May Readings and Reflections

assorted books on shelf
Photo by Ivo Rainha on Pexels.com

Here are some readings and reflections from the past month or so:

Sex, Dating, and Relationships : I’ve recommended this book like crazy since I read it over five years ago. I’m on the last chapter of a book discussion with my son, his best friend, and his dad. It’s the most gospel centered book on the topic I’ve seen.

Atomic Habits is a book I’ve recommended more than any other over the last two years. I’m reading it for a third time, discussing a couple of chapters a month with my brothers. The author, James Clear, sends out a weekly newsletter. Recently he quoted an interview with Seinfeld on what it takes to make something great:

INTERVIEWER: You and Larry David wrote Seinfeld together, without a traditional writers’ room, and burnout was one reason you stopped. Was there a more sustainable way to do it? Could McKinsey or someone have helped you find a better model?

SEINFELD: Who’s McKinsey?

INTERVIEWER: It’s a consulting firm.

SEINFELD: Are they funny?

INTERVIEWER: No.

SEINFELD: Then I don’t need them. If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way. The show was successful because I micromanaged it—every word, every line, every take, every edit, every casting. That’s my way of life.

Cyprian: We need a word to describe when you read about something in one book, and then turn around and see it in another book. That happened to my daughter last week with Thomas Paine, and then to me with Cyprian, an early church father (250AD-ish). I’m reading through two Church history books, a few pages a day, and both featured him the same day. Of particular note was a short treatise he wrote “On Mortality,” which he wrote to comfort those affected by a plague-type illness sweeping through northern Africa in his day.

Took a diversion from Grudem’s short book How to Know God’s Will, which I’m reading to the family over breakfast, to read a couple of stories from the booksThe Insanity of God and Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Both books are chocked full of stories of God working in mind-blowing ways.

Finishing up the last chapter of Tolkien and the Great War. Been discussing this with a friend a few chapters at a time over the last six months. We were interested in how Tolkien’s involvement in WWI shaped his writing of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Of greater importance, the book gave us a reason to connect once a month. The book didn’t deliver as much as I hoped, but there were a couple of deeply moving chapters. For a fantastic overview of Tolkien’s life, read Humphrey Carpenter’s biography instead.

Side note on book discussions: I’ve found the best ones happen when you a) use a book as a reason to connect, and b) use a connection as a reason to read a book. The interplay of the two is usually the sweet spot. If it’s only about the book, then most don’t stay with it. If it’s only about connecting and the book isn’t of some interest, then the conversation struggles. If you look back through this post, you’ll see that probably half the books are read in connection with someone else (book discussion, read aloud).

I plan to send out summary notes once a week, one chapter at a time, from the book Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson this summer. I’ll post the notes to this blog, and I’ll also email them out, starting in early June. If you want to follow along, go ahead and pick up a copy of the book.

Blasted through On Writing by Stephen King. I think it’s the only King book I’ve read. And maybe his only non-fiction book. Lots of nuggets in there, like, using less adverbs, story is king, tightening dialogue, etc. Lots of f-bombs too fyi. I appreciated his no-nonsense, non-technical approach. I’ve liked other books about writing better though, especially Draft No.4 by McPhee and Working by Robert Caro.

Listened to Preachers N Sneakers interview with Costi Hinn (nephew of Benny Hinn) and it was super encouraging. Costi grew up working for his Uncle, then became a pastor, then became a Christian. This message is saturated with Scripture and a balanced tone.

Wings of Fire #13: I’ve been recommending this series for some time now. I’ve read them aloud to our two younger kids (ten and seven). The ten-year-old has read them all herself, multiple times. She generally stays two or three books ahead of my read-aloud efforts.

But now I’m having to back off my previously unguarded recommendations. In the thirteenth and most recent book in the series, a major part of the story is a romantic relationship between two female dragons (this was hinted at near the end of book twelve). I get that authors want to write about same sex relationships this day and age. And I realize that this book is likely targeted at teens, a more mature audience than my younger kids.

That being said, I didn’t appreciate the author dropping this in the THIRTEENTH book of the series. If you’re going to bring it in, do it earlier in the series so I know what to expect. Kids get bombarded enough with mature topics these days. We don’t avoid talking about the topic in our home, but most kids find this kind of thing confusing and uncomfortable. I’d rather be able to talk about it on my time table than have it slipped in surreptitiously. Of course, life is like that, isn’t it? We don’t always get to do things on our time table.

A friend of mine asked if he should let his ten-year-old read it, since his boy is currently blasting through book eleven. Here’s what I said:

“My daughter read it at nine (she just turned ten) before I knew about the SSA romance in it. She didn’t say anything to me about it. I read the book aloud to my seven-year-old and just skipped over all the romance. I think depending on the kid, they might not even realize what’s going on in the story. There’s no kissing or anything, but there’s ‘brushing wings’ and ‘intertwined tails’ (like holding hands?) and talk of finding my ‘one true love.’ Twitter-pated hearts, etc, all meant to make it clear they’re more than just friends. Depending on the kid, I’d just let them read it and then talk about it afterwards. If they don’t notice it, no big. If they do, then you have a chance to discuss it at an age appropriate level. Reality is, many ten-year-olds probably know of a girl-that-likes-a-girl in their school. Whatever that means to them. Since he’s invested eleven books deep already, it will be hard to turn him away from the series without being too coy and weird.”

I remember when there was a huge debate about whether or not Christian kids should read Harry Potter. I’ve leaned toward letting my kids read whatever book in question, and then being intentional to discuss it. Of course keep appropriate ages in mind in all these discussions. I also work hard to fill our house with good books—believing that the good books will crowd out the lesser.

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