I feel like I’m in one of the most interesting seasons of reading that I’ve experienced in a long time. The books are overlapping and complementing and reinforcing ideas in the others in ways that are a pure delight.
I’ve already mentioned Live Not by Lies, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Foolishness to the Greeks, and Technopoly. I’m still working on two of these four , but I’m blown away by how much there is to chew on and discuss in these books. I’ve been in probably a dozen different conversations already this month where each of these books were mentioned and discussed, sometimes at length. I hear that Carl Trueman is working on a popular version of Rise and Triumph, which would be amazing if it turned out well. His book as is has to be the book I’ve spent the most time chewing on in the last ten years.
Jurassic Park: My eight year old became infatuated with dinosaurs this year. So we had to watch Jurassic Park. Then he asked me to read him the book. I read it aloud to my two youngest and they were absolutely enthralled. I had to edit the gore and a little bit of language as we went, but that was easy to do. Wouldn’t have been my first choice as a read aloud, but it’s worked well for us. I like the book better than the movie (said everyone always).
I also mentioned Tolkien’s letters. I use this almost like a mini-devotion to start the morning and read just a page or two a day. So I’ll be nibbling on this one for a while. Here are a couple of great quotes I ran across by him:
In a letter to his son Christopher, who was off to the Army in December 1943 and apparently struggling with the tendency of senior officers to turn into dictators:
“The most improper job of any man, even saints (who at least were unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.” (p.64)
This reminded me of a fantastic quote from the book What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills:
“Repeatedly Jesus rebukes the followers who jockey for authority over each other and over others… The guiding rule for a follow of Jesus is to avoid high rank.” (p.44-45) [JCM Comment: or, at the minimum, to be cautious not to seek it out.]
Also from Tolkien but on another topic altogether, quoting from his yet unpublished volume of The Lord of the Rings, from Faramir to Frodo:
“When you return to the lands of the living, and we re-tell our tales, sitting by a wall in the sun, laughing at old grief, you shall tell me then.” (p.80)
Just started re-reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I think this is one of the most intriguing books I’ve ever read because there’s really nothing else like it in terms of how he weaves together a story and a philosophical treatise, all with a surprising twist layered in the middle. I’ve found that people tend to either love it or hate it.
Also just started Dynamics of Spiritual Life by Richard Lovelace. Hope to discuss it with a good friend who recommended it to me. Loved this quote out of it: “True spirituality is not a superhuman religiosity; it is simply true humanity released from bondage to sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit.” (P.19) Tim Keller gave this book glowing praise and said it’s one of two books he lists as must-reads to new pastors.
The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson was fine. Lots of details on how the English language developed and how it differs across different countries and cultures. Great for grammar and etymology nerds. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t care.
Acts: An Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. I usually try to work through studying a book of the New Testament once a year. I usually do the study in Greek. I know I sound like a pretentious donkey, but here’s why: I paid good money to learn Greek in seminary and it makes me feel like I’m more spiritual than I really am when I read it. And, much more importantly, it really slows me down and forces me to look carefully at what I’m studying. This commentary series is FANTASTIC for helping you understand the flow of the Greek structure and syntax along the way (I already worked through John and Luke and both volumes were excellent, though John seemed to give more of the kind of insight I wanted). It’s literally a commentary on the Greek language rather than a commentary on the meaning of the passage. This year I’m pairing it with the Greek Scripture Journal by Crossway. Sadly, you can only get Acts in the full set (as far as I could tell), which a very kind friend sent me as a Christmas gift this year. Why Acts this year? After reading a book on the 24/7 prayer movement, Dirty Glory, I really felt burdened to pray for a fresh out pouring of the Holy Spirit on families all over the world. Acts is the book where it all began, so it seemed natural (which is also part of the reason I felt burdened to read Dynamics of Spiritual Life mentioned above).
Alone on the Wall: Alex Honnold of the famous Free Solo movie writes about his rock climbing experiences and some of what drives him. Overall I liked the book – it’s hard to put down and my palms stayed moist throughout. However, I really wanted to read more introspection from him. He seems like a really thoughtful guy. He gives a few glimpses of this, but I wanted more. I mean, what makes a guy like him tick? A guy who climbs straight up a 3,000ft granite wall with NO ROPES! I’m guessing he thinks his personal thoughts would bore people. Maybe it would. Maybe his audience wants all the details about the holds he used on the walls, so maybe he knows them best. But I just think there’s so much to mine from a super intense focused guy like him. That’s one thing I appreciated about the book 127 Hours, about the guy who had to cut off his own arm to survive in the wilderness. I just assumed the book would be a complete bore with an obvious ending. Yet I was so intrigued by his life, thoughts, mindset, his wide ranging literary tastes. It was so good. There’s no doubt Alex has that in him as well (we get a glimpse of that when he mentions reading The Brothers Karamazov before falling asleep while hanging off a wall of ice and granite on an alpine mountaineering trip), but I would have like a whole lot more. Book is still worth reading.
Listen: I bought the e-book of Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage on how the Transgender craze is hurting young girls and I can’t wait to read it. Until then you might like listening to her interview with the guys from Babylon Bee. I hear the audio book is excellent.
As always, to see what I’m currently reading, follow me on Goodreads. And be on the lookout for the official launch of my podcast about books in the next week or so! You can listen to the first episode here.
5 thoughts on “January 2021 Reading Memo”
great letter and I liked you ended with podcast mention.
Thanks, John. I can’t relate to the “Greek” commentary (apparently it’s not all Greek to me) but I appreciate your explanation for your own interest.
Be of good cheer, Rick FCA representative 591.658.7258 http://www.rickandsusieministry.org
That photo of the library would make a great jigsaw puzzle, but without the speakers.
The Mother Tongue is so entertaining! I’m only 21 pages into it and I have laughed until tears I had tears. Great choice!
Okay, I finished The Mother Tongue but it for really tedious in some chapters. But it was still fun.