Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#27: Only Time Will Tell (Jeffrey Archer)

Let’s just cut to the chase: I think I have found another author to add to my list of favorites! Only Time Will Tell is the first book in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles. The series traces the life of Harry Clifton from his childhood through his adult life in America. I’ve always been a fan of these types of works (I’m working my way through Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy now) and was excited to see how Archer would handle the drama.

Personally I fell in love with Harry from the very beginning. His introduction to a better life through education that was made possible because of his musical talent resonated with my own story. Intrigue is found on each page as we learn more and more about Harry’s life and the lives of those he encounters. It appears that Archer is in the process of writing the Chronicles with volume 3 released in April of this year.

What’s my plan? I figure I’ll put this one on the back shelf for a while and pick up the print edition of Only Time Will Tell and read the entire series. After all, I have to know what happens to Harry as his adventure continues in the New World!

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#26: Inferno (Dan Brown)

I have had the release day of Inferno on my calendar for months. I had monitored my reading in the weeks before to make sure that I would be ready for a new book on the Tuesday of the book’s release. On that Tuesday, I found myself driving into the mountain community of Eureka Springs, Arkansas for a few days of relaxation. This is going to be perfect…..I’ll be able to sit in the mountains and in my hotel room and just read all day long. I get directions to the local book shop only to discover that the store has closed for the day. I’ve been driving all day long, but there is NO WAY that I am not going to have Inferno in my possession on release day. So what do I do? I google the nearest Barnes and Noble and make the 55 minute drive to a store just outside of Fayetteville and start reading over dinner. Then I head back to Eureka Springs and lose myself in the book for the rest of the night!

Inferno is quite possibly my favorite of Dan Brown’s novels. This smartly-written tale again features our favorite art professor and symbologist, Robert Langdon. In addition to the usual emphasis on masterpieces of the art world, Brown expertly weaves a fascinating read around the epic poem by Dante Alighieri from which Brown’s novel takes its name. Throw in references to classical compositions by Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner and I am one happy camper!

Inferno features lots of twists and turns that leave the reader wondering who can be trusted and what has actually happened. The only thing that is missing this time around is the graphic violence that I have come to expect from Brown’s novels. (I still find Angels and Demons to be terribly disturbing!) Making the novel timely is the underlying discussion of the world population crisis and the threat of a viral pandemic. Add to the mix a brilliant (or mad?) scientist, a mysterious organization that operates without concern for ethics, and the religious sites in Florence, Venice, and Istanbul and you have the recipe for an exciting page-turner! I am thrilled to have read the book and highly recommend it to thoughtful readers everywhere.

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#25: Charles Spurgeon: The Prince of Preachers (Dan Harmon)

I realize that I know very little about some of the major pioneers of the Christian faith in the 19th and 20th centuries. I decided to read this simple biography of the English minister, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892). I was struck by his eloquence and the tremendous things that were accomplished for the Kingdom of God despite Spurgeon’s simple beginnings. Though not highly educated himself, Spurgeon placed great value on education and opened a school of ministry for preachers as well as teaching and caring for the orphans of England. Spurgeon was confident in his convictions and never afraid to speak his mind clearly. He addressed the horrors of slavery as well as reforms that needed to occur within the church itself. What most surprised me, however, was Spurgeon’s use of humor.  One of my favorite quotes (taken from his collection of proverbs known as Salt-Cellars) is about knowing when things are not worth trying:

Don’t put a cat on a coach-box or men in places for which they are not fitted. There is no making apples of plums. Little minds will still be little even if you make them beadles or churchwardens. It is a pity to turn a monkey into a minister. Many preachers are good tailors spoilt, and capital shoemakers turned out of their proper calling. When God means a creature to fly He gives it wings, and when He intends men to preach He gives them abilities. (p. 104)

One cannot overstate the effectiveness of Spurgeon’s ministry. Thousands of lives were changed through his presentation of the Word of God. It is estimated that some twenty million people attended services at the Metropolitan Tabernacle during Spurgeon’s tenure there. The conclusion to his final sermon from that pulpit on June 7, 1891 reminds us of  his devotion and concern for the sinful in need of a Savior.

If you wear the livery of Christ, you will find Him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was His like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold He always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies on His shoulders. If He bids us carry a burden, He carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind and tender, yea, lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it is Him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus Christ! (p. 114-5)



#24: Calico Joe (John Grisham)

Last week, I decided to take a mini-vacation. Since summer is upon us and baseball season is under way, I chose the short novel Calico Joe for the drive to northwest Arkansas. I have seen the audiobook on the shelf many times, but always opted for other stories. I’m not sure why either. I enjoy Grisham’s novels, but wasn’t sure that a book about baseball was what I was looking for.

