Books 2021

 List of books read in 2021.

RA Read aloud

SR Shared read

  1. Epic: An around the World Journey through Christian History Tim Challies 4* This isn't a book about relics but a fascinating account of objects-both positive and negative- from the history of Christianity. Starting with a statue of Caesar Augustus, going via Tyndale's translation of the Bible, to Marie Durand's engraving at the Tower of Constance to Amy Carmichael's boards in India. I hope to read this with my children, aged 11 and 14, at some point in the year.
  2. Dyscalculia: action plans for successful  learning in mathematics Glynis Hannell 4* A helpful overview of dyscalculia with practical ideas for how to introduce various mathematical concepts. It would benefit from chapters on shape and introducing algebra but is otherwise practical and useful.
  3. Robert Boyle John Hudson Tiner 3*  RA A slightly lacklustre biography of Boyle who was obviously a fascinating character. It could have done with a better explanation of Boyle's law and greater coverage of Boyle's beliefs. For example, Boyle was offered the presidency of the Royal Society but didn't take this as he couldn't sign the religious test. There is no explanation of this although a suggestion that it was a fairly minor malalignment.
  4. Free Indeed-Heroes of Black Christian History Mark Sidwell 5* Short biographies of black Christians from the US. Definitely worth reading and why had I only heard of one of these people before? 
  5. North! Or be Eaten Andrew Peterson 4* RA. The second in the Wingfeather Saga. Fantasy with the Wingfeather Family trying to escape the Fangs and get to the Ice Prairies. The ending doesn't tie up all the ends and of course, there is another book, which is on order!
  6. War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line David Nott 5* An incredible book about a surgeon who has worked to save lives in some of the most hostile environments. This book is moving and inspiring. It left me feeling that I had buried my one talent. But so many more reactions to this. In my NHS days, I ran the departmental leave rota and I do think that the colleagues left behind also bear much credit for managing to cover for someone with three NHS jobs and a private practice who frequently disappears for weeks at a moment's notice. Another thought, was around the issues for someone who has just been in a war situation just fitting back into ordinary hospital practice. Surely, more debriefing and space is needed. This was alluded to but seems, to me, to be a major issue. I definitely recommend this book but not for the faint hearted!
  7. I was a Spy! Marthe McKenna  4*A fast paced autobiography of a Belgian spy for the Allied in World War I. Some of the incidents are quite amazing and I am unsure how verified they are but then truth can be stranger than fiction. Definitely a gripping read.
  8. Patricia St John tells her own Story Patricia St John 5* I was hunting round the house for a biography of a Christian woman and found this. I really don't know why I haven't read it before. My copy was particularly precious as my Mum had written her name in it and used, as a bookmark, a card which had come from my grandparents. Patricia St John tells of a life with a close knit family, mainly brought up by her mother and a life devoted to serving the Lord, mainly as a nurse in Morocco. There were so many answers to prayer but also many difficulties. A joyful and God honouring book.
  9. The Monster of the Hollows Andrew Peterson 3* RA This is the third book in the Wingfeather Saga. High fantasy. I found the changing people into various creatures a big extreme and might have caused an overly complex situation, but for the convenient death of a creature, at the end of this book. The first two books seemed to have a fairly clear good/evil alignment. I am not sure whether this is becoming rather more confused at the end of this book but doubtless all will become clear in the sequel. Having said all this, my twelve year old loved the book and can't wait for the sequel to arrive.
  10. The Eagle of the Ninth Rosemary Sutcliff 3* RA This isn't my first attempt to read this book aloud to my children. Twelve years ago, when we started home education, it was the first book which I attempted to read aloud. It didn't go down well and we didn't finish. Whilst this book is famous, it isn't, in my opinion, the best of Rosemary Sutcliff's writings. This time round, we found the book OK but probably not more. One of my children pointed out the the ending was predictable a fair way before the end. Maybe we have been spoiled by reading so many of Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries.
  11. The Faithful Spy : a true story Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the plot to kill Hitler John Hendrix 5* RA This was a thoughtful read aloud. Lots of questions and yes, I don't know the answer. We added a walk to see where Bonhoeffer had lived in London. Recommended for older children.
  12. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Eric Metaxas 5* Having read John Hendrix's book, which was written for children, I wanted to know more. It is difficult to know what to say about this book. The best books leave an impact and this certainly does. There is so much to think about: life in preWWII Germany; issues in the German church; German hymnwriters; the Moravian Brethren tradition of meditating on a Bible verse a day; when not to cave into the current thinking in church or state; the relationship between church and state; living as a Christian under persecution and much more. Sad but not sad. Truly thought provoking.  Off to find the hymns of Paul Gerhardt!
  13. Out of the Smoke Matthew Wainwright RA 5* Read and discussed as part of our home education book group.
  14. Journey to Jo'burg Beverley Naidoo 3* I wanted to like this book more as Beverley Naidoo's book Other side of the Truth is a book that I had found thought provoking and used with the home education book group. However, this book is much shorter with a less well developed plot and characters. Its claim to fame is that it was banned by the apartheid South African government. The topic is important but a longer, more in depth story would have served it better.
  15. Questions Women Asked: historical issues, timeless answers. Simonetta Carr. Review coming up soon.
