book list (2007 edition)

Or, “Be afraid. Be very afraid. ”

Or, “Signs that I need to get out more.”

Here we go again for another round. This is my fourth year in a row to do this, and I daresay, it’s always fun looking back at what I’ve read. My apologies in advance for the ridiculous length, but what can I say? I read a lot. Maybe too much, if that’s possible.

I play by Teacher Dave’s rules–these are all books completed this year. Format is date completed: author, title (# of pages). Asterisk means I’ve read it before. This is actually the first year I’ve kept track of book length, so this should be interesting.

January 18: Ian McEwan, Saturday (289)
January 21: Homer, The Odyssey (381)
January 23: St. Athanasius, On The Incarnation (120)
January 30: C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (382)
February 5: E.M. Forester, A Room With a View (204)
February 10: Marva J. Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly (213)
February 12: Margaret Edson, Wit (85)
February 12: Tony Kushner, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (119)
February 16: Tony Kushner, Angels in America: Perestroika (155)
*February 19: Donald Miller, Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance (289)
February 20: Mark Twain, Roughing It (542)
February 23: Garrison Keillor, We Are Still Married (330)
February 26: Richard J. Mouw, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport (127)
March 1: Flannery O’Connor, The Violent Bear It Away (243)
March 3: Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (651)
March 19: Thomas Bailey Aldrich, The Story of a Bad Boy (286)
March 20: Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato (338)
March 28: Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (110)
April 1: Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (351)
April 2: Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (284)
April 5: Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (164)
April 11: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (490)
*April 11: Yann Martel, Life of Pi (319)
April 16: Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (362)
April 17: Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (447)
*April 17: Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz (242)
April 18: Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux (270)
*April 21: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (307)
May 2: Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace (327)
May 9: John Perry, Dialogue on Good, Evil, and the Existence of God (70)
*May 9: Walter Wangerin, Jr., Paul: A Novel (504)
*May 19: Matt Kronberg, Mike Peterson, Jedd Medefind, and Trey Sklar, Four Souls (362)
May 26: Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big and God is Small (239)
*May 30: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (341)
June 7: Richard Adams, Watership Down (479)
*June 7: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (435)
June 12: Douglas Coupland, JPod (448, kind of…don’t ask)
*June 18: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (734)
*June 21: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (870)
June 25: Jamila Gavin, Coram Boy (325)
*June 28: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (652)
*July 7: Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (288)
*July 13: Lauren Winner, Girl Meets God (296)
July 14: Cormac McCarthy, The Road (287)
July 21: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (759)
*August 1: Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey (300)
August 3: James Baldwin, Go Tell It On the Mountain (221)
August 9: C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy (238)
August 15: Saul Bellow, Ravelstein (233)
August 17: Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (411)
August 21: Greg Garrett, Crossing Myself (232)
August 23: Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (320)
September 5: Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (355)
September 12: Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation (288)
September 22: David Brooks, Bobos In Paradise (276)
October 1: Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan (244)
*October 8: Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What (239)
October 19: Richard Marius, A Writer’s Companion (233)
*October 24: Greg Garrett, Free Bird (242)
October 29: Nick Hornby, High Fidelity (323)
November 7: Michka Assayas, Bono: In Conversation (373)
*November 14: Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (247)
November 17: Douglas Coupland, Generation X (183)
November 28: John Piper, Desiring God (290)
*November 30: J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (305)
*December 3: Lauren Winner, Real Sex (161)
*December 12: J.I. Packer, God’s Words (215)
*December 17: Bob Briner, Roaring Lambs (179)
*December 24: C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (146)
December 31: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (585)

Pages read: 22,355, which is 319.36 pages per book, or 61 pages per day. This is a little frightening. (Keep in mind, though, that quite a few had full-page illustrations, which brings the total down some. But still.)

Books read for class: 13
Fiction books: 35
Non-fiction books: 31 (which is really high for me–I don’t know how this happened)
Drama and poetry:4

Most read author: J.K. Rowling, of course (hey, I had to reread the series before Deathly Hallows came out…), with all seven of hers. Good on ya, Jo. Mark Twain comes in second with five, as I took an entire class on his works (unfortunately).

