Thesaurus of the Senses

This book by Linda Hart is a reference book rather than one to read from start to finish. Having ‘read’ it (introduction and chapter preambles) it’ll be a valuable tool for my writing.

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning, Mark Twain once wrote. Throughout history, the timely use of the apt word has held enormous sway, in literature, speeches, and texts. How is it that some words hold such power? One thing we know: great words often engage the senses.

Thesaurus of the Senses expands your possibilities to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell to describe the world around you. It collects some of the best English sensory words in one place to enliven your writing and help you build persuasive description. It’s an indispensable tool for writers, poets, bloggers, editors, storytellers, students, teachers, communicators, and word lovers alike – anyone wanting to add more spark to his or her writing. Source

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.

In our brokenness (Stephen Poxon)

I’ve just finished this devotional anthology by my author friend Stephen Poxon, who wrote a guest post for this blog a while back. You can find his books on Amazon by clicking here.

A Response to Grace is ‘a gathering of thoughts, jottings, poems and songs’, with the premise that God is present in the everyday things of life with its sometimes mundane circumstances and problems.

Grace is permanently concerned, available, widespread, willing, and reliable. Empowering grace is promised and indefatigable. Grace understands and meets us where we are.

In this anthology is all of life, its ups and downs, its best and worst, and all embraced, redeemed, and lifted up by grace. Here you will find drama and cabbages, heartache and Handel, politics and prayer, even marching in the rain – and that’s just the first five devotions! Here are heartfelt observations and reflections drawn from real life encounters, along with deeply personal insights that speak to the depths of our human condition.

I could have quoted from any of the pages, but I specifically chose this poem (which can be sung to the tune ‘Trust in God’) because it speaks to our humanity and (to some extent) our current circumstances in the coronavirus pandemic.

In our brokenness, we see the Saviour,
Gently holding lives now torn apart;
Consequence of sin and our behaviour
Chosen wrong that breaks the Father’s heart.
There we see, as well, the God of comfort,
Showing lame and weary how to dance,
Cradling innocents and weeping victims,
Those who never really stood a chance.

Through the moments of our greatest weakness
Runs a strand of pure sustaining grace;
When the stuff of life is fraught with burdens,
Then our gaze is turned to Jesus’ face;
And our God, all merciful and gracious,
Sweeps attendant evil all away,
And our hearts again are drawn to love him,
Lest those hearts should ever Love betray.

This is God, so gentle, kind and tender;
Pain of guilt removed, its stain erased;
This is God, so infinitely patient,
Hanging there, in every sinner’s place.
Every blemish covered by his mercy,
Every scar, by pity made to fade;
This is God, who knows our greatest sorrow,
This is God; our ransom wholly paid.

With a broken world, so marred and fractured,
Broken people share a God of love;
He whose charm our wayward lives has captured
We impart as manna from above;
Beggars sharing of our bread with others;
Calv’ry’s cross upright on level ground,
Where the heaviest burdens can be lifted,
Where a peace supernal can be found.

© Stephen Poxon (reproduced with permission)

Please Note: This book is only available from Stephen directly. If you would like to buy it, message him directly (or via myself if necessary). Ten per cent of all income from this book goes towards the Salvation Army’s Training College in Sri Lanka.

Particle Physics (Ben Still)

Having abbreviated the title, here it is in all it’s glory: Particle Physics Brick by Brick: Atomic and Subatomic Physics Explained… in Lego.

My wife Naomi bought this book for me as a Christmas present in 2019, and it’s the first book I’ve read in 2021. My delay was partly because I knew it would be challenging, and indeed it was! One review on Goodreads puts it very well: Over-complicated, but it’s not the author’s fault, it’s just how our Universe is.

Particle Physics is hard, even with LEGO, but it’s an excellent book that I’ll need to read again sometime. This stuff baffles even the best minds in the world, so don’t expect to understand it by simply reading this book, however good. My favourite quote from the book, We are still very much in the dark about dark energy.

There are related resources on the author’s website here.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.

Books Read in 2020

I always like to read, and often have more than one book on the go at the same time. Overall, it’s probably not a good idea to have be reading too many books at once, so I’ve decided to stick with just one (with the exceptions of the Bible, a devotional book, as well as anthologies and the like). For some examples of the latter, click here and here. You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Here’s links to the books I’ve read in 2020 (in the order of reading) since my retirement.

Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze?

Reasons to Stay Alive (Matt Haig)

77 Million Paintings (Brian Eno)

The Magic of Reality (Richard Dawkins)

Caught (Harlan Coben)

Black and British (David Olusoga)

Undivided (Vicky Beeching)

Recursion (Blake Crouch)

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

Note: I’ve also read two anthologies and one yearbook making a total of twelve.

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

I’ve known the story for as long as I can remember, but I’d never actually read the book, until now (Christmas 2020) that is. It’s the classic Christmas tale by Charles Dickens, so familiar from movie adaptations, not least The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) starring Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. Since it’s release I’ve considered it one of the finest versions, and having now read the book I can see how faithful to the spirit (pun intended) of the original it is.

Not having read the book was a serious omission on my part, but thankfully I’ve now corrected that. The book is in the public domain, so easily found online.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Undivided (Vicky Beeching)

vickibeeching

I’ve just finished this excellent book, a really life-affirming contribution to the often divisive LGBTQ+ discussion within Christianity.

Vicky Beeching began writing and singing songs for the church in her teens, and by her early thirties she was a household name in Christian music, singing in America’s largest megachurches and recording a string of albums. Her songs were used by congregations around the globe. But all this time she was fighting a debilitating inner battle, knowing she was gay. The conflict was real because the churches in which she sang and ministered generally opposed same-sex relationships and saw homosexuality as sinful.

She knew that being true to herself and coming out would cost her everything. Having faced a major health crisis (quite possibly stress-related), she decided to tell the world she was gay at the age of thirty-five.

The reaction was far greater than even she imagined. She lost her music career and livelihood, faced hatred and threats from traditionalists, suffered further illness from the stress, and had to rebuild her life almost from scratch. She was despised and rejected by those she’d shared Christian ministry with and called friends.

She lost so much, but was finally able to live from a place of wholeness, vulnerability, and authenticity. She found peace with herself and God.

Read this book with an open heart of unconditional love and be prepared to be challenged and changed.

The book concludes: Freed from shame and fear, we are finally able to live, and love, from a place of wholeness. We find peace. We become complete. We become people who are, at our deepest core, undivided.

y648

Note: Vicky has now become a champion for others, fighting for LGBTQ+ equality in the church and in the corporate sector, and speaking up for mental health awareness. Her courageous work is creating change in the UK and the US as she urges people to celebrate diversity, live authentically, and become undivided.

You can find out more and support her work here.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Recursion (Blake Crouch)

I’d previously read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and thoroughly enjoyed it. So, on that very personal recommendation, I decided to read Recursion. I wasn’t disappointed.

What can I say about this mind-bending book without giving anything away? It’s a breathless, sci-fi thriller with so many twist and turns it often left my head spinning. After reluctantly putting the book down at bedtime I would settle down trying to work it out, often struggling to fully comprehend all the existential and philosophical questions raised. As, you’ve probably guessed, it was hard to put down.

Recursion takes mind-twisting premises and embeds them in a deeply emotional story about time and loss and grief and most of all, the glory of the human heart. Gregg Hurwitz

Yes, it’s sci-fi, but don’t let that put you off if it’s not your thing, it’s far bigger than one genre. It’s about life and love, memories and grief, relationships and commitment. It’s about what it means to be human, to live and love, and how circumstances and events affect us.

Note: I understand that both of the books are being made into movies, but I would recommend you read them first rather than waiting for them on the big screen.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Goodreads (for book lovers)

Goodreads is a social media website that allows you to search its database of books, annotations, quotes, and reviews. You can sign up and register books to generate library shelves and reading lists. You can also create your own groups of book suggestions, surveys, polls, blogs, and discussions.

I’ve joined Goodreads since retirement to keep a record all my books (since July 2020) and to keep in touch with friends. I’ll be pleased to link up with my friends and contacts to share our reading. The links above take you to my profile or you can click here. Apps for smartphones and other devices are available.

You can find out more about my reading here.

Black and British (David Olusoga)

The phrases ‘White Privilege‘ and ‘Black Lives Matter‘ are often misunderstood; sometimes wilfully, sometimes for political advantage, and sometimes in ignorance. But, when you’ve read a book like this you realise there’s no equivalence between the overall experience of black people and white people, either historically or in the present day.

This book, which I’ve read during Black History Month (October 2020), demonstrates clearly the disadvantages faced by black people, compared with the ‘privileged’ position of white people. That’s not to say there aren’t individual or specific examples where this isn’t the case, but simply that the broad sweep of history (right up to the present) shows the widespread discrimination against black people.

There was much I already knew, but it was presented in a new way. Equally, there was also much I learned; often in surprising ways, with a few epiphany moments.

Reading this book, with a genuine desire to understand the experience of black people, highlights the shallowness of saying that ‘All Lives Matter’ or ‘White Lives Matter’ in response to black calls for equality and recognition of the challenges they face in society.

Of course, all lives matter, but there’s a difference between equality and equivalence. The difference is that white people are not disadvantaged by their colour, black people are. Equality is not achieved by imposing equivalence of experience when it doesn’t exist, it merely compounds and perpetuates the problem. Realism is required in the cause of equality, rather than imagining it already exists.

I don’t expect everyone will agree with me, but this (as a white man) is the result of much soul-searching on my part into understanding the black experience and situation. Grace and peace to all, John.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.