Tag Archives: meme

Books that have had the most impact on me

Back in December, when the current meme of Top Ten Most Influential books was going around Facebook for the first time, I made a list but never got around to sharing it. I was just tagged (this time it says Top Ten Favorite books, but since I struggle so with choosing favorites, even in multiples, I’m going forward with the initial idea), so I’m sharing now.

This is the list I jotted down in December 2013, so it naturally doesn’t include any book I’ve read since then. And if I wrote it today, it might be different, but.

  1. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  2. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  3. Traveling Mercies / Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  4. Dakota by Kathleen Norris
  5. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  8. The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
  9. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  10. The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue
  11. A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz
  12. CS Lewis’ space trilogy / The Screwtape Letters

I’m not tagging anyone because I’m not that kind of person but also because I think nearly everyone has already done this. I’d love to see your lists, though!

Autumnal dinner party

Last night we hosted 11 for dinner in our home. The menu:

I posted the recipe for the soup a week ago; the rest of the dishes were pretty standard fare for us, although I did make the coconut- and pecan-filled frosting for the (round, layered) cake from scratch (which was a first). The meat was grilled.

It was a lot of work, but I’d call it a success. Still quite tired this morning, though.

For more Weekend Cooking posts, visit Beth Fish Reads.

Faith’n’Fiction Roundtable: Broken by Travis Thrasher

For Faith’n’Fiction Saturday this week, I participated in a round table discussion with several other bloggers about: Broken: A Novel by Travis Thrasher (FaithWords, May 25, 2010), 288 pages

Brief book summary and overview

Laila’s always running, living in fear, looking over her shoulder, trusting no one. As the story unfolds, we learn what’s real and what’s in her head, as well as why she runs.

Most of my thoughts on this book are expressed in the roundtable discussion, but just one note: It wobbled on the edge of cheesy at one point, but I felt it refrained from crossing that line, thankfully.

And now a small part of the discussion, which is spread out over the blogs of all the participants, divided topically.

Introduction: Amy at My Friend Amy
Overall Feelings about the Story: Lisa at 5 Minutes for Books
The Supernatural Elements: Jennifer at Mrs. Q Book Addict
Role of Reviewers and Participants: Thomas at My Random Thoughts

The Plot and Plot Devices

Thomas: At first I had no issues with the way the book started off. Laila was a prostitute who was on the run. It began to bother me when there was no explanation on how Laila went from a model to a prostitute. It became a big issue after the author had Laila being raped at 15 and going to New Orleans and getting pregnant at 17 which led to an abortion..

At times I thought the James’ and Connor’s parts were being over done or maybe even forced. At one point I even said out loud while reading this just seems stupid when James was trying to get Kyle to give him the money so he would hand Laila over Kyle.

I did not like the abandoned church part of the story. It felt sort of out of place. I could not figure out why there was a need for Laila to experience demonic forces in an abandoned church. It just seemed outlandish that there would be a shoot out at the hotel and James, Connor, and Amos all managed to get away without injury or being caught by the police.

I did like the little boy with the back pack part of the story. Laila’s aborted child being sent to her to help her when see most needed it. The child she never knew being her protective angel.

Amy: You bring up a good point that there were lots of missing elements such as how Laila went from being a model to a prostitute. I feel like there were lots of ideas about Laila’s feelings and not much solid storyline.

And I agree with Lisa that there was almost too much … bad guys, demons, etc.

And call me terrible but I kind of wanted to roll my eyes when I realized Laila had an abortion and that was the thing haunting her most of all. It is, in my opinion, the most overused story element in Christian fiction. And the child showing up bringing healing? A ghost? A positive spirit in the midst of so many negative ones?

Hannah: Amy and Lisa, I can agree that it was veeeeeeerrrrry close to the edge of overkill.

And I, too, Amy, was close to eye-rolling or groaning (well, I may have actually groaned) when the abortion was revealed. In addition to the book toeing the line of overkill, it also came very close to the line of cliché, to the point where I feel sure I know where the story’s headed and I don’t like it. We can be terrible together.

Lisa: Just call us the Terrible Three because I too thought the abortion/little boy spirit was definitely eye roll worthy. I don’t mean in any way to minimize the devastation of post abortive trauma — nor do I think Thrasher intends such — but for it to be couched in such an obvious cliche seems to do just that. Certainly such a sensitive topic can be addressed in the course of a novel apart from feeling overworked and cliched but not so here.

Good point in regard to the holes in Laila’s backstory.

Speaking of cliches, I really liked Kyle’s character though it feels a little cliched to admit such. He is, after all, the stereotypical “good” character. Still, I thought him likable, refreshingly so in comparison to the other characters. What do you guys think?

