Book Review: Narrative Apologetics

Narrative Apologetics

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Short book, but difficult read with academic style and assumed advanced knowledge of apologetics

Summary
Narrative apologetics as a concept is essentially using stories as an apologetic and even evangelistic tool. Not the ‘major conversion’ testimony style, but more of fiction stories that show longing and comparing that to God’s story or something like the exile to explain how we live in the world today.

The book is broken into seven chapters – Introducing Narrative Apologetics, The Theological Foundations of Narrative Apologetics, The Practical Application of Narrative Apologetics, Biblical Narratives: Opening Windows of Perception, Strategies and Criteria for Narrative Apologetcs, The Christian Story and the Meaning of Life, Handing Over: Developing Narrative Approaches to Apologetics. Additionally, there are roughly 20 pages of notes to end the book.

My Thoughts
I’ll start by saying the content of the book isn’t as bad as my rating may suggest. Where it fails is being related to a popular audience. I could be wrong, that might not be the target audience for this book, however, when you write a book that is under 150 pages, I have to think your goal was to reach a wide array. I’ll start with the good, though. The content is solid, and the strength of the book is the Biblical Narrative and The Christian Story chapters. I think these are the best in explaining what narrative apologetics is and what to do with it.

However, the book just feels off. It doesn’t feel like a stand alone book. I seems more like an intro chapter in a large tome of apologetics. If you have ever read one of those 900-1,300 page academic systematcs, you’ll know that ‘theology proper’ intro is usually around 100 pages (which this book would probably shift two with large page size).

As you can tell by the chapter titles, the book is also written in a very academic style. There are numerous citations on every page, a good bit of the in this chapter we will..and we have seen… to begin and end the chapters, and of course the typical academic repetitiveness. The chapters don’t necessarily stand on their own, but still make references to other chapters yet still summarize. So, even as short as it was, it could have been edited even shorter.

Again, the content is pretty good, and could be worth reading if you know what you are getting into. If you buy the book to get an academic intro to a larger concept, I think it could be alright, but as an attempt to reach a popular audience, I really think it missed. If you are interested, I’d just search around and see if there is a shorter academic paper or a popular talk/interview he has done on the topic and maybe go from there. As it is, though, the book just probably isn’t worth your time.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Confronting Old Testament Controversies

Cover Art

Confronting Old Testament Controversies

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Moderate difficulty (good knowledge of OT and history, but written for popular audience), medium length (about 300 pages)

Summary
The content of the book is straight from the title, reviewing controversial passages from the Old Testament. Longman is an Old Testament scholar, so there is much of his own research and writing on his view, but he interacts with at least 2-3 opposing views/books on each subject.

The lay out of the book is the introduction (un-paginated, but y’all need to read it) then the four controversies (Creation & Evolution, History, Divine Violence, Sexuality) and then an epilogue (he titles ‘Final Word’). Each chapter is broken into three or four subsections with a conclusion at the end and an excurses or two along the way. The other chapters are probably clear, but ‘History’ refers to the Exodus and the Conquests.

My Thoughts
The only real critique I have is probably an issue for the publisher, the subtitle list Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence which neither matches the order of the chapters, nor is it in alphabetical order. Not sure why they chose they order they did, and maybe it doesn’t bother anyone else, but here we are.

I think books like this will only become more important as we move further in our post-Christian world (at least in the West). The subtitle of Enns’ The Bible Tells Me So… really explains our situation: ‘Why defending Scripture has left us unable to read it’. This was the way I learned about the Bible in high school, and I hear much of this way of thinking form people today. This is especially true for the first two chapters (Creation & Evolution, and History). People want to rush to defend it in a modern way against modern critiques and ignore what the point was (and still is) from a theological perspective when it was written thousands of years ago. I should note if you like Enns, Longman was his professor at one point and interacts with his book in this book.

