Sunday, 26 April 2015

Reading Challenge Update (April)

It's been a long time since I last reported on my progress with the reading challenges. As I have already written about most of these books either in QuickLit or other posts, this is going to be just a list.

A Book by a Favorite Author
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

A Book I Should Have Read in High School: 
The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson.
This was assigned in many Finnish schools when I was a teen. I don't remember reading it - I might have, or maybe our school didn't do this one, I'm not sure.

A Book That's Currently on the Bestseller List: 
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This one was number 3 on the New York Times list when I read it.

Now I've completed five out of twelve categories in the MMD challenge. Plenty more to read during the rest of the year...

#21 A book you should have read at school but didn't:
David Wilkerson: The Cross and the Switchblade

#11 The first book by a popular author and
#49: Detective or suspense novel:
Louise Penny: Still Light

#12 Written by your favourite author, but you haven't read this book before:
Marilynne Robinson: Housekeeping

#6 The name of the book is just one word:
Micha Boyett: Found

#4 The author was under 25 when book was published:
Katie Davis: Kisses from Katie

#31 A self-help book:
Danny Gregory: Art before breakfast: a zillion ways to be more creative no matter how busy you are

In progress now:

#14 Based on real events AND #26 A trilogy:
Judith Kerr: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, The Other Way Round and A Small Person Far Away.

#39 A book you remember from childhood (also for the MMD challenge)
F.H. Burnett: The Secret Garden

Out of the 50 categories in the challenge, I still have 23 that I haven't even started. In one way, being halfway through even though it's only April is good. On the other hand, some of the remaining categories are more difficult for me. (Set in my home town? Author with the same initials as mine?) I keep hoping that I'll bump into books that will fit the categories and that I also want to read. At the same time, I'm also reading books that don't fit any of the remaining categories. Can't help it - I can't ignore all the interesting books around me just because they don't fit into the challenge... :)

Friday, 17 April 2015

QuickLit in April

Wilkerson, Gwen: Abiding in His Strength

I've been reading several Wilkerson books lately. The first was Gary Wilkerson's biography of his dad David Wilkerson, and he also mentioned his mother Gwen Wilkerson's memoirs in the book. So I thought I'd really like to get her point of view, too.

Funny story: I got the book as a Finnish translation from the library. My 10-year-old saw it on my library bookshelf, then took me to the living room and showed me exactly the same book - the one that we own. My son knows our bookcases better than I do?

As for the book, excellent. She tells of her struggles candidly. Marital problems, Gwen's cancers (four times!) and the cancers of both her daughters. And through it all - Jesus.

Davis, Katie: Kisses from Katie

Katie's life has become very different from the usual path taken by her peers. After she graduated from high school, she went to Uganda to work with children. Now she's the adoptive/foster mother of 13 girls and they're serving the people around them as a family. Her ministry helps to sponsor poor children so they can go to school, get enough food, and have their medical needs taken care of.

Katie's youth and enthusiasm come through very clearly in this book. And her enthusiasm is catching. When one ordinary person says Yes to God's will, amazing things can happen. It isn't easy - Katie also tells honestly about the hardships and challenges - but it's worthwhile. God has given her a lot of love for the people around her.

My only problem with this book is that it occasionally feels a little repetitive - but it's still very much worth reading.

Bates, Laura: Shakespeare Saved My Life

How can reading Shakespeare save the life of a convicted killer?
Literature is powerful when you let it make you think.
And this one is definitely a thought-provoking read.

(I have to admit, I never got as much out of Shakespeare as the prisoners do in this book.)

This book was Overdrive's Big Library Read. I never participated in the discussion on that website, but they have good discussion questions if you want to use this in a book club. It would work pretty for that purpose, I think - lots to discuss. (But you might get a lively political debate on the U.S. prison system, too.)

Doerr, Anthony: All the Light We Cannot See

I don't have the words to review this book. And seeing how long it's been on the bestseller lists, I suppose many have already read it. :)

It's a great novel. An interesting perspective on WW2. Fascinating characters. Beautiful language. If any one of those sounds interesting to you, go read this book. :)

Friday, 3 April 2015

New on the Stack in March

Time to link up with the Deliberate Reader and see what we have added to our reading stacks in the past month!

