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.

Booktober 23rd: “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Wikipedia

[This is Day 23 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A sprawling magical urban fantasy and alternative history novel set in early-19th-century England, in which two magicians’ battle of egos and enchantments lead to disastrous consequences for all involved

Why You Should Read It: This strange and marvelous novel has been described as a cross between Jane Austen and JK Rowling, with a little Charles Dickens thrown in. I think that is a fair analogy. This book has the tone and feel of classic literature, but with the added layer of hundreds (!) of footnotes referencing books and writers who exist only in the world of the story. As a fan of copious footnotes, this was incredibly addicting to me. The story seems to weave in elements of Romantic poets, medieval myths, and historical biography in a way that feels bizarre and yet believable. The main focus of the story is the friendship and eventual rivalry between the conservative and traditional Mr. Norrell and the young upstart magician Jonathan Strange. The battle of these two mindsets and worldviews spills over to change the course of the lives of everyone in their spheres. Cozy up with this one by the fire this winter. It’ll be a treat.

Booktober 22nd: “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Pride & Prejudice | The Bookloft

[This is Day 22 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A 19th-century British drawing-room comedy about upper-class society in which good manners and a good marriage are the ultimate goal of a young woman’s life.

Why You Should Read It: The story of the Bennett sisters and their various loves and heartaches is the most popular of Austen’s books these days, and for good reason. There is something recognizably human in all of these characters, so much that they’re not simply abstract figures on the page but feel authentic and familiar. Jane Austen is a skilled wordsmith, and her use of language is impeccable–the dialogue pops throughout the book. But the reason you should read the book instead of settling for the handful of (admittedly very good) film adaptations is that the narration and commentary throughout the novel are bathed in Austen’s sardonic wit and low-key sarcasm. You miss a lot of this when you watch a film version. This book is a lot funnier than I expected it to be when I first started reading it. Even if you don’t think this type of fiction is your “thing” (and ESPECIALLY if you find yourself disinterested because you consider it a “girl book”), you should definitely check it out.

Booktober 20th: “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

This original game cover shows a drawing of a man, who appears to be made of newspaper and is engulfed in flames, standing on top of some books. His right arm is down and holding what appears to be a fireman's hat made of paper while his left arm is as if wiping sweat from the brow of his bowed head. The title and author's name appear in large text over the images and there is a small caption in the upper left-hand corner that reads, "Wonderful stories by the author of The Golden Apples of the Sun".
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10504500

[This is Day 20 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A dystopian novel written in 1953 about the silencing of dangerous ideas and what happens when you “start reading books instead of burning them” (to borrow a phrase from Henry Jones Sr.).

Why You Should Read It (Again): “It was a pleasure to burn.” This book has been one of my favorites over the years, but like 1984, I find as I grow older it has become more and more relevant. In the story, Guy Montag, the “fireman” who is tasked with burning outlawed books and related materials, is told by his superior in the firemen’s corps that the reason the book burnings started was because special interest groups found certain ideas and writers offensive. The censorship-by-flame eliminated much of literature, leaving only mindless printed entertainment that itself struggled to compete against the intoxicant of big-screen home theaters. In our day as”cancelling” is becoming commonplace in the world of social media because an author’s ideas or opinions are considered unacceptable, and individuals take to Instagram and Tiktok to post videos of themselves burning the works of such societal sinners…let’s just say you can start to see the pattern forming.

Booktober 19th: “1984” by George Orwell

1984 - Kindle edition by Orwell, George. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks  @ Amazon.com.

[This is Day 19 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A dystopian novel from 1949 imagining a society (modeled after Stalinist Russia) in which truth is suppressed and public support is devoted entirely to the all-powerful State, and what happens to an ordinary man who suddenly questions whether or not to follow the crowd.

Why You Should Read It (Again): If you grew up in the American school system, you may have read this one back in high school. You may think you’re familiar enough with it, because you get the references to things like “Big Brother.” But I would strongly encourage you to find another copy and read it again with fresh eyes (as I’m actually about to do, myself). 1984 presents a society in which social messaging is delivered from the top-down by an all-powerful state, going against the prevailing group-think is considered dangerous or radical, and the meanings of words and ideas are rewritten in real time to serve the desires of the state. While it’s become a cliche to say that any social movement you find oppressive is “Orwellian,” I would suggest that in an era when academics are actually discussing on social media why “2+2=4” can be wrong (or racist?), we’ve entered a new and yet oddly familiar situation.