I believe strongly that everyone should have this book for the first two chapters alone. I fear one reason we argue the way we do about Genesis and early books is it is just simpler. We don’t want to reason, or read, or understand something beyond the basics, most ‘literal’ understanding. This book would do well to challenge both people ‘for & against’ some of the readings of the early books of the Bible.

The Divine Violence section was maybe the weakest, but I think it is still an important one. Some of the most basic attacks from New Atheists are based on things like the so called genocide and cosmic child abuse. While this isn’t as strong as other sections, it is well worth interacting with, if for no other reason than learning more of the other side. Similarly, there probably isn’t much new for most people about Sexuality. The Bible is pretty clear, and most arguments against this perspective come down to personal preference (E.g. I think it is fine if they love each other, who cares?, etc.) However, this section does give some good verses as well as the whole picture throughout the Bible. Maybe more interesting than that, it also puts the spotlight back on us and challenge the fact of polygamy in the Bible, which was fairly challenging.

As I mentioned above, this really is a must read for anyone who wants to take the Bible seriously. If we care about the Bible and want to understand it (and views against it), we need to interact more with controversies and other hard aspects that challenge our understanding or reading of the Bible.

 

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Power of Christian Contentment

The Power of Christian Contentment: Finding Deeper, Richer Christ-Centered Joy by [Davis, Andrew M.]

The Power of Christian Contentment: Finding Deeper, Richer Christ-Centered Joy

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, Easy

Summary
The book is broken into four parts – The Secret of Contentment, How to Find Contentment, The Value of Contentment, and Keeping Content. Each section is contains two to four chapters, for a total of 12. The two chapters of part one, set out the foundation of the book. He refers to The Rare Jewel of  Christian Contentment, a collection of sermons by Puritan pastor Jeremiah Burroughs. In the second chapter, he points to Paul and all he suffered, and to the well known verses in Philippians 4, where Paul states that he has learned to be content in all situations. Davis refers back to The Rare Jewel and Paul’s writings throughout the rest of his book.

My Thoughts
I think overall this is a pretty good book. I’m always hesitant to recommend a book that seems to just expand on another book (other than the Bible). The cynical side of me would say skip this book read Rare Jewels instead, especially because you can find it for free online. That said it is written by a Puritan and (at least the copy I found) isn’t updated English. In addition, Burroughs could not have imagined the power, let alone prosperity Christians find themselves in today, so an update is needed.

The strength of the book, and probably worth the read on it’s own, is Chapter 10, Contentment in Prosperity. This is the main issue with the American Church today, and he has a good bit of stats and convicting challenges in this chapter. I’m not big into marking up my books, but I had to make notes on a few pages on this chapter.  I think he makes an important call to Christians. Usually, the call to contentment is in a time of less, but he points out the ‘abundance’ we currently have, and yet we are still not content (on the whole), so we seem to be doing something wrong.

This chapter, along with the commentary on a Paul and the distillation of the classic, Rare Jewels, this is a book to put on your list. If you are specifically interested/concerned with contentment, this is probably (outside of Paul) you best bet to get started. Davis is a strong writer that goes deep, but keeps it accessible to a wider audience.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Good Metal Friday 2019

I post the guys all the time, but only because they have the best content of any Christian Metal out there. This song is taken/based on a quote from the puritan John Flavel. See the quote below, watch the video, listen to the song, and think (maybe even ponder) and the bargain that Christ made for us. He took on our debts, our sins, and trespasses, and paid them all, paid them in full; with his blood. He drank the cup of God’s wrath, that we would have everlasting life.

Today, on Good Friday, we commemorate His death, His propitiation of our sins, that we me be seen as blameless before God. His death was the substitutionary atonement for our sins. He took our place, so that we can have a place with Him, as adopted sons and daughters of God. Reflect on this tomorrow, as we await the commemoration of the resurrection and think of the hope we have.