My stack of printed books looks like this:

Wilkerson, Gary: David Wilkerson. The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed

Why: A gift from my husband. (We apparently have a similar gift-giving strategy - choosing books that interest us both. :) ) I've already read this; here are some thoughts on it.

Davis, Katie: Kisses from Katie

Why: I noticed it on the library's list of new titles, because Amazon keeps recommending this to me based on the books I have bought/looked at. I've read mixed reviews - some enthusiastic, some not quite so keen - and I thought I'd give it a try.

Doerr, Anthony: All the Light We Cannot See

Why: All the reviews I've read about this book have been positive. 
Moreover, this will be my "bestseller" for the MMD Reading Challenge.*sigh of relief*
(I'm now in the middle of reading it, and it's number 3 on the NY Times Bestseller list, in the category of Combined print and e-book fiction. I really read very few books that are still "currently on the bestseller list" when I read them, because getting them from the library tends to mean getting them after the biggest wave of popularity has already passed.)

Borrowed electronically from the library:

Bates, Laura: Shakespeare Saved My Life. Ten Years in the Solitary with the Bard.

Why: It caught my attention when our library's Overdrive page advertised it as a Big Library Read book ( The description intrigued me - I wanted to know how reading Shakespeare saved the life of a prison inmate. 
I probably won't participate in the discussion on the Big Library Read website, but it's an interesting concept.

Kindle Purchase:

Why: It was a special offer (just $3,71 with taxes), and I've read enough blog posts, about her and by her, to feel that this book will be worth reading. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Grace, the Cross, the Switchblade

This post has been brewing in my mind a long time - it's been hard to put my thoughts into at least somewhat coherent words. Now it's time to press Publish, or it won't come out at all.  

As I mentioned in March QuickLit, I really enjoyed Gary Wilkerson's biography of David Wilkerson. After that, it was a logical next step to read The Cross and the Switchblade. I do recommend both books - and the biography, published in 2014, helps to set the older book in its context.

The Cross and the Switchblade is one of the most influential Christian books of the 20th century. Worldwide. ("More than 15 million copies have been distributed in over 30 languages," says the World Challenge website.) When I was a teen, it was assigned reading for 13-16-year-olds in many Finnish schools. And wow, what a story it tells. But it's really only a very small slice of David Wilkerson's life.

The Teen Challenge ministry, whose beginnings are told in The Cross and the Switchblade, is still going strong - and global. It's fair to say that David Wilkerson communicated God's love to millions - through sermons, books, meetings, personal encounters... Multitudes of people have come to faith through his work or through the ministries he started. Their lives have changed.

And Brother Dave was the first to admit it all was God's doing, not his own effort. 

The man we see in Gary Wilkerson's biography of his father is a dedicated man of God, a man of prayer, completely focused on doing God's will, surrendered to God. Before he did anything, he prayed. If he did not sense that God was in it, he would not do it. But he was not inerrant, not without faults. His life was never an easy stroll from one victory to another.

With all the challenges David Wilkerson faced in ministry and his family's health issues, he had no time for superficial Christianity. Superficial isn't enough for questions of life and death. But partly because he was so keen to take God seriously, Brother Dave could also come across as harsh and legalistic, especially in certain issues. His family background in strict Pentecostal Holiness circles influenced his views. Moreover, his parents hadn't shown him affection and approval in ways that would have spoken to his heart. If you learn to strive for approval from the time you're little, and you're never quite sure your efforts are enough - it will be very hard to really, really grasp God's unconditional love.

The biography reveals that throughout the years, as God did amazing things through David Wilkerson's ministry, he himself was often unsure of God's love for him. Did God really love him? Had he - David - done enough? It's as if he was able to give a lot more grace to others than to himself.

So we get this man of God who was always hungry to learn more of God. And humble enough to receive from other people, too. He had friends and mentors, and he received books from them that would feed his soul in a special way: old books written by Puritans. These helped Wilkerson to understand God's grace better: that holiness really is all God's work in us and not our own effort.

And that, ultimately, is the main message of Wilkerson's biography: it's all about Jesus. David Wilkerson, with all those ministries and worldwide fame and respect, was completely dependent on God's grace, and so are the rest of us.

I think it's a message that Dave Wilkerson would approve: 
Readers, be hungry for more of Jesus.