Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Recommendations for the older crowd, Part I

John Calvin in his study

I used to trust people who said to me: "Oh, that movie/book is fine -- there's nothing objectionable in it at all." To my dismay, this was often not the case. I have come to realize that, even for Christians, the bars are set in different places for what is allowable and what is objectionable. This moves me to apologize if I have listed a book with which you would disagree in either content or perspective. Please, allow your own discernment to hold sway. As my Granny would say, "Use your sanctified gumption!"

We are each responsible before God to make intelligent, discerning decisions in all areas of life. I, as well as many of these authors, are still "sinners, saved by grace," struggling against our own ingrained sinful attitudes and perspectives; and, even with my best efforts, I will sometimes err on one side or the other -- either omitting something flawed that is otherwise worthy or including something that falls beneath the biblical standard: "Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and of good repute. If there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Phil. 4:8 ASV, paraphrased

Some of you may wonder why I haven't included books by C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Their writings had a profound influence for good on me as a young reader. I took a mini-semester course called "The Inklings" in college in which we examined the writings of Lewis, Tolkien and Williams, the prominent members of this literary society of friends. I am very aware that many of my readers have problems with reading about wizards, witches and magic which dominate much of the writings of these incredibly gifted authors. Does that mean that I won't read some of their writings? No, I have read and enjoyed many of their books (not all are my favorites but were enjoyable when I read them). I believe I understand their philosophies, having studied their lives and what influenced them and why they wrote as they did. I don't share many of the ideas which they embraced nor would I include the occult in my writing; but I don't believe I am sinning when I read their writings with a critical attitude. I know that sifting what they wrote through the grid of biblical analysis as I read is necessary as I seek the honor the Lord in this area. However, I would not recommend these or any book of this genre to immature readers who have yet to develop the 'grid' necessary to sufficiently discern good from evil.

Although the biblical standards are clear, in my opinion, these decisions fall in the area of 'Christian liberty' where we must each be responsible before God and apply wisdom. No matter what you are reading -- whether Lewis, Calvin or Morecraft -- you are responsible as a Christian reader to 'rightly divide the word of truth.' You must always wear the 'spectacles' of Biblical discernment. You are responsible, before God, for everything you do -- every minute of time, every thought, every 'idle' word. I believe it is entirely possible to read an imperfect book or story and separate the wheat from the chaff. The problem with doing this, however, especially for the young or immature reader, is that the written word can be even more seductive than the silver screen. Let the reader beware!

My 'disclaimer' stretches in both directions. I apologize ahead of time for leaving out some of your favorites as well as including some you may not prefer -- let me know what they are and why you like or dislike them. Please don't include the following in your 'like' list:

*soupy romances that claim to be 'Christian'

*poorly-written books, stories or any sloppily-written work that claims to be 'Christian'

*books full of images or language that portrays sin as 'fun' or glorifies evil

*articles, essays, stories or other writings that are inaccurate in their depictions of real-life characters or events, when real history is involved.

I realize some books I recommend, including my 'list-maker books,' may not match up to your personal criteria. I hope we can meet on 'middle ground' here and decide for ourselves whether we will read these books. I have attempted to list books that have a basic Christian principle behind or underlying them -- whether the writer was a proponent of Christianity or not -- and that are well-written, to one extent or another. Thank you for understanding my dilemma. As with all things in this fallen world, there are no perfect books since all are written by sinful men and women. I hope you will develop a Christian 'grid' that is based on 'thus saith the Lord' through which you sift and sort all that you read and write.

With these thoughts in mind, here is my 'cautious' short list of recommended books for older young people and adults (I hope to expand this as time permits):


Authentic Christianity: Commentaries on the Westminster Larger Catechism, and other titles by Joseph C. Morecraft, III (did you think I wouldn't recommend my husband's greatest works?) These five commentaries are available both from Amercian Vision or Vision Forum. (same price) They are the product of over 20 years of work as he preached through the WCF Larger Catechism. Very practical and scholarly at once, they are useful for a thorough understanding of Scripture as only this catechism gives us. President of American Vision, Gary DeMar says either spend thousands of dollars and many years getting a seminary education or purchase these five volumes and learn as much or more! What a deal!!

