A few friends recently asked about my summer reading plans, and so I decided to write a blog entry that covers my lists for “recently read,” “currently reading,” “stacked and waiting to be read,” and “hope to read sometime.” I’m an avid, but eclectic reader, and so these are not recommendations. Some of these are awful, some are eccentric, some are for relaxation, escape, or distraction, some are thought-provoking, and some are tools for writing or learning.
I recently bought copies of the new summer releases of a host of pop fiction writers whom I keep up, such a David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Lee Childs, and Harlan Corban. I’ve read most of what these authors have published previously, and many write continuing series with lead characters I’ve come to enjoy. I recently finished the most recent Donna Leon novel that features the Venice detective, Inspector Brunetti. I’ve read several of Leon’s novels, and I’m now playing “catch up” on those I’ve missed before I discovered her.
In a more literary vein, I’m currently reading Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Nautical Chart, immediately after finishing his Queen of the South and Club Dumas. I find his writing compelling, insightful, and appealing and I appreciate his highly nuanced character development. For fun and to challenge my knowledge of grammar trivia, I picked up Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips by Mignon Fogarty. I subscribe to her podcasts, and listen to her lively discussions about grammatical intricacies as I drive or exercise. An impulse purchase a few weeks ago was a book called the The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood, about how people survive extraordinary catastrophes, accidents, etc. I’ve long had an interest in survival literature and have read a ton of such books. I don’t know whether it derives from my active interest in outdoor adventure, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking, or from my long-term service as a pastor and bishop!
Other miscellaneous books I’ve been dabbling with include Make It Stick by Heath and Heath, which helps me understand and communicate about the effectiveness of the Five Practices, and The Power of Small by Linda Caplan Thelen. I always enjoy re-reading travel books by Bill Bryson, but haven’t picked one out yet for this summer. I love his humor and his creative use of language (especially his disarmingly inventive adjectives). And for some writing I’m doing myself, I’ll be researching some sections from old classics by Albert Outler, Paul Tillich, and John Wesley this summer. I’ve also recently done a “quick read” of Adam Hamilton’s newest book, Enough, about personal stewardship, and Tom Bandy’s newest book on congregational strategies, 95 Questions to Shape the Future of the Church. I also received a martial arts/art of living book (another genre I enjoy) entitled Mastery by George Leonard that I have not yet begun, and a Father’s Day gift book I can’t wait to read, The Dangerous World of Butterflies by Peter Laufer. On audio books, I’ve been listening to Ayn Rand’s The Art of Non-Fiction and will soon start The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow.
Let me end with two recommendations, the first for anyone and everyone, and the second for a particular audience. First, let me recommend the new Wesley Study Bible that Abingdon Press released a few months ago. I actually contributed a few paragraphs of notes to the project, as have others from our conference. As a piecemeal contributor, I never was sure how the whole project would hang together, but I’m pleased with the result. This is the New Revised Standard Version with significant annotations, notes, sidebars, introductions, and other ancillary material that have been written by leading figures from the Wesleyan family—seminary professors, church leaders, pastors, bishops—all providing definitions and explanations that resonate back to Wesley or to Methodism’s unique ethos, theology, and history. It’s good.
Second, for those who share my frustration with bureaucratic stuckness, but who nevertheless feel committed to creative leadership in the church, let me recommend a modern cult classic for quiet revolutionaries: Gordon McKenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball. McKenzie worked for years with Hallmark in Kansas City, and his insights into organizations will help you navigate to greater creativity through even the most intransigent and impenetrable of organizations. If you read it on my recommendation, you must also share with me what you have learned. Enjoy!
So, what are you reading this summer? Why do you read what you read? Relaxation? New ideas? Connection? Growth? Escape? Any recommendations you would like to share with Five Practices Blog readers?
Yours in Christ,