Reading List

What I am currently reading

September 2011:

Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger - I'm not part of the organized Catholic church, but this book is excellent.

The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writing by Bart Ehrman - Ehrman doesn't know what he's talking about

The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound - I can describe this book as nothing less than heresy. It relies on flawed arguments against the most sacred doctrine of Christianity; that of the trinity.

A Bitter Providence by John Piper - Piper takes us through the story of Ruth and shows how, despite the bitter things that happen to us, God is in control of every situation and works for our good. He likens the bitter circumstances in our lives to vanilla extract in a cake. By itself it is bitter, but in time it bakes into a delicious treat.

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card - Excellent. It was written by Card, of course it's excellent...

October 2011:

Empire by Orson Scott Card - Loved it. I recommend it all the time to my colleagues.

Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card - It was okay. Not as good as Empire.

November 2011:

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond - I like it. This is an intellectual look at the reasons behind why some cultures advanced more quickly than others and spread through imperialism.

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard - This book is basically a summary of the twenty minute video, also by Leonard and going by the same title, which is a criticism of the consumer culture in the Western World, and especially in America. While I agree that the level of consumerism in America is bad for the environment, often causes violations of human rights, and breeds unhappiness in our culture, I disagree with most of Leonard's proposed solutions to these problems. At the end of the book, she describes a Utopian society that  resembles the wet dream of a tree-hugging hippie communist. I'm not exaggerating. Ironically, her website contains an image of a banner reading 'Defend Democracy'.

December 2011:

Emails From an Asshole by John Lindsay - I mixed a little bit of humor into my reading list to help me retain my sanity during a long training session one day. Based off the website, Lindsay's book contains some of the emails that he exchanges with unwitting Internet Idiots. Lindsay seeks out his victims through online ads on sites like Craigslist and harasses them for our entertainment. I got a few laughs out of it, but finished it in about an hour.

My Year Inside Radical Islam by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross - I can't put this one down. It is an inside look at how a man born into a Jewish family was gradually sucked into radical Islam (the kind that funds terrorism, advocates strict shariah law, and wishes to see the downfall of the West).

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Classic comedic science fiction.

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan - A collection of stories from an African Jesuit priest, this book takes its title from a line in the story set in Rwanda about a girl who watches her father murder her mother right in front of her during the genocide. I found Akpan's style difficult to read and from his portrayal of Rwanda it is evident that he is not a resident.

Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation by Jason Mattera - Obama Zombies offers a lot references to defend its thesis that the election of Barack Obama (whom Mattera refers to as BHO) was a result of a mass marketing (brainwashing) effort from the liberal left in America. While I agree with the thesis, the style and diction that Mattera uses leave a bad taste in my mouth. The repetition of catch phrases that Mattera uses take on the same pattern of proselytism that he is espousing to fight against. While the content of the book is good, it could have been presented better. As is, it merely preaches to a choir without influence.

The Myth of a Christian Religion by Gregory Boyd - This is literally everything I've always wanted to write in a book. Read it. Then read it again. I plan to.

The Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd - Similar to the last book, this one goes into more depth concerning the issue of nationalistic religion in America.

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell - Campbell is practically worshiped by English majors because of the connections he draws between all the myths in the world. I have a little bit of respect for him, but I find his impressions of most religions to be shallow, thus leading him to believe in relativism. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

What's the Difference?: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible by John Piper - I read it twice. The second time I took ten pages of notes. I read it because I was thinking about the traits that I find attractive in a girl and how these traits relate to gender roles. I discovered a strong connection between the two. Perhaps I will write more about it in via l'amour.

The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman - Getting ideas about what to cook when (if) I'm finally on my own.

Food Matters by Mark Bittman - Bittman describes a diet that is healthier for us, for our environment, and for animals. He draws conclusions that I naturally have already come to, so I agree with his thesis that we all need to eat less meat and processed junk and more veggies.

Rethinking Retirement by John Piper - A criticism on the Western idea of using the last years of our lives for self-enjoyment rather than for furthering the Kingdom.

Porn Again Christian by Mark Driscoll - Driscoll uses diction that I am not used to seeing in print, but I enjoy his blunt language. He explains the dangers of pornography and how the industry is linked to human trafficking. I found the argument that masturbation is homosexual to be ludicrous, but the booklet ends with a very interesting interview between Dr. James Dobson, family psychologist, and ted Bundy, serial killer, that took place just hours before Bundy's execution.

