January and February 2022 Reading Memo

I always try to start the year with a bang with reading. I’d say this year has been ok, staying just under my goals for the year so far. I recently started serving as the Senior Pastor at Valley View Church in Louisville Kentucky, so you might see more “how to pastor” type books showing up in these lists than before. But I’m also digging into some other fascinating books that are all adding to my general interest in life, history, and humanity.

The River War by Winston Churchill. I’ve been enamored with this two volume series and was shocked by how quickly and completely I was drawn in by what might seem rather unrelated to our modern lives. Churchill was a literary prodigy, completing five substantial books before serving in the British Parliament at age twenty-five. This book was his second of the five and approached 1,000 pages in its first printing. It’s the story of the war between British-ruled Egypt and Sudan in 1899. It’s a complex issue (why were the British in Egypt to begin with and what in the world did they care about fighting Sudan?), one that’s hard to get our minds around in this age, but also relevant to current events as it is equally perplexing why Russia feels the need to invade Ukraine! The first run didn’t sell as well as was hoped and several condensed versions ensued. The editor of this modern edition re-discovered the lost first editions and created this critical edition, restoring the portions that were removed, printing those portions in red, as well as including images and illustrations and copious footnotes and a MASSIVE amount of introductory material (over 250 pages). The construction of the book and the back story made it as interesting to me as the content. I’ve finished volume one and am half way through volume two.

Personality Isn’t Permanent by Benjamin Hardy: To all the Enneagram lovers, I apologize in advance. I’m not a fan of the multitude of personality profiles that show up every other year or so. I guess they can be helpful, but more often than not I’ve seen them lock people into seeing themselves only one way. This book was a fantastic corrective and a powerful reminder that you literally can start becoming a completely different person at any point you want to. There is nothing locking you into acting the way you used to act. Your history doesn’t determine your future you. It might explain parts of you, but it doesn’t have to determine who you are. Some might find the book a little too self-helpy, but I enjoyed it at so many levels and plan to re-read it again soon.

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by R.Kent Hughes: I’ve recommended his book Disciplines of a Godly Man for years, and this book was exactly what I needed to read as I was heading into starting as a pastor. A good reminder that the way we measure success and the way God measures success are often at odds. We have to fight to focus on what is essential!

Girl in the Song by Chrissy Cymbala Toledo: Last year I read, and now I’m encouraging our church to read Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. Girl in the Song is by the daughter of Jim Cymbala and tells her struggles with finding her significance in a relationship that pulled her away from God and resulted in a pregnancy out of wedlock.

The Last Goodnight by Howard Blum: Story of a female spy in WWII. Interesting at many levels but also sad how much of her heart (and body) she so easily gave away in the name of espionage.

Others: Phillip: in the midst of listening to a biography on Prince Phillip. Wow what a guy. Midnight for Charlie Bone was a great book for young boys (my nine year old devoured it). There’s a Hole in My Bucket, by the Great-grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien had me pretty chocked up at moments over the powerful display of love between brothers, but lost steam in the last quarter. Winterdance was a fun journey into the world of Iditarod Dog-sled racing by the author of Hatchet.

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