Books I read 2019

Here’s the list with my must reads (there are gems amongst the others but these are the solid diamonds) of the year in bold…

1. Milkman – Anna Burns

2. The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing – J.T.Pennington

3. 84K- Claire North

4. How to be Famous – Catlin Moran

5. Rewild Yourself – Simon Barnes

6. Mystics and Misfits- Christiana Peterson

7. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green.

8. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told- Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally

9. Hello World- Hannah Fry.

10. Dogs of War – Adrian Tchaikovsky

11. Very Married – Katherine Willis Pershey

12. Michelle Obama- Becoming. 

13. Let Me Lie- Claire Mackintosh

14. Shadow Doctor- Adrian Plass. 

15. The Sin of Certainty- Peter Enns

16. The Bible Tells Me So- Peter Enns. 

17. Uncommon Type- Tom Hanks

18. Shameless- Nadia Bolz-Weber

19. The Immortalists- Chloe Benjamin 

20. Becoming Friends of Time – John Swinton. 

21. Phoebe – Paula Gooder

22. Searching for Sunday- Rachel Held Evans.

23. Middle England – Jonathan Coe

24. The Outrun- Amy Liptrot

25. Being Christian- Rowan Williams

26. The Salt Path- Raynor Winn

27. The Core of the Sun- Johanna Sinisalo

28. The Clockmakers Daughter- Kate Morton

29. Trials of Morrigan Crow- Jessica Townsend

30. Spiritual Direction- Sue Pickering.

31. End of the World Running Club- Adrian J Walker

32. The Day the World Came to Town- Jim Defied

33. Where the Crawdad’s Sing- Delia Owens

34. Normal People- Sally Rooney

35. Ordinary People- Diana Evans

36. The Great Alone- Kristin Hannah

37. The book you wish your parents had read and your children will be glad you did- Philippa Perry

38. Inspired- Rachel Held Evans

39. Beast Quest- Adam Blade (can’t remember the title but it was something along the lines of Magma the bone cruncher)

40. Cressida Cowell- Knock Three TImes (Wizards of Once series)

41. Walking Away -Simon Armitage

42. When I lost you – Merylin Davies

43. The Confession- Jessie Burton

44. The Power of Belonging – Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller

45. Walking back to Happiness- Penelope Swithinbank

46. Orkney- Amy Sackville

47. East of Croydon – Sue Perkins

48. Unsheltered- Barbara Kingsolver

49. Handmaids Tale- Margaret Atwood

50. Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse- Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys

51. The Examined Life- Stephen Grosz

52. Today will be different- Maria Semple

53. Period- Emma Barnett

54. A Sky Painted Gold- Laura Wood

55. Akin- Emma Donoghue

56. Padraig O’Tuama – In the Shelter

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the rest of my Christmas haul in the long bleak month before us… (January is for duvets and books right?)

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Books I’ve read Nov- Dec Edition…

It’s that time when I hurriedly finish the last of my books of the year and get ready my final list of books I read over the year. Before that list, here are the ones I’ve managed to get through in this month of trying to hibernate for winter.

Orkney- Amy Sackville

This follows a university lecturer in his late 60s and a former student in her early 20s who he has just married throughout their honeymoon on Orkney.  It’s a really unsatisfying read, the characters are fairly irritating and mysterious, you have no sense of relationship between them and there is no real connection with either of them. However, it is beautifully written and hauntingly descriptive of their location, which I think is why I finished it. All round, it was a bit of an odd book.

East of Croydon – Sue Perkins

I love Sue Perkins, I loved reading this account of her travels in Asia making some documentaries for the BBC.  Lots of fun and fairly poignant at times. Worth a read.

Padriag O’Tuama- In the Shelter

I find it hard to put into words how brilliant and wonderful I found this book. It warmed my soul, it helped me embrace the Here of our lives, it moved me and helped me long to see God in the everyday ordinary moments of my life. I love the poetry of this man and the beautiful way he writes. Gushing over. Just beautiful nourishment for the soul.

 Unsheltered- Barbara Kingsolver

Interesting novel following lives on a small town street in America, alternating chapters set in the 1870’s and in the present day. Really interesting insights into the contrasts between baby boomers and their children and what we all expect out of life. Not earth shatteringly great but pretty good.

Handmaids Tale- Margaret Atwood

I read this again because I wanted to read The Testament and couldn’t remember much of the original story. It’s a fairly horrifically bleak vision of the future where women are used as servants or in the desperate search for babies in an infertile world. I did wonder if it would have been a different novel if it had been written from today’s world and not the relatively emerging feminist world of the 80s. There’s probably a conversation worth having about that if anyone fancies it as I’m not sure I’m coherent enough tonight to articulate my thoughts about this.

Escaping the Maze of Spiritual Abuse- Lisa Oakley and Justin Humphreys

If you are in church work, if you help out at a church, if you have any leadership role in a church in any capacity you should read this book. It’s really helpful to start the conversation about how to create healthy church environments and safe places where people aren’t coerced into behaving in certain ways. It’s a really important read in thinking about where the power dynamics lie in our churches and to help us all examine how we use the power we have in relationships with each other. A sadly very necessary read.

The Examined Life- Stephen Grosz

A fascinating insight into the conversations this therapist has had with clients over the years. Written to help us be aware that it’s good to think about why we do the things we do or feel the way we feel. A really interesting read.

Today will be different- Maria Semple

I really enjoyed this novel written with in a fairly Dave Eggers Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius style (but with a female protagonist). We follow a fairly messed up person having a messy day in Seattle with her kid in tow. It felt fresh, interesting and unexpected.