Top 5:

Cormac McCarthy, The Road. Bleak as all get out, and not much dialogue to speak of (uh, no pun intended), but well-written. You get immersed in the harsh realities of the post-apocalyptic world along with the two main characters, a father and son, and the end made me want to cry. Really. This book deserves the Pulitzer Prize it got last year.

Margaret Edson, Wit. PUNCTUATION MATTERS, DANG IT. I gasped more than a few times while I was reading it, at how good it all was, how beautiful and tragic it was. Must see this performed soon.

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Ever since one class I took in college that had a unit on sustainable agriculture, I’ve been interested in the subject ever since. Kingsolver and her family take it one further by growing almost all their own food or getting it from their neighbors. If it sounds kind of dry and hippieish, it’s not; Kingsolver’s always honest about how things worked, but still manages to make it sound fascinating and cool the whole time. It made me want to go get my hands dirty. Oh, and her husband and college-age daughter pitch in with a few words, too, which makes it even better for me.

Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato. Great details and descriptions of life in the jungles of Vietnam, and an ending that makes you go “Huh?!” (in a good way). Love, love, love this book, and because of it I’m looking forward to reading The Things They Carried even more than I already was.

Flannery O’Connor, The Violent Bear It Away. To be honest, I was never really impressed by Flannery O’Connor until I read this book, and I am now absolutely in love with her work. The professors who taught me this weren’t big fans of the characters, and to be honest neither am I, but I get what she’s doing here: Those characters I don’t like? I am just like them, all of them, broken and messy and arrogant. But there is grace and redemption at the end, a purifying fire, and that is what matters. Lovely piece of fiction, and one I recommend.

Honorable mentions: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Michka Assayas, Bono: In Conversation; C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength; David Brooks, Bobos In Paradise; Nick Hornby, High Fidelity.

first sunday after Christmas

This is the dark side of the tale we tell,
The Christmas story, beautiful to hear–
Except for those who drew from David’s well,
Who lived in Bethlehem that fated year
When God’s Son came to earth. Lo, Rachel mourns
For all her children, killed by Herod’s sword,
A nation brought by pagan kings to scorn,
A bloody outcry risen to the Lord.
And down to Egypt, towards the land of sin
Emmanuel goes down, an Israel new–
A pagan king would slaughter once again
A son of David, son of Jacob who
Has borne our griefs and shame and sorrow, so
To death and slavery we shall never go.


this week: 13 things you want to do in 2008. (sorry that this is late; i think i hit “save” last night instead of “publish”.
1. road-trip to waco to see sing (and hang out with my girls, of course).

2. get into freakin’ grad school.

3. memorize more of the Bible.

4. at any rate, move out of my parents’ house…

5. buy a car.

6. save more money.

7. road-trip out to see hannah at covenant.

8. write more letters.

9. journal every day.

10. blog more.

11. take c.s. lewis’ advice and read more old books.

12. start a writing project and finish it.

13. eat less junk.

two turtledoves…

1. Happy second day of Christmas, folks. If two doves and a partridge show up, don’t be surprised. We had a good holiday at the McClendon house–or, more properly, at the hospital, where my mom still is, but is getting better. Yesterday did a lot for her emotionally, which is probably one of the better things that could have happened. 🙂 (Besides, my dad, I think, earns extra brownie points because he got her this, because she’s been on such a rough journey with her health the past few months…yeah. There were tears involved. And why not?)

Also, my cousin is now engaged, and to a really sweet girl that we’re all glad to add in to the clan! Congratulations to them. *throws confetti*

2. So. I have joined the ranks of the iPodded (iPotted? like, potted plants?), thanks to the great generosity of my parents–silver 4GB Nano, for the curious. If you don’t know this about me, I have the admittedly bizarre habit of naming my electronics (my previous mp3 player was called Yoshimi, for example), and I’m having a hard time with this one, so submissions are welcome. (I am seriously considering Hieronymous, after the patron saint of librarians, but if you guys come up with something better, I’ll take it.)

