My Four Favorite Books of 2019

Since I was small my mother gave me the gift of loving to read. I love the fulfillment of a satisfying book. I love the tug of wanting to return to a good book that I am in the middle of. Here are my favorites of this year:

George Washington, A Life, by Ron Chernow, was an engrossing, incredible read. I talked my husband into reading it and he got it on Audible. It is 44 hours on Audible! I jumped on the Audible train after reading 300 or so pages. There was so much history I had no idea about. It helped me see that politics is always divisive, and that if you don’t make money your friend you will be tortured by it to the end of your life. Finally, that even noble, enlightened men can live with something terribly wrong, like slavery. Wow. I couldn’t get over that part of the book. This book reminded me that God will work with us mortals with our many weaknesses, to bring about His purposes. I admire George Washington so much!

The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom–this is a much shorter favorite. Two spinster sisters living with their father in Netherlands when the Nazis come to power there, showed me what true discipleship looks like. This should be called “How to Be a Disciple of Christ.” I listened to this on Libby and I loved the narrator reading it. I read this many years ago and I thought I knew the story, but there is so much I had forgotten. One of my favorite quotes from the book is:

“Every experience God gives us . . . is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see.”–Corrie ten Boom

40 Autumns, by Nina Willner. I received this in a book exchange in December and had it read in a week. A granddaughter writes this story of her mother’s family trapped in East Germany, after WWII. The granddaughter’s mother is the oldest daughter of the main family featured and escapes when she is 17, in the late 1940’s. I also thought I knew the story of East Germany well, but I learned so much more from 40 Autumns.

And There Was Light, by Jacques Lusseyman. President Gordon B. Hinckley referenced this book in a talk he gave. I found that this book was chosen as one of the 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Twentieth Century. I reserved it on Libby and it showed up in December. Jacques was blinded when he was almost 8 in 1932, and is a 16 year-old when Paris falls to the Nazis. He sees his blindness as a blessing, goes to a regular school, and becomes the center of an underground army of 600 teenagers trying to tell the truth about the Germans. Hang in there in the first part of the story. It is very interesting as he explains his blindness but not as enthralling as the second half of the book. It starts picking up about halfway through. It is worth it. He becomes a prisoner in Buchenwald, and some of his learnings from that are riveting. He said, “Many rich and poor come to the camps, but that falls away quickly. The richest in the camps are those that are looking out for others. Become engaged with the people around you.” Other wonderful quotes:

“Every day since then I have thanked heaven for making me blind while I was still a child not quite eight years old.”

“People often say that blindness sharpens hearing, but I don’t think this is so. My ears were hearing no better, but I was making better use of them. Sight is a miraculous instrument offering us all the riches of physical life. But we get nothing in this world without paying for it, and in return for all the benefits that sight brings we are forced to give up others whose existence we don’t even suspect. These were the gifts I received in such abundance.”

“The first of these is that joy doesn’t come from outside, for whatever happens to us it is within. The second truth is that light does not come to us from without. Light is in us, even if we have no eyes.”

The common theme of these four books is what it is like living through a difficult time in history, and how each main protagonist forged and refined their character in unbelievable circumstances. Their insights and example have been life changing for me. I hope to inspire you to pick up one of these good reads. Also three of the four books I listened to, which transports me when I am driving or cleaning. There are so many ways to read these days– and then you can share your gems of insight with your family, and show them why it is so worthwhile to be a reader!

2 Comments

  1. I loved the Washington book too and this is what I learned that I didn’t know much about previously…

    1. Washington seemed immune to bullet and canon fire.

    2. He was a magnificent figure astride a horse.

    3. He abhorred drunkenness, gambling, profanity, looting, and immorality in his troops.

    4. He rode and lived alongside and in front of his troops.

    5. He forbid his troops to plunder conquered property except in extreme times of need.

    6. He treated enemy prisoners respectfully.

    7. Since he couldn’t match British and Hessian firepower and numbers, he worked on the element of surprise whenever he could.

    8. He stayed away from the coast lines where the British had superiority with their ships docked nearby.

    9. He enticed the British into forests where his superior work with snipers could work to his advantage.

    10. Because he was working with small numbers, he could make his armies disappear overnight or appear over night.

    11. He was always working against the threat of British enticements for deserters, so his army tended to be fickle with their commitment to independence. Deserters were rampant.

    12. He inoculated his troops against smallpox.

    13. Washington was frustrated by the fact that he could not appoint his own officers. Congress was in charge of that at a distance.

    14. He relied on small scale skirmishes during the winter months. At this time his troops were sanctioned to steal horses and stock from British control in order to provide for his own troops.

    15. During the winter months Washington worked on a vast spy network. He never mentioned spies by name and the organizations themselves existed only in Washington’s mind.

    16. He was able to get money from private citizens without going through Congress to fund his war. Congress could not adequately fund the war because the states were so divided and political. It still amazes that they were unified enough to even declare independence in the first place.

    17. Washington was able to conceal from the British just how ill-prepared and small his Continental Army actually was.
    He spent far more time writing letters of espionage than he did leading men into battle.

    18. Washington never insulated himself from contrary opinions. He was a collaborative leader.

    19. Washington had an anger issue and constant money troubles. For someone who was so disciplined with military matters, he could not wrap his mind around principles of thrift.

    20. Washington and his contemporaries could not grasp the problem of slavery on a personal level. Because he was opposed to splitting up slave families in his possession, he eventually had more slaves than he could support, but never effectively grappled with the advantages of emancipation.

    After reading Chernow’s book, I have a hard time imagining that our republic could have been born or survived more than a few years without Washington’s direct influence and leadership and ascension to the presidency. A brilliant, vastly imperfect man for the perfect moment in history.

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  2. Thank you for your brilliant capture of the essence of this book! All those points resonated with me as well. The fact that Washington slogged through 8 years of war, despite all of the difficulties listed above and never quit, is astounding to me. Then to serve for 8 years as President, through so much turmoil and criticism, is something I never will forget. His example of duty and sacrifice has had quite an impact on what I need to do to be a better citizen of my country.

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