My Reading Report for the Summer

Some of your questions about recent book releases have prompted me to write this post.  My love for books is pretty well known, and I’ve done some diverse reading this summer, both relaxing, critiquing, and learning.  I thought I’d share some of the highlights of my summer reading. I do read secular fiction and non-fiction because much of it is engaging, and it tells me much about what our culture is thinking. 

Biography:  Three Cups of Tea.  This is the story of Greg Mortensen, whose alpine climbing experience led him to the rugged northwest of Pakistan, and the discovery of both poverty and beauty among the people there.  It also led to his life’s work of building schools in the region for remote villages and their children.  It is a very interesting read, marred in my view by a naive view of both the politics and the religion of the region (many may say I may not have the personal experience to comment on that, but my own travels and others I have known would concur).  He also does not profess allegiance to Jesus and the gospel, though he is an MK.  Thus, he seems to leave people’s lives temporarily improved, but eternally at risk.

Beautiful Boy tells the story of Nic Sheff, a precocious boy whose meth addiction destroyed much of his life and that of his family.  The teller of the story is his father, David, who devoted himself for years to trying to help his son out of this bondage.  As with the earlier book, there is no commitment to Jesus upon which to draw, and the emptiness and hopelessess of their lives and much of the recovery movement is revealed in jarring detail. 

Non-fiction:  unChristian analyzes the church’s image today based on data gathered by the Barna research group from younger Americans.  The conclusion–we don’t have a good reputation with those outside the church.  It is not really ground-breaking work, but it is a good reminder that the world is watching, and sometimes we don’t help them understand Jesus by the way we act. 

UPDATE:  I have been publishing some review comment on unChristian on my other blog, The CyberParsonage, if you are interested.

Vintage Jesus is Mark Driscoll’s presentation of a basic Christology, in the process using the irreverent style and contemporary illustrations that make people either love or hate him (I happen to be in the former camp). 

Fiction (Christian):  The Shack is a publishing miracle–a self published book that has become a best seller.  It is also controversial, as it is a parable-like story of a man’s crushing brokenness, and the healing that comes through a direct encounter with the Trinity.  It is not a theology, but it stretched my thinking, sometimes encouraging me and sometimes troubling me, but it was a very engaging read. 

Who Stole My Church? is Gordon McDonald’s fictionalized account of a church trying to come to grips with the need for change.  It does a great job of cataloging the issues that often face established churches seeking to adapt to changing culture and expectations.  I have asked the deacons and staff to read this so that we can discuss it together.

Dead Heat is Joel Rosenberg’s final novel in his last days series, and it is a MUCH better series than the Left Behind books.  Like the previous book, it is fiction but provides much to think about, in this case concerning issues related to how certain last days prophecies might come to fruition, and how the United States may find itself not figuring into those prophesied events.  If you haven’t read this series, start with The Last Jihad.  He also has written an excellent non-fiction book on end times, called Epicenter.

Fiction (non-Christian): Kite Runner is an heartwrenching look into life in Afghanistan and among its people before, during, and after the Taliban.  Though fiction, it has been hailed as a faithful portrait of life among one unique segment of Afghan people.  Powerful and troubling, it has one plot element that is deeply disturbing, but true to aspects of the culture.

Playing for Pizza and The Appeal are two John Grisham books.  If you like his writing,  you will like these–but if not, you won’t.  The first is one of his diversions outside of legal dramas, telling the story of a pro football player trying to keep his career going by playing in Italy.  The second is a typical Grisham legal novel, with just a little too much politics for me.  Both have some questionable elements.

 Light From Heaven is Jan Karon’s final book in the Mitford series, and it is a nice farewell to Father Tim and the people of Mitford, North Carolina.  Readers of this series must finish with this, although newcomers should start at the beginning.  The early books are the best, but all of them are good.

I read some others, but this is a good cross-section, and you can ask me if you want to know about any other books.

UPDATE:  You never know who reads these blogs–I must offer two corrections.  One: I gave the wrong title for the final Mitford novel–now corrected above.  I read them all, but missed the title.  And second, while the series does conclude, Father Tim’s journey lives on in a new series of books, the first of which was published last fall (kind thanks to Jan Karon, the author of these fine books, who reminded me of these important details).

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 1:49 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Pastor Craig-

    thanks for letting us ‘in’ what you were reading this summer!


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