Thursday, September 05, 2019

Book Review: Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee

Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American EvangelicalismStill Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism
by David P. Gushee
177 pages
Published September 15, 2017 by Westminster John Knox Press 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Following Jesus has led many of us out of the conservative Evangelicalism we may have started in. In this book, David Gushee shares the story of how that has happened in his life.

This is a fairly quick read. I finished it in less than 24 hours. It’s a short memoir because it stays focused on a very specific topic of Evangelicalism through the lens of Gushee’s life. He does give us a brief overview of how exactly Evangelicalism in the US came to be (rebranding “fundamentalism”, coopted by the political Right, etc.).

Gushee also describes how the politically motivated played a big role in taking over the Southern Baptist Convention and THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. As I myself am now a member of a progressive Baptist Church in Louisville and have lived in Louisville for most of my life, this was especially interesting to read about. I’ve heard people at my church talk about being students at SBTS when “the takeover” was going on. Needless to say, they hurt a lot of people in that process, which is what bad theology and power trips tend to do.

It is important to note that while the ultra-conservatives said they were pushing back against “liberal theology”, Gushee writes, “I never met a true theological liberal faculty member the whole time I was at Southern Seminary. In biblical studies, most professors did teach a modest version of historical criticism, but it was hardly outrĂ© compared to what I ran across later in my educational pilgrimage. I found that my theology professors hardly strayed to the “left” of Karl Barth, and legends like Dale Moody were very, very Southern Baptist. No, those Southern Seminary faculty were still pious Southern Baptist folks who were simply reasonably open to the broader world of ideas and wanted their students exposed to that world. They also, of course, like most academics, feared witch hunts, purges, and attacks on their academic freedom. Already by 1984, the academic environment was becoming more conservative and less free." (Location 397)

Gushee earned his M.Div from SBTS in 1987, then his M.Phil (1990) and Ph.D. in Christian ethics from Union Theological Seminary in 1993. But he ended up back at SBTS after that because it was his only job offer. I was surprised to learn that Mohler, who had just been appointed as president of the Seminary, was only 33 at the time. He taught at SBTS from 1993-1996. By the time he left SBTS was forcing everyone out who was not willing to ascribe to their stance that women should not be allowed in ministry. So when Gushee received an offer to teach at Union University, he took it as his way out.

Gushee describes this incident at SBTS from before he left: “...a new policy came down from the administration, one that would change everything at Southern. At an epic, miserable faculty meeting, the president [Mohler] declared that those who believed that women should serve as pastors would no longer be hired, promoted, or tenured at Southern Seminary. While some details of this policy remained to be addressed, the implications were clear enough. A school that had, over the years, worked its way around to a largely egalitarian understanding of gender roles was now, by decree, overnight, a place that required faculty both to believe and to teach that Holy Scripture clearly bars women from the highest office of church leadership. Dissenting tenured faculty members might survive but probably ought to leave, untenured faculty members who held the now-erroneous belief had no future at the school, and no new faculty members would be hired who were egalitarian.

This meant the end for pretty much all female faculty members. I vividly remember one of my younger female colleagues getting up from the meeting in which the policy was announced, running from the room, and throwing up in the hall. It's not every day that you are professionally executed by public decree. It just might make you physically ill.”
(Location 748)

Still Christian will resonate with anyone who has grown weary of the marriage of Evangelicalism with right-wing politics, and those who are completely over this nonsense about women not being allowed to preach, teach, lead, minister, etc.

Honestly, even if you still consider yourself an Evangelical, you might want to read this to help you understand more about why so many of us that started out that way have been leaving in droves, and for many of us, including Gushee, that does not mean leaving Jesus behind.

Another thing I love about this book is that Gushee kept journals almost every day over the course of his life which I'm sure increases the accuracy of the stories he tells from the past. He even quotes from them throughout the book:

“This reflection from the summer after my freshman year in college foreshadows much about my later journey: Amy Grant sings, “You must put aside the reasoning that’s standing in the way.” Well, my convictions may be shaky but this one isn’t—I will never sacrifice my intellect on the altar of “being faithful.” If you [God] can’t stand up to my measly questions, then you must be an illusion. . . . Must I sacrifice my intellect for the faith? No, I will not suppress my mind, I will not give up my intellect. I will give up the faith first.” (Location 342)

I have felt the exact same way and have written similar things in journals of my own.

