Reading List from 2019

If you only read one thing from this list: Man of the House

Past reading lists: 2017 2018

Total: 34

Non-fiction

  • Man of the House by C. R. Wiley – What are households for? And why should we prepare ours for the end of the world (as we know it)? An insightful book, drawing from Biblical and other ancient wisdom.
  • How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert – A good introduction to information architecture. I can see myself using this heavily as a quick reference in the future.
  • The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie – I didn’t need to be convinced of the value of reading out loud to my kids, but this book increased my enthusiasm for it. Includes helpful tips on having conversations about books you might not have read, as well as book lists.
  • Gorgias by Plato – I wasn’t sure where to put any of Plato’s dialogues, because you can make an argument for both. So I’ll place them here for symmetry. Gorgias makes you start to understand why people eventually wanted to put Socrates to death.
  • Protagoras by Plato – Can virtue be taught? To answer that question, you need to start with what virtue actually is. Socrates begins arguing one position then flips to the other.
  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – This will probably turn into a periodic read. One of the best “just do the work” books you’ll read in regards to creativity.
  • A History of Venice by John Julius Norwich – Fantastic, entertaining read. I knew almost nothing about Venice when I started, and now I want to read more about That Most Serene Republic, the republic that lasted 1000 years.
  • Phaedrus by Plato – One of Plato’s most famous dialogues. Part of it is an ode to homosexual love, particularly pederasty. Hard to read, but a reminder of our roots of depravity, what Western civilization would have remained mired in without the solvent of Christianity. The second half, about the difference between rhetoric and dialectic, is enlightening.
  • When by Daniel Pink – The importance of timing in everyday life, with a section at the end of each chapter full of practical tips. Good anecdotes, good insights, quick read.
  • The Trial Dialogues by Plato – The four dialogues surrounding the trial of Socrates, including Apology, in which he mounts his own defense. Fascinating reading. Also includes Meno, Euthyphro, and Crito.
  • Sherman: Soldier, Realist, American by Liddell Hart. A military biography about the man who helped end the American civil war. A genius of both tactics and grand strategy. I learned quite a bit from this book, and it makes a great initial foray into military strategy.
  • Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. This books shows its age (AOL examples abound, for example) but the principles contained are tried and true, and it’s a good refresher of the “why” for permission marketing. At the most basic, you need to build an email list.

Fiction

  • The Odyssey by Homer – The Robert Fagles translation. Everyone should read it at least once. Thrilling and powerful. I think I like the Illiad more. It just seems crazy to me that we never read the whole thing in school.
  • A Pelican at Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse – Probably one of my favorites. Lots of great lines and imagery.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – A delight to read, and a lot to learn from it.
  • The Oresteia by Aeschylus – A trilogy of plays by the founding father of drama. These took me by surprise, and I found them incredibly moving. Deep themes of family and societal justice. Epic.
  • Euripides 1 – All of these four plays were entertaining. So far, my favorite Greek tragedian. They dealt with the same emotions and problems we deal with today, and really, people still haven’t changed much. Looking at them through the shadow of the Cross is even more enlightening.
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – I can understand why this isn’t her most popular novel, but I found it extremely profitable. Highly recommended.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert – This is the third time I’ve read this book. It was not quite as weird as I remember it being, but the places I remember it being great were still great. Different parts resonated with me. Last time I read this book, I wasn’t even married yet.
  • The Theban Plays by Sophocles – Page turners, especially Oedipus the King (Rex). Even though you know what’s going to happen, these are fun.
  • 1984 by George Orwell – Depressing and prophetic. This is the first time I’ve read it since high school, and I didn’t quite expect the literary masterpiece that I experienced. Orwell’s insights on language and power are highly relevant today.
  • Making Money by Terry Pratchett – One of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Finds humor in the weirdness of the banking system and pokes fun at gold hawks. Several metaphors tickled me to no end.
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck – One of the best novels I have ever read. Crammed with memorable characters. The last lines of the book wrecked me.
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson – Once you get past some of the clunky world-building, this is a typical Sanderson page turner, with some great action sequences. However, this one would have been better with a male protagonist.
  • Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. This one started a bit slow, but once it got going, I loved it. Great setups and payoffs, and even the “villains” get a happy ending.

