Posts Tagged ‘What I’m Reading’

April Book(s?)

Apparently another casualty of our current lives (see previous post)  is the lack of reading and/or my inability to remember or write down what I finished reading.  As it is, here is the one book that I have written down that I finished reading:

  • The Mystery of the Holy Spirit by RC Sproul:  this book was used in a brief sunday school class.  This is standard Sproul, making difficult topics accessible and understandable, without shying away from difficult topics or ideas.  Helpful book and definitely recommended, though personally I may prefer Sinclair Ferguson’s more in depth The Holy Spirit.

Not sure if I read something else or haven’t been reading as much.

March Books

Here are the books that I completed reading during the month of March:

  • The Innocent Man by John Grisham:  I’ve read just about every book that Grisham has written (The Testament is one of my favorite novels) and this is another of his legal thrillers with one major difference – it’s a non-fiction account surrounding one particular individual that, as you can figure from the title, was innocent of crimes that he was convicted of in a small Oklahoma town.  I enjoyed reading this book and considering the various “characters” – no shortage of sin and the effect of sin at any number of levels.
  • A Gospel Primer for Christians:  Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love by Milton Vincent:  I loved reading this book and am so thankful for it’s contribution to my understanding and glorying in the truths and outworking of the Gospel (of which Vincent spend significant time describing).  There wasn’t anything that I haven’t necessarily heard before, but Vincent shows how deep the Gospel is and the place of the Gospel in the life of the believer on a daily basis.  I have loaned this book out and when I get it back I will post a few things from the book to give a flavor of it’s content.  This book is highly, highly recommended.
  • A Test of Wills by Charles Todd:  This is the first book in Todd’s series of mysteries featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge set in England after the First Great War (WWI), a war which has left deep marks on Rutledge.  I enjoyed aspects of this novel and found the mystery to be sufficiently surprising, I think it left something to be desired – possibly in the pacing and flow of the book.  I will likely try the next Rutledge novel and see how things progress.
  • A Corpse in the Koryo by James Church:  I really enjoyed reading this mystery, featuring Inspector O, which is set in North Korea.  This novel is a little bit of murder mystery and a little bit of North Korean national dynamics at work.  Part of what I enjoyed reading about was the context created by the communist government of North Korea – it is not hard to imagine that things are the way that Church writes (Church is the pseudonym for a former Western Intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia, according to the author byline).  I have the next Inspector O novel and may start it soon.
  • Mortgage Confidential by David Reed:  I found this to be a very accessible and helpful book.  Although, we have gone through the home-buying and mortgage application process before when we came to Norfolk, I thought it would be helpful to understand the process a little better.
  • Repentance & 20th Century Man by C. John Miller:  Hosea 6 & 7 got me thinking about the topic of repentance, so I borrowed this book from a friend.  This is a great little book on repentance – I especially appreciated Miller’s discussion of a false or man-centered repentance early on in the book.  As a whole, Miller drives the reader again and again to the person and work of Jesus Christ.   This book has been republished under the title Repentance:  A Daring Call To Surrender (available through Westminster Bookstore).

February Books

Here are the books that I completed reading in February.  These aren’t review exactly…more like my impressions:

  • The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever – This is one of the best books on evangelism that I have read (not that I have read a ton).  It is a relatively small book but it is packed with great thoughts and encouragement.  This is a book that I want to think about getting into the hands of other Christians (maybe a book of the quarter).  Here are the chapter titles (with author’s emphasis):
    • Why Don’t We Evangelize?
    • What Is the Gospel?
    • Who Should Evangelize?
    • How Should We Evangelize?
    • What Isn’t Evangelism?
    • What Should We Do After We Evangelize?
    • Why Should We Evangelize?
  • Soul Circus by George Pelecanos:  I picked this book up cheap at B & N after reading a brief review of a more recent Pelecanos novel.  This novel takes place in the inner-city of DC with an investigator/private eye as the main character.  I was not particularly moved by this book – it kept my attention, but there was nothing that really grabbed me.  In addition, due to the context of the book, it was fairly gritty and raw in some places.  Based on this one book, I am not sure I would read any others by Pelecanos.
  • The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller:  Keller wrote one of my favorite books last year (The Reason for God) and this one was published late last year.  I think this is a very important book for American Christianity to read and consider.  Many people think they have understood the heart of Christianity, but have really only experienced a poor facisimile.  So, with this book, using the story of the prodigal son (or Parable of Two Lost Sons) presents the gospel of Jesus Christ to the irreligious (the younger son) and the religious/moralist (the older son) – for both need to hear and respond to it.  Just recasting the meaning of prodigal was important for me to understand.  I loved this book and have given it or recommended it to others many times over.
  • Tripwire by Lee Child:  This is the third Jack Reacher book by Child.  Reacher is a former military policeman who helps people in trouble.  Child writes an enjoyable yarn and Reacher is an interesting character who has no personal ties, nor does he want any (in light of how we are relationally designed by God).  Child’s book are fairly formulaic, but are well written with elements of suspence, thriller, and mystery.
  • Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson:  Once I got into this book, I really enjoyed reading about Carson’s father – Tom.  D.A. Carson uses Tom’s own journals to tell his story.   Tom, was by all accounts an ordinary pastor in Canada who labored faithfully in a difficult place with precious little by way of visible results to his ministry.  Tom Carson was no pastor mega-star, but more than worthy of considering how he sought the Lord in his work.  He certainly was not perfect and D.A. does not shy away from pointing out some of the ways his father may have failed or not understood well the grace of God.  I was just about brought to tears by the end of the book and was encouraged in a number of ways as a pastor to read this book.  (Thanks Joel!)

