A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War:  

How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18

by Joseph Loconte

Nonfiction, 2015


While this book shares details about the friendship between Tolkien and Lewis, it goes farther.  The author shares how World War I informed the writing of both men.  By reviewing the attitudes and experiences the war brought to early 1900 in Great Britain and reconstructing battles both men would have fought, Loconte draws haunting parallels to war scenes in both men’s writing.  He takes the camaraderie of men and war and demonstrates where it shows up in the friendships in the worlds of Hobbits and Narnia.  But the unmistakable gift of the war to Lewis was the way it prepared him for an end to the war he fought against Christianity.  If you have read the Fellowship of the Ring books and traveled to the metaphorical world of Narnia, this is a book you should consider.

Wild Bird

by Wendelin Van Draanen

Young Adult Fiction, 2017


I obtained this book through a teen free summer book program called Audio Sync, available by link or through many libraries.  This book explores the story of Wren, a teenager who loses herself in a family move, becomes rebellious, finds the wrong friends, and dabbles in activities with bigger consequences than her adolescent brain can understand.  Her parents take drastic measures to send their “wild bird” to a wilderness Utah desert camp for troubled teens.  It is a raw but hopeful story of transformation.  If you want to understand how a “good girl” unravels and finds her way back, this is a good read for you.  I especially enjoyed it as an audiobook.  The narrator was eerily believable.  

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

by Patti Callahan

Historical Fiction, 2018


Author Patti Callahan was destined to write this book.  While she was not the first to fall in love with C. S. Lewis writings nor the first to try to write about how an American woman, Joy Davidman, with two young boys became the wife of Lewis, she was the one who wanted to tell Joy’s story. She was also the one who wanted to protect a love story that has the thumbprint of God all over it.  Using newly found letters (Lewis always destroyed personal letters so they would not come back to bite him), Callahan has written a transporting story of two people who found each other in time to change the rest of their lives. To learn that Joy Davidman earned a masters from Columbia University at 20, published an award-winning book of poetry at 23, helped Lewis write Till We Have Faces, tells me this was more than a love story, it was a marriage of mind and soul as well.  If you are a lover of C. S. Lewis, don’t miss this read!

The Remarkable Ordinary

by Frederick Buechner

Religious Nonfiction, 2017


I’ve been listening to people who are well-read in Buechner’s published works.  I thought it was finally time for me to read one.  I chose this book for its title.  In this time of change and isolation, I thought having vision for the ordinary as remarkable would be a good thing. While it wasn’t the book I thought it would be, it did meet my goal.  I learned of the great wounds in Buechner’s life which helped me understand why ordinary life was an extraordinary gift.  As a notable American writer, Pulitzer Prize finalist, Presbyterian minister, novelist, essayist, and theologian; he is someone a Christian reader should know about. The Remarkable Ordinary  is part memoir and part spiritual formation in which he asks us to listen to our own life as he shares stories about his own.  There may be better books to learn about Buechner, but for me, this was a good place to start.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by Betty Smith

Fiction, 1943


When a book transports you to a different time, slips you into a slice of life that you could never know without the word upon carefully chosen word to tell it; that is the magic of story.  Such is the gift and legacy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  In some ways, Francie Nolan is every girl with dreams, but because she lived in Brooklyn in the 1900’s before the first World War, it is a story that captures the American Dream in its early, hopeful, and undefiled innocence.  It is the story of family and struggles and coming together and losing so much you think you can’t survive even when you know you will.  The dream, like the tree the family planted in their tiny patch of inner city, thrived as a reminder that pluck and persistence is more important than circumstances.