Reading to Write: A Review of 2012 Reads

As 2011 set and 2012 rose, I vowed to read every untouched book on my shelf before seeking new ones. This is a difficult challenge, as my wish list for books is unending. The only books I purchased were for my writing – books on motherhood for researching my book proposal and books on writing to encourage and refine my skills.

Here’s my readings, often married with my musings, for 2012:
Recommendations appear in purple.

Writing Books

  • How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larrsen
    • It’s straightforward, informative and useful. I was relieved to discover I could easily breeze through the book gaining important information. It’s also well-organized, making it easy to refer back to.
  • Writing About Your Life and Writing to Learn by William Zinsser
    • Zinnser is an expert on writing. The content, cadence and candor of his writing confirm so. Both are worth reading, but I much preferred Writing About Your Life.
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White
    • Widely excepted as THE authority on technical writing issues, The Elements of Style isn’t a quick read, but it’s a must read and re-read by all writers. E.B. White’s contributions to the original make the book even better.
  • The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
    • Lerner is a former editor, and she shares her knowledge in two parts – one section describing the different personalities of writers along with their strengths and pitfalls and another section sharing practical information on publishing. I preferred section one over two.
  • The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
    • This is now tied as my favorite writing book (along with Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott). A short book with beautiful style, it encourages people along their own writing journey.
Motherhood
  • Mothers Who Think edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses
    • With over 35 essays by varying authors, this book contains some powerful literature on what it means to be a mom. I loved some essays and hated others.
  • Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson
    • While Dobson is often too crass and stereotypical for my taste, he often pleasantly surprised me with insights in this book. It contains a vast amount of information on raising boys.
  • Blue Like Playdough by Tricia Goyer
    • This was my favorite of the five comp books I read this year in preparation for my book proposal. While the title is an obnoxious and obvious take on Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz, the book itself is filled with beautifully told tales of Goyer’s children and her own childhood.
  • Faith Like a Child by Johnny Parker
    • Through short essays, Parker shares lessons he’s learned from his sons on faith. The essays are insightful and presented in sermon illustration style (i.e. short story followed by application).
  • Discovering Motherhood by Anniemarie Scobey
    • Scobey shares short stories of mothering her two biological sons and her foster-adopted daughter. The later piece makes the book unique. It integrates Catholicism throughout.
  • Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
    • This mother of five under five shares instructive stories on raising children and growing in faith. I admire how she managed to compose a book with ten feet underfoot, but her style was too instructive for my taste.
  • The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich
    • Writing like a poet, Erdrich shares stories from raising her three daughters. Her style makes the book slightly spiritual – it’s deep, thoughtful and insightful.
Christian Nonfiction
  • The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith
    • As a Christian classic, this book is a worthy read despite not being one of my picks. It isn’t a prosperity gospel books – it’s a difficult call for Christians to choose happiness.
  • Where is God When it Hurts? by Phillip Yancey
    • After reading Yancey last year, I decided to give this book a try. I was leery of Christian cliches, but the book is a worthwhile read for those asking why admits trials and pain. 
  • A Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer
    • As a spin off from the Courageous movie, this book is filled with specific challenges to women, calling each to live more fully as Christians. The short chapters make the book easy to digest and read even on a busy schedule.
Nonfiction
  • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
    • Gladwell explores the way we make decisions, often without even thinking. He explains that at times our subconscious, snap decisions are far superior to our conscious, over-thought decisions. The book is full of relevant psychological studies and offers important insights on decision making.
  • Walden by Henry Thoreau
    • Before this year, I had only read  Thoreau on black and white photocopied papers in high school and college. Unfortunately, I think the photocopies covered all the worthy parts. The first section titled Economy is by far my favorite. In this section, Thoreau calls for a radical simplicity. The rest of the book often left me feeling like I was listening to a long rant by a judgmental, pompous man.
  • A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel by Annie Griffiths Belt
    • Belt shares stories and photographs from her many years working at National Geographic, including tales to bringing her children with her on so many of her unique and important journeys.
Fiction
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
    • I think it’s always difficult to start a C.S. Lewis book because he’s brilliant. It takes a few chapters to settle into his style, but it’s always worth the stamina. This book is creative truth, using letters between two demons to explain how we often are lead into temptation and how we can prevail.
  • The Christmas Box by Richard Evans
    • Most years, I read this short tale as a tradition. It’s a simple story about childhood, loss and Christmas. 

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