My First Five Reads of 2018

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By Holly Packiam

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I received this one as a Christmas gift from my husband. It became a joke amongst the family that he must believe I really needed help learning to 'think'! We all had a grand laugh about this, but I would actually agree! In fact, I actually asked for the book. I do want to think more and to think more deeply. I hope, as Christians, we all desire this. I started 'How to Think' this month and just finished last night. The author, Alan Jacobs says, 'How to Think' is a "contrarian treatise on why we're not as good at thinking as we assume, and how recovering this lost art can rescue our inner lives from the chaos of modern life."

It challenges us to contemplate whether surrounding ourselves in homogeneous communities only reinforces what we already believe.  I know its very easy for me to do this. Who doesn't like a friend or acquaintance to agree with your view especially if its stated in a compelling way? Since social belonging-- or the desire to belong in a particular group-- only makes us more reluctant to engage in critical thinking. After finishing, I am encouraged to consider how I might be willing to gently challenge another's view on an issue and how I might engage in conversations with others who aren't just like me. Jacobs does spend a fair bit of time drawing applications for public discourse-- like conversations about politics on Facebook and Twitter. Even if that is less interesting to you (it was for me!), it's worth reflecting on how those lessons may apply in our own contexts-- specifically in our homes with our children. 

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This is another book I received as a gift this Christmas. One of our Christmas Eve traditions is that everyone in the family opens one present that night and the gift is always a book. I purchased books for the family this year and decided to go ahead and order one for myself too! This was my pick. I'm excited to delve into this trilogy of novels by Flora Thompson, published between 1939 and 1943. Lark Rise to Candleford has also become a British drama series, adapted by the BBC based on the semi-autobiographical novels about English country life. I've recently discovered that Thompson, like the protagonist, worked as a post-office clerk from the age of fourteen in Oxfordshire and then in post offices all over England. She writes about how the 'old ways' of living off the land are from a bygone era and many families are looking to more modern ways of existing. Does this sound familiar? I'm hoping this pick will fit int the category of a lighthearted fiction read.

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I've decided this will be a year of more theological reading for me. And so my theologian husband, Glenn, was happy to give me some recommendations. His first is this pick by Robert Jenson. I've heard Jenson speak on a podcast (just before his passing in 2017), but this will my first attempt to delve into his writing.  Glenn says: "A Theology in Outline, is more or less the transcript of his lectures to a group of undergrads on 'basic Christian theology'. But in Jenson’s artful hands, it is so much more than basic; it is narrative, it is comprehensive, and it is captivating. Like N.T. Wright, Jenson knows his (initial) audience may be mostly liberal (read: not Creedal per se), yet presents confessional articles of Christianity in clear and elegant prose. I see what all the fuss is about now." I've taken on a couple N.T. Wright books in past years. Now I ready to dig into Jenson. 

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The first Dickens novel I read was The Christmas Carol and who isn't delighted by this story. Last year, I went on to read Great Expectations with a group of friends. I was so grateful for the accountability because I'm not sure how quickly I would read classics without reading in community. So now, I'm moving on to David Copperfield which I have heard is a favorite amongst Dickens' fans. If you have been around Whole Heart Ministries for awhile, you have probably heard Sally Clarkson or Sarah Clarkson recommend this book! It's one of their families' favorites. 

David Copperfield, a comedy and a tragedy, is about a man who pursues the path of leaving behind his bleak childhood and his journey to uncover his purpose as a novelist. Dickens described David Copperfield as his 'favourite child'. I'm compelled to put this one at the top of my list based on all the recommendations I've received and that Dickens himself called it a favorite!

 

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I've had a desire to read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton for a few years and always seem to get scared to try. I've been exposed to his detective stories about Father Brown which are highly interesting and entertaining, but I've wanted something bitesize, yet thoughtful from Chesterton. In this collection of essays, Chesterton writes about a wide variety of topics including: cheese, rain, fireworks, architects, juries, barbarians, and mystics. He also writes about authors such as T.S Eliot, George MacDonald, Shakepeare, Dickens, and Jane Austen.

My Storyformed partner, Jaime Showmaker, recommended this pick to me. She has mentioned how she reads an essay every morning after reading the Bible to give her something to 'chew on' all day. If you have wanted to read Chesterton but haven't known where to start, try reading these essays with me.