Hannah: Lisa, I actually liked the little boy spirit aspect of that part of the story. “I don’t mean in any way to minimize the devastation of post abortive trauma — nor do I think Thrasher intends such” — Oh, certainly not, on either count! But it did feel to me like a cop out, at least to a certain extent. I think part of my issue is that the topic *wasn’t* addressed in this novel. It felt thrown in, or like a solution to a pesky plotting problem, rather than the point of the story. On that note, I’m not actually sure what the point of the story was, and this may be my biggest complaint with the book.

I agree, Lisa, that Kyle was well-drawn. We don’t know him deeply, but he somehow avoids coming across as a two-dimensional caricature.

Amy: Kyle was definitely my favorite character.

Thomas: As I thought about what everyone has said so far today, it seems to me that the book was meant to preach to the choir. This goes against what I have been thinking about the last few days. For some reason I did not feel that this book was as much a Christian book, but a suspenseful/thriller book. Even though I have not read a lot of Christian fiction, the books that I have read there seem to be more conversations about God or there is strong symbolism that you know represents God.

Obvious cliches: Alcoholic man haunted by his past, a man who abuses women, sexually active unmarried women haunted by her past sex life, and the good guy.

I wonder if how a individual perceives the abortion part of the story will depend on their personal beliefs about abortion and how it might be brought up Christian literature?

I received this book from the publisher.

Faith’n’Fiction Roundtable: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

For Faith’n’Fiction Saturday this week (although the discussion itself took place in May), I participated in a round table discussion with several other bloggers about: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (Atlantic Monthly, 2000), 313 pages

Brief book summary and overview

Reuben Land was dead for 10 minutes, 10 minutes that ended when his dad commanded him, in the name of the living God, to breathe. Reuben’s living proof there’s such a thing as miracles. From there, Enger introduces us to 1960s small town Minnesota and the rest of the Land family.

Most of my thoughts on this book are expressed in the roundtable discussion, but by way of introduction I thought I’d share a couple things.

At the beginning, Peace Like a River reminded me of Tobias Wolff’s In the Garden of the North American Martyrs — the manliness of hunting, violence, etc. (Not that Martyrs is only shallow masculinity. I’m not saying that.) It didn’t take long, though, before this book revealed itself as so much more than rural boys and guns.

I’ve consistently seen this book placed in the company of Image Journal list books. Now, having read it, I certainly see why. It’s a great book, I highly recommend it.

A quick quote:

“People fear miracles because they fear being changed — though ignoring them will change you also.”

Peace Like a River, page 3

And now a small part of the discussion, which is spread out over the blogs of all the participants, divided topically.

General impressions

Amy: I have to admit there were times I found the narrative a bit slow for my taste. But I really enjoyed the characters in this book and especially the relationship between Reuben and Swede. What were your overall impressions and feelings of the book?

Jen: I thought it was OK, but it certainly didn’t grab me, and took me about three times longer to read that most books of a comparable length do these days.

Hannah: I also found it a bit slow-going, but I don’t always mind that. Amy, I agree: Great characters and really fun relationships to observe.

Pete: Enger is exactly my kind of writer: slow, deceptively simply, and poetic. He reminds me a lot of Flannery O’Conner or Harper Lee. I didn’t want the book to end. I think I drew out reading it for a couple of months to cherish and appreciate it. Books like this only number a few in a decade and I’m a better writer for having read it. Words like “errant beeves” and “clandestine jellies” are now filed away in my catalog of hilarious and awesome word pairings and Swede, Rueben, and Sonny Sundown will stay with me forever.

Caite: And I for one was not disappointed. I must say, I totally loved this book, which may be a minority opinion among our little group. I will agree with one of those quote bit of praise, this one from Pub. Weekly, that it is “one that sneaks up on you like a whisper.” Pete, I think you have nailed it on the head. Very early in the book, I though, “wow, this so reminds me of Flannery O’Connor.” It is, like her stories, about a world filled with grace and miracles, if only we would see them. Loved it.

Visit the other participants in this month’s roundtable

My Friend Amy: Introduction
Devourer of Books: Expectations
A Lovely Shore Breeze: Davy Part 1
The Fiddler’s Gun: Davy Part 2
Melanie’s Musings: Other Characters

Book club books (Faith ‘n’ Fiction Saturday)

Today’s topic for Faith ‘n’ Fiction Saturday — a day set aside each week to examine the intersection of faith and fiction — is book club picks for a Christian (fiction) book club:

Finding good books for book club can be really difficult. Generally, you want a book that raises questions so that you have something to discuss. Christian fiction often provides discussion questions (even in romance novels!) but I’m not always sure the books themselves have that much to discuss. Today I thought it would be fun if we compiled a list of books that would make good book club books for Christian book clubs. Since this is faith and FICTION Saturday, I’m asking you to keep your answers to works of fiction. The books, however, do not need to be published by a Christian publishing house, but they should have some elements that would make them appealing to Christian book groups to discuss.

I’ve never been in such a book club (actually, I’ve never been a member of any book club), but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to be.