  16. More than Conquerors William Hendriksen 4* This book has a cogent interpretation of Revelation. It might be helpful if there were another chapter with alternative interpretations and why the author didn't think that they worked. In some ways, I found this book difficult and why I have had a few false starts with it. The middle section describing persecution and difficulties at the end of the age is hard to read. Having got through this to the end, it is glorious. 
  17. Washington Square Henry James 3* Three amazingly unlikeable characters and one that draws sympathy. Not quite sure of the point: how men can ruin a woman's life? Then, the aunt certainly contributed too. Maybe I missed the point?
  18. The Warden and the Wolf King Andrew Peterson 3* RA Definite fantasy with a medley of melded people and animals. Not sure about the ending-I have been told that it depicts the Gospel but it seems to fall far short. This certainly isn't an allegory. My son, who likes fantasy more than I do, loved this series and doubtless, will give it a higher rating.
  19. Dare to Stand Alone: read and enjoy the Book of Daniel Stuart Olyott 4* I first read this book many years ago. On rereading, it certainly makes the book of Daniel  clear. In some ways, reading this soon after More than Conquerors made sense but also, again, the part about difficulties to come was hard to read. 
  20. The Story of the World: Volume 3: Early Modern Times Susan Wise Bauer 4* RA An easy to read tour of world history from 1600 to 1850 which starts and ends with gold. I appreciated the inclusion of most of the continents and that it enthused my son.
  21. Partners in Crime Agatha Christie 3* A light, slightly sardonic version of crime writing.
  22. Twice Freed  Patricia St John 4* Historical fiction around Onesimus. Read with my book club.
  23. Prisoners of Geography: Ten maps that tell you everything that you need to know about global politics. Tim Marshall 4* This book looks at the interface between politics and geography. How the search for ports; the concern about defence over plains and resources influence politics. This is a fascinating book and as a non-geographer, I learned much. I did make quite heavy weather of the book and it book me several months to complete but it has made me listen to world news more carefully and, perhaps, with a bit more understanding.
  24. Towards Zero Agatha Christie 3* A bit contrived but a fun light read.
  25. William and Harold fought in The Battle of Hastings Chris Priestley 4* SR This is from the Scholastic Double Take series which looks at both sides of an event. Engaging and helpful introduction to looking at both sides of an argument.
  26. Mary's Bible retold by Elspeth Stevenson . 2* Not the best retelling and puts in some rather gratuitous romantic interest.
  27. Sacrifice Howard Guinness 3* Reprinting of a book to aid holiness. Originally, designed for students and this certainly comes through in discussion about life choices and sports. A bit formulaic in parts. It would be lovely to have an updated version aimed at a wider range of ages.
  28. Castle on the Hill Elizabeth Goudge 3* I enjoyed the story, character description and evocative writing about the English countryside but the syncretistic philosophy rather spoiled this for me.
  29. Silas Marner George Elliot 4* Not sure why I haven't read this before. Blossoming of a character. The plot was quite obvious but getting to know Silas made up for this.
  30. Taken at the Flood Agatha Christie 5* Clever; one of her best.
  31. The Breadwinner: Starvation or Survival-a girl's life under Taliban rule Deborah Ellis 4* A timely read of a book first published in 2000. The struggles of a family to survive, under the Taliban, when there was no man to go out and the women were forced to stay at home. Lost one star as the book really ends on a cliff hanger. 
  32. The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors Dan Jones 5* This is on my son's reading list for his history course this year and a really interesting read it is too. I feel as though, for the first time, I have some sort of idea about what sparked the Wars of the Roses and what they were.
  33. The Hollow Agatha Christie 4* I hadn't realised until I wrote this that I have read two consective books with the word hollow. Usually Agatha Christie twists and turns leaving me wondering why I hadn't guessed.
  34. Wulfgar and the Riddle Christina Eastwood. Review coming soon.
  35. Bone of Contention: Is Evolution True Sylvia Baker. 4* RA I read an old version of this whilst doing A levels and found it very helpful. There is now an updated version including topics such as the genome project and non-coding DNA. In terms of format, this isn't as well done as the old magazine style booklet but the content is helpful, particularly, for young people.
  36. Once upon a Wardrobe Patti Callahan 3* Fiction woven around CS Lewis and his brother soon after the publication of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. An easy read which, for me, was spoiled by Americanisms, watering down  of some of the imagery of CS Lewis' book and needed to suspend belief about a trip taken by a seriously ill child. Please would the author ask an English person to check this book! Since when did Oxford have sidewalks or English houses stoops?
  37. Walking toward the Dawn-Finding Certainty in our Christian Experience Jeremiah Montgomery 5* A helpful and sensitive little booklet about dealing with doubts and lack of assurance in the Christian life. Read x2
  38. Five Little Pigs Agatha Christie 3* As usual a clever plot.
  39. Rock Crystal Adalbert Stifter 3* A simple, predictable plot and very based in Roman Catholic culture but beautiful, evocative description of  mountains.
  40. The Other Side of Truth Beverley Naidoo RA 5* This is the book which I used for my home education book group this term. There is so much in this book about politics, refugees, the media, bullying, truth and more. It is definitely not suitable for younger children but thought provoking with the older end of the scale. In the interests of honesty though, my 12 year old didn't enjoy it although it was well received by most of the group.
  41. Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Mark Twain 2* RA I only persevered with this as it was on my son's history reading list. The Yankee looks down on the people of the Middle Ages and does his best to introduce an American style Republic with nineteenth century innovations. 

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