Order from American Vision here:

or order from Vision Forum:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion, and other titles by John Calvin

The Institutes of Biblical Law, and other titles by R. J. Rushdoony, perhaps the most important theologian of our times.

or order from Vision Forum here:

The Sovereignty of God, by A. W. Pink. "Who is regulating affairs on this earth today -- God or the devil?" from the introduction.

By This Standard, by Greg Bahnsen. Does God's law apply today?

Knowing God, by J. I. Packer


The History of the Reformation, and other titles by Merle D'Aubigne such as,
The Protector: A Vindication.

The Great Christian Revolution, and other titles by Otto Scott.

How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill. (A book about Iona)

For You They Signed, by Marilyn Boyer, the stories of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Providential Battles, by Christian historian, William Potter. Twenty of the greatest battles in the world that altered history.

Classics and just for fun: Tune in next week!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Of books, there is no end...

Here's my theory and I'm sticking to it: the family that reads books together -- aloud -- as a part of their weekly fellowship, will always be 'on the same page.' I was read to often as a child and still love the sound of my mother's voice reading some favorite passage from a book, old or new. I am comforted and still inspired by the memory of my grandparent's voices as they read or quoted favorite stories, poems and passages from the Bible aloud. And visits home are never complete without my dear Papa's voice reading Scripture or Spurgeon's Morning and Eveningdevotional to the gathered family. Nothing makes me happier today than reading some of my favorite books and theirs to my grandchildren. But not just any book will do. I try to read stories to my grandchildren that are beautifully written with an underlying biblical theme, pleasing to the eye and ears. Books will influence us much like jumping into a strong stream that leads to an ocean: we will be carried along in one direction or another. Make sure you are aware of that as you read -- choose the 'ocean' towards which you want to be carried.

Reading aloud to someone is one of life's pleasures that brings blessings to both the reader and the recipient. And reading when you are alone is a treasured blessing like no other. Books can take you to places you may never visit except in your mind -- you can travel back in history or into the future; visit desert islands, medieval castles or lush forests in the Amazon valley or into hidden vallies in the Swiss Alps. Go wherever the skillful author takes you as you broaden your vocabulary, hone your writing skills and find opportunities to grow spiritually, socially and mentally as the Lord works noble thoughts and spiritual truths into your heart and mind through your reading.

My husband likes to say, "Those who read lead." And this is true. If you want to be a leader, you must be a reader. We are called as Christians, not only to follow our great Leader, the Lord Jesus, but to imitate Him in all our choices and even our preferences. Work on making wise choices in your reading preferences. Here are some lists of books I like and some that I love. They are far from complete, so check back occasionally for other recommendations.

First, I'd advise your purchasing two books that have done much of the work for us in sorting and choosing worthy books.  Honey for a Child's Heart, by Gladys Hunt was the first book I used to help in book selections when my children were small. Now in its fourth edition, you will find it spiritually uplifting as well as informative. I still have the first edition and cannot tell you about the more recent ones -- you are on your own here! A more recent one, written by friends of mine, The Book Tree: A Christian Reference for Children's Literature, by Elizabeth McCallum and her daughter Jane Scott, should be in every Christian home. Both of these books set out a Christian philosophy for choosing books as well as commentary on each selection.
I'll list a few books from my longer list in several blog posts. If your favorites aren't here, feel free to comment and ask me or inform me about them. I may not have gotten to your favorites yet, or I just may not know about them. Here goes:

Pre-school: (age 5 and under)

Winnie the Pooh and related titles, by A. A. Milne

Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

The Child’s Story Bible, by Catherine F. Vos

Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney

Make Way for Ducklings, and other titles by Robert McCloskey

All the Places to Love, by Patricia MacLachlan

Little Bear, and other titles by Else H. Minarik

Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen

The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper

Peter and the Wolf (musical edition), Sergei Prokofiev

The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and other titles, by Beatrix Potter

Curious George, and other titles by Hans Rey

A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Lord is My Shepherd, and other titles by illustrator Tasha Tudor

Elementary Fiction: (ages 6-12)

Aesop’s Fables, by Aesop

Treasury of Fairy Tales, by Hans Christian Anderson

The Mitten, by Jan Brett

Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink

The Pied Piper of Hamelin, by Robert Browning

Riding the Pony Express, by Clyde Robert Bulla

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Incredible Journey, by Shelia Burnford

