Recent Reads April 2020

Some of my favorite posts to read are book reviews and recommendations. It helps broaden out my reading list and keep it fresh. Here is a list of some of my Recent Reads.

Atomic Habits, James Clear. I am drawn like a moth to a flame when it comes to reading books about life hacks, productivity, efficiency, and growth. Atomic Habits is one of the more enjoyable and helpful books I’ve read in this category. It’s enjoyable because Clear fills his writing with compelling and memorable anecdotes. It’s helpful because the tools for comprehensive self-evaluation can help anyone. The premise is that small and regular improvements of our habits will yield compounding (and surprising) results. One aspect of the book that is especially useful is how the author trains readers on how to deconstruct the actions that undermine their goals. If you’re looking to steward your time and gifts better, this book will be an aide.

Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neal Postman. I’ve heard so many people quote and reference this book over the last 15 years that it feels like I read it before. But hearing about it was not the same as reading it. Postman’s assessment of our entertainment-driven culture, from the standpoint of the 1980s, makes it nearly mandatory reading. Along with this, he basically predicts that Donald Trump would be president. No, not the individual but the type of individual that would win a presidential election. Postman was wrestling with the changes in the political and media landscape in the ’80s, but much of what he writes draws a line to our current experience. Have you grown tired of the lack of substantive, logical, charitable argumentation? Postman saw it coming a mile away. His evaluation of churches and their infatuation with entertainment instead of enchantment will also get the hair on your neck to stand up.

Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell. I listened to this book on Audible, but I see there are also other versions available. With the production work, it seemed less like a book and more like a podcast or documentary. Gladwell believes that we naturally do a poor job reading people, and as a result, we encounter all types of problems. He tells stories of real events ranging from interactions with police, juries, intelligence officers, and a variety of others. In these stories, the reader is shown how often we misread others. I was engaged and challenged.

Preaching? Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching, Alec Motyer. This book aims to make preaching a bit more accessible. Motyer believes that while not everyone is a great preacher, no one has to be a lousy preacher. With some work and attention to detail, preachers should improve and serve their congregation. I enjoy listening to faithful preachers talk about the craft, especially those who tend to make it seem effortless. In this short book, Motyer reminds readers of the basics and encourages them on how to wear some new and simple paths. The book is full of Scripture and edifying. Also, the section on prayer was challenging and refreshing. This is a nice quick read for anyone who teaches the Bible and wants to improve.

Silence, Shusaku Endo. One of the more disturbing books I’ve read in a while. It tells the story of some of the first Jesuit missionaries to Japan in the 17th century and the persecution they encountered. It was painfully troubling to read. But it was good, because it was a window into the persecuted work of missionaries that I can often overlook. I also watched the film by Martin Scorsese based on the book.

A Little History of the World, E. H. Gombrich. I like history but don’t know it as I should. This little book, originally written for children, traces the history of the world in digestible sections from the beginning up to the atomic bomb. The author transitions between eras with an appreciation of art, science, and religion. His focus on people and morality adds a sense of texture that is often missing from the dates and faces of history. I was pleasantly surprised by this chronicle of human history.

Bunker Hill, Nathaniel Philbrick. As a native New Englander, I’m drawn to read the stories of the early days of America. Bunker Hill is a story that reminds me of the chaos surrounding the revolution. The battle of Bunker Hill was a disaster, but the following triumph of Washington was genius. Philbrick provides details of the events leading up to the battles at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. He also gives insight into the psyche of the people at a time when Massachusetts was a powder keg. The story writes itself, but the author is a pro who keeps things moving.

Previous Recent Reads: March 2020