January 2012:

Six Great Ideas by Mortimer J. Adler - I read this book for a class in college. Since it is a philosophy book, I brought it here with me and I am enjoying reading it again. I hope to share it with others when I finish so that we can discuss.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever - In this brief book, Dever offers advice and answers seven questions regarding evangelism: Why don't we evangelize? What is the gospel? Who should evangelize? How should we evangelize? What isn't evangelism? What should we do after we evangelize? Why should we evangelize? I find Dever's advice to be biblically sound and convicting.

The Unexpected Adventure: Taking Everyday Risks to Talk with People about Jesus by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg - By sharing inspirational stories about their own experiences in evangelism, Strobel and Mittelberg show how exciting it can be to share the gospel with others.

Four Views on Hell by William Crockett, John F. Walvoord,, Zachary J. Hayes, and Clark H. Pinnock - Four biblical scholars present arguments for their personal views on hell with rebuttals to each other between each essay. Walvoord argues for a literal hell with flames that cause physical pain, Crockett defends a metaphorical view, Hayes explains purgatory, and Pinnock presents a case for annihilationism. I personally agree with Crockett's view that the language of the bible is metaphorical when speaking about hell. It is a literal place, but the flames and ever-consuming worms are descriptors that fail to grasp at what hell is really about: eternal separation from God.

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell - After all the fuss when this book hit the shelves, and after just reading Four Views on Hell, I decided to tackle Bell's controversial book. Bell expresses his discontent with orthodox views on heaven and hell and explains his belief in universalism. Bell presents a lot of questions in his book. In reading it, I almost felt as if I were inside of his head with all of these questions swirling around me. I did not like this style of writing, which seems very disorganized and cluttered compared to the four, although very different from each other, very well-written arguments I had just finished reading.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - This is one of my favorite books in one of my favorite genres. I recommended it for a book club that we are starting among PCV's in Rwanda. I read it in one day.

Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley - Hey, I finished the book. Why stop there? Insights from the author several years after writing such an influential story will give me a better understanding of this wonderful piece of literature. And maybe look impressive in front of a book club. Or pretentious. Most likely pretentious.

February 2012:

Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper - I was invited to read through this book and discuss in a group via Facebook. So far I have read the first chapter.

The Economics of Enough by Diane Coyle - This book examines the unsustainable nature of our current consumer-based economy in developed nations. Coyle gives some suggestions for how we can change our current trend of over-consumption for the benefit of future generations. I stopped reading about two-thirds the way through because I found the book to be very repetitive.

Case For a Creator by Lee Strobel - Some might view this book as a slam-dunk argument against Darwinism and for Intelligent Design, but this book actually discouraged me in my faith. Strobel's style of argument is to present one side and to completely ignore the opposition. Further, his excitement over some of the points made by his interviewees comes across as fake.

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer by Christopher Hitchens - This is a collection of literature from throughout history that the author has compiled to show that atheism has been around for a very long time. Who cares? Hitchens' descriptions of the three major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) in his introduction reveals that he does not fully understand their teachings. The rest of the book can be summed up as different historical figures saying that God does not exist.

March 2012:

Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey - Sometimes we deal with doubt. Yancey is an author who has written much on difficult topics, such as pain and doubt. Yancey helps us come to terms with our doubt. "If you find God with great ease, suggested Thomas Merton, perhaps it is not God that you have found." "Faith appears where least expected and falters where it should be thriving."

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey - Yes, I have become a fan of Philip Yancey. In this book, Yancey compares the different perceptions we have of Jesus (from Sunday school, pop culture, etc.) with the Jesus of the bible. There are startling difference between what we think we know about Jesus and what the bible actually says about him. I especially like Yancey's comments on the church: "History shows that when the church uses the tools of the world's kingdom, it becomes as ineffectual, or as tyrannical, as any other power structure. And whenever the church has intermingled with the state (the Holy Roman Empire, Cromwell's England, Calvin's Geneva), the appeal of the faith suffers as well. Ironically, our respect in the world declines in proportion to how vigorously we attempt to force others to adopt our point of view."

April 2012:

A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren - McLaren comes from the post-modern movement within Christianity, which tends to put aside orthodoxy in exchange for a higher level of acceptance of others. While this can be dangerous (if there is no "correct" teaching, then what is stopping heretics from corrupting the truth?), the idea of acceptance is appealing to me. McLaren says: "As we've seen, the term "Christianity" (like its cousin "orthodoxy") has too often camouflaged something quite foreign to Christ and his message, something that is more the problem than the solution--a fusion of Greek philosophy and Roman power, alloyed or adorned with elements drawn from the Bible, which is interpreted and applied in ways that often betray Jesus's life and teachings." While I disagree with some of McLaren's ideas, his book has challenged me to dig deeper and reevaluate some of my long-held beliefs on "orthodoxy".

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman - After reading Philip Yancey's reflections on our misconceptions about Jesus, I wanted to learn more from a different perspective. Ehrman opens this book by describing his background in textual studies, which gave me more respect for him and made me more open to his views. This book provides good evidence that, as Brian McLaren suggests, the bible should not be read as a single book, but as a library of books, each of which describes God from a different perspective and writing style that evolves as our understanding of God increases over time.

The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writing by Bart Ehrman - You may recall that I read this book back in September of last year, and I simply said that Ehrman doesn't know what he's talking about. Upon reexamination, I retract my former statement. Sometimes I think that Christians idolize the bible and so we feel threatened by books like this. But when we set aside the cult of the bible, we learn some fascinating things about these scriptures. Studying Ehrman's work makes me want to become a textual scholar myself.

May 2012:

A History of God by Karen Armstrong - Armstrong takes us through the history of human understanding of God. She rather dryly takes us from the beginnings of monotheism and travels through time, describing the different major monotheistic religions and their many sects that have come, gone, stayed and made come-backs over the millenia.

June 2012:

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose - Roose is a young man who transferred from Brown University to Jerry Falwell's conservative boot camp college for a semester to find out what the religious right is all about. His time at Liberty University changed his perspective on Christians and may have even planted the seed for him to one day accept the truth of the gospel. If nothing else, he discovered the benefits of focusing his life around daily prayer.

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs - The same man who read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year has decided to live a year following the laws of the bible as literally as possible. Another liberal journalist going behind the lines of Christianity in documentary style, Jacobs, much like his personal intern, Kevin Roose (see above), discovers the benefits of following some of the commands in the bible; benefits that we often fail to see because we neglect looking beyond their surface. "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Cor. 3:6)

Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch - Exactly as the title suggests, a history of the first three thousand years of Christianity, from its genesis in Judaism to its modern form.

July 2012:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald has a way of painting a picture in your mind using very few words. Gatsby is as great as its title and a true American classic. It makes me want to watch Boardwalk Empire again.

The Giver by Lois Lowry - Considered a classic, and required reading in many schools, I thought this book was a little drab and short.

With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen B. Oates - I have read several biographies of my favorite president, and this is the best one so far. Reading through this biography, I could feel Lincoln's pain through his personal tragedies, I root for him through all the criticism he takes, and I admire his unfailing integrity.

August 2012:

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III - I didn't much like it. I never saw the film adapted from the novel, so I wasn't sure what to expect. There sure was a lot of sex. The characters seemed immature, each making a string of horrible decisions, which just annoyed me.

The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd - A book full of pretentious facts (most of them technicalities). Fun.

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer - Like a Michael Crichton novel as written by a teenager. Interesting plot, but could have been developed more.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins - I told someone I was reading Dawkins and their response was, "He is such an angry man." That describes his style well. While I see the validity in some of his arguments, he comes across as arrogant, trying to bully his readers into accepting his beliefs. If you disagree with his conclusions, you are a delusional idiot because he is a scientist and therefore an expert on all topics. However, Dawkins is stuck in his own delusion that the natural world is all that exists. If you have an experience outside of the explanations of the natural universe, then you are hallucinating. What Dawkins fails to understand is that God exists outside of the natural realm and cannot be studied as if some science experiment. Dawkins then goes on to use his arguments to support his liberal agenda. The book is more of an attack on the religious right than it is a proof of the non-existence of god. Perhaps it is because the book was written for a popular audience that the arguments seem very shallow to me. Dawkins is obviously an intelligent man, but I just can't take his arguments seriously, especially when put in such a childish and belittling way.

The Case for God by Karen Armstrong - What I like about Armstrong is that she is well read and she takes a moderate stance on the God issue. While not a young earth fundamentalist, she can still point out the foolishness in arguments from the likes of Dawkins and Sagan. In The Case for God, Armstrong gives some history of our evolving understanding of God and warns against the growth of fundamentalism in all of the major world religions.

September 2012:

Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet by Bart Ehrman - Ehrman gives a short history of the development of the New Testament in order to support his thesis that Jesus was, in a historical sense, an apocalyptic prophet. I find his arguments convincing.

Saving Jesus from the Church by Robin Meyers - While I find Meyers to be too liberal on some issues, I agree with his stance that Christians should stop focusing on what people 'believe' and start focusing on the essential mission of Jesus' ministry: Love.

Prayer by Philip Yancey - Why should we pray? Does God answer prayers? Someone once told me about a community in Africa where he volunteered. He said that the people there would continue to petition God to end drought, even as they starved to death. The best response I could give was what Benjamin Franklin once said: "God helps those who help themselves." Yancey gives a much better response than mine.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - A great classic in both content and length. As good as the film adaptations are, they still don't capture all of the adventure contained in the novel.

October 2012:

The Revolution by Ron Paul - I am a libertarian and I agree with Paul's premise that we need to protect Americans' most basic right: the right to freedom.

The Babylonian Legends of the Creation by Sir E.A. Wallis Budge - Some of man's earliest stories explaining the creation of the world translated to English.

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery - A great definition and explanation of dirt and erosion and how it is affecting the world around us.

Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explains the World We Live in Now - Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything by David Sirota - The author posits that our 1980s culture, dictated by the Reagan administration, explains everything (bad) about our present culture. Although well explained, it still comes across as another jab from a liberal at the late former US president. The truth is, our culture can be explained by the net experiences of every consecutive decade to the present. Leave it to someone from the selfish 1980s generation to explain everything from his own childhood experiences.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman - This book contains some ideas that will blow your mind. Pun intended.

November 2012:

The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer - Famous monist Michael Shermer makes a compelling argument for materialism. His approachable style (and perhaps because he is a fellow libertarian) had me believing myself to be a skeptic for about a week. Or was it just my brain that was believing it?

The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul by Mario Beauregard - This book quickly turned me around from being a skeptic back into a believer. Beauregard mentions some of the same studies that materialists such as Shermer cite, but he goes into the details to show how materialism is not scientifically supported. In the final chapters, Beauregard explains his own observations of Carmelite nuns. His arguments have me firmly believing in dualism - that the mind is separate from the brain.

Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You by Marcus Chown - A science journalist, Chown knows how to explain difficult scientific principles in a way that is understandable to at least some. Reading his book didn't turn me into a quantum physicist, but I now have a firmer grasp on the concepts of physics that I previously found unattainable.

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All of it Back by Frank Schaeffer - A memoir from the life of a man who was raised by a very influential fundamentalist Christian family.

December 2012:

Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tinniswood - This is an interesting history of piracy off of the Barbary Coast. Tinniswood looks at the story of the 'barbarians' from their point of view, explaining how piracy was the foundation of their economy for many decades.

Onward by Howard Schultz - As someone who was a Starbucks partner during the period of time that this book was written, I found it interesting to see how 'Uncle Howie' explained his reasoning for the decisions that were made during that tough time for the company. Schultz is an inspiring man on par with men like Jobs, Gates and Disney.

Liberty Defined by Ron Paul - Paul takes us alphabetically through 50 of the most important  issues facing America and explains his response from a libertarian point of view.

Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce - The main theme I got from this book was that everyone who doesn't agree politically with the author is an idiot. With patent liberal elitism, Pierce paints Republican America with a broad brush stroke, pointing out the most extreme voices as examples to prove his point that anyone who is politically conservative must be downright stupid. No examples are given from the opposing party (even though they can easily be found) exposing Pierce's extreme liberal bias. The pot calling the kettle black.

No Turning Back by Wallace Kaufman - I imagine this environmentalist is no longer welcome within his own community. Kaufman takes a more moderate position on the issues facing the environment, criticizing the environmental movement in America for its ineffectiveness and for its push to end human progress.

Coaching Basketball for Dummies by Greg Bach - I'm interested in possibly coaching basketball at my school, so I wanted to gather some ideas for teaching the basics and running drills.

Ruins by Orson Scott Card - The second book in the Pathfinder series continues the theme of time/space travel and ventures into the issues of humanity, cognition, the soul and even xenophobia, war and genocide. I can't wait for the final book to conclude the trilogy!

God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer by Bart Ehrman - I've become somewhat of a follower of Ehrman's work. I was a little disappointed in this book because I felt that Ehrman failed to dig deeper into his questions and explain his reasoning. The book comes across as merely a series of questions with shallow rebuttals to the answers that are offered by different groups.

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach - Take three psychotics who all claim to be Jesus Christ and stick them in a room together to see what happens. It sounds like a cruel grade school experiment, but Dr. Rokeach actually learned a lot from it.

The 2012 Story by John Major Jenkins - This man needs to join the three Christs in Ypsilanti. His book is very badly written (I can't believe I read it all the way through!) and his ramblings remind me of those coming from the three Christs. The book could be condensed into three chapters. One chapter expressing his complaints that nobody takes him seriously (which is the majority of the material in the book), the second containing actual useful information about the Mayas, and the third about his New Age nonsense (which takes up almost as much print in the book as his complaining). Well, today is December 21, 2012, and all I have to say is : What a kook!

Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card - A continuation-or rather, prequel-to the Ender series, one of the best science fiction series ever written.

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