Read a good book lately?
Comedian Groucho Marx lamented about the educational value of television. He said, "I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book." Our obsession with screens---whether television, movies, social media, or Angry Birds---has robbed us of being well read. We're a nation of illiterates who have even rejected the idea of recreational reading, something to pull us aside from the routines that define us for occasional step asides in a good book. Huffington reported not long ago that 14% of the American population are legally illiterate (roughly 32 million citizens), while 21% read at below a 5th grade level. Studies show that 19% of high school graduates can't read at all.
My most trying experience leading up to retirement was deciding what to do with several thousand books. All kinds of thoughts swept me through a real dilemma. Harriet and I live in a condominium and wouldn't be able to keep my vast library. We entertained selling them but alas, they were my friends and who among us could place a price tag on such valued companions. So, in the final analysis I emailed all of my church planting friends and gave them away, first come, first served. They disappeared in an afternoon.
Still, there's the Summer S'cool I've done for many years, the reading plan that was such an important part of my mental health treatment and continuing ed every summer. There's really nothing prescriptive or formal about it. It's just that for thirty-five years I had a summer reading plan, a list of the books that I wanted to devour every summer. Several of them were annual reads, books I read every year because they registered something in me. Once in a while there were re-reads, times when I'd read a selection a second time. But, most of them were new books that I had purchased and saved for the summer. This year is no exception. My list this years includes---
1. The Secular City by Harvey Cox.
Cox was the Hollis Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School until his
retirement in 2009. Back in the day he was a preeminent liberal theologian. The
Secular City was a national best-seller predicting the emergence of secular
urban civilization and the breakdown of traditional religion. It was scandalous
when released in 1965 but is a very accurate picture of the world we are living
in today. It is an annual read, not because of the theological contributions it
has made but because of his insight into the secular world and how believers
are to live in it.
2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
This is another annual read. Released in 1973 Knowing God has been identified
as one of the 50 most important books every released for evangelicals
(Christianity Today Magazine, 206). it is a focused and in-depth study of the
character of God. One reviewer wrote that, "...God is magnified, the
sinner is humbled, and the saint is encouraged". My most lasting sentence
from this book is "What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last
analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact that underlies it---the fact
that he knows me". Glory.
3. The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson
After visiting England on a study tour in 2014 and spending time in the
underground bunkers where Churchill guided England through World War II I
am enamored by such a leader. Johnson was formerly the mayor of London and
writes from the perspective of a citizen grateful for Churchill's leadership
during such a trying time. Since leadership is one of my favorite topics this one
should keep my attention for a few weeks.
4. The Next America by Paul Taylor
Partnered with the people at Pew Research Taylor estimates the future of the
United States after two primary demographic shifts take place: the soon
coming day when whites will no longer be the majority population and the
continued aging of the population. In this work he predicts the influence of
these changes on our political, social, and economic landscapes, family
structures, racial and ethnic identities, and our gender norms, religious
affiliations, and technological development. With some future in my personal
strength array, this kind of predictive research interests me greatly.
5. A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schweikart
At 932 pages this will be the mammoth read for the summer. I purchased this
history, released in 2007, several years ago and have been intimidated by it's
many pages since then. So, I'm tackling it this summer. Schweikart's history
approaches the history of American without all the racial, gender, non-religious
bias so prevalent in historical work today. it is said to be pure, straight-forward
history. I'm going dig into it first.
Reading is so important and has been not only a way to decompress during the summer moths but also a way to be informed about what is happening in the world around us. Jesus told his disciples to be wise as serpents and I cannot help but believe God gifted writers to guide us in this kind of wisdom. I am also highly motivated by something the Apostle Paul wrote to his younger colleague Timothy.
When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and
above all the parchments.
2 Timothy 4:13, ESV
Evidently Paul loved his books too.