Hello, rabbits. Here’s a short list of a few books I read and liked this year, very few of which were published in 2012. They’re not in any particular order, and a few may have actually been read at the end of 2011. Here goes.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, by Allison Hoover Bartlett
I stumbled on this one at Goodwill and picked it up because I had the creepy feeling the title was describing me. I had, after all, just spent thirty minutes with my head cocked to the right so I could read every single spine of a hundred yards of used books. I’m a sucker for a good detective story—if it’s based on actual events, then even better. One of my hobbies on the road is visiting used book stores, so learning about not only the world of rare book collecting but the world of rare book thievery was fascinating.
I’ve read every book by Larson—first Devil in the White City, then Thunderstruck, then In the Garden of Beasts. He’s a great writer, and has carved a niche by unearthing relatively obscure bits of history and humanizing them as deftly as he researches them. His books are usually about two things: Devil in the White City isn’t just about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, it’s also about a serial killer who was in the middle of it; Thunderstruck isn’t just about a famous English murder, it’s about the invention of the radio; and Isaac’s Storm isn’t just about the tragic Galveston flood of 1900, it’s about the beginnings of meteorology and the anatomy of hurricanes. Anyone who’s interested in American history and is awed by the power of storms will love this book.
The Terrible Speed of Mercy, by Jonathan Rogers
It is no secret that Flannery O’Connor is one of the great American writers. I have read and appreciated many of her stories without going bonkers over them. I find that O’Connor only appeals to me when I’m in a certain mood, and I’m seldom in that mood. But Jonathan’s book changed that for me. I found that after reading The Terrible Speed of Mercy her stories feel deeper, more human, less eccentric—no longer do they feel like they’re written by the fierce, intellectual lioness of Georgia who doesn’t much care what I think, but by a weak, lovely and lonely girl who sees her writing as a way to wake the world to the glory of God.
Sleuthing C.S. Lewis, by Kathryn Lindskoog
This isn’t the greatest book ever, but it’s one of the most interesting. Lindskoog died a few years ago, having gone perhaps a little crazy trying to get the world to believe her theories on corruption in the C.S. Lewis estate. I finished the book feeling like Lindskoog was truly out of touch with reality on some points and yet raised some excellent questions about others. If even 10% of what she proposes is true, then I’d love some straight answers from the C.S. Lewis camp. It would make for an amazing documentary film.
The Sign of Jonas, by Thomas Merton
Merton lived and wrote at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, which is where I spent the weekend in 2002 that led me to a song called “The Silence of God.” The Seven Storey Mountain is probably his most famous work, and I’m sad to say I’ve never read it or anything else by him until now. I found a first edition of Jonas at a bookstore on the road (I forget where) and started it one afternoon when I was feeling particularly sinful. It was just what I needed: the journal entries of a man in love with the mystery of God, who is discontent with his own sin and yet gives thanks for his suffering as the Lord’s loving discipline. Giving thanks for my own suffering is a virtue I hope to practice in the coming year. There’s so much to learn from Merton, and I’m excited that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold
Sometimes you don’t feel like reading a book written by a Trappist monk. Sometimes you read a book just for fun. If a tale about a Houdini-esque magician on the run from FBI agents who think he killed the president isn’t fun, I don’t know what is. I think this is Gold’s first book, and I think they’re making it into a film. I’m not the kind of guy who thinks every great book would make a great movie (Narnia is a case in point), but I kept thinking while I read this that it would make for a great ride in the theater.
Surprised by Hope, by N.T. Wright
A few of the songs on Light for the Lost Boy were influenced by this book—“Day by Day” is probably the most obvious, and I had the honor of singing it for NTW himself at a Rabbit Room event earlier this year. Chapter after chapter I found myself thinking, “I hope this is true,” and because Wright uses so much scripture I then found myself thinking, “It is true.” I’ve read a few theologians’ critiques of this book, but even the harshest admit that there’s much to be learned from it.
The Old House of Fear, by Russell Kirk
Every October I get out my collection of spooky stories, and Russell Kirk is at the top of the list (thanks to Jason Gray). I’ve read most of Ancestral Shadows, his collection of ghostly tales, but this was the first time I read Old House of Fear. If you’re ever in the mood for foggy moors, old castles, dashing heroes, ancient mysteries, and shipwrecks, then this is the book for you. And if you haven’t read Ancestral Shadows, it’s great. Search for Jason Gray’s excellent review of it.
Ghostopolis and Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel
Cartoonist Jonny Jimison was at Hutchmoot this year, and we talked a bit about Doug TenNapel. I had heard a lot about him (and knew of his creation, “Earthworm Jim”) but hadn’t read any of his graphic novels yet. Then at a local bookstore I was arrested by the cover of a book called Cardboard. I thumbed through it and loved what I saw: big, bold lines, cartoony but artful and bursting with energy—at times the panels felt like the best Bill Watterson drawings. I was sold before I ever realized it was a Doug TenNapel book. And it’s so good! I pushed it on my kids immediately. Then I went on a TenNapel binge and read Ghostopolis, Bad Island, and Monster Zoo. I grew up reading comics and graphic novels, but I’ve never read stories quite like his. He’s unabashed about being a Christian, and yet is well-respected in the comic world. That’s saying something. (His newer books are kid-appropriate, but Creature Tech, for the record, isn’t. I’m working my way through the back catalogue.)
