Monday, March 23, 2009

Books of 2008

The circle that is my Ideal Self is always reading, paging through one stack of classics after another (and don't even get me started on Ideal Self's comprehension!). The circle that is my Actual Self works a full-time job, has a pregnant wife at home, and--worst of all--subscribes to Netflix. The circles of Ideal and Actual do not overlap as much as I'd like when considering book reading, yet when I compiled the list of books that I read in the year past, I was pleasantly surprised. List and comments below:

God of Promise, Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton - One of two books that I read for the Men's Reading Group that met in January 2008, and my first Horton book. "Covenant theology" is a phrase that I hear a lot of, but has never been something about which I could speak with great confidence (the lines would blur between covenant of grace/covenant of works, Moseic covenant/Abrahamic covenant). I was grateful for Horton's clear introduction of the topic, and I am glad to have this book on my shelf as a future resource.

God and Evil, The Problem Solved by Gordon H. Clark - This was also read (at the suggestion of Gerry Cruz) for the January 2008 Men's Reading Group, and represents the first book I've read that was written in a formal philosophical style. I was kept busy looking up the meaning of phrases/words such as positive causality, surreptitious, workmanship of suasion, and necessity of compulsion, but found it well worth the effort. I was moved to the point of verbal exclamation a few times, struck by the boldness and deftness with which Clark dissected the issues. The book concludes with the same firepower as a July 4th fireworks display--but I remember being struck with how simple Clark's points were. It thoroughly excites me to read an expression of a grand, magnificent concept presented in a succinct, lucid manner. Another excellent topical resource.

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - I posted my thoughts on this book in June. You can dust off the post HERE.

Amusing Ourselves to Death
by Neil Postman - Joel turned me on to Postman when he shared his "Rules for Living the Rest of Your Life" lecture, and I now count him on my list of not so small man-crushes. Postman cries out like a prophet in the wilderness about the "evils" of television, although the book does not represent a mere book-lover's rant against all things modern. Instead, Postman identifies the ways in which television has disintegrated the spheres of modern journalism, religion, political discourse, and entertainment, among others. The conclusions he draws are sometimes simple yet profound when one considers how obvious they should be to the common man. It is the pervasiveness of television's effect that is perhaps the most frightening to me. Do not read this book if you value cable television. Or, better yet, read this book if you think that you value cable television.

The Sovereignty of God
by A.W. Pink - A most valliant defense of a most essential doctrine of Scripture, and the first time I've read something of Pink. Sections of his work read with a fury of assertion that I've not found in another author--he was a thrill to read. So often his arguments are not comprised of more than "verse A says this...verse B says this...therefore verse C cannot be interpreted thus." Yet the confidence a reader has in being shown the clarity of Scripture examined with Scripture creates a sense of a firm footing that is not easily lost. I can't imagine a more thorough book on the topic.

Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me
by Andree Seu - I have sometimes fancied myself a clever writer, but have indulged in these delusions far less often since reading Seu's work. She is a surgeon, I a hack. This, her first collection of essays in book form, has been my toilet reading for over a year. She writes with the observational wisdom that I wish I had in greater abundance. She declares things to be so, things that I only muse over and about which I have difficulty drawing conclusions. She is an expert pen weilder.

The Peacemaker
by Ken Sande - CJ Mahaney is quoted on the back cover as saying "There is no need for another book on this topic to be written, now that this volume exists." While far from well-read in literature from the Counseling shelf, I can't imagine a more thorough, Scripture-saturated approach to the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. This book was assigned reading in my Engineering Ethics class (thanks, Dr. Gidley). I've kept it under the driver's seat in my truck, and I pull it out whenever I have down time on a job site. It took me almost three years to finish the book this way, but it was easy to pick up and put down. There is not a relationship in your life that will not be enriched as a result of reading and applying the wisdom of this book.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson - D.A. Carson's stated purpose in compiling "The Life and Reflections" of his father, Tom, was to pen a "modest attempt to let the voice and ministry of one ordinary pastor be heard, for such servants have much to teach us." Memoirs is a home run of an attempt. To bring the life work of a modest, faithful minister under such focused yet intensely loving and personal attention causes one to marvel as one does admiring a streetlight (as if streetlights were ever admired). This book accurately potrays the immense weight that "ordinary" pastors bear on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis. Times of doubt and fits of maddening introspection, seasons of new harvest and faint shimmers of progress. The effects of all the above are presented accurately throughout Carson's loving account of his father's ministry and should cause anyone to have a greater appreciation and reverence for those called to the pastor Christ's church.

Not Even a Hint by Joshua Harris - I have read this slowly over the course of the past 18 months, picking it up when most in need (but not as often as I should). This is THE book on the topic of lust/sexual purity that I would recommend a father to give his son. This is THE book that I would urge a young brother to read with honesty and in order to better equip himself to fight his old man in the battle for purity.

The Inimitable Jeeves
by P.G. Wodehouse - Becca, Jonny Wilson, and I listened to this on cassette tape while we drove to Virginia Beach in August. It was my first experience with a book-on-tape, and an enjoyable one. Wodehouse is a master at weaving ridiculous scenarios and is as deft a composer of conversational humor as I've ever read. At the recommendation of Nanx Swift, Becca and I Netflixed the "Jeeves and Wooster" BBC television series. They feature the guy from House as Bertie Wooster, and are a more than fair presentation of the books.


Joel said... about some tough books to get through - Clark, Steinbeck, Pink, and Horton. I read Pink's book last year, too, thanks to your recommendation, and thought it was very good. Quite hard at times to understand his arguments, but good.

I'm hoping to read God of Promise sometime this year, at your recommendation (and the men's reading group).

Thanks for the reviews.

NJGeorge said...

Dear Scott,
Excellent choices. I recently finished the Postman book on the recommendation of one of my good friends. I really enjoyed it too. Sometimes you can read more the year you have a child than you did the year before.
Even though it takes a long time to read a book, you come out way ahead because the person writing it took way longer than that to put it all together. You can easily have a year or so of someone's thoughts between those two covers. And if he was able to get his book published, he usually has something important to say.
Are you reading Christless Christianity? I am really enjoying that - when my busy blogging schedule allows, that is - yeah, I don't like to brag, but this is already my second post. By the way, I spoke on my cell phone yesterday, and I have an ipod that I was using (before I decided to go through the Bible on CD again during my commute).