At the beginning of 2017 I made a decision to be more deliberate and intentional about my reading. I was falling into bad reading habits, and as a result I was getting through fewer and fewer books, and recalling less and less of what I had read in those books. A quote from John Piper challenged me to schedule reading time into my daily calendar. He said:
Suppose you read about 250 words a minute and that you resolve to devote just 15 minutes a day to serious theological reading to deepen your grasp of biblical truth. In one year (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute and you get 1,368,750 words per year. Now most books have between 300 and 400 words per page. So if we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year. This means that at 250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year!
Gosh, 15 minutes a day of discipline really starts to stack up. By God’s grace it has been a fruitful year of reading, and I have learned a great deal again, especially in terms of how I ought to read more going forward.
So, here are the first 5 of 25 books that I enjoyed this year, with very short reviews to whet your appetite. My simple hope is to encourage you to read more and to enjoy your reading more. They appear in the order that I read them.
I have been fascinated by the life and thinking of Christopher Hitchens for a long time, and this books offered some insight in what appears to be an unlikely friendship. Many have claimed that Taunton overplayed his relationship with Hitchens and that would be disappointing, if true, but I haven’t encountered anything in the character of Larry Taunton that would lead me to believe that he did that. If nothing else, it is a lesson on how to have more civil conversations across differences of worldview, belief and modes of thought, and we need more of that.
Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development – Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck
It is true and needs to be said that Kevin Peck is my new boss (more on that here), but I don’t think that has exerted undue influence on me to say that this is a truly excellent resource for churches. I read this one slowly and made lots of notes. It takes a while to get going as it lays a bit of a theological platform (which is extremely helpful), but once it is up and running it is really golden.
Perfect Mess Perfect Grace – Nobuntu Webster
A debut novel from my friend Nobuntu Webster, and I think there may be many more to come from her. A truly South African story featuring a strong, female protagonist, and it is not a surprise to me that it has resonated so strongly with readers. It gave me new insights into church culture that I wasn’t familiar with, and gender dynamics that I had never really encountered or considered before. Nobuntu will grow as a writer, with my only frustration being that the book felt like it was in a bit of a hurry, and that character development could have taken a bit longer. Well done Nobuntu!
Happiness – Randy Alcorn
I am not sure why I possess a bias that led me to believe that somehow, someone (even someone as reputable as Randy Alcorn) writing about the subject of happiness would result in a work that was light, fluffy and lacking robust theological engagement. I couldn’t have been more wrong on this work. Rigorous, engaging, disarming, helpful, wonderful.
The Pastor: A Memoir – Eugene Peterson
For some reason, it took me ages to get into this one, but once I did it was very rewarding. Peterson is a poet as much as he is a pastor and so stepping into his world always involves a change of gear in terms of language. No pragmatism, just stories of God’s amazing grace towards a very ordinary man. His theology of place, and what it looks like to be a local pastor to a local people was charming, helpful and convicting.
Well, that’s the first five. Will try do five every day this week to get us through the list. What about you? What have you been reading? Let me know.