My Best Books of 2013

Looking through the list of my posts, as I did last year, I found some I would not remember if I hadn’t blogged about them, some by favourite authors, some on important topics; a haphazard list. So here are my Best Books of the year:

Important Books:

Flying in the Face of Tradition: Louis de Thomasis. (blog 1/22)
Changes in Roman Catholicism: a respected priest writes about the changes that are desperately needed. This was written before Pope Francis’ election, which has given hope, though there is no sign of change on some important issues.

Sacred Ground: Eboo Patel. (4/20)
A Moslem looks at the modern world and what is needed. Sacred Ground is about the love of this land common to all the immigrants who are part of it.The concept of sacred ground is that the whole earth is God’s, and wherever we stand, we are standing on holy ground. Patel is also a good writer, so I have read more than one of his books with pleasure and profit. His special mission has been to forge links between students of different faiths at Universities and Colleges.

All in a Day’s Work:Becky Gore: (6/20)
The author is drawn to the need of children for stability and love, and her work has been to support families, or find alternatives for children. Not a great piece of literature but an inspiring book on an important topic.

Fun Books:

Eating for Victory, ( a collection of official government leaflets, introduced by Jill Norman) (7/19)
This is the way I ate as a child, in 40s and 50s Britain, with rationing. The recipes include a few favourites which I haven’t eaten for years (treacle tarts, boiled puddings) and continuing standby recipes (Cornish pasties, scones) but what really caught my interest was the nationwide effort to make sure that all the people had enough basic nutrients for health. I read this as a fun book, but it reads differently in a political climate that has just cut Food Stamps and Unemployment.

Knitting for Good:Betsy Greer. (10/25)
A book about knitting- who knits, for whom, why… and my own knitting story is in the blog. Lots on the revived interest in  knitting and in knitting for charity.

History:

Rome on Five Denarii a Day, Philip Matyscak. (10/11)
The Travel Guide takes the reader on the trip to Rome of the Caesars.

Shakespeare’s Restless World: Neil MacGregor. (12/13)
Neil MacGregor may be a museum director, but he reveals reality- tying together the historic past and the human reality that transcends that past. Each of the 20 objects he features gives a whole chapter about some part of life and history in Shakespeare’s time.

Religion:

Religion in Human Evolution: Robert Bellah. (2/4)
His magnum opus.I quickly discovered that reading this book is like taking a post-grad seminar. This is the book I referred to sporadically in my blog for a couple of months. I  finally reached the end! And I will NOT summarise or make clever comments about it: it will be on really important “Important Book” lists.

When Science meets Religion, by Ian Barbour. (1/13)
There need not be contradiction between the two. A church book group choice, (though not in the church we go to which has many scientists in the congregation.)

Believing and its Tensions: Rabbi Neil Gillman, (11/27)
From a display at the local library. As Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh is a strongly Jewish community, this gave me as a Christian, a chance to see through Jewish eyes. A rabbi friend of my husband labels Christians as a sect of Jewish heretics, an appellation I have always enjoyed. Particularly thought provoking was the chapter on evil.

Science:

Dinosaur Doctor, by Edmund Critchley. (5/28)
This 
is the story of Gideon Mantell, part of the 19th century wave of exploration of the past revealed by fossils, found not only on crumbling cliffs, as were Mary Anning’s Lyme Regis discoveries, but also in quarries and railway and canal building projects, which were numerous during that century. What will be the new fields of knowledge of this century? And what assumptions will be challenged?

Life Ascending: Nick Lane. (7/8)
A research Fellow at University College, London, writes of the ten “inventions ” he regards as the greatest steps in evolution: the origins of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the compound cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness, and death. A hard book for me, but worth the effort.

Last Ape Standing:Chip Walter (8/20)
Summaries of the discoveries of the recent century and the ways that the many hominins may be related. The state of knowledge now is far different, not only from Teilhard before WWII, but even different from the years when youngest daughter was fascinated by the human ancestors and formed her collection of replica skulls. 27 species, depending whether you are a “lumper” or a “splitter” – and where are we going, if anywhere?

Novels:

Les Miserables: Victor Hugo; (2/11)
My personal Novel of the Year. It has the sweep of War and Peace and analytical essay-like expositions of issues and history, like Moby Dick. It is a Great Book. Warning: it takes longer to read than the whole of the Lord of the Rings. It was however downloaded from Gutenberg.org over 10,000 times in the weeks after the movie. 

Half of a Yellow Sun: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (7/15)
Adichie is a great writer. She weaves together the story of her country- Nigeria (and Biafra,) the story of believable people with their own “smaller” problems, and the universal story of all people.

The Penelopiad: Margaret Atwood. (8/11)
I did wonder how Margaret Atwood could match Odysseus’ ten years of war and ten years of wandering in telling Penelope’s story but this book was fascinating. Penelope hears rumours of her husband’s adventures- but “demythologises” them: the Sirens’ call is a harbour whorehouse, the crew are pretty much pigs without needing Circe to cast spells and so on.And the woman’s story comes through really powerfully, as you would expect from this author. The maids (whom Odysseus kills) are like a Greek tagic chorus, commenting throughout. Lovely book.

Where Three Roads Meet, by Salley Vickers. ((9/18)
One of a series of modern retellings of myths, timeless stories exploring human life. I have now read two of the series, and Karen Armstrong’s overview, and want to read more. Oedipus may be one of the old kings who embodied the strength of his people,but somehow, Oedipus is Everyman. His name, in the Oedipus Rex  of Sophocles which I just re-read in  the translation by Gilbert Murray, is “He who walks in pain,”

The Ocean at the End of the Lane:Neil Gaiman. (11/22)
Like all of Gaiman’s books I have read, the story pulls you on, the writing touches you like poetry, and the thoughts trigger your thoughts for a long time. Any good writing, I think, expands the reader’s world.

Go forth to expand your world in 2014.

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One Response to My Best Books of 2013

  1. Pingback: My Best Books of 2013 | ChristianBookBarn.com

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