Here’s some thoughts on some books I read over the last month.
#1 Grant by Ron Chernow: If you’ve had even the slightest bit of interest in the life of U.S. Grant, GO BUY THIS BIOGRAPHY RIGHT NOW. I’m listening to this one via audible, and even at 45 hours long, I’ve not been able to stop listening. I’m not a walker, but I found myself looking for excuses to take long walks just to keep listening. The narrator does such a fantastic job with this book (Narrators make or break audio books). I’ve read Grant’s memoirs (vol 1), and this treatment of his life by the author of the now very famous Hamilton only increased my admiration for a man of such amazing accomplishment. I was most impressed by his humility and his singular ability to seize the moment. Without his unparalleled ability to keep pressing forward and the advent of the Civil War, he likely would have been unremarkable, completely lost to history.
#2 Even though I thoroughly enjoyed Mastery by Robert Greene (EVERY college student should read this), I’ve avoided 48 Laws of Power because of all the negative comments I’ve heard from friends about this book. The author is up-front about his topic: How do you use manipulation tactics to achieve and keep the power you desire? Just typing that sentence made me want to throw up. So why am I reading it? Two reasons: 1) Greene is a master story teller, and my primary job is to collect stories. 2) Moment of transparency warning: In hindsight, I’ve been naive about the nature of certain people in my life. I don’t like admitting that, but it’s true. I read this book not to arm myself in the pursuit of power, but to be aware of some of the realities of human behavior. If you can see what’s going on in any given situation, you’re better equipped to handle it. My goal is to point people toward an authentic solution that serves everyone well. That might be unrealistic (and, dare I say naive), but I’d rather live that way than cynical and jaded. I’m a few chapters in, and though I feel like I want to take a shower after each chapter, I’m glad I’m reading it now as a 46 year old man, and not at 18. Oh my…
#3 7 Men by Eric Metaxas: Whether you agree with his politics or not, Metaxas did a great job with this book. I read it many years ago when creating an audio segment for Passport2Identity. I revisited the book when writing a three part devotion series on the life of Eric Liddell, the “Chariots of Fire” guy. (Read the devotions here: Part One, Two, and Three). His life after the Olympics was more fascinating (IMHO) than during, yet very few people are aware of his courageous acts as a missionary in Japan-occupied China (where he grew up). Metaxas gives seven chapter length biographies on seven influential men like Liddell, Wilberforce, and Bonhoeffer. Great read for young men as well.
#4 I bought The Evidential Power of Beauty 5 years ago and just picked it up to read/discuss with a friend. So far so good.
#5 What Jesus Meant by Gary Wills: A trusted friend recommended this and I can’t recommend it enough. You won’t agree with everything in it, nor should you (I sure didn’t), but it was an honest attempt at examining Jesus’s most shocking statements through fresh eyes. A good exercises for anyone who has become overly familiar with things that should shake up your world. I read a few pages each morning and found it to be a great resource for promoting healthy introspections and reflection.
#6 90 Minutes at Entebbe was another great summer read. Wasn’t able to put it down. Story of the Israeli military attempt to free hostages from a hijacked flight.
#7 Why I Am Still Surprised by The Power of The Holy Spirit by Jack Deere: I met a friend of mine for lunch last week who is also a big reader (consistently tosses back 75+ books a year) and he asked, “What’s the most influential book you’ve read so far this year?” I stumbled through a few titles, but an hour into the conversation, I redacted the transcript and said, THIS IS IT. No book has invigorated my prayer life in the last ten years as much as this one. In fact, while reading it, I saw two big prayers answered, both of which I felt moved to pray intensely for in the midst of reading. And both answers were a reminder that it wasn’t about how good I was at praying (not very), but about God moving.
Hey, I know many of us are facing reading fatigue here mid-summer. Maybe your vacation plans got canceled (ours did), or maybe you’re just feeling burned out by the ambiguity of the future. I’ve found that finding the right book in a slow season can help to get though some tough times. If you don’t want to buy it, try your library.