Book reviews

My Reading List

A person’s bookshelf
is another window
into their soul.

Jerry Windley-Daoust

What follows is a (very) partial list of the books I’ve read over the years. While ebooks and online ordering make it easier to track the books I’ve read in the past ten years or so, prior to that I have nothing but my physical bookshelves and my memory to rely on.

Here’s my ranking system:

Five stars: A masterpiece…and I’d gladly read it more than once.
Four stars: The cream of the crop…somewhere in the top five percent of its genre.
Three stars: Not only did I enjoy it, I’d recommend it to my friends.
Two stars: Better than average in its genre…worth the time and money I spent on it.
One star: Meh. Not bad, but I’ve either read better or I can easily imagine how it could be better.

I’m combining different genres in this list, which makes for strange bedfellows, but there you have it.

So, without further ado, here is my very partial, work-in-progress list of books I’ve read (and some I’d recommend). Within each rating, books are listed in no particular order.

Jerry Windley-Daoust via Adobe Spark

Five Stars

For the Time Being by Annie Dillard

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

On Writing, by Steven King

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

To Know As We Are Known by Parker Palmer

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

On the Shores of Silver Lake + On the Banks of Plum Creek, etc., (“Little House” series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Flannery O’Connor: Collected Works by Flannery O’Connor

Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Life of Pi by Yann Martel


Four Stars

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle

Helgoland: The World of Quantum Theory by Carlo Rovelli

Aldo Leopold: A Sand County Almanac & Other Writings on Conservation and Ecology by Aldo Leopold

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby

Is This All There Is?: On Resurrection and Eternal Life by Gerhard Lohfink

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond

River of Doubt, by Candice Millard

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo

Three Stars

Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh: A Novel by Mo Yan

Good Poems by Keillor, Garrison

Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, Leo

Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Kelly, Scott

Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations by Chua, Amy

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Dreher, Rod

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Brody, Jessica

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

1984 by George Orwell

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig

AAA Book Club

The AAA Book Club is a men’s book club that has been meeting…well, just about forever, but at least since I joined in 2006. We only read nonfiction. The “AAA” stands for affordable, accessible, and…what? No one really remembers, but I think we’ve decided to settle on “apocalyptic,” given the number of books we read about the world going to hell in a handbasket.

Following is a list of all the books I’ve read with the book club. The book club’s list is about thirty titles longer, but I culled out the ones I didn’t read or don’t remember. The titles are listed from 2006 to present, in descending order.

  1. God’s Politics, by Jim Wallis
  2. Wittgenstein’s Poker, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow
  3. On Writing, by Steven King
  4. For the Time Being, by Annie Dillard
  5. Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, by Stephen Bloom
  6. Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  7. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond
  8. Einstein’s God: Conversations about Science and the Human Spirit, by Krista Tippett
  9. River of Doubt, by Candice Millard
  10. The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart
  11. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, by Dava Sobel
  12. Girl Meets God, by Lauren Winner
  13. Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, by Dr. Atul Gawande
  14. Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell
  15. Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods, by John McKnight and Peter Block
  16. Bayou Farwell, by Mike Tidwell
  17. Neither Wolf nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder, by Kent Nerburn
  18. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, by Peter Hessler
  19. Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives, by Annie Murphy Paul
  20. 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life, by Karen Armstrong
  21. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, by Jonathan Haidt
  22. Post American World 2.0, by Fareed Zakaria
  23. Healing the Heart of Democracy, by Parker Palmer
  24. Me the People: One Man’s Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America, by Kevin Bleyer
  25. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
  26. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t, by Nate Silver
  27. Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace
  28. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
  29. Reinventing Organizations, by Frederic Lalaux
  30. Life is a Miracle, by Wendell Berry
  31. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
  32. Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Gunaratana
  33. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo
  34. Climate Change: A Very Short Intro, by Mark Maslin
  35. Pope Francis: Untying the Knots, by Paul Vallely
  36. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande
  37. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, by Rebecca Solnit
  38. My Life With the Saints, by James Martin
  39. Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown
  40. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi.
  41. The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, by Charles Eisenstein
  42. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick
  43. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
  44. The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging, by Charles Vogl
  45. A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, edited by Sun Yung Shin
  46. Silence in the Age of Noise, by Erling Kagge
  47. Our Final Invention: AI and the End of the Human Era, by James Barrat
  48. Travels With Charlie, by John Steinbeck
  49. Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover
  50. The Second Mountain, by David Brooks
  51. Love Your Enemies, by Arthur C. Brooks
  52. Reclaiming Conversation, by Sherry Turtle
  53. An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives, by Matt Richtel
  54. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  55. A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton
  56. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson
  57. This is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perloth
  58. Rising Strong by Brene Brown
  59. The Midnight Library: A Novel by Matt Haig
  60. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  61. I Never Thought Of It That Way Monica Guzman

Cover art credit: Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

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