My goal for 2011 was to read 100 books – I actually made it – with about 20 minutes to spare before I had to leave yesterday.

Most weren’t that memorable and many that are worthwhile, I have already recommended.

But here’s a recap of my top reads.

1. Going Home to Glory by David and Julie Eisenhower. This book is a study of Eisenhower’s postwar years written from the viewpoint of his grandson, David (and Julie).  They gathered information from their diaries, Ike’s diaries and letters to friends. David quotes a lot of the letters his grandfather wrote to him.

Very interesting detail – about how Eisenhower actually advised Kennedy on occasion, but was continually in contact with President Johnson about the Vietnam War. (Eisenhower thought the US should fight the war, but wanted us to win it and get it over with.)

Also, how he petitioned Kennedy to change his title from President Eisenhower to General Eisenhower because he had been working all his life toward being a general.

Ike’s family members were a little afraid of him and you don’t get the idea that Mamie was someone with whom he discussed decisions. (Mamie’s granddaughter wrote a book about her a few years back that makes you think Mamie mostly cared about her bridge playing.)

I recommend this book, especially to anyone interested in presidential history.

I give it four stars. **** (Oh, wait a minute – Eisenhower is a five star general.)

2. One-lane Bridge by Don Reid. I am not a country music fan, a “supernatural happening” fan or a time travel fan. Having said that, I AM a Statler Brothers fan and when I heard that Don Reid, one of the original Statler Brothers is now a writer (since the Statler Brothers disbanded), I was interested. So, when I found one of his books at the Half-Price Bookstore, I purchased it.

Anyhow, the book was about a “supernatural happening” and time travel all in the name of Christianity. Whoa! Not my thing.

See, the main character takes a ride in the country and his car breaks down. He goes for help at an old farm house in which the people are poor and sickly. But when he and his wife go back to bring the people groceries, the farmhouse is gone. When he goes back by himself, however, the farmhouse is there, but when he takes his friend, the farmhouse is gone … Anyhow, he saves the girl’s life and then later the girl …

Quite complicated. Quite implausible. Hmmm … Quite well-written. Quite good character development. “Quite” enough that if I have opportunity to read his other book, I will do so.

So, I have NO idea how many stars to give it.  I’ll plead the fifth, even though the fifth has nothing to do with book reviews.

3. The Justice Game by Randy Singer.  The Justice Game is a step-by-step narration of a lawsuit as to whether a gun manufacturer can be sued when someone is killed by one of its guns. Mr. Singer takes you through the thoughts of both sides of the case and in fact, after he did his research, he wasn’t sure which side he wanted to win.  So he wrote two endings to his book and then put the two endings on his website so that his readers could decide the ending. The characters are well-developed, the details precise and the writing good. Yes, it did indeed remind me of a John Grisham book.

4,  Two Wars by Nate Self. This is the autobiography of an officer who was an Army Ranger Captain and involved in extremely dangerous missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. He talks about the war he fought on the battlefield and the war he fought coming home to real life. Lots of realistic description of the war which was interesting, but war description is not my favorite reading material. Yet this is a worthwhile book, especially as you read how he came to terms with what he experienced – through the power of Christ.  He now counsels returning soldiers.

5. The Great Fire by Jim Murphy. This is the story of the Chicago Fire, of course – a short two CD book. This is a 1996 Newbery award winner, which means it was written for kids. However, it kept me occupied through a couple days of commuting and I found it interesting with a lot of trivia I didn’t know before.

6. Choosing to See  by Mary Beth Chapman. Mary Beth wrote this book to detail life in the Chapman family (as in Steven Curtis Chapman). She talks about adopting their three daughters and then the tragic loss of Maria when she was hit by a van in the driveway of the family home. Mary Beth is honest about what they’ve been through – not only a child’s loss, but the guilt of the child’s young sister who told Maria to go get Will (the teenage brother driving the van). Also, relates Will’s struggle as the one driving the van (the accident was just that – an accident. He couldn’t see his younger sister.)  Good book if you’re facing a particularly tough situation, if you’re interested in adoption or if you simply want a thought-provoking read.

7. I Beat the Odds by Michael Oher (with Don Yaeger).  This is the story of Michael – the central focus of the movie, The Blind Side. Here Michael tells things from his point of view. Quick read and interesting. No, there were not any monumental discrepancies in the movie or bubbles that this book will burst. But Michael had made the choice to do well in sports, to choose good friends and to stay out of trouble before moving in with the Touhys. If you liked the movie, you can read this book in an hour or two for the rest of the story.

8. The Appeal by John Grisham.  This book is sad. Not sad, like wiping the tears from your eyes sad, but sad in the sense that you know these things are really happening and sometimes life is unfair.  The book gives a perspective of politics, big business, etc. You may agree with it. You may not. But it was worth the several trips to work and back that it took me to listen.  Grisham on CD is good commuter stuff. Disclaimer:Grisham’s books always include some bad language.

9.  Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton – This is the book that the movie is from. After previewing the movie , I told the llyo that I would see if I could get the book so we could write about Bethany for our family Purim celebration (which we did). I was able to get it on Amazon used books for a penny. Yep. A penny. It costs more to ship it than to buy it. This is a good book for girls in that tween/teen time in life – a book about a girl who overcame great hardship (her arm was bitten off by a shark). She credits her faith in Christ for seeing her through.