What I Read to the Kids

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved it. My kids seemed to enjoy it. Rich with meaning and deep with character. A beloved classic that certainly deserves to be so.
  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. Omri’s coming-of-age story is weird but fun, and my kid’s enjoyed it. A lot of opportunities to talk about responsibility, anger, and what it means to be human.
  • 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson – Fun and spooky. A little slower to start than I remember, but when it gets going, it really is fantastic. The universe feels epic, aged, and worn, especially when you get to the epilogue, all things I’ve felt were missing in some of his later series.
  • Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson – This is the best of the 100 Cupboards series, and really shows that Wilson could right epic fantasy if he wanted to. Great new characters, escalating stakes, and a world that feels lived-in and old.
  • The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson – A solid conclusion to the trilogy. It meanders a bit too much, but the main narrative thread is strong and moving. The epilogue is a lot of fun.
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin – The author weaves her own flavor of many Chinese folk tales, creating a parable of her own that is fun to read, with a great message.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien – we listened to this on audiobook, and what a treat. Though I still felt a strong urge to skip all of the songs.
  • The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken – A classic that we will be revisiting. Great fun. Straight-forward story about perseverance and everything is wrapped up with a nice happy ending. The audio book is read by the author’s daughter, and is well done.
  • The Door Before by N.D. Wilson – My second time reading this, but the first time reading it to the kids. This is much better with the 100 cupboards series fresh in your mind, as it’s a direct prequel. The witch Nimiane is even more terrifying in this book than the main trilogy, which is quite a feat.

Some Cultures Need to be Ruined

Daniel Everett is a celebrated linguist who started off as a missionary, but eventually abandoned his Christian faith. His mini-bio in Mastery makes this drift sound noble, because a big reason for his growing doubts was the realization that the Gospel would ruin these cultures in which he had been immersed. In particular, the Pirahã’s concept of truth and how it affected their language.

But the truth is that some cultures should be ruined. They are not all equal. While it is possible to “plunder the Egyptians” as Augustine put it, we should not look with longing and awe at the pots of meat back in Egypt, wishing to gorge ourselves.

That same Pirahã tribe forced alcohol down and infant’s throat to kill it, an infant that Everett and his wife were attempting to nurse back to health. That was their truth.

Some cultures need to be ruined (And if we’re honest, we’ll just look at our own culture and agree with this.) They need to die, so they can be resurrected. The Gospel does not ruin cultures to leave a smoking crater in its wake. It ruins so it can bring about a new birth. So it can create something new.

That doesn’t mean everything should be the same, one big morass of indistinguishable humanity. The glories of the Chinese church, for example, will look very different from the glories of the Western church. Those pilgrims will travel the same path, but they might go a different speed, notice different things along the way, manifest strengths that we had never thought about, sing songs that leave a different taste on the tongue. Their language and culture will be part of the rich tapestry of nations that God brings streaming to the Celestial City.

Welcome to Trump 2020 and Beyond

After it was clear that Donald Trump won the election, I wrote some takeaways and predictions. Among them:

However, it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if, at the end of 4 years, he has higher approval ratings than Obama ever did.

And look at the latest approval numbers from Rasmussen. 50% approve.

50%.

Obama, by comparison, had a 43% approval rating at the same time during his presidency.

It’s doubtful the Democratic party will be able to put up a strong candidate to unify behind.  By the time the primaries comes around, the party will put up some sacrificial lambs, much like the Republicans did with Clinton in 1996. And then hope they can solve their own identity crisis before 2024.

Welcome to Trump 2020 and beyond. And yet again, people will be shocked and surprised, because no one has really learned their lesson. Something else I wrote in that same piece:

Echo chambers around the country cracked open, and amongst the hissing caused by the release of stale air, comes crying and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Instead of getting some much needed sunlight, however, they will soon retreat back into those same chambers, covering the cracks with duct tape.

The Left will not learn their lesson, and will continue to belittle, shame, and insult those who disagree with them. And try to get them fired or ruin their livelihoods.

So far this seems pretty on the nose. Many have already retreated back into their insular social media circles to continue to pat themselves on the back for having the right opinions. For bodysnatcher-screeching at and scolding all the right people.

And then they will again be surprised about how many people voted for Trump. It’s like the same script is playing out again.