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.

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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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Father’s Day Reading Recommendations

If you are a dad of a young child or a soon to be dad, I have a few recommendations for books to check out this Father’s Day.

Best pre-dad book I’ve reviewed – The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life
Best pre-dad I haven’t reviewed – Be Prepared
Another good pregnancy/first few months book that has a great guidebook style (my review) – We’re Pregnant! The First-Time Dad’s Pregnancy Handbook
Best book for early childhood – Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Best Gospel-centered parenting book (my review) – Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Best book for men in general, but certainly has a few value for fathers and husbands (my review) – Disciplines of a Godly Man (Paperback Edition)

*This book is more focused on women, but is actually a pretty good read. My advice to dads and pre-dads who fear their wife might be over-protective is to have them read this book (y’all both read, she’ll appreciate the effort if nothing else) – Bringing Up Bébé

A few others to consider:
The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-Be (Owner’s and Instruction Manual)
The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance
Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less
How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

The suggestion skew young as they are all about pre-dad to preschool, mostly baby and toddler books, but I’m young (ish) and have just the one preschooler, so I don’t know what to tell you other than to check back in the next few years for more. For borader parenting books I’ve reviewed, but don’t necessarily recommend, check out my review of Fearless Parenting and my review of Talking with Your Kids About God.

 

2018 Reading Challenge

I sightly exceeded my goal of 25 books last year, by reading 29 books. Now, the prior year, I had a goal of 30, but pretty well passed that, reading 52. I lowered my goal last year as I took some Counseling courses, but as I am not doing that this year, I am raising the goal back to 30. I’d love to set the goal at 48 or 52, to match my 2016, but Sprout doesn’t sleep as much as she used to (bedtime moved back and naps went from 3/4 to zero), so I don’t think that is reasonable, but in the back of my mind, I am kind of hopeful.

So, what am I reading? I have 13 books specifically planned (check out my Goodreads 2018 Shelf for a quick list). I’ll probably tack on another 12 (or less, mostly likely, as I ratchet down the number of review books I request) and then leave myself a little room for randomness in the other five. Of those five, two or three will probably be novels, and at least one will be another counseling book. The 13 I have set out already include:

Devotional – I’ve typically read a whole year devotional, such as My Utmost for His Highest (my review), but this year I’m doing something a little different. I have one, Shalom in Psalms, that goes through, well, the Psalms. This won’t take a whole year, so I have a Lenten one, From the Grave, and an Advent one, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy“, lined up. That should finish out the year, but I may have to find a 30-40 day one in addition and toss it in there. So, kind of sneaky with the numbers, typically the devotional gets me one book, this year it might net me three or four.

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

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. Unless this takes me all year, I’ll probably have another, shorter, non-fiction in this list.

FictionThe Fall of Hyperion, the sequel to one of my favorite books last year, Hyperion, and the only book I’ve already started reading. At 864 pages, Anna Karenina, will be my biggest book this year and the second longest single volume fiction book I’ve ever read. If that wasn’t enough Russian Literature, I’d also like to work through the two stories (which come packaged in one book, so I’m counting it as one) Notes from the Underground and The Grand Inquisitor. Hopefully, I’ll get to a few more in this category.

Christian-y type books – because two 800 page books won’t take me long enough, I’m also picking up two more 500+ 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 is what I’ve heard is the best in Christian history – Church History in Plain Language. Outside of the big ones, I had Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy on my list from 2017, but also didn’t get to it, so I’ve move it to this year; Work and Our Labor in the Lord, which is also technically a review book; and finally, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. This general category will be the biggest, as I fill it out with review books and commentaries.

That is the plan for 2018, a few less books than I think I could probably handle, but a few of them probably to large. Feel free to share your goals in the comments.

2018 is Here

It is 2018 already, well, it is the 2nd now, but I was eating and watching football all day yesterday, so I didn’t post anything. Most importantly from yesterday, Georgia won and is heading to the National Championship game next Monday here in Atlanta.

