What I Read Last Year

I never feel like I read enough. So many great books. So little time. But when I sat down to compile this list, I realized just how many books I do read.  As Liz Cottrill of Living Books Library says, “Here a little, there a little, every day a little, gets you through a lot of books in 365 days.”

(If you want to see a truly impressive list of books, check out Liz’s list of the books she read last year. There must be close to 80 books there—twice what I managed.)

The list below includes novels and nonfiction that I read with my kids in 2014 but does not include picture books. (If it did, it would be endless!) I share it partly in celebration (I am sort of amazed that I read so much) and partly to encourage you to keep reading, especially to and with your kids, even (especially!) as they grow older. An (*) denotes a re-read. A (#) denotes a read-aloud. A link will take you to a review or response I wrote.

Here are a few books that are particularly noteworthy:

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

I began 2014 weeping my way through this beautiful book. I read it again in July I loved it so much. It opened my eyes to the mysterious ways of God and His sometimes severe mercies toward us, which He extends because of His infinite love. And that made me see my own losses in the light of His love. (Lanier Ivester wrote a beautiful and moving post about this book that you really must read.)

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

I’ve been a Berry fan for over 15 years, and this book made me love his writing all the more. The prose is exquisite; the story of a quiet man’s quiet life is compelling; and the deep pain of this world and the deep hope that we have in Christ are palpable. An amazing book.

Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge

My friend Jody says this book is the clearest portrayal of the Gospel that she’s ever read. It certainly hauled open my eyelids when I read it. I saw myself in its characters–and often I didn’t like what I saw. This novel changed me, in ways I am still discovering. At the very least, it marks the beginning of my tuning in to God’s call to take joy, no matter the circumstances.


The unifying thread of my reading (and quite possibly my life) is the devotional literature to which I turn day after day, week in and week out.

Devotional Literature

The Bible,* especially the Psalms and Gospels, though I also read a fair amount of the Pentateuch and history books (Joshua-Kings) last year

The Book of Common Prayer*

MacDonald, George. Diary of an Old Soul*

Tickle, Phyllis, ed. The Divine Hours (3 vol.)*

Tileston, Mary, ed. Daily Strength for Daily Needs*

Vos, Catherine. The Child’s Story Bible#



Guite, Malcolm. Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Church Year*

Hall, Donald, ed. The Oxford Book of American Children’s Poetry#

Peterson, Pete, ed. The Molehill, vol. 1 and 2 (not exclusively poetry, but a little of everything, including recipes!, so I put it here)



Capon, Robert Farrar. The Supper of the Lamb

Clarkson, Sarah. Caught Up in a Story

DeRogatis, Amy. Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in Evangelical America

DeRusha, Michelle. Spiritual Misfit

Guroian, Vigen. Tending the Heart of Virtue

Kleon, Austin. Show Your Work!

Laubach, Frank. Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World

Laubach, Frank. Letters by a Modern Mystic

Lee, Jennifer Dukes. Love Idol

Mason, Charlotte. Formation of Character

Peterson, Eugene. The Contemplative Pastor*

Pfatteicher, Philip. Journey into the Heart of God.

Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art

Rogers, Jonathan. The World According to Narnia

Vanauken, Sheldon. A Severe Mercy

Vanauken, Sheldon. Under the Mercy

Welch, Kristen. Rhinestone Jesus



Aldrich, Bess Streeter. Collected Stories 1920-1954

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. A Little Princess*#

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden*#

Carlson, Natalie Savage. The Family Under the Bridge#

DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux#

Goudge, Elizabeth. Green Dolphin Street

Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas. The Ghost at the Tokaido Inn

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God

Karon, Jan. Shepherds Abiding

Konigsburg, E.L. The Second Mrs. Giaconda

Lewis, C.S. Prince Caspian*#

Lewis, C.S. The Horse and His Boy*#

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe*#

Lewis, C.S. The Silver Chair*#

Lewis, C.S. Voyage of the Dawn Treader*#

Lownsbery, Eleanor. The Boy Knight of Reims#

Milne, A.A. Winnie-the-Pooh*#

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Avonlea*#

Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard*

Paterson, Katherine. Parzival

Peterson, Andrew. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness#

Robinson, Barbara. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever*#

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

Sayers, Dorothy. Gaudy Night*

Seredy, Kate. A Tree for Peter*#

Seredy, Kate. The White Stag

St. John, Patricia. Twice Freed#

Willard, Barbara. Augustine Came to Kent

Willard, Barbara. Son of Charlemagne

Wilson, Douglas. Evanjellyfish

Younge, Charlotte. The Little Duke#


Three cheers for books!



The heavens are full of ruby-hued jewels,
alive with the ridged wrinkles of glistening garnets,
awash in the juices of fruitful glory.
Ah, the delectable flesh of this sky!

Round the center seeds small and smaller
wink like stars in a carnelian firmament,
the center itself a nebula where a million suns
cluster in bright profusion,

flinging out spiral arms
to the edge of the known universe—
an event horizon of pale pith
and speckled skin.



