The Ten for 2014

I am a voracious reader. I haven’t been as quick to read a LOT of things recently, but I do love reading.

What I am horrible at is getting back INTO books that are significant and worth studying. And I’m REALLY bad about reading fiction… even once.

I was meditating on this earlier in the month and thought of the depth of thinking demonstrated in men like Abraham Lincoln. He had few books growing up, but he learned to devour them and didn’t mind reading them over and over. It lead to an ability to think through serious situations with a field of vision very few had in his time.

I am not going to be Abraham Lincoln, but I want to challenge myself to read more deeply in 2014.

The goal is to have only ten books available. I may read a few more for review purposes on this blog, but I want to make my goal to re-read ten books that have influenced me greatly. It is quite possible I could then pick ten in 2015 that I haven’t read as yet but SHOULD read… I don’t know.

With that in mind, here is my list for 2014 (not in the order I will read them):

Discipleship, Bonhoeffer
The Divine Conspiracy, Willard (like THAT is a big shock)
Seven Storey Mountain, Merton
Byzantium, Lawhead (my only foray into fiction… sorry)
Patriots, Langguth
The Pastor, Peterson
Confessions, Augustine
Simply Jesus, Wright
In the Name of Jesus, Nouwen
Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy, Green (ed.)

The Ten Book Project

The time in which we live gives us far more accessibility to truly great writing. It also gives us access to truly bad writing as well.

Yesterday I was reflecting on life in the 1800s in the United States and thinking of how few books there were. Abraham Lincoln had limited access to books growing up, but he read deeply.

There are only a handful of books I’ve ever taken the time to read again.

So my thought for the next year is this: If I had my Bible and ten other books, what would those books be?

There are certainly others I want to read, and that might be another project for another year. (For instance, I have not read Mandela’s autobiography, but just purchased it. Not having read it, I wouldn’t put it on my top ten list yet.)

I have 6-7 books listed that I know off the top of my head I HAVE to have if I had to give up everything else. Now it’s fitting those last 3-4 in.

My new year resolution might be to ONLY read those 10 books again… and again… for the year and see if I can capture a little more depth.

If you had a “TOP TEN” book list, and you got the automatic for the Bible or your main religious text, what would be on that list?

The Funeral for Bookstores Has Long Passed

At my age, living in two worlds of digital and print, I lament one passing as I try and embrace another medium. There is an advantage to BOTH, but it’s a world that is not allowing “both” very well anymore.

My wife and I were traveling through Des Moines, Iowa yesterday so we stopped at a Christian bookstore that was a good one. We have a few here in the Cities, but I’m generally not a fan of them. This one was more independent and had a decent variety of books.

At least they DID have a wide variety. While they are still there, the shelves are incredibly sparse. It’s a struggle for them.

This morning, I see this post by Ben Witherington lamenting the passing of the bookstore as well.

I am using digital far more these days. I can carry so many more books around this way. But, I understand Witherington’s lament as well:

Disembodied books have the same problems as disembodied education in general. It doesn’t involve ethos, or real contact with actual other human beings in person. It doesn’t involve incarnational presence. It doesn’t involve a social dimension, say consulting your favorite owner of a book shop and building a friendship over the years. In short, it is a more gnostic approach to reading, learning, knowledge.

It’s the same with anything we’ve done online. Online shopping, banking, networking… we’ve really removed a social dimension and we truly are not better for it.

It doesn’t mean I’m going to go back to all print books. I have to shift and in the process try to add more meaning to what I am doing, and try to demand more of people in the process. It’s a tough road, but one we have to travel in this fast-changing world.

In the Company of Books

David Brooks is easily one of my favorite columnists. This column on the power of books is tremendous. It emphasizes the need to read. Real books help. (We can have the debate of ebooks vs. hard copies as well.) The point is: READ.

We already knew, from research in 27 countries, that kids who grow up in a home with 500 books stay in school longer and do better. This new study suggests that introducing books into homes that may not have them also produces significant educational gains.

I wish I could say that 100 percent true, but it’s not. Our home has easily 1000 volumes and it hasn’t seem to have made a difference in my own boys. I grew up in a home where we didn’t have many books at all, and consumed them voraciously through school and public libraries.

But there was one interesting observation made by a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group.

When we finally get the nerve up to pick up a book and read, we truly enter a different world. It’s different than the internet experience. It’s different than videos. It’s different than gaming. It’s a world of imagination. And it’s far more imagination than just watching someone else do a phenomenal job with video in a movie.

We’ve come to a point where the child’s imagination just doesn’t come into play anymore. I work part time at Sears and just get aggravated that there is a video game of Legos! Really? We can’t just put Legos together anymore and imagine a battle scene? No! We need to put the Lego figure into a video and make it do cool stuff!

Reading steps us into a place where our brains must be engaged. The more we read, the higher we climb. As Brooks points out, it takes years. The beautiful thing about reading is there is always time to grow. I can move from a “beach read” book to a deep theological work in my progression. I can pace myself. I can quicken my pace. I can force myself to pick up my vocabulary rate.

You can’t do that in video. You have to wait for the next generation of gaming to come out. You depend on someone else to invent the newest and greatest thing. You have to wait for Steve Jobs and his geniuses to bring out the next big i-invention.

Not so in reading. Great books await. They have been written. They are still being written. The climbing rate is up to us.

But, that is too hard. It is far easier to whine about a stupid video game and yell at the company for making an “inferior” product. We can yell at the movie screen because the video effects are so lame. (But did WE go learn how to do it better? NO. It’s much easier to sit and just whine.)

Grab some books. Read. Take in the amazing world around you. Take in the amazing history that brought you to this point. Pick up and read.