The Courage of Sarah Noble, and other titles by Alice Dalgliesh

Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates (DVD), Hans Brinker; Or, the Silver Skates, by Mary Maples Dodge

William Tell, by Margaret Early

The Matchlock Gun, by Walter D. Edmonds

Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson

Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Saint George and the Dragon, by Margaret Hodges

Huguenot Garden, and other titles by Douglas M. Jones, III

The Jungle Book, and other titles by Rudyard Kipling

Frog and Toad, and other titles by Arnold Lobel

Hiawatha, and other titles by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Lost Princess, and most other titles by George MacDonald

Iron Scouts of the Confederacy, by Lee McGiffin

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan

Anne of Green Gables, and other titles by L. M. Montgomery

The Railway Children, and other titles by E. Nesbit

Annie Henry and the Redcoats, and other titles by Susan Olasky

Two Little Confederates, by Thomas Nelson Page

Treasures in the Snow, by Patricia St. John

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and other titles by Margaret Sidney

The Bronze Bow, and other titles by Elizabeth Speare

Heidi, by Johanna Spyri

Little House in the Big Wood, and other titles by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Middle School Fiction: (ages 12 +)

Little Women, and other titles by Louisa May Alcott

Coral Island, and other titles by R. M. Ballentyne

The Pilgrim’s Progress,
by John Bunyan

Canterbury Tales, adapted by Barbara Cohen, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
Any book by Charles Dickens except Great Expectations

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Count of Monte-Cristo, and other titles by Alexandre Dumas

Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes

Lieutenant Hornblower, and other titles by C. S. Forester

The Gift of the Magi, and other titles by O. Henry

The Dragon and the Raven, and other titles by G. A. Henty

All Things Bright and Beautiful, and other titles by James Herriott

Hind’s Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard

Tales From Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb

Brothers of the Sled, by John Leeper

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The Girl of the Limberlost, and other titles by Gene Stratton Porter

A Lantern in Her Hand, and other titles by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Men of Iron, and other titles by Howard Pyle

Light in the ForestThe Light in the Forest, by Conrad Richter

Beowulf, the Warrior, and other titles by Ian Serraillier, translator

Kidnapped, and other titles by Robert Louis Stevenson

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and other titles by Mark Twain

The Princess Adelina, by Julie Sutter

Around the World in Eighty Days, and other titles by Jules Verne

Augustine Comes to Kent, and other titles by Barbara Willard

The Horn of Roland, and other titles by Jay Williams

The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann R. Wyss

Elementary and Middle School Biography: (ages 12 +)

Augustine: The Farmer’s Boy of Tagaste, by P. de Zeeuw

The Talking Wire: The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, by O. J. Stevenson

Daniel Boone, by James Daugherty

Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham

Alone, Yet Not Alone, by Tracy Leininger

John Bunyan, Author of Pilgrim’s Progress, by Sam Wellman

The Columbus Story, by Alice Dalgliesh

A Confederate Trilogy, by Mary L. Williamson

Robert Fulton, Boy Craftsman, and other titles by Marguerite Henry

George Fredric Handel: Composer of Messiah, by Charles Ludwig

Stonewall, by Jean Fritz

Johannes Kepler: Giant of Faith and Science, by John Judson Tiner

Robert E. Lee: Christian General and Gentleman, by Roddy Lee

Eric Liddell, by Catherine Swift

Queen of the Reformation, (Katherine Luther), by Charles Ludwig

Most of the books above are for high school age and above as well. I love some children's books as much as those targeted for adults. The simplicity of style is often refreshing and adult-aimed humor in children's books usually makes me smile. One such book, targeted perhaps for a children's audience but with a deep and abiding message is Matthew Wheelock's Wall - 1992 publication written by Frances Ward Weller and illustrated beautifully by Ted Lewin. You will want to purchase several of these for gifts. The message of the book always brings tears to my eyes -- building for future generations.

We'll stop there for now...this should give you plenty of reading materials to get you started for your long winter's reading by the fireside or under a cozy quilt. I pray that finding and reading good books will be an adventure for you that will never end!
Happy Reading!!