Changes in Reading Habits

Changes in Reading Habits

If you followed me over to this blog from its predecessor, Theology in Heels, you probably know how very much I love to read. Indeed, my sister Katie, who is two years younger and more extroverted than I, grew up jealous of reading because I spent so much of my time doing that instead of playing with her. (I think she finally got over her grudge after college; she reads to her kids every day.)

Just a couple years ago I was clocking about 120 books a year. Most of them fell under fiction (including a large dose of children’s fiction) or theology/Christian living (which I think we should call practical theology – that might remind us enough not to get all weird about things, making up extra rules and such nonsense). I still managed to watch a decent amount of tv, hang out with friends, and needlepoint in my spare time. My, how times have changed.

Perhaps it’s partly due to the fact that I am now reading a LOT more online…and keeping house…and make dinner most nights…and have to drive for quite awhile before I get to most of the places I go (like the grocery store)…and have access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and so forth…but y’all, I finished 24 books in 2015.

Apparently, meeting Stephen caused a disturbance in the Force. In 2014, I read 72 books before I met him…and 3 books after.

And that includes international flights to Italy then France then back to Texas.

He was on them too, of course. And there was so much talking to do – we were getting married and had to plan everything from the playlist for the reception to the times we would have the party change floors. (We got married in a science museum. It was a progressive reception. It was absurdly fun.)

ANYWAY, the bottom line is that my reading habits have changed drastically. I am currently attempting to change the rhythm of my life – at least for the low- or no-pain days. Part of that is getting up with Steve and blogging (!) and eating breakfast (!); part of it will incorporate regularly scheduled reading. I’m not sure how all that will go; I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here’s my “finished” list from 2015.

  1. Blood Work by Michael Connelly – Fine but forgettable.
  2. Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter Book 1) by Thomas Harris – Classic of the genre.
  3. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – Apparently, if you assign each of your daughters roles from Shakespeare plays and refer to them constantly as such, and quote the Bard all the time, your daughters may memorize a lot of Shakespeare and be super dysfunctional. I did enjoy this quite a bit, but it was weird. (Not trying to be cute – I don’t think there’s a more appropriate word, if you use the modern colloquial meaning.)
  4. The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney – A Romany disappearance is hard to solve, even if you’re half Romany yourself.
  5. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi – Absolutely riveting, endlessly fascinating, especially in light of the whole Making a Murderer fascination here in the US right now. This true crime book is referenced by Thomas Harris quite a bit in the Hannibal books, so I had to check it out. I did a ton of online reading after Red Dragon, and this book came up like 400 times, so I knew it was coming in the later books. Tied for best book of the year.
  6. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Wolves Chronicles Book 1) by Joan Aiken – While I heartily approve of the use of the dastardly scoundrel from Sense & Sensibility‘s name (pretty sure I just punctuated that wrong) as a name for a dangerous place, this children’s book was too dark for me. And when you consider the other books I read this year, you’ll probably concur that that is quite a statement.
  7. Innocence by David Hosp – I mean, I have a copy if you want it. I don’t need it anymore. It was forgettable. But if you’re bored… maybe can I send you Sense & Sensibility instead?
  8. Redwall (Redwall #1) by Brian Jacques – Read on hubby’s recommendation, though it was on my list for years. Enjoyed it as much as I enjoy any anthropomorphic tale involving battles.
  9. Whose Body? (Lord Peter Wimsey No. 1) by Dorothy Sayers* – Delightful.
  10. Clouds of Witnesses (Lord Peter Wimsey No. 2) by Dorothy Sayers* – Not quite as delightful as most of the rest of the series, but still miles more interesting than Innocence.
  11. Love or Die: Christ’s Wake Up Call to the Church by Alexander Strauch
  12. The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) by Robert Jordan – Enjoyable foray into a new fantasy world. I’m certain at least Book 2 will be on my 2016 list.
  13. The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers edited by Michael Haykin with Victoria Haykin – This was a very kind wedding gift, and I really enjoyed it. Also, it’s sad that letters have, for the most part, gone the way of bears in England.
  14. The Hundred-and-One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith – Smith is one of the few authors I’ve come across who has pulled off books in different genres and styles that are pure delight for entirely different reasons. I love JK Rowling and all, but her Cormoran Strike books just aren’t as much fun as Harry Potter. And The Casual Vacancy was good for my soul much the way breakfast is good for my body- I’m glad I ate it, but boy did it take a lot of slogging through.
  15. The Counterfeit Heiress (Lady Emily Book 9) by Tasha Alexander – On the one hand, this book is rooted in a fascinating history that Alexander found inspiring. On the other hand, I think I’m done with Lady Emily. Despite the lack of their presence on my 2015 list, I prefer Julia Grey and Charlotte & Thomas Pitt for my Victorian mysteries.
  16. The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter Book 2) by Thomas Harris – Takes classic to a new level (imho).
  17. Hannibal (Hannibal Lecter Book 3) by Thomas Harris – What goes up must come down I suppose. This wasn’t nearly as convincing as the other two, especially at the end.
  18. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey – I would love to know what actual artists think of this book. I appreciated it a lot, and think Pearcey is really onto something with her multi-storied explanation of reality, but I’m a philosophy-theology-history-literature person, so it hit me right on a lot of levels.
  19. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris – Sedaris might be funny. I’m not sure. This book certainly isn’t. She does have a good piece of advice about just making decisions when a host asks for your preference, because “I’m sure whatever you decide is fine” puts pressure on them rather than making it easier for them, which is probably what you intend by saying that. Now that I’ve told you that, you have absolutely no reason to read the book. You’re welcome. [PS – I don’t think pictures of women in their pantyhose are funny. I mean, nobody really looks great in just a dress shirt and pantyhose with the shirt half tucked in and wholly awkward. But it’s not like it’s comedic fodder either.]
  20. Hannibal Rising (Hannibal Lecter Book 4) by Thomas Harris – I totally get why Harris wrote this book, and I think criminal psychology is fascinating, but…it just didn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s too explanatory, too self-consciously justifying all the twisted evil Harris had shown in Lecter in the other three books.
  21. For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker – Unlike Sedaris, Hatmaker is indubitably funny, and good for the anxious, perfectionistic, overly busy soul. While I will admit that this book doesn’t fully address the Gospel, 1) that’s not because she tried and missed, but because this book didn’t set out to fully address the Gospel, 2) I think that’s okay, and 3) this book is mostly about giving grace to ourselves and each other, and not just for sins – Hatmaker points out again and again how we create these standards (like I have in my head of the “ideal wife”) and then treat them like Law, expecting ourselves and others to meet them or “face the consequences.” Hatmaker is telling us that this is bogus. I think she’s totally right.
  22. The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry – It’s like if The DaVinci Code saved up its obnoxiousness till the last 100 pages of the book.
  23. The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones – I’m not sure what exactly was going on in this book – magical realism, psychological thriller, study of human psychology (especially pack behavior), and a twist on the typical Downton Abbey-esque, manners-driven British story are all in play. It was good, it was disturbing, it was saddening, it was unexpected.
  24. The Savage Garden by Mark Mills – This book was SO FUN. It ties The Monster of Florence for best book I read in 2015. Interestingly, it also takes place in Italy and is a murder mystery. There’s lots of fun art history and classical myth (connected, of course) involved, and the characters are vivid and believable. I’m excited to read more of Mills.

My most obvious reading achievement of 2015 was Thomas Harris’s Hannibal books, but Saving Leonardo was no mean feat (I believe I started it in 2012?), and I think reading the first Wheel of Time book (clocking in at over 800 pages) is a notable accomplishment as well.


* I am an incredibly huge fan of Dorothy Sayers and her gentleman-sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey. (I thought about naming my dog after him, but my father rightly noted that hollering “Lord Peter!” into the backyard would be a bit strange.) I decided last year that I would reread the entire canon, this time according to internal chronological order, including short stories, which I am color-coding by order in my copy of The Complete Stories. I derive great pleasure from this. (I will note that I intend to skip the one I read for the first time most recently – The Nine Tailors. I know it’s widely regarded as brilliant, but I regard it as exhausting and dull, probably due to the insufficient amount of Lord Peter in it.)

 

The Tenth Day of Christmas

The Tenth Day of Christmas

This morning, the song & hymn line-up at church* was chock full of songs I love. Because several of them aren’t commonly known, I thought I’d share three with you guys today.

The basic theme of all of the song we sang this morning is one I love and struggle with and am learning all over again: we are each of us too big a train wreck for us to fix, but God is in the business of turning train wrecks into trophies of grace. These are wonderful songs for people who have come to the end of themselves.

And of course, I’ve included commentary, because, hey, this is me we’re talking about.

Come to Jesus by Mindy Smith – I’ve been putting this on mixes for more than 10 years, because sometimes your soul needs a desperate lullaby to remind you to rest like a baby in the arms of Jesus.

