I am always consuming books, whether they’re physical, digital or audio. Every month, I like to share a breakdown of everything I read, including the books I abandoned. I do this because it gives 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.
In April, 2017, I read 11 books to completion and started or continued another four that I started but have yet to complete. Here’s what I read:
- The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
- Superman, Volume 2: Trial of the Super Sons by Peter J. Tomasi, Pat Gleason et al.
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
- Green Arrow, Volume 1: The Death and Life of Oliver Queen by Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra
- Green Arrow, Volume 2: Island of Scars by Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra
- The Outlaws of Time: The Song of Glory and Ghost by N.D. Wilson
- The Prestige by Christopher Priest
- Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better by Brant Hansen
- The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher
- Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Overall, this was probably my happiest reading month I’ve had in ages. I read lots of books that I enjoyed, and the ones that were kind of so-so were still pretty good. Here are a few thoughts:
Books with pictures: A super-Superman and a social justice warrior with arrows
Two volumes in, Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason’s run on Superman is already, without question, one of the finest takes on the character in more than 10 years. This volume starts to explore the relationship between Superman and Batman, as well as the relationship between their sons (Superboy and Robin). The kids are drawn like kids, and characterized like kids, rather than short adults. And if that’s not enough, this volume includes a trip to Dinosaur Island. Glorious stuff.
I’ve never been a big Green Arrow fan. Not that there aren’t good stories featuring him, of course. I’ve just never connected with him. Benjamin Percy has a tough job with his run: bringing the character back to his core after already having a brief (and from what I hear, not particularly well-loved) run on the character just prior to the Rebirth era. The first volume starts off strong—really strong, in fact as it reestablishes the best elements of the character.
But instead of immediately picking up directly at the first volume’s cliffhanger, which sees Queen stranded on an island once again (a significant element of his origin story), Percy opens with a two-part story taking place in two timeframes and focused on Queen’s half-sister, Emiko. She fights the Clock King, who is reimagined as a drug dealer selling energy enhancing (and stealing) watches (one of which she has and later puts on her brother), as well as a Yakuza boss who can transform into a dragon. Later, we’re brought back to the stranded Green Arrow, who is rescued (and canoodled) by Black Canary before a brief adventure on the island before heading back to America while fighting bad guys on an underwater train. Sounds strange, right?
This volume is clearly a middle part of a larger story. It’s decent and has some clever dialogue and action sequences, but… I don’t know. It also feels a bit like it’s filler. Like there’s something bigger coming, but Percy wasn’t quite ready to go there. But some of that might also be attributed to the multiple artists involved, and not nearly enough of the one I enjoy the most (Otto Schmidt). Will I continue with the series? I’m intrigued enough to at least see where the next volume goes, but I’m not sure it’s one that I’d call essential.
Strategy, taking offense, and staying faithful
The Art of War is considered a leadership classic, which is why I wanted to read it. Probably the most helpful element of the book to me is the stressing of character-based leadership. This style doesn’t rely on charisma nor on positional authority, but on who you are as a human being. As you can imagine, this is harder than it seems. I’ve no doubt there’s a ton I missed in reading this book, so I’m going to be returning to it in the near-ish future.
I shared a little about Unoffendable last week, and I’m still considering it’s central point which is that when the Apostles wrote that we are to put away anger, they really did mean we are not to be angry people. We are to let go of anger, not be fueled by it. Imagine what that might look like for us, especially as we live in a world thrives on hate and discord.
The Benedict Option. Where do I even begin with this one? First, it’s not a bad book. The arguments made are generally sound, especially Dreher’s point that sooner or later certain fields are going to be closed to Christians. In fact, this book has a lot in common with Trevin Wax’s This Is Our Time. The difference is posture. Where Trevin comes from a place of hopeful confidence in the gospel, Dreher’s book is more defensive, seeming to rely on fear as the motivator rather than our love for Jesus in being salt and light in the world.
Crimes of art, startling tales, and Norse gods behaving badly
I read a lot of fiction this month, and of a number of different genres. The Art Forger is an intriguing mystery involving the reproduction of a painting stolen years ago—which may itself have been a forgery. This was, from what I’ve read, Shapiro’s first novel, so it has a few first-time jitters. It contains a relatively small amount of sexual content, which (of course) does nothing to further the plot.
The Prestige was fascinating to read. I saw the movie years ago and loved it, but the book is a very different animal (in all the best ways). The basic beats are the same, but it’s a much darker story than you’d expect and very well told. Check it out.
Two very different Neil Gaiman books were on tap as well. Fortunately, The Milk is a fun tale for families to enjoy together, involving time travel, aliens, volcanoes, and Dinosaurs in space—all while a father is desperately trying to get the milk back in time for his children to have it on their cereal. Norse Mythology is Gaiman’s spin on the classic stories of Thor, Odin and the others in the pantheon. These are not morality tales, because the Norse gods are terrible people. But they are fascinating nonetheless.
Finally, if Outlaws of Time: The Song of Glory and the Ghost were the last book I read before Jesus returned, I would have no regrets. The rare sequel that exceeds the quality of its predecessor, this continuation of Sam Miracle’s story will make for short work on a Sunday afternoon. Go get one for yourself (and a few for your friends, too).
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: