Sunday, June 29, 2008

Big Book Review, Vol. 1

Well, the year is now half over so I thought I'd talk about some of the books I've read in the first half. First off, I'll say that I don't read nearly as many books as I'd like because we have several magazine subscriptions that seem to always need attention. Usually, I'm reading a book as well as plowing through magazines as they come in.

We currently subscribe to:
So, I suppose you can see why I don't get to read books as often as I like. With a few exceptions, I read most of them cover to cover. And most of them are so informative for me for where I am in life. I've been especially enamored with Mother Earth News lately, as every single article seems to be about the very things we are interested in. This month, for instance, included articles about cheese making, biodiesel, homegrown herbal remedies, fruit trees, wind power, earthworms, plus dozens of useful tips.

Anyway, regardless, I have been able to squeeze in some good books.

The Omnivore's Dilemna, by Michael Pollan

I truly think that every American should read this book. So many of us never really think about our food, where it comes from, and the impact of that. If more of us knew the things that are laid out in this book, small farmers wouldn't be going out of business in droves while food mega-corporations get richer. The food we eat is about so much more than just satisfying a hunger. It's about health, nutrition, economy, politics, environment, pollution, quality of life, government, toxicity, addiction, simplicity, and relationships. And what we eat really does make a difference. For all of that. I loved the book.

Pagan Christianity, by Frank Viola and George Barna

Honestly, you need a measure of bravery to read this one. It will really blow your comfy, little religious world apart. It is a book that lays bare all of our "Christian" traditions and investigates how we got them. And I'm not just talking about Christmas and Easter being adapted from pagan holidays. I'm talking about pastors, sermons, dressing up for church, Sunday school, tithing, the church building, the Lord's supper, etc. None of it, in the modern form, as ANY Biblical basis at all. Surprising? You can read the first chapter online and I highly recommend you do. You'll either love it or hate it. Don loved it so much, he bought 10 copies to pass out. It has confirmed many of our own suspicions, amazed us with so much we didn't know, and challenged us to seek out where God wants us.

The New Starting Right with Bees, by Kim Flottum and Kathy Summers

A very step-by-step book about beekeeping. I'm still not sure if my hive with make it, as I've developed laying workers, but it certainly isn't this book's fault! Packed full of information, pictures, and instruction, it was very useful in getting set up and figuring out what to do.

Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

Excellent book. I was fascinated in the research into how cultural literacy, or a background knowledge of basic cultural information, affects our ability to learn and understand. The book contains a huge list of dates, names, words, and phrases that an American needs to know to be culturally literate. The book was recommended by Sonlight curriculum, and I must say that as I looked at the list, I felt confident that many of those items will be learned through our schooling.

The Ascent of Rum Doodle, by W.E. Bowman

This book was one I picked up at the resale shop for 10 cents. I didn't expect much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was really enjoyable and a quick read. I found myself laughing out loud at times and as I tried to read a particularly funny passage to Don, I was laughing so hard I could barely speak. The cast of characters is priceless. The humor is often subtle, but so right up my alley.

Tepper Isn't Going Out, by Calvin Trillin

Another 10 cent find, I really enjoyed this one as well. Also very humorous and another quick read, it was a pleasant break. Set in New York, which is a city I've always loved, I enjoyed the urban tales. The characters developed well. It wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, but it was one that makes you smile.

The Camel Club, by David Baldacci

I have 3 words: "I'm dumber now."
I've always loved a good suspenseful mystery. Give me danger, intrigue, a few surprising twists and I'm hooked. However, I may be growing out of that because I found this oscillating between completely obvious and so unrealistic. I want those hours back. It's not that I don't like fiction. I do. Just don't waste my time with the same old stuff...the regular joe, the red-hot spunky girl, and what really gets me, the insane responses to danger and job peril. I've never met a person who reacts to things the way these people do. It isn't natural. And then, when you want to introduce something to the story so that you can use it later, don't be so obvious. Perhaps I'm hyper-critical because I have such precious little time to read anymore that I want it to be worth it. Regardless, I found this to definitely not fit that description.

In addition to the grownup books, we also conquered quite a few for school:
  • Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski (Loved it. Touched on Ranching vs. Free Grazing, something I never knew of until I was an adult watching Open Range.)
  • The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes (Sweet story about fitting in and doing the right thing.)
  • Light at Tern Rock, by Julia L. Sauer (Short story about promises and contentment.)
  • Minstrel in the Tower, by Gloria Skurzinski (A page-turner. The kids wouldn't let me stop reading!)
  • Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, by Richard Platt (So informative about medieval times while distracting you with a interesting story line. The kids really enjoyed it.)
  • Tales of Robin Hood, by Tony Allan (A great version of events about a familiar character.)
  • Twenty and Ten, by Claire Huchet Bishop (A good introduction to World War II with a small glimpse at the atrocities.)
  • The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite De Angeli (Good one about making the most of life instead of wallowing in self pity.)
  • Mary on Horseback, by Rosemary Wells (About nurses in the Appalachian Mountains serving the poorest of the poor.)
  • The Cricket in Times Square, by George Seldon (About unlikely friendships. We shed a few tears at the end.)
  • Dolphin Adventure, by Wayne Grover (An amazing true story. One of Caleb's favorites.

And lastly, one that I read to the kids that wasn't a part of school was Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. Oh, I love this book. Of course, it is a real tear-jerker, which makes it quite a challenge to read out-loud. I love particularly the focus on answered prayers. And it is a great model of determination and hard work.

That's it! That's all she read.


ourcrazyfarm said...

Hi Gina!

I love your blog! We are living a very similar lifestyle!

You have inspired me to start my own blog

I would love to hear more on your position of home-church. It seems God is working in so many peoples lives to forgo the traditional church.

Keep up the good work! You are inspiring many!- Terri

Jilliefl1 said...

The sequel to “Pagan Christianity?” is out now. It’s called “Reimagining Church”. It picks up where “Pagan Christianity” left off and continues the conversation. (“Pagan Christianity” was never meant to be a stand alone book; it’s part one of the conversation.) “Reimagining Church” is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at
It’s also available on Frank is also blogging now at