There’s my short, off-the-top-of-my-head list. If I think of more I’ll tack them on. What about you guys?
Andrew Peterson is a singer-songwriter and author. Andrew has released more than ten records over the past twenty years, earning him a reputation for songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. As an author, Andrew’s books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga, released in collectible hardcover editions through Random House in 2020, and his creative memoir, Adorning the Dark, released in 2019 through B&H Publishing.
The first book that comes to mind from 2012 was John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars.” It’s a gorgeous love story about two high-schoolers with terminal cancer. It’s on most “Best Of” lists in 2012 and with good reason. I highly recommend it.
I posted my top ten books of 2012 (most of which were not released in 2012) here with my other top tens: http://chrisyokel.tumblr.com/post/39304209587/top-tens-of-2012
My to-read list didn’t need to be any longer but thank you for helping it grow by leaps and bounds!
My read list is fairly short this year. Less than half of last year. But I read some good stuff. Listed in the order read last year:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
11/22/63 by Stephen King
Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle
It by Stephen King
The Wind Through the Keyhole (Dark Tower 4.5) by Stephen King
Carrie by Stephen King
The Shining by Stephen King
Desperation by Stephen King
The Regulators by Stephen King
Throttle by Stephen King and Joe Hill
In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill
The Passage by Justin Cronin
As you can see I was on quite the Stephen King kick (same as 2011). I hope to broaden my selections in 2013. Although the first book I’ve started in 2013 is Heart-Shaped Box (which already has me dreaming about vengeful ghosts chasing me in their pick-up trucks) by King’s son Joe Hill.
Okay, I’m definitely going to have to check some of these out – ‘The Man Who Loved Books Too Much’ in particular sounds fascinating!
I’m so glad you got to experience Doug Tennapel’s storytelling! The rule of Tennapel books goes like this:
If the cover says ‘Scholastic Graphix’ it’s rated ‘G.’
If it’s published by Image or Top Shelf it ranges from ‘PG’ to ‘R’.
I think I remember an interview in which he said if he ever does another highly-adult book he’ll probably write under a pseudonym to avoid parents thinking it’s appropriate for kids.
Doug TenNapel is my hero, such a great artist and storyteller! Cardboard is awesome, but I think Iron West is still my favorite. Ratfist is pretty amazing too… and so is Tommysaurus Rex. Ah just so many good books!!
Thanks for the book recommendations Andrew. I’m definitely going to read Surprised by Hope as you seem to be in a long line of people I respect that have told me how helpful the book was. Here’s my list for 2012.
Sorry. Was a little quick on the trigger. Here is the link to my list for 2012. http://oakdalepastor.blogspot.com/2013/01/favorite-books-i-read-in-2012.html
I read Isacc’s Storm and Surprised by Hope this year too, but I only did a top 3 and they didn’t make the cut. The ones that did weren’t necessarily that new: “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, “Columbus and the Search for Jerusalem” by Carol Delaney and “What Good is God?” by Philip Yancey. All top-notch. Extended reviews at: http://tkreutzkamp.blogspot.ca/2012/12/best-of-2012.html
Seconding “The Fault in Our Stars”, one of my top favorite reads of this year, and sure to be a re-read every year following. These are characters you’ll wish you had as friends, even in their pain.
I’m the world’s biggest mystery fan (particularly British, particularly Sayers and Chesterton), so I’ll have to check out The Man Who Loved Books Too Much.
Favorites of 2012?
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy – by the wonderful Eric Metaxas – not only tells the amazing story of German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but it also paints in vivid detail Hitler’s sneaky alliance with “the church” and what the real Church was doing behind the scenes.
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery – also by Metaxas – I didn’t know very much about Wilberforce until I read this book, but now I think he’s one of the greatest influences on Western civilization in the last four hundred years. And a Christian.
The Lord of the Rings – yeah, yeah, I’ve read it before, but this is the first time I’ve really read it with the spiritual eyes open. Tremendous book.
Orthodoxy – by Chesterton – first time reading this – also tremendous.
Feet of Clay – by Terry Pratchett – yes, oddly enough. I was just introduced to Pratchett, but I’ve been really impressed by his intense creativity, characterization, prodigious sense of humor, and thoughts on morality. Admittedly, he’s an atheist (and thus I kind of hesitate to recommend), so some of the humor is crude, and the morality is misplaced, but he writes very thought-provoking books. Also, he likes Chesterton, which is cool.