I also appreciate Gushee's grace for "the other side". I think he succeeds in his goal of offering a "fair rendering" of the "flawed people and institutions" he describes in this book.

In the preface, Gushee writes: "We are experiencing a moment in American life in which our cultural divides have hardened into mutual incomprehension and demonization." Then he says that he first wrote that line long before the election of Donald Trump as president, and of course, it is even truer now. "We don't know each other, we don't understand each other, we don't trust each other, and we don't like each other. All we see are each other's vices, none of each other's virtues. If this memoir from both sides of the barricades helps improve this deplorable situation, that is reason enough to write it" (Location 92)

I think the only time I noticed Gushee taking a harsher tone was in this passage (which I completely agree with) in Chapter 7:

“This is my best chance to say that I believe the resurgence of a doctrinaire Calvinism in contemporary evangelicalism is among the most odious developments of the last generation. I abhor its version of God and most of its version of Christian ethics, and I believe it could only have emerged among relatively privileged, hyper-cognitive, compassion-challenged white men, as it has. But I digress” (Location 995).

I really love what Gushee writes at the end of the book:

“I still believe in Jesus. Indeed, I believe in him more than ever. I need him more than ever. Some days the only thing I have left of my Christianity is Jesus. And that’s okay.
I still believe in the prophetic religion of Jesus and of those before him and those after him who also shared it—a religion of justice, love, and compassion, a powerful source of good in this broken world.

But I no longer believe that the church, per se, knows or follows that religion. I no longer believe that the church, per se, is generally a source of good in the world. It depends. Sometimes it is quite the opposite. When it is the opposite, the only way to be a true Christian is to oppose the church. Yet I will never leave the church. That’s because I still believe in local communities of Jesus-followers straining every effort to study, hear, and obey him. And I believe in local shepherds humbly serving those communities. I still believe in the power of the preached Word and received sacrament in a community of hungry believers. [...]

I still believe that the truest human language is tears, and the best test of human beings is how they respond to tears. I now believe what Union Seminary tried to teach me—that the most important voices for me to hear come from the margins and from those who have been silenced."
(Location 1625)

(I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.)

Still Christian Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle EditionAudible Audiobook

View all my book reviews

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Discussing Marcus Borg's "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time" (Reclaiming Christianity Podcast)

My friend, John Weldy, and I have recorded 4 new episodes of Reclaiming Christianity. (Subscribe on iTunes.) The first one is an introductory episode as we launched the second season of the podcast. The other three are all spent discussing different parts of Marcus Borg's book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.

I want to say up front that I don't agree with Marcus Borg on everything. For one thing, I can't go as far as he does with who he believes Jesus was/is and the strong distinction he makes between the "pre-Easter Jesus" and the "post-Easter Christ". Borg is operating from a skepticism that follows from the Jesus Seminar's take on the historical Jesus and historical accuracy of the Gospels. But aside from that, I would say that I still find 70-80% of the book really interesting, useful, helpful, and encouraging in various ways.

I think it is good and necessary for us to realize that we can (and should!) read books where we don't agree with the author on everything and we can still get something out of them. There is value in that.

