Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Best Non-fiction I Read in 2012

1 - An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis 3/5/2012 -  Excellent - Non-fiction - A short but meaningful and deep book on literary criticism. Wow, this book was deep. I started out disagreeing with him quite a bit, thinking he was a snob. But by the end, I was nodding my head furiously and making plans to purchase this book. It was out of print, but is going to be published again shortly, if not already.
I was able to download three Francis Chan books free for Kindle a few months ago. 2 - Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle - 7/5/2012 - Excellent - Inspirational;
How could a loving God send people to hell? Will people have a chance after they die to believe in Jesus and go to heaven? With a humble respect for God's Word, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle address the deepest questions you have about eternal destiny. They've asked the same questions. Like you, sometimes they just don't want to believe in hell. But as they write, "We cannot afford to be wrong on this issue." Downloaded 3 Francis Chan books free for the Kindle (limited offer, I believe) and started with this one. Very good. Highly recommended. (Summary from Chan's website.)3 - Crazy Love by Francis Chan - 7/22/2012 - Excellent - Inspirational; Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts — it's falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Wow, this was a motivating book! Read it! (Summary from Chan's website.)

4 - Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan and Danae Yankoski - 8/7/2012 - Excellent - Inspirational; Chan contends that we've ignored the Holy Spirit for far too long, and we are reaping the disastrous results. Thorough scriptural support and compelling narrative form Chan's invitation to stop and remember the One we've forgotten, the Spirit of the living God. Loved this book - very challenging!
5 - Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger 8/23/2012 - Excellent - Non-fiction; Examines the literary traditions and elements of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Wow, if you are interested in Harry Potter and how it relates to the literary world at large, try this book on for size. SO much to think about. And I will need to read it again. After I read the HP series again, of course.
6 - Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna - 12/14/2012 Excellent - Non-fiction; The history of church traditions - pagan or Biblical Very interesting. Why do we have a pastor? Take an offering? Have a church building? Dress up to go to church? Have a choir? Do you think these customs are Biblical or chosen by man? I read this little by little over a long period of time.
7 - God's Story, Your Story by Max Lucado - 3/23/2012 - Excellent - Inspirational; See how your day-to-day story intersects with God's grand epic of everlasting redemption. Fit very well with the themes of the prayer book I read twice recently (A Praying Life by Paul Miller). Hadn't read this one by Lucado before but I read many of his about ten years ago or so. 
8 - The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado 5/26/2012 - Excellent - Inspirational; A study of the Beatitudes with a focus on joy. Been too long since I read Lucado. Going to make it a regular habit!
A notable non-fiction re-read was A Praying Life by Paul Miller. I read this near the end of 2011 and immediately re-read it, finishing it at the end of January 2012. I think I'm about due for another perusal of its pages.
(I apologize for the weird highlighting. I don't have time to fix it today.)

What interesting non-fiction did you read in 2012? Comment and let me know your recommendations.

And check out my post containing my fiction recommendations for 2012. 

Best Fiction I Read in 2012

Here are the best fiction books I read in 2012. This list does not include any re-reads, only books I read for the first time this year.
1. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - 3/25/2012 Excellent - Historical Fiction; Historians track down the real Dracula. Wow, this was an interesting read! The story was told from several characters' perspectives. It was one of my first Kindle library loans and I didn't finish it in time, but I borrowed it again. Long book, but really really interesting! 

