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.
Another couple of months have come and gone, and with them more reading! I’ll be covering August and September in future posts, but in July, I read and listened to 12 books. Some of this was because I finished a longer one, but a big piece has to do with road-tripping. All that said, here’s what I read:
- Live from New York: An Oral History of Saturday Night Live by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
- Dark Nights: Metal by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
- Dark Nights: Metal: The Resistance by Williamson, Lemire, et al.
- Dark Nights: Metal: The Nightmare Batmen by Peter Tomasi and co.
- Canada by Mike Myers
- The Art of Rest by Adam Mabry
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
- Grit by Angela Duckworth
- Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
- The Outlaws of Time 3: The Last of the Lost Boys by N.D. Wilson
- The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle
As you can see, this was a pretty varied month, with comics, memoirs, social sciences, leadership and classic novels included. But we’ll start with Batman. (Because, Batman.)
A bananas Batman event + a retelling of Superman’s origin
In June, I read the prelude to the Snyder and Capullo’s Metal series, as well as the main series itself. In July, I went ahead and got into the collections of the tie-ins of the event (a storyline that ran through a number of Batman-associated books, as well as the one-shots about the Nightmare Batman characters who appear throughout the series. (And for kicks, I decided to re-read the Metal series because it was so bananas.)
Rarely, do you find an event where the side stories are actually important. But in Metal, that’s actually the case. I really enjoyed the latter collection as I loved seeing the villainous Batmen fleshed out in detail (specially “The Batman Who Laughs”, which is brilliant conceptually). The Resistance is a strong collection, although a bit hit-or-miss with the art. Both bring necessary depth to moments that only get a panel or two in the main series, and enrich the overall reading experience (especially in comparison to the prelude series).
Superman: Secret Origin is an excellent take on the Man of Steel’s beginnings by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, first released about 10 years ago, and is the basis of Superman’s origins in the Rebirth age as well (thanks to the magic of retconning and all kinds of comic book magic). The art is beautiful, the storytelling is excellent, and it is clearly a love-letter to the classic (and most famous) version of the character. Definitely a fun read.
SNL History, a Canadian Memoir, Culture & Grit
Live From New York was a fascinating book to engage with. I am a long-time fan of Saturday Night Live (I came of age in the Mike Myers/Dana Carvey era, just prior to Adam Sandler and Chris Farley becoming big deals). This book offers a peek behind the curtain, looking not only at the history of SNL but the way it operates. One painfully clear takeaway: the show works because of Lorne Michaels, which is both a testament to his vision for the show, but also a concern. Whenever any organization or institution is held together solely by the power of its “visionary leader,” it is more likely to disappear when that leader leaves or dies (as almost happened to SNL when Michaels quit the show in the 1980s).
Related to this book is a memoir that is really a love-letter to my homeland, Canada by Mike Myers. I shared on an episode of my podcast that this book is at its best when it sticks to a memoir about Myers and his career. That part of the book, including the difficulties of adjusting to being a public personality in Canada and beyond, make it worth reading. Where the book falls down is by engaging in extended political discussions, particularly the great hope Myers has in then-newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While, obviously, everyone has their right to an opinion and political views, the issue I had with this is Myers is speaking mostly from ignorance about what life is like in Canada now, when he hasn’t lived their in 30 years, so many of his arguments reflect a memory of a Canada that no longer exists, or an ideal of Canada that never has existed. What he gets right in the book, though, is that Canada is a nation without a mission statement. It has no defining moment that caused it to exist, which is why so many of us struggle to figure out what it means to be a Canadian in the first place.
Moving on to happier reads are Grit by Angela Ducksworth and The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. These books both had a great deal in common with one another, particularly in my desire to build a healthy culture on the team I lead at LifeWay. The crossover comes in perseverance and purpose—specifically in helping people meet high expectations. From a culture perspective, that means creating an environment where everyone on the team feels respected and knows they can speak candidly. From a personal perspective, it comes from consistent and honest encouragement that the people on the team are up to the challenge ahead of them. They’re not particularly earth-shattering books, but they do have some super-helpful nuggets (and Grit is one of my onboarding books for new team members).
Returning to Narnia & Concluding a Series
Despite what some curmudgeonly friends of mine like to say, the Narnia books are great. My daughters and I loved reading the books together, but I haven’t had an opportunity to do that with my son. So I started to fix that on a couple of recent road trips. We listened to the first two books in the series on the way to North Carolina and back in July and it was fantastic. The kids loved the books and were excited to listen at every opportunity. Now when we go on a road trip they’re asking if we’re going to listen to the next one (there are a couple we’ll probably skip, but you never know).
I also had the opportunity to read the final book in the Outlaws of Time series by N.D. Wilson. This last book features a pretty massive time jump from part two of the series and shifts the focus away from Sam and Glory to a 12-year-old boy named Alex who has read stories of their exploits, and whose life gets turned upside down when he learns that Sam and Glory are his parents. (Not a spoiler—it’s in the book’s description.) This one was much shorter than the other two books in the series, but it was super-fun to read. If you’ve enjoyed other books by Wilson, or you’re just looking for something new to try, this is a good one to pick up.
That’s it for July’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: