August 27, 2010

Unfinished Summer Reading

I like books. Or to be more specific, I like reading the first 3 chapters of a book. Better still, I enjoy browsing through book reviews, recommendations and back-cover blurbs en route to compiling my own ever-changing list of titles under consideration. These tendencies have given rise to a knack for delineating and categorizing the various 'tribes' of books and authors within the niche market of evangelical publishing, a world that never ceases to fascinate me. Besides, scanning back-cover blurbs requires far less of an attention span than actually sticking with a book all the way to its end.

These days, my 'radar screen' list of titles yet to be purchased or borrowed typically contains around 50 books at any given time- and that's if I'm being picky. Oh, and let's not forget the appeal of biblio-aesthetics with dust jackets, spines, cover art and binding providing plenty of fodder for scrutiny and classification. I'm especially smitten with the smell of brand new books (mail orders are usually best). And while it's always satisfying to finish reading a good book, it doesn't happen nearly often enough. Many are opened, but few are completed.

This could be due in part to the nature of non-fiction books, a genre not known for surprise endings. To be sure, there are plenty good titles and authors. But that's essentially what you're buying: a title and an author. The book's main thesis and author's reputation will often forecast the bulk of what's coming. In most cases, it's not difficult to extract 80% of a book's message by learning the author's background, scanning some key reviews/endorsements and reading the first 20% of its pages. Only in select cases is the remaining 80% of content worth plowing for the final 20% of insight. Which explains my increasingly crowded (but nice-looking and smelling) shelf of partially-read books. Why dig for substance when there's all that style on the surface?

A far cry from last year's productive summer, here's a sampling of my unfinished reading from the summer of 2010:

Wendell Berry- What are People For? (North Point Press, 1990)

Mike Bickle- Growing in the Prophetic: A Practical Biblical Guide to Dreams, Visions and Spiritual Gifts (Charisma House, 2008)

Julie Clawson- Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of our Daily Choices (IVP, 2009)

Jack Deere- The Beginner's Guide to the Gift of Prophecy (Regal, 2008)

Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck- Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (Moody, 2009)

Annie Dillard- The Writing Life (Harper Perennial, 1990)

James Davison Hunter- To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Colin Marshall & Tony Payne- The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-shift that Changes Everything (Matthias Media, 2009)

Eric Metaxas- Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2010)

Lesslie Newbigin- The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Eerdmans, 1989)

Tim Stafford- Never Mind the Joneses: Taking the Fear out of Parenting (IVP, 2006)

Ed Stetzer- Planting Missional Churches (B & H, 2006)

Sam Storms- Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (Enjoying God Ministries, 2005)

John Stott- The Cross of Christ: 20th Anniversary Edition (IVP, 2006)

Trevin Wax- Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals (Crossway, 2010)

Dallas Willard- Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (IVP, 1999)


Unknown said...

I was jealous when I saw "What are people for?" on your shelf last night! But it's not as if I have time to read it anyway. I'm already reading 4 (or is it 5?) books right now. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to follow your example and try to NOT finish a book. Sounds like a much better idea than what I usually do which is read page after page all the while thinking "Come on already, isn't this ever going to end?"

Loraine said...

Mmm, the lovely smell of a new book!

brian said...

looks like an interesting reading list!

Anonymous said...

"Progressive" is not really a theological word for Christianity. Faithful & Catholic seems much better. A growing image of both the crucified & risen Christ, in His people and visible CHURCH!

Dan Stringer said...

Yes, "progressive" is one of those bothersome, nebulous words with a vast range of theological and/or political meaning depending on who you're talking to... not unlike the terms "evangelical" and "Christian."

But if you consider me faithful and catholic, I'll take it as a compliment!