Calico Joe is the story of a baseball player from Calico Rock, Arkansas who makes his way into the major leagues as a player for the Chicago Cubs. His rookie season is nothing less than magical and the entire baseball world watches with fascination, including a young boy in suburban New York. The boy is fascinated with the skyrocketing success of Calico Joe. Requests for autographed pictures are sent to the young athlete — much to the distress of the boy’s father, a pitcher for the rival New York Mets. Calico Joe and the Cubs find themselves facing the Mets with the disgruntled pitcher on the mound. The infamous game that results will forever change the men’s careers, the lives of their families, and baseball itself. Calico Joe examines how a single moment in time can forever alter our destiny while exploring the healing power of the restoration of broken relationships.

Next time you find yourself on the road, consider picking up a copy of this short novel (roughly 4 hours in duration) and lose yourself in the game again. You’ll be glad you did.

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#23: Lit (Tony Reinke)

Since I'm making significant progress on the 3 books I'm reading on this mini-vacation, I thought I should probably write up the review of the other book I read at the end of the school term.

Lit was not exactly what I was expecting. Tony Reinke divides the book into two sections. Part 1 explores the importance of reading in the Christian life and then proceeds to give tips for improving your (non)-reading life in the latter half. While I found Reinke's concept that reading both sacred and secular texts is crucial to the development of a Christian worldview, I thought his logic was a bit skewed at times. I also thought it was an extreme argument to say that EVERYTHING we read should be chosen in light of how it will develop our spiritual walk with Christ. I'm sorry…..there are books that we read that are not going to improve or destroy my Christian walk. That doesn't mean I should not read them because they have no value. After all, we live in a fallen world. I am to avoid what will sever my relationship with Jesus as I walk in the world. Jesus Himself prayed that we would protected from evil while we are in the world, not that we be taken out of the world. (John 17)

Part 2 was geared toward the non-reader and tended to focus on non-fiction works. I did appreciate a few of the recommendations. Always reading with a pen in hand is a great idea. I like to mark my own books with passages I want to remember or that especially moved me, but I tend to avoid it because I never remember where I saw the passage. Reinke also has a solution to this issue (although it seems to be time consuming). The author suggests creating a database of quotes on your computer, organizing them by topic and including author, title, and page. This allows for cross-reference between books that discuss similar concepts. I've committed to doing this for a couple of months to see how it works, how much time it requires, and if it looks promising.

The other suggestions that I found most helpful were about how to raise children who are readers. Two concepts that I especially liked was a daily oral reading time and family book reviews. The oral readings can occur throughout the day and come from a variety of books. (The author was clear that it is not necessary to read only fictional narratives aloud.) The reading is not the most important component; the discussion that occurs in response to the reading is where the learning happens and the love for reading is developed. It sounds like a very involved process, but when you consider that it can take 15-20 minutes at the end of a meal together the time commitment seems to be insignificant.

Reinke offers to keep his children in books constantly as long as they are willing to share the three passages they found most interesting as well as explain why they agreed (or disagreed) with the concept. This insures that children are not simply plowing through the words on the page without comprehension and allows parents insight into the topics that are of greatest interest to their child while observing the moral, ethical, and logical development. While it may not work for every family, it certainly is an interesting concept and one I would like to try with my own children one day.


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#22: Safe Haven (Nicholas Sparks)

I’ve gotten behind in my reviews and need to catch up. I actually finished listening to this book while driving back and forth during one of the last weeks of the semester. There was a lot of time on the road and a lot of time to listen.

I found Safe Haven a difficult book to listen to since it told the story of a woman who had run away from her abusive husband. To add to the irony, her husband was a police detective — one who was charged with protecting victims! I wasn’t fully aware of the subject matter when I selected the book. I am especially sensitive to the topic because domestic abuse has rocked the lives of members of my family. My sister and her two daughters suffered at the hands of an abusive monster for nearly 5 years before getting out. (Since many of my Christian friends read these posts, I’ll refrain from calling Gregory Prince her ex-husband the names that he truly deserves. Just understand that I feel that any man who fails to pay court-ordered child support is about as worthy of mercy as the cockroach I squashed under my sneaker. Perhaps someone in the Tennessee Department of Child Welfare will stumble across this post and actually investigate. A guy can hope anyway. Hey….it’s my blog and my opinions!)

Without revealing too much of the plot, when the abusive cop finally chases down his victim in her new home, I was frantic for her to get away from him. I drove extra miles out of my way to get her to a safe place in the story…..I couldn’t leave her hanging! When the animal got exactly what he deserved, I cheered out loud in my car. I was only saddened that he couldn’t suffer more.

It’s a riveting story. It didn’t bring out Christ-like mercy, grace, or forgiveness in me. It certainly felt good to see the bad guy get what he deserved though.

A movie adaptation was released earlier this year. I haven’t seen it and given my emotional response to the book, I’m not sure I want to see it.

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