50 Facts and Links for Psalm 119

We studied Psalm 119 in our homeschool last fall and attempted to memorize parts of it. I thought I would collect some of the links and facts I learned about the longest psalm here so that I can refer back to these things.

1. It takes about 15 minutes to read aloud or recite the entire 176 verses of Psalm 119.

2. The Psalms are numbered differently in the Catholic (Douay) translation of the Bible which was translated from the Septuagint and takes its numbering. In Douay, this psalm is Psalm 118.

3. There are 22 times 8, or 176 verses in Psalm 119.

4. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and Psalm 119 is divided into 22 sections or stanzas.

5. Some people think that 176 different people wrote one verse each to compile the Psalm during the exile about 450 B.C. Other people think that the priest/prophet Ezra wrote all of Psalm 119.

6. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is aleph. Verses 1-8 all begin with aleph. Other than verse 115, the first three verses of the psalm are the only ones not spoken directly to God. They are the introduction.

7. Beth is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Verses 9-16 all begin with beth. Beth also means “house” in Hebrew. We can make our heart a home for God’s word.

8. Psalm 119 may have been written as an acrostic poem so that it would be easier to memorize.

9. The Ortodox have a tradition that King David used this psalm to teach his young son Solomon the alphabet—–but not just the alphabet for writing letters: the alphabet of the spiritual life. They believe that Psalm 119 is a psalm written by David.

10. The name of God (Yahweh/Jehovah) appears twenty-four times in Psalm 119.

11. Psalm 119 is recited or read with special solemnity at Orthodox funeral services and on the various All-Souls Days occurring throughout the year, with “Alleluia” chanted between each verse.

12. In Orthodox monasteries Psalm 119 is read daily at the Midnight Office: “At midnight I arose to give thanks unto Thee for the judgments of Thy righteousness” (v. 62).

13. Eight Hebrew words are used to refer to God’s Word in Psalm 119.

14. The first word is promise or word, dabar in Hebrew, used 24 times: it means God’s spoken, revealed word.

15. The second word is saying, imrah in Hebrew, used 19 times: this is another way to say word, anything God has spoken, commanded or promised.

16. The third word is statutes, chuqqim, used 21 times: these are the rules that God gave to His people early in their history. It can be translated “laws”.

17. The fourth word is judgments, mishpatim, used 23 times: a later word for statutes, can be translated as judgements or rules or rulings.

18. The fifth word is law, torah, used 25 times: this means the first 5 books of the Bible. Later it included other books like Isaiah and Jeremiah. It is translated as “law” or “teaching” or even “revelation”.

19. The sixth word is commands, miswah/miswot, used 22 times: what someone with authority (God) tells you to do, orders.

20. The seventh word is precepts, piqqudim, used 21 times: these give us help when we want to know what to do. This word is sometimes translated as “guidelines” or “instructions” in Psalm 119.

21. The eighth word is testimonies, eduth, used 23 times: these are the things that God tells us to do. Related to the word “witness”, keeping His testimonies means being loyal to the covenant or promise that God has made with us.

22. Way and path both mean the same thing in the psalm. They mean: what we do in our lives. Our way can be good or bad. If we obey Psalm 119, our way will be good. Jesus said, “I am the way” (John 14:6). If we obey Jesus, our way will be good. In Acts 9:2, “in the way” is another name for “being a Christian”.

23. Psalm 119:89 is a popular Nigerian praise song.

24. Psalm 119:105 was set to music by Christian songwriters Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.

25. Psalm 119 is used in Jewish tradition to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).

26. Psalm 119 is a prayer that includes many different elements, including prayers of praise (45-48), lament (81-88), vindication (132-134), obedience (57-64), and petitions for wisdom (33-40).

