Reading Digest #1

I love to read and try to burn through books at a good pace. Since this reading schedule prohibits full reviews of many of the books I’m reading, my friends have encouraged me to publicly list my reading schedule and brief thoughts on books. To that end I’ll be posting a biblio-update once a week. I don’t post this to sell books (no hyperlinks) and I don’t post this to impress you. I will be prioritizing this list for 4 distinct purposes:

  1. as a means of provoking diligence in your own reading schedule
  2. as a means of helping others make wise book investments (let me buy the bad ones)
  3. as a means of personal accountability (no room for slacking off)
  4. as a means of hearing from you about what you are presently reading (use the comments).

So here is my present reading schedule, complete with the present % read, thoughts, and ratings (5 stars being the highest recommendation, 1 star meaning the book is more useful as a recycled paper product.

  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (25%, 4 stars). Novel and winner of the Pulitzer. Reflections of an old pastor. The prose sip like vintage wine.
  • Outliers by Malcom Gladwell (25%, ^3.2 stars). Talent is overrated–the “greats” flat out worked harder. Note the 10,000 hour rule = work for 10,000 hours at something and you will do it well.
  • The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam (70%, ^3.85 stars). Business strategy book. Thinking through, solving, and explaining complex problems on a napkin with a pen, icons, and stick figures. Wonderful book for visual thinkers like myself and bearing immediate fruit at work.
  • Our Reasonable Faith by Herman Bavinck (30%, 5 stars). Intro level systematic theology. Fantastic condensed theology noted for its carefulness in composition and its moments of breakout doxology.
  • Instructing a Child’s Heart by Ted and Margy Tripp (20%, 4.5 stars). Parenting. The newest from Tripp and a gem. Highly recommended for all parents.
  • Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath (30%, 4.5 stars). Marketing and communication book. “Sticky” has become a new word in my daily language and a persisting challenge to rethink what I say and how I say it.
  • Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (70%, 3.5 stars). Secular history and travel writing. Vowell’s thorough research on presidential assassinations is presented in a way that allows the reader to join her as she travels to various locations. It should be noted that in this book (and all her books) she views life through a lens of wry irritability. Includes ‘mature’ content.
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin (50%, ^2.5 stars). Leadership. Groups stand around together, tribes communicate and provoke one another. How do leaders harness the potential of these online tribes and lead them via Web 2.0—blogs, Facebook, Twitter. The book greatly improved at about the 30% mark.
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen (40%, ^4.3 stars). Personal planning. Classic book on how to schedule well and get things done efficiently.
  • Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Li and Bernoff (30%, 3.75 stars). Online marketing. How to interact with the inevitable web 2.0 phenomena and collective power of the online user. More technical than Godin.

Recently completed (% read, final rating) …

  • Discourse on the Trinity by Jonathan Edwards (100%, 4 stars). Theology. This little work helped me understand how Christ is the duplicity of the Father for God to delight in Himself. A fundamental truth to understanding the entire theology of Edwards.
  • We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale (20%, 2 stars). Scholarly and hard to apply. Not what I expected.
  • The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell (25%, 1 star). Vowell—a liberal—on the Puritans! Who could pass this up? Except for a few highlights, this was a let down.

On the docket …

  • Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds by Chris Brauns. Christian living.
  • Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help For a Common Problem by Robert D. Jones. Christian living.

So what are you currently reading? I’d love to hear in the comments!


17 thoughts on “Reading Digest #1

  1. Tony, I’d love to hear more about how you structure your reading schedule so you can keep so many books going at once.

    I’m reading:

    The Prodigal God, Tim Keller, 50%, 5 stars
    How Shall We Then Live, Francis Schaeffer, 40% 4 stars
    The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges, 50%, stars are simply inadequate.
    This Momentary Marriage, John Piper, 20%, 5 Stars

  2. Tony, I noticed you’ve “completed” some books after reading 25% or less. I think that’s great!

    It’s important to be able to identify those books that aren’t worth finishing. More people might read if they realized they could do that — probably a hold over from high school.

  3. Good list. Thanks for pointing me to some next books.

    I’m currently reading:
    Adopted for Life( forthcoming),Tribes, How to Argue like Jesus (fothcoming), This Momentary Marriage, Master and Commander, Suffering and the Goodness of God, The Produgal God

  4. Hi Tony,

    I write book reviews for Discerning Reader, so it’s easy for anyone who’s interested (making a big assumption there) to see what I’ve finished reading recently. But here is the current stack on my bedside table:

    Future Grace by John Piper, 15%, 4 stars
    Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, 95%, 4 stars
    That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, 65%, 4 stars
    Transforming Community by Mark Lauterbach, 40%, 3.5 stars
    Spectacular Sins by John Piper, 20%, 5 stars
    Proclamation and Praise by Ron Man, 45%, 5 stars
    The Rest of the Gospel by Dan Stone & David Gregory, 35%, 4.5 stars
    Jesus Mean and Wild by Mark Galli, 10%, 4.5 stars
    The Religious Nature and Biblical Nurture of God’s Children by Jack Fennema, 25%, 4 stars
    The Church Invisible by Nick Page, 100%, 2 stars
    Free Refill by Mark Atteberry, 100%, 3.5 stars

    On the docket:

    The Glory of Christ by R.C. Sproul
    Three Views on the NT Use of the OT by Gundry & Berding
    FEEL by Matthew Elliott
    Angels in the Architecture by Wilson & Jones
    Delighting in the Trinity by Tim Chester
    Calvin for Armchair Theologians by Christopher Elwood

    I’ve learned from experience that the docket list doesn’t always pan out as planned…


  5. Hello Dorian, Chris, James, and Mark! Thanks for the excellent books that you have posted and recommend…As for a system of reading it’s really pretty simply: I read at every available moment of the day. I wish I had a structured time, but I don’t. So it’s whenever I can find 10-20 minutes throughout my day (over lunch or after dinner) I take advantage of the gap and read. Thanks for your comments! Tony

  6. Hello, I can’t wait to hear what you say about Unpacking Forgiveness. I have read it through once and I am reading it again, slowly. In my opinion it is one of the best books on this subject that I have in over 30 years of ministry. I am currently also re-reading The Gospel for Real Life, The Incredible Shrinking Church and just started this morning “The Heart of a Servant Leader.”Thanks for the list. God bless you

  7. Currently Reading:
    1. John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. about 40% through, looking like another homerun for Frame. (The Doctrine of God was scary awesome!)

    2. John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World. 50% through. It’s not The Pleasures of God, but what is, really? Still, there are moments of sheer brilliance and enormous insight.

    3. Genesis: A Commentary, by Bruce Waltke. Just started (maybe 30 pages in), but so far it’s fantastic, especially in terms of the discussion of literary structure and narrative.

    4. Glorious Freedom, by Richard Sibbes. Also a fresh start (1 chapter in). The Puritan paperbacks take some settling into–I’ll know more the further I get into it.

    5. Graeme Goldsworthy–According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. 50% in. This has it’s moments, but it’s a lot slower going than I was expecting. Chapters are also extremely short (5-7 pages, usually), making it a lot harder than I thought it would be to find a rhythm.

    6. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (vol. 1: Prolegomena). 10% in. Not the easiest read in the world, but it rewards persistence quite nicely.

    7. C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength. About 20% in but on my 2nd read. Not my favorite (which will always be Till We Have Faces), but solid. A nice change of pace from theology.

    Just Finished:

    1. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Pillar NTC). Everything it’s advertised to be–absolutely brilliant from start to finish, but eminently accessible and thought-provoking, even if (like me) you have no Greek training.

    2. How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth, 3rd Ed., by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart. An exceptionally good read, I just finished teaching this in Sunday School. Stands the re-reading test very well and is one I’ll likely come back to before very long.

    3. Communion With the Triune God, John Owen (ed. Kapic & Taylor). Typical Owen–enormously dense, but infinitely rewarding if you’re patient. Not quite as good as Overcoming Sin & Temptation in my judgment, but a lot more accessible than The Death of Death.

    4. A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson. Highest possible recommendation here–rich and majestic on almost every page, and one I’ll commend heartily to anyone who asks.

    5. Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George Marsden. Possibly the best history piece (and certainly the best biography) I’ve ever read–enthralling, insightful, and even challenging from a devotional perspective. Not to be missed, whether you’re heavy into Edwards or not!

    Coming Soon…

    1. Jeremiah. (NICOT Commentary by John Thompson.) Comes very highly recommended by a number of people. Really looking forward to it.

    2. A Godly Man’s Picture, by Thomas Watson. If this is anywhere CLOSE to A Body of Divinity, it’ll be amazing.

    3. C.S. Lewis, Studies in Words. It’s been a long time since I’ve read any of Lewis’ literary criticism (The Discarded Image is sensational!), so I’m looking forward to this one quite a bit.

    4. Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene. I consider it one of my greatest failures never to have gotten all the way through this. 3rd time’s the charm! (he hopes…)

    5. John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life. I love Frame’s work through and through. I’d be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated by the girth of this gigantic tome!

  8. Tony,

    Great idea. Your blog is one of my top 5 that I check everyday. Right up there with Drudge and Lew Rockwell.

    I love the use of the % sign and simple rating thing.


  9. Tony, I wanted to defend G. K. Beale’s book. It is one of the most profound books I have ever read, and also extremely helpful in the struggle to follow Christ and not idols. In many ways Dr. Beale’s book has transformed many parts of Scripture for me. For example, I have always been a bit puzzled by Paul’s statement that “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” How is suffering for Christ a privilege? It is a privilege precisely because we become what we worship. If we worship Christ we will be conformed into his image. Suffering for his sake should bring us joy as a sign that we are indeed his true worshipersand followers.

  10. You guys put me to shame! I have all I can do to read a book every month or so!

    I have to admit, though, with all do respect to a brother in Christ. You say you try to “burn through books at a good pace”. That phrase sort of stuns me a bit. Is there great comprehension at this fast rate or just the sense of accomplishment?

    I am HONESTLY not trying to be a poo pooer, its just when I personally blow through a book, I can’t even remember what the title was let alone the rest of it.


  11. I’m reading Unless You Repent (along with some other works) after seeing it reviewed here. I’ve had the book around a year and still haven’t read most of it, I think.

    Few things have ever made me hurt so acutely, revealed the true nature of my heart so irrefutably, or terrified me so intensely. It’s like bringing a match into a dark building where gunpowder lies hidden. I may have long denied or-what’s not in the end much different, if any-doubted the enmity that was hidden in my heart; but after seeing the explosion caused by bringing it and Unless You Repent (or something like the Westminster Larger Catechism) together there’s no denying it. (God help me!!!!!) Normally I can’t even bring myself to the book, or I find I go do something else to take my mind off the pain. If somebody out there wouldn’t mind, pray that I don’t continue walking away from what I can’t bear to see!! I know there’s more hope for me if I face the truth, which certainly FEELS like the sword it’s sometimes compared to and certainly aggravates my heart in an incredibly frightening manner..

    This book is certainly powerful. I don’t generally cry much and I don’t know if I’ve ever read this without crying, fear, and desperation.

  12. “as a means of provoking diligence in your own reading schedule”… No kidding!
    I feel like such a slouch.

  13. Great question Matthew. The speed in reading comprehension is built around answering main questions:

    (1) What’s the point of this book?
    (2) What is this book trying to convince me to believe or do differently?
    (3) What do I disagree with?
    (4) Is the evidence solid?

    Answering these fundamental questions is not difficult and can bring clarity and focus when you are 200 pages into a huge 400 page book and feeling overwhelmed in the details. Reading well I think comes back to these basics. Once I can answer these 4 questions, I can come back to the actual book for the details when necessary. And this is true especially with excellent books of theology. I return to soak more fully in isolated segments.

    Great question, though!


  14. Thanks Tony…

    I again just want to say I’m not trying be a jerk or anything. :)

    Me? Whenever I read, my mind seems to float from block to block. What I mean is, there’s usually a paragraph or two with a lot of good meat in it, followed by 40 without, followed by another chapter with great stuff in it. I find my mind tends to click off in the not so good parts and it comes alive in the good sections. That sound right?

    Like, right now, I’m reading The Bruised Reed. My mind seems to be in neutral for most of it with flitters of sparks scattered throughout.

    On the other hand, I just read “Transforming Grace” by Jerry Bridges and that totally enraptured me and put to bed a lot of bad theology I had….it was a WONDERFUL read…start to finish. Read it in 3 days flat.

    Maybe it’s just the Puritans I struggle with. I love them to death, but most of them can be a real draw to get through.

  15. Thanks for the comment Matthew. I’d point you to C.S. Lewis’s words on reading old books. The errors of the old writers are easier to pick up on than the errors of contemporary authors. I wonder if those sections of Puritans where your brain goes numb (I know the feeling) is where you are encountering the Puritan misunderstandings, where their theology was weak and they built off a foundation that was without a clear biblical foundation? I would still return often to one fundamental question: What is Sibbes trying to convince me of in this book? In any case, yes, the Puritans can be hard to get through. Stay at it and your time will be richly rewarded.

  16. 1. The Prodigal God by Tim Keller (80%, 4 stars)
    2. Total Church (25%, 4.25 stars)
    3. Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen (70%, 5 Stars)
    4. On Who is God? By Mark Driscoll (20% 4 stars)
    5. Worldliness edited by C.J. Mahaney (10%, 4 Stars)


    -9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
    -Bakers Pocket Guide to World Religions
    -The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander
    -The Cross of Christ by John Stott
    -Brothers We are not Professionals by John Piper

    Trying to get some books I have really wanted to read before I start seminary, and have to read 8 books for 2 classes, in the Spring. (Cross of Christ and Brothers we are not professionals).

  17. Currently:

    1. World Views in Conflict by Ronald Nash(60% 4 stars)
    2. The Battle Belongs to the Lord by Scott Oliphint(50% 5 stars)
    3. Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos(40% 4 stars)
    4. Doctrine of God (with study notes)John Frame (25% 5 stars)

    On deck:

    The rest of Frames trilogy…study notes can be found on his website…really helps in absorbing the material and there is a TON of material. This series neeeds to be read and meditated on SLOWLY. It’s fabulous.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s