Books 2020

Books Read

RA Read aloud
SR Shared reading

The Pastor of Kilsyth: the life and times of William Hamilton Burns: Islay Burns-January 2020 
3* The excerpts of WH Burns' diaries were well worth reading. His son's heavy Victorian prose less so.
The Periodic Table Book: Tom Jackson-January 2020 SR
5* Attractive format and loads of facts about elements.
The Gospel Comes with a House key: Rosaria Butterfield-January 2020
2* I wanted to like this book more. I agree that hospitality is a Biblical command but although this was assumed, in the book, Rosaria didn't go back to the Scriptures which support this and what they mean. It also seemed to involve many stories from Rosaria's own life. I know nothing of Durham, NC but despite changing names, the stories must be easily identifiable to anyone local. It might have been more useful to engage with the long history of Christian hospitality.
Personally, I found the details of Rosaria's life as a homeschooling Mum fascinating but, on balance, I'm not sure they add to the book.
Wulfgar and the Vikings: Christina Eastwood-February 2020
4* See review
Emily Fox-Seton The Makings of a Marchioness and the Methods of Lady Walderhurst Frances Hodgson Burnett-February 2020
3* This was a bit of light relaxation at the end of a half term. Perhaps, the most telling point about this novel is the difficult role of a poor but well connected woman in early Edwardian society. Rather spoilt by some racist overtones.
Mystery of the Roman Ransom Henry Winterfeld-March 2020 SR
4* A fun children's mystery set in Roman times.
A  tree grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith-March 2020
4* A gritty tale of life in Brooklyn in the early twentieth century.
A London Sparrow: The story of Gladys Aylward Phyllis Thompson-March 2020 RA
4* Unforgettable story of a maverick parlour maid and how she was used by God.
Then Morris Gleitzman March 2020 RA
3* My son liked this book but I found the constant references to praying to Richmal Crompton, yes-I did write that, rather trying. Faces the sad reality of World War Two in Poland.
Now Morris Gleitzman March 2020 RA
4* 70 years after Now and Then. Story of resilience in the face of Australian bushfires. I enjoyed the depicting of the older Felix.
Oliver Twist Charles Dickens April 2020
3* A reread of a classic. It is anti-Semitic ,even if Dickens denied this, and the plot is completely implausible but the sarcasm and the exposure of the plight of the Victorian poor makes this book still worth reading.
Evangelicalism Divided Iain Murray April 2020
4* At the beginning, this book was going to get 5* but whilst the content is important and worthy of reading, the word count could have been reduced by about 50%.
Black Beauty Anna Sewell April 2020
5* A happy reread.
The man in the Brown Suit Agatha Christie April 2020
4* I didn't guess!
Murder on the Links Agatha Christie May 2020
3* Slightly fantastic plot.
The King's Service Deborah Alcock May 2020
3* Easy to read book about the Thirty Years War but this book would benefit from a historical note. Sadly, the ending didn't fit well with history.
Morning Time Handbook Cindy Rollins May 2020
4* We have had a morning time for years although not as long as the ones that Cindy describes. Whilst I wouldn't do everything in the same way, this book is a useful resource and would be particularly helpful for anyone beginning a morning time.
Peril at End House  Agatha Christie May 2020
3* Convoluted plot which threw glory on no one.
Henry V-A Shakespeare Story Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross June 2020 Shared reading
3* Oversimplification but fulfils its purpose.
The Story of the Middle Ages Christine Miller June 2020 RA
5* Fascinating introduction to the Middle Ages, particularly in England and France which we have read a chapter per day from September until now. This book includes plenty of background, in fact, the first few chapters are about the Romans and Gauls. Sadly, the binding on this book isn't great and it has needed a fair few repairs on the way! Otherwise, highly recommended.
King of the Cannibals: The Story of John G Paton Jim Cromarty June 2020 RA
4* I don't think the title is appropriate or accurate but otherwise this is an engaging biography of John Paton.
My Family and Other Animals June 2020 Gerald Durrell RA
3* In the interests of honesty, we didn't read the last two chapters as we were reading an old copy and discovered pages were missing! This is definitely a read aloud as the language needs some editing. However, the book has a vibrant description of nature on Corfu.
Murder is Easy Agatha Christie June 2020
3* One of my children is enjoying Agatha Christie, at present, so I am joining in as it is more interesting to discuss the stories. This, as usual, had an ending that I didn't guess.
 And then there were none. Agatha Christie July 2020
4* A cleverly written book but quite creepy!
Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke Volume 2 JC Ryle July 2020
5* A reread of one of my favourite books. There is so much practical spiritual help here. Highly recommended.
Story of the Middle Ages Susan Wise Bauer July 2020 RA
4* I have read this with my youngest over this school year. It is engagingly written and doesn't just cover Europe and North America. I have written more about it here.
Tyneham: A lost heritage Lilian Bond July 2020
5* The story of an estate at the turn of the twentieth century, made poignant by the fact that this area was taken over by the army during the Second World War and never returned. Having read the book, I would love to visit Tyneham. Fascinating social and rural history.
Stella by Starlight Sharon M Draper July 2020 RA
5* This book is set in North Carolina in the 1930s in a town with racial segregation and an active Ku Klux Klan group. Stella is a lively black girl who struggles with what sounds like dyslexia and with the split town and active hostility from some white people. Follow the tensions as her father and two others decide to register to vote. This is an important read aloud with plenty to discuss and great food descriptions! The church is really a social vehicle which would be my only hesitation about the book but again, this is something to talk about. 
Galen: The Gateway to Medicine Jeanne Bendick August 2020 
5* This was a preread for my book group, for next term. A fascinating book. I learned loads and read the book quickly as it was so engaging. Hopefully, the group will agree with me!
Hidden Figures: The Untold story of the African American Women who helped win the Space Race Margot Lee Shetterly August 2020
