Today is the day I have anticipated for more than a year. This morning I delivered to the publisher the manuscript for Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. The book is slated for a September 2011 release, plenty of time to learn patience and contentment from my friends.

One great benefit of writing a book is seeing my need for others. And the Lord surrounded me with a strong team of counselors along the way. As I wrote the acknowledgments for the book I was overwhelmed by all the names of generous friends who invested their time in my book over the past year.

Getting the book written has required a team of friends and scholars. The scholars that helped out include Leland Ryken, Gene Fant, Stephen Dempster, and Carl Trueman. Each of these men were accessible to answer questions. A couple of these guys edited full chapters for me. Fant took the time to edit the entire manuscript at an early stage and provided much writing guidance as a bonus (motivated by pity, I wonder?). Whatever the motive, these guys came through in a big way and I thank God for them.

Many friends also helped make this possible. The book was Justin Taylor’s idea to begin with. His early help writing was critically important. Justin is wise and creative, and any wise and creative bits in the book were likely his handiwork (the joke in chapter 11 about Al Gore is his). Likewise I’m thankful for Randy Alcorn. Last summer he encouraged me to write, and that encouragement—coming from him!—was a source of confirmation from the Lord. His role in the life of this book project goes a lot deeper than he is aware of.

Of course Tom Bombadil comes to mind as another faithful comrade (“Tom Bombadil” being the loose fit blog alias he wears over his superhero tights). Tom is a likeminded friend who helped out at every step of the way, cheering me on with encouragement, and frequently pleading my cause before the Throne of Grace. He was a huge help. And Jon Smith (real name, no tights) comes to mind. Although he didn’t know it at the time, his early encouragements last summer about my series of blog posts on reading were instrumental in my decision to write the book. Jon works with college students and he read and edited the manuscript from that perspective—very helpful!

And so many other friends helped out, Josh Deckard, Mark Fedeli and Andrew Mahr should be mentioned specifically. Thank you, men! I was reminded at many times that this book would not be possible without two pastors in my life, Patrick Abendroth and Rick Gamache. I love these men and will be forever indebted to them for how they helped me develop as a reader, through their words and through their example. So many other people support me.

Of course my friend C.J. played a major role. He made it possible for me to enjoy three writing retreats in beautiful locations (Orlando, Annapolis, and Cape Cod). Since the book was researched was written in my free time (mornings, evenings, days off, vacations), having the freedom to get away and to lock myself in a room and write for 14 hours each day was a great gift and those retreats proved to be critical in the development of this project.

But of course when I talk about my editors and my support, no one surpasses my wife. Karalee first became my editor, then my friend, and now my wife, and she remains my best friend and my most loyal editor. Not only is she quite a lot smarter than I am, but God has given her a tenacious capacity for large workloads. The Lord knew I would need a lot of help ed!t!ng, and he blessed me with a woman I love and a woman who can handle a red pen in the free moments between kids, laundry, and cooking. I don’t know how she does it, I really don’t.

So thanks to all of you: those named, those pseudo-named, and those left unnamed. I could not have written this book without you. Yes, that includes you. Your loyal blog readership is an encouragement to me and—quite truthfully—is probably one of the important factors that landed me a book contract in the first place. I am humbled and honored that you read, and thankful for your partnership. I pray that the labors of this past year will prove effective in encouraging Christians to read great books. And thanks for putting up with this blog, which has become predictably random, sometimes brusque, and always disordered. I plan to return to writing more essays, posting more book reviews, and snapping more photographs again soon.


Christmas Gift Book Idears

A book makes a natural and meaningful Christmas gift, but finding the right one is not always an easy task. Here are a few suggestions, a list of a few of my favorite wee books. These books are each short, affordable, and likely to appeal to a broad audience. Listed in no particular order:

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller. A wonderful book that articulates the free grace of God and exposes legalism in the sinner’s heart. $11.57 each or 24 for $239.40 (WTSB).

The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford. Christ’s beauty displayed in this collection of choice descriptions of Christ taken from the writings of the noted Puritan. $8.40 (WTSB).

Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy
by Paul Tripp. One of my favorite books on grace. Tripp uses diverse writing styles to communicate the many features of God’s forgiving grace. $9 (WTSB).

Heaven: A World of Love by Jonathan Edwards. A glimpse of heaven so large you will be amazed it fits into a book you can slide into your pocket. $4.20 (WTSB).

Living Faith by Samuel Ward. Another book that you can carry in your pocket. For about 2 months I carried this little book on my travels and read it over and over. Few books have more built my faith. $4.20 (WTSB).

The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney. Perhaps the best of all my boss’s books. Transforming look at how the cross alters the way we live. $7 (WTSB).

Caleb’s Lamb by Helen Santos. A family favorite book. The fictional book centers on a little boy, his spotless lamb, and the news that God is coming to deliver him and his family from the bondage of Egypt. A wonderful cross-centered book for family reading time. It’s available only from the publisher for $7.50 (RHB).

Children of the Living God by Sinclair Ferguson. On the doctrine of our spiritual adoption into God’s family, this little book is one of the best. $5 (WTSB).

The Heidelberg Catechism. Perhaps the warmest and most devotional of all the catechisms. This little version is my favorite. $5.50 (Amazon).

Chequebook of the Bank of Faith: Daily Readings by C.H. Spurgeon. A wonderful collection of faith-building promises from God expounded by the prince of preachers. Take these divine promises to the bank! $14 (WTSB).

Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening (two volumes) by C.H. Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s classic devotional [Morning and Evening] updated into more contemporary language and divided into two volumes. One of the richest devotionals available. $26 for the set (WTSB).

The Cross: The Pulpit of God’s Love by Iain Murray. A brief meditation on the centrality and importance of the work of Christ. $2.80 (WTSB).

Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (3rd Edition), by Joseph Williams. Figured I would throw one book into the list for the writer in your life. One of the most helpful little guides for those who seek to improve the clarity of their writing. $16 (Amazon).

Need a specific recommendation? Leave a comment and let us know what you are looking for. Our team of book lovers will jump in with recommendations.

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!