Monday, December 31, 2007

My 2007 Book List

Here's my 2007 Book List -- a total of 50 books and one chapter of a compilation. I read little as the end of the year came about -- so involved with teaching the kids and with my writing classes that I haven't had much time, and what time I do have, I want to veg out with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. This year was definitely the year of Harry Potter!

Please direct me to your 2007 reading lists as well; I love gleaning new books from the lists of others!


Castle Rackrent and The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth. The first is more of a short story, and the second a short novel, dated 1800 and 1813, respectively. Edgeworth does not have the panache that her contemporary, Jane Austen, possesses, but worthwhile reads all the same. 7/10.

Seven Dials by Anne Perry (2006). The latest in the excellent Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Victorian-era mysteries, in which Thomas travels to Alexandria in order to unravel an unsavory murder. 8/10.

A Christmas Journey by Anne Perry (2003). A young Lady Vespasia accompanies a friend on a trip of expiation regarding the suicide of a young widow. 7/10.

A Christmas Visitor by Anne Perry (2004). And older man finds out the truth regarding the murder of his goddaughter’s husband in Northumberland. 7/10.

Plague Journal by Michael O’Brien (1999). The third in the Children of the Last Days series. Read it all in one sitting. Terrifying and well-written – it will stay with me for years. 9/10.

Death of an Expert Witness by P.D. James (1977). An Adam Dalgliesh mystery that I had read before but didn’t remember “whodunnit” until the very last page. One of the least interesting of James’ mysteries, despite the Wren chapel. 6/10.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006). A wonderful tale, rich in literature, mystery, pain of loss – extremely well-written – academic yet heart-wrenching. One of the best modern works I’ve read in a loooong time. A simply amazing book that brought me to tears at several junctures. 9/10.


Father Elijah: An Apocalypse by Michael O’Brien (1996). The fourth book in the Children of the Last Days series, which was NOT written chronologically. Intense, frightening, so much about trusting God, having faith, dealing with evil face to face. An unforgettable book. 10/10.

Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer (2004). My first Rumpole mystery – nice and light, requiring little thought. Great escapism – will have to order more. 7/10.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). An amazing novel about an intelligent woman and the men in her life. Poignant yet inspiring, Janie is a heroine not easily forgotten. 9/10.

Murder at the Monk’s Table by Sister Carol Anne O’Marie (2006). Not the most well-written book I’ve ever read, but mildly interesting. An okay mystery – not sure I’ll pursue the rest of the series. 5/10.

The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers by Lillian Jackson Braun (2007). Not much of a mystery here – and Polly leaves Pickax to live in Paris. Not nearly as well-developed as past books; Braun seems to be losing her touch. 4/10.


The Quality of Mercy by David Roberts (2006). Based loosely on Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter series, Lord Edward Corinth and Verity Browne solve mysteries and finally agree to marry under the cloud of Hitler in pre- WW II Britain. Okay – nothing to write home about. A good surprise here and there, and great historical research. 6/10.


A Cry of Stone by Michael D. O’Brien (2003). The intriguing story of Rose, a native Canadian artist who lives in poverty of everything but richness of spirit. Her Catholic faith is all-in-all to her, and her ability to love is endless. A slow, rich, meditative novel, well worth the 847 pages of reading. I wasn’t ready for it to end. 9/10.

The Professor by Charlotte Bronte (1858). An intriguing portrait of a poor British man of good education who, failing at trade, seeks fortune and love in Brussels. Some disturbing anti-Catholic ranting, but an enjoyable book nevertheless. 7/10

Twelfth Night by Shakespeare (1602). Mistaken identities with twins (like Comedy of Errors) but with more wit and romance. Beautiful poetry, beautifully drawn characters, lovely all around. 10/10.


Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott (2007). A collection of essays religious, political (even though I don’t agree with her politics), humorous, and transparent. Her third book of essays or “thoughts on faith” is probably the best, although Traveling Mercies and Plan B were both excellent. Personally, I would prefer less ranting on Bush and more “thoughts on faith.” Still highly enjoyable. 9/10.

My Life with the Saints by Fr. James Martin, SJ (2006). A wonderful spiritual memoir which weaves the stories of many saints and holy people, such as Joan of Arc, St. Therese, Thomas Merton, Thomas Aquinas, Mary, Peter, Joseph, Dorothy Day and others, with Fr. Martin’s life experiences which include ministering in Africa, in inner-city jails, in Jamaica, with gang members, and in hospices. Witty at times, always evangelical in outlook, with many little tidbits of his spiritual life interwoven into wonderful research on each of the saints, this is an enjoyable and contemplative read, something to be read slowly and underlined and chewed on and meditated upon. 9/10’s What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7? (2006). Predictions regarding the seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I disagree with a couple of their predictions: I don’t think Harry is a Horcrux; Dumbledore WILL return (Phoenix, remember?), and I think it’s more like a 50-50 chance that Harry will die. I also think it’s likely that one of the trio will die, although I hope not. Interesting predictions from the #1 HP fan site on the Internet, started by a homeschooler. (Vera’s gift to her goddaughter, E.) 7/10.

