Here is a rundown of the 6 books that I read in February.
Death Of A King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year by Tavis Smiley
In the month of February (black history month in the United States) I make an effort to read from the works of important African American figures. One of my personal heroes is Martin Luther King Jr. Tavis Smiley’s book, Death Of A King, is a unique addition. He takes a look solely at the year leading up to King’s assassination.
The book pulls largely from interviews with King’s family and close associates and is written with a intimate tone. Smiley refers to King as “Doc” throughout the book, giving the narrative a personal feel. I also appreciated the book’s look into King’s opposition to the Vietnam war and King’s call for nonviolence. This aspect of King’s political activity often goes overlooked and perhaps played a large role in his assignation.
Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr.
I LOVE this thin volume. It is a collection of 15 sermons of Martin Luther King and each page packs a powerful theological punch. King had a way of crafting sentences filled with meaning and beauty. His oratory skill was not merely flashy. Rather, it carried great substance and significance.
As one who walks to the pulpit each week, I stand amazed by the prophetic voice that screams from this collection.
The Multiplying Church: The New Math For Starting New Churches by Bob Roberts
Roberts is the pastor of Northwood Church (Keller, Texas) and is not merely a writer but a practitioner in developing transformational disciples and churches. Roberts’ books sit on my shelf filled with highlights, underlines, and notes in the margin. I recommend his other books to you as well: Transformation, Glocalization, Real-Time Connections, and Bold As Love. I respect his voice and the work he has done. The volume at hand argues for a church planting mindset. He makes the case that multiplying efforts should be the natural and regular function of every church.
A few months ago I scheduled a lunch to sit down and discuss missions with Roberts. It was a fascinating hour discussing the Kingdom of God while eating a large plate of pasta. Side note: Kingdom of God talk and pasta are great conversation partners.
Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
OK. OK. OK. I finally decided to read this book. It has been recommended to me countless times by pastor friends. That grabbed my interest. It is a novel about an aging and sick pastor writing to his young son. That grabbed my interest. It won the Pulitzer Prize. That grabbed my interest. Unfortunately, the book did not grab my interest.
I didn’t enjoy the lack of format. I didn’t enjoy the lack of a significant plot. I also found the theological points made in the book to lack depth. The final portion of the book picked up the pace but then it ended abruptly. Many others will disagree with me. Robinson has sold millions of books and won a Pulitzer – I don’t think my opinion matters much.
Into The Wild by Jon Krackauer
This is an extremely well-written travel essay about a young man from a well-to-do family who hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Prior to leaving, Christopher Johnson abandoned his possessions and gave his $25,000 savings to charities. He lasted 119 days in the wilderness before his body was discovered by a moose hunter.
What made me pick this book up? A few reasons: 1) I found it for a few dollars at a used bookstore 2) I knew the book had a film adaptation 3) I was gripped by the writing style in a mere scan of a few pages and 4) I’m always looking for good stories from unique perspectives on life.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. A future post will include my thoughts on a theological reflection found in the book.
Forgiveness: A Legacy Of West Nickel Mines Amish School by John Ruth
I read this book as preparation for a sermon on the topic of forgiveness. The story of Nickel Mines is powerful (future blog post) and a true testament of Christian forgiveness. I think the story is worthy of being told time and time again. Yet, I would not point you to read about the story from this book – it lacks depth and a clear portrait of the event.
A much better treatment is found in Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher.