One of my wee personal goals for 2011 was to spend more time reading books {which for me meant spending less time faffing about on Facebook, and also meant I sometimes got into bed earlier to read a real book. Bonus.} I love books. I think they love me, too, but they’ve never said so.


I didn’t exactly make this a “SMART” goal {ya know, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound} since I wasn’t too Specific and didn’t really make it Measurable — but I’m pretty sure I exceeded the reading tally for 2010, so I think it’s fair to say I succeeded. Go me. I was doing quite well (by my personal standards) until we started packing up our home and our lives for The Move.

Then things kind of slowed down for a wee while.


Anywho, I thought it mayhaps be of interest to you that I share a few favourites, in case you might like to make reading more a personal goal for your New Year. I recommend doing a better job of making it a SMART goal than I did. That way you’ll really feel like you’ve achieved something next December.

But do what you want.

Here are my Five Favourite Reads of 2011 {complete with affiliate links to Amazon}

1. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. How I came across this wonderful book, I’m not exactly sure. But I wrote a bit about how it rocked my socks off right here so I won’t attempt to rehash it here. Simply put, Lewis’ words, though partially a dialogue about grief, have infinitely greater wisdom to offer.

This is a 76 page gem.

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith. This book is dang funny. Sadly, I have to make an important disclaimer about it. A tad bit, nay, quite possibly 30 percent of its delightful humour could be lost on a reader who has not experienced much of Edinburgh, and Scottish culture. However, I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of its humour cannot be lost in translation, at least for native speakers of English and folks who have a good grasp of it.

Like us Americans, ya know.

Seriously, Smith’s writing is a treat — I read this from cover to cover very quickly, and just did not want it to end.

You’ll laugh, you’ll laugh, you’ll laugh and laugh.

3. Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller. Funny enough, though I’m a few years late on arriving at the Blue Like Jazz party, this book came across my path in perfect timing. It confirmed some of the sentiments I gained during my expatriate experience and challenged some of my notions of what Church means. Miller’s genuineness, his humble honesty and his fantastic stories inspired my faith.

Worth it. Very worth it.

4. Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson. Though Dobson might be at a different end of the spectrum from Miller, his insight in Bringing Up Boys brought some practical and very valuable parenting advice to the table for the Hubs and me. As a woman, it gave me some quality insight into “boydom” and manhood that I am sure I’ll find useful in the days ahead. (And already have, a bit with the Bear!)

Impressively well researched, Dobson painted a concerning picture of the challenges that face boys growing up right now, along with the significant challenges that face men and especially fathers in our time. A consistent reminder of the legacy we’re writing that will go beyond our days was woven thoughout. Teach us to number our days…

Even if you’re a mentor or a teacher or a pastor of boys, and not a parent of ’em, this will still prove an insightful read.

5. Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere. I needed to read so much of what this book had to say — partially because I needed to be reminded that women can and do have a place in the Church that is not just in the kitchen or with the kids. Bevere’s writing style was very personal and generally enjoyable, and this book is a call to action for women who might feel they can’t because they aren’t someone else. It’s a challenge to wake up an make a difference for the Kingdom.

{I must add that Bevere occasionally lost me on the lioness illustrations because her interpretations of lion behaviour were different from what I learned in the South African bush. So to my friends in SA, I apologize if you read this and that aspect of it annoys you. There is still SO much valuable wisdom here.}

My favourite line from Lioness Arising: God did not save you to tame you.

A Few Honourable Mentions on the 2011 Book List:

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman. This would be way up the list, but I’m reading it slowly with a book club, so I haven’t finished it yet. But the subtitle — Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life — says it all. I am learning to let go of some things I’ve held onto and understood as a part of Christianity, which were actually standards I created and tried to put Jesus’ Name onto. This. Book. Is. Good. Please read it. {Girls, especially, guys, I think it could help you understand us even better.} Mentioned here.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Yes, this is a children’s book. And yes I do love it. And the Bear does too. And the sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child, is equally delightful. {I was even more delighted to learn the author is British, but sad she wasn’t Scottish.}

The Cool Nguni by Maryanne Bester, Illustrated by Shayle Bester. Also a delightful book, of which the Bear has an autographed copy. {Thank you, Auntie Lyn.} If you’d like to introduce your kids to some delightful children’s books from another country, the Bester sisters (from South Africa!) can kick off a lekker collection. Their Three Friends and a Taxi is also a very cute little treat, and The Long Trousers might actually be my favourite. Gaps the Nguni calf (Nguni is a type of cattle, very hearty and suited for the hot and dry conditions of southern Africa, by the by) will win your heart. {There’s one more called Mealies and Beans which I’m especially fond of, but I couldn’t find it on Amazon. Sowwy.}

And finally,

On Writing by Stephen King. If you are interested in delving deeper into the craft of writing, and you can handle an occasional potty-mouth, this might be right up your alley. As I spoke about it here, King took the time to articulate his gift, his methods and process, and the insight was very valuable. Two Thumbs Up.

How about you? Have a few favourites from 2011 you’d like to tell us about? Mayhaps I can put them on my 2012 list!