Every New Year’s Eve I make a series of resolutions. Lose weight. Make more money. Read more books. Lots of people do that, I hear. Most of the time I make them half-heartedly and promptly forget them. Lots of people do that, too. Or so I hear.
This year, I took a different approach: I made less resolutions with more resolution.
The main area I focused on was to read more. Since getting out of school the number of books appearing before my baby blue eyes has been woefully small. Maybe that is to be expected after that knowledge-fest also known as seminary. Still, if you’re not reading you’re not learning much and I wanted to be prouder of my reading this year than last. That’s a nice vague goal. More books in 2012 than 2011. Plus it has the added advantage of being easy to do since I only completed a handful of books last year.
Now that May is over, this seems like a good time to review the books I’ve read. Maybe you’ll find one or two interesting, too.
Here they are in the order I read them:
1. TrueFaced by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch
I got this book when I was in school for a project several years ago and read only about half of the book then. This time I was determined to plow through to the end, despite some challenging content, because we may do a study on it later in the year. When I say challenging, I mean spiritually challenging. The authors ask you to consider a life (and church) where grace is the only rule and masks are non-existent. Even though most of us would say we have no masks I think we are lying to ourselves. I certainly catch myself doing that, despite my good intentions. It takes real courage to take off the mask you wear and be honest about who you are. That’s what this book is about. Challenging but worth it.
2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
I heard about this book through another blog I like to read. Pressfield writes about the things that keep us from living up to our full potential. He calls it Resistance. It will kill you if you let it. But if you fight it, you can win and you can become very successful. I needed this kick in the pants and picked up this book because another of my goals this year is to be more productive with my time. No more giving in to fear or laziness. Pressfield helped me do that.
3. Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
More on Resistance but also direction on how to plan out and actually complete a project. Plus, it’s free if you have Amazon Prime.
4. Fathered by God by John Eldridge
This book is a follow up to Wild at Heart and another one I read for a study. We wrapped the study up with a few guys a couple of weeks ago. Eldridge walks the reader through the stages of the spiritual journey men take pointing out the sign posts and the ways God interacts with them along the way. This proved to be a good reminder of several things: (1) Passivity is evil. (Note that Eldridge rings the same bell as Pressfield. Think there’s a theme emerging this year for me?) Want to be a good father? Engage and act as God does. (2) It made me want to cherish my children more. We spend so much time trying to get them to do what we want them to do that we (mostly I, my wife is pretty good at this) forget the incredible gifts they are from the Lord.
5. Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff
Anyone who knows me and my lot in life is not surprised by this selection. A couple of observations about Jon Acuff. First, he is one funny dude. If you are Christian and not reading his blog Stuff Christians Like every week or so, you are missing out. Hilarious. And his personality comes through in Quitter. Second, Acuff has some good insight about his topic because he’s lived it. He worked a job he hated to get to the job he loved. This is not your typical “just do it” self-help book. In fact, it’s probably the antidote to all those kind of books out there. It was Quitter that inspired me to start writing again and get it in gear. Well, Acuff and Pressfield.
6. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I read these because the movie came out and there was all this hype for a series I’d never heard of. My wife read them and thought they were good. Also, I like to mix some fiction into the rotation sometimes. It’s fun to get swept away in a story and this is a good story. The political aspects of it are fascinating. Worth the read but not everyone will be able to stomach the idea of children killing one another. That’s kinda the point.
7. Pure Scum: The Left-Out, the Right-Brained, and the Grace of God by Michael A. Sares
Technically, I read this book in 2010 but it’s been sitting on my desk waiting for me to finish my review for almost two years. (There’s that “getting stuff done” theme again…) You can read my long awaited review of Pure Scum here. In finishing the review I read parts of it and remembered how much I liked this book. Sares is a good author but it is the stories he shares about his congregation that are truly moving. Worth the read for everyone.
Started but Not Yet Finished
1. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
I first heard of Francis Chan a couple of years ago but have never read his books. One friend of mine has read most of this one and is finding it very thought-provoking. Looking forward to this one. You can also get this book free with your Kindle along with Chan’s other works.
2. The Story of Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine by Robert Joseph Allen
This book was loaned to me by my grandfather when we visited them in Arizona. He and my grandmother live not far from Superstition Mountain in the winter. As happens when you are in a new place you hear stories and legends about things that happened there, I kept hearing stories about the events around Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine including hunting for treasure, murder, and a missing gold mine. I was intrigued and fortunately Grandpa had a book on the subject. Reading it slowly but it’s a fun one.
3. Building a Church of Small Groups by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson
I like this book because I believe real spiritual change happens in small groups. I started it because I would like to be a pastor of small groups. The authors work through why small groups are a good plan for all churches and how to properly establish a small group ministry so that your church becomes a church of small groups, not a church with small groups. I should finish this one soon. I read a follow up to this one last year (out of order, I know) called the Seven Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry which is also very good.
The Stack of Books I Hope To Read Before The Year is Out
1. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
A copy of this book came into my possession by way of a pastor not long ago. Tozer, obviously, is classic. It’s kind of a travesty that I haven’t read anything by him in my life. This is the year to change that.
2. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
This will be a summer read. Had it since Christmas. I hear Jobs was an amazing figure and I know from his Benjamin Franklin biography that Isaacson is a good writer.
3. Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
This book comes recommended to me as a good one about being a spiritual leader. I am finding myself in more and more situations where spiritual leadership is required (not least of which is home) and could use some insight into doing it well. If you know a book that’s better I’ll take your recommendations below.
4. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
I’m becoming a fan of Metaxas through Facebook where I subscribe to his feed. Always something interesting to say and a positive voice for Christian issues that are currently dominating the political conversation. He filled in for Chuck Colson on Breakpoint while Colson was dying. Before that, I was not very interested in Bonhoeffer but now I’d like to read it. I don’t currently own this book so if someone wants to send a copy my way I’d be grateful.
5. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future by Os Guinness
Looks like a Christian perspective on freedom and what it will take to preserve America as we know it. Comes out in August 2012.
6. Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster
This came out late last year. Foster has been one of my favorite authors for years now. His work first introduced me to meditative prayer and now here he has a book delving deeper into the subject. Looking forward to reading – and more importantly, practicing – about prayer.