Brought up near the coast of Maine, I often heard the proverb: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” In some parts of the country, they may say “farmers” or “shepherds” rather than “sailors,” but I live in a seaside context even today, so I’ll stick with the mariners’ weather lore. 😊
The above cover portion of my new book, Return to Chiloé: Treasures from the Island, definitely shows an evening sky in the Island of Chiloé. One of my daughters painted the original from an old photo some years ago, and we decided to go with her artwork for this project. What a delight to highlight a personal treasure here.
Return to Chiloé is NOT the promised sequel to Destiny at Dolphin Bay. (I’m working on that, though. Coming soon!) Instead of a fictional trip, Return to Chiloé features a real-life visit to Chiloé, interwoven with tales of Chilote mythology. Ever wonder if Chiloé has remained frozen in time? Twenty-five years after the (1990) events of Destiny at Dolphin Bay, you can hike along with us to the old haunts, listen to the legends around an imaginary campfire, and share in the sea-changes we discovered.
“They change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea.” –Horace
We’ve set February 7 as the launch date for the ebook, God willing and all working out. In the meantime, as the holidays have ended, most of our houseguests have gone home to work and winter weather, and the dog days of summer in Chile approach, I find it’s time for my annual book balance. What books brightened my skies this past year?
According to my list, I read 83 books during 2022. If that sounds like a lot, it’s less than my usual. And I can’t help but wonder why? Sure, I was busy with other activities, but no more than normal. I didn’t even spend as much time writing as I would have liked. So what’s the deal?
Maybe they were exceptionally long books? That may be true, and it would correspond with the large number of nonfiction titles dominating the list. Recently I’ve found myself gravitating more and more toward history and memoir, such as my own upcoming one. Of course, some of these could be placed under several categories.
But in general, I give bouquets this year to:
- 100 Bible Verses that Made America by Robert J. Morgan
- A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
- Adventures in Prayer by Catherine Marshall. She is one of my literary heroines, and I re-read this little book after 46 years! It’s still just as delightful as the first time.
- Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge
More along the self-help/personal growth track, this year I appreciated:
- Hero on a Mission by Donald Miller
- Welcome to the United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster
- Kind is the New Classy by Candace Cameron Bure
“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.” – Orhan Pamuk
And then—a red sky of delight under an unassuming cover—hands down the best book I read during 2022 was Thirsting for Authenticity by former Bible college professor Douglas R. McLachlan. Although it surprises even me, this spiritual journey by a wonderful teacher and speaker reminded me of what is truly important in our time. It fed my soul—a banquet, or perhaps I should say, a refreshing drink from a cool fountain.
“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in,” Robert Louis Stevenson said. That sounds like me. The year’s most helpful writing book was The Magic Words by Cheryl B. Klein, an editor of children’s literature. C. S. Lewis figured that adults should also love a good children’s book, and I agree!
Now we come to fiction. My top picks narrow down A LOT. I chose only four books. Obviously, that’s because I’ve read less fiction lately, as I mentioned, even though I’ve preferred it all my life. I wonder, is there less good fiction out there?
Or do I find much of it formulaic? You read one, you’ve read them all? Genre does tend to run in popular trends. Remember, for a while, a majority of Christian fiction was Amish? And right now, it all seems to focus on World War II. It takes all kinds, and to each his or her own.
“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.” – Louis L’Amour
To break out of the rut, my favorite (quasi) Christian fiction this year was a contemporary time-travel fantasy, Nightfall in the Garden of Deep Time, by historical novelist Tracy Higley. I volunteered as a reviewer for this book and can honestly say it slid as soft as velvet over a creative soul needing encouragement. So thank you, Tracy.
This year I also give prize ribbons to these (non-Christian) historical novels:
- Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. A bow to WWII Italy.
- Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende. About Chilean colonial days.
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. A classic set in Peru.
Note, however, a red sky in the morning—a warning of sorts. The line between secular and inspirational has grown incredibly blurry. On the one hand, while the world waves an in-our-face moral agenda, we Christian writers seem to crave acceptance and approval from this rapidly deteriorating society.
On the other hand, it’s become a challenge for us readers to discover Christian books whose claim to fame as inspirational is anything deeper than the dropping of a few words like church, prayer, or maybe forgiveness.
Nothing wrong with any of those things, not at all. Only the Christian life is so much more. Definitely extends beyond a label. So the attempt to combine the best of both worlds often falls flat, though I applaud the desire for excellence in storytelling.
It’s all about marketing these days. Christian writer MaryLu Tyndall once promoted some of her work as Pirates of the Caribbean meets Lost. Intriguing, right? For fun, I sometimes try to link my reading—and my writing—like that.
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” –Walt Disney
What if Isabel Allende’s Maya met Catherine Marshall’s Christy? You might indeed create a book like Destiny at Dolphin Bay.
Put Candace Cameron in a Stephen King novel. It could turn out like my Hope Chest.
I’m letting my imagination loose here… What if Francine Rivers wrote Under a Scarlet Sky? At The Bridge of San Luis Rey they certainly needed a loving Savior, a true Hero on a Mission. And picture Anne of Green Gables stumbling into the Garden of Deep Time.
Agatha Christie meets Tsh Oxenreider (At Home in the World)… That’s how I imagine a YA mystery series set on a ship like the Logos. To be written, my friends.
“As individuals, we find that our development depends upon the people whom we meet in the course of our lives. These people include the authors whose books we read and characters in works of fiction and history.” –T. S. Eliot, Christianity and Culture
In 2023 I wish all of you beautiful scarlet sunsets and fair sailing…
As well as the best of books to enjoy and give away. (Is there any better gift?)
Please share your own experiences with me. What was your best read last year? And what character and plot combinations strike your imagination?
“When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.’
And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’” –Jesus (Mt. 16:2b-3, NASB)
Right now I’m headed out to my deck to read The Giver of Stars under a red sky at night.