Here’s a rundown of the 5 books I read in April. Most of March and April was consumed by a single massive biography. I’m a sucker for a thick, dense historical bio. This one definitely fits that bill. Happy reading.
Wilson by A. Scott Berg
Without the extra material, this book is over 740 pages … and the pages are big and the font and margins are small. It’s a monster. But I loved it.
I admittedly did not know much about Woodrow Wilson. This added to my enjoyment of the book. I found myself constantly putting the book down to Google certain topics and events merely to learn more about it on the spot before picking up the story. Berg does a fabulous job of giving an extremely detailed look at Wilson’s life while keeping the story moving on an appealing trajectory. As a bit of a criticism, I feel the book paints Wilson in a glowing light. Having since done more reading on Wilson, Berg could have been more critical of Wilson’s lack of support for women’s suffrage and his last year in office when Wilson was severely hindered by health issues.
Wilson’s faith subtly plays in the background of the book. Berg uses religious/spiritual language to frame Wilson’s story. For example, part one of the book is broken down into the following chapters: Ascension, Providence, Eden, Sinai, Reformation, Advent. Its a creative and powerful angle.
This is a magnificent book. Yet, only serious biography readers need apply.
Lesson From the East: Finding The Future Of Western Christianity in the Global Church by Bob Roberts
Here’s a taste from the opening pages:
“The American church doesn’t need one more silver bullet. We need a surgeon to cut us open, perform radical surgery on our hearts and minds, and then empower us to be and do all God has for us.”
He goes on:
“Too often in America, we’ve made a successful worship service the focus of our strategy, our measuring stick, our biggest worry, and our heart’s desire. In our country, we don’t start churches; we start worship services … Great worship services don’t change the world; empowered impassioned disciples do.”
Bob Roberts uses his experiences and relationship with church pastors and church movements from around the world to speak prophetically towards some of the issues in Western Christianity. It’s a powerful read.
I’ve admitted previously that I’m a big fan of Bob Roberts. Church leaders – pick up his books. Last year I was working through some issues regarding missions strategy. I contacted Bob and asked for an hour of his time. He graciously met me for lunch and we talked through various topics over heaping plates of pasta. I’m grateful for his leadership, writing, faithful demonstration of ministry, and generosity.
Speaking Well: A Pocket Guide by Adam Hamilton
I’m constantly looking for ways to improve as a communicator. I think far too many pastors do not work and study the art of communication. When this book first came out I added it to my Amazon wishlist. I disagree with Hamilton on many points of theology but love listening to his preaching. He is one of two pastors that I listen to on a regular basis. He is thoughtful, well studied, and a gift communicator.
Yet, this book did not appeal to me due to the subtitle of “pocket guide.” This screams superficial and unhelpful to my eyes and ears. One day while scanning my Amazon wishlist I was alerted that the price of this book had dropped to $3. All of the sudden it seemed worth the read.
Is it worth the $3? Maybe.
As advertised – it is a pocket guide. Each chapter has a simple point followed by brief explanation and illustration(s) from Hamilton’s experience. It might be handy to the person absolutely brand new to public speaking. Anyone else probably should pass … unless you have $3 to spend.
The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch
This is a fantastic memoir written by a long time funeral director. Comprised of essays, Lynch provides his reflections on life, death, and the funeral business. I appreciated Lynch’s brutal honesty on the topic of death. At points it makes you squirm in your reading chair. It can be down right uncomfortable. Lynch provides the frankness that can only come from a funeral director. As a pastor, I encounter death on a fairly regular basis – a handful of funerals a year. Yet, I deal with the living. My time spent with the deceased is limited. The funeral director on the hand …
There are many stories from Lynch’s business that provide a unique glimpse into the “dismal” trade and the various ways in which people deal with death. While never overtly spiritual, you get small insights into Lynch’s faith. In the final chapter he speaks of how he wants his own funeral service to precede. In that description he provides my favorite line of the book:
“I want a mess made in the snow so that the earth looks wounded, forced open, an unwilling participant.”
As I’ve said before … I remember books by particular and powerful sentences. I love that one.
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Those who are faithful at looking through my reading logs will remember that back in July I picked up most of the works of Michael Crichton off the internet for $1 a piece. I’ve been slowly working through them as an exercise to force myself to read outside of my particular interests and genre. I’m actually really enjoying reading science fiction.
The Andromeda Strain covers the fallout from an unmanned research satellite that returns to earth lethally contaminated. Four scientists as experts in the fields of microbiology, epidemiology, pathology, and chemistry are assigned to figure things out. Crichton, a med school graduate, is more than qualified to discuss medical issues (and jargon) with ease.
I really enjoy Crichton’s crisp writing style. He does not waste words but paints great detail through precise word choice and sentence structure.