Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Books of 2014

As I've done the past couple of years, I wanted to review the books I've read in 2014. These are in no particular order. It helps me to keep track of what I've read and when. So, if I need to diversify a bit or if I need to reconsider a position, I have a reference. So, here goes.
  1. The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb. This was a fascinating read. I highly recommend it to any runner. Bascomb tells the story of three runners chasing the four minute mile. Of course, the one everyone remembers is Roger Bannister. But two other athletes, Australia's John Landy and Kansas's Wes Santee put the pressure on Bannister. This book is the story of each of these three men as they chased the ever so difficult four minute mile. There were several unsuccessful attempts along the way. It's three stories of resilience, dedication, overcoming adversity, triumph, disappointment, and (in the case of Landy) being just a little too late. It was fascinating and inspiring. It's a must-read for any runner, maybe even any competitive athlete.
  2. Daniels' Running Formula (Third Edition) by Jack Daniels. This is the latest update to the essential running coach's handbook. I read this update as part of obtaining my RRCA coaches certificate. As a side note, I'm now an RRCA certified running coach. I'm still trying to figure out how to use this for the most good. For now, I've just been taking some close friends under my wing and rejoicing as they shatter PRs.
  3. Beyond the Church of Christ by Jeremy Campbell. This is a three part kindle e-book. The link I provided with the title is to part one. Definitely read all three. This is a reality-based fiction short story of one young man's journey away from the exclusive theology of the non-institutional churches of Christ. I highly recommend this whole series for anyone who is struggling with doctrines taught in churches of Christ or who is struggling with the unloving treatment that comes with having honest questions in the church of Christ. I'd also recommend it to those in more progressive churches of Christ to better understand what people who leave the non-institutional churches of Christ have been through. This is a very readable and very true, if fiction, story. Besides all of that, the theology contained in the dialog is pretty solid.
  4. Divergent by Veronica Roth. I read this because my daughters were reading it and I like talking to them about what they're reading. This is one of the rare times where I will say that I liked the movie much better than the book. I'll watch the rest of the movies in the trilogy, but won't read the other books.
  5. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Again, I read this because my girls wanted to read it. I actually pre-read this and struggled with whether to let them read it or not. I decided to let them read it because it provided an opportunity for us to talk about some very important things, like death, cancer, sex, dating, love, God, parents, friends, profanity, how to treat those with serious illness or disabilities, etc. This is a very difficult book to read. It's a book that will shake you. It falls on my all time list of best books ever. Take my man card for liking this book if you must. For my daughters, I made them make a list of words that were new to them and then talk to me about each of those new words, what they mean, how they were used in the book, etc. We also talked about the story as they were reading it. Judge me if you must for letting my then twelve year old daughters read this tragic and morbid and profanity laced book, but it provided some excellent father-daughter discussion that I'm not sure I could have gotten on my own.
  6. The Four Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and John Huling. This is a process book that outlines a set of steps for achieving your goals. It is a very good business read and I'll be putting the process into practice with my team at work in 2015.
  7. Switch: How to Change When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. If you're going to implement a new process (like the Four Disciplines) then you're going to have to change things. This book covers how to effect change in an organization, with an emphasis on change in the business environment. The principles do not assume that you have authority to make changes by dictate. It is an interesting look at what actually drives behavior in people.
  8. Unity and Diversity in the New Testament by James G Dunn. This is probably one of the more difficult books that I've read. The perseverance was worth it, though. This book is not written at a popular level. It's probably a 300-400 level college book. Good stuff. I really like how he points out the differences in the way different New Testament authors referred to Jesus and the differences in the way they quoted Scripture. Excellent read. I found myself disagreeing with Dunn's conclusions often, but I still very much appreciated his work and point of view.
  9. How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.  If you care at all about hermeneutics, you should read this book now. I really like how they make the distinction between exegesis and hermeneutics.
  10. Scripture and the Authority of God by NT Wright. In my opinion, NT Wright is the best Christian author of our time, and it isn't even close. This is a brilliant look at what authority means. Instead of using our definition of authority and forcing Scripture into that, Wright recommends that we allow Scripture to define and shape what Scripture means by authority. This is another very good look at hermeneutics and how to approach the Bible. I actually read this book twice this year.
  11. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan. This is a very challenging read. Not challenging in the sense of difficult to understand. It's actually very straightforward. It's challenging in the sense of "Do you really want the Holy Spirit to dwell in you?" It's a very good read.
  12. Muscle and a Shovel: A Review by John Mark Hicks.This is a kinder review than I could ever have given of Muscle and a Shovel. Hicks points out that there is a fundamental difference in approach to Scripture between himself and Shank. Shank asks in essence, "What does the Bible legally require of me?" Hicks suggests that a better question is this, "What is God's mission and how can I join that mission?"
  13. I did read through Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank another time this year, just to see if I could possibly understand how some think this is such an excellent book. And, I just can't figure it out, except that the narrative is so very well done. Apart from the narrative, however, its tone is arrogant and condescending and its theology is just bad. Here is an excellent review by Garrett Best.
  14. The Ultimate Heresy: The Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy by Rodger L. Cragun. I randomly met the author of this book while on business travel and we discussed theology over dinner and I picked up this book from him. I really like how he challenges the reader to ask the question, "What is the word of God?" He takes a look at how Scripture uses that phrase (word of God) and points out that Scripture clearly refers to other things besides Scripture when it uses that phrase.
  15. Mind's Eye by Douglas E. Richards. This was a fun read. A pretty exciting sci-fi thriller. No spoilers, but if you like sci-fi thriller mysteries, you'll probably like this book.
  16. The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter by Craig Lancaster. The characters are very well developed and complex. Every character except the narrator's love has flaws. It's a bit of brilliance that her flaws don't show. This novel isn't at all about the plot. It's about the characters. Realistic. Flawed. Good. Bad. It's a great view of how every human is in some ways a walking contradiction. It's also both timely and timeless. It's set in the present day and the common use of technology and modern medicine and current pop culture make an appearance, but don't dominate. The human nature that is timeless dominates. It is a story of love and loss and anger and frustration and lucky breaks and squandered opportunities and beautiful selfless love. It's also a peek into the underbelly of blood sports which honestly disturbed me a bit.
  17. I also read through two volumes of a workbook titled "First Principles of Christianity" by Robert Harkrider. I have nothing good or nice to say about those workbooks. Horrible, exclusive, pat-answer, shallow theology.
That's fewer books than I wanted to read this year. I read more novels than I realized, which is a good thing. Just reading theology was honestly wearing me out. I have no real good place to discuss the theology I read, so I have to keep it bottled up inside. It sometimes makes me want to explode. Most people just aren't as interested in the theology as I am or they judge me and issue me a one way ticket to hell for considering different points of view. So, reading novels was very refreshing (well, except Divergent which took so much effort just to get through the teeny-bop googly infatuation).

Besides the books, I am still reading various church bulletins, blogs, and running magazines. I'm considering various viewpoints, not just those agreeable to me.

I have a difficult time picking a favorite this year. I almost want to pick a favorite in each category, but I'll just pick one for the year. That one is...

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb. I really enjoyed learning more about the story of the four minute mile. Excellent read.