So here is a brief rundown of the four new episodes:
  • 2.0: Season 2 Intro - in this episode John and I talk about how we got from "there" to "here" (conservative evangelicalism to progressive Christianity), and why we want to do a podcast called "Reclaiming Christianity".
  • 2:1: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time... Again (Chapter 1)
    • Childhood image of Jesus often does not evolve
    • Your image of Jesus influences your Christianity
    • The historical Jesus
    • The influence of Christian tradition on the gospels
    • The nature of God
    • Pre-Easter and post-Easter Jesus
  • 2.2: Sophia Became Flesh (Chapter 5)
    • Jesus as the Son of God
    • Sophia, the Wisdom Woman
    • Sophia as a Personification of God
    • Sophia, Created with God in the beginning
    • Jesus, child of Sophia
    • Logos
    • Breaking patriarchal imagery
    • Reading of Psalm 23 that you can find at the end of this post
  • 2.3: Jesus, Compassion, and Politics (Chapter 3) - Yes, we recorded them out of order, John had his reasons. :-)
    • Compassion is the central quality of God and Jesus
    • Compassion as a sociopolitical paradigm
    • Compassion vs. mercy
    • God as "womblike"
    • Holiness vs. compassion
    • Purity system in the time of Jesus
    • Righteousness vs. sinners
    • Be compassionate as God is compassionate
    • Final thought from the end of the book in chapter 6:
“Believe did not originally mean believing a set of doctrines or teachings; in both Greek and Latin its roots mean “to give one’s heart to”. The “heart” is the self at its deepest level. Believing, therefore, does not consist of giving one’s mental assent to something, but involves a much deeper level of one’s self.” - Marcus Borg
John and I would love to interact with you and your thoughts about this book and/or these episodes where we were talking about the book. If you have a comment or question about something or want to tell us something that really resonated with you or something you disagreed with, and why, we want to hear it and would love to include it on our next episode. You can either leave a comment here or in my Progressive Theology Book Club group on Facebook. Or even better, you can email me (JenniferNeyhart [at] gmail [dot] com) a 30-90 second audio clip if you want to have your voice literally be on the podcast. You can also do that quite easily through Facebook Messenger.

The last thing is that alternate version of Psalm 23 which I read in episode 2.2 on the Borg book:

Psalm 23
The Divine is my Shepherd
I have all I need
She makes me lie down in green meadows
Beside the still waters, She will lead.

She restores my soul,
She rights my wrongs,
She leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.

Even though I walk,
Through a dark and dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
She has said, She won't forsake me,
I'm in Her hand.

She sets a table before me,
In the presence of my foes,
She anoints my head with oil,
And my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me,
All the days of my life,
And I will live in Her house,
Forever and ever.

Glory be to our Mother, and Daughter
And to the Holy of Holies,
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.

(Click here to listen to this version of Psalm 23 on youtube.)

Friday, March 08, 2019

Book Review: Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt by Austin Fischer

Title: Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt 
Author: Austin Fischer (@austintfischer)
Paperback, 183 pages
Published September 11, 2018 by InterVarsity Press

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At just under 200 pages, Austin Fischer packs a whole lot of topics, ideas, and theology into this little book: theodicy (the problem of pain/evil), to doubt vs. certainty, the silence of God, why fundamentalism and biblical literalism doesn't work, science vs. faith and why that doesn't have to be the case (yes, including how evolution doesn't destroy Christianity); and even belief in some kind of hell vs. some kind of christian universalism.

Table of Contents
-  Foreword by Brian Zahnd
1. Graffiti: An Invitation to a Rebellion
2. Ants on a Rollercoaster: Losing a Certainty Seeking Faith
3. How to Survive a Hurricane: Doubting with Job
4. Beautiful, Terrible World: The Burden of Reality
5. Four Letter Word: (Kind of) Making Sense of Evil
6. Silence: Believing When God Isn’t Speaking
7. Death by Fundamentalism: Talking to Fish About Water
8. Science: God Doesn’t Exist
9 Stuff: Our New Religion
10. Hell: Hitler Gets Five Minutes in Heaven
11. Faith, Doubt, and Love: The Real Remedy
12. Christ or the Truth?: A Case for Faith in the Worst Case
13. Walking on Water: The Proof Is in the Living

I agree with Fischer when he says he doesn't see hidden joy or design behind the tragedies of children dying of cancer or people dying in car accidents. Like him, "I see nonsense. I don’t feel divinely comforted; I feel rage."

Fischer writes, "I tried to pray and preach myself out of the dark, but the harder I tried, the bleaker the situation became. And then finally, I stopped trying—not because God told me to but because I was so exhausted I had no choice. I stopped trying to force the light and pretend the dark wasn’t really that dark. I let myself envision the blasphemous and felt the chill of a world without God" (Loc 578).

