Books of June: Not Much New

Well here we are at the end of another month, and I must admit I haven’t read that much this month. Basically I’ve finished one book, started another (fiction that isn’t a picture book), and I’m slowly working through about three other books as well. I’ve decided that I’m only going to post pictures and links to the book, if the book is new, so if you’re interested in continuity then I’ll refer you to last month’s list of books here.

Of the books that I’ve been in the process of reading, the book I’ve finished was Searching for Home by M. Craig Barnes. Having commented on it the last two lists, I’m not sure I have much more to add to it. It was a good read and one that wound up good for discussion. If the idea or concept of seeking for ones home is something that resonates or your are interested in I’d say to give it a read. It will make you think about how the concept of home relates to our walk with God.

The other books that I’m still wading through are Is it a Lost Cause? by Marva Dawn; Conflict & Community in Corinth by Ben Witherington III; and King’s Cross by Tim Keller. It is not that any of these books are bad, I’ve just not been going through them very fast. With Is it a Lost Cause? it is more that the subject matter is challenging and therefore not easy to read very fast. It also doesn’t help that while I agree with her principles and concepts behind her chapters, I tend to disagree with her practical examples. I guess one could say it isn’t a book I enjoy reading, but one that I find is helpful almost because it challenges me and I disagree with parts of it.

Conflict & Community in Corinth is more of a commentary and well it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that it is slowing going to read through one of those. Lastly, King’s Cross is a book I’m reading for my small group and only read a chapter a week. So while I’m traversing through them slowing they are all good for various reasons. This all leads to the one new book of the month and that is:

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – While I’ve heard of this book for a decent amount of time, what actually got me interested in actually reading it was the movie that came out about 6-7 years ago. I had watched it, heard that the book was better (isn’t it always?) and became interested in reading the book.

I’m not very far in the book, but it is a pretty enjoyable read. The basic premise is that Earth is going to be destroyed in order to make room for a hyperspatial express route. The thing is only one “man” knows this is about to happen, because this “man” Ford Prefect isn’t really a human, but an alien stranded on Earth and researcher for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. On the day he learns of this planned destruction he tells one of his human friends, Arthur Dent and the two of them survive the destruction by hitchhiking on one of the ships that is demolishing earth. Thus begins a journey throughout the universe.

I’m not sure I have too much more to say at this point. It should be noted though that this is the collection of all five novels by Douglas Adams. Since I’m only a handful of chapters into the first book of five, there is only so much to say. However, I have found the book to be amusing. It doesn’t take long to realize that this book is more than just a piece of fiction and pokes an elbow or two into the ribs of society while at it. So far nothing has seemed to outdated, but I could see that this is an area that maybe won’t fit the best today. We shall see.

So that is what I’ve read and am currently reading. Maybe next month will have more new books. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The Books of May

Another month has gone by and it seems like it just started. I didn’t get through as many books this month as I did last month. Partly because a couple of books I’m going through are a little tougher for me to read through faster so it slows the pace down a bit. So here are the books that I read in May.

Finished:

1. Jesus Freaks by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs – The only serious book that I got through this month. I’ve already written some of the thoughts that arose from this book here. This is basically a book on those who have suffered for their faith in Christ. It ranges from the times of the early church clear until the late 1900s. The only reason it doesn’t go further than that is because it was published in 1999.

It was a good read in the sense that it challenges your own faith. It causes you to ask would I be able to go through the experiences that the people in the book did for their faith? Would I be able to love the people who caused my sufferings? A more relevant question is am I even willing to love those who do not agree with me or who look down on me due to my faith? If there are those who can love and wish good for those who tortured, imprisoned, and killed them then shouldn’t I be able to love those around me no matter how they view me? Thinking about questions like these made the book worth it. Was it something that could only be done by this book? No, but it is a book that looks on the lives of those who suffered or died for following Jesus.

It does get a bit overwhelming reading story after story of people dying and suffering for their faith. Not to belittle or trivialize their sacrifices, but it doesn’t make for pleasant or enjoyable reading. It is good to know and hear such stories, but I don’t think I would ever find such stories enjoyable to read. Another nitpick I have with the book is that it doesn’t always distinguish when some stories are based off the best information we have. Some of the stories we have of the deaths of the twelve disciples are not as substantiated as others, so I wished they let that be known a bit better. As I said though this is a nitpick and I know it is. If you’re looking for a book on martyrs that spans a wide length of time then this would work well. There may be more recent books that have tracked these stories into the 2000s, but I’m just not sure.

2. Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever! by Stephen McCranie – This book is nothing but a for fun book. It is a book based off a comic strip that I first found online at malandchad.com. He started online and then when he got the chance to be published he shifted to doing these books. The book revolves around two protagonists: Mal, a child genius who is trying to hide how smart he is; and Chad, his faithful dog who can also speak like a human.

It would probably be easy to start comparing to another more well-known boy and animal duo Calvin and Hobbes, but I’m not sure the comparison fits entirely. Of course I’m not versed enough in Calvin and Hobbes to give definitive ways they are different. It seems to me though that even if some of the premises are the same that they are enough different for my tastes.