I’ll have a few post later this week or next specifically about this site, but for now Phil has the December 2017 Biblical Studies Carnival up over at his Reading Acts and my buddy David has his annual book ranking up over at his This Mortal Life.

Finally, I’ve posted a few times over the past couple of years about receiving hand me down books from my mom’s dad’s dad, who was a Church of Christ preacher, but yesterday I stopped by my other Granddad’s house. He and my grandmother are moving to assisted living/memory care tomorrow and he wanted to grab a few of his books. Along with a full volume of Matthew Henry’s commentary, I also noticed this.

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On the left is The New Bible Commentary Revised edition. This commentary was published in the 50’s and revised and republished in the 70’s. It was revised, I believe, again in the 90’s and then totally revamped in the ’21st Century Edition’ in 2008, which is the one on the right (my copy). My granddad is an avid reader and taught Sunday School for something like 60 years, which he took seriously enough to buy multiple commentaries. It was cool to see I had chosen on of the same ones he used for decades, but more than 40 years after he purchased his.

 

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.
My Rating: Put it on your list
Level: Quick and easy read, fairly short.
Summary
Away in the dark near future, there is a still a profession called ‘fireman’, but they don’t save houses from burning (houses are fireproof now), but now they start fires. Not for houses, but for books. The book follows the story of one of these firemen as he starts to question why they are doing what they do, and instead starts saving and hiding books. After he is found out, he becomes the victim of the system he used to be a part of.
My Thoughts
This is a classic of dystopian fiction. The scary thing is, though some elements are over the top, much is too accurate. Bradburry rightly predicts (originally published in 1951) that books won’t be banned by the government or people in the majority for challenging the status quo, but instead, books will be questioned or banned for offending some group or another. We see this happening today, especially with elements of history that people do not like. He also predicted the heavy use of what are basically headphones. I went for a walk this morning and noticed every one of the dozen or so people I saw had headphones in.
As a big book-reader and someone who isn’t paranoid about the government, I see Bradburry’s vision as much more accurate than something like 1984. He was even wrong that the government would actively burn books by the will/request of the people. We don’t have to worry about that now, people just stopped reading them. Hell, people buy digital books, so you can’t even burn them anyway. But it doesn’t matter, in the most recent Pew study (2014) 23% of people hadn’t read a book in the past year. That’s up from 8% in 1978, the first year they asked. The median number of books read a year by American adults is 4. We don’t need to burn book, and the government doesn’t need to ban them. We are doing this to ourselves. We have 100 of channel showing pointless shit on TV and endless ways to stalk people we don’t even like on facebook and twitter, who needs books?
Maybe his most accurate portrayal was related to this. One of the characters in the book, whom the police watch due to being ‘peculiar’, lives in the only house that doesn’t glow blue at night. The family has their lights on and can be seen through the window sitting around talking, everyone else has their lights off and is watching TV, so that only a low, flickering blue color can be seen from the street. Where he is wrong is that no one thinks it odd now, but most people likely never think about it. I know I never did, but now if I walk around at night, I notice all the windows from the back of the houses and some of the bedrooms are dark and flickering blue. It becomes kind of eerie if you look or think about it too much.
 Anyway, over all, the book is a bit over-dramatic at times, well not being dramatic enough in others, due to un-imagined technological change. The concepts are great and the portrayal of why life could be like in this dystopian future is frighteningly accurate at times. I as I said above, it is a classic in the genre, and a book to put on your reading list.

Book Review: Fearless Parenting

Fearless Parenting: How to Raise Faithful Kids in a Secular Culture

My Rating: Probably not worth your time

Level: Quick, easy read; short book.

Summary
The title of this book is a little strange. For the most part, the book is about Biblical parenting in a secular world (which is more or less what the subtitle says). The name comes from the second chapter, where the authors tell you to reject fear as your basis of parenting. That is all well and good, but the response in this chapter is in relation to the first chapter, which might be one of the worst examples of writing in any parenting book, ever. I’d highly recommend skipping the first chapter, if you have any plans on finishing the book.

