May and June were busy months, especially with several weeks taken up with preparing for and then helping with our church’s annual VBS. In fact, I was running on reserves the last few weeks, and didn’t do much reading at all in the latter half of June.
But I did manage to complete 7 books for the #Read2017 challenge, including two that I’d been working through for a few months prior (What’s Best Next and 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You), both of which called for frequent personal response, either through applicatory “homework” or simply careful consideration and prayer. But they were both well worth the time — as well as the loss of reading anything else during those hours! I also completed a book launched by the company I work for, a new release from a favorite author, an introductory book about a new-to-me hobby, a memoir shared with me by its author, and a surprisingly enjoyable classic from 50 years ago.
Here’s what I read in May & June (contains affiliate links):
What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, by Matt Perman
Category: Book about Christian living
This will probably end up being one of my favorite reads from this year. It’s not another productivity book, despite the “get things done” phrase in the subtitle. It’s more like a combination of a practical theology of work and gospel-oriented advice for ordering your life. It not only establishes a strong foundation of how the Bible defines productivity, but offers practical application of those principles. If you’re at all concerned about getting the right things done in your life — the things that will most glorify God and show His love to others — I’d highly recommend it! Read the full review here.
Stop Guessing: the 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers, by Nat Greene
Category: Book published in 2017
I consider myself a mediocre problem-solver, and am always looking for ways to improve, so when Weaving Influence launched Greene’s book recently it caught my attention. It was a fast read, but chock-full of practical advice and helpful illustrations (his and other’s) which demonstrate effective problem-solving skills in action. Greene starts out by laying the foundation for why many popular problem-solving methods are ineffective, and why it should matter to us. He makes a point of continually tying the more abstract ideas to very practical problems many of of us face: technical problems at home or work, organizational problems, health and behavior concerns, personal or relational conflict, and even societal problems in the community or across the globe. I found his emphasis on relating each method to particular “real-life” situations very helpful. Reading this book will give you a much greater ability to tackle the next challenge in work, home, or your community with confidence and effectiveness. Plus, it gets bonus points for including quotes from Yoda, Indiana Jones, and Sherlock Holmes!
Night Sky of North America (Pocket Guide), by National Geographic
Category: Book about science
Great beginner’s overview for an amateur astronomer! It’s comprehensive in its coverage of the sun, moon, galaxy and universe, planets, constellations, and other objects in the night sky – but short page-length entries made it easy to work through without being overwhelming. The diagrams and photos were visually appealing and very helpful for depicting what the text covered. I was disappointed in its strong evolutionary bias, especially in explanations about the age, breadth, and decay of the universe. But overall it was an interesting read and highly informative!
A Memoir, A Testimony, by Beth Durkee
What Beth (the author) imagined for herself as a child turned out to be nothing like what really happened, both as she grew into womanhood and considered a future marriage partner. The first volume was an encouragement to me as I’ve dealt with some life-changing circumstances not too different than the surprise turns that took place in Beth’s life. It was inspiring to see how God used various trials to turn her path toward Him. The second volume was an account of Beth’s unexpected journey toward marriage, and I caught some of the confusion she must have felt as she worked through various options and biases. It was interesting, but didn’t have the same impact on me that the first volume had. The writing style is engaging, so I’d recommend if you enjoy memoirs (just be aware of some errant theology in both volumes). See full review here.
Anne Boleyn, by Alison Weir
Category: Biographical fiction
I might have a weakness for historical fiction set in Tudor England, and Alison Weir might be one of my favorite authors for that time period. She writes both history and historical fiction, and though I’ve never dived into her actual histories, I find her novels to be in-depth, informative, and generally based on extensive research. She’s generally a good storyteller, although parts of this book, her latest in the Six Tudor Queens series, sometimes read a bit more like fact then fiction, especially in things like the recitals of places visited. However, other parts were clearly based more in theory than in fact, and I felt Alison took a bit too sympathetic a view of Anne’s more questionable actions in her later years. Of course, that’s perfectly acceptable in a novel, and especially a book about such an enigmatic character as Queen Anne. But whatever your views on her, the book provides an entertaining and informative look at life in King Henry VIII’s court during the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn.
The Chosen, by Chaim Potok
Category: Book published 50 years ago
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, or even if I’d enjoy it, but I was surprised to find it a fascinating narrative of Jewish life in 1940’s America. It’s a combination coming-of-age story and historical narrative, and shares the journey of two devout Jewish teenagers who transition from deathly hatred of each other to the closest friendship (à la Jonathan and David), as they navigate through the perils of post-WWII persecution, family conflicts, crises of faith, and possibilities for their futures. Even though the book is five decades old, its offers an enlightening view of this slice of humanity and presents timeless lessons in working through anger, betrayal, persecution, and the typical fears of adolescence. While I would recommend it for any adult, it should be suggested to younger teenagers via parental guidance, as it does get a bit graphic at times.
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, by Tony Reinke
Category: Book about theology
This was another fantastic read that will end up on my “best of” list for this year! I received it for free in exchange for an honest review, and I will be posting a more detailed full-length review shortly. For now, however, let me just say that it provided a LOT of food for thought. Reinke does not approach the subject lightly. And don’t be alarmed by the title: his goal is not to convince you that smartphones are evil, or even persuade you to revert to a “dumb” phone (unless God so convicts you), but rather to carefully consider how these 12 universal changes might be apparent in your own life. I will say that, as I finished the book, I did actually do some “spring cleaning” on my smartphone, deleting a few of distracting-but-unnecessary apps, and moving some distracting-but-necessary ones to a less obvious place. Our phones should be tools to help us live more effectively and more evangelistically, not distractions or temptations or avenues to a less compassionate existence. Highly recommended to anyone who uses a smartphone!
Other books read: The Traitor, by Laurence Yep (♥♥♥)
What is the best book you’ve read lately?
PS. Find me on Goodreads to share your favorite titles and discover what else I’m exploring for #Read2017.