What Did You Read This Summer?

by Steve Laube

In 1957 H.L. Mencken coined a new word to describe a group of people which he called the bibliobibuli, which means “People who read too much.” (From the Greek “biblio”, meaning books, and the Latin “bibulous”, from “bibere”, to drink.)

But how much is too much? And who decides that? I happen to believe that there is always room for more. I was once asked what I did for a living. I answered, “I read.” They followed up with the question, “What do you do for fun?” I smiled and said, “I read.” It is both a privilege and a blessing to work with so many gifted authors and to be immersed in their ideas every day.

But there are tons of books I read outside of work. When thinking about the variety of books I read these past few months it became a fun exercise so I decided to describe a few of them below. I have intentionally avoided books by clients or other prospective authors.

Non-Fiction
As mentioned in an earlier post I teach the Bible in a small class every Sunday morning of about 20 people. Last week we completed our eight month journey through the Apocrypha and the history of the Western world during the 400 years between the book of Malachi and the book of Matthew. As part of my research I was able to finish working through:

  • The Anchor Bible Commentaries on both 1 & 2 Maccabees by Jonathan A. Goldstein (1,200 pages of extraordinary scholarship).
  • The World of Jesus by Dr. William H. Marty (highly recommended introductory material, especially on Rome and Herod).
  • The appropriate sections of The Romans for Dummies by Guy de la Bedovere (there is something to be said for the critical simplicity of this series!).
  • I struggled with Selina O’Grady’s And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus because the author believes Paul invented Christianity. But the historical elements of the book were fascinating.
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. Whenever a book on the life of Christ becomes #1 on the New York Times bestseller list it is important to find out what it claims. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. The book goes to great lengths to undermine Jesus’ divinity and turns him into a frustrated zealot whose warlike desires were ultimately thwarted. The author’s selective exegesis is truly astounding in its scope, picking only parts of the gospels that support his position and ignoring those that don’t. I do not recommend this book. For a couple of excellent critiques read John Dickson and Darrell Bock.

Fiction
Fiction is my “mind candy.” The way I lose myself in stories of wide variety and scope. I am unable to list all those read these past few months but this should give a taste.

Feel free to tell us what you read these past few months in the comments below.

23 Responses to What Did You Read This Summer?

  1. Melissa Morrow August 26, 2013 at 4:03 am #

    Of the dozens of books I read this summer, two really stuck with me: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and Falling Upward by Richard Rohr.

  2. Diana Harkness August 26, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    The best novel I read was The Alpine Tales by Willis. I normally don’t read fantasy but this was a “complete” work: great use of language, description, and places. I felt like it was real. Best work of non-Fiction: Metaxes’s Amazing Grace. Although i did not enjoy it as much as I did his treatment of Bonhoeffer, that may be because Bonhoeffer has always been a hero to me. What else did I read? The Hunt Club by Brett Lott, Half a Yellow Sun by Adichie, North of Hope by Hassler, Bad Intentions (by Karin Fossum–my least favorite of her wonderful books), A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, and 2 wonderful children’s books: When I Was Young in the Mountains by Rylant and Martin de Porres by Gary D. Schimidt.

    • Diana Harkness August 26, 2013 at 4:15 am #

      And I almost forgot one of the other “best books” I read over the summer: A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash. I have an affinity for Southern Writers and he can stand alongside Michael Morris (Man in the Blue Moon) and come close to rivaling Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.

  3. Ron Estrada August 26, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    I went a big rogue with the fiction this year. I’m all over the map:

    Get Shorty, The Hunger Games, Digging Up Death (Gina Conroy), Wolfsbane (Ronie Kendig), Cold Sassy Tree, The Help, The Shack, The Lovely Bones, The Whole Truth (James Scott Bell), and a few others.

    On the non-fiction side, Story Engineering and Story Physics (Larry Brooks), Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel (K.M. Weiland), The Bible Jesus Knew (Phillip Yancey), Plot & Structure (again…James Scott Bell).

    It’s been a good summer! As you can see, I’m focusing on novel outline and structure these days. Wish I’d read those ten years ago.