December Books

These are the books that I completed reading in December.

  • In the Shadow of Memory by Floyd Skloot: This is one of those books that caught my attention while I was browsing through the library one day.  This book is a collection of essays telling Skloot’s story of living life after a virus had attacked his brain in 1988 and reads much like a memoir.  Skloot is a gifted writer, though he makes it clear that the work of the virus makes writing (and any number of routine tasks) anything but easy.  Skloot’s memory: of his history or the ability to remember what he was doing from one moment to the next – forms the backdrop for the questions that he asks of himself and about what it means to be human.  I really enjoyed reading this book and found it compelling, even if it stems from a very difficult past and present.  One thing really grabbed my attention:  “Chance is in charge.”  This conclusion of his life brought me great sadness, because it is not true.  Furthermore, Skloot does not really act like it is.  And yet, it is hard for some who have suffered greatly to not feel this way.
  • Whatever It TakesGeoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America by Paul Tough:  I was attracted to this book by an episode of This American Life.  Tough looks at Geoffrey Canada and the organization the Harlem Children’s Zone.  The book contains an interesting overview of various approaches to poverty that have been tried in the past and Canada’s approach to change Harlem.  Very good book.
  • Safe at Home by Richard Doster:  Richard Doster is the editor of ByFaith magazine (the official magazine of my denomination: Presbyterian Church in America).  This novel takes place in a generic southern town during the 1950’s and the plot centers around the integration of the local minor league baseball team.  Because it is hard for me to understand or imagine the kind of institutional racism (not to say it doesn’t still exist) that was present at this time, this was a very helpful book just from that point.  The story was also enjoyable, with characters that root for and empathize with.  My only complaint is that the story felt a little long and could have been brought to a conclusion sooner – though this may be in part due to my discomfort with the descriptions of racism and knowing that it wasn’t that long ago that “whites” were afraid to mix with “blacks”.
  • Meditating On the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (-translated by David McI. Gracie):  The strength of this book is in Bonhoeffer’s encouragement to meditate upon God’s Word in the first portion of the book.  I had a harder time with the sermons which made up a large portion of the book – partially due to the style.  Still an encouragement me in my study and meditation of God’s Word.

2008 Books (List)

Here is the list of books that I completed reading in 2008…a couple short of my goal (though I may still finish one book I am currently workng on).  I commented on most of the books from the second half of the year in my monthly book posts.  The date listed is the date I finished the book – next year I may also make note of when I begin (in some cases I may start a book and take a few months, while others may take a few days).  In another post, I’ll list my favorite reads this year.

