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I’m a little late in posting this, but here are the books I’ve enjoyed over the past year (June to July).  I hope you’ll enjoy some of them, too.

Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous  No, this isn’t a book written by the infamous group Anonymous, it’s a book written by a Christian author who decided to practice what they preach.  I found this to be a great read, challenging the pride and selfish ambition that I wrestle with from time to time.  A great read for any disciple of Jesus, but perhaps especially for those in or pursuing some form of leadership.  I heartily recommend it.

Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson  Do not come to this book expecting a Bible Study.  It is most definitely a self-help book.  If you come expecting something along the lines of John MacArthur, you will be disappointed.  If you come expecting the fluff and gospel-neglect of Joel Osteen, you will be very, very pleasantly surprised by the God-glorifying, scripture-filled content that Sally brings.  I don’t mean this as criticism, but since many of my friends are in Christian circles that prefer books that read like bible studies and may have an aversion to self-help books, I’m trying to give you a perspective from which to approach this book and really appreciate it for what it is.  Sally makes many assertions that are more philosophical than they are directly backed up by scripture.  She herself writes much more like a philosopher than like a Bible teacher.  She borrows a lot of language from the current self-care trend.  This may be a bother to some, even a concern, but the central message of the book and its emphasis on taking responsibility while simultaneously trusting everything to the Lord is indeed a rock-solid exhortation.  So, if you need the encouragement and inspiration, this is a great book.  Just don’t treat it like scripture (not that you should treat any work by fallen man as such).  I feel blessed to have happened to enjoy this book while simultaneously reading Embracing Obscurity, reviewed above, which I believe balances the message of this book quite well.  In fact, I would recommend that you read them together so that you can hold in tension Sally’s idea of “dreaming dreams for the glory of God” with Embracing Obscurity’s challenge to make sure we are building God’s kingdom and not our own.  Really, reading these two books together is a win-win situation, in my opinion.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand  When I attended my ten year high school reunion a few years ago, one of my former classmates recommended this book to me.  I wasn’t disappointed.  This riveting true story follows Louis Zamperini from his troublesome youth, to the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany, to a fateful flight over the Pacific in WWII.  As a Japanese POW Louie is completely broken—or is he?  Read this book.  If you think you know the story because you watched the movie, you really have missed so much.  Read this book.  It will move you to the core.

The Silver Chair, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle by CS Lewis  I finally finished the Chronicles of Narnia this year!  Not much else to say except that these were a lot of fun to read and quite encouraging and thought provoking.

Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling  This was on several homeschool booklists, so it caught my attention.  Paddle is a picture book following the adventures of a boy’s wood-carved model canoe as it journeys through the Great Lakes and out to sea.  My boys loved it and picked up quite a bit of geography.

Assistant Coach’s Manual  by Susan Bek  I’ve had the privilege of attending two births as a doula in the past eighteen months, and Lord willing I will get to attend another within the week.  I benefited greatly from taking classes in the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth to prepare for the birth of my two sons.  I found the training and support invaluable.  One day I may pursue certification as a class instructor and doula, but for now I’m staying up on the subject through reading and supporting some of my friends as they welcome their children into the world.  Thus, this book.  It is a great resource for those coming alongside a woman and her husband who are using the Bradley Method.  It is an “assistant coach’s” manual because the husband is to be his wife’s primary coach.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder  In my listening to podcasts from the Circe Institute, I jotted down a mental note when David Kern recommended introducing little boys to the Little House series with Farmer Boy because it follows the boyhood story of Almanzo Wilder and is replete with descriptions of rich, enticing farm food.  Hat tip to Mr. Kern for the excellent recommendation.  My boys were sucked into the whole series after we listened to Farmer Boy on audio from our library.

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot  I have come back to this book again and again for refreshment and encouragement–and let’s face it, tough love.  Elisabeth Elliot brings timeless wisdom to the struggles women face.  Timeless, of course, because her thoughts are so saturated by the word of God.

CS Lewis on Joy  This wasn’t a book written by CS Lewis as much as it was a collection of excerpts from several of his works, all relating to the subject of joy, and all packaged neatly into a coffee-table-ready little book complete with classical artwork.  Can’t say I’d recommend it, because all it really did was make me want to read more of Lewis’s works in their entirety, but I did enjoy it.  Not bad for a quarter at a garage sale anyway.

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Shcaeffer Macaulay  It’s no secret on this blog that our family homeschools, and it’s no secret in the world of Charlotte Mason homeschooling that For the Children’s Sake is a classic.  I think my mother-in-law read it when my husband was little.  My mom gave it to me for Christmas this year since it was on my wish list, so I gave it a read for the first time this winter.  So much of it clicked with me.  I even started up a Schole Sisters group with a few local homeschool moms this spring, and Macaulay’s book is the first one we’re reading together (which means I’m reading it for a second time now).  A friend of mine has already written an excellent review here.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins  This was my second pass through this trilogy, and I did it in a week.  I didn’t have quite the same sense of PTSD at the end of Mockingjay that I did the first time I read it (that entire novel in one night).  This story and its characters and themes stick with me.  And for good reason—these are themes and characters that have compelled human interest for millennia.  This is not just another young adult series.  I think these books will stand the test of time.  If you’ve read them before but missed the rich historical and literary allusions, why not pick them up again and see them with new eyes?

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder  I think I read this back in third grade, but this year I read it aloud to my boys.  A fun read and a great way for kids to imagine life in the latter half of the 19th century.  My seven-year-old just picked it up to read it for himself this fall.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions edited by Arthur Bennett  These two books were my daily companions over the past year.  Chamber’s classic devotional was often times very edifying and sometimes simply something I read.  Many of his exhortations were challenging—to pray, to surrender completely to Christ, to love Him supremely.  Overall a great read, though some entries were simply a little too disconnected with the face value meaning of scripture for me to really “get” them.  On those days, I simply read and moved on.  One thing is for sure, by the time I finished a year of reading Chambers everyday, I was eager to simply read the Scriptures for myself.  I don’t mean this as a fault to Chambers—in fact it should be more to his credit for whetting my appetite for more of God’s word.  After all, man shall not live on devotionals alone, but on the very word of God.  In addition to Utmost, The Valley of Vision was a very encouraging guide in personal prayer and worship.  Many times I find I don’t have the words.  These puritan prayers helped me in the discipline of praising and depending upon the Lord, even when my flesh was weak and my mind would rather wander.  I will probably revisit this book in the future.

The Story of the World, Volume One:  Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer  This is another gem from our homeschool reading.  Our whole family has enjoyed this overview of ancient history written for elementary aged students.  We are reading through the four-volume series together, and then the plan is for our boys to read it a second time for themselves.  There are activity books available to flesh this out into a very full history curriculum, but for now we are simply enjoying them together and looking up the places we read about on our inflatable globe (the best kind of globe as far as little boys are concerned).

What have you been reading lately?  Have any recommendations for me?