On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers.
I corresponded with Drew Dyck—acquisitions editor at Moody Publishers, senior editor at CTPastors.com, and author of Generation Ex-Christian and Yawning at Tigers—about what’s on his nightstand, his favorite fiction, books that shaped his thinking, what he’s learning about life and following Jesus, and more.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
Right now, I’m wrapping up It’s Dangerous to Believe by Mary Eberstadt. It’s about the recent surge of attacks on religious liberty and it’s absolutely terrifying (don’t read it before bed). Eberstadt is one of the sharpest cultural commentators alive, and I’m frustrated no one knows who she is. So here I am, doing my part to spread the word.
Speaking of astute cultural commentators, I’m also re-reading Disappearing Church by another best-kept secret, the Australian pastor Mark Sayers. (Full disclosure: he’s a Moody author, and I acquire books for Moody, though I didn’t acquire his.)
I’m on a science-reading kick right now, so I’m plowing through The Gene: An Intimate History (I understand maybe half of it), and I just finished The Kingdom of Speech, a takedown of Darwinian evolution and Chomskyan linguistics by the wonderfully eccentric Tom Wolfe.
I’m also reading Saving the Bible from Ourselves, a jeremiad on the ways contemporary Christians misread the Bible. It’s convinced me to purchase a “reading Bible,” sans notes and cross-references and the myriad other intrusions Paauw believes muck up our experience of Scripture. [Read TGC’s review.]
Man, I have to get more fiction in my diet.
I’m trying poetry again. I used to drink poetry like athletes drink Gatorade—but I stopped in my early 20s. Recently I took to Twitter to bemoan my poetry-less existence when my friend John Wilson (editor of Books & Culture) came to the rescue by sending me a slim volume, Within This Tree of Bones, by the late poet Robert Siegel. It did the trick. Check out this stanza from the book’s eponymous poem:
Let no light upon these sheets
diminish, Lord, before I feel you
burst inward like a finch
to nest and sing within this tree of bones
If that doesn’t get your blood moving, you’re probably dead.
What books have most profoundly shaped how you serve and lead others for the sake of the gospel?
That’s an intimidating question because it assumes I’m serving and leading and changing the world, and I struggle just being nice to people online. But setting that uneasiness aside for a moment, here goes.
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire made an impact on me. I’m not a Pentecostal like Cymbala, but reading that book you can’t help but be impressed with what God does when people pray, and when the Spirit of God is a blazing reality in their midst.
I also loved A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. He’s the best at calling leaders back to the heart of ministry, which has a lot more to do with faithfulness than flash.
How should Christians read their Bibles to encounter the “untamed God of Scripture”?
Slowly. Sometimes we get to speed-reading Scripture because we’re busy or we’re trying to stay up with our “Bible in One Year” app and we gloss right over the most stunning portrayals of divine holiness. For people who want to recapture that awe of God, I’d say start in Isaiah 6. Read about God enthroned above the smoke-filled temple. Then read Ezekiel’s vision of YHWH’s throne-chariot ripping through the sky. Then jump over to Revelation and read that stunning portrayal of the ascended Lord, feet burning like bronze in a furnace. We mine these passages for theology—and we should—but there’s a lot to be gained by simply encountering them. Take off your sandals and dig your toes into some holy ground.
What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?
I read the missionary biography Lords of the Earth (actually my mom read it to me when I was about 15). It’s still one of the most powerful stories of a modern martyr out there. After missionary Stan Dale is slain by Yali, I remember the narrator remarks that from the pass above only two wounds were visible on his body: “two bloody hands and two bloody feet.”
Now and Then by Frederick Buechner is a beautiful spiritual memoir that gets at the mysterious reality of faith. As Buechner puts it (and he always puts it well), “Here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves is a new creation.”
What are your favorite fiction books?
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad is my all-time favorite. There’s something about the heroic, flawed hero who strives to live up to high ideals and kills himself trying that’s like catnip to me.
I hate jumping on bandwagons but Gilead was awesome. Silence by Shusaku Endo ruined an entire week of my life; it was that good. Recently Martin Scorsese released a film [review] based on the book. I was first in line.
What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
I’m learning that following Jesus is a lot harder than putting “follower of Jesus” in your Twitter bio. Part of the issue is that when I was young I defined following Jesus in fairly narrow terms. It meant doing something dramatic, like giving away everything and going overseas. Now I have the responsibility of supporting a family and raising small children. I have a mortgage, bills. So just up and leaving isn’t really an option. But I’m learning (hoping) that Jesus looks at his boring followers like me with love and understanding. Son of David, have mercy on me, a middle-class suburbanite.
Also in the On My Shelf series: Louis Markos, Richard Mouw, Sam Allberry, Ray Ortlund, Brett McCracken, Mez McConnell, Erik Raymond, Sandra McCracken, Tim Challies, Anthony Moore, Sammy Rhodes, Karen Ellis, Alastair Roberts, Scott Sauls, Karen Swallow Prior, Jackie Hill Perry, Bruce Ashford, Jonathan Leeman, Megan Hill, Marvin Olasky, David Wells, John Frame, Rod Dreher, James K. A. Smith, Randy Alcorn, Tom Schreiner, Trillia Newbell, Jen Wilkin, Joe Carter, Timothy George, Tim Keller, Bryan Chapell, Lauren Chandler, Mike Cosper, Russell Moore, Jared Wilson, Kathy Keller, J. D. Greear, Kevin DeYoung, Kathleen Nielson, Thabiti Anyabwile, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Collin Hansen, Fred Sanders, Rosaria Butterfield, Nancy Guthrie, and Matt Chandler.