Monday, January 2, 2012

Comments on my 2011 Reading

I keep track of what books I complete on note cards.  I don't know what that says about me, probably something positive to someone and something negative to someone else. 

I started doing this in 1996 when I realized I wasn't reading as much as I probably should as a Christian or as a pastor.  Nor was I reading as much as I should as a person who ostensibly likes to read.  So I started keeping track of the books I read (that is, actually completed) as a motivation for me to read more.  I completed 8 books in 1996.  Since then I've always had a goal of 20 a year, and I've exceeded that most years.

What follows are the books I completed in 2011, in the order I read them, with comments.

D. A. Carson's The God Who Is There is a masterful overview and summary of the Bible.  For me the words "overview" and "summary" often connote "dry" and "scholarly."  This book is far from that.  Practically every chapter is engaging and helpful.  This book makes you want to read the Bible.  This book can help new Christians understand their faith, and it can help mature Christians see their faith in a new light.

My son gave me Bill Watterson's It's a Magical World for Christmas a year ago.  He and I share a love for Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip.  This book of those comic strips reminded me again why Calvin and Hobbes is my all-time favorite comic strip.  Watterson has a marvelous way of capturing the idiosyncrasies of children and adults as they relate to the world around them.  If I had a way of indexing the strips, they would populate many a sermon or Bible lesson as illustrations.

I waded into the waters of comparative religions with Stephen Prothero's God Is Not One.  Not exactly my favorite subject of study.  But Prothero's book was fascinating, especially his politically incorrect premise that religions aren't all about the same elephant; the world's religions aren't different roads up the same mountain.  Each chapter devoted to a different religion, the book was interesting, and called for us to listen to one another in order to move toward peace.  But I don't think peace is necessarily an agenda item for some of the religions.

P. G. Wodehouse's My Man Jeeves is a collection of short stories, most of them about the wealthy playboy Wooster and his man-servant Jeeves.  Wodehouse is a master of having Wooster tell the story in such a way that Wooster seems to be the only who doesn't realize that he is the fool and idiot in each story.  It is virtually impossible not to laugh aloud at least once during the course of a Wodehouse short story.

Since it had probably been at least 20 years since I first read C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy, I decided to revisit it.  Out of the Silent Planet marks Professor Ransom's forced trip to Mars, or Malacandra, kidnapped by Prof. Weston and a colleague.  I enjoyed it more this second time through.

John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1.  The overall impact of this significant theological tome upon me was to revere God more, be aware of my own sinfulness and inadequacies more, and love Christ, the One who reconciles me to God, more.  This was far more readable than I anticipated, though I confess there were some sections that remained confusing even after 3 readings.  But the readable sections make up a far greater percentage of the book.  Calvin showed me many theological insights along the way.

It's late.  The remaining books await future posts.

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