The remainder of the book is pretty solid; with almost a completely different feel than the first chapter (as if there were two authors…). The first few chapters are general reminders and thoughts on parenting from a Christian perspective that should be familiar to most church-going families. Some of the topics covered later in the book include clothes, materialism, social media, and ‘screen-time’, and they all contain good, practical advise.  The one section where the book really does shine is in discussion of kid’s sports. In it, the author calls out parents who try to live vicariously through their children in sports and challenges parents to ramp down the amount of sports played and to not make them the number one priority in the life of your family. The section of the book was redeeming enough for me to not rate the book lower.

My Thoughts
I wanted to like this book more, but it was hard to get past the first chapter. In it, the author ‘projects’ what life make be like in 2030. Some of the ‘data’ points (such as rising crime, or Trump reducing/balancing the budget) are somewhere between disingenuous to out right lies. In case you decide to fact check (which I did), he heads you off by pointing out that if you think he is being ‘too political’ (or, what I’d call, maybe just being a complete political hack) it is because YOU, reader, are too politically correct. Along with misused data, the author also gives us an Orwellian tinged far right-wing dystopian fantasy; including the suggestion that new government agencies will be created and that pastors will have to submit their sermons/teaching for approval by the state.

Honestly, this first chapter is just embarrassing. It hurts me on two levels. First, as a Christian, it is embarrassing that this book is written by/for and published by Christians. I suppose the author may shrug it off and say, ‘this is just what could happen.’ However, his projections are based on neither facts nor anything to do with Christians. It is straight up far-right political (hackery?, propaganda? fantasy/nightmare? I can’t even come up with the right word for this). It reminds me of the chain email that went around (you probably got it from your mom or grandpa) 2008/2009 that claimed that Obama was the anti-christ and that Revelation said he would be a Muslim. Of course, the book of Revelation makes no such claim, and Islam would not be founded for a another couple of centuries. Overall, I think the first chapter could best be summed up as an email your grandmother would forward you because she is scarred. I think this is probably one of the biggest reasons why young people leave the church today. This is beyond the scope of a book review, but a generation ago, people left the mainline churches because they sounded like democratic party meetings, and now people are leaving evangelical churches because they sound like republican party meetings.

Second, this chapter was bad in it’s use of statistics. George Barna and I both have master’s degrees in City Planning, so I feel he should know better. Which leads me to another criticism of the book overall – with one of the authors being the head of a major polling/research group, the book was very lacking in data. I was interested in this book partly because I thought, with Barna being co-author, it would be data heavy. Then again, based on the first chapter, maybe that is for the best.

This has already gone on too long for a review, so I’ll wrap up quickly. The sections/chapters on social media and screen time offer some great guidelines and I appreciate anytime a parenting book (especially Christian focused) offers practical examples. The section materialism was impressively counter-cultural. It did a good job of calling parents out for their endless wants and purchases as a way of setting a poor example for our children. Finally, I was really impressed with the section on sports. This is something of a sacred cow in America, particularity for things like Baseball and Football (especially here in the South). It is an incredible challenge the author lays out, telling someone you may skip a tournament, or not enroll in a sport because it has games on Sunday. They do well in discussing the impact too many sports have on your family life (e.g. vacation time or even canceling vacations), on your children’s health, and, most convictingly, your own idols (vicarious living, or idol of parenting a sports star in think on how that reflects on you).

I haven’t seen a parenting book really reflect on sports to this extent before, and it almost makes the whole book worth reading. However, due mostly to the drag of that first chapter, I think this book is mostly not worth your time. If you are specifically looking for some guidelines on materialism, social media/screen use, and sports participation, it may be a worthwhile. However, you can probably find some decent guidelines for most of these online somewhere, or perhaps in other books.

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

Books for Fathers Day

With Fathers Day coming up in a few days, I figured instead of my usual Wednesday book review of a single book, I want to be lazy and just give you a list of books that are interesting for fathers.

