I had the idea a few weeks back that I’d do another month-long run of blog posts, like my #30ThankYous series in November 2018, but I wanted to keep things simple, since I’m pretty busy these days.
So I decided to try something that, admittedly, is probably more suited to Instagram, if I had an Instagram account: #Booktober.
Every day for the month of October, I’m going to post a microblog (less than 200 words) featuring a different book that I’ve enjoyed or benefited from, with a short post about what it is and why you should read it. That’s it–that’s the concept.
Honestly, I just wanted to produce something fun, easy to write, and non-political (mostly), because man, I need that kind of content. Maybe you do, too. And who knows, it might inspire you to add a few of these books to your library hold list or Christmas shopping cart!
So, starting tomorrow, you’ll see 1 post every day for the next 31 days, featuring a book I like and recommend.
Now, the caveat: In putting together this list last week, I realized pretty quickly that the authors are predominantly male and white. I hate how this has become a point of contention these days, but so it goes. I figured I should at least acknowledge that up-front.
Nevertheless, my list is my list. These are books I’ve read in recent years that I’ve enjoyed, and my recommendations have nothing to do with the sex or race of the authors. I recognize my reading list isn’t as diverse as other folks. That’s not intentional. I’m not seeking to avoid any group or subset of authors. I just read what intrigues me and what people I trust recommend. That’s it. My goal is to read good books, no matter what the author looks like. (That said, if you know of good books by authors of more diverse backgrounds that I may not be aware of, toss those recommendations in my comments! I’ll take a look, and see if the stories/ideas interest me.)
I guess I just wanted to acknowledge it up-front and get it out of the way, in case anyone feels the need to try to tag me or shame me later. Let’s just accept it and move on. #BooktoberSoWhite #BooktoberSoMale
And yes, if it sounds like I’m a little salty about it, it’s because internet bickering and cancel culture are asinine and I’m fed up with a lot of it.
…I said I was going to try to be apolitical, didn’t I? Okay, starting tomorrow!
You’re still reading? Wow, thanks! Sorry about *gestures upward* all that.
Have any thoughts on #Booktober? Want to share your own recommendations? Throw some links down in the comments.
If you had told me, “Dave, you’re going to be working from home for at least 2 months straight, and you’re not going to leave your house much during that time,” one of my first thoughts (after checking our stock of coffee and immediately settling into my comfiest pair of sweatpants) would be “I’m going to read SO MUCH!”
As it happens, that has not been the case.
It’s not like I have been binging Netflix, either. (Though I did watch The Mandolorian finally, which was *chef kiss*.) Rather, this time at home only confirmed what I already suspected:
I have a severe case of RADD–Reading Attention Deficit Disorder.
I keep jumping to new books, like hopping from rock to rock, after getting about 50 pages into several others. I was already reading 2-3 books at the same time when the stay-at-home order was given, and this was just exacerbated by being at home.
Complicating factors for RADD include:
Overwhelming TBR shelves (both physical and digital);
Easy access to new digital reading material (blogs, newsletters, online library catalog);
Continued use of social media; and
Being a parent of children under 3.
As a result, I’m about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through several books at the same time, with a desire to start new books almost every day.
While I was able to push through and finish 3 books over the last 2 months (State of the Union, a novella by Nick Hornby; Susie, Ray Rhodes’ outstanding biography of Susannah Spurgeon; and The Final Days of Jesus, Dr. Andreas Kostenberger’s examination of Holy Week), the stack of partially-read books has grown rapidly.
So what has turned my head these days? Here’s a quick look at my “current” reads:
The Man in the High Castle, by Phillip K. Dick
The Man Who Knew Too Much, by G.K. Chesterton
Five Minutes in Church History, by Steven Nichols
We Cannot Be Silent, by Al Mohler
On the Incarnation, by Athanasius
Holiness, by J.C. Ryle
Church Elders, by Jeramie Rennie
A Dream about Lightning Bugs, by Ben Folds
The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, by Steven Lawson
Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley
I’m not sure that’s everything, but that’s all that comes to mind at the moment.
