Hello 2013! It’s nice to see you.
Last year, about midyear, I started something that is destined to become a regular series here: writing about what I’m reading. The series includes book reviews, an update of what I’m reading and how my reading is going, and a list of the books I’m reading on the sidebar. You’ll notice they haven’t changed in awhile. I’ll get to that in a moment.
This series serves two purposes. First, it keeps me honest. Publishing the mid-year check in kept me going through the rest of the year. Plus, it gave me a chance to talk about everything I had read to that point. Anytime you can revive your reading is a bonus.
Second, discussing books and the ideas in them is helpful to people who have limited time and can use a quick summary and a suggestion or two about what’s good. I always appreciate a good book recommendation. Hopefully, you do too.
Rules for Reading
Before getting to the heap of books I intend to Ray Lewis tackle this year I learned enough last year to make a few rules for this year:
Nev’s Reading Rule #1: One book at a time.
I decided on this rule early last year and kept to it (mostly) throughout the year. The times when progress slowed were when I tried to read too many things at one time. I don’t focus as well when I feel pulled in many directions. If I have more than one book in my bag it’s as if I don’t know what to do so I do nothing. The one book rule keeps eliminates this tension. But that leads to rule #2.
Nev’s Reading Rule #2: Only accept books to read when there is time to read them.
Ever have someone tell you about a great book they read and then say “I’ll bring it to you,” then the next thing you know they’re handing you a book and you’re wondering when you’ll read it? That happened to me a couple of times this last year. No offense intended to anyone who loaned me books. Really, it’s my fault for accepting them. That’s why I created this rule. It’s less embarrassing to refuse a book than to keep one too long or give it back unread. This rule is flexible. If there’s time between books (see Rule #1 above) then by all means borrow the book.
Nev’s Reading Rule #3: Book reviews get priority.
I couldn’t possibly overstate how fantastic I think this bit of blogging is. For about two years now I have been requesting and receiving books as review copies from publishers. For FREE. But just like the Force, there’s a dark side. The publishers send me the books for a reason: to write a review. Last year I received Os Guinness’s A Free People’s Suicide and have yet to finish it. That’s why it’s still at the top of the sidebar list of books I’m reading (told you I’d get there). The book came in August and my life exploded with busyness right at the same time. This year I want to get the reviews done within a month of receiving the book.
That’s probably enough rules to break. Now for the list of books I intend to read this year.
As I mentioned, there are a few books that I did not get to last year so they end up at the top of the list here.
1. Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide
This book is great. I’m about two-thirds through. Guinness is convincing me that the problem we have in this country isn’t political it’s moral. Look for a review shortly.
2. Jonah Goldberg, Tyranny of Cliches:How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas
This looks like a great book. I’ve started it (violated Rule 1 above and got bogged down…see what I mean?) but now is the time to finish it and get a review up. Goldberg makes a compelling case about the many cliches that people in politics uses to end arguments when they think they are making them. It’s witty and fun and slightly depressing.
3. Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy
I read 1-2 biographies per year. Bonhoeffer was to be my second last Fall but I never got to it. This year, it’s at the top of the list. Sometimes you can see the hand of God in the timing of things. I’m starting to wonder if that’s the case with the resurgence of Bonhoeffer’s popularity given the times. That makes this book an important read.
Everything else that was on this list but not in this post will have to wait.
New Year’s Reading Goals
4. Wayne Grudem, Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture
Yeah, long title. I like Grudem because of his Systematic Theology. It’s easy to read and helpful when thinking through theological issues. I don’t always agree with him but do always give his ideas respect. I had the privilege of taking his last class at Trinity with about 68 of my closest friends. Yeah, that’s right. I totally name dropped like I know the guy.
5. Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God’s Image
This is a book I’ve owned for a long time but never read. Ever since I took a self study theology class when I first got to seminary, I have been enamored with the idea of God’s image in man. In many ways this is the foundational concept for a Christian worldview (really any worldview). Created in God’s Image also is indicative of my desire to read at a bit higher level this year than I did last year. No sense in making a list if you’re not going to challenge yourself.
6. Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places
This is the first in Peterson’s quintette on spiritual theology. Very interested to read this because Peterson is always insightful and eloquent.
7. Augustine, Confessions
A classic that I’ve never read. This time next year I won’t be able to say that.
8. Ernest Hemmingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls
What this list needs is some fiction. I’m a moderate fan of Hemmingway. This is one I’ve attempted before but never gotten too far. I’d like to read the last page this year.
9. George Orwell, 1984
Everyone talks about it but I’ve never actually read it. Now’s as good a time as any.
10. Tim Keller, The Prodigal God
I’ve heard a lot about Tim Keller but have read none of his works. This book comes highly recommended to me so I’ll start my journey into Keller’s thought here.
11. D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited
Carson is one of the best thinkers out there. His update of H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic is welcomed. Niebuhr’s ideas are insightful but his writing was unbearable. I’m hoping Carson is an easier, and therefore more helpful, read.
As much as I’d like to add a couple more, if I finish these I’ll be doing good. Plus, choosing a smaller list will leave some room in the year.
Here’s how the list breaks down by topic:
HIstory: 2 (if you include Augustine)
Philosophy/cultural thinking: 3
I like to do this exercise to reveal my biases. Clearly I’m most interested in cultural thinking and theology. Nothing wrong with that but I do find it helpful to balance them with history and fiction.
Enough about me. what about you? What’s the best book you read in 2012? What are you most looking forward to reading in 2013? What topics do you read most?
Leave a comment to let me know. I’d love to hear about books you’re reading!