“Here you may suppose the Father to say when driving His bargain with Christ for you.The Father speaks. “My Son, here is a company of poor, miserable souls that have utterly undone themselves and now lay open to my justice. Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them.” The Son responds. “Oh my Father. Such is my love to and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally I will be responsible for them as their guarantee. Bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee. Bring them all in, that there be no after-reckonings with them. At my hands shall thou require it. I would rather choose to suffer the wrath that is theirs then they should suffer it. Upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.” The Father responds. “But my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite. Expect no abatement. Son, if I spare them… I will not spare you.” The Son responds. “Content Father. Let it be so. Charge it all upon me. I am able to discharge it. And though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures… I am content to take it.”

  • The Works of John Flavel, Vol.1, “A Display of Christ in His Essential and Mediatorial Glory”, 42 Sermons, Sermon Number 3, “The Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Redeemer”, Use 6.

 

Book Review: The Rise of Endymion

The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion)

This is the final book in the series, check out my review of the other three – Hyperion, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion.

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Easy, Long (just over 700)

Summary
This is a nearly seamless continuation of the story from Endymion. Raul, after having separated from Aenea, continues on his own journey with the end goal of meeting back with her as planned. Captain de Soya is brought out of exile and commanded to continue his pursuit of Aenea as the Pax, the Church, and the Core all seek to capture her. As the final story in the Cantos, this is where they all come together and finally meet, and the story concludes with two big twists, one is you didn’t see coming, and the other, which was underwhelming, see below if you don’t mind spoilers (if a book published over 20 years ago fall under spoiler protection).

My Thoughts
The beginning of this book is so smoothly integrated to the prior in the series that they must have been written together. That being said, he may have intended this book to be two. For one, it was over 700 pages, but striking, it seems rushed at the end. By the last quarter of the book, he has over 2,000 pages of story written, and the story-line endings are wrapped up much too quickly. This is particularly true with the Shrike and the final scenes of Aenea.

After being the focal point, in some ways, of the first two books, the Shrike might as well not exist in this story. He plays a few roles in the early and middle parts of the book, but this is essentially written out. This might have been by design, but it is left up to the imagination exactly who/what he is. We know he is from the future, and seems to switch sides, but it never become clear who actually sent him. His ending doesn’t necessarily feel rushed as much as it does that the whole of the story and Simmons himself, just moved on.

The other issue I had, and this was certainly due to rushing, was the ending with Aenea. At this point, we are four books in, thousands of pages, and we are clearing reaching the apex of the story arc, and then, it is just…over. The attack, they fail (as she states throughout the book, so not a spoiler) and she dies. It is maybe a few pages and very much anti-climatic.

That’s not to say the book isn’t worth reading, it is a great book, I enjoyed a good 500-600 pages of it, but it is just a bit rushed at the end. On its own, I might rate it at three (maybe a four, as there are some trippy sci-fi thoughts in here, such as falling in a gas giant planet, and how long you can fall and still be in the atmosphere), if you are looking for something, but if you’ve read the other three, you have to finish it. It really become a must read.

Spoilers
There are two twist/surprise endings as I mentioned above. I’ll start with the bad, the future time that Aenea and Raul spend on Earth. It was just kind of dumb. You start to see it coming, especially the more they talk about her child and how she can’t talk about it. The bigger issue is, it doesn’t work with time travel. That doesn’t need to be so many months, it can appear as a second, because it doesn’t actually exist in regular time. The other twist was incredible, did not see it coming at all and is maybe worth these two books on their own. Simmons could have developed the idea of Watchers a bit more, or gone into some more, like I said, he seemed a little rushed, but having A. Bettik be one, was just brilliant writing.

Book Review: Endymion

Endymion (Hyperion)

This is the the third book in the series, check out my reviews for the first two books – Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion.

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy, long (just over 500 pages)

Summary
Almost 300 years after the Fall of  Hyperion, we do not know the fate of the Pilgrims, and apparently never will. This story focuses in a young man, Rual Endymion, who, after being convicted of murder, is sent on a quest to rescue a young girl from the Time Tombs, destroy the Pax, stop the TechnoCore, find Earth, and then reunite the old man with the girl to see Earth again.

The story is written from the perspective of Rual, who has already been caught, tried, and sentenced by the Pax. He recounts the story from his imprisonment. The memoir style adventure includes rescuing the girl, escaping Hyperion, and running from the Pax by sailing down the old Hegemony river through multiple worlds, before the book ends half way through their journey.

My Thoughts
The opening page starts with the statement of reasons why not to read this book. Included among them was to find out what happened to the Pilgrims, that is to say, if you want to read a sequel to Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion. My first thought was, what the hell? that is exactly why I bought this book, and its sequel. In many ways, this is not really a sequel to those previous books. It is more a completely new story, but that is built in the same world as the prior, but only relates in that the world(galaxy) has changed and it was all due to what happened in the prior books. So, in that way, it is a little frustrating.

However, it is still a great story, once you sift your mind away from the previous books in the Cantos. Like the previous books, it is written with quick, engaging action and solid, relatable characters. While the prior books were an ensemble cast, this one is mostly on Endymion, especially as he serves as the narrator, but there are several other characters on which the book focuses, that are not directly in his orbit. Again, Simmons uses varies story threads, one chapter focusing on Endymion, then the next one of their pursuers, then the next yet another antagonist, then back to him in the next.

Overall, if you like sci-fi you are going to enjoy this book. If you have read the previous two, you could probably pick it up. Simmons writes the book with references to the prior books, but has Endymion or other characters explain bits (or expand and create new aspects that didn’t exist), almost as if they are trying to remember. Even without reading the Cantos so far, this book is one to put on your list, but if you’ve already read them and are familiar with the universe, it is a must read. This particular book leaves too much hanging, leaving feeling a little wanting, but the final book in the series ties (to some extent) it all back together. So, read this one, then finish the Cantos and you’ll have gone through one of the great, especially for how little known, works of far future science fiction out there.

 

 

Book Review: 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read; short (just over 200)

Summary
Pretty self-explanatory; Reinke lays out 12 ways he believes your smart phone (and social media) are impacting you. The book is, unsurprisingly, broken into 12 chapters – addicted to distraction, ignore flesh and blood, crave immediate approval, lose our literacy, feed on the produced, become what we ‘like’, get lonely, get comfortable in secret vices, lose meaning, fear missing out, become harsh to one another, lose our place in time. There is also a preface and an intro called ‘theology of technology’, as well as a conclusion on how to live with a smart phone and an epilogue.

My Thoughts
I was torn on exactly how to rate this book, it is one of those times where I’d like to give a 4.5, but ultimately, if you haven’t read anything about the impacts of smart phones/social media or you haven’t read about those impacts from Christian perspective, I think then it is a must read. If you’ve read a few of these, it is worth putting on your list.

Overall, Reinke has given us a broad survey into the issues with technology/social media. The strongest aspect of the book is that he himself is a big advocate and user of technology. So, you have someone who is appreciates and enjoys the different media (though, somewhat amusingly, he doesn’t appear to know the origins of Snapchat), who also understand the dangers, while not wanting to let it go. I appreciate his honesty and preservative in that way.

The book is a good way to get a taste of the issues. Reading it, you might be left feeling a little wanting, as almost every chapter could be it’s own book. As I mentioned, it is broadly researched and he pulls from many sources and people. I had not heard of some of the ‘Instagram models’ who quit and pulled away. I’ve seen the research on how often people check their phone and the impact of Facebook on happiness and well being, but I had seen a response or commentary on these impacts from a distinctly Christian viewpoint.

I found much of the book to be fascinating, but I have to confess that I viewed much of it as an outsider. I’ve never been on Facebook (despite being in college when it started, when it was only for college students), I occasionally use twitter, and I still don’t really understand the point of Instagram. I also dislike starting at a glowing blue screen, and really only carry a phone when Mrs. MMT insists. However, the friend from whom I borrowed this book found it impactful and Mrs. MMT is actually attempting to modify some of her habits after reading.