Blink; Malcolm Gladwell  1/3/08 <began in 2007>
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Seeing Stone (Book 2); Tony Diterlizzi & Holly Black 1/3/08
Faceless Killers: A Kurt Wallender Mystery; Henning Mankell 1/7/08
The Blade Itself; Marcus Sakey 1/13/08
The Spiderwick Chronicles: Lucinda’s Secret (Book 3); Tony Diterlizzi & Holly Black 1/13/08
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Ironwood Tree (Book 4); Tony Diterlizzi & Holly Black 1/14/08
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Wrath of Mulgarath (Book 5); Tony Diterlizzi & Holly Black 1/14/08
Better Off:  Flipping the Switch on Technology:  Eric Brende 1/21/08
The End of Mr. Y; Scarlett Thomas 2/3/08
A History of the Amish; Steven M. Nolt 2/5/08
The Silver on the Tree; Susan Cooper 2/17/08
The Dogs of Riga: A Kurt Wallender Mystery; Henning Mankell 2/27/08
Samson and the Pirate Monks:  Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood; Nate Larkin 3/1/08
Blood Work: Michael Connelly 3/10/08
Simple Church; Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger 3/19/08
A Darkness More Than Night: Michael Connelly 3/19/08
Death of a Gossip; M.C. Beaton 3/31/08
Jumper; Steven Gould 4/5/08
God’s Big Picture; Vaughan Roberts 4/8/08
Growing People Through Small Groups; David Stark & Betty Veldman Wieland 4/11/08
Remembering; Wendall Berry 4/14/08
How Soccer Explains the World; Franklin Foer 5/15/08
The Seven Deadly Sins of Small Groups Ministry; Bill Donahue & Russ Robinson  5/27/08
The Chase; Clive Cussler 6/4/08
Walk On:  The Spiritual Journey of U2 by Steve Stockman 6/16/08
Respectable Sins:  Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges 6/24/08
The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen 6/30/08
Thunderstruck by Eric Larsen 7/15/08
The Lincoln Lawyer by Micheal Connelly 7/27/08
The Art of Pastoring by David Hansen 7/31/08
Manalive by G.K. Chesterton 8/15/08
City of Bones by Michael Connelly 8/24/08
What Is A Healthy Church Member? by  Thabiti Anyabwile 8/29/08
Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly 9/4/08
World Made By Hand by James Kunstler 9/8/08
The Road by Cormac McCarthy 9/14/08
Running Scared by Edward Welch 9/16/08
Humility by C.J. Mahaney 9/17/08
Lost Light by Michael Connelly 9/22/08
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller 9/28/08
What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris 10/4/08
Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll 10/6/08
Half-Life/Die Already by Mark Steele 10/8/08
When gods Die by C.S. Harris 10/20/08
Total Church by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis 10/28/08
Watchman by Ian Rankin 10/31/08
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau 11/2/08
Such a Strange Lady by Janet Hitchman 11/4/08
A Journey Worth Taking by Charles Drew 11/26/08
Francis Schaeffer:  an Authentic Life by Colin Duriez 11/28/08
In the Shadow of Memory by Floyd Skloot 12/7/08
Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough 12/15/08
Safe at Home by Richard Doster 12/28/09
Meditating On the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer 12/30/08
-translated by David McI. Gracie

July Books

Goal <to read 52 completed books in 2008> Update:  27 – That puts me off pace a little bit, but it’s just a goal.

  • Thunderstruck by Eric Larson:  This might be considered literary non-fiction.  Larson tells two stories that become interwoven at the end of the book.  One story is about Marconi and the development of the radiotelegraph.  The other story is about Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen and his famous crime at the turn of the century. Larson is a good story-teller, but some of the more technical portions (especially regarding Marconi) are not as smooth and thus detract from the overall enjoyment of reading – at least for me.  It was interesting Overall, it was an enjoyable read.
  • The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly:  I have been reading Connelly’s Detective Bosch series for awhile and have always enjoyed his writing and storylines.  This book has a very different character as the protagonist: a criminal defense lawyer.  This was a reasonably quick read for me and I have one complaint:  I wish Connelly had kept one of the main characters shrouded in a little more mystery (particularly regarding their guilt or innoncence).
  • The Art of Pastoring:  Ministry Without All the Answers by David Hansen:  This, by far, is one of my favorites reads this year.  Hansen writes about pastoral ministry in a way that is often lacking:  his focus is on the “being” of ministry, much more than the “doing.”  In this way, Hansen reminds me of another favorite author: Eugene Peterson.  This is a must read for pastors and would also help lay-people understand more the life of a pastor.  I also recommend Hansen’s Loving the Church You Lead.

I am still reading William Still’s The Work of a Pastor and am interested to compare these two books on pastoring.  So far, the content is similar, but the delivery of that content is very different (Hansen is a story-teller for one).

Also reading:  Manalive by G.K Chesterton  (the Vanity Fair picture below hangs on our living room wall)

June Books

Here are the books that I completed reading during the month of June and some thoughts on them.  I continue to be near my goal of reading 52 books this year – these four make 24 for the year.

