Three More Books I’ll Be Reading in 2012

A few weeks ago, I shared three reasons for diversifying our reading habits in 2012. Over the course of the ensuing conversation, a number of people asked if I’d share what books I’m going to be reading. Here are three I’ll be reading:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts–from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a “pretend extrovert.”

Check out the book trailer:

[tentblogger-youtube 2Z35cOTo2Ns]

Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker

Brands are dead. Advertising no longer works. Weaned on TiVo, the Internet, and other emerging technologies, the short-attention-span generation has become immune to marketing. Consumers are “in control.” Or so we’re told.

In Buying In, New York Times Magazine “Consumed” columnist Rob Walker argues that this accepted wisdom misses a much more important and lasting cultural shift. As technology has created avenues for advertising anywhere and everywhere, people are embracing brands more than ever before–creating brands of their own and participating in marketing campaigns for their favorite brands in unprecedented ways. Increasingly, motivated consumers are pitching in to spread the gospel virally, whether by creating Internet video ads for Converse All Stars or becoming word-of-mouth “agents” touting products to friends and family on behalf of huge corporations. In the process, they–we–have begun to funnel cultural, political, and community activities through connections with brands.

Walker explores this changing cultural landscape–including a practice he calls “murketing,” blending the terms murky and marketing–by introducing us to the creative marketers, entrepreneurs, artists, and community organizers who have found a way to thrive within it. Using profiles of brands old and new, including Timberland, American Apparel, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Bull, iPod, and Livestrong, Walker demonstrates the ways in which buyers adopt products, not just as consumer choices, but as conscious expressions of their identities.

Part marketing primer, part work of cultural anthropology, Buying In reveals why now, more than ever, we are what we buy–and vice versa.

The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada by Marci MacDonald

In her new book, award-winning journalist Marci McDonald draws back the curtain on the mysterious world of the right-wing Christian nationalist movement in Canada and its many ties to the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.

To most Canadians, the politics of the United States — where fundamentalist Christians wield tremendous power and culture wars split the country — seem too foreign to ever happen here. But The Armageddon Factor shows that the Canadian Christian right — infuriated by the legalization of same-sex marriage and the increasing secularization of society — has been steadily and stealthily building organizations, alliances and contacts that have put them close to the levers of power and put the government of Canada in their debt.

Determined to outlaw homosexuality and abortion, and to restore Canada to what they see as its divinely determined destiny to be a nation ruled by Christian laws and precepts, this group of true believers has moved the country far closer to the American mix of politics and religion than most Canadians would ever believe.

McDonald’s book explores how a web of evangelical far-right Christians have built think-tanks and foundations that play a prominent role in determining policy for the Conservative government of Canada. She shows how Biblical belief has allowed Christians to put dozens of MPs in office and to build a power base across the country, across cultures and even across religions.

“What drives that growing Christian nationalist movement is its adherents’ conviction that the end times foretold in the book of Revelation are at hand,” writes McDonald. “Braced for an impending apocalypse, they feel impelled to ensure that Canada assumes a unique, scripturally ordained role in the final days before the Second Coming — and little else.”

The Armageddon Factor shows how the religious right’s influence on the Harper government has led to hugely important but little-known changes in everything from foreign policy and the makeup of the courts to funding for scientific research and social welfare programs like daycare. And the book also shows that the religious influence is here to stay, regardless of which party ends up in government.

For those who thought the religious right in Canada was confined to rural areas and the west, this book is an eye-opener, outlining to what extent the corridors of power in Ottawa are now populated by true believers. For anyone who assumed that the American religious right stopped at the border, The Armageddon Factor explains how US money and evangelists have infiltrated Canadian politics.

This book should be essential reading for Canadians of every religious belief or political stripe. Indeed, The Armageddon Factor should persuade every Canadian that, with the growth of such a movement, the future direction of the country is at stake.

Looking forward to digging into these—I’m already a couple of pages into Buying In (which I purchased on recommendation of my wife) and it’s fascinating stuff.

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  • http://philippians314.squarespace.com/ Kim Shay

    I was a history major; that third book looks good.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      When I first heard about this book, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be satire. My first thought was “Militant Fundamentalist Christians… in Canada?”

  • http://www.housewifetheologian.com/ Aimee Byrd

    Man, now I’m going to have to add more books to my list! The first two look very intriguing for me…

  • http://cleverphrasehere.blogspot.com/ Amber

    I just finished Quiet and enjoyed it (though at times I felt she overstated things). I especially found interesting what it had to say about introverts in the workplace.

    I love this line from the Armageddon Factor intro: “The religious right’s influence on the Harper government has led to
    hugely important but little-known changes in everything from foreign
    policy…to social welfare programs like daycare.” Nooooooo!!!!!!! Not daycare! The fiends are out to destroy your country!

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      It’s true—some of us are even pro-homeschooling. Gasp!

  • http://elehack.net/jennifer/ Jennifer Ekstrand

    I have an audio book version of Buying In from the library that I hope to “read” soon; I just need to finish a few things up first.

    Quiet looks like a good book. After seeing that my library had ordered it, I requested it, later cancelled it as I tried to pare down my to-read list, and have since re-requested it. All that to say, I look forward to your thoughts, hoping it will be help me actually make a decision about whether it is worth reading in light of the hundreds of books that I would like to read.

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