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Read These Books

Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk

Nothing like getting to the end of a thousand page book only to find out it's part one of two, and the second one is even longer. I guess that's the downside of using a Kindle.

But honestly, I'm really glad I didn't know these books were so long, and that there were two of them. That would have scared me off before I even started, and I'm really glad I read them. It took me six months to get through both, and I found myself bummed at the end that I was saying goodbye to the Henry family.

I'd learned about World War II in school, and I've read lots of novels over the years that took place during that time. But these books took me into World War II. The length of these books offered something else as well--a sense of how long World War II really was for the people who lived through it, and how massive the war actually was. The books travel through Berlin, London, Pearl Harbor, Singapore, Midway, Russia, Poland, England and Washington DC, all through the eyes of one American military family. I learned a ton and enjoyed my way through it. Highly recommended.

(Profanity sprinkled throughout, and adultery is a major plot line--though not explicitly or without consequences.)

Unveiling Grace by Lynn Wilder

This is the story of a woman who left Mormonism after 35 years, during which she was also a Brigham Young University professor I don't know many Mormons, but Mormonism has interested me for a long time. Probably because I would have made a really good Mormon in my younger years--squeaky clean, really great at following the rules, earnest and passionate. In fact, part of what makes this book valuable to evangelical Christians like me is that we can very easily fall into the same traps of legalism that bind Mormons. As the title suggests, it was encountering the beauty of God's grace that changed everything for the author and her family.

This book is a little long-winded so parts of it dragged, but still a very interesting and profitable read.

Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson

Sally Clarkson, who has written many books on parenting and home life, co-writes this book with one of her sons. Nathan was an incredibly challenging child--extremely OCD, ADHD, defiant and argumentative. This is the story of their journey as mom and son, and parents of all kinds of kids will be encouraged and inspired by it.

The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper

I have no idea why it took me so long to read this book. It's a memoir of growing up in Liberia, a place that haunts my dreams and felt like home for a long time--so I should have read it years ago.

Liberia's history gets ignored a lot of the time--maybe because it doesn't fit the common racial narrative. In the 1800's, freed American slaves agreed to be sent back to Africa to start an American colony. And so Liberia was born--by pointing guns at the native people. The Black American colonizers kept a stronghold on the government and most of the economy for decades until 1980, when a military coup of native Liberians took over. They murdered the ruling party and destroyed the economy, and in 1989, the country was plunged into a tribal civil war for 15 years that could only be described as a living hell. Meanwhile, many of the Americo-Liberians, now thrown out of power, migrated to the United States.

The House at Sugar Beach is the story of one privileged Americo-Liberian girl and her native Liberian friend, who for a time lived side-by-side--until everything in their lives changed. Even those with no connection to Liberia will love this very well-written, witty, fascinating story about a little-known part of history.

Jamie Wright is either famous or infamous in missionary circles, depending on who you talk to. The blog she kept during her five years in Costa Rica was known for being blunt, transparent, and hysterically funny. This memoir can be described in the same way, but goes deeper into her story. Jamie is not afraid to ask the hard questions or expose the hard truth, and I've always appreciated her for that.

I don't agree with a lot of Jamie's theology or her conclusions, and I'm not into the whole profanity-on-every-page thing that she is known for. But I think that what she has to say is important, and that missionaries should read the book. We need to think through what she says and what our response should be. I wrote mine here.

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