Also reread Harry Potter 5, 1, and 2.


Finding God in Harry Potter (2nd ed.) by John Granger (2006). Excellent book that demonstrates the Christian themes, character names, imagery, and more found in the Harry Potter series. Granger is a world-wide speaker on the HP series and a homeschooling dad of seven. His knowledge of alchemy and Scripture, as well as classical literature, makes this book a winner to any Christian Harry fan and a terrific defense to the Christian factions against the series. 9/10.

Take and Read: Spiritual Reading: An Annotated List by Eugene Peterson (1996). Written by the translator of The Message. I just skimmed this book, mostly to see where we had common ground in reading certain authors. Will take notes before returning this to the library. A useful little book if you want to read the best of Christian literature – he has excellent taste. 8/10.

Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation by Martin Laird, OSA (2006). A little book that lays out the practice of contemplative prayer, leaning heavily on the medieval anonymous Cloud of the Unknowing (also on my reading list). Laird explains how silent prayer works, especially the “Jesus” prayer, and in the last chapters, gives examples of how praying the prayer can change lives. He also outlines the downfalls and difficulties of praying this way – a comprehensive and mystical little book, a gift from my chiropractor’s wife. 8/10.

The English Breakfast Murder by Laura Childs (2003). Rather insipid mystery set in a Charleston tea room. Characters were cardboardish; plot moved interminably slowly. Nothing objectionable, but nothing remarkable. Won’t be reading the rest of the series, despite learning a bit about teas. 4/10.

The Best of Father Brown Mysteries by G.K. Chesterton (1911-1935). A collection of mysteries by the great English Catholic theologian Chesterton, starring meek and humble and nondescript Father Brown. The mysteries were deep, making Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter look like Bertie Wooster. Enjoyable, challenging, but a bit on the dry side at times. 7/10.

Also reread Harry Potter 3 and 4.


Death at Dartmoor by Robin Paige (2002). Intriguing Victorian mystery starring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, along with fictional characters, including a husband-and-wife team, Lord and Lady Sheridan. No bad at all – not high literature by any means, but well-written, well-plotted, and with interesting characters. I figured out whodunnit before the clues leading toward that person were revealed, so I felt rather satisfied with the whole thing. Will probably read more in the series when I want some escapism. 7/10.

Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday by Nancy Atherton (2003). Cute, mindless mystery series set in England with an American protagonist, Lori, married to an English lord, who solves mystery with the aid of her dead aunt’s (Aunt Dimity’s) diary in which she chats with Lori and gives her hints in solving the crimes. Will probably read more if I want something absolutely mindless and entertaining. 6/10.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling (2005). Having reread #1-5 before this one, I am now prepared for the seventh and final installment of Harry’s fight against evil. 10/10.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (2007). Oh my oh my oh my! Rowling outdoes herself in the seventh and final installment of the epic of Harry Potter. She demonstrates her Christian themes more strongly than in the other books and brings the epic to a close wonderfully well. I read it through the first time in twelve hours (with interruptions) on the proverbial edge of my seat, then finished it a second time after rereading more slowly and enjoyably. Now I’m reading it aloud to the boys for a third time. It’s all sinking in – all the details and characters and themes are coming full circle. This series is as good or better than Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s LOTR. Stunning end to a wonderful era. 10/10.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott (1999). Reread and discussed for the first meeting of our Logos literary group at Lake Murray. I’m again bowled over by her directness, by her transparency, by her humor, and by her stunning writing style. She lays out her testimony as an alcoholic and drug user who thought she was too cool to become a Christian with candor and wry humor. It certainly sparked a great discussion as we read aloud passages to each other in our group. A great beginning for my dream of having a literary group at church! 9/10.


Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells (1996). Much better than I thought it would be – deeply wounded characters who seem annoying at first until the “onion” of their past is peeled back, layer by layer by layer. Moving, funny, poignant – no wonder there’s such a devoted following. Haven’t seen the movie and don’t think I will – some of the violent scenes would be too much on film. A complex book that is also a great summer “read.” 8/10.

Ecclesiastical History by Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 340). I had to get an interlibrary loan from my county branch through UCSD to finally get a copy of this tome. I not only read it but took some notes on it for my book. I’ve always wanted to read it, and now I have accomplished my goal! Not an easy read by any means but still quite interesting to me and useful for my topic. 9/10.

The Shape of Sand by Marjorie Eccles (2004). A mystery in a very strange sense – a story of romance and intrigue that shuttles between Egypt and England in two distinct time periods. All of the Jardine family thought that the mother, Beatrice, had run off with a young Egyptian in 1910 until nearly forty years later the truth is discovered and her daughters and other family members start piecing together the events that led to her disappearance. Well-written; a very good summer read. 8/10.

