Married for God by Christopher Ash is a book on marriage from a Christian perspective that is essential to read whether you are married or single. Rather than focussing on how to improve marriage or what marriage actually is, this book starts with what marriage is for. It challenges us, whether married or single, to align ourselves with God’s plan for marriage, rather than expecting him to work to our terms! It’s a very readable version of Ash’s hefty ethical tome, Marriage: Sex in the Service of God, and helpfully challenges lots of the ways that our culture has distorted our assumptions about relationships.
Sex and the iWorld by Dale S. Kuehne is an insightful and helpful book for understanding the rapid changes in how western society thinks about sex and sexuality since the sexual revolution in the 1970s. Tracing these changes back to the Enlightenment, Kuehne questions whether our unfettered individualism and emphasis on almost absolute freedom of choice actually delivers the fulfillment we hope for. He suggests that what we really long for is deep relationships, which require trust and security that are undermined by our modern iWorld. He writes as both an Anglican minister and professor or politics. This book is incredibly helpful for understanding what makes our society tick and for engaging more directly and helpfully about why God’s way might be better.
These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder is the last of the Little House books that Wilder completed and also my favourite. At the end of Little Town on the Prairie Laura received her teaching certificate. Now Laura has her first job as a teacher, far from home, teaching students older than herself and boarding with the angry Mrs Brewster. Laura is now a young woman and being courted by Almanzo Wilder. One of the charms of this series is the way the books age with Laura with this final book being aimed at teens and young women.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion features an unusual hero on a mission to find a wife. To increase the efficiency of the process, Don Tillman develops a lengthy questionaire that will allow him to quickly eliminate women who would be unsuitable. However the Wife Project becomes more complicated when Don begins helping Rosie Jarman to find her biological father. Rosie brings all sorts of chaos into Don’s incredibly regulated life. This first-person novel is rich in dramatic irony as we see the world through Don’s eyes but also pick up on social clues that Don sees but doesn’t understand. It is rich in gentle humour and conveys both the struggles and the richness of having a brain that works differently to the average.
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder continues the Little House books. The Long Winter is over, the prairie is filling up and Laura is old enough to get summer work sewing in the growing town. When winter comes the Ingalls family again move into the town, but this winter is mild and sunny. At first Laura hates living in town but soon she is enjoying town life, even when her old enemy, Nellie Olsen, moves to town and the school has the unfair Miss Wilder as teacher. But Laura must continue to work hard at school in order to get a teacher’s certificate so that she can earn money to help her sister Mary continue at the College for the Blind. Another beautiful account of growing up and American pioneering life.
Letters from England by Karel Čapek is a book I picked up for $5 in New Zealand, one of those high points of secondhand-bookshopping. As suggested by the title, it’s a collection of letters from the Czech author’s travels in England. The translation (by Paul Selver) is very readable and the humour and outsider’s perspective enjoyable. Čapek is particularly intrigued by architectural fashion crazes that make whole streets look alike, the impressive powers and proportions of the police and the surprising Englishness of England!
The Door in the Air and Other Stories is my favourite book by Margaret Mahy, a fantastic (in both senses) kiwi children’s author. I have two favourite stories from this book. The first is The Work of Art, which makes fun of art critics who go ga-ga over a cake that they mistake for art. The second is The Bridge Builder, a whimsical story about a man who builds bridges just for the sake of it, with many beautiful descriptions of his bridges.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas is a beautiful picture book about the nature of memory. It tells the story of Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge who lives next door to an old people’s home where his friend Miss Nancy lives. Wilfrid’s quest to find Miss Nancy’s lost memory helps her to tap into the long-term memories that still remain.
Light A Single Candle by Beverley Butler is a great book written in the early 60s that I discovered in high school. Cathy Wheeler becomes completely blind in her early teens when surgery to treat glaucoma goes seriously wrong. As well as adjusting to her sensory disability, Cathy also faces the complicated responses of friends, family and strangers, ranging from unsolicited to pity through to embarrassment, avoidance and rejection. Some of these experiences lead to Cathy giving in to pressure to attend the State School for the Blind, a horrible experience, that eventually leads her to Trudy, a German shepherd and trained guide dog, who facilitates her reintegration to the sighted world. This book, which draws on Butler’s own experience, has the ring of authenticity, in its portrayal of blindness, of Cathy’s adjustment and of other people’s reactions.
Goodnight, Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian is a historical novel and modern children’s classic set in World War II Britain. Billeting arrangements bring together Mister Tom, a gruff and grieving old man, and Willie Beech, a starved and abused child from London’s East End. Both need each other. Tom is forced to leave the seclusion he has embraced since the death of his wife and child in order to care for Willie. Willie flourishes within the new experience of safety and security that Mister Tom gives him. All this is challenged when a telegram requires Willie to return to his mother in London. This books is deeply moving as it deals with tough issues like abuse, poverty and mental illness. It is incredibly subtle for a children’s book, masterfully showing rather than telling. Thanks to MT for introducing me to it.