  4. Michelle Sutton August 26, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    Fiction

    The Exceptions by David Cristofano

    Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman

    Friend Me by John Faubion

    The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

    The Queen’s Rival (In the Court of Henry VIII, #3) by Diane Haeger

    Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer

    Rules of Murder (Drew Farthering Mystery #1) by Julianna Deering

    Replacing Gentry by Julie N. Ford

    Angel Falls by Connie Mann

    As Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan

    A Heartbeat Away by S. Dionne Moore

    The Island by Jen Minkman

    Anomaly (Anomaly #1) by Krista McGee

    Lighten Up by Angela Ruth Strong

    The Outcast: a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter by Jolina Petersheim

    The Well by Stephanie Landsem

    The Princess Problem by Diane Darcy

    Captives (The Safe Lands #1) by Jill Williamson

    Broken Halo by Sandi Greene

    Claudia, Wife of Pontius Pilate by Diana Wallis Taylor

    Take a Chance on Me (Christiansen Family, #1) by Susan May Warren

    Barefoot Summer (Chapel Spring #1) by Denise Hunter

    Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

    Royal Mistress: A Novel by Anne Easter Smith

    Hide and Seek (Pure Genius Series, #1) by H.L. Wegley

    Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

    Courage to Change (Grant Us Grace #2) by Elizabeth Maddrey

    The Face of the Earth: A Novel by Deborah Raney

    Non-fiction

    Behind the Palace Doors by Michael Farquhar

    The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King’s Mother by Philippa Gregory

    I Kidnap Girls by Pamela Ravan-Pyne

  5. Leigh DeLozier August 26, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    I don’t do well with keeping a list of everything I read, but some I’ve enjoyed lately were:

    Sweeter Than Birdsong (Rosslyn Elliott)
    Grace’s Pictures (Cindy Thomson)
    The Fairest Beauty (Melanie Dickerson)
    House of Dark Shadows (Robert Liparulo)
    Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK (Betsy St. Amant)
    Unleash the Writer Within (Cec Murphey)

    Last night I finished Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I only knew about it because my sister and I took our mom to the High Museum in Atlanta for her birthday this summer. The feature exhibit is of Dutch artists, and Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring is the showcase piece. The girl’s identity is a mystery and has interested people for years for a combination of reasons.

    My sister bought the book for our mom because she thought it’d be fun to read after seeing the actual painting. Now we’ve all read and enjoyed it. And to think that it would never have been on my radar otherwise … :-)

    • April W Gardner August 26, 2013 at 10:28 am #

      Leigh, I went to the High Museum of Art this summer too! Was pleasantly surprised at the big names on exhibit–Renoir, Monet, Cezanne. Great stuff. The Girl with the Pearl was gorgeous and the book (which I read a couple years ago) was pretty good too. I think the book was put to film. I have a vague memory of watching it LOL)

  6. Cecelia Dowdy August 26, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    The best book I’ve read this summer was Hugh Howey’s SILO series (which includes WOOL).

    I’ve also read an assortment of romance novels, both Christian and secular.

    I haven’t done much non-fiction reading.

  7. Johnnie Alexander Donley August 26, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland has been my favorite of the books I’ve read so far this year.

    I’m currently reading Don Quixote (as part of my plan to read classics). Though it’s taking me forever, it’s a fun and engaging story.

  8. Shulamit August 26, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    “Bibliobibuli”

    Awesome word, Steve. I will be bringing it to my ladies’ group, where it will be well received, as an actual word to describe a syndrome most of us have experienced.

    Thanks!

    Now, what is the grammar on that? It combines Greek and Latin, so what is the singular, what the plural? The second part is Latin, but it is a verb, not a noun, technically tricky…I’m going to take a stab at it, and suggest: Bibliobibulus (s) and bibliobibuli (pl).

    Anyone else?

  9. Deb Elkink August 26, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Among my summer browsings:

    THE BOOK OF JOTHAM by Arthur Powers (2012 Tuscany Prize novella) tells the story, through the eyes of a mentally challenged man, of following Jesus alongside His other disciples.

    The three-book FRENCH TWIST SERIES by Sandra Byrd is chick lit, light on thought but entertaining (if annoying in misuse of French language).

    A couple of guidebooks for my trip to Paris and the South of France in June.

    A revisit of G.K. Chesterton’s THE FLYING INN for a review-and-article posting.

    Currently reading: commentaries GENESIS by Donald Grey Barnhouse and ROMANS by Grant C. Richison for spiritual growth; histories on the Great Plains Indians for research; several self-help books that will remain untitled so that you won’t know my particular emotional issues! : )

    • Jackie Layton August 26, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      Hi Deb,

      I enjoyed Sandra’s books too. My French is so bad the misuse of the French language didn’t bother me.

      I hope you had a great trip to Paris and France.

