Answering God, Book Review, Eugene Peterson, Jean Vanier, Sign: Seven Words of Hope, Silence by Shusaku Endo, Value of Reading
I have had a clear and achievable goal of reading a book/month for over 25 years.
I simply wanted to make sure that I wasn’t losing too many brain cells to disuse over time. It doesn’t matter if the book is long or short – because I tend to be a contemplative reader. I’m one of those readers who marks up my books, and am resistant to the new technology that wouldn’t allow me to do that. I savour good books, and return to them for remembered insights and recollected stories.
I’ve come a long way from Grade Six when my oldest sister was the Student Teacher in my English class. Alas, when it came to my turn to read aloud in class, I could garner no favours; there was no hole close enough into which to escape. My comic book “reading” had not well prepared me for the real thing. But that was a long time ago.
A Rating System:
You will notice an * (asterisk) beside a few books. The highest rating I give is Three Asterisks – which is my way of saying that this kind of book will not be a waste of time – it should prove to be very interesting, and can be read over again to your satisfaction.
Conversely, books with no asterisks should tell you that I endured reading it for your sake so as to not recommend reading it. Oh, it’s not all that bad, but for the sake of comparison – the more asterisks, the better.
Is there an order to the order of the books?
There is no code to break; these books are simply placed in the order of when I finished reading them. In some cases I started reading a book years ago, and plodded through it (having a stubborn disposition for these sorts of occasions). I try not to schedule my reading over the year – instead, I rather receive them providentially – expecting the right book to teach me at the right time. I am grateful, therefore, to friends who supplied me with 3/4 the books in 2014.
This list merely records the title, the author, the year it was written, and a short comment if I have one:
Death by Living: Life is meant to be spent. N.D. Wilson, 2013 *
The Prodigal: A Poem, Derek Walcott, 2004 A book of poems by Nobel winner… but not one of my better reads.
Life Work: A Biblical Theology for what you do every day, Darrow L. Miller, 2009
The Twelve Degrees of Silence, Marie-Aimee de Jesus, 2014
Silence, Shusaku Endo, 1969 *** Probably the best novel I have read in years. Endo tells a story in what I can only imagine is along a Japanese arc. Set in the 17th Century during the “Japanese cleansing of Christians,” it explores the silence of God when we need to hear Him most.
Spiritual Leadership, Henry & Richard Blackaby, 2011 * One of the best books on Leadership I have read. I prefer reading books about leaders and how they led, but this is a close second.
Genius Born of Anguish: The life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen, by Michael Higgins, Kevin Burn, 2012 ** For anyone wanting an inside look to the great thinker Henri Nouwen, this gives insights to the genius and the anguish.
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson, 2000 *** I can always rely on Peterson to be imaginative and insightful. I cannot adequately summarize this book in which He speaks to the great themes of Christian spirituality.
Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper, 2003 ** Piper has been writing several books in this theme now that he is in the “third-third” of life. The gist of this can be summarized by the title of the first chapter: “My Search for a Single Passion to live by.”
Reimagine Your Retirement, Joyce Y. Li, 2013 Sorry: do not waste your time on this.
Beyond Halftime: Practical Wisdom for your Second Half, Bob Buford, 2008* Written as a devotional – it was a timely gift to me.
Finishing our course with Joy, J. I. Packer, 2014 I can’t give everything an asterisk, but this short book is in the theme of aging that I have been exploring.
Weeds among the Wheat: Discernment Where Prayer and Action Meet, Thomas Green, 1984 * A wise writer who distills insight on prayer and discernment.
Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern, Jason B. Hood, 2013 * A thorough study of discipleship. Quoting Martin Luther, “It is not imitation that makes sons; it is adoption that makes imitators.”
The Word of God in English, Leland Ryken, 2002 * What a study! A friend gave this to me over a decade ago. Finally finished.
Spiritual Classics, Richard Foster, Emilie Griffin (Renovare), 2000 ** A good book for quiet times, devotions, small groups, or Lectio Divinas. Renovare books scan the great Christian writers over the millennia, and provide samples to whet our appetite for more.
Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley, Lane Jones, 2006 * A good book for anyone wanting to improve preaching/teaching.
Finding God in all things, William A. Barry, 1991* It was while reading this book that I came up with the title of my blog, “More Enigma than Dogma.”
The Naked Now, Richard Rohr, 2009 * To be read with discernment. Let me encourage you not to be closed-minded – but watch that you are not so open-minded that your brains fall out. He has much to say about non-dualistic thinking that is very helpful. I could not disagree more with his Universalism.
Signs: Seven Words of Hope, Jean Vanier, 2013 *** A sumptuous book of only 90 pages. You might recognize this from my post: Encounter & Integration: Peace.
No doubt you have read books in 2014, and if by chance you read some of the books on my list, then let me know what you think! For those of you who received my Christmas Card & Letter, I hope this gives you more insight.
Why do I like reading?
Reading informs my imagination, and fuels a more thoughtful response to life. I am impatient with impatient and quick analysis (yes, I recognize the irony), and if I want to be better informed than on the basis of the dreaded “7-second sound bite,” then I owe it to myself to read. Reading allows me to learn at my pace, to make connections to other literature and ideas, and to contemplatively integrate these in my spiritual journey.
This year I noticed that since I retired from the Fire Services in May, I read more than my allotted “one book a month” quota. I thought this would be a good thing, after all I have a few friends who effortlessly read through a book a week.
However I have found that a certain pace of reading allows me to savour the insights, integrate them, and remember them for current thought and conversations. When I read too much, this is what can happen:
- My head can get so full of information, that more reading begins to displace really good ideas. I’m afraid I lose track of good ideas along with some missing socks in the dryer.
- My head can get so fat that it can barely fit through a door way. I don’t need help to be more insufferably arrogant.
- I can forget beautiful ideas and stories that inform my prayer life and my teaching.
May this list encourage you to be curious and inquisitive. Those are two qualities needed to explore more enigma than dogma.
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