It really struck me when Fischer pointed out that "it is often those with deep faith, firmly grounded in the love of God, who find their faith languishing in the shadows when faced with creation’s ceaseless pain: “The more a person believes, the more deeply he experiences pain over the suffering of the world” (Loc 592). Furthermore, he says, "A crisis of faith in the face of evil can be the truest expression of faith, because what we interpret as a loss of faith are often the growing pains of learning to live with a heart three sizes larger beating inside our chest. So if evil (almost) makes us lose our faith, it might be because our faith is growing strong, not growing weak" (Loc 597).

I love where Fischer talks about how the Bible does not contain one theology, but multiple theologies, that uses a diverse range of voices which "don't always harmonize perfectly".

"When we claim the Bible clearly teaches something that has been rigorously debated by the best and most faithful minds for thousands of years, we could at least have the decency to blush. A couple thousand years of mercurial biblical interpretation suggest we’re not being very honest with ourselves." (Loc 770-780)

I also appreciated his reminder that Mother Teresa also struggled with spiritual darkness and depression, as revealed in her private letters.

Chapter 7 - Death by Fundamentalism

I really loved this chapter!

"The spirit of fundamentalism is perhaps best described as a rigid mental attitude that seeks control by pursuing certainty [...] Fundamentalism mistakenly assumes it looks on the world with “a view from nowhere,” objectively staring down at reality from above."

[Read The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns for more in depth treatment of this problem.]

Fischer then mentions Mark Noll's book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which I still need to read. Still talking about Noll's book, Fischer says, "In a truly novel development in the history of Christian theology, many Christians began trying to read all the Bible as literally as possible, thinking that by doing so and using the objective, fact-finding method of modern science, they could work to a sure, certain faith—the whole truth and nothing but it. Reading the Bible “literally” and “scientifically,” Christians could discover truth every bit as objective as the truths being discovered in the natural sciences. And so a house of cards was built on a foundation of sand."

I remember Greg Boyd talking about that "house of cards" kind of faith also in his book, Benefit of the Doubt.

I really loved this: "After a sermon in which I mentioned the two creation stories of Genesis cannot both be read literally, I was confronted by a wellmeaning parishioner who informed me that he had been informed the Bible was the literal word of God and any belief otherwise was a slippery slope toward perdition. He was a very kind man and had only recently become a Christian, so I understood his concerns and asked him if he had read Psalms. He had. Then I asked if he thought Psalms was the word of God. He did. Then I asked him if he read all of the psalms literally—did he believe mountains pulled up their britches and skipped along like rams when God came walking by (Psalm 114)? He assured me he did not because that would be silly. “So,” I asked, “you think something can be true and the word of God and yet not literal?” A smile crept across his face and he responded, “Well—I guess I do.” And intuitively, we all do. Like many others, I read The Chronicles of Narnia when I was a child and it never occurred to me that Narnia was a real place and Aslan a real lion. I knew they were fictional. And yet I also knew those fictional tales of Narnia told the truth—the truth about good and evil and courage and sacrifice. In fact, I knew those fictional tales told deeper and truer truth than the “just the facts” information collected in my textbooks. Something does not have to be literal in order to be true. In fact, the truest things probably cannot be spoken literally." (Loc 1052)

Fischer takes to referring to this biblical literalism as "biblical flatland", which I love. (This is a reference he explains earlier about Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott. But the idea is that strict, biblical literalism flattens out the text and actually undermines the beauty and layers of meanings available to us.

Chapter 8: Science - God Doesn't Exist
Here Fischer talks about how there is no reason Christians can't accept the scientific consensus on evolution:
"Scientists are not split over evolution. Every reputable survey you come across puts scientific support for evolution in the range of 90-99 percent, with that number tending toward the latter among scientists who actually specialize in fields that would make them experts on the issue. This is a remarkable consensus. Yes, the theory itself continues to evolve and mature, but the basic premise that terrestrial life has evolved over time from common ancestry has been confirmed over and over. And God need be in competition with evolution no more than God need be in competition with sperm or gravity." (Loc 1180)
So how does evolution supposedly conflict with Christianity? The big one has to do with coming up against that biblical literalism that was just covered in chapter 7.
"If we read the first two chapters of Genesis as a literal description of how God made the world, then evolution and Christianity are in conflict. But we should not read Genesis 1 and 2 literally! In fact, a rigidly literal reading of Genesis 1–2, resulting in the belief that God created the world ten thousand years ago (known as young-earth creationism), has only gained traction within the last hundred years. It is an overwhelmingly minority position in orthodox Christian theology, a novelty on the theological scene. As Noll states, “Despite widespread impressions to the contrary, [young-earth] creationism was not a traditional belief of nineteenth-century conservative Protestants or even of early twentieth-century fundamentalists.” This needs to be said as clearly, consistently, and charitably as possible: not only is rigid biblical literalism and young-earth creationism not essential, but it is fundamentally biblically, theologically, philosophically, historically, and scientifically mistaken. It may come from a sincere place, but it can be very dangerous. It produces bad Bible reading, bad theology, and very bad science." (Loc 1238)
[In seminary I wrote a whole paper on how we should read and interpret Genesis 1-2 based on the genre of the text. You can read that here if you wish.

