Before having children, holiday was a time to relish reading many books. Those first few days, all I really want to do is relax in the sunshine with a really good read. I then begin to get itchy feet and need some action, but always factoring in some book-feasting time.
As we packed to go away this time, we both optimistically squeezed numerous books into the suitcases and loaded up the Kindle. We also said to each other that we really did need to have realistic expectations of reading possibilities with two little people needing entertainment.
It turned out that we read more than we might have expected. Early nights with us all in the same room helped as there was no option but to read quietly while we waited for the boys to drop off. Tag teaming on the beach and the sun loungers also clocked up the pages, and all in all we really enjoyed some great books. And even did the classic reading the good bits out to one another, especially with the Christian books we were reading.
While Jonathan stuck to non-fiction, I enjoyed a mixture of both – a couple of brilliant novels, a doctor’s autobiography and some rich, challenging Christian books.
Here are my top five from my holiday reading (in case anyone is interested):
Small Great Things Jodi Picoult
Picoult always tells a good story, and I’d grabbed this one (her most recent) to ease into the holiday with something that’s not too taxing but promised to be intriguing. She tackles the provocative topic of racism, both seen and unseen biases that pervade American society. The characters, and their complex relationships, are compelling and it really made me reflect on my own subconscious judgments and assumptions. While provoking thought and reflection, it was also one that I didn’t want to put down and desperately wanted to find out what happened to Ruth, the black neonatal nurse who is being accused of murdering a newborn baby.
Warlight Michael Ondaatje
I loved this shadowy wartime narrative told from the point of view of Nathaniel, who is looking back on his unusual adolescent years. His parents seem to abandon him and his sister into the care of unexpected yet intriguing guardians, and we spend most of the novel trying to piece together what is true from his memories and where his mother in particular is during all this time. Ondaatje peppers the novel with brilliantly captured characters and moments that are unusual but resonate and are hard to forget. It’s these snapshots of people and places, from Nathaniel’s perspective, that then determine the way you think about what his mother might be doing, and how these children are being brought up in these dangerous, yet adventure-filled, wartime years.
This Is Going To Hurt Adam Kay
Hilarious anecdotes from a doctor who is now a comedian. It’s essentially his diaries from ten years or so of being an NHS doctor, and he doesn’t hold back on gruesome details and the catalogue of quirkiness that enters the doors of an obs and gyny ward. I laughed out loud at some of the stories, and also found it moving and powerful as it becomes clear that life for a doctor starting in the profession is hard, heart-breaking and ultimately unsustainable. I was disappointed that he felt the need to swear so much throughout the book, and so would issue a warning alongside the recommendation. I felt he could have made his jokes and point without resorting to that language.
Enjoying God Tim Chester
Within two chapters of reading this book, I came to the conclusion that it is one of the most important books for the normal Christian that has been written in recent years. Chester is seeking to help Christians enjoy their relationship with God more so that it’s not just intellectual assent to the truth of the gospel, but is a joyful reality in their everyday lives. I would say that every Christian wants more from their relationship with God – knowing it should be more than going about the dutiful Christian life but sometimes not being sure how to be more relational in it. Chester points to the Trinity as our means of communion with God. He makes the point that through the cross, our relationship with God is secure but that as we appreciate the different persons of the Trinity, the relationship can become more of a reality. I thought it was so real, well-written and brilliantly applicable. It was what my weary soul needed to dwell on over these last few weeks and I’ll be encouraging many to read it.
Different David Martin
This is a wake-up call that all Christians need to hear and respond to. Martin reads the culture around him perceptively, and doesn’t hold back on the dangers of the direction we are heading as we embrace comfort and cultural acceptance over sacrifice and gospel priorities. I love the way he holds up the New Creation again and again, showing us where we’re really headed, and then brings that to bear on how we conduct ourselves now. His application is real, humble and yet he’s not scared to call us out where our priorities have slipped and the future has dropped off our thinking. It’s short, it’s punchy and it’s very well written. One that we all need to read and reflect. I’d love to read this with a group and dig down deep into the application, working it out in our realities.
Alongside these books ( and a few others), we enjoyed reading the Bible together as a couple and with the boys. We have been using Glen Scrivener’s Reading Between The Lines to help us each morning and found his reflections and Jesus-floodlighting to be really helpful. David Helm’s Big Picture Storybook Bible is what we’re reading with the boys. Brilliant big sweep of the story of the whole Bible with a wonderfully simple yet profound overview of what the Bible is all about as we anticipate God’s forever king. Fantastic illustrations means that Billy is still for at least a moment or two as we read a chunk each day.