Book Report

I've been forcing myself to read more nonfiction in the past few months, mostly because the majority of the books I've read in my lifetime have been intended for children been fiction that doesn't require much thought. Don't get me wrong... lighthearted fiction is still my number one choice, but there are so many good nonfiction books (mainly biographies) that I feel like I need to add at least a few to my bag each time I visit the library. You know, so I can stay informed and interesting and all that.

I've finished these three books this week, and they were all good (if a little slow at times.) I can fly through a fiction book in an hour or two but nonfiction takes me a while. (I'm living proof of the attention deficit caused by iPhones.) Anyway, here they are along with my thoughts.

I checked out Schulz and Peanuts by David Michaelis because I love Charlie Brown (hence last year's bulletin boards and our trunk or treat theme) and I have read enough cute, quirky Charles Schulz quotes over the years to be interested in finding out more about the man who turned a little pen-and-ink cartoon into a billion dollar product. Well, as with my Dr. Seuss, it turns out that the man behind these beloved characters left a lot to be desired as a person.
         I think the number one impression I had of "Sparky" (as Mr. Schulz was known by friends and family his whole life) was, in a word, contradiction. He was, in turn, friendly and charming or painfully shy, confident or self-conscious, a driven, nearly obsessively ambitious businessman or a timid introvert. Though he did have two loving parents, the emotional climate of his childhood was dysfunctional at best. His first marriage, puzzling from the beginning, ended after twenty-two year, in part because of his infidelity. Though he spent years as a professing Christian (even dabbling in street preaching as a young man), later in life he had little to say about his faith and never shared it with his children in any way. Some knew him as emotionally stunted, incapable of confrontation in any way, while others described as the sweet, grandfatherly type portrayed in the media. Sometimes I loved him and sometimes I wanted to strangle him, but it really is fascinating to see the many, many parallels between Peanuts and his personal life. He definitely drew on his own experiences for content, and it worked; he created the most beloved and well-known comic strip probably of all time. It made me sad to see the fallout of his poor decisions, but "Sparky" did give the world Charlie Brown, and for that I am thankful. 

I absolutely love C.S. Lewis but after reading this collection of his correspondence with several young children over the years I love him even more. For some reason, many people (myself included) have had a mental image of C.S. Lewis as a slightly grumpy old scholar, too intellectually lofty to condescend to the level of little kids. But his sweet, thoughtful responses (handwritten!) to so many fans of his books, were not only funny but also spot-on for their age levels. So many people talk down to children but this brilliant, celebrated author knew exactly how to speak their language, both in his beloved novels and in letters to his young friends. There are so many quotable lines, but this was one of my favorites (and so appropriate for the coming holiday season): "Our Christmas was conditioned by having a visitor for nearly three weeks; a very nice fellow but one can't feel quite free." Indeed! =)

Sorry for the lack of uniformity (no thumb in this picture) but it was a download. =) Years ago, my friend Susan told me about The Devil in Pew Number Seven, and the title and brief description alone were enough to scare me away for a while. =) Growing up a pastor's kid, I didn't have a particular desires to read a true story of a pastor's family who was targeted, tormented, and attacked by a psychotic church member. But when I finally got brave and downloaded it this week, I was amazed at the story. This family experienced unbelievable heartache (and even terror) and near the end I was thinking, "This is so depressing! What's the point of this except to give myself nightmares?" But the last couple of chapters made it so worth the read. The overall theme is forgiveness, and it's amazing that the author was able to forgive the evil people who destroyed her family (and could have destroyed her faith); it definitely put into perspective the petty things that I find hard to forgive. The author presents a list of horrible scenarios that people may experience, and this quote really struck me: 

"You and I cannot walk away from what's been done to us. At the same time, as crazy as it sounds, we're commanded to speak the language of heaven, to forgive as we have been forgiven- generously, fully, and freely. That means we forgive with no strings attached; that may require us to forgive repeatedly. When we do, we shock the world with God's power at work within us. When they shake their heads in wonderment, when they struggle to understand how anyone could forgive like that, we have the opportunity to point them to the Cross."

Wow- the language of heaven is forgiveness? The author points out that more than anything, our deepest human need is God's forgiveness. It's true... what good would God's love be if it didn't guarantee our forgiveness? And since God has forgiven us, we really have no choice but to choose to (continually) forgive others. A hard lesson, but a very needed one, at least for me.

SO... that's it for this week. All good books that I would recommend with varying degrees of enthusiasm. =) If you have any good book recommendations (fiction or non!) send them my way. Or, you know, I'll wait for Janssen to post another book list and then run and check out the entire list. 

Happy reading!


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