Can’t Help Myself by Sandra McCracken – This song is from a few years ago – before the Psalms album came out (which, y’all, is so good you should go buy it right now) – but is a really cool precursor to that album, because it follows the pattern of so many Davidic psalms, where David voices his thoughts and feelings about life being hard and then responds to his own self by reminding himself of Who God is and what God says about him. My favorite part (besides the “I can’t help myself” stuff, which I think is really helpful to repeat over and over, especially if you happen to be a perfectionist like myself) is the last verse: “I trust the Lord, my soul and all that is in me; I trust the Light to show my darkest parts. I pray the Spirit will be strong and mighty – a fool would keep his secrets in his heart.” I mean, isn’t that so deadly to our inclination to hide what is sinful and broken in ourselves from God?

For All the Saints, Indelible Grace style – I absolutely love this song. We started singing it in RUF in college, and it’s one of those rich hymns that takes you all the way to glory. I really love the last verse, but there are LOTS of verses, so I don’t blame our Worship Arts dude for ending at verse 5 or 6 or whatever it is (well, I try not to), and he does it so well – with a huge drum buildup at the end of the previous verse that ushers in the breathtakingly beautiful scene the hymn-writer (William How) describes for us of Jesus coming back to earth and the saints rising, victorious in His righteousness, from the dead. It’s fantastic.

The hardest thing to believe – and the most important – when you’re just having a really hard time in the grittiness of life is that Jesus really does make all things new. I kind of want to spend this year living like a person who knows 1. she will be resurrected 2. to live forever 3. in her (glorified) body 4. enjoying and glorifying God forever 5. with the rest of God’s people and all His creation. I’m not into New Year’s Resolutions or choosing a word for the year or anything like that, but I think this is something I’m gonna see if I can focus on this year. It seems like the kind of thing I should know down to my bones, you know?


* So I just want you to marvel with me for a moment that somehow our brand new church plant, which today held it’s 20th ever service, wound up landing the url citychurch.org. I still can’t believe it. To quote the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice mini-series,”I am all astonishment.”

 

The Eighth Day of Christmas

The Eighth Day of Christmas

I hope you all had at least as much fun ringing in the New Year as we did last night when we completely forgot to pay attention to the time because we were so caught up in our current favorite board game, Pandemic. I’d never played a collaborative game before we got this (twas on sale at Target), and WE LOVE IT.

We didn’t register for Pandemic, but we did register for Carcassonne, and we’re so glad we did. We thought it would be nice to have a game that’s easy to play with just two, and based on reviews, we thought Carcassonne was a good bet, given how much we both like Settlers of Catan. (Playing Settlers with two requires all this extra work and it’s, for all you Scott Westerfield/Uglies fans, “crazy-making.”) Carcassonne has about 40 bajillion expansions, and it wasn’t long before we dropped cash on this beauty because we were so enamored. Date nights at home sometimes look like dinner and strategy games, I’m not gonna lie. The married life is pretty glamorous, y’all.

 

One thing I want to do on this blog is honest reviews of wedding registry items – what we use, how we’re learning to use it, etc. So consider this the first installment. Two-player board games are totally worthy of the registry. 

The Sixth Day of Christmas (because I skipped the fifth)

The Sixth Day of Christmas (because I skipped the fifth)

So here’s the thing about endometriosis/PCOS/pelvic pain – at least the way it manifests in my life –  it totally derails your plans sometimes.

If I could have picked something to be an advocate for, I would have had one hell of a list to choose from. Black Lives Matter. Ending abortion. Adoption. Good theology. Good theology of sex among Christian women (especially single Christian women – purity culture has had its drawbacks). The sufficiency of Scripture. Discipling women. Mission work with Bedouins. Freeing people from slavery. Streetwalking with Jesus. Making dangerous streets safe again.

Instead, I get to talk about disorders and diseases of the female reproductive system.

Now, don’t get me wrong, those other things matter to me a great deal. Hopefully I will be able to help on some of these fronts at least. I can write about them a lot – and I’m sure I will. But with my illnesses, I feel that I bear responsibility for raising awareness and talking about what it’s like to live with chronic pain. I’m trying to figure out how to value Jesus in

This isn’t what expected 31 to look like for me. But here it is. And you know, it’s beautiful, even in its brokenness.

The Third Day of Christmas

The Third Day of Christmas

Today’s post is a PSA. Are you ready for this?

The “X” in Xmas is not an attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. Well, perhaps some people use it with that in mind, but the joke’s on them, because X in this case is the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter in Christ and often was used on its own, or with the rho (which looks like a P in our alphabet, thus XP), to reference Christ. When I was a seminary student, I used X all the time in my notes.

So next time you see “Xmas,” spaz thou not.