My January 2021 Reading List!

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Hey y’all! Just a quick post to fill you in on the books that have been on my nightstand (and in my Kindle app) this past month!

I was able to finish 3 books during the month of January (though I actually started one of them several months ago):

  • The Words Between Us, by Erin Bartels – This is a novel about a woman who is fighting to keep her small bookstore afloat when her hidden and troubling past starts to catch up to her. I really enjoyed both the way Bartels weaves in an intriguing light mystery sub-plot along with her main story about the secrets we keep and the lies we tell to keep them, as well as how shared stories and poems can bind us together in unexpected ways. This is a fun, quick read that you should check out.
  • The Practice, by Seth Godin – It’s probably clear from my past posts that I dig Seth Godin’s work, even if he’s become the cliched “business/marketing guru.” I’ll admit, his writing can be a bit formulaic (each book chapter is like a series of his blog posts–a series of productivity or marketing koans about Doing The Work or Shipping The Work or something else with Important Capitalization), but it’s a formula that works. Godin has a way of provoking that creative itch that I tend to suppress with busyness and grown-up responsibilities, so that I start to wonder if maybe I could get back to that novel I half-started writing. If you’re interested in some light reading about the mindset of people who create and produce meaningful work, this may be right up your alley.
  • Conscience, by Andy Naselli and J.D. Crowley – Our elder team has been reading through this one slowly this year (ironically enough, chosen before C19 and the endless mask debate), but it has been helpful in informing some of our thinking about how to navigate divergences in conviction and conscience within our church body. While I would disagree with the authors’ approach in some places, on the whole, I found it to be a helpful supplement to thinking throuh how to navigate church member disagreements, lead with wisdom, and rightly assess some of the debatable issues that have come up this year.

In addition to these, there were a few more books that I started reading but didn’t finish, due to time restraints and/or loss of interest:

  • The Birds, by Daphne Du Maurier – I started reading a collection of short pieces by Du Maurier but only got through the titular piece. I really enjoyed her writing style and want to get back to the collection sometime this year. And if you haven’t read her story “The Birds,” you should. It’s creepy and somehow even more bleak than Hitchcock’s film adaptation.
  • The Burning: The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, by Tim Madigan – I’m definitely coming back to this one before the centennial anniversary on June 1st. This terrible event in 20th-century American history deserves to be more well-known and studied, because the details are just awful. If you aren’t familiar with the Tulsa Race “Riot” (Madigan’s word “massacre” is a better descriptor) and the burning of “Black Wall Street,” you should do some research on it. Just horrific.
  • Ready Player Two, by Ernest Cline – I enjoyed Cline’s earlier novel Ready Player One (80’s/90’s nostalgia, plus video games? C’mon!) as well as his other book Armada, but as I started reading this one, I just lost interest immediately. I don’t know if I just didn’t give it enough time or wasn’t in the right headspace, but I found the lead character to be much more unlikeable this go-round. Ultimately, I just didn’t care enough to keep going, and I don’t want to read a novel if it feels like work, so I dropped this one after a few chapters. I don’t expect I’ll come back to it. (If you think I should, make your case in the comments!)

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There’s my January reading list–what’s yours? Comment below with what you’ve been reading lately!

And here’s a video by some friends of mine. Check it out, and if you like it, make sure to like, subscribe, comment, and tell ’em The4thDave sent ya by. Thanks!

2020 Reading List

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Happy “New Year’s Adam” (a.k.a NYE-eve), readers!

Sorry for the unexpected radio silence. December has included a few curveballs, but I definitely wanted to get in here before the end of the year and log my annual reading list!

It’s curious to me that in a year where I had more free time due to a change in work habits and less time in transit, I didn’t seem to read as much. Honestly, I really struggled to read much at all during the middle part of the year. It just seemed easier to vege out and watch movies or TV (or my recent addiction: video game playthroughs on Youtube… don’t judge me).