TL:DR - Just go read the book for yourself. It is well worth your time!

Thanks to InterVarsity Press and Netgalley for the ARC.

View all my reviews
From the official blurb on Amazon and Goodreads:
"'People don't abandon faith because they have doubts. People abandon faith because they think they're not allowed to have doubts.'

Too often, our honest questions about faith are met with cold confidence and easy answers. But false certitude doesn't result in strong faith—it results in disillusionment, or worse, in a dogmatic, overweening faith unable to see itself or its object clearly. 

Even as a pastor, Austin Fischer has experienced the shadows of doubt and disillusionment. In Faith in the Shadows, he leans into perennial questions about Christianity with raw and fearless integrity. He addresses contemporary science, the problem of evil, hell, God's silence, and other issues, offering not only fresh treatments of these questions but also a fresh paradigm for thinking about doubt itself. Doubt, Fischer contends, is no reason to leave the faith. Instead, it's an invitation to a more honest faith—a faith that's not in control, but that trusts more fully in its Lord."

Faith in the Shadows Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle Edition, Audible Audiobook

View all my book reviews

Friday, March 01, 2019

Book Review: God Can't: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils by Thomas Oord

God Can't: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils
Author: Thomas Oord
Paperback, 212 pages
Published January 5, 2019 by SacraSage Press

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the outset, I should say that I mostly agree with Thomas Jay Oord, and I pretty much knew that before I started reading this book, so I was predisposed to like it. I don't believe that God is "up there" orchestrating every detail of our lives, causing or even "allowing" the pain and suffering and evil and death that we experience in our lives. I don't believe it works that way. And Oord does a good job of explaining why that is a really good conclusion to come to based upon Scripture as well as everything we experience in life and know to be true.

Oord pushes back on the common answers and cliches people use about how "everything happens for a reason" and "it's all part of God's plan", and "his ways are higher than our ways" so, mystery. And even though Thomas Oord has been a professor and theologian for many years, this book is at a popular level, which makes it easy to read.

Key quotes that set up the book:

"The big ideas in this book share two assumptions, and I want to mention them before going further. The first is that God loves us all, all the time. God loves everyone and everything, all creatures great and small. God never stops loving, even for one moment, because God’s nature is love. God listens, feels, and responds by acting for good. God wills our well-being, not our woe being."

"It doesn’t help to say God loves us if we have no idea what love is!"

"By contrast, I believe what God thinks is loving matches what we think is loving. Our intuitions of love fit God’s view of love. We best define this shared meaning when love is understood as acting intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being. In short, love aims to do good. That view of love applies to Creator and creatures. God always loves, and God’s love is always good. Every idea I advocate in this book assumes God is loving."

The five chapters that make up his argument/solution to the problem of evil are the following:

1. God Can't Prevent Evil
2. God Feels Our Pain
3. God Works to Heal
4. God Squeezes Good from Bad
5. God Needs Our Cooperation

He says that together, these five ideas give us an actual solution to the problem of evil, but they aren't satisfying on their own. All five are essential to see the big picture.

I really love this part towards the end of the book:

"I no longer fear God. It took a while to arrive where I am today. I had to overcome fear-based theologies. I realized the Old Testament statement, “fear God,” is better phrased, “respect God.” I came to believe biblical stories portraying God as vengeful were inaccurate. I had to ignore voices in culture, the church, and history that preach this fear. The key to overcoming my fear was realizing God always loves me. God’s perfect love cast out my fear of God!"