For this book the various scenarios center around an assignment where the kids in Mal’s class have to write an essay on what they want to be when they grow up. This lead to Mal trying out various occupations to see if he likes them. Like being a a diver by shrinking down and going diving in the sink or figuring out if he’s interested in digging up dinosaur bones by going back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The stories are fun, lighthearted, and can even have a good little nugget of seriousness to think about if you so choose.

I’ve enjoyed this series, and what is best is that you don’t even have to buy this to get a taste of Mal and Chad. Going to the website allows you to read all the comics that the creator produced before his shift to book format. If you like what you see there, the books are more of the same. If you don’t like it, then don’t go into these books expecting something different.

In-Progress:

 1. Conflict & Community in Corinth by Ben Witherington III – Basically this is a commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. It’s a decently thick book and as one could imagine reading through a commentary isn’t exactly fast work. It is a book that I’m reading through to see if it is worth keeping from Seminary. So far it has been pretty good. As the subtitle says Witherington deals a lot with some of the sociological aspects of Corinthians as well as their use of rhetoric.

Overall it has been good so far, but it is definitely one of the reasons why I didn’t get through more books this month. I tend to read it in little sections at a time so I don’t get too bogged down. This is definitely a book for study and not just leisurely reading. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t done with this by the time next month rolls around.

2. Is It A Lost Cause? by Marva J. Dawn – This has been another book that I’ve been going through slowly. For some reason Marva Dawn and I just don’t entirely get along. Perhaps it would be better to say that we have a love-hate relationship.

The main idea of her book is how to raise Godly children in a world that will be against such things. She asks is it a lost cause in this day and age to attempt such a feat? All in all this premise isn’t a bad one, and I do think Dawn asks good questions. However, I’m not sure I agree with where she comes from, the first chapter seems to lament the behavior of current children more than it does the lack of a Christ centered existence.

The other thing that gets mixed thoughts is that she seems to come down pretty hard on the idea of “relevance.” I understand this to a point, we can easily become too worried about relevance and not enough about the substance of God’s word. However, we can all too easily be focused on God’s word and not on how to effectively have people understand within our current culture. Maybe some of these concerns will be addressed, but I remember having mixed to negative feelings for this book when I had to read it for seminary so I’m not sure if it does change too much. We shall see where I land.

3. Searching for Home by M. Craig Barnes – This is still on my list from last month since I only read one chapter a week. It continues to be an enjoyable book though. While the emphasis in on where home is, and he would say that it is with God, he really hits on a lot of related topics. The pain of the journey home; how we can know we need to go home but do nothing; even how does our ultimate journey with God affect the choices that we make in our lives.

He handles these topics well. Not that he gives pat answers or comprehensive solutions, but presents these topics in a way that almost recasts ones perception of looking at the topic. Like the chapter on choices challenges the notion that there is one choice that God has for us for our lives and if we don’t figure that out we’re settling for second best. In this idea we have to choose what is right for God to give us His best. However, Barnes says that we have already been given God’s best in His Son Jesus, and that maybe God doesn’t always care as much about what job we have or where we move to as much as He cares if we’re connected to Him and living wherever we are and whatever we do for Him.

Add in the fact that he often finds some way to lightly connect his chapters to Dante’s Divine Comedy and it makes for a very interesting read. I should be done with this for a final verdict next month, I only have like three more chapters so it should be done by the end of June.

So these are the books of May. You may wonder where King’s Cross is from last month. Well the truth is it didn’t get read at all this month. My small group was invovled with something else this past month and didn’t read it. It should be making a return next month though as well. Also if you want to you can track what I’m reading more than once a month since I started a Goodreads account. So if for some reason this is interesting for you, my profile is here.

The April Lists: Books

This month I started doing a new thing. I decided to start recording the books I’ve read, movies/shows I’ve watched, and video games I’ve played during the month. The idea was that if I could remember what I’ve been reading I could give mini-reviews or reflect on them at the end of the month. I’ll split the lists into three posts. One focusing in on books, another focusing in on movies/TV shows, and the third focusing on video games. This one will be focused on the books I read or started to read in April.

The Finished Books:

 1. For the Time Being by Annie Dillard – I’ve already reflected a little on this book on my previous blog post. This was a book that I’ve had since college. I remember trying to read it then, but having a difficult time getting into it. Trying it this time I was able to drawn into it, but have little idea of what the point she was trying to make.

As I said with my last post the main idea of the book seems to be reflecting on suffering and the existence of God. However, if you go into this book expecting a typical structure you’ll be mistaken. Basically, Dillard takes a number of topics and in each chapter talks a little about each of them. She labels these topics in each chapter with headers like Birth, Sand, China, or Now. So each chapter has these numerous little tunnels that weave throughout the book. All of which connect to the ideas of evil, pain, and suffering while trying to reflect on where God fits into it all.

I can’t say I agree with all of her thoughts that are presenting in the book, but at the same time I had trouble figuring out what her actual thoughts were. She quotes from many sources Jewish rabbis, Hindus, and Catholic priests; but gives you no real firm ground as to where she stands. This isn’t so much a negative point, but more of a warning for those who read it expecting something telling you want to think or believe. This is more of an exercise in reflection than one on dogma or argumentation. Given that it may not be a book for everyone, but I found it to be an intriguing read.

2. Experiencing God by Henry & Richard Blackaby – This is a book that our church was doing for small groups. Since I was leading one of those groups I was reading this book. It was the first time I’ve read the book, but it is considered to be a classic. My thoughts on the book are mixed.

The point of the book is to find ways to experience God. In particular to see where God is working, and to be involved in His work. Overall, I thought that the principles that Blackaby presents for doing this are pretty solid. Nothing comes to mind that made me really wary when came down to his basic principles of how to experience God.

There were two things that I did dislike about the book though. First, it suffers from appearing to be a bit prideful. I don’t know Henry Blackaby so I have no idea what he is really like, but the writing style of the book just smacks of arrogance sometimes. Even in trying to be humble at one point saying something like that God had to look high and low for someone as ordinary as me. Not to mention constantly referring to some conference where he tells how somebody’s life was changed by reading his book. Not that it isn’t good to have testimonials, but the frequency of such examples, with few examples that don’t involve the book or Blackaby himself, started to rub me the wrong way.

The second problem I had with the book, was that it gave a lopsided view of how God may speak to you. Many of Blackaby’s examples are amazing. It is about how he and his wife were called to Canada to pastor a small church and all the amazing things that were done there or how people were called to serve God in amazing circumstances and amazing outcomes. These examples naturally led me to ask is this how God speaks to everybody? What about God speaking to people in the everyday, in our communities, in things that are not “full time ministry.” I think there has to be balance here; we need to be challenged that we are not just settling for the comfort we have where we are, but I do not believe that God calls everyone the same way. We are not all meant to be Paul or Moses at least in terms of our accomplishments. So while I thought it was solid on its principles, the tone of the book and the examples it gave diminished its value in my eyes.

3. Church Planting is For Wimps by Mike McKinley – This was a book that I got for free from a conference about a year/year and a half ago. I have to say that I enjoyed this book much more than I had thought I would. The title may fool you into thinking that it is only a book for church planters, but I think it is for anyone who wants to think about leadership in the church.

What is the book about though? By the title you may be thinking it is about planting a church, and you’d be somewhat right. Actually, it is about the author’s journey into church revitalization. Which is going into a church that is severely unhealthy/dying and trying to bring it back to life. Through this journey he outlines many of the difficulties there are to doing such a process, the process that he went through on the path to bringing the church back to life, and his failures on the way.

Honestly, it is a book that anyone who has been a Christian and a part of a fellowship could appreciate. He has many thoughts throughout the book that are a challenge to many contemporary ideas about what the institutional church should look like. I think if you’re looking into leadership at any level, this could be a valuable book to read and think over. It doesn’t put things in a glamorous light, but it is honest and I think portrays a reality that is more present than the glitz and glamor of the mega-church.

The In-Progress Books:

  1. King’s Cross by Timothy Keller – It is hard to exactly say what this book is. It is a book that goes through the book of Mark, but it is neither a devotional nor a commentary. Expected either of those would probably lead to disappointment. Basically Keller takes a passage from the book of Mark and then explains the main theme or at least a theme that can be drawn from that passage. The style makes a good book to discuss with a group, which is exactly the context in which I’m reading it. The men’s group that I’m a part of is reading through this a chapter a week. This means that I’m not all that far into it so far, only chapter five, but so far it has led to interesting reading and discussion.

If you’re familiar with any of Keller’s other works than you pretty much know what to expect. He is intelligent, but able to put things in a way that is fairly easily understood. I’ll probably have more to say once I’ve finished the book, but this is my take so far.

2. Searching for Home by M. Craig Barnes – This is another book that I’m reading and discussing with a friend. No surprise the focus of the book is on home. It is basically exploring the idea of home and if home is simply a place or if it more than that. Barnes presents that home is more than simply a place and that our ultimate home is God.

I’m only about a quarter of the way through this book, but so far he has been exploring the concept of home that people have had in recent generations and how the current generation seems to lack a sense of home. He calls this generation nomads because they don’t often have a place they can call home because they move around quite often. This lack of home can often lead to a disconnectedness and lack of purpose.

I’m not entirely sure where he’ll all go from here, but so far it has been an interesting read with good thoughts about what home is and how we view it.

Well those are my books for April. I technically have another one I just started, but I’ll save it to put in the May list of books since I’m not far at all in it. One thing about writing down a list of books for the month is that I realize how all the books I read are serious in nature, I may have to change that for upcoming months, but my watching and playing habits balance out my serious reading though. Also I hope to have links to all the books, movies, TV shows, or video games if available. I’m hoping to have the links be the pictures, but if I can’t get it to work I’ll have them be the titles, so if you’re interesting in checking them out yourself you’d be able to.