27. Charles Spurgeon liked this Psalm so much, he said, “we might do well to commit it to memory.”

28. “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” ~C.S. Lewis

29. The actual author of Psalm 119 is unknown.

30. Verses 14, 72, 83, 119, 127, 162, and 176 contain similes comparing one thing to another like thing.

31. Some great people have memorized this whole Psalm and found great blessing in doing so: John Ruskin (19th century British writer), William Wilberforce (19th century British politician who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire), Henry Martyn (19th century pioneer missionary to India), and David Livingstone (19th century pioneer missionary to Africa).

32. George Wishart was the Bishop of Edinburgh in the 17th century (not to be confused with another Scot by the same name who was martyred a century earlier). Wishart was condemned to death and would have been executed. But when he was on the scaffold he made use of a custom that allowed the condemned person to choose one psalm to be sung, and he chose Psalms 119:1-176. Before two-thirds of the psalm was sung, his pardon arrived and his life was spared.

33. He is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and it is used at the beginning of verbs to make them causative. So the prayers in this section (five) are stated, “Cause me to learn” and “Cause me to understand” and “Cause me to walk” and so forth.

34. “Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French philosopher and devout Christian, loved Psalm 119. He is another person who memorized it, and he called verse 59 ‘the turning point of man’s character and destiny.’ He meant that it is vital for every person to consider his or her ways, understand that our ways are destructive and will lead us to destruction, and then make an about-face and determine to go in God’s ways instead.” (Boice)

35. The yodh stanza (ten) represents the small Hebrew letter Jesus referred to as a “jot” in Matthew 5:18 : “Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

36. “Kaph is a curved letter, similar to a half circle, and it was often thought of as a hand held out to receive some gift or blessing . . . He holds out his hand toward him [God] as a suppliant.” (Boice)

37. We are held up and supported by the word of God.
Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live. Psalm 119:116
“In the Middle Ages, under the monastic order of the Benedictines, when a novice’s period of preparation was ended and he was ready to become attached to the monastery for life, there was an induction ceremony in which, with outstretched arms, the novice recited Psalms 119:116 three times . . . The community repeated the words and then sang the Gloria Patri, which was a way of acknowledging that the commitments of the monastic life could only be sustained by God, to whom all glory belongs.” (Boice)

38. The Masorites said that the Word of God is mentioned in every verse except Psalm 119:122. Other people reckon differently (with disagreement about verses 84, 90, 121, and 132). But Scripture is mentioned in at least 171 of 176 verses.

39. There have been many lengthy works written on this Psalm, including one by Thomas Manton, a Puritan preacher and writer, who wrote a three-volume work on Psalm 119.

40. Persecution and suffering in the life of a follower of God’s law is a major theme of Psalm 119.

41. The psalm opens with beatitudes. “Blessed” are those whose ways are blameless, who live according to God’s law, who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart.

42. John Calvin preached 22 sermons (one for each stanza) from Psalm 119.

43. Charles Spurgeon lists eight marks of true love for God’s Word: 1)reverence for the authority of God’s Word, 2)admiration for its holiness, 3)jealousy for its honor, 4)respect for all that it says, 5)diligence in the study of it, 6)eager desire to obey it, 7)readiness to praise it, 8)great desire to share it with others.

44. The average Bible reader spends less time in the word of God each day than he spends watching the commercials in a thirty minute television program.

45. Psalm 119 is approximately the same length as the books of Ruth, James or Philippians.

46. Psalm 119 is not the psalmist telling me how much I should love God’s word. Instead it’s the psalmist telling all of us how much he has come to love God’s word. It’s a prayer of praise for the sweetness, value, and delight of God’s word.

47. Hymns based on verses from Psalm 119 are Open My Eyes That I May See (Clara Scott), For the Beauty of the Earth (Folliott Sandford Pierpoint), Break Thou The Bread of Life (Mary Lathbury), Lord Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word (Martin Luther/Catherine Winkworth), and Wonderful Words of Life (Philip Bliss).

48. “”I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11. The Word, locked up in the heart—is a preservative against sin. As one would carry an antidote with him when he comes near an infected place—so David carried the Word in his heart as a sacred antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin.” ~Thomas Watson

49. “Beware of slighting, despising, or neglecting the Bible.
Read it daily,
pray over it incessantly, and
meditate on what it reveals continually!” ~James Smith, The Way of Salvation Set Forth
His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night! Psalm 1:2

50. The Gospel in Psalm 119 by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. “Making resolutions is not sufficient to meet the standard. . . His law is holy and good and righteous; it is pure, but we can’t keep it. Even when we make resolutions, we can’t keep it. We don’t keep it. We can’t. We’re not able to serve the Lord. We are failures, and that comes out in Psalm 119. . . . We need the divine enabling and power of Jesus. He is our righteousness; He is the only one who has fulfilled God’s law.”

Psalm 119 Facts: Ten Things to Know About Psalm 119.
20 Quotes About the Book of Psalms
David Guzik Commentary on Psalm 119.
Grace Gems: The Scriptures.

Semicolon Speculative Fiction Awards 2014

In reading for the Cybils, I could not resist awarding my own special prizes:

The Jabberwocky Meets Rocky Horror on the Farm Weirdness Award:
Fat & Bones and Other Stories by Larissa Theule. Illustrations by Adam S. Doyle.

Best Speculative Fiction with a British Flair:
The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett.

The Extremely Annoying Unfinished Novel Award:
Shipwreck Island by S.A. Bodeen.

The Harry Potter Readalike Fan Fiction Prize:
Iron Trial (Magisterium) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Best Mouse Story:
The Orphan and the Mouse by Martha Freeman.

Best Squirrel Story:
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins.

Best Superhero Fiction:
Almost Super by Marion Jensen.

Caldecott Artist’s Award for Best Speculative Fiction Picture Book:
Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth.

Best Ghost Story:
Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud.

Heisman Trophy for Beowulf Meets Football:
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson.

Best Comedic Speculative Fiction:
The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy.

Best Time Travel:
Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder.

Best Moon-Based Science Fiction/Murder Mystery:
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs.

Agatha Christie Award for Mystery in an Isolated Inn:
Greenglass House by Kate Milford.

Best Space Aliens:
Ambassador by William Alexander.

The Princess Zelda Cloud City Video Game Fiction Award:
Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull.

Deuteronomy: A New Year’s Challenge and Reminder

I have a hard time with the book of Deuteronomy. It’s all about “obey and be blessed” or “disobey and be cursed.” And the problem is that I’ve already blown it, multiple times. But I can resonate with this take on the message of the book of Deuteronomy:

“[J]ust as the fingers of despair and guilt begin to tighten their grip, I remember a little verse in Deuteronomy 31 v.21 which astonished me when I first read it. It says ‘I know the intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.’ What did he know? He knew that the inevitable would happen. That good intentions would become bad choices. That the fire of passion would be dulled by the daily grind of life and that someday they would look around and realize their story had not turned out the way they thought it would.

He knew that they would take the gifts he gave them and twist and shape them into something they were never meant to be. He knew they would turn away and reject him, that those chosen to bear his image would instead deface it before a watching world.

He knew and yet he loved them.”
~The Inevitable Plot Line by Heidi Johnston

The message of Deuteronomy is not “you are already cursed, too bad for you” but rather “I know you and I love you. Choose life.”

Here are more treasures from Deuteronomy, written by one of my favorite preacher-bloggers, New Orleans retired pastor Joe McKeever:
The best things in Deuteronomy.
The next best things in Deuteronomy.
More of the best of Deuteronomy.
The best of Deuteronomy, part 4.
The best of Deuteronomy, part 5

Southern Baptists choose a book of the Bible to focus on each January for their “January Bible Study.” This year the study is entitled “Deuteronomy: A Challenge to a New Generation”.

12 2015 Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley. Flavia just gets better and better. Publication date: January 6, 2015.

Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson. Publication date: January 8, 2015.

The War That Saved my Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley. Middle grade historical fiction about child evacuees from London during World War II by an author I’ve enjoyed in the past. Gotta try it out. Publication date: January 8, 2015.

The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus by Dallas Willard. Publication date: February 10, 2015.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. The author’s first novel in nearly ten years, and I’m game to check it out. Publication date: March 3, 2015.

Completely Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Publication date: Also March 3, 2015.

The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom by Blaine Harden. I’m particularly interested in North Korea ever since the Sony hack, actually even before that. I just read Escape from Camp 14 by this same author. Publication date: March 17, 2015.

The Penderwicks In Spring by Jeanne Birdsall. Oh, the Penderwicks, almost as good as the Marches or the Melendys! Publication date: March 24, 2015.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein. Ms. Wein wrote Code Name Verity and Rose. I’m looking forward to reading her next book, which involves women pilots and World War II—but it’s set in Ethiopia! How could it not be good? Publication date: March 31, 2015.

The Revelation of Louisa May by Michaela MacColl. I enjoyed Ms. MacColl’s other lady author mystery stories: Always Emily and Nobody’s Secret. I like Louisa May Alcott. So I would imagine this novel featuring Ms. Alcott as the protagonist will be a treat. Publication date: April 14, 2015.

The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry. It’s Dave Barry. If any adult humor writer could pull off the move to middle grade fiction, it’s Dave Barry, right? Publication date: May 5, 2015.

Lion Heart (Scarlet, Book Three) by AC Gaughen. Conclusion to these books about a lady thief named Scarlet who captures the heart of Robin Hood in medieval England. Publication date: May 19, 2015.

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2014 Christmas Memories

This Christmas was the Christmas of the Meat Cleaver. No, the cleaver was not a gift. Rather, Karate Kid, my seventeen year old son, used a Meat Cleaver to cut the tape and ribbons on his presents. His sisters punctuated the gift-opening session with exclamations of “Be careful!” and “Where is the meat cleaver?” and “Don’t step on the meat cleaver!” I wish I had a recording.

The gifts most in use two days after Christmas: GoogleChrome, a device which allows us to “cast” a spell on our television and tell it to play movies from the computer or smartphone, and Rosetta Stone Polish, a computer program that is teaching three of my daughters to speak Polish. They can now say things like “napędy dziewczyna samochodów” and “kocham cię, mamo”. ???? I have no idea.

It’s been a Crafty Christmas for a couple of the daughters as they giggled and glued their way to several Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers of beauty and utility.

The songs of this Christmas: All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, Joy to the World by Charles Wesley and Angels Strain to See by David Jackson.

It’s been a Christmas season for pies, lots of pies: pumpkin, cherry, apple, pecan and chess, to name a few.

The books we asked for and received for Christmas were many and varied:
For Engineer Husband, The Canon of the New Testament by Bruce Metzger and The Astronomical Companion by Guy Ottewell.
Computer Guru Son wanted and received a “nice copy” of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter.
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and Dear Elizabeth: A Play in Letters from Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell and Back Again by Sarah Ruhl for Drama Daughter.
A Greek New Testament for Brown Bear Daughter who’s studying Greek in college.
For Dancer Daughter, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science by John C. Lennox, and a slew of Agatha Christie paperbacks so that she can start her own collection.
Homesick Texan Cookbook for Eldest Daughter, who loves to cook and follows recipes carefully. And a French dictionary.
For Betsy Bee who is a Shannon Hale fan, River Secrets and Book of a Thousand Days.
Z-baby received and is reading This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, a book about the girl who inspired John Green’s Hazel character in The Fault in our Stars.
And for me, a plethora of treasures including The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William Manchester, Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More by Karen Swallow Prior, Pied Piper by Nevil Shute, The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon, and more.
No books were damaged or even opened by Karate Kid with the Meat Cleaver.

We’re back in our own home this Christmas, and all eight children are here for Christmas and for New Year’s Day. But we missed having my mom here since she’s gone on an extended visit to my sister’s home in Tennessee.

It’s been a Christmas to remember and savor. My children are growing up, not really children any more, and I treasure quiet times when we are all sitting around reading our books or watching White Christmas once more together or louder times of discussing our collective memories of Adventures in Odyssey or Sesame Street.

It was the Christmas of “carpe diem” (seize the day), but even more of “Carpe Deum” (Seize God), my prayer for all of us as we walk, dance, march, and run into 2015, meat cleaver safely put way for next Christmas.

12 Classics I’m Planning to Read in 2015

I’m concentrating on nonfiction for the first half of 2015, which is not to say that I won’t read some fiction, too. Some of these books will fit into my nonfiction focus, and others will have to wait for the latter half of the year.

Along with Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, I’d like to re-read David Copperfield. Such a good story.

The White and the Gold: The French Regime in Canada by Thomas Costain could be considered a nonfiction classic of Canadian history. It’s the first in a series of books on Canadian history that I’d like to read through someday. Maybe this year is the year to at least start.

The following five were all Newbery Honor books, back when children’s literature was a very small world. I’d like to read them to see how well they hold up:

Downright Dencey by Caroline Dale Snedeker. About a friendship between a Quaker girl and a waif in Nantucket in the early 19th century.

Nicholas: A Manhattan Christmas Story by Anne Carroll Moore. Ms. Moore was the head of children’s services for the New York Public Library System from 1906 to 1941. She was something of a dictator of what was tasteful and excellent in children’s books for many years, keeping a stamp in her desk for books she didn’t like which said, “Not Recommended for Purchase by Expert.” Ms. Moore was the self-proclaimed Expert.

The Dream Coach by Anne Parrish. “Four fairytale-like stories linked by the theme of a Dream Coach which travels around the world bringing dreams to children.”

The Old Tobacco Shop: A True Account Of What Befell A Little Boy In Search Of Adventure by William Bowen. After smoking some magical tobacco five year old Freddie finds himself and his friends transported to The Sieve, a leaky ship on the Spanish Main. I don’t think this book would be allowed in these tobacco and drug conscious days. Ah, for more innocent(?) times!

Cedric the Forester by Bernard Marshall. “Set in the time of King Richard the Lionhearted, Cedric plays a pivotal role in the signing of the Magna Carta.”

Then, there are these classics and historically popular books that I have on my TBR list:

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini.

The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William R. Manchester.

Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow by Jerome K. Jerome.

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12 Favorite Middle Grade Fiction Books of 2014 (Excluding Speculative Fiction)

I enjoyed all twelve of these middle grade realistic fiction books. My favorites are the two pictured to the right.

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana.

Curiosity by Gary L. Blackwood.

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin.

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora.

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald.

Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner.

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord.

Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson.

Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous by J.B. Cheaney.

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12 Nonfiction Books I’m Definitely Going to Read in 2015

I’m hoping to make the first six months of 2015 a time of focusing on nonfiction reading. I am in the mood to read lots of nonfiction, as a contrast to my Cybils middle grade fantasy feast, and I have lots of nonfiction books on my TBR list. These are twelve that I already have on hand, or I’ve already requested at the library.

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks: fifty years of mysteries in the making by John Curran.

Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris.

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende.

Escape from Camp 14: one man’s remarkable odyssey from North Korea to freedom in the West by Blaine Harden. READ, January 2015.

The First Clash: the miraculous Greek victory at Marathon and its impact on Western civilization by James Lacey.

Fooling Houdini: magicians, mentalists, math geeks, and the hidden powers of the mind by Alex Stone. READ, January 2015.

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France by Karen Espinasse.

Nothing to Envy: ordinary lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. READ, January 2015.

Talking Hands: what sign language reveals about the mind by Margalit Fox.

Five Days at Memorial: life and death in a storm-ravaged hospital by Sheri Fink. READ, January 2015.

Empty Mansions: the mysterious life of Huguette Clark and the spending of a great American fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. READ, January 2015.

Becoming Dickens: the invention of a novelist by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.

These books all feed into my fascinations with languages, other cultures, history, mystery, magic, and technology’s effect on our lives and thoughts. I’m looking forward to reading them.

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12 Best Adult Fiction Books I Read in 2014

Lists. I started doing lists of twelve favorites in all sorts of categories several years ago to wrap up the year. Twelve seems like a nice, round number; ten’s not enough, and anything greater than twelve is excessive. So, here are my favorite adult fiction books read in 2014.

The Circle by Dave Eggers. Computer Guru Son thought this one was a little too preachy and pointed, but I liked it and thought about it often through the year, especially when I was “liking” something on social media sites.

<em>The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, #14) by Alexander McCall Smith. Mr. Smith almost never disappoints.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanah is a smart, penetrating, rather dramatic look at the immigrant experience and at the emigrant experience and at the experience of returning home. It made me feel uncomfortable.

The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton. Highly recommended to those who have an interest in West Texas, classic western stories, or stories of ranch life and drought.

Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles, #4) by Dorothy Dunnett. The best of the series that I’ve read so far, but anyone who wants to read these should start from the beginning.

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute. I just finished this novel, written by the author of A Town Like Alice and On the Beach, last night, and I haven’t written a review yet. However, it had to go on this list since it’s already one of my favorite reads ever. A seventy year old Englishman flees France in the spring of 1940 during the German invasion with a string of children for whom he has become responsible.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King. Sherlock Holmes gains a female sidekick. I thought this series went downhill after the first book, but I did enjoy the first book.

March by Geraldine Brooks. This Pulitzer prize winning novel featuring the fictional characters Marmee and her husband from Little Women does a good job of bringing out the impracticality and impracticability of March’s/Alcott’s beliefs and still making him admirable as a man who tried, at least in the fictional version of his story, to remain true to his principles.

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin. No longer able or willing to leave her home because of her obesity, Agnes commits herself to a life of prayer. When her miracle working abilities become a matter of town pride, Agnes is trapped in more ways than one.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer. Ms. Heyer’s regency novels, including this one, are not as subtle and deep as Jane Austen’s, but as far as straight light romance novels go Georgette’s Heyer’s books rise near to the top of the list.

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge. This novel set in England at the time of Napoleonic Wars is a lovely retelling of the legend of St. Michael’s Chapel at Torquay.

Bellwether by Connie Willis. One funny, sweet, and at the same time thoughtful, romantic comedy of a novel by one of my favorite contemporary authors.

11 Favorite Nonfiction Books I Read in 2014

I read over 200 books in 2014. Of those, if I counted right, only twenty-two were nonfiction. So, when I say the “11 best” or 11 favorite”, I’m including half of the nonfiction books I read this past year. The first two on the list were my favorites; the rest are in no particular order.

The Last Lion 2: Winston Spencer Churchill Alone, 1932-40 by William Manchester. I love Winston Churchill. I would have been afraid or at least disinclined to work for him or to eat at his dinner table; he did not suffer fools gladly and did not treat even his employees and friends with great consideration for their comfort. But reading about him is a delight.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi. Good Christian apologetics, good story.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller.

Blue Marble: How a Photograph Revealed Earth’s Fragile Beauty by Don Nardo. The story of the iconic picture of earth from space taken by the astronauts of Apollo 17.

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel. Skip or skim the boring parts, but most of this one is a fascinating look at the rescue of art treasures from Nazi theft and from Allied ignorance.

Rich in Love: When God Rescues Messy People by Irene Garcia. People and relationships are messy, and Ms. Garcia doesn’t pretend that all of the stories of her many foster children and adopted children turn out well. Some are still struggling with bad choices and bad beginnings. But this was ultimately a hope-filled book about the way God uses imperfect, messed-up people to sow His grace into the world.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. Kind of grisly, but fascinating in its detail about a vision of progress and light alongside a serial killer’s vision of deceit and murder.

Everybody Paints! The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin. Interesting family, interesting book, written for children but it tells as much as I wanted to know.

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. I just finished this one a few days before Christmas. I laughed, I gasped, I read passages out loud to my unappreciative family. In short, I was captivated by reliving the summer of 1927.

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