2 - Henry V (with SmartPass commentary) by William Shakespeare - 7/28/2012 Excellent - Classic, Audiobook; Henry V invades France. I have never read any of Shakespeare's history plays, until now. I didn't expect humor and romance! Loved it! Of course, the fact that Tom Hiddleston is playing Henry in an upcoming PBS presentation doesn't hurt at all. I did watch the Branagh version as well. Oh, and I listened to it on audio with a commentary interspersed throughout which made a huge difference in understanding it. 
3 - The Help by Kathryn Stockett - 9/15/2012Excellent - Fiction;  Skeeter Phelan, recent college graduate and 1961 resident of Jackson, MS, decides to interview colored maids about their experiences working for white families. Our book club selection for September - Even better than the movie. Highly recommended! 
4 - Illusion by Frank Peretti - 9/30/2012 Excellent - Suspense;  After a car wreck tragically claims the life of his wife and magic partner, Mandy, Dane Collins finds himself in a quaint coffee shop transfixed by a magician whose illusions even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. Even more mysterious is the performer herself. Nineteen-year-old Mandy has never met him, doesn’t know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he met and married some forty years earlier. They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but as Dane tries to figure out who Mandy really is, and she to understand why she is mysteriously drawn to him, she is being watched by those who not only possess all the answers but who also have the power to decide her fate. (from amazon.com) This story was so complex that I had trouble writing a summary, so 'borrowed' one from amazon. Illusion returns to the skillful storytelling that made Peretti a success. Highly recommended! 

5 - El Dorado by Baroness Orczy - 3/6/2012 Excellent - Classic; The Scarlet Pimpernel rescues the Dauphin from the Temple Prison but is captured. This is the second book that my favorite Scarlet Pimpernel movie is based on. Surprised me how much of the movie is straight from the book. Did you know there are about a dozen Scarlet Pimpernel books?

6 - The Harry Potter series (7 books) by J.K. Rowling - I had never read the Harry Potter series until this summer. James (my twelve-year-old) decided he wanted to read them and so I chose to read them with him. He read them MUCH faster than I did, but I did read all seven of them in the summer. I re-read #1 already and do plan to re-read the entire series. If you never have, I do recommend them!
Some notable books that I re-read in 2012 were: Persuasion (Austen), A Study in Scarlet (Conan Doyle), The Scarlet Pimpernel (Orczy), the Hunger Games trilogy (Collins), Drums of Autumn (Gabaldon), and The Hobbit (Tolkien).

What were the best novels you read in 2012? 
Leave me your recommendations. Check out my post on non-fiction books as well.

December Reads

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - 12/13/2012
Excellent - Children's
A hobbit named Bilbo Baggins joins 13 dwarves and a wizard to reclaim the dwarves' stolen treasure from a dragon.
Our book club selection for December. The newly released movie was our impetus for reading. I'd read The Hobbit before, but not for years. I liked Bilbo a lot more this time through.

The Very Virile Viking by Sandra Hill - 12/1/2012 
Good - Romance (Steamy)
Magnus Ericsson, a 10th century Viking, travels back in time to modern day California, where he meets Angela Abruzzi, upscale realtor and heir to a failing vineyard.
#3 in the Viking time travel series (I skipped #2 because #3 arrived first). I enjoyed it!

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna - 12/14/2012 
Excellent - Non-fiction
The history of church traditions - pagan or Biblical
Very interesting. Why do we have a pastor? Take an offering? Have a church building? Dress up to go to church? Have a choir? Do you think these customs are Biblical or chosen by man?

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich - 12/16/2012 
Good - Fiction
Stephanie tries to track down a con man who disappeared from a hospital after surgery while also working for Ranger who has been receiving threatening notes from someone in his past.
As the title may indicate, this is the 19th novel about Stephanie Plum, inept bounty hunter. I enjoyed this installment, which was funnier and more compelling than some of the more recent in the series. 

Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready - 12/22/2012
Good - Romance (Steamy)
Librarian Panna Kennedy time travels to 1706 via a portal in her library and finds herself in the midst of a border skirmish between the Scottish and the British.
Like I've said before, I'm a sucker for a time travel historical romance. And here we have one with a LIBRARIAN as a main character - even better! I do find that the heavier my main reading, the more light reading I seem to need to balance it. Since I've been plugging away at the interminable Les Miserables (and not done yet!), I have wanted some short and fluffy fiction interspersed throughout.