On top of that, I just got a shipment of 4-5 books I’m eager to dive into that I purchased from T4G’s Online Store. (Note: This sale is still available today only, but it’s the last day of this sale so if you want to take advantage of deep discounts on great theology texts, jump on it right now. Not sponsored–I just hate for people to miss these deals!)
I’m convinced that RADD is a life-long affliction I’ll just have to manage better in the future.
Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated, as I struggle through this difficult period.
Your Turn: What books are you reading right now? And if you’re a fellow RADD sufferer, let us know so we can encourage each other to try to *finish* a book this weekend!
It’s a yearly tradition, so I can’t resist. Here’s a quick list of the books I finished* in 2019:
[*Since I always have several books in-progress, I count finishes and not complete reads in my yearly lists.]
>>Somewhere The Band is Playing – Ray Bradbury (novella)
>>The Tech-wise Family – Andy Crouch
>>Them – Ben Sasse
>>All Things for Good – Thomas Watson
>>Family Shepherd — Voddie Baucham
>>R.U.R. – the brothers Cajek (play)
>>Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
>>The Gospel and Personal Evangelism – Mark Dever
>>Digital Minimalism – Cal Newport
>>Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View – Wingard, Eliff, Chrisman, Burchett
>>Understanding the Lord’s Supper – Bobby Jamieson
>>Evangelism – Mack Stiles
>>Mortal Engines – Phillip Reeve
>>Forever and a Day – Anthony Horiwitz
>>The Dichotomy of Leadership – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
>>Civil War: Spiderman – various (graphic novel)
>>The Spy who Came In From The Cold – John Le Carre
>>Family-Focused Faith – Voddie Baucham
>>Competing Spectacles – Tony Reinke
>>A Murder of Quality – John LeCarre
>>The Looking-Glass War – John LeCarre
>>What is a Healthy Church Member? – Thabiti Anyabwile
>>Side by Side – Ed Welch
>>Enjoying God — RC Sproul
>>Deep Work — Cal Newport
>>Bad Blood – John Carryrou
>> Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – John LeCarre
>> Fellowship with God – Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
>>The Go-Getter – Peter Kyne
>>Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual – Jocko Willink
>> The Apostles Creed – Al Mohler
>>Prayer – John Onwuchekwa
>>The Church – Mark Dever
>>Essential Readings on Evangelism – SBTS
>>The Need – Hannah Phillips
Did Not Finish (DNF)
August – Watchmen: The Annotated Edition – Moore/Gibbons (While the annotations were fascinating, this critically-acclaimed graphic novel was just too dark and depressing for me to enjoy, so I bailed about a quarter of the way through.)
Total Read: 35, including a novella, a play, and a graphic novel
The Split: 11 fiction, 24 non-fiction (16 specifically theological books)
Most Read: John LeCarre and Jocko Willink, each with 3; Mark Dever, with 2
Top Five Recommendations from My 2019 Reading:
Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin — This memoir/motivational book by former Navy SEALs sounds a little more Rex-kwan-do than it really is. Willink and Babin use real-world military experience as metaphors for best-practices of personal responsibility and individual discipline. While the book is very intentionally geared toward the business world (both men are now corporate consultants in their civilian careers), the ideas and insights are definitely applicable. Willink’s follow-ups are also worth a look, if you appreciate his style of writing, but this one is the must-read of his work.
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, by John LeCarre — LeCarre is rightly considered one of the best spy-genre writers of the 20th century, and this story is one of his best, full of intrigue, betrayal, love, deception, and a moving consideration of the toll that even cold wars can take on the conscience. It’s not as flashy as one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories, but it’s certainly more thoughtful and substantial. The ending of Spy will stick with you long after you turn the last page. If you haven’t dug into this genre of fiction, this one is a great entrypoint.
Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport — I’ve written about his one pretty extensively already, so I won’t rehash it here. Suffice it to say, this one is a book that I’m glad I read and took summary notes on, because I want to keep coming back to Newport’s idea of intentional, limited digital technology use as a way to limit the negative effects of social media and online life.
Bad Blood, by John Carryrou — I don’t often read current-year exposes or true-crime non-fiction, but I first heard about the fascinating freefall of Theranos on a podcast early this year, and the story intrigued me enough to want to dive further in. Carryrou is a reporter who first broke the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, one of the biggest scams in American medicine and technology in the last few years. He details the story of this brilliant young woman whose charisma and drive to succeed helped her to perpetuate a multi-million-dollar medical research scheme that eventually exploded in her face. Some of the events are so outlandish as to defy belief in even a fictional account. I really enjoyed this one. You will, too.
Competing Spectacles, by Tony Reinke — I’ve written about this one as well, so I’ll just reiterate that this book is an important one for our visual and digital age, because it not only addresses the artifice of digital spectacles, but it focuses on how it affects our hearts and souls as people made in the image of God. This theological aspect is something missing from many other analyses of the affect of screen culture on human life.
And as it happens, Competing Spectacles is the free audiobook for the month of January over at ChristianAudio.com, so if you are interested in checking it out, you should head over and sign up to get your free download. (No sponsorship/affiliate link there–I just found out about this today and wanted to share!)
What was the best book you read in 2019? Let us know in the comments!
(For the record, I’m not counting the Bible in this list, for obvious reasons. Just assume I enjoyed that greatly.)
The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson — I don’t know if there’s anything else I can say that I haven’t said already. This fantasy series is an absolute delight to read and I commend it to you most heartily. (And to be fair to the other books, I’m counting all 5 in this first slot.)
Day of War, by Cliff Graham — I grew up reading historical/Biblical fiction, and Graham’s books should rank among the best of the genre. This first volume of Graham’s “Lion of War” series is a first-rate adventure, and his battle sequences are as thrilling as any in fiction.
What is Reformed Theology? by RC Sproul — This classic volume from the late and much-missed Dr. Sproul is a must-read for anyone who is studying Reformed theology or wants to understand the “Doctrines of Grace” better.
Side-Hustle, by Chris Gillebeau — I have to admit, part of the reason I am including this one is because the podcast that it inspired is a regular listen for me. Gillebeau provides practical direction for anyone wanting to start a side-business, and includes lots of interesting stories to inspire and challenge new entrepreneurs.
The Keto Reset Diet, by Mark Sisson — My final selection is this must-read volume for anyone looking into the ketogenic diet. I’m giving it a slot on this list particularly because I’m about to reread it, as I get back on track with my eating and exercise in the coming weeks. If it’s worth revisiting, it’s worth recommending.
Okay, friends–your turn! What were some of your top reads of 2018?
I don’t have any new book reviews to post this week–my reading progress has both slowed down and scattered this month! So instead, I decided to update you on my “in-progress” reading list, with minimally-spoilery reviews of each book on my nightstand:
Illusion, by FrankPeretti— It has been years since I’ve read a novel by Frank Peretti, so when I looked up his recent work, I was intrigued by the premise of this 2012 release. In Illusion, Dane and Mandy are a married professional magician duo enjoying the twilight of a successful career together, when they get in a deadly car crash, killing Mandy and leaving Dane broken and struggling to move on. Meanwhile, a young woman who appears to be Mandy from 1970 (having all her same memories and thoughts) suddenly finds herself in present day, with no memory of how she got there. I’m around 100 pages into the story, and I’m quite enjoying it. Peretti is a great writer, and his pacing and characterization are keeping me engaged. There are some hints of a science fiction explanation for this mysterious scenario, but I have no idea where the story is going or how it will resolve. At any rate, I’m enjoying the ride.
