2017 Fall Reading List

I’m never the same after finishing a book. Most times I can expect ways that I’ll be impacted, but there are always surprises. Words are like that.

Clever words, silly words, wise words, inspiring words – all of them are welcome, but not all of them are equal. Only the words that are fused to the Kingdom of God will hang around when the other words are forgotten.

1 Peter 1:24-25

All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Words shape people, and people live forever. We should, therefore, invite the right words to shape our lives. Words that last forever.

Even so, fleeting words can benefit us at times.

I’ve found books help me understand the fading world so that I can better relate to the eternal people who walk upon it. And as a compulsive reader, I catch myself talking about words often and helping friends find authors who write them well – especially in the fall.

Autumn trees, football, crispy walks and reading by a bonfire are all things that make this my favorite time of year. So, if you’re looking for some great words to pair with the season, here are a few to consider:

IF YOU LIKE CULTURE:

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Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama by Kenneth L. Woodward

Written by the tenured Religion editor at Newsweek, this fascinating account unfolds the psychedelic quilt of theology, philosophy and culture that shaped three generations of Americans in the 20th century. Woodward’s writing style is effortless on the eyes as he weaves stories of personal interviews with Popes, Presidents and Billy Graham. As a Catholic, his perspective on Evangelicalism was pointed and encouraging (if not a little eye-opening).

“How a person gets religion can powerfully influence the understanding of the religion he got. There have been other periods of religious enthusiasm and upheaval but none of these, I argue, was so widespread, so wildly diverse in faith and practice, so direct in impact on electoral politics as the one that ranged from the end of the Second World War to the dawn of the new millennium.”

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The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

“The idea [The Benedict Option] is that serious Christian conservatives could no longer live business-as-usual lives in America, that we have to develop creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them.”

Dreher spends the rest of his book arguing why The Order of St. Benedict should be the framework for developing such a solution. Although some of the conclusions ring a bit escapist, he makes a compelling case worth hearing out.

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Making the Corps by Thomas E. Ricks

As of today, my youngest brother is completing the last two weeks of Marine Boot Camp. And, after reading Ricks’ Pulitzer Prize caliber description of it, I’ll never look at him (or any other soldier) the same. Every American should know what their warriors put themselves through to protect our freedom, and this book is a great start.

“Most of the thirty-six recruits on the bus already have been awake twenty hours or more, since they reported to military processing stations at dawn Wednesday. They won’t sleep for another eighteen, until sunset Thursday. A haze of cigarette smoke hangs in the air of the silent bus. It is the last tobacco they will smell for eleven weeks…But many of the bewildered young men staring at Staff Sergeant Biehl will never make it that far.”

IF YOU LIKE LEADERSHIP:

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Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro

I highlighted an average of every other sentence. Although a fraction of leaders are mega-church pastors, all of them will relate to the burnout Cordeiro experienced and the principles that saved his life. The exercises alone are worth the price (and they’ll take you on a bulldog of a journey).

“We don’t forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.”

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Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work by Stephen Pressfield

Pressfield is more famous for The War of Art (a best-seller/instant classic), but I found this one far more inspiring. Although it is not written from a Christian perspective, it’s the nudge you need to pursue your God-given strengths.

“The amateur fears that if he turns pro and lives out his calling, he will have to live up to who he really is and what he is truly capable of. The amateur is terrified that if the tribe should discover who he really is, he will be kicked out into the cold to die.”

Language Warning: there is some

IF YOU LIKE SPIRITUAL GROWTH:

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Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne

I have never been more refreshed by something that punched so hard in the gut. With grace and tenacity, Osborne pulls the veil off our own self-righteousness. If you’ve been a Christian for a while now, read it.

“The problem is not spiritual zeal. That’s a good thing. We’re all called to be zealous for the Lord. The problem is unaligned spiritual passion, a zeal for the Lord that fails to line up with the totality of Scripture.”

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The Christian’s Work of Dying Daily by John Owen

This short book is a series of sermons preached by the famous 17th century Puritan. I read it after the funeral of a friend and was reminded of Paul’s words in Colossians 3, “For you have died (past tense) and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Of the hundreds of books I’ve read in my life, this is the only one (so far) I want to read every year until my death.

“Brethren, I know no man dies willingly,— no man living can have an habitual inclination to close cheerfully with this dissolution,— but by looking upon it as a means to come to the enjoyment of Christ. I tell you, your bodies are better to you than all the world, than all your goods, or any thing else; but Christ is better to the soul than any thing: and therefore, unless it be for the enjoyment of Christ, let men pretend what they will, there is no man willing to part with the body,— to be dissolved. Grow in that desire of coming to Christ, and you will conquer the unwillingness of death.”

IF YOU LIKE FUN STUFF:

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Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein

To do anything innovative, you need to be willing to go a little off-center. People expect center and are ready to go on a different journey. Nickelodeon did just that in the ‘90s by creating a zany cable channel aimed solely at kids. I remember summer afternoons where Rugrats, Salute Your Shorts, and Double Dare kept us glued on the couch dreaming of the green GAK fountain. Reading all of my favorite kids stars recount what life was like on set only made me miss those summers more. It confirmed two things: the ‘90s were just the best…

…and I could’ve totally won a glowing piece of the Radical Rock.

“Why did it work? Was it the casting? The writing? The irreverence? What you are about to read might explain it. Personally, I think it is like trying to dissect a joke. Why is it funny? Who cares? It worked, and we are all glad it did. Soooooo…On your mark! Get set!! Go!!!” –  from Marc Summers (host of Double Dare and What Would You Do?)

Words shape us. So, invite some good ones into your fall. Just remember that not all of them are created equal.

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