Reading is a big part of my life. Whether it’s with physical books, digital books or audiobooks, I am almost always reading something (or multiple somethings). In 2016, I decided to experiment with sharing a breakdown of everything I read each month, including the books I abandoned. I did this because it gave me an opportunity to introduce you to books you might not have had an opportunity to read while practicing the art of writing concise book reviews.
This year, I’d like to continue sharing these updates by sharing what I read in January. Over the course of the month, I read 12 books to completion (with several still ongoing):
- Seven Summits in Church History by Jason Duesing
- The Flash, Vol. 4: Reverse by Francis Manapul
- The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
- Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley
- The Barbarians are Here: Preventing the Collapse of Western Civilization in Times of Terrorism by Michael Youssef
- The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni
- Based on a True Story by Norm Macdonald
- Grayson Vol. 5: Spiral’s End by Tom King
- Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America by Michael Wear
- After America: Get Ready for Armageddon by Mark Steyn
- Mother Teresa: A Life Inspired by Wyatt North
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I recently wrote a larger review of Reclaiming Hope so I won’t be addressing it here. Instead, here are a few thoughts on the remaining 11 books.
History, biographies and political commentaries (oh my!)
I wound up reading more politically-focused books in January than I’d intended, with three on the list. The Barbarians Are Here is a tough one. It has some helpful points in it, but it is very much written from the “America is God’s chosen land” point of view and greatly lacks in gospel connection. Although the author explains his reason for using the word “barbarian” to describe terrorists,1 I didn’t find it helpful. For readers who tend to judge books by their covers, it’s off-putting. Ultimately, when it comes to concerns about strains of Islam, as well as Christians’ response to the potential collapse of culture, I’d encourage reading a book like Answering Jihad by Nabeel Qureshi instead.
Similarly, After America by Mark Steyn, his follow-up to America Alone, is as frustrating to read as it is incisive. Essentially, the book is an argument against the loss of America’s unique identity in the face of its slouching toward European-style social progressivism. In many ways, if someone is looking to understand the feelings that motivated many to vote for Donald Trump, it’s a helpful book to read. He goes overboard with his hyperbole, but Steyn does a solid job of confronting the legitimate problems with liberalism’s ideology. In many ways, his books are like Russell Moore’s dystopian fantasy ethics exams: both seem wildly unrealistic, but have a nasty habit of turning into reality.
Seven Summits in Church History is a short read in the vein of Ten Who Changed the World by Daniel Akin. Each chapter offers a very brief sketch of a significant figure from church history. If there is one criticism I could offer of the book (which is very well written), I would say that it spends too much time with figures from the Reformation and beyond at the expense of faithful men like Athanasius.
Based on a True Story is one of the most entertaining celebrity biographies I’ve read. If you liked MacDonald’s tenure on Saturday Night Live back in the 1990s. The book is rarely serious, and even more rarely true.
The Ideal Team Player is a pretty typical Lencioni book: a very simple principle wrapped in a leadership parable. This time, the big idea is this: ideal team players are humble, hungry, and smart. If one is missing, you’re going to have a problem.
Finally, Wyatt North’s book on Mother Teresa is one I’m somewhat disappointed in. The author does a good job of offering praise to the late nun’s life and background, but only briefly mentions her wrestling with a decades-long “dark night of the soul.” I would have loved to see this book a little more balanced showing readers the human side of Mother Teresa.
Books with pictures, on being introduced to Shakespeare, and American road trips
The Wednesday Wars focuses on the relationship between a student and teacher in the 1960s, with the Vietnam War running in the background. The student is certain his teacher is out to get him; instead, she is intent on helping him live up to his potential—and having him read Shakespeare to do it. It’s a sweet story and well-told.
Grayson Vol. 5 brings the series featuring Dick Grayson (the original Robin) to a close, as it gives way to DC’s Rebirth initiative and the lead character’s return to his role as Nightwing. It was a satisfying end to the series, although I would have loved to see Tom King and Tim Seeley bring it to a close themselves (they were pulled off the book to get a head-start on their runs on Batman and Nightwing, respectively).
Finally, there’s American Gods, a road trip around America punctuated by the refrain, “America is a bad place for gods.” The writing itself is excellent when Gaiman isn’t indulging in shady elements (I skipped over a number of passages due to shady content). While not morally praiseworthy, it is fascinating to see the hyper-modern/post-modern mind at work, trying to engage with mythology, religion, and the supernatural.
That’s it for this month’s round-up. Do you find these posts helpful? Do you have a suggestion for a book for me or someone else to read or want to share what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!
Here’s a look at what I read in:
- January 2016
- February 2016
- March 2016
- April 2016
- May 2016
- June 2016
- July 2016
- August 2016
- September 2016
- October 2016
- November 2016
- December 2016
- Specifically, of a radicalized Islamic nature. ↵