From the official blurb on Amazon and Goodreads:
"Hurting people ask heartfelt questions about God and suffering. Some "answers" they receive appeal to mystery: “God’s ways are not our ways”. Some answers say God allows evil for a greater purpose. Some say evil is God's punishment.

The usual answers fail. They don't support the truth God loves everyone all the time. God Can't gives a believable answer to why a good and powerful God doesn't prevent evil.

Author Thomas Jay Oord says God’s love is inherently uncontrolling. God loves everyone and everything, so God can't control anyone or anything. This means God cannot prevent evil singlehandedly. God can’t stop evildoers, whether human, animal, organisms, or inanimate objects and forces.

In God Can't, Oord gives a plausible reason why some are healed but many others are not. God always works to heal everyone, but sometimes our bodies, organisms, or other creatures do not cooperate with God's healing work. Or the conditions of creation are not right for the healing God wants to do.

God Can't is for those who want answers to tragedy, abuse, and other evils that make sense."

God Can't Purchase Links: PaperbackKindle Edition, Audible Audiobook

View all my book reviews

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Mini Book Reviews (January 2019)

This is a weird post because I usually only post about books that I love or at least really like. But this is just a random post of a few books I wrote a short review of, and it just so happens, I didn't really care for any of them very much...

CoralineCoraline by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I keep really wanting to like Neil Gaiman's books, and so I keep reading them, and then I don't like them very much. When will I learn my lesson? My favorite book of his that I have read was The Graveyard Book. But Coraline is much creepier and more disturbing somehow. It is classified as a "dark fantasy", some even label it as "horror", and I already know that is not my thing. But it's also categorized as a children's novella? This would have terrified me as a child! I still find it disturbing! Sewing on button eyes??? Disappearing parents? Other kidnapped kids who have had their souls stolen???

I suppose it's not that much stranger than Alice's Adventures in Wonderland... but still.

I do always enjoy stories that play with the ideas of parallel worlds or alternate realities, so there's that. Plus the other world has toys that fly and a sarcastic talking cat, so that's fun.

Other thought I had: The way the Other Mother is unable to actually create, but can only copy, twist and change things from the real world, reminds me of something the evil witch says in The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis. (Where she is trying to convince the protagonists that the land they speak of with the sun in the sky is only a projection/copy of what they have in the underworld, and their image of Aslan in their minds is something they made up from thinking about a very big cat.) I wonder if that served as inspiration at all for this part.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm, #1)The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Two stars because "it was ok" pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. I really thought I would enjoy it more than I did. I love the premise, that fairy tales are true. The stories written down by The Brothers Grimm were real accounts. I like that the fairy tale creatures are called "Everafters". There were several things that reminded me of the TV show, "Once Upon a Time", which I also loved (at least for the first few seasons). I even like that Buckley pulls in other fictional characters from The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.

So if my lack of enjoyment is due to the fact that it's really written (down) to younger audiences or what. Another reviewer commented that the first chapter reminded her of The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, which I really didn't like, so maybe that has something to do with it. And Sabrina, the older sister, was a really annoying character for at least the first half of the book.

I might have enjoyed this series when I was in elementary school. But since I'm not, I don't know if I will read the next book in the series. I know there are several more of them that are also available on audio through my library (which is how I read this one). So we shall see. It's certainly not a high priority though.

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don't give many 1 star ratings, but I really didn't like this, at all. I know a lot of people love this series, that's why I gave it a try. Plus it was available on audio from my library. But it was PAINFULLY slow and boring, and way too dark for my taste. I think I don’t like urban fantasy as a general rule. I didn’t care for the writing style either. So I do not plan on reading any of the other books in this series.

Also, why does this have 4.06 average rating on Goodreads??? I really don’t get it. I would have DNF’ed this one if I could ever bring myself to do that…


So have you read any of these? Did you like them more than I did? Why?

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 06, 2019

2018 Movies

I watched A LOT more movies in 2018 than ever before! Assuming I logged them all on letterboxd, 135 movies, to be exact. And of those 135 movies, 59 of them were new releases from 2018. Most of these movie titles below are linked to my very short mini-reviews on Feel free to add me on there if you are on there. (I highly recommend it if you like to watch a lot of movies. It's like Goodreads for movies.)