This could be dangerous.

Um, also, a copy of the Company soundtrack, the DVD of this movie, and a great-looking book called Twentysomeone (one of the co-authors is the RUF pastor at OU). And lotion from my aunt, and a sweater from my grandma. I know it’s not about the stuff, but the love behind it, so I feel pretty significantly loved, which something we all need to feel.

3. Also, my parents got a Roomba from my brother and sister-in-law (which is pretty awesome, and our floors are now really, really clean), and my dad has been having too much fun with it today. We are obvious gadget-tech people at my house, which I think may also explain the abundance of geekery (or is it the other way around?).

4. So, after doing poems every week at Kaleo for Advent (based on the lectionary, if you were wondering), I think I may continue to post one every Sunday here on the blog, at least for the rest of this church year. It was a good exercise for me, since it made me chew on the Word a lot, and apparently it’s been encouraging to a lot of people (which is good to know), so we’ll see what happens.

5. 2008 is almost here already! Is anyone else slightly weirded out by that? 2007’s been a pretty interesting year–uneventful for me, mostly, punctuated by a couple of major events, but everything hopefully has been driving me, driving all of us, further toward Christ. I’m learning how to repent, how to see Jesus instead of myself, and I pray the same for all of you in the upcoming year. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary and good.

6. Finally, because the season really technically isn’t over yet:

come and behold Him.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Christmas, to the Christian, is a subversive holiday.

Why? Because it goes against everything the world system exalts and glorifies. It defies logic: Virgins and post-menopausal women having babies? Angels? Mysterious signs? It defies self-glorification: The God of glory takes on the form of a peasant baby, who likely gets ridiculed as an illegitimate son most of His life. It defies the dichotomy we want to make between the spiritual and the physical: The eternal Word that spoke matter into existence takes on matter Himself. It defies celebrity and status: Shepherds get what’s going on, while the rich and powerful almost miss it completely. And yet it defies ascetism, too: Astronomers bring gold and treasure out of reverence to a king.

And when we declare that “the Lord is come”, we have to remember that Malachi asked us, “Who may abide the day of His coming? For He is like a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap.” Who can abide His coming? Who can abide God with us, who can stand up to His drawing near? The ones who have eyes to see, eyes that He both demands and gives. They have joy; God and sinner are indeed reconciled.

So, ye faithful, ye people of God, come and behold Him, born the King of angels. And adore Christ the Lord, for He is worthy.

fourth sunday of advent.

Priests and prophets, kings and paupers,

Saints and sinners, whores and adulterers,
Have sons and daughters, marry and give in marriage,
Through long and longer days of waiting in
Slavery and judgment
Until a lost son of royalty, a Nazarene carpenter,
Has visions like his namesake of old,
A young man dreams dreams of the kingdom coming,
And he, like the patriarch, suddenly sees
That what looks like evil may be God working for good.

So this righteous son of David marries a
Daughter of Zion who carries now
Not David’s son but David’s Lord–
A new Adam to bring paradise,
A new Abraham to make sacrifice,
A new Moses to give and keep the law,
A new Joshua to conquer for us all–
The generations of Jacob’s children finding their
Fulfillment in one who now rests inside Mary’s womb.


in honor of the holiday: 13 favorite christmas songs.