While I couldn’t always relate, I do empathize with people who struggle in the ways depicted in this book and the book finishes strongly with suggestions on how to live with your smart phone and social media. I think the practical tips could be of value to many people. Realistically, if you have ever wondered if you use your phone/social media too much, or if it is negatively effecting you, then it probably is and for you this might be a book to add to your list or a must read.

Book Review: The Big Sort

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy read; moderate length (300+)

Summary
With increased mobility, the country to more and more choosing to live in areas of like-minded people. This has the effects both of intensifying our own beliefs and not knowing anyone else with ideas different from ours. This has had profound impacts on our national politics. The book is divided into four parts – The Power of Place, The Silent Revolution, The Way We Live Today, and The Politics of People Who Live Like Us. Each part is broken into three chapters each. There is also a great intro, if you are in a library or can find a book store, it’d be worth your time to go head and read at least this chapter.

My Thoughts
You might think the title is a riff on the largely known book and popular movie, the Big Short; I did, but actually, this book was written almost a year ahead of it. I have no idea if the titles are independent, or if the short was a play on the sort.

The basic premise of the book is that we are in fact living in more and more like communities and that this change is bad for us. We live increasingly with people just like us. That is fairly easy to prove, based on census data, voting data, and surveys. What he spends much of the rest of the book showing, is that this separation leads to negative consequences. For instance, social psychology of groups/tribes (as chapter three is called). Experiments showing people are more likely to have the extreme view than individuals – attempting to show you belong. On scale of 1-10 on how liberal/conservative someone is, the group average may by a six, but when they all get together or have to make a joint decision, that response ends up being an eight.

So, you have this odd case where the decision or policy of the group ends up being further on the spectrum than most of the individual members. Then you end up with the corollary, that you can’t imagine another person have the opposite view, the view that is different from the group. This is exacerbated with the sorting of our communities so that one might not even come into contact with someone of a different political belief.

He also writes on the move in marketing to focusing on tribes. He describes two white women that advertisers had previously seen as the same (age, income, gender, ethnicity), but now targets them differently, mostly based on political views. One particularly interesting chapter to me, he looks at church growth and the focus and the seeker sensitive movement as people try to reflect an audience or attract a specific group. His point with these two chapters is that the sorting into smaller and specific groups is impacting every aspect of our life.

It has even influenced the way we watch TV, there are rarely discussion on anymore, they also have to be combative and argumentative, to draw ratings. Somehow, we take that to be the correct way to act in public. He has a funny reference to ‘your fired’ to show that people would rather watch abrasive personalities than anything constructive. Personally, this is why I’ve stopped watching most sports coverage. I used to watch my shows on ESPN, but they have adopted the model where the yell over each other in disagreement, but I just find that too obnoxious.

Overall, I think Bishop proves his thesis. Clearly, our communities are sorting and (as the book is over 10 years old) we’ve already moved past some of his concerns and things are worse than predicted. It would be really interesting to have a follow-up after the 2020 Census and Presidential Election. The writing is good, the author is a writer and it shows. The writing is quick and often funny. The only issue I have is that it becomes fairly redundant. He will cite a study in one chapter, or even go into it in detail, and then in a later chapter, cite it again and describe it as if we don’t know what it is. The book has the feeling of multiple independent articles compiled together. This is likely more on the editor/publisher than the author, but it does start to feel a bit tedious.

I should caveat this review somewhat with the point that I have a degree in geography and a masters in city planning, so I was very familiar with many of the studies and ideas in this book. Also, as I previously had an academic interest in this topic, it may well not be as popular or interesting to a wider audience. I say you should put this on your list, but that would be if you already have a deep interest in politics, particularly in the idea that we are polarizing ourselves, or popular geography. If not, maybe grab it if you decide you are looking for something about it.

