Every months or so, I like to let you (the Internet) know what I’ve been reading with a list and a quick synopsis or two. These aren’t proper reviews, mind you. Just a few sentences about each book and why I enjoyed it.
If you’re interested in the first two installments of this little exercise you can find them here and here. Here’s round three:
A Faith of Our Own by Jonathan Merritt — This book was always going to resonate with me. The author and I are about the same age, and we share several formative experiences related to politics and growing up Southern Baptist. Add to this the fact that A Faith of Our Own made for a timely read in the months leading up to the presidential election, and it’s no surprise that this book was one of my favorites of the year.
My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok — This is one of those classics I’d somehow missed out on. I struggled with the first quarter of the book, even as Asher struggled to make sense of the tragedies in his family and his artistic compulsion. But once I doubled down on reading My Name Is Asher Lev, I found I couldn’t stop. The story of a boy pulled apart by the irreconcilable differences between his giftedness and his religious community was, for me, both inspiring and heartbreaking.
Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon — This book was my first exposure to Hauerwas, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The focus of Resident Aliens is what it means to be the church community — “life in the Christian colony” to use the authors’ phrase. Even decades after this book was published, I found it undeniably relevant.
Sleepwalk With Me by Mike Birbiglia — Birbiglia is a talented comedian and storyteller, and in this memoir he shares his adventures in stand-up comedy, relationships, and sleep disorders. The book is an entertaining mix of hilarity and heart, so much so that Birbiglia teamed up with Ira Glass to make a movie out of it (which I also enjoyed).
Start With Why by Simon Sinek — This is Sinek’s refrain throughout his insightful book: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek’s thesis is that great leaders start with WHY they’re going to do something, not WHAT they’re going to do or HOW they’re going to do it. The WHY is what truly moves people. I must say I was challenged and entertained by this book, and it has changed the way I think about communication and leadership.
The Alphabet of Grace by Frederick Buechner — What more is there to say about Buechner’s writing? The man was a genius, a romantic, and a pastor — and equal parts artist and architect at the typewriter, of course. Naturally, this book was deeper than I could handle, but I enjoyed it anyway.
The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse by Michael Gungor — I find it ironic that one of “Christian” music’s most brilliant artists (Gungor) also seems to be its most reluctant. His first book is a meditation on what it means to create, what it means to relate to our Creator, and what it means to think outside the plastic container of the American Christian subculture. Gungor is both a deep thinker and a gifted writer, so read this book if you make things.
To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity In the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter — How about that title and subtitle? The heart of this book is to survey modern Christianity’s attempts at changing the world, to evaluate those attempts, and finally, to offer a different path. Hunter is an academic, and you’ll feel that in your reading of this book. But he expertly argues his case, and so this book is worthy of your attention.
Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs — Sachs insists that compelling stories are the way organizations make meaningful connections. He explores this notion in both big-picture, philosophical terms and concrete, applicable terms. And for what it’s worth, Sachs writes from experience in helping organizations tell their stories, so he’s knows that of which he speaks.
After You Believe by N.T. Wright — The great Tom Wright’s take on the importance of character, as well as its development and expression.
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz — A critically-acclaimed string of short stories about a man’s ongoing romantic failures.
Community Wins by Bryan Allain — A quick, actionable book on building an online community by my friend Bryan.
That’s my list. What’s yours? What should I read in 2013?
(Note: This post contains affiliate links. Because I apparently can’t resist that 6 percent kick-back from Amazon if you buy something. So there.)