End-of-the-Year Book Report

In my first blog post of 2018 (“The Sheltering Space of Books”), I made a commitment to read more real-print books this year. I chose not to open my Kindle first thing in the morning and I set aside time for “study lunches” rather than watching videos. I had already been reading the Bible, poetry, and devotional books as a morning practice.

Not to boast or anything, but I feel a certain amount of satisfaction as I review the quantity of my year’s reading. (You may evaluate the quality for yourself.)

My Chicago Public Library borrowing history shows I checked out 79 books this year.

  • several biographies, memoirs, and books of essays

When Ursula K. Le Guin died on January 22, I decided to read and re-read some of her work.

  • 8 classic storybooks for my grandchildren (including Make Way for Ducklings, Don’t Forget the Bacon, A Pocket for Corduroy, and the kids also took out MANY books on their own)
  • 5 travel guides to Italy and Tuscany (for a trip I took in June)
  • 4 books on CD and 4 more books downloaded to my Kindle (I listened to books in the Patrick O’Brian “Master and Commander” series and two of the “#1 Ladies Detective Agency” books during my commute.)
  • a few books on neuroscience and biology


    Birdwatchers are a prime audience for this book.

  • dozens of mysteries!!! I’m committed to so many mystery series that I need to keep track on paper which ones are next in each sequence. I was lucky enough to discover the Scottish writer Val McDermid this year.
  • 4 books I returned without finishing. In some cases, the titles seemed more interesting than the contents.

The University of Dubuque Meyers Library doesn’t track one’s borrowing history. But I currently have 13 books on loan, most of them about particular topics in New Testament interpretation. For one project, I’m looking at mothers and mothering in the Pauline letters. For another, my research is on imitation as an educational strategy in the Greco-Roman world.

There were another 15+ books on the list for my DMin cohort, as we tackled economic issues affecting families and churches.

I’m very proud to say that the books of two UDTS Bible professors made my list in 2018:

  • The Role of the Synagogue in the Aims of Jesus by Jordan J. Ryan is the most interesting and readable book I’ve encountered on historical Jesus research. (Watch Dr. Vander Broek’s conversation with Dr. Ryan.)
  • 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know by Matthew Richard Schlimm offers theological insights as well as clear analysis of various issues that arise in translating the Bible. (Read more about this book.)


I made an intentional effort to read books written by people of color, and this reading has been perhaps the most challenging to me.

  • Early in the year, I read We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This series of essays composed during the Obama presidency presents strong, articulate opinions about American society which gave me different, and not necessarily comforting, perspectives on politics and race.
  • Futureface: A Family Mystery, An Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging was written by Burmese-Luxembourgian-Irish-American journalist Alex Wagner. This book describes her journey via genealogical research, family stories, and DNA testing as she sought a center of belonging for herself as a person of multi-ethnic origins.
  • When my church started discussing the crucial topic of race and equity, I picked up two books by Roxane Gay — Bad Feminist: Essays and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

Wow! Talk about powerful writing! Her life stories carried me into complicated spaces which embody the very meaning of the word “intersectionality.”


Reading in Progress

  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  • An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation by Nyasha Junior
  • Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do by Daniel M. Cable
  • Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans

This 2018 retrospective encourages me to keep reading those print-books. What a constant delight it is to encounter a strange scenario, learn something new, or struggle to understand another viewpoint. These too are the gifts of God for the people of God.


Love of reading crosses the generations. My granddaughter and my father share a summer afternoon of reading on the front porch.