MY BIGGEST READS DIDN'T MAKE THE BIGGEST IMPACT
Since I threw out the value of reading in a recent blog, I thought that it may be potentially beneficial to share some of the more impacting reads of my past year. As context, I think it’s important to share a couple of thoughts.
First, the better books and/or reading experiences weren’t always the most impacting. In fact, this is often true. Many of the books that I enjoy the most are far from the most impacting or memorable. Of course, reasons abound. (e.g., I enjoyed them because they simply restated what I already felt or believed; they were simply fun or entertaining; they were well written but not necessarily thought-provoking for me; etc.)
Second, some of the more thought-provoking and memorable books are the ones that I disagreed with most profoundly. This only makes sense. My disagreement forced me to interact with them in a far more purposeful, and personal way. (I think that I sometimes write more notes on a page than the author.) I also tend to read and reread portions of these books. A good example of this in 2011 was Rob Bell’s “Love Wins.”
Third, I find that the reading experiences I have make me better whether I ultimately remember or am in some way directly impacted by the specific book or not.
Fourth, I have a growing disdain for books that, like many movies, are simple repeats of the same old, (dare I use the word one of my English teachers taught me to never use?), thing. I really have grown tired of superficial drivel. After all, Christians are in relationship with the Creator. Shouldn’t we be the most creative, inspiring, thought-provoking people in the world? (If the answer isn’t obvious to you, then you’ll probably take issue with my view of so many of the popular Christian books these days.)
Fifth, this is not my exhaustive reading list from this past year.
Books of note and why…
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – This was my second go around with this book. As a person who is constantly seeking to communicate the most important truth of the universe, God’s truth, in creative and impacting ways, I found this book to be sensationally motivating. Steven Pressfield gets the struggle of constantly creating… thus the title. Warning… he is not a believer and all of his ideas are not representative of or in line with God’s truth. But, as one human committed to writing or communicating with excellence to another, he has written a valuable little book.
Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola – Though I have to confess that I’m not a real fan of the style or typical thrust of Sweet’s writings and that this book is far from the best or most consistently written, it impacted me. To be honest… one simple but profound thought, in particular, impacted me. “What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.” YES! Sadly, I (we) so often make Christianity about all of the little stuff we’ve added to it or personally value about delivering it to the world rather than about Christ Himself. This challenged me, and I’m thankful that they wrote it.
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard – I had to work hard to get through this book… again. (I think I’ve read it before… either that or I’ve started reading it so many times that I just believe I have.) So many of the concepts Dr. Willard addressed in this book impacted me… really made me think again about my view of, value for, and personal application of God’s Kingdom in my life. Dallas Willard makes me wish I was smarter than I am, and, even more, makes me want to live, experience, and represent the Kingdom of God more and more and better and better.
King’s Cross by Timothy Keller – a simpler, more accessible book about God’s Kingdom than Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy.” It’s actually written from talks he gave from the Gospel of Mark. But, it was an engaging and impacting read. I really appreciate Keller’s ministry and have found personal value from experiencing it through his writing.
John Adams by David McCullough – This was an enjoyable read… but it had impact as well. Three examples: First: revolution tends to be a young man’s game. The older John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would have never done what they did as young men. We need to release young people, with their energy and idealism, into ministry and leadership. Second: leaders on opposite ends of the spectrum can make each other way better than they would be without them. Third: what we’re experiencing today between leaders, politicians, etc., though undesirable, is nothing new. Solomon was right… there’s nothing new under the sun.
Okay… this is already long enough. But, I’d love to hear about books that you’ve read and how they’ve impacted you. In fact, I’d love your “must read” recommendations as I begin to assemble my list of books for 2012.