      • Deb Elkink August 26, 2013 at 11:21 am #

        Thanks, Jackie, my trip was lovely–four days all alone in Paris (well, I visited a couple of girlfriends while there) and a week with another friend and her family near Montpellier. But it’s always so nice to come home, isn’t it?

  10. Jeanne Takenaka August 26, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    Bibliobibuli—there’s a mouthful. :)

    You continually amaze me with the breadth and scope of your reading, Steve. I wish I had the time to read as broadly as you do.

    I focused mostly on fiction this summer as I prepare for writing a proposal in the next few months.

    I started, but haven’t finished Les Miserables
    My other books were:
    Be Still My Soul (Joanne Bischof)
    Sandwich with a Side of Romance (Krista Phillips)
    Softly and Tenderly (Sara Groves and Rachel Hauck)
    Beneath a Southern Sky (Deb Raney)
    Catch a Falling Star (Beth Vogt)
    Once Upon a Prince (Rachel Hauck)
    White Picket Fences (Susan Meissner)
    Dandelion Summer (Lisa Wingate)

    It’s fun to see what others have read as well!

  11. Meghan Carver August 26, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    The best (most compelling) nonfiction I read this summer: Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story.

    The best fiction from this summer is something I just started. (Does that count?) Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes. I’m searching for extra minutes in the day to sneak in a bit more reading time for this book.

  12. Jan Cline August 26, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Loved James L Rubart’s, Memory’s Door – did the audio version and he was an awesome narrator!

    Just finished Susan May Warren’s, Take A Chance on Me. Great story and great writer!

    Words, by Ginny Yttrup – Absolutely fabulous!

    Starting Lynn Austin’s Hidden Places now.

    Been too busy writing to read any more this summer.

    Love seeing everyone’s list.

  13. Jackie Layton August 26, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Right now I’m reading Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. It’s easy to read and I enjoy his sense of humor as he challenges my relationship with Jesus.

    On the flip side, I’ve started reading Karen Kingsbury again.

  14. April W Gardner August 26, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    I was into award-winning children’s books this summer.

    A Long Walk to Water, King of the Wind, and Ali and the Golden Eagle–Just a few of those I read. These were EXCELLENT books for all ages.

  15. Janet Ann Collins August 26, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    I probably read about 80 books this summer, mostly Middle Grade and Young Adult ones. I can’t remember all the books, but two I especially liked were Rules by Cynthia Lord and The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen because those were about kids with special needs. I reviewed both of them on my blog, http://onwordsblog.blogspot.com.
    I spend an hour or two a day reading, but most people spend at least that much time watching TV and/or playing games, so I don’t think I read too much. Alright, I guess I really am a bookaholic, but I have no intention of getting into recovery. ;-)
    Bookaholics Unite!

  16. Nancy B. Kennedy August 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    I’m definitely not a “beach read” type of person! My list: The Magical Stranger (Stephen Rodrick), North of Hope (Shannon Polson), The World’s Strongest Librarian (Josh Hanagarne), Blue Plate Special (Kate Christensen), Empty Mansions (Bill Dedman), Fever (Mary Beth Keane), Jacket (John Hartmann), Vanished Arizona (Martha Summerhayes), Coming Clean (Kimberly Rae Miller), The Good Nurse (Charles Graeber), Son of a Gun (Justin St. Germain), Ponzi’s Scheme (Mitchell Zuckoff), The Meaning of Everything (Simon Winchester), The Men Who United the States (Simon Winchester), and On Paper (Nicholas Basbanes).

  17. Amber Perry August 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Hi Steve! Fun post–I love my “chocolate for the brain”!! This summer I’ve read a bunch of great books, but I must say my very favorite was BUNKER HILL: A CITY, A SIEGE, A REVOLUTION, by Nathaniel Philbrick.
    Thanks and God bless!!
    Amber

  18. James Snapp, Jr. August 28, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Regarding Reza Aslan’s “Zealot,” I happily recommend reading the response I have prepared in the Kindle e-book “Jesus: Zealous Savior of the World – Some Answers for Reza Aslan.” It is available for 99 cents at Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Zealous-Savior-Answers-ebook/dp/B00EI43B5A

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  19. Amy Reasoner August 30, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    I read a lot of great books this summer, but some of my favorites were:
    Bread & Wine (Shauna Niequist)
    What Alice Forgot (Lianne Moriarty)
    Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys (Stephen James and David Thomas)
    Dinner: A Love Story (Jenny Rosenstrach)
    The Know-It-All (AJ Jacobs)
    and Telling the Bees (Peggy Hesketh)

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