Using the filter of when-I read-this-I-really-wanted-to-talk-about-it-with-someone-like-minded, I’d recommend:

Silence by Shusaku Endo definitely fits the bill (as My Friend Amy suggested).

Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler

Ironweed by William Kennedy

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

Others that broach good topics for discussion:

• Francine Rivers’ The Scarlet Thread, The Last Sin Eater

• Julie Lessman’s Daughters of Boston series (I had a great discussion with a friend about some of the characters in these books)

Robert Morgan’s The Truest Pleasure

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

• Most any of Penelope Stokes’ books (Well, I wouldn’t recommend her historical fiction for this purpose, but other than that, yes.) — The Amber Photograph may be my favorite

Most of these books are on the Image Journal Top 100 list. It’s comprised of creative writing published in the 20th century that “manifest(s) a genuine engagement with the Judeo-Christian heritage of faith.”

Booking Through: Flaps

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question, suggested by A Prairie Progressive, is:

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

My answer: No. I don’t read the inside flaps before reading the book, and I don’t understand why I’d read them *while* reading the book. I don’t read most of the back cover, either — for the same reason. I don’t want to know too much about a story before I discover those things myself, from the text itself. Cover copy has a bad habit of revealing too much of the story, the plot, for my taste. Now, I do occasionally check jacket copy when I’m writing a review and I want to verify a pertinent fact. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t, but checking there is easier than re-reading whole chapters of the book, which is basically the only other option at that point.

End of 2009 meme

Saw this at The Boston Bibliophile’s and then traced it back (via Care’s Online Book Club and Fizzy Thoughts) to the originator, Savidge Reads. I had been wanting to do some kind of a year-end wrap-up, even though I’m so tardy, and when I saw this meme, I thought it would fit the bill.

How many books read in 2009?

I read 89 books in 2009, up from 75 in 2008, the only two years I’ve successfully counted. Short of my goal of 100, but I’m still pretty happy with the number.

How many fiction and nonfiction?

14 nonfiction, 75 fiction (16% and 84%, respectively)

Male/Female author ratio?

I read 31 books by male authors and 58 by female authors (That’s 35% and 65%.)

Favorite book of 2009?

Um, I posted about this several weeks ago — my best 2009 reads

Least favorite?

Philip Kerr’s A Quiet Flame

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?

Shadow Government by Grant R. Jeffrey and Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo — Looks like I never got around to posting about Blonde Roots, but it’s just as well. Thinking about it (and Shadow Government) just makes me angry, anyway. I had such negative responses to Shadow Government. Wow.

Oldest book read?

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome (1889)


The Sweet By and By by Sara Evans with Rachel Hauck (January 2010) (review soon!)

Longest and shortest book titles?

Longest: Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide: Stories, Patterns, Advice, Opinions, Questions, Answers, Jokes, and Pictures by Kay Gardiner and Ann Meador Shayne

Shortest: Skid by Rene Gutteridge

Longest and shortest books?

I really don’t feel like going back and checking the page numbers of all the books I read. I didn’t read any 1,000-page tomes, and I don’t think any of the books I read were less than 100 pages. But I’m not going back to check.

How many books from the library?


Any translated books?

Yes, five.

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?

I read 4 books by Rene Gutteridge. I read 3 books each by a couple authors, and two books each by several others.

Any re-reads?

Nope, not this year.

Favorite character of the year?

This is a really hard question. Also: I hate picking favorites.

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading?

England, USA, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Israel, Romania, Poland, Pakistan, France, Sri Lanka, Greece, Scotland, Mexico, China. I know this is an incomplete list, but it’s still a list.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?

There are too many answers to this question! I should answer it, but I also want to get this post up, some time this month …

Which author was new to you in 2009 that you now want to read the entire works of?


For sure: Jennie Nash, River Jordan, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (except they need to be translated first!), Lisa Lutz, Athol Dickson, T.L. Hines, Carolyn Wall

Maybe: Charlene Ann Baumbich, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Beth Pattillo

Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read?

The Help. Others too, but especially this one. Oh, and more from the Image Journal Top 100 list. I aimed for 13 and got 3. :p

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?

Well, The Shadow of the Wind was first recommended to me (a recommendation I fully intended to follow through on) years before I actually read it. Does that count?

Booking thoughts: Mark the Spot

This week’s Booking Through Thursday question, suggested by Tammy, (I haven’t participated in ages, but here I am again) is:

What items have you ever used as a bookmark? What is the most unusual item you’ve ever used or seen used?

I have a lot of bookmarks, and I love using them. I have several meaningful handmade ones, which are fun to use. Most of the time, though, I’m fond of business cards. No, not any business cards, but glossy, coated, two-sided artful business cards. I like the business card size better than most bookmark sizes. On a rare occasion, I’ll just grab whatever’s handy — be it a receipt, or a card, maybe a length of yarn, or a hair band.

I do go through phases, though. I’ll use one bookmark for 6 months or so, and then I’ll move on to another.

What do you use to mark your spot?