Katharina and Martin Luther, by Michelle DeRusha — In the last few years (since getting married, I suppose), I’ve become curious about the married life of different figures in church history. There isn’t a marriage more famous (or infamous) in the Protestant church than that of this former monk and runaway nun. I was excited to dive into this story and find out more about the home life of the bombastic reformer and the hospitable homemaker. I’m about halfway through this book, and I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed. There’s not a lot of substance here about the Luthers themselves. It’s not the author’s fault, either. There is almost no documentary evidence directly from Katie Luther or specifically about her. DeRusha spends several pages on general information about the conditions for women in the Reformation era, fills in some gaps about the Luthers from secondary sources, and generally assumes what Mrs. Luther might have been thinking or feeling. The general history aspect is interesting, but this book feels like a bait-and-switch. The information DeRusha provides may have been better served as part of a broader book on the home life of the Reformers, rather than an entire book that is too narrowly focused and awkwardly padded.
How the Nations Rage, by Jonathan Leeman — I’m not quite halfway through this book, which examines the intersection of Christian faith and public politics. While I have mixed feelings with some of Leeman’s points, I’m finding several points that are helpful in framing the discussion of if and how my Christian faith directs my function as a citizen of this republic. I thought his point about the falsely-presumed “neutrality” of a pluralistic society was particularly observant; specifically, Leeman suggests that a “secular” culture is inherently religious, but that the amorphous nature of secular “religion” prevents it from having to abide by the same restrictions that formalized religion faces in the public square. I look forward to engaging further with his ideas.
Gospel Eldership, by Robert Thune — I’m being considered for a lay-elder position at my church, so I’ve started working through this material with another one of the elders. I’m not very deep into it, but I appreciate the seriousness with which Thune addresses this topic, as well as the fact that this book is designed to be interactive. There are not only discussion questions but also practicum sections with blanks so you can write in your answers to the questions the author raises. I’m looking forward to benefiting more and more from this in the next few weeks!
Them, by Ben Sasse — You may love him or hate him, but right now, Senator Ben Sasse is the congressperson I most respect. I appreciate his remarks on the state of conservatism and partisanship, in a time when American politics are becoming more starkly tribal and fragmented. In this vein, Sasse wrote Them, a book about addressing the tribalism of American culture through a focus on community involvement, understanding, and mutual respect. I’m only a chapter or so into this one, but I’m interested to hear what Sasse has to say. However, I have noticed already that Sasse’s focus and approach is (predictably) horizontal and thus may fall short of fixing the root issue–a malady that needs a Great Physician. Perhaps reading this along with Leeman’s book can help me think through this subject in a more well-rounded way.
All Things for Good, by Thomas Watson — Every Christian should try to read the Puritans on a regular basis. This short but very dense tome is a meditation on Romans 8:28, and the truth that, for the follower of Jesus, all things (good, bad, or otherwise) work for their good because God is in control of all things and directs them for the ultimate good of His children. I have been reading this book a page at a time, right before I go to sleep. I do this for 2 reasons: first, it’s often difficult to digest more than a few paragraphs at a time, since there’s so much to unpack; and secondly, this gives me something true and good to meditate upon as I fall asleep. (If you don’t do this, I would recommend it highly, especially if, like me, you struggle with anxiety at bedtime.)
The Spurgeon Study Bible (CSB) — Last month, I finished reading through the hardcover ESV Reader’s Bible, so I decided to begin my next read-through of the Scriptures by using a study Bible. My sister and brother-in-law gave me this beautiful “Truth for Life” edition of the Spurgeon Study Bible for my birthday. I’ve never read the updated CSB translation, so this seemed like the perfect way to do so. I love the insight gleaned from Spurgeon’s notations on the text. I would recommend this resource for people who are considering a new Bible for personal reading and study. I’m still firmly in the camp of using the ESV for teaching/preaching since it’s a more literal translation, but I am enjoying the CSB’s smoothed-out wording and helpful notes in my personal study and meditation.
I *think* that’s all the books I’m currently reading. It’s no wonder I haven’t finished any books recently–I keep starting new ones! Hopefully, I can carve out a bit of time to read over the next week or so, in order to add a few more titles to my “2018 Reading List” (which I will share on January 2nd!).
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you’re reading these days! Feel free to post your “Current Reads” in the com-box below! See you on Friday!