from the 1980's to the present days. I know very little about Cambodia, and hope to learn more from this book.

Other library finds

 Susan Cain: Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking

Why: I'm an introvert, and I was interested in this book after reading many recommendations. My thoughts on the book here.

Jacqueline Woodson: Brown Girl Dreaming

Why: This caught my eye in the new titles list at the library website, probably because I've read some very positive reviews on it. (Moreover, I was glad to find a poetry book for the reading challenges - this is "a genre I don't typically read.")

Kindle purchases
I snapped up a couple of special offers:

Rachel Friedman: The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure

Why: Sounded intriguing. (See other travel and expat books...)

Karen Ehman: Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All

Why: I listened to an interview with Karen Ehman about choosing our words wisely on the Focus on the Family Daily podcast during our holiday trip. (Talk about good timing...) 
I know this is a topic I really need to think about more. 

Joni Eareckson Tada: A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty

Why: I'm sure that what Joni Eareckson Tada has to say on this topic is worth reading.