Nevertheless, I was able to complete 26 books this year (thanks in part to a prolific and comics-filled December!), and most of them were pretty short reads (fewer than 300 pages). If you’re looking for something quick to burn through, you might like some of these:

  • The Whole Christ – Sinclair Ferguson
  • A Great and Glorious Game – A. Bartlett Giamatti
  • The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa
  • The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down – Al Mohler
  • Budgeting for a Healthy Church – Jamie Dunlop
  • State of the Union – Nick Hornby (novella)
  • Susie – Ray Rhodes, Jr.
  • The Final Days of Jesus  – Andreas Kostenberger
  • Reset – David Murray
  • re:raptured – Bartels/Kluck
  • 5 Minutes in Church History – Steve Nichols
  • re:raptured again – Kluck/Bartels
  • Church Elders – Jeramie Rinne
  • The ONE Thing – Gary Keller
  • We Cannot Be Silent – Al Mohler
  • A Way With Words – Dan Darling
  • Leadership Strategies and Tactics – Jocko Willink
  • Superman Smashes the Klan – Gene Luen Yang / Gurihiru
  • American Carnage – Tim Alberta
  • The End of October – Lawrence Wright
  • Daredevil: The Man without Fear – Frank Miller / John Romita Jr.
  • Batman: White Knight – Sean Gordon Murphy
  • Live Not By Lies – Rod Dreher
  • Superman: The Man of Steel (vol. 1) – John Byrne / Marv Wolfman / Jerry Oroway / Dick Giordano
  • Daredevil: Yellow – Jeph Loeb / Tim Sale
  • Daredevil: Born Again – Frank Miller / David Mazzucchelli

It’s been a weird year, and my reading has been a bit less rigorous as a result (for example, 7 of my last 10 titles are graphic novels and/or trade paperbacks of comic-book runs). But here are 4 books that I thought were excellent and certainly worth your time:

The Whole Christ, by Sinclair Ferguson — As I mentioned during #Booktober, Ferguson’s study of the Marrow Controversy was both theologically challenging and soul-stirring. The volume will be referenced fondly by theologians for decades to come. A perfect blend of pastoral and theological prose.

American Carnage, by Tim Alberta — Tim Alberta’s meticulously researched analysis of the Republican Party in the decade leading up to the Trump presidency was both insightful and frustrating. It’s hard to argue that many of the trends he described and warnings he gave have played out in the last few months. While it seems clear Alberta is pretty critical of the GOP in general, his analysis is spot-on and shouldn’t be discounted.

Susie, by Ray Rhodes, Jr. — I adored this biographical look at Susannah Spurgeon, the perservering and long-suffering helpmeet of the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon. Rhodes does a masterful job balancing the focus between Susie’s life as the wife of the era’s most important theologian and as a woman with a long-lasting and meaningful ministry of her own. Rhodes has a follow-up coming out in February, and I’m eagerly looking forward to more like this.

Live Not By Lies, by Rod Dreher — I noted on Twitter a week or so ago that the ideas and themes of this book “rang in my head and my heart like a struck bell.” Dreher sounds the call for Christians to stand against a culture that believes and perpetuates lies, and he gives several examples from Christian dissidents under Soviet rule to describe how we can resist “soft totalitarianism” by choosing to reject lies and live in truth. This book is a must-read, and I look forward to working through it again sometime in the coming year. There was a lot to glean from these pages.

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There’s my list. What’s yours? Did you have a favorite read from 2020? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below!

Booktober 31st: “Why We’re Protestant” by Nate Pickowicz

[This is the final day of #Booktober 2020! Thanks for being part of the fun!]

What It Is: An introduction to the big ideas of the Protestant Reformation through an examination of the concepts called the “Five Sola’s”: sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, sola scriptura, and soli Deo gloria–faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.

Why You Should Read It: Because October 31st is Reformation Day, the anniversary of that meddlesome monk Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the Wittenburg church door! There is no doubt that the world was rocked by the slams of Luther’s mallet, and for the last 500 years, the Protestant Church has sought (with mixed success, admittedly) to call people back to these core principles. If you’re not a Christian, or if you’re not Protestant, you may wonder why this is such a big deal. Pastor Nate’s book is a ground-level entrypoint into that discussion. It’s written in a way that’s accessible to the lay person as well as the pastor or theology student, and is worth your time and attention.

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That’s it! 31 days of #Booktober. I hope you found some new things to add to your reading list. If you did, I’d love to hear about it, so feel free to comment below and let me know which of these books you may be checking out in the future.

