If you were to chart my summer activities hour by hour, I can guarantee you that the top three items would be working, sleeping, and reading. When I was wandering about Traverse City during the Cherry Festival, I made it my goal to find and purchase a John Green book in the name of science and Nerdfighteria. It had been months since I’d set foot in a bookstore, and the intoxicating smell of paper and ink, the thrill of browsing the shelves for just the right book, and the anticipation of the hours of reading that awaited me within its pleasantly weighty pages instilled in me a kind of fever. Over the next three months I bought and read as many books as I could find. If there’s one thing I love more than reading a good book, it’s letting other people know about it so that they can read it, too, so below you’ll find a list of the books I bought/read this summer with a concise review for each. Enjoy!
1.) The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis: I brought these books with me from home on the recommendation of my older brother and my Dad, and they didn’t let me down. “Out of the Silent Planet”, “Perelandra”, and “That Hideous Strength” provide a lot of C. S. Lewis’ trademark insight and thoughtful allegory on spiritual warfare and the nature of God, all wrapped up in a fascinating sci-fi story with a gripping conclusion. Recommendation level: high.
2.) Obsessed by Ted Dekker: I read this one because someone left it in the staff bathroom at work. I’m not a big Dekker fan, and while I did appreciate his fascinating allegory in The Circle Trilogy, that was entirely absent in Obsessed. What was present were all of the things that have kept me from being a big Dekker fan: flat characters, a shallow plot, and symbolism a bit too heavy-handed for its own good. Still, it was a decent bathroom read/exercise in identifying style and structure flaws. Recommendation level: low.
3.) Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan: This is the book that I bought in Traverse City. As an ardent Nerdfighter, I’d been meaning to read a John Green book for some time, and this was the only one the book store had. This is an incredibly, almost unbelievably difficult book to review, especially concisely, because while it had some serious moral issues I cannot deny that it was a fantastic book. The story was gripping, the characters were fascinating, and Green and Levithan (especially Green; I cannot emphasize enough what a fantastic writer John Green is) examine the themes of hope, fear, and what it truly means to be someone’s friend poignantly and memorably. Unfortunately, the language is often harsh and some may find the story’s stance on homosexuality to be offensive. I don’t regret reading it in the least, but I’m not sure everyone would feel the same way… I’ll write more on this book later if I can get my thoughts together. Recommendation level: High with some definite reservations. Use your own discretion.
4.) Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent: I borrowed this book from the inimitable Aunt Penny (my boss’s mom), and it was certainly an interesting read. I’m still not sure what to make of it, but the story of a young boy who saw a vision of heaven during a life-saving operation is undeniably encouraging, and I didn’t really see any Biblical contradiction in it. Either way, reading about God’s love and the wonders of heaven in the honest and simple words of a child is a wonderful thing. Recommendation level: medium.
5.) Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller: I absolutely love Donald Miller’s work, so this review is probably biased, but this is one of the best books about the Christian life that I’ve ever read. In his own poetic style, Miller addresses head-on the formulas and lists that have invaded Christianity and drained all of the actual relating out of our relationships with God. A challenging, thought-provoking, and liberating book that calls Christians to return to the only One who can truly give us worth in this world. Recommendation level: through the roof.
6.) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: This is my current book-in-progress, and I’m about a third of the way through, but I can say for certainty right now that this book is a gem. The story is rich, the fantasy world is wonderfully detailed, and the narrative moves along with a fluidity and ease often lost on epic-length fantasy writers. The greatest strength of this book, however, is the characterization. The characters, even those who are only in the story for a short period of time, are vibrant and engaging, which creates an atmosphere of emotional involvement that will pull you in and keep you reading. Recommendation level: high.
Other books that I bought this summer but haven’t read yet: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (on the recommendation of Adam Beckmeyer); Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (because he’s John Green), and Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller (I’ve only read the introduction on this one so far, but it blew me away). I’m looking at adding a semi-regular book review feature to the blog, so if you’d be interested (or highly disinterested) in reading more of my opinion on books, let me know in the comments, and look for reviews on these (as well as fuller reviews on Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Name of the Wind, and Searching for God Knows What) soon-ish!
Oh, and if you’re wondering who in the world John Green is or what Nerdfighters are, check out John and his brother Hank’s channel on Youtube: Vlogbrothers.
Have a great night, and I’ll see you tomorrow for part 3!