  • The Chase by Clive Cussler:  I had not read a Cussler book in a long time – I used to read the Dirk Pitt novels a lot in high school and college.  The story and writing were not great, but I did enjoy it as a diversionary read.  I also hoped that it would help jump start my reading, since my reading desire had flattened (partially from being sick for a couple of weeks) and in this way, the book succeeded.
  • Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 by Steve Stockman: I am a U2 fan, but not a fanatic.  And so, I found this to be a great read for providing some contextualization of the band and some explanation of their music and their lives.  One major lesson:  U2 would not be who they are had they come out of an American Christian cultural context (one that pushes artists, especially musicians, into the cultural ghetto of CCM).  And for this we can be thankful.  As an aside, in reading this book, I realized that there are some gaping holes in my U2 CD collection.  That said, a day or two after finishing this book, I found used copies of October and War for $2 each!
  • Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges:  I have blogged on every chapter of this book!  You need not look far (on this blog) to my thoughts.
  • The Wounded HealerMinistry in Contemporary Society by Henri Nouwen:  I started reading this as I was preparing to preach on the kind of leadership that recognizes our brokenness from sin, but stands in Christ’s strength (that was last Sunday’s sermon).  I was amazed by the insight into cultural trends and modern pressures on man that Nouwen was able to articulate nearly 40 years ago when he wrote this book.  Each of the four chapters present particular to the minister who positions himself firmly within the depravity and darkness of our world.  The only thing I wish from Nouwen (in this and other books) is a more explicit connection to Christ, His Cross, and His Gospel.  I think it is there, but it often seems cloaked in generalities or must be read into words like “love” (which he very clearly intend in a very counter-cultural way).  Still, I really enjoyed this book and found it helpful in thinking about my role as a pastor and for calling others to Christian leadership.

Here are a few books I am currently reading and enjoying (among others):

  • Thunderstruck by Erik Larsen
  • The Work of the Pastor by William Still
  • Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin (highly recommended; worth buying for the first five chapters alone)

May Books

Sadly I only completed reading two books in May, which is a couple off my pace in earlier months. I do think that I can reach my goal of averaging a book a week in 2008, but is not a big deal if I don’t. Without further ado, I give you May Books:

  • How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Explanation of Globalization by Franklin Foer: This book prompted an earlier post on hooliganism or the lack thereof in American (USA) sports. I also gave initial thoughts on what I liked and didn’t like about that book. I really enjoyed the soccer part and found the connection with globalization lacking. In addition, the book was a little uneven and I struggled through a few chapters, while I was enthralled by others. One thing I did greatly appreciate throughout, was the use of phrases or words that were unfamiliar – this made reading this book fun and challenging.
  • Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry: A Trouble Shooting Guide for Church Leaders by Bill Donahue & Russ Robinson: As I have been evaluating and contemplating changes to our community group ministry at Calvary, this has been the best book I have read so far. This is partially due to our context, but also the premise of the book. Far from needing to know why we need community groups/small groups/covenant groups/growth groups/cell groups, I needed to know how to fix what we ‘ve got already. So, it has been very helpful to have a book that goes straight to the point of addressing the issues (for the record, we have broken most of “deadly sins”). The chapters alternate between describing a “sin” and providing some suggestions for correcting the problem. I am still working through all the implications, but this is a great resource for diagnosing and addressing the things that damage small group ministry. One small complaint: I got tired of hearing about how mega-church Willow Creek does things in each of the chapters. That said, they cannot help their context and I did think they offered the right tone (e.g. they were simply offering their thoughts and experiences vs. we are great so do it our way) and readily admitted their mistakes in small group or church ministry.

What are you reading currently or what in print has grabbed your heart/mind recently?

What I’m Reading: Jumper

I have completed reading about 17 books this year (my goal is 52). I am currently reading Jumper, the inspiration behind the recent movie (which I have not yet seen) Jumper

If you have been living under a rock (or don’t have a TV).  The book & movie are about a teenager who discovers that he can teleport (“jump”) to and from various locations.

I am currently about 1/3 of the way through the book and am finding it difficult to put the book down and go to sleep.  Here are some initial thoughts:

1)  First, the content of the book is raw and graphic in some places.  I don’t “recommend” books and movies for this reason.  We all must exercise discernment regarding our intake of various media.

2)  Without giving away too much…the main character, Davy, discovers his ability to teleport when he is threatened (physically and emotionally) in two different scenes and circumstances.  I think this is the appeal of the book and probably the movie as well – who of us hasn’t wanted to “jump” or get away from a difficult situation in our lives.  When we are embarrased?  When we are scared or threatened?  When we are ashamed?  This is how a lot of us feel.  The TV commercials for Southwest work on this same principle using humor instead of threat (“want to get away”).

3)  The author has written Davy as a very honest and broken teenager.  This is another appeal to the book I think.  As much as the honesty and brokenness are hard to read, it feels real.

4)  More thoughts as I continue to read.  Thus far, very engaging both with the main character and the trajectory of the plot.