1. “the holly and the ivy”

2. mariah carey, “all i want for christmas is you” (mostly because of love actually)

3. “o come, o come emmanuel”

4. “carol of the bells”

5. death cab for cutie, “christmas (baby please come home)”

6. the weepies, “all that i want” (the song from the jc penney commercial)

7.  “joy to the world”(which shouldn’t just be a christmas song)

8. “of the Father’s love begotten”

9. “o holy night”

10. sufjan stevens, “put the lights on the tree”

11. “hark the herald angels sing”

12. “and the glory of the Lord” (the chorale from messiah)

13. “ding dong merrily on high” (if only because it uses words like “sungen”)

i have no fear of drowning…

1. (it’s the breathing that’s taking all this work)

2. Has anyone else noticed that there’s an odd sort of trend among people of my generation towards “older” things? What I mean is this: There’s the retro trend, of course, with people getting into everything from corsets to Chia Pets; younger evangelicals are turning to more traditional theologies like Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Reformed Calvinism; we want our food grown like it was 100 years ago; hipsters are learning how to build and carve and bake and knit and quilt and are making a DIY movement of things all our ancestors knew how to do out of necessity. The thing is that we take all of these things and reformulate it for postmodernism, so that those corsets are paired with holey jeans, or knitters make skull-covered sweaters, or the Calvinists are also writing anti-war songs (something our spiritual ancestors probably would have raised eyebrows at, considering).

What does this all mean? I don’t know, other than there’s nothing new under the sun. Thoughts?

3. One thing I’ve been kind of convicted about lately is how much money I spend on music, money that could be going somewhere else that’s more worthwhile. Nothing against music, of course; I mean, it’s what keeps my motor running most of the time. It runs in my veins and in my soul. When I pray, I think in terms of hymns more often than I do Scripture (I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but there you go.) I need music. And that can sometimes be dangerous. Sometimes I need to cancel the noise instead of feeding it, to be still and know. Besides, that $14 I’m dropping on a CD can be used somewhere else to feed and educate a kid, or fight AIDS and cancer, or fund a missionary. This isn’t for everyone, of course, so I’m not telling you to go stop buying CDs or what have you, but it is how God’s been speaking to me these days and I could use prayer, because this, as silly as it sounds, isn’t easy for me.

4. In other news, Sweeney Todd comes out on Friday and I REALLY WANT TO GO. Johnny Depp has a better voice than you would imagine; I have the feeling he deserves that Golden Globe nomination.

5. That’s all I’ve got. Good night.

third sunday of advent

So we all know the song:
The one that proclaims joy to the world,
For the Lord is come,
But no one–or hardly anyone–
Sings the third verse,*
Which is a shame, because it tells us
The great and glorious truth
That the Lord also comes to make His blessings known
Far as, far as the curse is found–
Everywhere sin and satan have made their marks,
In hearts, in minds, in bodies, in matter.

So when He comes,
The blind see His face, the deaf hear His voice,
Lepers feel His touch, the lame dance to His song,
Minds are mended, lives are brought back from the grave,
Faith is given, sins are forgiven.

But what about those who live
In the dark places, in the four walls
Of their doubt and despair?
Does the kingdom come to the persecuted,
To the suffering, the dying, the mourning?
When it looks like God goes to everyone else,
It’s all too easy to take offense at Him.

But He says that the kingdom is yours,
You poor in spirit,
You persecuted for His sake;
Even if it does not seem to chase
Away the darkness of your dark night,
Know this: That the light of the world still shines on you,
If only as a flame now, then the bright sun of a day to come.
So wait for it like watchmen for the morning,
And joy will be yours indeed.

(*Here’s the third verse, by Mr. Isaac Watts:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground–
He comes to make His blessings known
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

Can I get an amen?)

taking Bono’s advice and writing about silence

To be a writer, one must write,
And so tonight I feel as more of a being,
One who is, who does not do;
Like Mr. Cohen I am content to see through lenses
And wonder how the hell I got here,
Knowing full well that I did not arrive of my own accord
But let the tide carry me away into
A world where poets cannot dream for fear
Of disappointing Calliope’s stream of consciousness
Which feeds into the fingers that
Dare not grasp a pen or leave print on keyboard.

So I am struck dumb by the sound of my
Own voices that echo off the hollowness of
My skull; I hold it up and say to Horatio,
“Alas, I knew her once, and now I know her
All too well, for I have made a home inside her brain.”
For I only receive, I do not give, and am become
A very model of a modern major poetess
Whose opera has gone strangely quiet.