Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

Lots of 5 star books = 3 part blog post! You know the drill.

 

Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers

Did you know there were Mary Poppins books?! Well, maybe you did if you watched Saving Mr. Banks. However, if you have not read them, I bet you don’t know how funny, charming, and totally unexpected the books are! Mary Poppins is a vain, rather cross woman who can do amazing things. There are 4 Banks children (later 5!) and they are a lot younger than you realized. The stories are full of funny, delightful adventures that are often oddly transcendental in nature and message. Odd but good! Thank you Kris for putting me onto the series!

The Conservative Heart: How To Build A Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America by Arthur Brooks

Thought provoking and insightful, The Conservative Heart is a compelling and clearly written statement on what drives American conservatives. It is not just an intellectual movement, but one where people care and it is time conservatives take charge of the dialogue. Arthur Brooks discusses what it really means to help the poor and vulnerable and how to better articulate that. He doesn’t antagonize or name call, but rather, brings peace to hot button issues and expresses the motivation behind what conservatives say. An excellent read for anyone.

Losers Take All by David Klass

Unapologetically YA, but excellent for the genre. It is the story of Jack Logan, an average guy who goes to a sports-crazy high school. When the administration creates a new policy that all seniors must play a sport, he and his friends rebel by creating JV soccer team with one goal: to lose every game possible. Their motivation and zany, creative losses quickly win them fans from across the country! By losing they are winning, but at what cost? The book is creative, fun, and best of all, very balanced. It doesn’t lambast “jocks” and sports but also illustrates when sports go too far. The story reflects “real” struggles that represent the frustrations and varying emotions of teenagers.  Combined with a clean romance and no language, I call this one a win.

Every Town Is A Sports Town: Business Leadership at ESPN, from the Mailroom to the Boardroom by George Bodenheimer

I am not the intended audience for this book. I know next to nothing about ESPN and basically the only name I recognized in the entire book was the one sentence reference to Tiger Woods. Insider scoops and observations about on-air talent went over my head. I probably missed a lot. Yet I thoroughly enjoyed it! I wrote down tons of quotes and observations from it.  The story of ESPN is inspiring and interesting. Best of all, though, ESPN’s growth entirely compliments Market Based Management. The focus on culture, hiring right, finding fulfillment, embracing change, localized knowledge, and the importance of a vision everyone can understand, articulate, and embrace completely echoed what I have been reading/learning in Good Profit (seriously, go read Good Profit). Although George Bodenheimer doesn’t use the same terminology, he states the same principles as Charles Koch. It was very inspiring to read. Especially if you like sports and even if you don’t, you should give this one a try.

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

It is Agatha Christie, so of course it is going to be fantastic, but The Seven Dials Mystery was exceptionally fun. A household prank gone wrong, secret societies, hidden motives, and characters who are never what they appear to be! Christie’s writing is old fashion, intelligent, and as always, wonderfully readable. Definitely one you’ll want to re-read. Big thanks to Tori for this one!

An Algonquin Round Table Mystery Series by J. J. Murphy

Are you familiar with the Algonquin Round Table? I wasn’t until I started this series. In the 1920s, famous writers, critics, actors, and wits including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Ruth Hale, Alexander Woollcott, George Kaufman, and Harpo Marx met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel. If you haven’t heard of them, you really should look them up. Fascinating bunch. An Algonquin Round Table Mystery Series brings the table to life with witty banter and a few good murders. The first book in the series is Murder Your Darling, but my personal favorite is book 3, A Friendly Game of Murder. Dorothy Parker stars as the main character and J. J. Murphy does her justice. Though not the best detective series you’ll ever read, all the books are pretty solid. To quote one Goodreads review, they are “intellectual guffaw.”

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2015 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

Based on the vast number of good books I read this year, I have broken this post into three parts to help readability. As usual, books are not laid out in any specific way, but in the random order ordained by Goodreads (and myself!) See any favorites?

Enjoy!

Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched A Hundred Years of Federalism by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips

Rarely do you find biographies so readable and uniquely connected to everyday life. Contempt of Court covers the trial and lynching of Ed Johnson, an African American accused of raping a white woman in 1906. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, a judge found him guilty and sentenced him to death. The U.S. Supreme Court intervened and eventually went so far as to hold those connected to his lynching in contempt of court. This case was the only time the Supreme Court ever heard a criminal case. United States v. Shipp did more than decide one man’s guilt or innocence. It declared the Supreme Court had authority over a state criminal court case. This both reflected and launched a new age of federal involvement. Very worth reading.

Strong Poison (book 6), Gaudy Night (book 12), and Busman’s Honeymoon (book 13) by Dorothy L. Sayers

These are all books in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. To be honest, I love them all and if you haven’t discovered the brilliance that is Dorothy L. Sayers, you really need to. Her mysteries are intellectual and intriguing and Sir Peter Wimsey is wonderful. However, these three were my absolute favorites. (If you know the series, you’ll realize all these books involve Harriet Vane. She is fabulous.) What is great, though, is that they are all wonderful in equally different ways. Strong Poison involves a cold case, where the murder happened months earlier and now Sir Peter must piece together the clues. Gaudy Night takes place at Oxford and is very soul-searching and academic. Busman’s Honeymoon is everything a fangirl could want for the couple she’s been shipping for 6 books. Oh, so good. I want to go re-read them right now.

The Science of Success by Charles Koch

Easy to understand and filled with helpful principles, this is an “abbreviated” predecessor of Good Profit. It was designed for more internal use and that comes across. Certainly worth reading for a better understanding of Market Based Management and Koch Industries. There are lots of interesting stories and it really is a good grounding in MBM. However. Good Profit is now out. Go read that one.

The Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner

If you want to be technical, only The King of Attolia (book 3) and A Conspiracy of Kings (book 4) got 5 stars from me, but the entire series is totally worth it. While the first book, The Thief, feels a little slow, it has a terrific twist at the end. Plus, the series picks up and gets better and better and BETTER. It has adventure, battles, romance, plot twists. The series will break your heart a million different ways, every one of them worth it. I can’t really give plot descriptions without giving something away, so just go read it already. (There are some mature themes, so I recommended for high schoolers on up)

Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti by Chad Eastham

Chad Eastham’s book Guys Like Girls Who… played an influential role in my life in high school. It was great reading him again. Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti is aimed at teenagers and talks about the different ways guys and girl function. It covers a myriad of topics like brain development, emotions, and relationships. Funny, serious, and easy to read, the book is a mix of stories, facts, and zany quips.  Even “outside” of the intended age group, I found it very helpful. Highly recommended, especially for teenagers.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

A dark, twisted children’s book that breaks your heart but is eminently worth it. The story is very reminiscent of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. “Plain” Kate is a woodcarver, left on the streets to fend for herself after her parents die. Her woodwork is beautiful, but many whisper that she is a witch. In order to escape the accusations, Kate makes a bargain with a mysterious man: her shadow in exchange for her heart’s wish. Gypsies, magic, and love all come to play in this lyrical story.

Disclaimer: I do not recommend this book to just anyone, and certainly not the intended age group. Plain Kate involves witchcraft, raising the dead, and sacrifices. While many of these things are treated in a negative light, I know many of my readers will not like it.

 


2015 Reading Challenge – The Mind Blowing Ones

It is the most wonderful time of the year! No, not because the kids are jingle belling (is that even a thing?) or because everyone is telling me “be of good cheer!” (definitely not a thing) but because….drum roll please!

I have once again completed my reading challenge and now can sit back, dust off the blog, and write about my favorite things…namely, good books. And bad books. And maybe, depending how into things I get, all the books in-between. This year I read 162 books. That number does not include re-reads or manga or the loads of kdramas I watch (I really should get credit for those. Subtitles are an undervalued form of reading!)

No, I mean, 162 genuine, brand new, never-before-read-by-Amy books! That totals roughly 49,580 new pages. As usual, it is a mixed grouping of fiction and non-fiction, spanning many genres. Unusual, however, is that I had more 5 star than 1 star reads. Of those 5 star reads, several far exceeded my usual 5 star rating. All 5 stars are good, but these were particularly challenging and/or view shaping for me. Originally I was just going to highlight them in the greater 5 star blog post, but I read so many good books this year that the post became ridiculously long! To balance that I have split “the exceptional few” from the other amazing ones. So keep an eye out for my next blog post with the other 5 star reads!

