December Reading Log

Here’s a rundown of the 6 books I read in December.  This was set up to be a HUGE reading month – and then my son was born.  What does that mean beside sleep depravity?  Yes – January will include a ton of books.  Happy reading.

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham

Destiny and PowerI’m a fan of political biographies – especially when it comes to presidents. I was excited when I first heard the promotion force this book – and it did not disappoint.  Many modern day biographies can take a few tips from Meacham’s work.

This is a big book.  Excluding endnotes it tallies in at just over 600 pages.  Yet, Meecham uses these 600 pages extremely well.  It is typical of modern biographies to give you ever single detail about a person’s life … from the moment of birth.  You get descriptions of their childhood bedroom and quotes from their first grader teacher.  All a bit much.  In contrast, Meecham gives great details in the life on Bush – but on topics of actual significance.  On top of that, it is insight full and incredibly well-written.  Definitely one of my favorites of the year.

It is fascinating to see how the legacy of the George HW Bush’s presidency has shifted since his time in office.  I think a book like this one will aid in casting his contributions in a good light.

Paul and the Gift by John Barclay

Paul and the GiftThis book is a monster.  I’ve been slowly reading it since September.  In complete transparency, I have much to reread to fully understand the depth and totality of the concepts.  I purchased the book after watching Barclay give a lecture on the topic at Baylor University.  It just so happened that the lecture took place during my Doctorate of Ministry seminar in which the first century notion of grace was big topic.  My entire cohort attended the lecture and spent time arguing agreements and disagreements.

Barclay’s work has to be seen as the definitive book on the topic.  It is 600 pages of examination of Paul’s understanding of grace from every angle I can personally imagine. It is an academic work of brute force.  Only those interested in high level academic writing need to attempt to turn the pages of this volume.  Yet … I loved it.

This book is a great example of one of the many reasons I love books.  Barclay has devoted a large amount of time and resources to mastering a certain topic.  He has gone through the painstaking work of researching, studying, thinking, clarifying, arguing, editing, writing, and more.  By reading the book – I get to benefit from all that work with very minimal effort.  I’d gladly pay the price of a book and spend a number of hours reading it in order to reap from what someone else has sown.

Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered: Growing in Christ Through Community by James Wilhoit

Spiritual Formation Church MatteredThis is a required book for my Doctorate of Ministry seminar coming up in February.  I really appreciated this work.  I read a great deal on the topic of spiritual formation.  Many books in this genre unintentionally promote a isolated and individualistic view of faith.  They stress personal holiness to the determinate of Christian community.  Wilhoit’s book provides a great contrast to this trend.

Wilhoit offers some interesting observations on the topic of grace and its impact on spiritual formation.  He also provides a unique take on the push towards discipleship in many churches. Of course he is in favor of discipleship, but fights against the tendency in churches to promote discipleship as an option for the committed.

The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard 

Spirit of the DisciplinesAnother required reading for my D Min seminar and also a reread for me.  Here’s a confession:  I’m not a big fan of Willard’s work.  I know.  I know.  I know. For some that statement caused weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Yet, Willard is bit too philosophical for me.  After all, he is a philosopher.

This book is worth reading … don’t get me wrong.  Yet, I would recommend different books on the spiritual disciplines.  What what I recommend?  I’m glad you asked.

It’s a drastically different book but I would recommend Richard’s Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.  If you want to read more than one book on similar topics I recommend the work of James Bryant Smith:  The Good and Beautiful God,  The Good and Beautiful Life, and The Good and Beautiful Community.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

GobletOfFireI’m continuing on with the Harry Potter series.  The Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in the series and the weakest volume thus far in my opinion.  It is MUCH longer than the previous three books and I believe that much of the length was unnecessary.  The first 150 pages following a plot line that only impacts the overall book in a minimal way.  But who am I to criticize this series?  It has sold 450 million copies.  I think JK Rowling knows what she’s doing and doesn’t need my two cents.

The books is still an incredible great story.  It was just as fascinating as the previous installments but has a few drawbacks in terms of structure and plot development.

The Lost World by Michael Crichton

Lost WorldI’ve been reading through the works of Michael Crichton in an effort to read outside my preferred genre of books.  This was next in line.  I’ve mentioned before the impact Jurassic Park had on me as a reader.  I was in 7th grade when I picked it up, it blew me away, and I couldn’t put it down.  It played  a key role in my love for reading.

Though I loved Jurassic Park … I never read the sequel.

The Lost World is much like Jurassic Park.  People foolishly find themselves on an island with dinosaurs and have to find a way to survive.  Just flat out entertaining.  Prior to the running and screaming, The Lost World does a great job of continuing the story from the previous book.  I actually preferred the build up more than the crunching and munching.

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