reading

Un-Christian Non-Fiction

It was revelational to me as a mother. I have three boys and none of them would choose to sit down and read a good book unless I imposed it on them. My way of manipulating helping them cultivate a habit of reading is to say at 8pm as they’re climbing into bed, “you can either go to sleep, or read your book for a 1/2 hour.” Guess what they choose every night? Yep, they read.Anyway, back to the revelation. One day on the way to the library this summer I asked the boys what they wanted to learn about. I think the answers were: the Civil War, trees, and insects. So I found books about those topics. Well, one of my boys, who seemed most resistant to reading, devoured his books on insects. The revelation: not everyone gets hooked on reading a good piece of fiction. This boy would rather read about insects than the Boxcar Children.

So today I commend to you a few of my favorite un-Christian non-fiction books.

Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queensby Jane Dunn. This book is fascinating. The author basically traces the lives of these two monarchs by using primary resources, so it isn’t romanticized or biased like a movie portrayal. What I find intriguing is that one princess, Mary, is raised completely indulged as a future Queen. She personifies the phrase “princess mentality”. Elizabeth on the other hand is raised with the narrow, unlikely possibility of ever being queen, and her very life was on the line throughout her sister’s reigh. It creates two very different approaches to life in general. A quote from the author describes why this story is irresistible to even the modern audience:

“Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, arguably the greatest monarch we have ever had, is certainly the one who most attracts superlatives. Unfashionable in her belief in self-discipline and sacrifice, she is irresistible as a reminder of England’s past glory and pre-eminence in the world: a phenomenon of her own making, without precedent or successor. And Mary, a queen celebrity, femme fatale and flawed heroine, valuing pleasure over duty and adventure most of all. She even cast her kingdom away for illicit love – what more modern sacrifice could there be? Finally, the brillian Coup de theatre of her death opened a path back to redemption.”

 

Pioneer Women, Voices from the Kansas Frontierby Joanna Stratton.  Much like my husband’s obsession with Theodore Roosevelt, I went through my own obsession with pioneer women. In fact, I learned so much from these ladies that I would love to write a post called Lessons from the Pioneer Women. The library has everything from videos and audio diaries that are absolutely fascinating. Of everything I read/ watched my favorite was this book which was written after Mrs. Stratton discovered research and documentation her grandmother had of actual pioneer ladies. Her grandmother didn’t want these women to be lost in history and made requests of hundred of ladies to interview their mothers and write down their very own account of traveling westward to Kansas. It is fascinating to read these letters and memoirs.

This books inspired me in several ways: first, anytime I found myself not wanting to do housework, one brief encounter with these ladies made me grateful for modern ammenities and shamed me as they redefine hard work. These ladies had babies in a mud lean-to and then went on to cook dinner for the husband who may have been gone for months depending on the time of year.

I also was challenged by two perspectives of daughters about each of their mothers travelling west. One said she remembered her mother crying and sobbing the entire way. The other said her mother would make the carriage stop so that she could drink in the stunning landscape. Her mother rejoiced in the beauty of the journey, delighting in the unfamiliar flowers, canyons, and rock formations rather than complain about the discomforts of being removed from her home and being jostled in a wagon across the country. Hmmm. Some serious food for thought here.

One bit of warning: these authors, because of the modern influence of the world, interpret much of the story from a feminist viewpoint. I am grateful they use primary documents, letters in particular to tell the stories. But like any work from a non-christian perspective, you have to be discerning about what is truth and what is colored by an unbiblical philosophy, in this case feminism.

After Israel was born, I went through a home management book craze. I knew that the only way to have three babies under age two without going insane was to get serious about organizing (something not natural to me which is why I had to read tons of books on the subject). This led to reading lots of books on the topic, two of my favorite being:

Confessions of an Organized Homemakerby Deniese Schofield. I don’t do everything in this book, but I found the sections on decluttering helpful as well as the chapter called Kitchen Sync.

The Art and Science of Keeping Homeby Cheryl Mendelson. This lady is way over the top in terms of house keeping, but if you check it out of the library, be sure to read the beginning of the book. Before she gets practical, she provides her philosophy of housework. It is fascinating. She does an excellent job exploring home making throughout American history.

What are your favorite non-fiction books?

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6 thoughts on “Un-Christian Non-Fiction

  1. do biographies count? cos i absolutely enjoyed lance armstrong’s it’s not about the bike: my journey back to life. very inspiring and thoughtful.

  2. I was just in the library yesterday getting books for my vacation and thought of “Elizabeth and Mary” and wrote it down in my list of things to read. Thanks for this post! I’m also interested in the pioneer women book.

    I love memoirs and biographies. Last year I read, “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” which was a fascinating look at modern Islamic life and it’s told by a woman who’s now a professor at Hopkins. I’m getting ready to start one by Ruth Reichl about her life as an “undercover” food critic. The non-fiction of Madeleine l’Engle is fabulous, especially the one about her marriage called “Two-Part Invention” which had me crying by the end.

    Biographies of writers, artists, and Christian women I find fascinating and Noel Piper’s little book “Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God” is a great place to start as it covers five different women and isn’t huge in size. I’ve also loved biographies on Abigail Adams, Susanna Wesley, Florence Nightingale, etc. I love journals too (you’d probably like L. M. Montgomery’s journal, I have the first one).

    History is something I really get into too. Like your pioneer craze I’ve gone through the Titanic craze, the Romanov Russian history craze, etc.

    Lovin’ this series, Laurie! Can ya tell? 🙂

  3. Thank you for the Pioneer book; it got me through the nightmarish days of nursing the boys! Very good book to any woman who is convinced they have the hardest lot of any of the women around them! 🙂 It served to humble me greatly and make me grateful in the midst of challenging circumstances.

    The rest of your non-fiction picks look like they might be right up my ally…esp. the one about Elizabeth and Mary. I’ll have to try that one when I’m finished with “The Pampered CHef” which I got through an entire chapter of on our trip out to WV this weekend! 🙂 I’m on my way to becoming a reader. Thanks, Laurie, and all your bloggin’ gals for providing inspiration and ongoing encouragement.

  4. I love any homemaking book by Emilie Barnes. You can just feel her love coming through the pages, love for God, home, family, homemaking–in a word, hospitality. I have a whole collection, including a signed one off ebay!

    My other faves are stories by and about Christian martyrs and missionaries. Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand, makes me cry and cry and pray for the persecuted church worldwide. It was also autographed and I found it on ebay!

    I’m with your son who reads about hobbies and interests. My library basket is always full of sewing/quilting books. YOu’d think I’d \have a bit of talent in those areas by now, but really the books are more inspiring that educational.

    Last but not least, I read little chunks of the books Paul likes. He loves the topic of American economics. They’re typically about the psychology and habits of consumers.

  5. Ooooh I am so excited to have these fun topics and titles to go to the next time I’m in the mood for some non-fiction. Thanks gals!

    Danielle or anyone else who may be able to help me, I am getting ready to start a craze on the pilgrim ladies…do you know any good books? I’m also interested in the women of the great depression. Any books you know of on either topic would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Laurie, Anne Bradstreet would be interesting (can’t remember if she was actually a “Pilgrim” but certainly in the early stages of American history). She was a godly wife and mother and is considered by many the first American poet. There’s also been a new book out that I’ve seen called “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick. I haven’t read it so I don’t know how good it is, but it might be a good place to start or check out the bibliography.

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