Because life is a series of edits

Booklist 2011

In Books, Writers on December 28, 2011 at 12:07 am

It was a pretty personally disappointing year of reading, both in terms of quantity (didn’t even average two/month) and quality (the least amount of theology and classics reading I've done in the past five years). In conducting the autopsy here, I realize that I simply tried to read too many books at once; as a result, I lost interest in several and found it hard to pick back up when and where I left off with a few.

New year, new rule: no more than three books (preferably of different genres) at a time.

Those qualifiers out of the way, it’s with great shame that I post my annual booklist, complete with notes and rankings (10 is highest) for each. In light of the thin offerings, perhaps a look through my previous years' lists (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006) will aid in your search for a good book. Hope to do better in 2012 (please add your recs below).

January – June (0)

  • Started Atlas Shrugged and about a dozen other books during this six-month period, but we moved/started a new life in Oklahoma, which is my only semi-legitimate excuse.

July (3)

  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – Absolutely dumbfounded by the fiscal prophecy of the first third of the book; the 1,000 pages dragged in the middle but still good. (7)
  • The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson – A primer for anyone involved in classical Christian education; could do without some of the attitude, but okay. (7)
  • The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo – Interesting read about Jobs and his role as innovator (not inventor) at Apple; some helpful strategy observations. (6)

August (4)

  • Repairing the Ruins edited by Douglas Wilson – Another of Wilson’s contributions, this one reads a little more moderately in terms of tone; good content. (8)
  • Histories (volumes 1 & 2) by Herodotus – First two books I read on the iPad. Skimmed much of it, but parts made it a fascinating look into the ancient world. (6)
  • Teacher by Mark Edmundson – Took 50 pages to get into memoir of Edmundson’s favorite teacher, but worth sticking it out; never get enough of these. (6)

September (2)

  • The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer – Skimmed through this once before, but had to read about/revisit more carefully the education I never received. (8)
  • The Great Expectations School by Dan Brown – File under “Everything you’ve heard about urban public schools is true.” Sad take from a first-year teacher. (8)

October (3)

  • The Secret of Terror Castle (The Three Investigators #1) by Robert Arthur – Revisited (with my second daughter) my youth w/ Alfred Hitchcock-involved series; Investigators better than the Hardys. (7)
  • Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker – Nostalgic walk through 1970’s baseball cards with plenty of narcissism along the way; good idea, but could have been more. (4)
  • Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki – Simple (but not simplistic) book that gets so much right about how people are motivated and enchanted; highlight of the fall. (9)

November (2)

  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – One of the saddest books I’ve read in terms of leadership and legacy. Jobs was a hero, but not for nearly as much as I thought. (8)
  • Wisdom and Eloquence by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans – Lucid expression of classical Christian education from two long-time practitioners; well-written pedagogical gold. (9) 

December (2)

  • Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson – Read it too disjointedly, but this “conversation in spiritual theology” also seemed to wander a fair amount; still, some insights/moments. (7)
  • Pastor by Eugene Peterson – Listened to this one and loved it. Peterson is both accurate and articulate in his description of his craft; best of the year for me. (10)
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  1. Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure by Jeff/Michael Shaara – best Civil War fiction ever
    Planet Narnia by Michael Ward (if you’re short on time, The Narnia Code is a little shorter; I haven’t read it, so I don’t know what was taken out) – compelling explanation about a hidden meaning in the Chronicles of Narnia. And it’s a lot better than your average “I found a hidden meaning!” book. Really.

  2. Read Wilson’s Case for Clasical Education this year, too, and yes…I could do without the attitude. In fact, I read it shortly before my interview at Regents and it frightened me a little. Since then, I read Wisdom and Eloquence and I agree that it is absolute pedagogical gold. Wonderful, wonderful book.
    My Christmas bounty includes Beauty for Truth’s Sake: The Re-Enchantment of Education by Stratford Caldecott, Tending the Heart of Virtue by Vigen Gourian, and After the Harkness Gift (a history of Phillips Exeter Academy since we use Harkness at Regents and I have never been more excited about a pedagogical method in my life). Looking forward to all three.
    I also read a little group of lectures called Craftsmanship in Teaching by William Chandler Bagley that I got free for my kindle. It was published in 1921, I think. One of the lectures dealt in evolutionary themes and wasn’t to my taste but the others were pretty exciting. In fact, the whole notion of teaching as craft rather than profession was, well, downright classical. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  3. Wisdom & Eloquence is a great book and a nice balance to the “ages and stages” of WTM. I really like Christopher Perrin’s little booklet (available as a free download here) to bring ideas from the two together.

  4. Have you ever read Buechner? He writes fantastic fiction, great memoir, and even some theology. His prose reads a bit like poetry, which I always love. Son of Laugther is awesome, Godric is excellent, and I’ve read two parts of his autobiography, both of which are great. Highly recommend him.

  5. Wisdom & Eloquence is a great book, I read it couple times already

  6. Glad you liked Wisdom & Eloquence, it’s Michael’s favorite general book on classical ed and he’s pushed it on a lot of people over the years.
    I really want to read The Pastor in 2012. :)

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