Book Review: Irresistible

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Moderately easy, medium (300+) length

Summary
The subtitle is a pretty good summary of the focus of the book. Our technology is being developed at high levels to keep us coming back. However, it seems more of the book is focused on behavioral addiction as a whole than on technology specifically. I think this tactic actually makes pretty good sense, because of the popular conception of the word ‘addictive.’ Obviously, you won’t go into withdrawal from technology, the way you would from cocaine, however, when used, both ignite the same part of your brain.

The book is broken into three parts – What is behavioral addiction and where did it come from, the ingredients of behavioral addiction (or, how to engineer an addictive experience), and the future of behavioral addiction (and some solutions). The first and last part have three chapters each, while the middle has six. There is also a prologue and epilogue.

My Thoughts
As I mentioned above, the subtitle (likely written by an editor) focuses on technology, while the book (just look at the part and chapter names) is more focused on behavioral addictions and what they are, and then how smart phones/tablets/computers and social media/actual media/apps/games effect people. In some cases the companies themselves are aware of behavioral addictions and how they work and actively employ them. Alter starts the book with the damning contrast in the 90 minute speech by Steve Jobs about the greatness of the iPad and then his biographer learning that he does not allow his kids to have one.

The book has multiple examples of what the technology addiction looks like, but I’ll just point our a few here. Maybe the most pivotal one in history was the addition of the ‘like’ button on Facebook. This is what led to the massive growth of what used to be called social networking, now called ‘media’. Obviously, people are starting to learn more and more about the dangers of Facebook in particular, with their tailored news that almost helps grow ideas that are false and certainly promotes things that are more combative. When people see likes, it is a dopamine hit, the same as cocaine. It’s also a good reminder that when a ‘product’ is ‘free’, then really you are the product and they make money selling you.

I could go on with that, but I want to point out two other milestones – Netflix and the automatic playing of the next show, and the ‘endless’ scroll. I remember, years ago now, all of sudden everyone was talking about ‘binge-watching’ TV shows. It became so popular the word eventually became an adverb and people treated it like a normal way to behave.  Have you ever wondered why? That’s when Netflix started just automatically starting a show when you finished one. You had to opt out of watching.

Now, if you, like me and most humans, think you are hard working and fairly intelligent, you are wrong. Humans are incredibly lazy and easily manipulated. My favorite example of this is two countries that speak the same language, boarder each other, and have similar cultures, but one donates organs at a rate in the 80’s, while the other’s is in the 20’s. What is the difference? One auto enrolls you on your license, the other you have to opt in. That’s essentially 60% of the population that can’t be bothered to check a box, either way.

Of course, the companies know these things. They don’t want you to have to back out of the episode and do the ‘work’ to watch the next. If all you have to do is sit, they’ll have you for hours. It’s called ‘removing the friction’. Another example of this is endless scroll. On sites like Reddit, there used to be pages, and you’d scroll down through maybe 20 items then hit the bottom of the page, then you had to click next page. They, and others, have removed this, so that you can scroll in perpetuity. I noticed this a few months ago with ‘new Reddit’. I didn’t know why, but I’d be reading/scrolling, then look up and an hour had past. After reading this book, I switched back to ‘old Reddit’ and deleted the app together from my phone.

Alright, this has gone far too long for a regular review, but I find it endless fascinating. The book is littered with interesting/terrifying examples such as this.  He also writes well, very quick and accessible for a professor. To keep it at a lay level, it becomes a little redundant at times, but I don’t think that is too negative. If you have any interest in behavioral addiction or the impact of technology on your life, you need to put this book on your list.

2019 Reading Challenge

As I recently posted, I beat my goal for 2018 in terms of number, but didn’t really read all the books I wanted to read. So much so, that I am going to straight up cute and past a good bit from last year’s goal. Once again this year, I plan to lower the number of books I plan to read, this is partly so I can make sure I get to the books I really want, and because some are fairly long, but also, and I may post about this a bit later, but I plan to interact more with each book. With that taken into account, my goal this year is 20 books this year.