So what’s next for the 4DB? I’ll be posting selections from some of my recent sermons, as well as another Twilight Zone 2019 episode review and a review of a new book about how we communicate online. I’ve also got an idea for a series of posts about one of my favorite classic films that I’m hoping to roll out around Thanksgiving, so I’ll be working on that over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, look for some odds and ends on the blog. I won’t be posting every day, but I’m going to shoot for Tuesdays and Thursdays (with the occasional Sunday sermon post). The best way to keep up with my new content? Subscribe/follow using the button and form on the sidebar.

Have a great Halloween / Reformation Day! Stay safe, enjoy your sweets, and we’ll see you in November!

Booktober 30th: “Side By Side” by Ed Welch

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love: Welch, Edward T.:  0884618492309: Amazon.com: Books

[This is Day 30 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for one more recommendation!]

What It Is: A short and very practical book about “one another” ministry within the Church.

Why You Should Read It: While God does give some as pastors and teachers to help build up the body of believers, the nuts-and-bolts day-to-day ministry of the church isn’t done by paid professionals, but by the everyday believer in the pews. Welch lays out practical encouragements to teach believers how to “build up one another in love” and minister to each other’s spiritual and emotional needs. If you want to know how to create a culture of love and service and discipleship in your church, whether you’re in a particular church office/role or just a healthy and active member of the body, get this book and put it into practice.

Booktober 29th: “The Keto Reset Diet” by Mark Sisson

The Keto Reset Diet Named a New York Times Bestseller | Primal Kitchen®

[This is Day 29 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A basic introduction to primal/keto eating from one of the most respected names in this particular area of nutrition coaching.

Why You Should Read It: If you’re a sugar addict like I am, and you’ve struggled with weight like I do, the ketogenic diet may be a good fit for you. But it can be done really badly, even dangerously (like any strict eating plan), so having a sensible on-ramp is the best way to approach it. Mark Sisson gives you that on-ramp by laying out the basic ideas and science behind a ketogenic approach to eating, and then he walks the reader through a 3-week process of dialing back carb intake, fine-tuning some non-food lifestyle factors that may affect your ability to restrict carb intake, and then tweaking the dials a bit in the last week to get you ready for full-blown keto eating. I’ll admit, I read this book, tried to apply it, and then fell off the wagon after a few months of “going keto.” Not an uncommon thing–but the fact of it is, when I’m “on-plan,” I feel better and I lose weight. Kicking the sugar addiction is hard. But if you’re ready to commit to something serious in order to curb the habit, Mark Sisson may have your answer.

Booktober 28th: “Running For Mortals” by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield

Running for Mortals: A Commonsense Plan for Changing Your Life With Running:  Bingham, John, Hadfield, Jenny: 9781594863257: Amazon.com: Books

[This is Day 28 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A book about the hobby/sport of distance running that is written for the couch-to-5K’er instead of the elite athlete.

Why You Should Read It: John “The Penguin” Bingham and Jenny Hadfield wrote for Runner’s World magazine for years. Bingham in particular became a champion for the plodders, walkers, and waddlers (like me), and through his words he helped to make the running community open and accessible to the less-than-fit who were interested in discovering a new hobby on the open road. This book is the perfect entry-point for people who have never really done any distance running (or run/walking, or just plain walking) and perhaps feel intrigued yet intimidated by the idea. They talk about how to get started, what a training program might look like depending on your physical level, how to eat, how to rest, and what gear you might need. It would be easy to get overwhelmed by the flood of information on the internet. Books like this take the reader by the hand and say, “Let’s just take a walk and get started!” Like the running community itself, Bingham and Hadfield welcome readers from all backgrounds to join the fun and discover something new about themselves in the process.

Booktober 27th: “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman

[This is Day 27 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A cultural jeremiad written 35 years ago about the power and allure of news-as-entertainment that is still surprisingly applicable to our image-driven culture.

Why You Should Read It: While Postman didn’t anticipate the Internet age, his critiques and warnings have proven all the more applicable. Postman takes the idea of “the medium is the message” and argues that at some point, the medium starts to undercut or subvert the message, which has a devastating effect on public discourse. His warnings about television seem almost quaint now, but you can extrapolate the trajectory out and see that he was certainly on the right track. I still think about some of his arguments about the mental and emotional weight of daily news updates that don’t actually give you actionable information. While a bit outdated now, there’s still a lot of core ideas here worth exploring. You can see the foundations of the work of current cultural observers like Cal Newport and Tony Reinke.

Booktober 26th: “The Pastor’s Justification” by Jared C. Wilson

The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and  Ministry: Wilson, Jared C., Ayers, Mike: 9781433536649: Amazon.com: Books

[This is Day 26 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: An encouraging reminder to pastors and those in full-time ministry that they are first and foremost disciples and sheep themselves, and that their true hope of peace, security, and fulfillment is found in Jesus’ completed work, not their many efforts and accomplishments in ministry.

Why You Should Read It (And/Or Give it Away): This book is a balm to the wounds and a cup of cool water to the dry throat of pastors and elders who are laboring in ministry and growing weary and burnt out. Wilson writes with such compassion toward that group because he was there himself–exhausted and heartsick from years of doing, doing, doing. When he finally stopped and threw himself desparately into the arms of grace, he was reminded that his security and hope is found in what Jesus has accomplished on his behalf, not on his performance or perfection. Even if we pastors know this to be true mentally or abstractly, it’s a different thing for us to believe it from the heart. Wilson reminds us that we serve best when we serve from a place of full reliance on God’s grace. If you’re a pastor, read this book. If you know a pastor, get them this book. There are still a few more days in “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Grab a copy or two for the shepherds who serve and love you and your family.

Booktober 25th: “Confessing the Faith” by Chad Van Dixhoorn

Confessing the Faith: A reader's guide to the Westminster Confession of  Faith by Chad B. Van Dixhoorn

[This is Day 25 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A lay-friendly exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, with commentary on how each article is grounded in Scriptural truth and has application to the Christian life.

Why You Should Read It: I’m not quite halfway through this one, but I can easily recommend it. Upon the recommendation of a dear friend who gave it to me as a gift, I’m reading it slowly, section by section, giving myself time to meditate on the insights provided. Dr. Van Dixhoorn walks the reader through each point of each article of the confession, providing the Scriptural basis for each statement and describing the logical progression and thought processes of the Westminster Divines’ argumentation. Each section begins with the original text of the article sub-section, next to a modernized version of the verbiage, followed by Dr. Van Dixhoorn’s analysis and application. Rather than being a dry and dusty academic tome, this one has warmed my heart and encouraged me in my devotion to the Lord. Strong recommendation here.

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Hey y’all, just a quick non-Booktober-related note:

This is my 500th post on this blog. I’m…stunned. Stunned and very pleased. I’ve been blogging in various places for the last…golly, has it really been 17 years?!? But I started this particular blog about 7 years ago, and only in the last couple of years has it really taken off in terms of views and readers. It’s been pretty exciting seeing the engagement–knowing that people actually read and care about what I write is thrilling in a way I never expected.

THANK YOU SO MUCH to the readers and commenters who keep coming back, and by doing so keep *me* coming back. I hope this blog and my words are a blessing and an encouragment to you. Feel free to drop me a hello in the comments, especially if you’ve never done so before. I’d love to thank you by name, if I can.

Here’s to another 500 posts!

–d.

Booktober 24th: “Ella Minnow Pea” by Mark Dunn

[This is Day 24 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: Set on Nollop (an island off the coast of South Carolina), a place of particular literary notoriety, this novel is composed of mailed notes and messages that become more and more off-kilter as particular letters of the alphabet are declared illegal by the town elders.

Why You Should Read It: I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for literary gimmickry, and this funny little novel has a pretty unique hook. Set on the island named for the person who coined the sentence that uses all 26 letters, it’s a story about how tradition can become oppressive and totalitarian control can grow ludicrous and untenable. As letters begin to fall off the island’s monument to its namesake, the people of Nollop are mandated never to use those letters in speech or writing again, upon threat of physical punishment and ultimately banishment. Since this is a “novel in letters,” the narrator/protagonist must use increasingly strained word choices and spelling in order to communicate the events of the town to her reader. This one is a hoot. Check it out.