Favorite Movies of 2018 (definitely want to re-watch)

1. Black Panther
2. Avengers: Infinity War
3. Ant-Man and the Wasp
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
5. Mary Poppins Returns
6. Aquaman
7. Crazy Rich Asians
8. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
9. Incredibles 2 (better than the first one!)
10. Christopher Robin
11. Life of the Party
12. Love, Simon
13. On the Basis of Sex
14. Instant Family
15. Ready Player One

Good Movies of 2018 (would probably re-watch):
16. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
17. Solo: A Star Wars Story
18. Won't You Be My Neighbor?
19. Ocean’s 8
20. First Man
21. Second Act
22. Ralph Breaks the Internet
23. Deadpool 2
24. Dumplin'
25. A Star Is Born*
26. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
27. Fahrenheit 451
28. A Wrinkle in Time
29. Colette
30. Bohemian Rhapsody
31. Hearts Beat Loud
32. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
33. Boy Erased

Decent Movies of 2018 (might re-watch):
34. Book Club
35. The Christmas Chronicles
36. I Can Only Imagine
37. Juliet, Naked
38. A Simple Favor 
39. Overboard
40. Every Day
41. Forever My Girl
42. The Kissing Booth
43. I Feel Pretty
44. Green Book
45. A Kid Like Jake

Meh (Probably won't re-watch):
46. The Spy Who Dumped Me
47. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
48. Dog Days
49. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser
50. The Miracle Season
51. Tomb Raider
52. Tag
53. Bumblebee
54. Peter Rabbit

Nah (Definitely won't re-watch)
55. Searching
56. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
57. Upgrade
58. Game Night
59. Midnight Sun
60. Cruise
61. Eighth Grade
62. The Favourite
63. Life Itself

And here is this list on


Movies I still want to watch: 
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Netflix)
  • Adrift (6/1)
  • Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (7/13)
  • The Bookshop (8/24) 
  • Little Women (9/28)
  • The Hate U Give (10/19)
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? (10/19)
  • The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (11/2)
  • The Grinch (11/9)
  • Mortal Engines (12/14)

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

2018 Reading Recap (Book stats, and graphs, and charts, oh my!)

Image of my book tracking spreadsheet from 2018 

Goodreads Reading Challenge
Number of books read: 130
Number of pages read: 30,006
Average Length: 230 pages

(From my Goodreads year-end info-graphic)

I had a very good reading year. As far as the number of books read, it's my 2nd highest. Somehow I managed to read 142 in 2016. 

My average rating is slightly higher than last year's 3.5. Here's the breakdown:
Mode of reading:
Audiobook (88), Ebook (24), Print (18)
 - According to Audible, I listened to 337 hours of audiobooks in 2018.

Book Genres:
Fiction vs. Nonfiction is almost 50-50.

More specific genres I track:
C. S. Lewis Studies: 3
Inklings: 1
Seminary: 15
Theology: 15
Spiritual Memoir: 8 
Science Fiction: 20
Fantasy: 34
Fiction: 14
Nonfiction: 20

(Goals for 2019 include reading a lot more in my C. S. Lewis Studies category. I plan to re-read Till We Have Faces and the Space Trilogy, and probably The Chronicles of Narnia. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, I hope.)

For this chart I grouped Seminary, Theology, and Spiritual Memoir together as "Theology", and I put the Inklings in with C. S. Lewis.
Male/Female Authorship:
Female: 58 (compared to last year's 17)
Male: 72 (compared to last year's 67)

I'm really glad I evened this percentage out this year. Last year 80% of the books I read were written by men. This year it was 55% men and 45% women.
Books Read Per Month:

Read vs. Re-reads:
First time read: 104
Re-read: 26

2017 Reading Recap and Book Stats
2016 Reading Recap and Book Stats
2015 Reading Recap

What I read in 2017 (83 books)
What I read in 2016 (142 books)
What I read in 2015 (120 books)
What I read in 2014 (111 books)
What I read in 2013 (100 books)
What I read in 2012 (56 books)