Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Three cheers for nonfiction! Hip, hip...

No one's joining in my cheer?  Nonfiction is way more exciting than it sounds, you guys!  

It seems harder to compare nonfiction books to each other because they all have such different objectives.  So in an effort to simplify my self-imposed task of ranking these books, I've divided my nonfiction list into two categories:  Parenting and Nonparenting (which is a nonword). They are still listed in order of favorite to least favorite.

Ben still likes to read, too.

NONFICTION - Parenting
Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp)
Every Christian parent should read this book, and I am stating that as a cold, hard fact.  Tripp's main thesis is that our goal in disciplining is not to produce well-behaved children but godly men and women.  So our conversations should address their hearts, not just their behaviors.  There isn't a ton of how-to here -- it has more of a big-picture focus.  Useful even if your kids are very young, like mine.

Adopted for Life (Russell Moore)
This doesn't really belong in the parenting section because every Christian should read this one.  Sort of a theology of adoption.  You will have a richer appreciation of your adoption into God's family, and you will probably want to adopt a child into your family.  At the very least, you will want to find ways to promote adoption within the Church.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions (Noel Piper)
Great ideas for honoring and pointing to Christ in your family's "everyday" and "especially" (holiday, etc.) traditions.  Helps you think through what you're already doing and make sure the rituals that anchor your family life have an eternal purpose.

Parenting the Fussy Baby and High-Need Child (William Sears)
If you have an easy baby, we can't be friends anymore this book is not for you.  But if you have a baby like Ben, who has opinions and is not afraid to share them, this book might help you regain some of your sanity.  Sears is more into attachment parenting than I am, but his counsel really did make me feel like Ben and I would survive.

Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption (Scott Simon)
The narrative of how awesome it was for Simon and his wife to adopt their two daughters from China.  With other people's hooray-for-adoption stories mixed in.  This one is very different from the other adoption book on my list, but it will probably still make you want to adopt.  You've been warned.

NONFICTION - Nonparenting
Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortensen & David Oliver Relin)
American Mortensen started as a hard-core hiker, but now he builds schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where many kids' opportunities for education come only from Islamic extremists.  I didn't expect to love this book (because my knowledge base about this part of the world is pretty pitiful), but I LOVED this book.  Mortensen is doing some amazing work.

Radical (David Platt)
The subtitle here is "Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream," and Platt points out ways in which American Christianity looks more like our culture than the Bible.  Then he wraps it up by issuing specific challenges to implement for one year.  This is good, convicting stuff.

Travels with Charley (John Steinbeck) 
Steinbeck drives across the country in a pimped-out truck with his dog Charley.  Plenty of insightful observations about the America of 1960, but it's also just an enjoyable read.  This book will make you love John Steinbeck, and it will cause serious wanderlust.

The New Kings of Nonfiction (Ed. Ira Glass)
I really like This American Life, so I was looking forward to reading this collection of Ira Glass's favorite short nonfiction. Maybe I read this one at the wrong time?  I don't know.  But it took me forever to get through some of these pieces, and honestly, I probably would have stopped reading it if I hadn't been determined to finish the whole thing.  I think you would fare better with this book if you just read a piece here and there over a very long period of time.

The Heavenly Man (Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway)
I am totally confused about this book.  I know reasonable people who love it (and when I added the link above, I noticed that Amazon reviewers gave it an average of five stars), but I am not in that camp.  Brother Yun was one of the prominent figures in the Chinese underground church in recent decades, and is the detailed story of his life and ministry.  I really do believe that God does amazing and miraculous things in/through the persecuted Church around the world, but I had a hard time believing everything I read in this book.  There was just one account after another of, "I said, 'Believe!' and 5,000 people believed."  Or, "I told this man to be healed, and he was healed.  And then he wept and believed in Jesus even though I never actually told him about Jesus."  Maybe I'm being unduly harsh because I thought it was poorly written, but I wouldn't recommend this one.  Please don't hate me for saying so.

This last book gets its own heading because I accidentally left it off my fiction list.  If you're keeping track, I actually read fifteen fiction and ten nonfiction books this year.

Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) 
A science-fiction book that doesn't feel too science-fictiony.  There's something unusual about the narrator and her fellow students at a special British boarding school, but you have to figure it out as they do.  For all you young adult lit fans out there, this one reminds me a little of House of the Scorpion.  It's not one of my new favorites, but I did enjoy this book and find it interesting.  It's worth checking out from the library but not buying.

And that concludes my 25 in-depth book reviews ;)  Once again, tell me what you think!  And happy reading to you all!