Book Recommendations

When I come across a book that speaks to me, I love to let others know.  So, here is my recommended reading list based on some old favorites and some new.  This list is sure to grow...

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken

 It has been many years since I read this book and I still think about it frequently.  It's the true story of a couple, Sheldon & Davy VanAuken, who are deeply in love.  They are both also unbelievers.  They develop a friendship and correspondence with C.S. Lewis and begin exploring faith and belief in God.  Davy is the first to believe & as the review on states," As their devotion to God intensifies, Sheldon realizes that he is no longer Davy's primary love--God is. Within this discovery begins a brewing jealousy.".  

The book explores how their love deepens & changes as they discover God's love.  And, how they cope with the discovery that Davy is very ill and her very life is in danger.  

Under The Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken

Under the Mercy is the sequel to A Severe Mercy and it explores how Sheldon continues to grow in his faith after Davy's death.

One Thousand Gifts:  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Is there anyone who has not yet heard about this book?  Take a look a living a life of gratitude like you never had before.  Poetic, majestic, laced with grief, brimming over with joy.  You must read this book.

The God Hater by Bill Myers

This concept behing this book would take a while to put into my own words, so I'm going to take the easy way out & show you the synopsis as it shows on

"A cranky, atheistic philosophy professor loves to shred the faith of incoming freshmen. He is chosen by a group of scientists to create a philosophy for a computer-generated world exactly like ours. Much to his frustration every model he introduces—from Darwinism, to Existentialism, to Relativism, to Buddhism—fails. The only way to preserve the computer world is to introduce laws from outside their system through a Law Giver. Of course this goes against everything he's ever believed, and he hates it. But even that doesn't completely work because the citizens of that world become legalists and completely miss the spirit behind the Law. The only way to save them is to create a computer character like himself to personally live and explain it. He does. So now there are two of him—the one in our world and the one in the computer world. Unfortunately a rival has introduced a virus into the computer world. Things grow worse until our computer-world professor sees the only way to save his world is to personally absorb the virus and the penalty for breaking the Law. Of course, it's clear to all, including our real-world professor, that this act of selfless love has become a reenactment of the Gospel. It is the only possible choice to save their computer world and, as he finally understands, our own."

This book is such a good read.  It draws you into the story early on and keeps you engaged throughout.  You'll see some chinks in the consistency of drawing parallels with the gospel.   But the author even notes in his prologue that he's probably made some theological blunders.  He encourages the reader to go to the Source.  What I think he tries to accomplish in this novel, I believe he succeeds in doing.  He gets the reader to ponder concepts such as free will, the law, and grace...and see them in a fresh way.

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

If you enjoy Downton Abbey, I think you will really like this book.  It is "The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey".  This book has the feel of listening to an older relative reminisce about days gone by.  But, the author doesn't glorify the poverty she experienced.  She's very honest about her experiences & her feelings.  She resented being looked down upon by 'Them' and reveals the very lopsided class system that existed.  Servitude was not her choice but was a necessity for survival.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the means of cooking & cleaning & living from the time period of the 1920's.  She is quite detailed in describing her duties & you can almost picture yourself right beside her.  

I highly recommend this book!

The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson

"To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. Yet one summer day Joe breaks his own rule--never turn your back on the ocean--and a sleeper wave strikes him down, drowning not only the man but his many secrets.

For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known and has believed that their biological mother, Paige, abandoned them. But when Paige shows up at the funeral, intent on reclaiming the children, Ella soon realizes there may be more to Paige and Joe's story. "Ella's the best thing that's happened to this family," say her Italian-American in-laws, for generations the proprietors of a local market. But their devotion quickly falters when the custody fight between mother and stepmother urgently and powerfully collides with Ella's quest for truth."

I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy this book or not.  Would it be depressing? Would I be able to relate to the main character at all?  It didn't seem I had anything remotely in common with her, and typically I'm drawn to characters that I can see some part of myself in.

This book was a pleasant surprise.  The writing is just beautiful, eloquent, and effortless.  It is easy to read, but not in the sense that it's simplistic.  Rather, the words carry you along through complex emotions and situations with startling clarity & honesty.  

And, in this book, all the characters are a mix of good & bad....they are human.  And, by the end of the book you feel at home with them & feel a respect for each of them.  The themes of failure, grace, and redemption are carried throughout.

Check it out.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.  As it turns out I read the entire thing in a day and a half.  I got caught up in it & I think you will too.  (Note:  There is cursing throughout the book...not in a gratuitous reflects the reality of the characters in that moment)   

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