What I’m Reading

Last updated: November 20th, 2016

Currently Reading

Robert Inchausti, Subversive Orthodoxy

Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries

Millard Erickson, Postmodernizing the Faith

Recently Read

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity – Classic introduction to the Christian faith, lots of great moments, quick read for me. I will go back and reread this to mine for usable quotes. I can see now why everyone references this book all the time.

Michael Schutt, Redeeming Law – assigned as a textbook, kind of laborious to read, but two really significant ideas. First, the U.S. legal system used to be based on Natural Law, but at some point in the late 19th century transitioned to an Instrumental Law foundation, which explains or reflects most of the changes in American society during the early 20th century. Second, this book talks a lot about vocation, which is like calling, but for non-ministry positions. We don’t have to “christianize” our careers (one person in my class wants to be a Veterinarian-evangelist, holding preaching sessions in the lobby); we can just love our neighbors by doing our jobs, and this love is “christainized” enough already.

Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture – this book is an introduction to Biblical Theology, or the idea that theology should be strung together across relevant time periods of scripture. For example, he traces the temple from the Garden to the Tabernacle, to the Temple, to the physical body of Christ, to the bodies of believers, to all of heaven, where there is no temple because “the dwelling of God is with man.” We would benefit from using this mindset more often.

Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something – DeYoung explains, in really helpful detail, the different uses of the term “will of God” and how to make decisions as a Christian. Essentially, living in the tension between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, we just have to make choices, steward wisely the resources God has given us, and use the wisdom God has given us to make decisions that honor him, regardless of if we “feel called” into something.

Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today – This is a full-throated, scholarly defense of Dispensational theology. I’m still not all that convinced, but Ryrie invalidated most of my arguments, so I’m back to square one here.

Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 2nd Edition – Awesome book. Rosenberg explains his theory that we all have needs, and these needs result in feelings. So, just addressing feelings doesn’t do enough. He teaches that we should reverse our pronouns in a specific way so that the person who is actually responsible for their actions actually is held responsible. For example, “you make me feel” is never a true statement. The words and actions of others can reveal our unmet needs, but ultimately we are responsible for our own needs, not them. This book was very helpful as a camp counselor trying to mediate the neverending conflicts between my campers.

Nicky Cruz, Run Baby Run – the graphic life story (to age 30 or so) of a former gang leader in Brooklyn who encounters Christ. His life changes, he enters ministry and he becomes a founding partner of Teen Challenge in its very early stages. Incredibly, unbelievably graphic in its descriptions of gang life- but even still, it felt like he was holding back from just how brutal, how animalistic that life was. It also introduced me to Pentecostal theology in a way that made sense, and I’m currently reconsidering my (previously nonexistant) views on a 2nd baptism of the Spirit. Really enthralling book.

Dave Harvey, Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry – a gift from my youth pastor to help me consider my future and whether or not God has called me into pastoral ministry. Awesome book, and one that I will refer to often in the future.

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God – read for my AP English Literature class, focuses on Janie, a black woman in Florida around the turn of the 20th century and onward. Her path to self-actualization comes at the expense of dozens of years and a lifestyle of suffering. I did not enjoy the book very much, found it difficult to analyze during in-class essays and when preparing for the AP test, but Their Eyes Were Wathcing God is a book you probably must read if “cultured” sounds like a desirable adjective for yourself.

Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance – I began this book in October after months of trying to muster the necessary willpower. When Seal Team 6 raided the OBL compound in May 2011, they found, besides dozens of 9/11 conspiracy books, Chomsky’s book. Interesting. I happened to already own the book, so that anecdotal story was enough to get me to open it. After an actual five months, I finally finished it. He argues some specific thesis about America’s hunger for power being the product of a perverse incentives scheme where sating elite interests comes before justice or peace or something. I had to force myself to read each individual sentence in probably the most uphill battle of my reading life.

Richard Ball, Principles of Abstract Algebra – This is a math book. Do not read it.

Qiu Xiaolong, Shanghai Redemption – Detective fiction novel set in Shanghai, China in the present. I was assigned this book for my Chinese Politics class to give another perspective on how the political structure works. Powerful forces transfer the detective out of the police bureau for investigating a controversial case, and he tries to piece together the facts. Laden with allusions to Chinese poetry that I did not understand, written in a style that I essentially did not understand, this book is perhaps the most sentimental thing I’ve ever read. It also didn’t have an ending, and so to help you undestand my frustration, neither will this paragraph. Overall I think that

Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabbler – A play running roughly 40 pages, written originally in Norwegian and later translated. The title character and her husband return from their honeymoon, encountering conflicting interests, a night of revelry and entrapment. Read my analysis of Ibsen’s use of cruelty and Victorian gender expectations here.

Mike Erre, The Jesus of Suburbia – A nonfiction pop-theology thesisbook arguing that Christianity at large has replaced Jesus of Nazareth with a diluted, good vibes Jesus of Suburbia, who caters to our comforts but never calls us away from them. This well-written book takes a casual tone but considers serious questions- like, to what extent are the teachings of Christ compatible with modern consumerism? or, to what degree does study of Christian theology lead to a deeper relationship with Christ? Erre’s writing challenges believers to a deeper maturity and wider perspective.

Connor Franta, A Work In Progress – see my review here.

Mitch Albom, For One More Day – I could not honestly tell if this book was fiction or non-fiction. A sad sad sad sad sad story. My Reddit Secret Santa mailed me this and I loved the book. A man realizes the horrific emptiness in his life, attempts suicide, and has a near-death experience with his deceased mother. Just an incredibly sad book.

Kelly Bean, How To Be a Christian Without Going To Church – Bean asserts that Christian community can be defined outside of the local church structure, and gives examples of alternative communities. She presents a vague description of what most Evangelicals would call “small groups,” but as an entire replacement for the church. Her main issue with church seems to be a lack of flexibility and lack of opportunity for women to advance (not sure if she has heard of complementarianism). The book doesn’t really argue for its main premise of community without the local church; it assumes you agree, which is a fair assumption given that you have purchased the book. Rambly, disorganized, repetitive, and not a very persuasive argument for those who don’t already agree.

On Hold

Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

William Least Heat-Moon, River Horse

Eric Alterman and Mark Green, The Book On Bush: How Bush (Mis)Leads America

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

To Read Soon

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel

Noson Yanofsky, The Outer Limits of Reason

All Time Best

Matt Chandler, Explicit Gospel – Great book on applied theology, argues that the church should be explicit with its presentation of the gospel. Leave nothing implied.

C.J. Mahaney, Worldliness – Different author each chapter, better for a discussion group setting, presents the doctrine of unworldliness for teens.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22 – Fiction, 500+ pages, one of the funniest books I’ve read. A military official would only do his job if he is insane. But, knowledge of that fact implies that the official is not insane. Social chaos ensues.

Leonard Mlodinow, Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior – Nonfiction, a survey of psychological studies that imply subliminal thought patterns or unconscious actions. Not a “the theatre splices images of diet coke into the reel and now you get thirsty” type of book. Well researched and funny too.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest – Read this daily for a devotional. My Utmost comes in a classic and an updated edition. He makes me think about faith on a deeper, more serious and more abstract level. The classic edition is so difficult to understand that it forces me to slow down, take time and process what I’m reading- or, exactly what a devotional should do.

Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time – Nonfiction, Hawking gives a detailed and rigorous introduction to theoretical physics, astrophysics specifically. Not an interesting book, unless you are interested in theoretical astrophysics, but written in a beautiful ELI5 style that I could comprehend for the first 4 chapters.

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild – Nonfiction, biography, a transcendentalist teen leaves everything behind to experience a fuller life.