Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reading List 2014

I like tracking on my blog what I've been reading throughout the year. It encourages me because I'm such a slow reader that I can be tempted to think that I accomplish very little in my reading. Well I certainly don't read voraciously, but when I look back and see that I managed to average more than one book a month, it's quite encouraging! In fact, I've read 15 books a year for all three of the years in which I've tracked my reading on my blog (here's my 2010 reading list and my 2011 reading list, in the order I completed them).

A few trends seemed to stand out this year. Three of the books were about Everest. I love mountain climbing books, and find that books about it are so much better than films that I keep reading more and more of them (20 so far)! And three of the books I read this year were re-reads of excellent devotional books I'd read long ago but wanted to read again. Very helpful books. But most of all, the theme of the nations dominated this year. The nations or regions profiled in the books I read in 2014 included the U.K., China, the Middle East, Nepal, Japan, America's deep south, small town Canada, India, and central and east Africa. I feel very well traveled now.

Apart from all the books listed here, I also read the Bible throughout the year. I believe the Bible is God's inspired Word to us, and of all the things I read, I see the Bible as the most valuable and the most essential for me to be feeding on.

So here's what I read in 2014. Perhaps there's a book listed here that you'd enjoy reading. And please feel free to leave a comment if there's a book you'd like to recommend that I read in 2015. Just please be patient with me, as I already have a great many books on my shelf waiting to be read!

  1. Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis. This book is a fascinating look at the context in which climbing the highest mountain in the world was first attempted. Each man involved had been deeply impacted by the horrors of the Great War, and for each of them, Mount Everest was a symbol of something other that allowed them to put the war behind them. I have never been provided with a more revealing glimpse into what the soldiers of WWI went through.
  2. Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson. The emphasis in the title should be on "in Arabia" because this book is more about several key participants in the Middle Eastern theater of WWI than about T.E. Lawrence himself. And in these present days of never-ending conflict in the Middle East, this book highlights the political intrigue behind how the borders were drawn after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
  3. The Mountain: My Time on Everest by Ed Viesturs. Yes, another book about Everest. It was a gift! But it was given to me because I've read everything Ed Viesturs has written, and this was his latest book. Ed Viesturs is a climber who has climbed all of the earth's 8,000-meter peaks without use of supplemental oxygen, but he has done so, incredibly, with such a conservative approach to risk-taking on his climbs that he doesn't fit the reckless stereotype of big-mountain climbers. And he has summitted Everest more than any other peak. This book mingles Ed's experiences with the history of others who have climbed Everest.
  4. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. This book was also given to me as a gift, and really surprised me. It's not only amazing that the main character in this book survived the crash in the Pacific and being captured by the Japanese, but it's also amazing how his life turned around once he returned home after the war. If I had just 10% of the resilience and determination this man had, I would be a stronger person. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie based on this book that came out recently, but I certainly hope they make it clear how much Jesus made a difference in this man's life.
  5. Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Another gift and another surprise! This book left me struggling a bit due to the sad outcome for one of the people mentioned in the sub-title. But it also stirred and inspired me due to the spiritual transformations and the Christ-centered lives reflected by all three characters featured in this true story.
  6. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock. A Canadian classic that I picked up in a used bookstore during my summer holiday. I laughed out loud again and again as I kicked back and read this tale about any-small-1930s-town in Canada. The sinking of the Mariposa Belle is worth the time it took to read it all! 
  7. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katharine Boo. A vivid snapshot of the slums of Mumbai. I didn't know what to expect from this book, but bought it because I thought it might help me to better understand the plight of these poorest of the poor in a slum that I have flown over and stared at from the safe armchair of a 737. It's a non-fiction account written in the form of a story rather than as a documentary, and pulls no punches. It's gritty and it's painful, but it beautifully personalizes a part of the world that we tend to more often merely tabulate and analyze.
  8. Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee. A book I've read before but felt compelled to read again. I know few writers who can challenge me while encouraging me better than Watchman Nee does! His writings continually point me to Christ and always leave me with a greater assurance of His love. This book is no exception as Nee examines three important postures we must take -- in the right order -- as followers of Christ.
  9. Poverty of Spirit by Johannes B Metz. This is the third time I've read this little book, the previous time being in 2011 (as per the link above). It was due to what I've felt God has been speaking to me about lately that I decided to read it again. After all, given how typically self-reliant I can tend to be, I knew it would do me no harm to be reminded of the importance of poverty of spirit. Though there's much in this book that I still don't fully grasp, I was particularly stirred by the author's description of our propensity to resist poverty of spirit. But Metz makes a clear case for the value of embracing it!
  10. George Muller: Man of Faith and Miracles by Basil Miller. This is an inspiring biography about a man who set out to live his life so as to show the world that the living God is living still! By trusting God to provide food, clothes and shelter for over 2,000 orphans in his care, with a policy of never mentioning his needs to anyone but to God alone, George Muller's life illustrated that God hears and answers the prayers of those who put their trust in Him. George Muller's humility and simple approach to prayer has boosted my own confidence in prayer as illustration after illustration from this book testified to the love and faithfulness of God.
  11. Abraham: or, The Obedience of Faith by F. B. Meyer. This book is a treasure. I thoroughly enjoyed reading an old hardcover first edition, printed in 1894, that I found in a used book store some years ago. F.B. Meyer's nineteenth century writing style is downright poetic at times as he waxes on using metaphors and imagery that enliven the reader's imagination. And each brief chapter was written with such a practical approach that one can't avoid seeing how relevant Abraham's story is to us today.
  12. BIG GOD: What Happens when we Trust Him by Britt Merrick. This book looks one by one at the ordinary and yet extraordinary people mentioned in the great Hall of Faith chapter in Hebrews (ch. 11) to unpack why God included them as examples of faith for us. Each chapter is rich with revelation and application (so much so that this book can be exhausting at times, though this may partly be due to a somewhat repetitive writing style), and the focus is consistently God-centered and God-glorifying. By the end of the book, I truly did feel inspired by how BIG my God is!
  13. High Adventure: Our Ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary. My third book on Everest this year (and my tenth overall!), but this one written by the first man to have climbed it. I'm always fascinated by mountain climbing books, but this book stands out among the rest. Hillary's expressive writing style is so engaging that I could feel his fears and his thrills as he described each obstacle and each accomplishment from the icefall to the summit to the descent. Hillary truly seems to want his readers to gain a very real sense (albeit an obviously slight sense compared to true realities!) of the immensity and the scale of his and Tenzing's historic achievement.
  14. Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure by Tim Jeal. Ever since I read The White Nile by Alan Moorehead in 1987 I've been fascinated by the stories of those who explored the sources of the Nile and of how they interacted with the local people of that region in those times (in the mid to late nineteenth century). This book is more thoroughly researched than Moorehead's book, though it remains just as readable. Tim Jeal also does an excellent job of honouring the porters, guides and translators, without whom, there wouldn't have been much exploring going on. But most of all, I appreciated Jeal's section on the unforeseen consequences of the white man's initial incursions into these regions of central and east Africa. One example is how so much of the suffering in South Sudan is attributable to decisions made while searching for the source of the White Nile.
  15. Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God by Brennan Manning. Though I had read this book once before, I felt that I needed to read it again. In his straight-shooting style, Manning goes right for the heart of what holds us back from trusting God more fully, attacks it without mercy, and then lovingly offers a new way of living: the way of ruthless trust that dares to believe that God loves us no matter what the circumstances. Aside from a couple chapters near the end in which Manning waxes a bit too philosophical for me, I find this to be an amazing book.

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