On my nightstand: December edition

Here's a look at what I've been reading this month. To see more of what I've been reading or to trade book recommendations, follow me on Goodreads. I'd love to hear about any recent literary ge you've found (or books that I shouldn't waste my time reading)!

Building a Life Out of Words
This book sounded right up my alley: a regular guy tries to make a go of it being a writer.  He quits his job and sets out to make his living doing what he loves.  The book is short but choppy.  Interspersed between the chapters are other writers' stories of their challenges.  While this quick Kindle read may resonate with fellow wordsmiths, repeatedly stressing that with writing, self-confidence is 90 percent of the battle, it left me wanting something more profound.

Episcopal Nerd books
I won't individaully review all of these books in detail because I doubt most of you would find it particularly interesting.  These are very niche books.

Understanding Christian Doctrine If you would like to know more about theology, this is your book.  It is both accessible and smart and surprisingly comprehensive for its size.  What's different about it is that the author Markham takes a position.  Most textbooks attempt to present all arguments as neutral and equally viable, but Markham lays his cards on the table. 


Episcopal Questions, Episcopal Answers If you're thinking about becoming Episcopalian, or just want to know more, start with this short book.  It's easy to read a few questions at a time or plow through the entire book.  The book describes an attitude or a posture more than a set of beliefs as definitive of Anglican character, which I appreciate and which rings true to my experience.


The Principles of Christian Theology This book is dated.  If you want to know what Christian theologians thought in the 1950s, this is your book.  Otherwise, stick with the books mentioned above.

What We Keep
Many criticize Elizabeth Berg for essentially writing the same book over and over, but I have not read enough of her to make that judgment, and frankly, I find that to be the case for most prolific fiction writers.  I can say that her writing is beautiful and her stories satisfying and yet frustrating.  Her work always has a wistful undertone, a sense of what could have been but is not.  She never tidies everything up completely, which makes her characters and plots feel real.

Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God
This book was free on Kindle, which is why I downloaded it.  I have read Frank Schaffer before, and this book left me underwhelmed.  He delights in paradox and knows what sells.  Spoiler alert: he is not nearly as provocative as his book title would suggest.  I would argue that he is a theist, but for him to concede that would make his book sounds way less exciting.

The Gatekeepers
When I was in high school, the admissions process fascinated my mother and me.  We spent hours reading admission guides and college reports.  Now that I have actually worked in an admissions office and seen the other side of college, the mystery of the application process does not prove so compelling, but my heart still goes out to the anxious middle and high schoolers out there who wonder if they are good enough.  This book is old--circa 2000--but is refreshing in its documentary style.  It is not a tip book but rather an account of an admissions officer's and several student's perspectives over the course of one school year.  It is well done, especially when compared to some of the sloppily prepared competing titles.