20181227_1444391.jpg

I currently have 14 of them on the mantel in my living room to remind me to focus on actually getting these books done. You can check out my Goodreads 2019 Challenge page if you like list form, it actually shows 16, because I added three commentaries, but I may not read word for word, two of them, and am only counting one towards the challenge. After these 14, I have three other books (stretch goals I guess) that I’d like to get to, time permitting and somewhat depending on what review books seem incredibly interesting and what the library has available that I have requested, more on those below. The books are as follows:

Non-fictionGödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, at 822 pages, this is the second biggest book on my list for this year and one of my top five life goal, big book, non-fiction books to pick up. As Sprout just turned four, I’ve added Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

Biography/autobiographyA Full Life: Reflections at Ninety was on my list the last two years, but I didn’t make it to it, so I’ll stick it back on this list.

Fiction – After reading The Fall of Hyperion and Endymion (Hyperion), the sequels to one of my favorite books from 2017, Hyperion, I plan to end the series this year with the final book in the Cantos, The Rise of Endymion (Hyperion) At 864 pages, Anna Karenina, will be my biggest book this year and the third longest single volume fiction book I’ve ever read. Rounding out the fiction section will be a collection of stories from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, Just After Sunset: Stories.

Christian-y type books – Only four books are planned in this category this year, though this categories tends to be the largest due to ARC books and loans from friends. Knowing God is a classic at this point, but I haven’t yet read it.

Commentaries, Theology, and Language – Because two 800 page books won’t take me long enough, I’m also picking up two more 600+ page books. First, I want to get back into finishing Bavnick so I have Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, on the list with the ridiculous hope that I will actually make it to the even longer (912 pages) Volume Four. Second, my church is a doing a 40+ week study on Mark, so I’ve picked up The Gospel of Mark (The New International Greek Testament Commentary, and will likely skim the Tyndale and Bible Speaks today commentaries as well, but I don’t think I will count them towards the challenge.

Finally, for something different in this new category I just made up, I’m attempting to gain an understanding of Biblical Greek. For that I’ve chosen Greek for the Rest of Us: Using Greek Tools Without Mastering Biblical Languages.

None of the books in this category will be read all at once, but studied or read-through, throughout the year. I’ll use the commentary as we move through the sermons and go in and out of Reformed Dogmatics, probably after each major subject. I’m not entirely sure yet how to study the Greek, but likely either a few days a week for the year, or every day for a few weeks/months. Maybe there will be some guidance in the book itself.

Devotional – I’ve typically read a whole year devotional, such as My Utmost for His Highest (my review), but this year I’m going back to the whole Bible with the M’Cheyne reading plan, which I’ve written about before. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It  looks like another great and challenging book from Peter Enns. Both Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Resources for Changing Lives and Speaking Truth In Love are pretty well known in Christian Counseling circles, so I’d like to check them off the list.

Stretch Goals – So, I have 14 books on the list, which leaves six others unplanned. These will most likely come from review request, a book someone lends me, or if one of the books on my long library list becomes available. However, if that doesn’t come through, and I finish the previous 13, I have a few other plans. One is to read another book on church history. I’m torn on what I’ve heard is the best in Christian history – Church History in Plain Language or I may start another 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power Vol. 1: The Age of the Early Church Fathers (Grace Publications), which is the first in a four volume series (I’d love to hear from anyone who has read either or has a suggestion as to which would be better).

I’ve also had Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy on my list from 2017 and 2018, but also didn’t get to it. This book and the history one are obviously somewhat long, and can be dense, so another book I think I want to get to is The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, which is a book I bought for Mrs. MMT a few years ago on the advice of MxPx front man Mike Herrera. Finally, as a pair, I was given a book that reviews a Christmas Carol from a Christian perspective, and as that is one of my favorite all time stories, I’ll read the story then the review together and then respond to both.

That’s it. Hopefully I’ll tighten down and actually get to the ones I wanted this year. Feel free to share goals or insights on any of the books in the comments.

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