4* Story of the African American women who became mathematicians and, later, engineers at NASA. Worth reading about work despite an environment of discrimination. Thought provoking. The book would have benefited from time lines for the major characters.
Death on the Nile Agatha Christie August 2020
5* Very clever plot.
Breaking through barriers to Boys' Achievement Gary Wilson August 2020
4* Written for schools but with practical pointers for helping boys succeed.
L'Abri Edith Schaeffer August 2020
4* Story of God's provision in Switzerland in the twentieth century.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase Joan Aitken August 2020
4* A fun preread for my book group. Adventure in a made-up period of history.
The Pigtail and Chopsticks Man Jim Cromarty August 2020
4* A biography of Hudson Taylor written for older children. Again, the title could have been improved.
Missionary Triumph over Slavery: William Knibb and Jamaican Emancipation Peter Masters
5* Very short biography of a missionary who worked towards the ending of slavery in Jamaica despite dreadful opposition from the plantation owners.
A Passion for the Impossible: the Life of Lilias Trotter Miriam Huffman Rockness September 2020
4* Biography of an artist turned missionary. Much to mull over.
Galen: the Gateway to Medicine Jeanne Bendick September 2020 RA
5* as before
Rose in Bloom Louisa May Alcott October 2020
2* Weak plot, where the end was obvious from the first chapter,  and with leanings to transcendentalism.
Wulfgar the Saxon: Wulfgar and the dragon Christina Eastwood October 2020
Tales of Persia: Missionary Stories from Islamic Iran William McElwee Miller October 2020
4* Stories of changed lives in Iran. 
Moonfleet J Meade Faulkner October 2020 RA
4* Classic treasure seeking, smuggling adventure.
Expository thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew JC Ryle
5* I can't remember how many times I have read this book but it has straight forward, helpful comments on the Gospel of Matthew. Themes from the text are brought out but the text isn't forced. Really practical and easy to read. Highly recommended and, don't buy a paper back copy, get a hard back for rereading.
How to win a Nobel Prize Barry Marshall with Lorna Hendry SR
3* A fun read although using a slightly clunky literary device of time travel to find out about some Nobel Prize winners. Plenty to learn here and the book didn't drag.
Out of the Smoke Matthew Wainwright
The Book Whisperer Donalyn Miller November 2020
4* Book by an enthusiastic English teacher writing about the joys of reading. Worth reading even as a home educator. This is a helpful and enthusiastic book but Sarah McKenzie's book, The Read aloud family is probably even better.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: a devout Muslim encounters Christianity Nabeel Qureshi November 2020
5* This is the raw testimony of a a Muslim lad to starts to work through the truth of the information that he has always believed about Christianity and then the foundation for his Islamic beliefs. A thoughtful book showing the beliefs that many Muslims have about Christianity, Nabeel's love for his family and the cost that he paid to follow the Lord Jesus. 
Some of the appendices are less well written than the main book. 
Three Act Tragedy Agatha Christie November 2020
4* Again, I didn't guess before the end of the book.
The Bible and Art Francis Schaeffer November 2020
4* I remember trying to read Schaeffer as a teenager and finding him a bit out of my depth. I can't even remember the title that I was trying to read. Anyway, this title is short and easily accessible. It has some helpful thoughts about art and a framework for assessing art, in its broadest form from a Christian point of view. I need to think more about this but it was a helpful start. For a long time, I have been thinking about having a Christian framework for thinking about literature and this book makes a helpful contribution to this.
Stranger than Fiction: the Life of William Kiffin BA Ramsbottom November 2020 RA
3* I like this book but it isn't best suited to being read aloud. William Kiffin was a pastor and business man in the seventeenth century. We had some interesting discussions about whether a pastor should be wealthy and what we would think about Kiffin today.
Radium Woman Eleanor  Doorly November 2020 RA
3* A life of Marie Curie for children. The prose grated on me but the children liked the book.
Wolves of Willoughby Chase Joan Aitken November 2020
4* This was our book club choice for this term. It works well for talking about story structure but more importantly, was appreciated by the group.
Peter Nimble and his fantastic eyes Jonathan Auxier December 2020
3* Definitely fantasy and doesn't rank amongst the best of the genre but a fun read, all the same. Interesting thoughts about brain washing is the more serious backdrop to the book.
The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the plot to kill Hitler John Hendrix December 2020
4* I really enjoyed this book which is aimed at older children but is a thoughtful portrayal of Bonhoeffer and his struggles to do what was right as a pastor during the German Reich. This isn't a deep look at Bonhoeffer's theology, and yes, I do have some reservations about this, but does raise many points for discussion both about theology, history and ethics. I am planning to read this aloud and discuss it with my children.
Kings and Queens of England and Great Britain Anne and Paul Fryer December 2020
Review coming soon
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness Andrew Peterson December 2020 RA
4* Well written fantasy with relatable characters and a collection of interesting non-human creatures.
I wish someone would explain Hebrews to me. Stuart Olyott December 2020
4* Years ago, I heard a recording of a sermon by Stuart Olyott where he talked about Scripture being clear and this is what he has done with Hebrews-make the message clear and challenging. Perhaps, too much paraphrasing of the text for my liking but a useful book.
Daddy-Long-Legs Jean Webster December 2020
2* An amusing read but to modern ears a rather strange relationship between Judy and her benefactor. It rather reminds me of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Definite overtones of the religious slide into liberalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Spurgeon's Devotional Bible December 2020
5* My husband and I read this together over two years. This consists of readings straight from the Bible  with a few devotional comments.

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