2014 is in the books!

I have just triumphantly finished my 2014 book goal! Horray! Hurrah! Huzzah! Cheerio!!

As I am typing this there are literally fireworks going off in the neighborhood behind mine, so I am feeling very celebrated by the world at large.

If you’re interested in the breakdown of my 50 books for the year, you can find them at the top of the page. You can also see last year’s unsuccessful list and 2012’s 50 books. I say that 2013 was unsuccessful, but when I consider that I’ve read 130 some books in the last three years I feel pretty accomplished! (More fireworks, I’m raising my can of cherry coke zero)

And so in a few short hours I will embark again upon the quest to read and enjoy books of all genres, types, and length. Before I get in my car and race to the bookstore, though, here are my top books from 2014:

All Around Most Delightful: Letters to Children by C.S. Lewis

Most Practical: Boundaries with Teens by Dr. John Townsend

Best Biography: The Terrible Speed of Mercy by Jonathan Rogers

Most Harrowing: Atonement by Ian McEwan

Most Accurate Portrait of This Season of Life: A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle

Most-Read Author: Rick Riordan

Latest to the Party: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Best Old Book: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Best New Book: Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

And there you have it! Here’s to 2015, to new goals, and to all that waits for us in the month ahead. May your new year be full of blessings, both hidden and in disguise.


The Home Stretch

It’s here: the home stretch of my 50 book goal. I’ve read 41 books since January 1st, and I’ve selected the last 10 I will read before December 31st. There are ten because I’m relatively sure I won’t finish all of them, so I want to cover myself a little bit!


Atonement by Ian McEwan: I’m halfway through it and love it so far!

Henry IV, Part I: Because I told myself I’d read all of Shakespeare by the time I’m 25.

Orthodoxy by Chesterton: Because it’s phenomenally good, and I’ve been almost finished with it since 2012!

The Storytelling God by Jared C. Wilson: This is yet another that I’ve started but haven’t finished, and it’s excellent so far!

Outliers by Malcom Gladwell: Reading for the sake of curiosity and cultural relevance.

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky: Because shouldn’t we all read at least one Russian masterpiece each year?

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks: Fascinating stories of the brain and music!

The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan: Impulse purchase that looks like it might pay off.

Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor: I’m learning that I can only take Flannery in small doses. Maybe I’ll get to her novels next year.

Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey: A Christmas favorite I know I’ll read. Which means there’s less pressure to finish the Dostoyevsky.

Do you plan out your reading to accomplish a goal? This is a first for me!

Book Review: A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle

Every now and then I will read a book that marks an epoch in my life. A Circle of Quiet is one of those books. I stumbled across this book on Amazon while looking up copies of A Wrinkle in Time. I’m currently teaching Wrinkle to my seventh graders, so I jumped at the chance to do a little research about Madeleine.

After reading this book, I feel that I can call her Madeleine, because we are kindred spirits. This book touches on all of the things I am struggling with in my everyday life–what it means to be a writer, a teacher, and a Christian, how to balance a career with what your heart says you ought to be doing, everything.

The book is written reflectively, almost as a collection of essays or a conversation that all runs together smoothly. There are different parts and different chapters, but the book is cyclical: the same themes and topics recur again and again throughout. There were so many moments that spoke to my heart and led me into my own circle of quiet. The most notable was Madeleine’s habit of retreating into her own “circle of quiet” whenever she felt herself becoming negative or crotchety and out of sorts. I love this idea, and it makes my heart happy to think that I can guiltlessly retreat into a circle of quiet to get my heart and mind back in line with Christ.

Madeleine also writes poignantly of growing up, of maturity. These parts spoke to me especially–I think part of us always dreads growing up because we think it will be rules and responsibility all the time. A Circle of Quiet shows that growing up into maturity is truly the best expression of a childhood lived joyfully. We don’t have to fear age and maturity, because we can still retain our childlike sense of wonder with the world. When we can grow up into ourselves and be ourselves, then, as L’Engle puts it, we are living “ontologically.”

I won’t write more for fear of gushing, but this book has immediately earned its spot on my list of favorites, and I can’t wait to read it again and again whenever I need to quiet my heart and simplify my life.


You can find the book here.

Book Review: “Boundaries With Teens”


So my first attempt at writing this post was sadly deleted, but hopefully I can remember all the glowing comments I made!

This book was #32 of my 50 book goal for the year, and I am so glad that I picked it up right before school starts. It is written for parents of teenagers, but I picked up on a lot of things that will be really helpful for me as a teacher.

One of my biggest struggles during my first year of teaching was maintaining a firm classroom discipline routine. After reading this book I am genuinely excited to set boundaries in my classroom and see how the kids respond. There is no telling how much better my school year can be with kids who follow rules and act responsibly.

Here are some of my favorite parts:

  • “They need to learn that freedom is earned and that they can gain freedom by demonstrating responsibility” (11). Need I say more? This is a concept that I have always heard and know, but no book I have ever read gives such practical applications.
  • “Teens also need the safety, structure, and warmth of a loving home that offers them protection when needed” (17). Many of my students don’t have a home environment like that. This year I will focus on making sure my classroom is a safe space where students feel protected but also have the freedom to speak their minds.
  • “Adolescence is not a bad patch to be lived through. Rather, adolescence is a good and necessary thing. Adolescence is helpful for your child, and it is normal” (71). How often have I talked to my class or my friends and family about how crazy middle school is? That’s true, but it’s not something that needs to be merely “survived.” I hope to model to my students this year that middle school is good and necessary. It’s not this awful time of drama and hormones, but a preparation for all the responsibilities of adulthood.
  • The Anchors of Boundary Setting: 
    • Love: I am on your side.
    • Truth: I have some rules and requirements for your behavior.
    • Freedom: You can choose to respect or reject these rules. 
    • Reality: Here is what will happen if you reject these rules.  
    • (Pages 114-118)

The second half of the book is dedicated to diagnosing and solving many common teenage problems, which I found incredibly useful! I also love how Dr. Townsend gives you sample conversations between you and your teen. Often when I pull a student out in the hallway to discuss his or her behavior I end up ranting and they end up rolling their eyes.

You can pick up this book on Amazon, and I highly recommend you do!


Boundaries With Teens

By: Dr. John Townsend