2016 Reading Challenge: April Update!

Time for another update on my Challies 2016 Reading Challenge progress!

In keeping with T.S. Eliot’s old adage, April was the cruelest month–lots of challenges and frustrations (and rain–so much rain!).  But that said, I was able to get some reading done, amid all the craziness.

So here’s a list of what I was able to finish in April:

A Book with a One-Word Title or Subtitle: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. I had heard such good things about this one that I had to see for myself. McKeown espouses a philosophy/approach to productivity and life in general in which one must consistently choose what is most important, and focus all their efforts on that goal. This is accomplished often through “editing,” or adding-by-subtracting–removing things from our life that may be good but not best, or saying no to opportunities or options that would divert us from focusing on what matters most.  This all sounds very basic and obvious as I’m typing it–and it is, to some extent. But McKeown’s clarity of thought and description of process keep it fresh and engaging. The Christian reader should be aware that, at the end of the book, McKeown begins to espouse mindfulness as a tenet of this “essentialist” approach, which isn’t a Christian practice and is closely linked to Buddhist and Hindu belief. That said, there is a lot in this book that is practical and beneficial, so with those caveats, I would recommend it.

A Humorous Book: Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan. I tried something different for this one: I listened to the audio book instead of reading the printed version. If you are familiar with Jim Gaffigan’s material (“Hot Pocket…”), you would expect that a book written and read by Gaffigan would be hilarious. And it was funny, but the style was more of a humorist than a stand-up act–think Garrison Keillor. (That is, if you like Keillor; if you don’t, that’s a terrible analogy. Forget I mentioned it.) Which is to say, fewer gut-busting guffaws from me, and more wry smiles and chuckles. Also, the book falls into the same problem areas that Gaffigan’s stand-up does: there is the rare crude joke/innuendo, and he treats spiritual things with irreverence, trying to mine them for humor (while besmirching God in the process). All in all, if you like Gaffigan’s material, you’d like this book. I find myself becoming less and less of a fan, though there are still certain bits from his routine that kill me.

A Biography: Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who Led the Band of Brothers, by Larry Alexander. As the title no doubt indicates, this biography tells the life story of Dick Winters, the leader of Easy Company, the paratroopers made famous in the best-selling book by Stephen Ambrose, Band of Brothers, and the Emmy-winning HBO miniseries of the same name. While Ambrose tried to tell the stories of all the men involved, in brief vignettes, Alexander focuses specifically on Winters, telling the tale of his life before and after the war, in addition to a detailed look at his wartime experiences. I loved the Ambrose book and the HBO series, so this was a great opportunity to find out more about one of the key figures in this amazing true story. Winters, who passed away about 5 years ago, was a noble and honorable man, a man whose commitment and courage are worthy of consideration and emulation. I’m definitely glad to have read his story.

A Book Geared toward the Opposite Gender: Inheritance of Tears, by Jessalyn Hutto. It’s amazing to me how common miscarriage is and yet how little I’ve heard people talk about it. This short book from Cruciform Press is just over 100 pages long but is packed from cover to cover with comforting theological truth about the issues related to coping with miscarriage from a specifically Christian and Scripture-focused perspective. Hutto demonstrates through this short volume that good theology can be a source of great comfort and healing. While this book is specifically geared toward women who have suffered a miscarriage, I think their husbands, friends, and ministers can definitely benefit from the wisdom contained in its pages. If you or someone you know has experienced the grief of miscarriage, I commend this book to you as an encouragement and comfort. And I would strongly recommend that anyone in pastoral and women’s ministry should pick up at least a few copies of this book to give away to couples in need. It will be a benefit to any couple in your care who has to walk through the dark valley of miscarriage.

A Book with A Great Cover: Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman. Postman’s famous jeremiad about the destruction of the American intellect, the death of print culture, and ascendancy of the screen culture was written thirty-one years ago, and like any book of the cultural moment, it is certainly dated in places. But Postman makes some incisive observations about the nature of television as a medium of communication, and draws some interesting conclusions from his observations. The tone of the book is eloquently misanthropic, as if Postman knew that his critique would fall upon deaf ears. Truth be told, the book is long on diagnosis and short on cure, but it raises some interesting questions that are worth your time to consider. Though he demonstrates fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the Christian faith, his critique of televised religion could be easily applied to the approach of seeker-sensitive megachurches trying to draw in an “audience.” Though Postman’s politics are clearly left-leaning, his critique of the televised political process is scathing enough to burn both ends of the bread, as it were (and happens to apply to several key elements of the 2016 election season). All in all, this was an interesting and frustrating book, but I’m glad I finally read it. And check out that creeptastic cover!


So where does that put me in the overall reading tally?

I have completed 15 of the books on the list, in 17 weeks. So, I’m a little behind schedule at the moment.

The good news is that I’m about 20 pages away from finishing another book on the list, and I have made progress in about 3 others.

The bad news is that I start my next seminary class in 3 weeks. It lasts from late May to mid-July, and needless to say, my extra-curricular reading time will be drastically reduced during that stretch.

Do I think I’ll hit my goal of at least  50 out of the 52 books on the reading list? Probably not. However, I’ve also read a few graphic novels and a few other novels along the way, so I still might hit the 50-book mark overall.

Only one way to find out, gang–keep checking in each month here at the 4thDaveBlog!


Your Turn: Did you read anything cool in April? Are you working on any good books at the moment? Let us know in the comments below!

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