Reading Posts

Deep Work

It’s extremely early in the year for me to already add a five-star rating to a book on my yearly reading list. Yet here we are. I recently finished Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work (see: Amazon link). He writes about a different type of work which is increasingly rare these days yet which offers a disproportionate amount of return. Newport defines deep work as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” As the frequency and sophistication of the distractions continue to increase around us, those people who find the time and ability to achieve deep work will stand out from the rest. In addition, they will feel a sense of contribution on a greater level.

How much “distraction-free concentration” time do you have in your schedule? With the busyness of my life, I realize my need to intentionally work toward this. I was immensely intrigued by almost every section of this book. This is one of those books you have to digest slowly as you consider ways to apply (and disrupt) it to your current habits. As Newport argues, “the ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” This may sound daunting given your current reality, yet he provides numerous ways to approach this idea and how to nuance the application for your situation.

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My 53 Books of 2017

My 53 Books of 2017

In 2017 I read 53 books. There were some great ones this year that are definitely worth checking out. In particular, I’d say the Harry Potter series, Prophetic Imagination, What is the Bible?, Cross Vision, and Ready Player One. Very different books, but each one was so worth the read.

Below is the list with my rating for them (5 being the best) along with a brief review. Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher. In addition to this list, you might also check out my reading lists from previous years as well as my recommendations on how to become a better readerAs always, you can find this list throughout the year on the menu at the top of my blog.

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Bible Reading Plan

Bible Reading Plan

Are you one of those people who make New Year’s resolutions each January? If so, you might have considered attempting to read the Bible more strategically this year. For most people that try it, it’s hard to know where to begin and how to tackle it. People usually just pick a plan and then dive in. Depending on which plan you choose, you may get bogged down in some Old Testament section or fall behind in your reading. Either way, you often end up giving up altogether. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been there before. (I see those hands).

I’ve tried tons of different reading plans over the years (and even finished some of them!). Here’s a key lesson I’ve discovered: developing a habit of studying the Bible is more important than completing it in a set amount of time.

I’ve enjoyed different aspects of different plans over the years. Some were more intensive than others. For the first time, I’m offering you a plan I’ve created myself. It’s a variation on one of my favorite plans I’ve done in the past (see: Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System). I love the premise of his plan but it requires reading ten chapters a day. That’s a lot. So I’ve created a modified version that does five chapters a day using his as a starting point.

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Forgotten Among the Lilies

My list of books I want to read seems to always grow faster than I can cross books off it. Occasionally, a book will jump in priority when I hear it referenced in multiple circles. Such was the case with Ronald Rolheiser’s book, Forgotten Among the Lilies (see: Amazon link). Rolheiser is a Catholic Priest and writes with a unique a meditative insight into life. It’s not always an easy read, but it feels like a deep dive into the condition of your soul. I even quoted it a few times in a recent sermon (see: Divine Restlessness). This is a good end-of-the-year book, and the first chapter is brilliant.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

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The Road Back to You

The Road Back to You

I’ve been hearing about something called the Enneagram for years now. I’ve kept my distance from it mainly because I didn’t understand it. You may have heard of it before, and you likely know it’s a personality assessment. And like me, you may have already spent time analyzing yourself in a number of ways that provide you a letter (DISC Assessment), an animal (Smalley Institute), a grouping of four letters (Myers Briggs), or any other number of tests out there (honorable mention to the Harry Potter quiz). Each can be useful in different ways.

The Enneagram test assigns you a number from 1-9. It’s a bit more abstract, and even the origins of the assessment are a bit of a mysterious story. I’ve used the DISC assessment in a professional setting and seen the value. I’m not immediately sure how to use the Enneagram this way, but I’ve found that it is great for self-reflection and for learning to better understand those key people in your life (who likely have a different number than you). To dive into this more, I recently read Ian Morgan Cron’s book, The Road Back to You (see: Amazon link).

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How to Think

How to Think

When I saw Alan Jacob’s latest book that released this month, How to Think, I was immediately intrigued by the title (see: Amazon link). If that didn’t sell me by itself (which it did), I would have been equally persuaded by the subtitle: A Survival Guide for a World At Odds. Few things sound as needed as this conversation right now. How do we navigate our opinions and those of others around us that we disagree with? How did we even develop the opinions we currently have? This book explores these ideas.

Jacob’s writes as both an Academic and a Christian. These two camps don’t often fit well together. But this helps him provide a unique and very helpful guide, especially for Christians. Because of how many other people and examples Jacob’s quotes throughout the book, it feels as if you’ve read many books by the time you’re done.

One of the ideas I liked most was his emphasis that we cannot think by ourselves. While this seems counterintuitive and even a bit insulting, this emphasized for me the importance of a healthy church community in which we help each other grow together. As Jacob’s explains,

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