10. Finding Go In Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey. This was originally written back in (I think) 1995 and recently updated with some chapters being taken out and new ones written. The book is basically a compilation of Yancey’s columns in Christianity Today so it jumps all over the place – so he gives good thoughts on a variety of subjects. Everything from AIDS to Islam to organization budget appeals.  Good book to listen to while commuting.

11. UnPlanned by Abby Johnson. Abby’s journey from being director of a Planned Par. clinic to her jump to Coalition for Life. Very thoughtful and well-written as Abby thinks through what she believes.

12. Undefending Christianity by Dillon Burroughs

This was a giveaway from the conference I attended in May and was a pleasant surprise.  Mr. Burroughs challenges the way we live our lives as Christians. He is funny and thought-provoking. Here are some quotes.

Apathists … people who say they care but really don’t care because they don’t do anything different from the apathetic people who don care and say they don’t care.

Where are the people who sing “Shout to the Lord” five thousand times when it is time to respond to needs?

Gluttony is the most neglected sin in the American church. If our bodies are the temple of God, then American Christians are the megachurch.

The thing I liked about this book is that it is not questioning the gospel, but the way that we live.

If you get an opportunity (or find this book on your chair at the next conference you attend) read it. I think you’ll like it and I think you’ll be at least somewhat challenged.

13. Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin – True, there is nothing new under the sun, but this book was indeed different from most I’ve read. Actually, I listened to this on CD and I’m glad I did – listening to it, rather than actually reading it gave me a good sense of the cadence in the writing which I think was due to the the book being translated from Korean.

This is a look at a family – a father and mother and three grown children – an older married daughter, a son and a younger, career-successful daughter. The father and mother have taken the train into Seoul, but somehow at the station, the father loses the mother. The book is the story of the family, told from each of their perspectives, as they look for the mom. As you ve through the book, you peel back layers of the family history and what brought them to this point.

The other plus to this book is the glimpse into Korean culture. If you want something unusual – here is your book.

14. The Privilege of Persecution by Dr. Carl A. Moeller and David W. Hegg. This is another freebie I found on my chair at the EPA conference and another thought-provoking book.

This is not a “feel-guilty-because-you-have-so-much” book but rather a look at the people of the persecuted church and their view of Christianity.  The authors take us through several areas of the church: prayer, worship, etc., and how those aspects are different for the persecuted than they are for us.

ain, this is another thought-provoking book. Fairly new and published by Moody, it is easy to find.

15. Heart of Memory by Alison Strobel. Alison is the daughter of Lee Strobel (author of the “Case for …” books.)

This is a fiction book about a couple who has started  a Christian ministry of speaking and writing. But then everything falls apart. Someone has embezzled money (I won’t tell you who) and someone else has a serious health need. (I won’t tell you who.)  Meanwhile the daughter, Jessie, feels neglected as her parents dedicate all their time to helping others.

Again – a different subject.

16. American Lightning  by Howard Blum. Usually I like books like this – but I think listening to this on CD sort of spoiled it. The reader was slow and my mind would wander between his words.

Still, if you’re into history – you might enjoy this.

In 1911 the Los Angeles Times building was bombed, killing 21 people. Many more were wounded. This was actually part of a plan to bomb 100 American Cities by the Iron Workers Union leaders – the McNamaras. Called by many – the crime of the century.

Most of the book centered on Billy Burns, detective who figured out who “done it.”  Clarence Darrow was the defense attorney and was accused of bribing the jury.

So if you like history, read it – but don’t listen to it.

17. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas – I’ve always heard about Dietrich Bonhoffer and had a vague idea about who he was and what he did, but I hadn’t read anything about his life. So I decided to do so.

This is a long book, but Metaxas writes with passion and makes the many details readable. Many of his letters and sermons are quoted giving a personal look into his heart and mind.

Bonhoeffer, for those of you who don’t know, was a German Lutheran pastor who, at age 39, was martyred for being part of the resistance movement that plotted to assassinate  Hitler.

This is not a book that you’ll sit down in read in a night, but Bonhoeffer’s story is an important one in Christian history.

(Oh, fyi – according to Bonhoeffer’s blog, George and Laura Bush have also read the book. So, you can do something presidential.)

18. The Lou Gehrig Story. I didn’t know too much about him before except that he was a great Yankee and he died from ALS, a disease which now often known as Lou Gehrig disease.

He was actually a shy, mama’s boy, very unsophisticated and overwhelmed by the big league and all that came with it.  He eventually married (his mother scared most of the ladies away) a socialite from Chicago who became the love of his life. Again, this is a man who died young.

Interesting character study.

19. Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark.  Christian chick lit – but well-written. I like Mindy Clark’s writing and have read other books by her.

This book is not what you think – it is about the Amish, but the protagonist is not Amish and it is overall a story of secrets and intrigue. Ms. Clark has also written a sequel: Amish Nanny, which is about hmmm … Switzerland.

If you want a fun read this is it – there’s now another one in the series called Amish Nanny.  Both of these books are full of history.

20. A Bond Never Broken by Judith Miller – this is a fiction story that focuses on the Amana Colonies during World War II. Because the colonists were German, they suffered persecution. I wasn’t aware of the history – even though I’ve been through the Amana Colonies many times. So I did some research and the events in the book did actually happen.

A few others –

Tisha  by Robert Spect (have read this before – still interesting)

Lessons from the Mountain by Mary McDonough

Crazy Love by Frances Chan

The Innocent Man by  John Grisham

Won by Love by Norma McCorvey

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