I could go on. Hey…I really ought to blog about this… ;D
Surprised by Hope and Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl were huge for me, probably my two favorite reads of the year. (thanks Hutchmoot homework!) I can’t say enough how much the Wright book affected me and felt like a comforting friend during a grieving time last summer. So good. Also, finally read The Road (wah!) and greatly enjoyed Michael Gungor’s The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse and some of the interviews in John Clore’s The Music Industry Doesn’t Have to Kill You.
And I was trying to remember why Doug TenNapel sounded so familiar. Then I googled him and saw he did cover art for Five Iron Frenzy. You might’ve been a 90s Christian high school kid if….. 🙂
@Jen: Five Iron Frenzy! I wasn’t a 90s Christian high school kid but my dad was in his twenties and a new Christian then so I basically grew up on FIF.
I have an awful memory but I’ll try to think of at least a few of the books I read last year…
I think I started 2012 reading The Dragon’s Tooth, which of course was brilliant, and then once The Drowned Vault came out I gobbled that up, too. I also re-read Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl and the 100 Cupboards books–all amazing. After the Rabbit Room introduced me to N. D. Wilson, he swiftly took a spot in my favorite authors list.
I re-read The Fiddler’s Gun and Fiddler’s Green, too. As amazing as ever. I ended up giving my copies to a friend in the summer, though, and the replacement copies I bought I also gave away to another friend, so I have to save up again… But they are too good not to share.
I read Behold the Lamb of God for Advent and, of course, the result was looking at Jesus’ story in a new and glorious way. Again. Rabbit Room books and albums tend to do that.
By Divine Design by Michael Pearl was another really good read, as well as Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge (also re-read The Bird in the Tree, The Herb of Grace, and The Heart of the Family by her), Castaways of the Flying Dutchman by Brian Jacques, Watership Down by Richard Adams (my dad made me read it… and I ended up actually liking it), and… there my memory fails me. Basically I read a lot of good books last year.
Oh, and I read Mere Christianity for the first time last summer. Will need to read it again.
And I started The Molehill in December but haven’t finished it yet so I don’t know if that counts as a 2012 book or a 2013 book. At any rate, I can’t get enough of it. Favorite part so far is the WNI Legolas quote.
What a great list – thanks for sharing.
My top 10 (well, 12):
This year, as I was looking at some of Mary DeMuth’s “10 Books” series, e.g http://www.marydemuth.com/2012/12/10-books-to-heal-you/ and http://www.marydemuth.com/2012/12/10-real-stories-that-will-change-your-life/
But it was the reference on her 10 amazing spiritual growth books
that lead me to the book that was my favorite of 2012 “My Calvary Road” by Roy Hession.
Mary DeMuth listed “Calvary Road” which is a book about repentance, confession, and revival. I saw that “My Calvary Road” was autobiographical and written later. Roy Hession describes his mistakes along the way, and the way that he learned from God. God revealed grace to him after the “Calvary Road” and he wrote other books that talked about how grace integrates with repentance and confession and revival. But the wonder of “My Calvary Road” is a book written by an older evangelist who made mistakes, but didn’t run and hide, or try to cover up his mistakes. In some ways it is a description of one who was willing to be parented by God. It was an illustration of one of the ways that I need to come as a little child to Him (because I have made a lot of mistakes too, and have led some people off in the wrong direction within the church …)
Thanks to all for sharing good reads… wintertime in particular is not to be spent without a book, so I’m always scouting for another and will check out many of your suggestions. Here are some of our family’s recommendations from this year:
The Incorrigibles series by Maryrose Wood have been wonderful to read aloud and made our evenings sparkle.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey offered me wintry company.
The Prodigal God and The Reason for God by Tim Keller have given my heart places to rest and grow.
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally-Lloyd Jones has made our hearts sing!
Little Bee by Chris Cleave showed my heart others to embrace.
Fidelity by Wendell Berry sat me down in an armchair to visit with “The Membership” and cherish the sense of home that follows.
And, finally, we were sustained with soup and bread inspiration from The King Arthur Whole Grain Baking and Zuppe : soups from the kitchen of the American Academy in Rome cookbooks.
_The Meaning of Marriage_ by Timothy Keller
_Desiring God_ by John Piper (I put this one off for far too long. Regrettably so. Fantastically fundamental, yet challenging.)
_The Best Short Stories of Fyodor Dostoevsky_
On the shelf, but yet to read: _Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy_ by Eric Mataxas – Glead to hear your thoughts on it, Eowyn!
Most anticipated of 2013: Final intallment of the Wingfeather Saga. I’m dying to know what becomes of the Jewels of Anniera.
Also, I can’t wait to get my hands on The Terrible Speed of Mercy. That Jonathan Rogers is a particular favorite.
Thanks for all the recommendations. I have so little time to read that I want to choose my books carefully. Your input – all of you – is helpful.
I am such a fan of Mr. Peterson that whenever he mentions something that influenced his work I want to check it out. For example, I remember buying and reading Yancey’s book “Reaching for the Invisible God” after reading it inspired songs on the Resurrection Letters #2 Album. For that reason I’m excited to read “Surprised by Hope”. Would love to know of any others people are aware of.
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