Best pre-dad book I’ve reviewed – The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life
Best pre-dad I haven’t reviewed – Be Prepared
Best book for early childhood – Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Best Gospel-centered parenting book (my review) – Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Best book for men in general, but certainly has a few value for fathers and husbands (my review) – Disciplines of a Godly Man (Paperback Edition)

*This book is more focused on women, but is actually a pretty good read. My advice to dads and pre-dads who fear their wife might be over-protective is to have them read this book (y’all both read, she’ll appreciate the effort if nothing else) – Bringing Up Bébé

A few others to consider:
The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-Be (Owner’s and Instruction Manual)
The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance
Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less
How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Sorry if the suggestion skew young as they are all about pre-dad to preschool, mostly baby and toddler books, but I’m young (ish) and have just the one toddler, so I don’t know what to tell you other than to check back in the next few years for more.

Book Review: The Christian Life

The Christian LIfe: A Doctrinal Introduction

Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read

Summary
The subtitle of this book is really illustrative of what this book is about. It is an introduction to doctrine for Christians, more specifically reformed theology. This is probably the best intro book I’ve ever read. You won’t get the full intro that you’d need to tackle Systematic Theology, there is no doctrine of church, sacrament, eschatology, etc., but his chapters on man, sin, grace, election/adoption, justification, and christian living are possibly unmatched in their accessibility to the average Christian.

I’d highly recommend this book for anyone looking to understand more about doctrine, to go above a Sunday School level, and it may even work as a gateway book into deeper study of theology. Ferguson was a theologian and professor, but this book is written by a pastor first and foremost and can easily be read by any Christian at any level of education and knowledge.

My Thoughts
If I’ve somehow been unclear, I’m really high on this book. Clocking in under 200 pages but with 18 chapters, anyone can hope in and out of the different doctrinal chapters with ease. As I mentioned above, this is a great intro for anyone looking to expand their knowledge. It is also a great reminder to pastor and theologians of the basics of doctrine. A way to bring those who greater knowledge back down to a simpler level, a more concise study of what others need to know.

This is written almost as a series of sermons and could be a great book for a Bible study or community group looking for something to read. For pastors and elders in the church, this should be the go to suggested reading for anyone inquiring about doctrine. Overall, it is a must read for every Christian.

2017 Reading Challenge

As I mentioned in my review of my 2016 challenge, I’m not planning on reading as many books this year. There are a few reasons for this, one, as of last week, I have started a new job that has roughly tripled my commute. Another reason is that I am starting some course work from CCEF, before entering completely into a new master’s program with Westminster. Taking classes means specific reading requirements, but also lots of writing, so I cannot devote as much time to reading. Finally, as I plowed through more and more books last year, I ended up writing less and less. So, with what little time I have between taking classes, a new job, and a toddler, I’d like to focus a little more writing.

Anyway, to the books. I’m laying out my challenge a little differently this year. Last year, I basically just say, hey, I’m going to read a bunch of books. This year I’m listing a number of specific books, and then some categories for the remaining few.

The first group are two books that I am reading daily, one is a devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, and the other is the Bible. I’ve mentioned the M’Cheyne plan before, so I’m putting it to the test this year.

Next group, novels. If I ever finish War and Peace, I’d like to check out three other novels – Hyperion, Lolita, and Brave New World. I also have read a few books through the Kindle First thing, so, call it maybe two more from that category.

The third group is my Christiany stuff, of which there are only three. I know, that’s not many for a blog with Theologian in the title, but bear with me, more Christian life/thought type books will come out in other categories. The specific three I’d like to hit are Five Views of Biblical Inerrancy (from the great Counterpoints series), Boice’s exposition on the Sermon on the Mount, and the classic, The Plan of Salvation.

Next up, non-fiction. Again, only four of these, though it does include one ‘big-book’, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (funny side note on this, Kindle can tell if you’ve finished a book or not and obviously if you’ve downloaded a book. So, the year this book came out, it was the most downloaded non-fiction, and the least read/finished, percentage-wise, of any book). Another good one I’ve I wanted to read for a while, Misbehaving (about Behavioral Economics). Sprout just turned two, so obviously it’s about time for me to obsess over her education, so I have Einstein Never Used Flash Cards on the list. Rounding out the non-fiction list is an autobiography from Jimmy Carter – A Full Life, Reflections at Ninety – which is just a cool title. I’ll also add a stretch goal here, if I’m doing well come, say, November, I’ll through in Gödel, Escher and Bach, another big book, so we will see.

Probably the biggest category, books I need to read for school. So far this include, Marriage Matters, Hold Me Tight, The Christian Life, and Systems Theory in Action. I’ve already read two others for these classes. This is the list for just two courses. Now, in the summer, I’ll take one or two more courses, but none in the fall, so this list will grow by probably three to seven.

Finally, my review copy books. So far, there are three on my list – The Christian Lover, Pillars of Grace, and The End of Protestantism. The first two are from Reformation Trust Publishing, which has been pretty easy to use. The last one is from Netgalley, which I’m not entirely sure that I like. I’ve reviewed a few from there, but I’ve also skipped a number of them, and they’ve been taken off my list or my ability to read them is gone. Not really their fault, since I didn’t review them. However, I think I just like working with the publishers directly. I’ve requested three more from Baker, and Crossway just emailed me the other day to say I need to go pick up another one. This will round out whatever is left in my goal of 24, and any that comes after that.

So there you go, I’ve specifically called out 19 of my 24 book goal (I guess 20 of my 25 stretch, if that works) with the final five being a mix of school and review copy books. Hopefully, it will go well and maybe I can move it up to 30 in the fall, however that will probably be my max, so I can focus on other things. Of course, this is likely to be a very crazy year, so it’s possible that I won’t even hit my goal.

You can stay updated at my Goodreads page, or wait for an update that will come probably sometime in the summer.

Review of My 2016 Reading Challenge

I had never heard of the reading challenge until about February of 2016. I set out a goal of 30 books, which I thought was pretty ambitious. I basically had the idea that I would be able to do 2.5 book a year. Well, that really got me going, and back in the reading heavily, as by the end of the year I had read 51 books, and about 850 pages of War and Peace. That is 15,607 pages, but who’s counting?

The biggest book I attempted was obviously War and Peace, but the biggest I completed was The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, with a meaty 886 page count. The smallest was Meditations , at 99 pages long. I read everything from novels, to history, personal writings/thoughts, daily devotionals to heavy theological tomes. I’d say the challenge plays an interesting aspect in it all. On the one hand, you are, in fact, challenging yourself. This can push you towards things that are a little tougher, like Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2, or long, long books, like War and Peace (Vintage Classics).

On the other hand, there is a bit of a feeling like you are just powering through. Yes, powering through can make you finish a book you started that you might otherwise have discarded, but it can almost give you the feeling of reading for school. You are reading to finish the book, not because you are necessarily interested in it. It effects some of your choice, too. The three largest books I completed had page counts of 685, 704, and 886; plus War and Peace has over 1,300. This makes shorter books seem more appealing, simply because it will help add to your book count. Though, in my defense, my average book was 289 pages.

Anyway, it can be a fun way to challenge yourself, but this year I will put less on the Challenge. Probably the biggest difference going forward will be to lay out a number of books first. So, not just say 24 books, but say this book, that book, and then 10 more, or something to that affect. I won’t know completely what will be on the list, as I hope to receive more review copies. This year, I received 13 review copies, so that is kind of cool. I also already have about five or six that I need to review. More on that later. See below for my challenge list and check out my book review page for all the books for which I have written reviews.

