One of the greatest joys of my life is reading and over the past several years I’ve worked on improving my reading patterns. I currently work my way through two or three books on theology in print continuously (usually late at night), I rotate between fiction and history audiobooks (usually in the car), and poetry/music (when I’m feeling stressed or burnt out). Below is my 2017 reading list and full disclosure, this is the entire list not just my favorites. Also, I bought a couple of the theology books as reference works, I didn’t finish a few, and I am still working my way through others. I tell you all this because I have always secretly felt like sharing a year end reading list was a little pretentious, but now that I have benefited greatly from reading several books that were shared on these types of lists, I have overcome and repented of my aversion to year end book lists!
Theology: Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church by Ephraim Radner, From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church by Francis Sullivan, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought by John Meyendorf, On the Incarnation by Athanasius, On God and Christ by Gregory of Nazianzus, On the Unity of Christ by Cyril of Alexandria, Pursuing God by Joshua Ryan Butler, Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew by John Chrysostom, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd, Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church by Hans Boersma, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science by Scot McKnight and Dennis Venema, Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ by Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin, The Day the Revolution Began by N.T. Wright
Fiction: The Illiad by Homer (Fitzgerald translation), Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Devils by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
History: Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson, The Templars by Michael Haag, American Lion: A Biography of President Andrew Jackson by Jon Meachem, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meachem
Poetry/Music: Selected Poems from Walt Whitman by Harold Bloom, Cherry Blossoms by Andy Squyres. (I read poetry and listen to music so randomly that it was impossible to make a list but these two were definitely the cream of the crop from the past year.)
I have always been taught and have personally believed that leaders are learners, and that the foundation of learning is a strong commitment to reading. But I also believe that it’s just as important you learn to read well. I don’t claim to have accomplished this but I am working towards it and to me reading well means reading deep and wide. A wide range of works from different time periods, different genres, and different traditions (e.g. religious, cultural, political, etc.), but also reading books that challenge you to go deeper. Books that make you sit next to your computer and google words and references constantly. This goes hand in hand with one of my favorite life lessons, “If you think you’re stupid, surround yourself with people who are smart, and if you think you’re smart, surround yourself with people who disagree with you.”
This past year I feel like I read just a little bit better (deeper and wider) than the year before and I accomplished a goal that I had set for myself almost three years ago, to work my way through four of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s major works, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, Devils, and Crime and Punishment. I also made progress on two other long term goals, gaining a better understanding of patristic thought and scriptural interpretation, and attempting to grasp the development and evolution of the early American political system. I hope my list has encouraged you, and if you have read any of these same books or if you have a book list of your own I would love to hear your thoughts.