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare (1604). My personal favorite of the Bard’s work. Set in Vienna, the Duke leaves Angelo in charge of the city to enforce the laws that the Duke has been too lax about upholding. Angelo enforces the laws to the letter and thus is prepared to put a young man to death for getting his fiancee pregnant. When the young man’s sister, Isabella, pleads his case, Angelo declares that he will free Claudio only if Isabella sleeps with him. The virtuous Isabella balks, and the disguised Duke steps in with a clever plan to unmask Angelo’s hypocrisy and save Claudio’s life. It ends as a comedy, with marriages right and left, although the tension and serious themes make it a less fun play than most of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. I like the idea of balancing judgment and mercy as well as the themes of pride and hypocrisy that permeate the play. The title obviously comes from Scripture. Isabella is one of Shakespeare’s best heroines, although in our Logos discussion, Bill didn’t like her at all because she valued her virginity over her brother’s life. 10/10.


Ya-Yas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells (2005). Sequel to the Divine Secrets, this hodge-podge of Ya-Ya lore finds itself turning even more serious when one of the Tres-Petites Ya-Yas (grandchildren of one of the Ya-Yas) is kidnapped by the daughter of an old enemy. The shock waves and repercussions of this event and of the years are healed at a Christmas party in which all three generations perform. The stories before this climax are funny, poignant, revealing, and true-to-life as we learn more about how the Ya-Yas first formed (at age 4!) and includes stories of the Petites Ya-Yas as well as the Tres-Petites. A good sequel, quite different in many ways from the first yet with all the same craziness and warmth of the first. 8/10.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (2007). Had to read it again.


“Julian of Norwich” – chapter from The Essentials of Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill (1920). An informative and densely-written chapter that provided an excellent background for the study of Julian’s major work, which I hope to pursue soon. Underhill combines scholarly acumen with a real interest in her subject matter. I took copious notes from this one chapter, but have to return book to library for a third time; it’s just a bit much for me to handle at this juncture. 9/10.

Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson (2007). The latest in the catering mystery series set in the Colorado Rockies. A very quick read and a fun mystery. Goldy is so human and full-of-foibles that it gets a bit ridiculous at times, but still is good, clean fun. 7/10.

Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn (2001). A book that I will return to when I write my chapter on Mary, but a fairly quick read and a good overview of Marian belief and doctrine from a former Presbyterian minister turned Catholic professor and apologist. Hahn makes even the most difficult and obscure doctrines and dogmas seem clear as day, although I didn’t buy into all his ideas. A great overview of the doctrines regarding Mary. 8/10.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (2005). Yes, another re-read, but simply wonderful to go through after reading the final installment several times this summer and fall. So very well-done! 9/10.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (1974). Pulitzer Prize winning book for general nonfiction, this book has been classified as theology, natural history, memoir, and metaphysical literature. Dillard’s writing is poetic and stunning in its depth and richness. Infused with Scripture and quotes by artists, scientists, writers, and naturalists, she ponders what nature has to show her about who God is and whether He is worth finding and pursuing. Dillard asks honest questions and is content to remain on her journey of living deeply and in the moment while still avidly seeking for higher meaning. A beautiful book of down-to-earth theology wrapped in incredibly detailed descriptions of God’s creation. I hadn’t read it since college, and am absolutely impressed with the quality of this book in every way. 10/10.


Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (1947). Poetic novel of the South African political scene after World War II, including the demise of the rural farm and family. Christian values are tested as an old Anglican priest goes to the city to find out what has happened to his son, Absalom. Beautiful book – very sad yet triumphant. Written so amazingly well and deeply and “heavily.” 10/10.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Rerererereads.


They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The Stories of Three Lost Boys of Sudan (2005). Amazing, heart-wrenching stories told from the point of view of three “lost boys” whose family and lives were torn apart by civil war in Sudan. Tens of thousands of these boys died throughout Africa (in Kenya and Ethiopia as well as the Sudan), and the fact that these three (two brothers and a cousin) managed not only to survive but also reunited in Kenya and were sent to San Diego to start new lives is simply miraculous. On February 5, one of the young men will be coming to our town for a book discussion, and I am looking very much forward to meeting him in person. A very hard read especially for my “mercy” gifting, but worth it. 9/10.

Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene Peterson (2006). An excellent treatise on how to really read and live the Bible, with an excellent discussion of lectio divina, a method developed in early monastic life for reading, meditating upon, praying, and living the Scriptures. Peterson is incisive and encouraging at the same time – an excellent book for anyone who desires to deepen one’s reading of the Bible, especially in the second half of the book which explores lectio. It took me months to finally finish this book, but it is one I will refer to for years to come. 10/10.

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