J.K.’s bookshelf: 2016-challenge

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
liked it

My Rating –Put it on the ListLevel – Not very readable, seems longer than it is

Summary
The book is exactly what you think it is based on the title. He jumps straight in with the first chapter explaining what he thinks (based on scrip…

tagged:
2016-challenge
The Millionaire Next Door
it was ok
tagged:
2016-challenge
Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity
really liked it
It is really difficult to write a summary that doesn’t just rip off the table of contents. Basically, he explains the system that works for him. This includes a mission statement (he calls this a productivity catechism), then finding thi…
tagged:
2016-challenge
A History of the World in 6 Glasses
really liked it
First of all, it isn’t a history of each individual beverage, though there is plenty of that, but a history of the world (as the title indicates) viewed through the lens of what (and why) people were drinking at the time. The drinks and …
tagged:
2016-challenge
Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will
it was amazing
Many people search for God’s will, but American Evangelicals, especially Millennials, have made it an art form. He claims that doing this ‘leads us to no where’ and calls us ‘directionally challenged’ (these are names of the chapters in …
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2016-challenge
How to Read Genesis
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Easy, short

Summary
This book is exactly what the title says it is a guidebook to understanding and reading Genesis. Longman explains what the book (Genesis) is, who wrote it, whom it was written to as wel…

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2016-challenge
Four Views on the Historical Adam
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on Your ListLevel – Somewhat technical, requires a higher level knowledge of Genesis and some theology, somewhat short, but at times reads longer than it is.

Summary
This book is exactly what the title says, though …

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2016-challenge
Pirate Latitudes
really liked it

My Rating –If You are Looking for SomethingLevel – Easy & quick, medium length

Summary
It’s about pirates. If you are like me, what more do you need? Actually, it’s technically not about pirates, it’s about privateers and they are ver…

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2016-challenge
The Church: The Gospel Made Visible
it was ok

My Rating –If You are Looking for Something – about Baptist view of church, Probably Not Worth Your Time – if you are already familiar with Baptist viewsLevel – short, easy read

Summary
This book could basically be a few sections in…

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2016-challenge
Meditations
did not like it

My Rating – PassLevel – Short, writing can be long and choppy, knowledge of history and philosophy would be helpful

Summary
Basically random thoughts from a guy who thought he was going to die. Most ideas are a reflection of the tim…

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2016-challenge
The Mighty Weakness of John Knox
liked it

My Rating – If You are Looking for SomethingLevel – Short, easy

Summary
It’s difficult to write a summary of a biography. The book itself is a biography of the life of John Knox. To hit some high points: Knox was friends with John Cal…

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2016-challenge
How Would Jesus Vote?: Politics, the Bible, and Loving Your Neighbor
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Fairly Easy, moderate in length

Summary
The book seeks to look at broad topics in American politics and see what we can determine about them from the Bible. Bock does this mostly by listing verses and how …

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2016-challenge
Crime and Punishment
really liked it

My Rating –Put it on the ListLevel – Tough, dense, fairly long

Summary
Rodion (Rody) Románovich Raskolnikov is a poor college student in St. Petersburg who decides to murder an old pawnbroker with an ax so that he can rob her. Things …

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2016-challenge
The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on the listLevel – Easy, Medium length

Summary
The first chapter is a short biographical stretch of the man many consider to be the greatest American Theologian of all time. The rest of the chapters are devoted to E…

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2016-challenge
The Lathe of Heaven
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Moderate read, short

Summary
Sometime in the future a man is caught using someone else’s pharmacy card for access to sleeping pills. He is evaluated and sent to a psychologist and sleep specialist to whom …

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2016-challenge
The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Easy read, medium length, but reads quickly

Summary
Blue zones, so named because while researching the first one, a blue circle was drawn around they area under discussion, are areas in the world where peo…

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2016-challenge
The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Easy, fast read; medium length

Summary
The story, broadly, is about the CIA field office in Moscow and its operations. Under different CIA directors and even field office directors, their focuses change or…

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2016-challenge
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Easy, quick read

Summary
The book is broken up into two main parts, C.V. and What Writing is, Toolbox, and On Writing, plus a longish post-script chapter, which is followed by two more short post-post-scri…

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2016-challenge
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
liked it

My Rating – If You Are Looking for SomethingLevel – Quick, easy read

Summary
Arthur Dent is trying to stop bulldozers from demolishing his house when his friend Ford Perfect stops by and convinces him to go to the pub instead. Perfect…

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2016-challenge
Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on your listLevel – short, easy. A quick read, but I’m also going to add compelling, especially as you read the personal stories.

My Thoughts/Summary Mix
This is an important and timely book. I think two overarching…

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2016-challenge
Thinking, Fast and Slow
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on your listLevel – moderate to difficult read, it is well written but some of the concept are tough, fairly long, but ready a little quicker then the 400+ pages

Summary
Broadly speaking, this book is about thinking…

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2016-challenge
Mile Marker Zero
really liked it
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2016-challenge
The Year without a Purchase: One Family's Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting
liked it

My Rating – Put it on the List – if you struggle with spending/consumerism, Probably Not Worth Your Time – if you don’tLevel – Short, easy.

Summary
Title pretty much sums it up. Dannemiller comes to a realization that he and his wife…

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2016-challenge
Trout Bum
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on the list (if you are a fishermen; if not, pass)Level – Short, easy, requires some familiarity with fly fishing.

Summary
It is hard to summarize this book. Basically it’s just a guy writing a few short essays/stor…

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2016-challenge and to-read
What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles' Creed
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Medium length, fairly easy and does not require more than a basic knowledge of the Bible or Theology.

Summary
The book is essentially an exposition of The Apostles’ Creed. That is, he goes line by line and…

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2016-challenge
The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life
liked it

My Rating – If you are looking for somethingLevel – Choppy read, short but reads longer than it is

Summary
First of all, if you’ve been recommend this book by a friend or pastor and they tell it is written by a guy named Guinness, no …

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2016-challenge
The Letter of James
really liked it
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2016-challenge
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Plan for the World
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on your listLevel – Easy read, medium length

Summary
This is another book that is hard to summarize with just repeating the title or copy/pasting the table of contents. I guess the title isn’t super clear, it comes …

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2016-challenge
Don't Waste Your Life
liked it
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2016-challenge
Disciplines of a Godly Man
it was amazing

My Rating – Must ReadLevel – Fairly easy read, moderate length

Summary
As the title implies, this is a book about disciplines for men who are trying to live a ‘Godly’ life. After the introduction Hughes goes into the 17 disciplines he…

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2016-challenge
Four Views on Hell: Second Edition
really liked it

My Rating -Put it on the listLevel – Medium length, get’s mildly technical, but overall fairly easy.

Summary
As the title say, the book argues four thoughts on hell. Well, really it is three views of hell, and another who goes on a ta…

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2016-challenge
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
really liked it

My Rating – Put it on your listLevel – His style makes it moderate, but the book covers topics like biology, physics, philosophy, anthropology, economics, and of course, history. So, not everyone will be able to jump right into this bo…

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2016-challenge
One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America
really liked it

My rating – Put it on your listLevel – easy, a little wordy, medium length but reads quickly

Summary
The title might be a bit of a misnomer. People expecting this book to be about whether or not America was founded as a Christian nati…

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2016-challenge
A Different Kind of Happiness: Discovering the Joy That Comes from Sacrificial Love
really liked it

Rating – Put it on you listLevel – Easy, moderate in length

Summary
First of all, do not be thrown off by the cover/title. This is not a fluffy self-helpy type book. Instead Dr. Crabb challenges the readers to love like Jesus, but not…

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2016-challenge
The Pursuit of God
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2016-challenge
Speaking of Homosexuality: Discussing the Issues with Kindness and Clarity
it was amazing

Rating – Must ReadLevel – Medium length, reads quickly and easily

Summary
The book, as the title indicates, is about homosexuality in the church and the world today. Dallas covers a large swath of the topic, from how to talk to people…

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2016-challenge
Light In August
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2016-challenge


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