Reading Challenge Updates: Mini-Reviews & Quotes


I have two reading challenges this year.

  • The first is to re-read a set of ten books. I have various reasons and motivations for the list, but ten was a good place to start.
  • The second reading challenge is to read myself into two “Bingo’s” on boards representing books on Race Relations in the U.S. and Expressions of Faith.

Re-Read Challenge

I re-read Phillip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing About Grace?. My motivation was forgetfulness. I knew I had read it once, and I had vague recollections of it being a “good” read. It was and is a good read. My underlining was more vigorous this time around as well as the number of times I just sat back to consider his argument or perspective or insight. It is a good read for the soul. Here are a few quotes that stuck out to me this time around:

“And the opposite of sin is grace, not virtue.”

“The time has come to return to a practical question: If grace is so amazing, why don’t Christians show more of it?…The church has allowed itself to get so swept up in political issues that it plays by the rules of power, which are rules of ungrace. In no other arena is the church at greater risk of losing its calling than in the public square.”

“To love a person,” said Dostoevsky, “means to see him as God intended him to be.”

The next book I re-read was Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou. I don’t remember a strong feeling about this book the first time I read it. I wanted to read it again to see if my opinion would change now that I had been a mother to daughters for six years. Turns out, time can change understanding and appreciation of a text. It would be difficult to not receive the wisdom and generosity of Maya Angelou’s prose and perspective as a daughter learning from those before. She curates stories and advice perceptively suited for the passing on from woman to woman. The chapters are bite-size, but they are filling. They are full of horrors and sadness but they are hopeful and beautiful. They are personal and intimate but universal. Letter to My Daughter will be one that I will indeed pass on to my daughters. Here are a few quotes that lingered with me, if only because I cannot reprint the entire text which would more accurately represent what will stay with me.

“All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us all that we are more alike than we are un-alike.”

“I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things, I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me, since one person, with God, constitutes the majority?

That knowledge humbles me today, melts my bones, closes my ears, and makes my teeth rock loosely in my gums. And it also liberates me. I am a big bird winging over high mountains, down into serene valleys. I am ripples of waves on silver seas. I’m a spring leaf trembling in anticipation of full growth.”

“In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons.

The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity.”

And now, on to Bingo. If you would like a refresher on what I’m trying to do here, the post is here. If you’ve just forgotten what the card looks like, I’ll put that below.

reading book bingo

Bingo: Expressions of Faith

I have read four books in this category. And none of them fit to create anything close to a line. But, they’ve been good reads.

A BOOK OF NON-FICTION: For this square I read Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir. I had this one on my TBR list for a while but recent events prompted me to bump it up. It’s a slim book but packed with anecdotes and research, perspective and percentages. For Christians it is a call to be informed and involved. For those interested in understanding refugee resettlement it is a primer and guide. The authors walk readers through the resettlement process, give clear definitions to terms, and provide perspective on the challenges facing the world, our communities, and refugees.

RE-READ A FAVORITE BOOK: I put What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Phillip Yancey in this spot and wasn’t disappointed. See the section above for more thoughts and a few quotes.

A BOOK PUBLISHED THIS YEAR: Race & Place by David P. Leong. Initially I was going to put this on my other Bingo card, but the main thrust of this piece is challenging Christians to be informed about housing policy and prayerfully considerate about how they can engage.

A BOOK WRITTEN BY A LOCAL AUTHOR: This was another surprise reading placement. Author Kathy Izard’s book Hundred Story Home is not explicitly about faith, but it is through her willingness to take one step and then another, at times prompted by something she cannot or does not want to define, that brings her to see her role at the nexus of providing housing for Charlotte’s chronically homeless as a key part of her faith journey.

Bingo: Race Relations in the U.S.

In this category I have read three books, and they are clumped on one side. I may make it to Bingo quicker on this one.

A CHILDREN’S BOOK: I was not expecting to find this so soon, but I read The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko. The beautiful collage illustrations and the simple and clear text were a strong explanation for how the Loving family had to fight for their right to be married. They married in Washington, D.C. but wanted to call Virginia their home. After being arrested for miscegenation they fought the courts and their case made it to the Supreme Court where they were finally given the freedom to live as a family with their three children.

A BOOK WRITTEN BY A FEMALE AUTHOR: I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Readers follow the strong-minded Janie through three husbands and three communities. Janie is tough, passionate, and thoughtful. Hurston does not ignore or trivialize the markers of society, the challenges or limitations, but the story is first and foremost about Janie. I loved that. She did not allow the overwhelming injustice, sacrifices, or risks to become the narrative. They existed, Janie worked through them or avoided them and was ever aware of them, but they did not define her or her story. Janie Crawford is on my list of favorite female protagonists.

A BOOK THAT TAKES PLACE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY: I wasn’t sure how to approach this one for a category that specifically deals with an issue within the United States. But, racism and structural injustice is a poison through many societies and stumbling upon The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso in my NetGalley reading titles fit the square perfectly. I wrote a fuller review of the book here, but the story of two widowed neighbors, overtly antagonistic to one another, who are sharing a house together by the middle of the book is an approachable read that examines the effects of racial injustice in South Africa in a suburban housing development. The setting is not so unfamiliar as to seem not applicable to U.S. conversations, and in that way it touches a nerve that will resonate with communities confronting racial tensions in South Africa or elsewhere.

And there you go. Eight mini-reviews in one longish post. More updates to come as my reading challenges progress. Hope your reading in 2017 is off to a good start!

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