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I was out and about the other day, and got a text message from my wife, asking me if I would write a post listing the books I’m currently reading, with some recommendations tossed in for good measure. I replied, “Hmm. Sure.”
So, this will give you a bit of a glimpse into my life. In no particular order, I’ll share with you each book that I am currently reading, it’s context, a link where you can check it out, and what I think…at least so far.
But before I do, a few comments.
Like most folks’ reading lists, mine is sometimes weighted heavily in one direction or another. As it happens, I’m not reading any finance or fitness books right this instant, though I could be. I’m not always reading a novel, but happen to be doing so right now. This is a snapshot, and snapshots only reflect a moment. But I’m usually reading a variety of books, and am working through half a dozen to a dozen books at any given time, so in those senses this list is a fair representation.
Good books lend themselves to multiple readings. How many times have you revisited a book for a second or third time only to come across something for (what seems like) the first time? Many folks far smarter and wiser than I am have made this point before, but I’ll echo their sentiment: being shaped deeply by a few good books is better than a shallow but broad exposure to multiple good books, let alone multiple bad books.
With that said, I’ve given up being discouraged that I don’t remember everything I read. Doug Wilson has helpfully described the brain as more of a muscle to be exercised than a box to be filled. This makes sense. Can you clearly articulate all of your influences? Of course not. Our influences include people, books, experiences, sermons, songs, classes and on and on. The reality is that we are perpetually being shaped by what we read (or listen to, or whatever, but I’m talking about books right now, so yeah…), whether you can recall an author’s three main points or not. So read. Read deeply, broadly, for fun, for mental exercise, and more. Read modern fiction, theological commentaries, comic strips, letters to the editor, classic novels, New Testament epistles, and milk cartons. But I must say one more thing, before I go on. There’s another side to the coin referenced in the previous paragraph. Namely, not all of your influences are for your good. Perhaps you noticed that I didn’t say to read anything, but rather to read broadly. And since you’re always being shaped by what you read, read judiciously. I don’t spend my time reading the Quran or romance novels, tabloids or smutty blogs. And neither should you. You should choose your influences with care, then read discerningly, filtering all that you’re reading through the sieve of Scripture while working hard to integrate it all together, since it is all shaping you anyway. Fair enough?
Okay. Enough of the introductory comments. Here’s what I’m reading right now.
1. A Failure of Nerve by Edwin H. Friedman
This is my second time reading this book, and it’s my favorite book on leadership, though in fairness, I’ve only read a handful of leadership books. I’m reading this with the other pastors from our church, and it has provided plenty of helpful discussion material. s Friedman wrote this as a former rabbi who became an counselor and adviser on leadership in a variety of contexts. The principles he espouses are widely applicable. In fact, he insists that they apply at the cellular level, cosmic level, and everywhere in between. Though I cannot affirm his religious and scientific persuasions, the experience he gained from counseling leaders (“from parents to presidents”) for decades provide some really helpful direction and encouragement for leaders and would-be leaders.
2. Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson
You’ll see Doug Wilson in this list twice. I’ve read a number of his books over the last 15 years, and always found them to be very helpful grist for the thought mill.
I’m reading Father Hunger with the men from our church, hitting about a chapter a month. It touches on a number of topics for fathers or anyone who has ever had a father. This book – and the sermon series that preceded it – have helped me to think more in generational terms. Whether it’s related to your diet or your daughter, optic nerves or offspring, lasting change rarely happens immediately. If we want to impact our world for Christ, we should share the gospel immediately and liberally, to be sure. But we should also be investing deeply in the next generation of Christians. And for fathers, that means taking responsibility for our children. Anyway, good book.
3. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman
This Christian classic hits my last point (see Father Hunger above) from a different angle. To start and build His Church, Jesus did not employ mass evangelistic techniques or revival meetings. Rather, He invested deeply in twelve men and handed them the reigns. He was committed to being with them, impacting them via life-on-life interaction. This is long-view, even generational thinking. Christ didn’t draw every soul to Himself immediately while still here in bodily form. Instead, He invested in men who would be His human instruments to grow His bride (the Church) in a way that would bring Him still greater glory. And it’s an example that we can emulate in principle. And The Master Plan of Evangelism offers some help in that.
4. The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson
This is Wilson part deux on this list. It’s largely related to classical and Christian education, and I happen to be the headmaster of a very small classical and Christian school. I’m reading this book with our school board. In brief, the responsibility to educate children belongs to parents, and attention to Ephesians 6:4 requires that we heed relentlessly and deliberately the influences on our children. This requires appropriate protection and insulation from dangerous influences while they’re little and proper training to combat the same influences as they grow. This also requires knowing where we’ve come from, where we actually are, and where we are headed…and why. So this book deals with some principles along these lines as well as some of the nitty gritty. It’s worth reading if you have any interest in Christian education for your children.
5. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
I’m reading this modern classic (I believe I can say that, though Tolkien died some forty years ago) for the second or third time (it’s been awhile) with my students. It’s assigned reading, but a secondary, supplemental, enriching part of the curriculum. Reading this as a Christian, I love the themes of coming of age for Bilbo, his general disinterest in impressing men (or dwarves), the entrapping power of particular sins and vices (like, say the power of the Ring), and the rather fitting nature of a man slaying the serpent in the end. Don’t worry; knowing how it ends doesn’t spoil it in the least. In its own right, the book is just good fun. In a few days I’ll start plodding through The Fellowship of the Ring, book one in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for which The Hobbit is a prequel.
There are more on my currently reading list, plus a handful of bonuses I’d like to share in my next installment, so stay tuned!
Have you read any of these books? Do any of them sound interesting? Perhaps you have questions or comments to share. It’s all fair game in the comments section below, so fire away!
SHARED AT… Kelly’s Korner