Period- Emma Barnett

Brilliant book encouraging us to just talk normally about periods. They happen to pretty much half the population and yet we still talk about them in hushed tones, find it odd to mention when we are struggling because of them and clothe them in an unhelpful aura of mystery. A book that says, let’s stop now and just be normal about this bodily function which affects so much of our lives. They aren’t dirty, taboo, weird and they don’t make women unclean. I’m hoping for a similar book about the menopause to ideally come out in this next decade.

A Sky Painted Gold- Laura Wood

A beautiful book set in Cornwall in the 1920’s as a local girl gets caught up in the dazzling lives of rich young things down from London and their endless series of summer parties. It draws heavily on The Great Gatsby and I Capture the Castle and is deeply beautiful and thoughtful in it’s own right. A fascinating coming of age novel.

Akin- Emma Donoghue

I was looking forward to this as I loved Room but I was fairly underwhelmed by the story of a 80 year old American man heading back to Nice to find his French roots. He goes with his 11 year old great nephew who has come to live with him as his only next of kin. It’s the story of them bickering in France, eventually finding some kind of meaningful relationship with some underlying tension about the man’s past thrown into the mix. I may have missed something profound as I was extremely tired when I finished this but it didn’t really grab me in any way.

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Advent 24

Christmas Eve.

Slightly, maybe, more than ever, I’ve not felt the Christmas vibe. I think that’s because really at this time of year all I want to do is hibernate, read books, drink red wine and wait out the winter. I don’t really want to have a month and a half of Christmas events, overexcited kids who are super grumpy or super bouncing off the walls.

Maybe in the insanity of Christmas and the BIG emotions that we all feel, which seem to be echoed larger and larger, are just a whole big melting pool of stuff which leaves us desperate, thirsty for real water, for the refreshment of a God who comes and walks amongst us, who became small, who entered our world and is a bringer of hope, light, safety and peace.

Maybe.

And so to my last search for wonder before switching social media off for a while and hunkering down with a good book every now and again. I’ll be back with round ups of the year and my final list of books read in a week or so.

Today.

Walking up to the Chattri (a memorial site on the South Downs for Indian Soldiers who fought in the second world war) with our lovely friends who are family. Being deeply honoured that the teenagers joined us that early in the morning. Son2 finally doing the walk without complaints.

Heading down to our local community centre tonight, to hear carols, eat sugar and be reminded that we are totally embedded in this lovely community. Loving seeing friends, people from school, from our old church, from just down the road and enjoying belting out many carols loudly.

Deeply amused by the boys new found belief in Santa, they’ve left food out for him and instructed their soft toys to keep an eye out. We’ve never bothered with Father Christmas (I know, controversial in some circles but utterly normal in others, lets not fight eh) but I love them getting into the game entirely on their own.

Happy Christmas one and all. Have good times remembering that it’s a day, it is what it is and the point might just be the one who stepped into the madness with us.

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Advent 23

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And breathe. In and out. In and out.

Slowly.

In and out.

One more day to get through for the small overtired ones.

One more day until we remember the heart of this story we are all part of, a God who stepped into the world as one of us. A God who is our with us. Our Emmanuel. One more day.

The wonder of today was found through tired eyes once more: Managing 6am food shopping. Planning the vague plan for the Christmas Day service and getting excited about the stuff of Christmas pointing to the bigger realities that make up our lives. Making us all have some vit D with a walk along the seafront. Naps on the sofa. Cuppa with my lovely friend who feels like part of family. Taking the super crazy small ones to the park and enjoying maybe at least 30 minutes of seeing the fresh air work it’s magic on their tired bodies. Oh and this beautiful song sent to me by the lovely Binface which made me cry.

(Son1: “What would I call her if I didn’t call her Auntie Binface?)

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Advent 22

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Mary, Joseph and Donkey off to the stable… 

Lots of my favourite carols this morning:

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold
Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, from heav’n’s all gracious king
The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurl
And still their heavenly music floats, O’er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains they bend on hovering wing
And ever o’er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.

O ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow
Look now for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

For lo the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old
When with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold
When the new heaven and earth shall own the prince of peace their King
And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

It’s the sad weary beauty of that last one which gets me every time. (also son1’s very right question of why are these songs all about men? Maybe there is hope for the next generation…)

A sermon on peace, shalom, wholeness, flourishing. Trying to work out what that looks like in our family of over exhausted, over stimulated boys and, let’s face it, adults. Trying to curb the instinct to fill all time and remember to go slow. We all need it. It is not failure to rest and stop.

Catching up with our lovely Godson and his family. Warmth of familiar spaces and people.

Deciding not to take most of the weary in our family to the Carol Service tonight, one kind of had to be there for AV duties but the rest of us are early bed and rest. Hoping the rest works on the pale faces and dark circled eyes.

 

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Advent 21

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The shortest day.

When you and your family have hit the wall of extreme tiredness.

Incredibles 2. Masterchef. Library. Counting Christmas lights on the way home from the Library.

Weary bones.

Grateful of reminders that into the deepest dark the light dawned. We who remain in the darkness this world often offer wait, watch and long for the final dawn. Light will come.

“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;” Isaiah 9

The Light shines on in the [c]darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it].” John 1

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18

“because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1

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Advent 20

The wonder:

30 hours to ourselves thanks to the amazing grandparents doing school runs and an overnight with the boys.

Star Wars, spa treatments, cocktails, reminiscing about the last 10 years, amazing food, quiet reading time, the sanctuary of home after being away, tv and naps. Listing the many many people who have enabled us to keep being married and sane in this world. Small boy cuddles at pick up today. The start of the holidays. Working through son1’s difficulty in transitions and the unstructured nature of holidays. Writing a visual timetable together for him to update each day. 

Paying attention to the gifts to get to the giver. Reminders that we are frail and yet held. Loved through the imperfection of our nature. Always in covenant however we feel we are doing in that arrangement.

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