Mind Blowing and View Shaping 5 Star Reads from 2015:

Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies by Charles Koch

Coupled with my own experience with Market Based Management, Good Profit easily stands out as one of the most impactful books I read in 2015. What drove Koch Industries’ expansion from a $21 million company in 1967 to the $115 billion one it is today? Charles Koch writes about forming an MBM culture and creating long term value for society. This book is immensely readable and practical. Good Profit is more than one man’s business reflections. It is an analysis of what success means and how companies can work for the betterment of their “customers, employees, shareholders, and society.”

I love a lot of quotes in this book, but none more than Charles Koch’s conclusion:

“The greatest gift we can receive or pass on is the opportunity to find and pursue our passion, and in doing so, to make a difference by helping others improve their lives. To be truly rich is to live a life of meaning.”

 

Why Not Women? A Fresh Look at Scripture on Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton

A very powerful book about the role of women leaders in ministry. While I am not sure I agree with everything in it, Why Not Women? shook up a lot of things I took at face value and really encouraged me to study the subject deeper. I love how footnoted this book is. Entirely readable but still academic. The authors analyze the Greek passages where Paul talks about women and provide some fascinating analysis into what he actually meant. What I especially appreciate about Why Not Women?, however, is how much the authors focus on Jesus’ radical, culture-breaking treatment of women. They go into the history of women’s roles in Greek, Roman, and Jewish culture and illustrate how different the Christian church was. Whether you agree with its conclusions or not, Why Not Women? is worth reading because it is a book full of grace that goes a long way in restoring the identity and value of women, in the church and out.

(Thank you, Anna, for this fantastic Christmas present!)

 

Surprised By Oxford by Carolyn Weber

To extremely simplify, this is the coming-to-faith memoir of a woman at Oxford University. However, it is so much more than that. Surprised by Oxford is a book that breathes. It questions and answers and leaves unanswered, offering many ideas for the reader to wrestle with in its wake. I love this book for its references to Oxford, places I know and love like St. Ebbes Church and New College. I love it for all the quotes from Wordsworth and Lewis and many other authors. I love it for Carolyn Weber’s conversion experience and her willingness to be honest, vulnerable, and unafraid to express her love for God. Most of all, I love this book because it reminds me of why I love learning. It reawakens joy in me. This is a thick book, 400 some pages, and not one you consume in a sitting! But it is so worth it as a book to sit and chew over and highlight and re-read and learn from.

 

Entrepreneurship For Human Flourishing by Peter Greer

Balancing Surprised by Oxford’s 400+ pages, Entrepreneurship For Human Flourishing comes in at just over a 100 pages. It is a tiny book, easy to read, but very powerful. Peter Greer challenges the distinction between “non-profit” and “for-profit” work in helping third world countries.  He share stories of individuals who used their “for profit” companies to provide jobs, expand education, and bring life to communities. Though this book was good, I don’t feel the need to re-read it like I do the others on this list. I felt it deserved a place among the “exceptional” books, however, because of the overall influence of Peter Greer as a speaker on me. Though I’m blessed to work for an amazing non-profit, I have really changed my views on how I perceive for-profit v. non-profit organizations. One is not “holier” than the other, and as this book points out, for-profit businesses can make an incredible difference fighting hunger, poverty, etc. in ways beyond the scope of a traditional non-profit. This is a great read for students.

 

The Moral Case For Fossil Fuel by Alex Epstein

It is generally agreed that fossil fuels are a “necessary evil.” We’re dependent on them for now, but they aren’t that great and we should find an alternative. However, is this necessarily the case? The Moral Case For Fossil Fuel argues that far from being a danger, fossil fuels make our lives better and are improving the planet overall by making it safer and richer. Alex Epstein uses his background in philosophy to explore the moral case for using fossil fuel. He weighs the advantages, including the environmental ones, of using fossil fuel and contrasts it with the asserted detriments. He concludes that in order to improve lives we are morally responsible to use fossil fuels, and lots of them! Frankly, I love this book. I think everyone should read it. It is fun, easy to understand, and an extremely important voice in our current “war on fossil fuel.”