I wrote this poem last week on a day when I was feeling weepy and disconsolate. Winter does that to me. All the rain and the gray skies start to oppress my soul. But I’d been reading The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon.

Father Capon (he’s an Anglican priest) insists that we stop and look at things and enjoy the thinginess of them. He wants to open our eyes to the wonder of creation. Food is his way into that wonder.

So I took a page from Father Capon’s book, in which he spends an entire chapter meditating on an onion, and I spent a half an hour looking at half a grapefruit. It’s rather a marvelous fruit when you stop and actually see it. Attending to the grapefruit, wonder of wonders, took my focus off of me, and I began to feel less weepy and disconsolate, more smiley and consoled. Taking my cue from those tiny starlike seeds circling the center of the fruit, I wrote this playful little poem. I flatter myself that Father Capon would appreciate it.


The Supper of the Lamb is a corking good book, friends. If you like food or wine, you really must read it. Ditto if you like art, music, poetry, literature, or theology. And if you dislike all of those things but you’re rather fond of air, you, too, should read this book.

I wrote a “review” of it (for some definition of review) over at GraceTable, the most beautiful new place on the interwebs. Please come join me for a truly delightful bit of writing (if I do say so myself). It’ll give you a taste (pun intended) of Father Capon’s even more delightful book.


Photo by Stefan Van der Straeten, Creative Commons via Flickr.


O Antiphons

“O stock of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples. Kings fall silent before you, the nations acclaim you: delay no longer, but come to free us.”

—the Magnificat antiphon for December 19


It is the week before Christmas, which means it is the week of the O Antiphons.

I first experienced the O Antiphons at St. John’s Abbey in central Minnesota when I was in grad school at the seminary there. The week before Christmas at evening prayer, after the Magnificat, the monks would chant a beautiful hymn, each night invoking a different name of Jesus:

O Sapientia (Wisdom)
O Adonai (Lord)
O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
O Clavis David (Key of David)
O Oriens (Dayspring)
O Rex Gentium (King of the nations)
O Emmanuel (God-with-us)

You’re probably most familiar with the O Antiphons through the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Each of its seven verses is based on an O Antiphon.

Thomas Turner of Everyday Liturgy writes, “The O Antiphons are one way that Christians for over 1500 years have been preparing their hearts, souls, minds and bodies to celebrate the coming of Christ at the first Advent, Christmas.”

So this final Friday before Christmas, near the beginning of O Antiphon week, I invite you to pause and ponder the names of Jesus, their richness and beauty, and the One to whom they point our hearts.

Here are three resources I am enjoying:


Thomas Turner’s new e-book O Antiphons: Prayers for the Advent Season is a fresh reading of the O Antiphons, along with an Old and New Testament scripture reading and a meditation with discussion questions.

Of his book Thomas writes, “You can use this book to prayerfully come into the presence of the baby Jesus, born of a virgin, fully God and fully human in form, who is Wisdom in the flesh, our Lord, the Savior promised from David’s line, our Eternal Light, the King who unites all peoples and our Emmanuel, the God-who-is-with-us.”

It’s free. And it has beautiful illustrations. So go get yourself a copy. If you make a donation, Thomas will give half to the artist who illustrated the book and half to International Justice Mission.


Malcolm Guite’s beautiful collection of sonnets for the church year, Sounding the Seasons, includes a cycle of O Antiphons, which are among my favorite poems in the collection. I especially love “O Radix” (Root of Jesse), which includes these lines:

For now is winter, now is withering
Unless we let you root us deep within,
Under the ground of being, graft us in.

I wish I could quote the whole thing, but that’s against copyright. You really, really must get your hands on a copy. It’s worth it just for the O Antiphons. The bonus is that the book will last the whole year through, beautiful words to light your way through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time.


Finally, I want to share with you John Mason Neale’s translation of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” (It was originally a Latin hymn, a metrical paraphrase of the O Antiphons.) Neale’s translation is just different enough from the hymn you usually sing that I hope its words will draw you up short and remind you how utterly amazing the Incarnation is.

The final two verses were translated in 1916 by Henry Sloane Coffin. The word “Orient” in the third verse is a transliteration of the Latin oriens, east, the place of daybreak.

May I suggest you sing it? The melody will slow you down so you can ponder the words rather than racing through them :)


Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear;
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall be born for thee, O Israel!

Draw nigh, O Jesse’s Rod, draw nigh,
To free us from the enemy;
From Hell’s infernal pit to save,
And give us victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall be born, for thee, O Israel!

Draw nigh, Thou Orient, Who shalt cheer
And comfort by Thine Advent here,
And banish far the brooding gloom
Of sinful night and endless doom.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall be born for thee, O Israel!

Draw nigh, draw nigh, O David’s Key,
The Heavenly Gate will ope to Thee ;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall be born for thee, O Israel!

Draw nigh, draw nigh, O Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes from Sinai’s height
In ancient time didst give the Law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall be born for thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.



Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P., Creative Commons via Flickr. Detail from the sanctuary arch of the basilica of St Paul outside the Walls in Rome, showing kings casting their crowns before God’s throne in heaven.




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