Nonfiction, Novels

Recent Reading

The Pursuit of God (A.W. Tozer). This was a clarifying read about the need to seek God personally rather than coast along being a good soldier in church. Tozer argues that evangelicalism promulgates a myth that once you “accept Christ” (an expression not found in the Bible, he points out), you have nothing more to do other than put in time waiting for Heaven. It has been several weeks since I read it, but I enjoyed the astringent quality of Tozer’s writing. He is very clear, and many of the things that bothered him about Christian culture in the 60’s turn out to have been as atrophying to faith as he suspected.

A Man Called Ove (Fredrik Backman). Ove is a 59-year-old widower in a carefully regulated housing development in Sweden. He is the quintessential curmudgeon who, when the story opens, feels he has nothing to live for, but he is surrounded by a diverse crew of neighbors who won’t leave him alone. That’s about all I’ll say in the plot summary department, but suffice it to say the book is often called “heartwarming.” I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thoroughly didn’t believe it. That is, Backman’s characterization is wonderfully truthful in its rendering of details about Ove; but in the real world, I find it hard to believe that others would see through an old grump of his caliber to the heart of gold beneath. It would be nice if it happened, nice enough that the novel brought me to tears at times. But because I’m skeptical that such a thing would really happen, I find myself filing it under “inspiring but improbable fiction.”

The Wednesday Wars (Gary D. Schmidt). Yes, I’ve never read this modern YA classic before. It gives a detailed look at junior high life in a 1967 NYC suburb. The narrator, Holling Hoodhood, is convinced that his teacher hates him, and despite his misadventures under her supervision — escaped rats, chalk-covered cream puffs, various social entanglements, wearing yellow tights and performing in a Shakespeare play — Mrs. Baker actually comes to his rescue in several hugely important ways throughout the story. His parents are dreadful — as self-absorbed and indifferent to Holling as can be imagined — but I really liked the picture of the era this tale gives. I also enjoyed Holling and felt Schmidt depicted a growing, changing 7th grader realistically.

5 thoughts on “Recent Reading

  1. I really love The Wednesday Wars, and I’ve been using it with my seventh graders for several years now. I’m really hopeful that Gary Schmidt will win the Newbery someday. I think he’s that good. Have you read Trouble? I read that one with my eighth graders. And then there’s Okay for Now, which is sort of a sequel to The Wednesday Wars.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. :-)

      The only Gary Schmidt book I’ve read is ‘Orbiting Jupiter.’ My oldest read a Pilgrim’s Progress adaptation by him. But I’d definitely like to read more, so thanks for these titles.

      My youngest read Wednesday Wars before me and laughed/groaned aloud so many times I knew I had to give it a whirl!

  2. I’m out of the loop on YA fiction – I had not even heard of The Wednesday Wars. But it sounds fun! I’ve read Tozer’s book a couple of times and probably need to read it again at some point. Your word “astringent” is apt. I liked A Man Called Ove, too (except for a bit of language), and, though it is improbable, maybe one of its purposes is to encourage us to look past people’s crusty exteriors to the person underneath. Ove reminds of of the old man in Up.

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