When my daughter-in-law had a baby shower, I did not send a blanket or a onesie or diapers. I sent books. Specifically, I sent The Big Picture Story Bible, because it's never too early to lead little ones to God, and I sent Ferdinand the Bull, because some children's books simply demand continuous reading. Over and over.
To have read a good book once is to have only breakfasted. Charlotte Mason.
2014 was a year of reading books again.
This spring, one of our children was having a gospel crisis. Some of it was intellectual. I found it helpful to re-read some books by gospel-saturated intellectuals. What is Reformed Theology by RC Sproul, Creation Regained by Albert Wolters, and Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey offered fantastic insight, much of which I saw more clearly the second time around.
Over the summer, a debate (and an unfortunate blog post) kicked up over courtship. Hmmm. I'd read some really good books in the past. Could it be that I had missed something? So I read them again. Did I miss something? In a word--no. In many words...I may or may not be working on a future post. But in one dispassionate, purely logical comment, let me say just this: If you want a bona fide perspective on courtship, rather than a faulty appeal to authority, you should only be reading and heeding parents of marriageable-age children. Courtship, after all, is merely a sub-category of parenting.
Douglas Wilson's Her Hand In Marriage reaffirmed our commitment and responsibility to our children. And Voddie Baucham's What He Must Be If He Wants to Marry My Daughter offers a sound hermeneutic for marriage and manhood, as well as fatherhood. Any courtship critic, if he wants to be taken seriously, is going to have to contend with Baucham's deeply biblical assertions.
But my re-reading was not limited to family and doctrine. There's some glorious, glorious fiction out there that deserves some attention. I admit my tastes are a bit outside the mainstream. I barely made it to the end of Harry Potter and didn't even care enough to pick up the second book. Hunger Games, besides just being dark and depressing, is a veritable hero famine.
Hungering for something noble instead? Let me highly HIGHLY recommend The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. This four-book series (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, Monster in the Hollows, The Warden and the Wolf King) is an absolute gem which, I'm betting, both Jack and JRR would read. And read again. Don't be fooled by the fact that it was written for middle-schoolers. Don't be fooled by the zany humor. This, dear reader, is pure, literary brilliance. Good guys who are really good. Bad guys who are really bad. Story lines intertwined over layers of scriptural insights. We've read it twice out loud. And twice it has stopped me in my tracks as I've had to collect myself before I could continue reading. If you don't see yourself somewhere here, if you don't see The Maker, you are not paying attention. Read it. Buy it. And read it again.
Fear not; I read some new stuff, too. Boy in the Striped Pajamas took my breath away. And John Buchan, author of Thirty-Nine Steps and Huntingtower, is my new favorite spy novelist.
But my magnum opus this year, from a reader's point of view, was From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, a tome edited by JI Packer and others on definite atonement. Yeah. Definite. As in Jesus came and died for a specific number of people, his elect. I was already convinced of the "L" in TULIP, but this cinched it for me. A collection of essays by various theologians, From Heaven proves definite atonement from both a scriptural and a theological point of view, as well as demonstrating how it was the orthodox teaching on atonement until recent history. The final set of essays discusses definite atonement from a pastoral point of view; it's the 'what this means for me' part of the book. It took me all summer to read, and some of it I had to slog through. But most of it was very readable. Mostly, it confirmed that God is a Big God with a Big Love for a definite people.
It was a good year in books. :)
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers
Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Dragon's Tooth by ND Wilson
Holidays in Heck by PJ O'Rourke
What to Expect When No One's Expecting by Jonathan Last
Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey
Cyrano d'Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Beyond Courage--Untold Stories of the Jewish Resistance by Doreen Rappaport
Heiress of Wisterwood by Sarah Ladd
The Chase by Clive Cussler
The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung
Cold War by James Warren
Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan
To Live is Christ by Matt Chandler
Huntingtower by John Buchan
God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew
Second American Revolution by John Whitehead
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
And Now, Miguel by Joseph Krumgold
The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper
Lord Peter by Dorothy Sayers
The Big House by Carolyn Coman
Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
Assumptions that Affect Our Lives by Christian Overman
Creation Regained by Albert Wolters
Just David by Eleanor Portis
A Shelter in the Storm by Paul David Tripp
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis
What is Reformed Theology by RC Sproul
Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
The Silver Chair by CS Lewis
Remember Me by Penelope Wilcock
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
Tree of Life by Graeme Goldsworthy
Scots Worthies by John Howie
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola
How Do I Love Thee by Nancy Moser
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
From Heaven He Came and Sought Her edited by JI Packer, et al
Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler
The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton
Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung
Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler
Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers
Expositional Preaching by David Helm
True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney
Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson
Her Hand in Marriage by Douglas Wilson
The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
What He Must Be if He Wants to Marry My Daughter by Voddie Bauchum
Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
Truth Matters by Andreas Kostenberger, et al
Mistress Masham's Repose by TH White
The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson
Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright