Reading Posts

My 29 books of 2010

Here are the 29 books I read in 2010 with my rating and a brief review of each. My favorite read of the year (besides the Bible) is a tossup between the Naked Gospel and Outliers. My least favorite read of the year goes to Live Sent by Jason Dukes. Here they are in the order I finished them.

The Baseball Fanatic by Louis D. Rubin Jr (3) This is a very light read with baseball quotes from people connected to the game. Good for the coffee table or even a more private reading spot…

The Search for God and Guiness by Stephen Mansfield (4.5) This is a great story about the history of the Guiness family and their surprising influence on Ireland because of their faith. Makes me wish I enjoyed the taste of Guiness. A very engaging story for any history buff.

Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind by Charles Nicholl (3) This is a tough read that I had to push through. I’m intrigued by da Vinci’s life, but this book is fairly dry and pretty long. I’d only recommend this for the bold (or those with a lot of extra time on their hands).

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In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day - Mark BattersonI recently finished Mark Batterson’s book – In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. We are having him speak at Central for our prayer conference in February so I wanted to read his book before then. The book is based on a seemingly obscure story in the Bible about a guy named Benaiah chasing down a lion (1 Chronicles 11:22-25 and 2 Samuel 23:20-23).

I really enjoyed it. There were two themes in it that I thought he developed well. The first and most dominant theme was the idea that Christianity should involve taking risks. Too often we think of it solely as not doing bad things. Batterson makes the point that doing the right things is more important than not doing the wrong things. Here are a few quotes from the book that are along the lines of following God by taking the risks that He has for us:

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The Day Metallica Came to Church

The Day Metallica Came to ChurchI just finished John Van Sloten’s book, The Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything. I wasn’t sure if it would be a gimmicky book or not, but it turned out to be well worth it. His concept of “co-illumination” was worth the book itself and has found a nice home in my vocabulary. This term has fascinated me as I’ve processed it and I love the way it allows your mind to expect God to come alive and jump from the Bible to the present day.

In fact, the book served as a nice part two to Brett McCracken’s book, Hipster Christianity, that I read and reviewed a few months ago. It seems that these ideas are either an emerging trend in the church, or it is something that God is trying to teach me right now.

Here are some of my favorite ideas from it:

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Drive

Daniel Pink - DriveI recently finished Daniel Pink’s book called Drive along with a handful of the leadership team at Central. I absolutely loved the counter-intuitive nature of the content and how much it reminded me of a good Malcolm Gladwell book. If you lead anybody, employees or kids or anyone else to who you have influence, this book is a must read. Here are some of the quotes that stood out to me:

“Harlow offered a novel theory–what amounted to a third drive: ‘The performance of the task,’ he said, ‘provided intrinsic reward.'”

“Companies that typically rely on external rewards to manage their employees run some of their most important systems with products created by nonemployees who don’t seem to need such rewards.”

“Partly because work has become more creative and less routine, it has also become more enjoyable. That, too, scrambles Motivation 2.0’s assumptions. This operating system rests on the belief that work is not inherently enjoyable–which is precisely why we must coax people with external rewards and threaten them with outside punishment.”

“Human beings have a innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

“In a ROWE [Results Only Work Environment] workplace, people don’t have schedules. They show up when they want. They don’t have to be in the office at a certain time–or any time, for that matter. They just have to get their work done. How they do it, when they do it, and where they do it is up to them.”

“We forget sometimes that ‘management’ does not emanate from nature. It’s not like a tree or a river. It’s like a television or a bicycle. It’s something that humans invented.”

“The opposite of autonomy is control. And since they sit at different poles of the behavioral compass, they point us toward different destinations. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”

What the Dog Saw

What the Dog Saw - Malcolm GladwellI just finished my last of Malcom Gladwell’s books called “What the Dog Saw.” It is a collection of essays that he has written for the New Yorker Magazine. Each chapter is a completely different topic, so there isn’t much connection or flow overall, and one of the chapters seemed to contradict his points in a couple of other ones. Nonetheless, it is an intriguing read by a guy that has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Here are some of the quotes that stood out to me:

“The trick to finding ideas is to convince yourself that everyone and everything has a story to tell. I say trick but what I really mean is challenge, because it’s a very hard thing to do. Our instinct as humans, after all, is to assume that mot things are not interesting.”

“Happiness, in one sense, is a function of how closely our world conforms to the infinite variety of human preference. But that makes it easy to forget that sometimes happiness can be found in having what we’ve always had and everyone else is having.”

“But there is nothing like being an NFL quarterback except being an NFL quarterback. A prediction, in a field where prediction is not possible, is no more than a prejudice.”

“We associate the willingness to risk great failure — and the ability to climb back from catastrophe — with courage. But in this we are wrong. There is more courage and heroism in defying the human impulse, in taking the purposeful and painful steps to prepare for the unimaginable.”

“They were there looking for people who had the talent to think outside the box. It never occurred to them that, if everyone had to think outside the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing.”

Creeping Determinism

“[Psycologist Baruch] Fischoff calls this phenomenon ‘creeping determinism’ — the sense that grows on us, in retrospect, that what has happened was actually inevitable — and the chief effect of creeping determinism, he points out, is that it turns unexpected events into expected events.” Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw

The idea of creeping determinism explains the expression “hindsight is 20/20.” When we look back on events, it always seems so obvious that things would turn out the way they did. But that is only because we have had the chance to connect the dots in a way that is unnatural and impossible when we are in the moment.

If you are like me, you often kick yourself for making stupid decisions after you have looked back to see the big picture of how things turned out. (Why did I buy a house before the market completely dropped; why did I not choose to take advantage of some other opportunity; etc). And while we may want to challenge ourselves with the idea that next time we won’t make the same kind of mistake, the reality is that we probably will.

But it also reminds me that we need to live each moment to the full, inviting God’s Spirit to be the driving force of what we are doing, and stop worrying about how things will ultimately turn out. The critics will always look back and analyze the mistakes made, but the real action is living in the moment, accepting its inherent limitations, and being one of the people affecting the future. We can choose to shape our kingdoms, the things that we have influence and control over, to build the Kingdom of God, even if we can’t foresee what that will look like in the future.