Books I Read in May 2018
May was the freest month I've had so far this year. I didn't preach during the month, and I was only obligated to write one article. So, how did I fill my time? Well, baseball was one way. The other was reading.
Here are the books I read in May 2018. There were some good ones.
If you want to understand the African-American experience in the church, read this book. I saw my friend Jared Wilson post a picture of this on his Instagram account a while ago. I added it to my wish list that day and forgot about it until I had some Amazon money to spend. A year ago I decided to diversify my reading population to include more authors of color. I realized I was living inside a white bubble, and I didn’t know how to break out. So I started reading. Through that reading, I’ve learned to see the black experience in America with new eyes. I have not experienced what they have, but I believe them when they say it’s hard. And this book helped me see the gospel in the African-American experience. It should be required reading.
“Slavery had opened the door for the emergence of unchristian Christianity-ism.”
The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher
I’m late to the party on this book. Honestly, I didn’t fell like reading it when it came out. There were enough hot-takes on it to fill me at the time. But eventually I wore down and decided to listen to it on audiobook. It was a quick listen, and I liked some parts and had issues with others. I see why it led to much discussion, and I think it’s a discussion worth having. How Christians relate to the world is always complex and interesting, and while I don’t stand with Dreher on all of his points, I do stand with him on many, and I’m grateful for his contribution.
“A church that looks and talks and sounds just like the world has no reason to exist.”
Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger
Those who think baseball is a boring game simply don’t understand the game. To me, it’s endlessly interesting. Since I was a child, the game has held a place in my heart. Every April, I await opening day and every October I mourn a little when the World Series ends. Baseball is a game I’ve enjoyed with my father and my grandfather. It’s a part of my life’s foundation. So enjoying a book on baseball is like enjoying an ice cream cone—it’s just going to happen, no matter the quality. But this wasn’t a scrub book. This was a great book. It takes the reader inside the game unlike any other baseball book I’ve read. It follows one three-game series, going inside the strategy and mindset of it’s key players and managers. If you don’t like baseball, you may find it a bore. If you life baseball, though, you’ll smile all the way through.
“It is wrong to say that the new breed doesn’t care about baseball. But it’s not wrong to say that there is no way they could love it, and so much of baseball is about love… They have no use for the lore of the game – and poetry of its stories – because it can’t be broken down and crunched into a computer.”
Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
The best runners on earth come from a tribe in the mountains of Mexico that you’ve never heard of. As a former (not very good) running, I found this book fascinating. I knew some runners were crazy, but I didn’t know how crazy they could be. This story includes all kinds of strange people doing strange things: people running hundreds of miles, running for multiple days at a time, wearing nothing but sandals. The storytelling was good, and I found myself swept up into the runner’s world once again. It’s not just a story for runners (or former runners). It’s a story everyone would enjoy.
“Know why people run marathons? …Because running is rooted in our collective imagination, and our imagination is rooted in running. Language, art, science; space shuttles, Starry Night, intravascular surgery; they all had their roots in our ability to run. Running was the superpower that made us human — which means its a superpower all humans posses.”
An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones
Once upon a time, I read very little fiction. Then one day, I decided to change that. We all need stories to fill our minds. They help us see the world through new eyes, help us experience feelings we try too hard to hide, and give us categories of thought that help us understand others. Jones’s novel did all of that for me. It’s a sad story in so many ways, but it’s a story far too many in America live. And I wondered as I read this book what it must be like to be black in America, imprisoned for a crime you didn’t do, and released only to find the life you thought you had you’ll never have again.
“But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.”
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis
A book about friendship that changed the way we think. This story about two friends from Israel who find their way onto the front lines of psychology was better than I expected. The ideas were well presented, but one comes away with the value of friendship in pursuing big goals. Lewis argues that it takes two to make a great idea. What one man can come up with is nothing compared to what two can imagine. Friendship sharpens the idea into the revelation it becomes. I wonder: what could our friendships discover if only we were able to stick with them through all of life’s ups and downs?
“No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.”
Autumn: A Novel (Seasonal Quartet) by Ali Smith
Some books you enjoy without knowing exactly why you enjoy them. There was something about this book, and the friendship between an old man and a little girl who grew into a very old man and a grown woman that was enjoyable to me. Sometimes we don’t need much more than that. After all, reading should be enjoyable. If it’s not, why are you reading it?
“Regrets when you’re dead? A past when you’re dead? Is there never any escaping the junkshop of the self?”
Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis by Craig A. Carter
I enjoyed this book as much as any other I read this year. I always like reading about the Bible and how one preaches the Bible, but what Carter offers is more than just that. It’s a look at the historical importance of preaching Christ from all of Scripture. He opens with the question of if one can be faithful to preach Jesus as the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. He goes on to present a case as to why that’s the only way to preach it. But through the pages, he takes us down the paths of those who would argue against it, and he shows why they’re wrong not only because of their hesitancy to see Christ but because they’re being intellectually dishonest even as they seek intelligence. Carter’s work is a gift to the church and to every gospel preacher.
“Nothing is more fundamental to the Christian life than reading the text of Scripture and submitting one’s life to the One who speaks His Word through the human words of the inspired text. And nothing is more damaging to the Christian life than the attempt to secularize this act of reading; to do so is to act like an atheist. If reading in faith is how we become Christians, reading without faith is how we become atheists. So the stakes are high”
The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World by Roasria Butterfield
What an important book! I’ve love Rosaira Butterfield since the day she came and spent the weekend with us at Immanuel Church a few years ago. Her faith is real, and it is evident. She’s warm and hospitable in conversation and her words to the church are as important as ever. If we are to make a mark on the world with the love of Christ, we must cultivate homes to house that love and invite others into them. Hospitality is a gospel command—one we’ve too long ignored.
“God calls us to practice hospitality as a daily way of life, not as an occasional activity when time and finance allow. Radically ordinary hospitality means this: God promises to put the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6), and he intends to use your house as living proof.”
How to Get Unstuck: Breaking Free from Barriers to Your Productivity by Matt Perman
Matt Perman is the best thinker alive about how the gospel informs our productivity. His latest book is nothing short of life-changing for anyone who get stuck from time to time in their work. In other words, this book can be life-changing for everyone. It is practical and easy to follow. I’ve already implemented some of it and found myself breaking free.
“We can sum up what it means to be unstuck like this: getting important work done through obstacles.”
A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles
I saw this book make the rounds last year. It seemed almost everyone loved it. I finally got around to checking it out. I had to wait quite a while from my library. It was worth the wait. The story follows a man sentenced to imprisonment in a hotel. He can’t leave without being shot on the spot. The entire story takes place inside the walls of a great hotel in Moscow. The characters are fully-formed, well created, and interesting. The story is told beautifully through great writing. I highly recommend it.
“Alexander Rostov was neither scientist nor sage; but at the age of sixty-four he was wise enough to know that life does not proceed by leaps and bounds. It unfolds. At any given moment, it is the manifestation of a thousand transitions. Our faculties wax and wane, our experiences accumulate and our opinions evolve--if not glacially, then at least gradually. Such that the events of an average day are as likely to transform who we are as a pinch of pepper is to transform a stew.”