Monday, December 24, 2012

One of the Best Things: I Read

 I first joined a book group back in 2000, and I was hooked.  It fed my need to verbally process, and it confirmed my belief that Truth is something that pursues all humanity.  Artists show us well how Truth pursues us. 

Also, being in a book group forces me to read books that I might not pick on my own, and helps me continue to understand the points of view of others.  I've been in three book groups since 2000, each one has been filled with women coming from diverse backgrounds and from diverse experiences, but all come with the desire to keep thinking, wondering, and processing.  I love that.

So here are some of the books I read this past year and a short vibe of if I'd recommend you reading it.  Note:  They are not intended to be plot summaries.

Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglas!  -Amazing!  This should be required reading for all high schoolers.  I'm a bit ashamed that it wasn't part of my high school reading.  That is shameful!  We should have skipped the history text and just read this man's personal story: a first-hand account of slavery and his quest for freedom and for the freedom of all slaves in our country.  I was wowed by his insight and my favorite line went something like this, "There is a difference between American Christianity and the Christianity of Jesus."  You can read this short, non-fiction on-line for free.

Handle with emotional roller coaster meant to sell books....skip it!

Unbroken!  -One of the best true stories ever....I blogged about this book earlier this year.  Another example of God pursuing someone, but also another essential read for students of history.  So much was in this book that does not make it in traditional history classes.  I knew the general facts of the Pacific front of WWII, but knowing the facts, and hearing someone's personal experiences are very diferent things.

After the Golden Age, when I looked at my notes of this book I wrote that I liked it, but I honestly can't remember anything about it...that is the best test, skip it.  Or, it means it is a good read for a vacation.

Dovekeepers, this was not a favorite by my book group, but I don't regret reading it.  It painted a picture of Israel during the destruction of the temple, and while we discovered that the author took a lot of fictional freedom with the story, I thought the setting stayed true to the facts and painted a framework for me of another time and place.  I actually think I'd recommend it.  It has stayed with me.

Marcelo in the Real World!  Another quality read, and it is a young adult book.!  If I was back in a secondary classroom, I would assign this book to my students!  The themes in this book are rich and deep and true.  Marcelo is "different" and sees the world as such, and we need him to help us see life differently. 

Passion of Artemisia, I read this back in 2000 with my first book group, and the images have stayed with me over a decade.  I loved learning about the artwork and artists of the Renaissance.  I should really travel Italy again after reading this book and just stand in awe and wonder.  I stood in awe and wonder the first time, but this book as brought a whole new layer of understanding to the culture of that time.

Visit from the Goon Squad!  I loved this book, and I think I was the only one in my book group.  If you are an GenXer, you will relate to the themes in this book.  It really captures our current American culture through music and technology.  The last scene is chilling as a man really wants to tell a woman he loves her, but can't do it face to face, too intense, so instead uses the latest gadget to send the message.  It starts in the 70's and ends some time in the future.  One whole chapter is told through graphic organizers.  This story was creative and unique and used the evolution of pop music to help tell the story of a culture and society that has changed.

Water for Elephants-I actually saw the movie before I read the book.  I loved the movie, and I enjoyed the book.  I'm not sure how I would have felt about the movie if I had read the book first, but I actually liked who the movie combined the two "evil" characters into one main antagonist vs. the book have two separate antagonists.

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks-This book was made for a book discussion: race, inequality, medical ethics, liabilities, fogiveness, hidden pasts...everyone should read this true story.

Till We Have Faces-I want to like CS Lewis, really I do, but I just don't like his writing style.  I totally get that he's a good writer and that his ideas are amazing.  I love his themes and the concepts he uses to tell his stories, but I just never can get through any of his writings.  SO, this is the only book this year I did not finish.  But I did enjoy the discussion.

The Birth Order Book-Any parent of children can be an expert on birth order, but the book really wasn't revolutionary.  I didn't solve any parenting delemas or personal childhood angst by reading this book.  I didn't feel like it was very research-based either...just a man's gut feelings about a topic.  Skip it and just make your own observations.

Silver Sparrow - This book was good!  It would be a great vacation read, very captivating and moved quickly, but was also written well enough that I still remember the plot and the characters and the themes.  It is about a man who marries two woman.  The one wife and daughter know about the first family and they live a few blocks from each other.  The first half is told through the eyes of the second family's daughter and then the 2nd half of the book is written by the legitamate daughter.  The book as many layers and is really more than just a book about polygamy.  It is a book about love, recognition, respecting yourself, etc.  Read it.

Well, those were my reads in 2012...2013 is looking to be another excellent years:  Irises, Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina...and many more.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  May you read and pursue and find!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Unpardonable Sin

I am about to commit the unpardonable sin, at least in our family…that would be on my side of the family, not my husbands.  I am pretty sure I am not mailing out any Christmas cards, pictures, or letters this year.  I say I am pretty sure, because I wonder if my guilt will win and at the last moment I will send my annual Schneiter Top Ten to the presses. 

There are several factors influencing my decision, and money is a big one.  I was recently at a holiday party with my college girlfriends…a much anticipated, yearly event.  Three out of the eight of us did not hand out any cards.  The others were being proactive and had been on-the-ball as to save a few bucks on postage.  I’ve just had too much going on this year to be that organized.  But then one of my friends spoke the truth, “It’s just a major budgetary item that I didn’t plan for this year, so I don’t think we will be sending out any.”  Exactly.  This year we caved and purchased a Wii for the boys.  How could we resist, “Mom,” my oldest informed me one day, “when we get a Wii, we will finally be like all the other families we know.”  Who knew I had deprived my children of such a life essential?  And it has been my parenting goal to be exactly like everyone else.

The other factor causing me to sin this holiday is our family picture.  I mean, it is stunning, and I do look fantabulous…always a key for a mom nearing 40…but it looks a lot like the one I mailed out last year.  Two of the boys are even wearing the same shirts.  I guess we didn’t change that much in one year.  We added no new babies to our herd, everyone has been out of diapers for a bit now, and my husband is still stuck in his braces…maybe when he gets those off and looks as fabulous as me, we will send out a matted  5 X 7 to everyone instead of the usual glossy, 4 X 6 size…or not.

And lastly, the reason I am turning my back on all that is good and right about this holiday tradition of envelopes, stamps, and family photos…my top ten lists are beginning to blend all together, sound a bit like the year before and the year before and the year before.

My husband is still teaching and coaching, our oldest two boys are still loving school and playing sports, I’m still writing and figuring out life, and our youngest is still breaking furniture and appliances.  We are still your normal, typical, family plodding through life.

So I think I’ll skip it this year, then next year when people receive our smiling faces they’ll think, “Wow, this one is so different from the last one we received.”  Then the revelation will dawn “Didn’t Hans have braces?  I think he got them off.  If you look really close you can see that his teeth are truly amazing.”

And that they are, Merry Christmas.