I’ve been falling slightly behind the pace of a book per week, which was my goal for the 2017 Reading Challenge. Now, if we’re counting books I’d started, I’d already be there… but who’s got time for finishing books that aren’t great? Here are six more books that I did finish, though.
“How to Wow Your Church Guests” by Mark Waltz
Book 38: A book of your choice
Okay, I should revise what I said above. Sometimes we have to make time for books that aren’t great, so long as they have some other use, right? Well, this one certainly isn’t “great,” but it was a helpful resource in thinking through ways to make guests feel more welcome at our church. Like many churches, we see a lot of first time guests every week. However, we don’t see nearly so many second time visits as we would like. This book contains “101 ways to make a meaningful first impression.” They don’t all fit in every context, of course, but I’d imagine anyone serving (whether on staff or as a lay leader) in a position which deals with church guests would be able to glean useful information here. Grab your copy here.
“Verily, A New Hope” by Ian Doescher
Book 39: A play by William Shakespeare
So, obviously this is not a play by William Shakespeare. Nothing against the bard—on the contrary, I love reading Shakespeare!—but to the best of my knowledge there are no Shakespeare plays I haven’t read, and I have wanted as much as possible to read new things this year. And this has been on my “to read” list for far too long!
Here’s the gist: Doescher is a Star Wars fanatic and a Shakespeare scholar. Basically, he’s my kinda guy. He has taken each of the Star Wars movies and re-imagined them in the style of William Shakespeare. The transformation is incredible! We’re not just talking re-wording the dialog in Elizabethan English. No, he’s added all sorts of Shakespearean touches, from subtle foreshadowing to lengthy (and often humorous!) monologues by minor characters to the tormented musings of a tragically-flawed fallen Jedi. And, of course, the whole thing is composed in iambic pentameter, with rhyming couplets at the end of each scene. Brilliant!
You can grab a copy of this book here. Better yet, pick up this nice boxed set like I did, for yourself or as a Christmas gift for the Shakespeare/Lucas fan in your life. I actually read The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return as well, but since they’re short I don’t want to count them as separate books toward the reading challenge unless I’m still a few short by the end of the year and need to “cheat” a little!
“God Dreams” by Will Mancini
Book 40: A book about preaching or public speaking
This was another of those “reading for work” books. Our staff read this in preparation for a vision clarity retreat back in September. While the retreat was a very big success, I think we had mixed reviews about the book. Personally, I thought it was helpful. Others didn’t appreciate the book’s efforts to help us “visualize” the vision. I chalk it up to different learning styles. Regardless, the thought processes that went into the book and the retreat have set us on the road to better communicating and executing the vision we believe God has given for the direction of our church.
As for the book itself, this probably isn’t one I’d recommend as a “stand alone” read. It was helpful in the context of our retreat planning, but unless you’re a glutton for church vision books, you can probably leave this one.
“David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell
Book 41: A book that won a prize
If you’ve followed my book reviews for any period of time, you’ll know I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. Like his others, this proved to be a very thought-provoking read.
He begins with the provocative premise that we’ve misunderstood and misapplied the biblical story of David & Goliath. While the shepherd boy had every appearance of being an underdog, the reality is that the giant never stood a chance against him in personal combat. Sound ludicrous? Gladwell’s reasoning is plausible.
He extends this reasoning to rethinking several other situations in which “conventional wisdom” may have reversed the concepts of advantage and disadvantage. I found several of these vignettes fascinating, particularly the discussion about student-to-teacher ratios in classes.
If the book has a weakness, it’s that Gladwell perhaps oversells his argument. The first half of the book is great, but the rest seemed to drag on with too-many examples proving the same point. Regardless, it’s a book I thoroughly enjoyed, and think you will, too. Grab your copy here.
“Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions” by Gregory Koukl
Book 42: A book about apologetics
Having pursued an M.Div in Worldview & Apologetics, I’ve read quite a few books on the subject, but this is one I hadn’t tackled before. It just so happens that this is one of the books used in the apologetics class at the private high school attached to my church, so I thought I should acquaint myself with it.
It should be noted that there are a great many books about apologetics which present arguments far more exhaustively than this one. But then again, that’s not really what this book is about. This is a book about how to engage in apologetic discussion rather than focusing on deep, intellectual contents.
I love that this is a book for all Christians. It correctly teaches that you don’t have to be some sort of intellectual superstar to engage in discussion about Christianity both winsomely and persuasively. It’s a perfect choice for the FBA classroom, and one I commend to all believers. Grab your copy here.
“SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome” by Mary Beard
Book 43: A book about history
Full disclosure: I didn’t (yet) actually make it to the end of this book. It’s quite large (over 600 pages!), and I ran out of time before it was due back at the library. But I have every intention of getting back to it as soon as possible. I got too far not to finish!
This is definitely not a situation where I gave up because the book wasn’t worthy. Beard does a fantastic job of combining rigorous scholarship with engaging storytelling, and I was riveted to it as often as I was able to. Unfortunately, though I placed the book on hold during the summer (when I had time to read something like this!) it wasn’t available until we were in the thick of the busy season preparing for our church’s missions conference.
I’ll write a thorough review whenever I get back to the book, which will hopefully not be too long. If you’d like to read it yourself, you can put it in your own queue at the library, or pick it up here, which is maybe what I should do.
“Sing!: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church” by Keith & Kristyn Getty
Book 44: A book with a one-word title
Now here is a book I was excited about for a long time! I pre-ordered it months before it was released so that I could be among the very first to read it. The Gettys have been among my favorite hymn writers for 15 years now, and I’ve never heard either of them (and particularly Keith) say anything from which I did not benefit immensely. This book is no exception!
Again, I’m going to refrain from writing a full review at this time, as I intend to re-read it again in early 2018 and would like to have the benefit of reflecting on two readings before I flesh out my reactions to it. But you don’t have to wait! Go ahead and get it now, regardless of whether you are a worship leader, musicians, or “just” a church member. You won’t regret it!
“The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis
Book 45: A book of your choice
Continuing my way through the Chronicles of Narnia with my 8-year-old son, we recently wrapped up book 4 (or book 6, depending on which way you’re counting). This has always been my least favorite of the entire set, but a funny thing happened this time through… I thoroughly enjoyed it in a way that I don’t think I have before. I don’t know if it’s just because of the joy of reading it with Nate (who, by the way, is fascinated by the idea of subterranean living, and loved the whole concept about the underworld) or what, but I’ll take it!