I’m always reading something. Reading multiple books at one time tends to stress me out, but the way life is right now, that’s just how it is. While I would prefer to read one book at a time, just to keep focus, I usually find myself reading a book or five for school, a book for work, and a book for pleasure all at the same time. Over the summer, I’ve been reading a bunch, though not for pleasure as much as I’d like.
Here are 10 books I’ve read the last few months along with some thoughts on them.
1. 1491 by Charles Mann
I’m only part of the way into this book as other items in life have demanded my attention, but I am loving this one so far. Last fall, when Susie and I stopped by Niagara Falls while we were in New York for one of my speaking engagements, I was grieved by how commercialized the area around the Falls is. As we passed the trinket stores and t-shirt stalls, I thought, “Man, I wish I could have been part of one of the Native American groups that stumbled upon this place while out foraging for food or other resources. How majestic that must have been.”
This, along with a natural interest in history, led me to begin what will almost certainly be a lifelong research project into what the Americas, particularly the area now occupied by the United States, were like before Europeans invaded and took over. I did a bunch of research to find the best resources on what a pre-European America must have been like, and I am starting with Mann’s 1491. It has been fascinating so far. I encourage you to pick it up if you’re interested in such things.
In pursuit of my Master of Divinity degree, this summer I am taking an evangelism course with Dr. Alvin Reid. His book Evangelism Handbook is the second best book I’ve ever read on the topic, sitting behind only Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism. Dr. Reid’s text is a helpful handbook, really, to help its readers better live on mission in their everyday lives. It helps make sharing the gospel seem less intimidating and more like a natural outworking of a Christian’s life.
I read this book back in the spring and found it fascinating. Brothers Chip and Dan Heath study culture to see what makes an idea stick, whether that’s a viral video or a philanthropic venture. As someone whose job it is to help authors make their ideas stick with audiences on the internet, this was an interesting sociological window into why ideas, products, or other things “stick” the way they do. Highly recommend.
This was one of the books I read for pleasure back in May. I love video games, and have played them since I was a kid. This spring, I came across Ready Player One and heard good things about it. In short, it is a book set in a dystopian United States in which virtual reality life has overtaken real life as the place in which meaning is found. The creator of the virtual world dies and leaves his fortune for the first player to solve the 80s-themed puzzles and find it.
The adventure is intense and the characters are funny. Highly recommend if you also like 80s culture. Easy read. Pretty clean, too. The book has a movie deal with Stephen Spielberg, so I am already looking forward to the movie adaptation.
In the spring, my boss introduced me to Gary Vaynerchuk, a marketing expert who focuses on the importance of delivering free value to customers and audiences in an effort to build long-lasting relationships. When I found Gary and heard his philosophy, I was encouraged. He’s far more experienced and smarter and richer than me, but he affirms a lot of my marketing and content-creation philosophy—it was nice to know someone smarter than me shares my thoughts.
His language is salty—more so in his videos than in his books—but this book is great, and his others are too (I’ve read all of them now). This book emphasizes the importance of simply saying “Thank you” and engaging with as many people as possible to make them feel valued.
I’ve read a good portion of this text this summer as I do an independent study on the Psalms and Proverbs. Great biblical theology. Very helpful in seeing the themes of salvation through judgment in the Scriptures.
This is probably the best book I’ve read all year. In the spring, I was looking for good baseball books because I’ve only read a few in my life. This one came with high praise, and rightfully so. Roger Kahn was a beat writer for the Brooklyn Dodgers when Jackie Robinson broke into the league. Fascinating look at the history of baseball. Amazing stories and storytelling.
I just finished this book for a group I meet with at LifeWay each month. Unlike most leadership books, this one was written almost like a novel. The writing style was a nice change of pace from typical leadership books which are usually fire hoses of principles and charts. This book was funny, engaging, and full of helpful management and leadership advice.
I’m doing my independent study on the Psalms and Proverbs this summer with Jon Akin, who was my pastor until just recently and who is a Old Testament wizard. His book, Preaching Christ From Proverbs is a helpful look at how one can do just that: preach Christ from Proverbs. It’s tough to preach Proverbs without sounding moralistic for a lot of people, I think, and John’s book helps trace the messianic implications in the book.
I just started reading this book as it was recommended to my by Dr. Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe. If you’re not generally interested in the process of developing content for blogs or social media, you probably won’t like this book. BUT, if you’re in marketing or have any interest in blogging or building an online “platform” of sorts, this book is insightful and will keep you abreast of the best practices in content development.
Have you been reading anything recently? Feel free to comment with any recommendations.