Reading List from 2021

Past reading lists: 2017 2018 2019 2020

Total: 57

Non-fiction

  • Generation to Generation by Edwin Friedman – a detailed look at family therapy in the context of the clergy and churches. Helpful for any father or leader. Think in terms of systems and not individual atoms.
  • Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen – Esolen is a master: entertaining, convicting, and articulate. This is part treatise on childhood education and part prophecy against a decaying culture. Every parent should read it.
  • Oeconomicus by Xenophon – a Socratic dialogue about ancient household management and farming. Many of the lessons in it might surprise you, like giving slaves a share of the profits. Includes a long section about training a wife.
  • Thoughts for Young Men by J. C. Ryle – this book reads like was written 5 years ago, not 125 years ago. I’ll be keeping this one in my back pocket to go over with my boys as they grow older.
  • Becoming Your Own Banker by R. Nelson Nash – If you want to re-wire your thinking on money and finance, get this book. You can read it in a weekend.
  • Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff – recommended by a successful copywriter. Great for sales presentations and getting the proper mindset for writing sales copy.
  • Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy – Ogilvy is a fun author to read. You’ll learn tips ranging from how to run a business to how to write headlines.
  • The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson – I thought this would be more about the concept of paideia specifically, and some of the essays are more relevant than others, but overall very helpful.
  • A Landscape with Dragons by Michael D. O’Brien – About the importance of good children’s literature and the hidden dangers within. It gets a bit too Catholic in places, but worth the read. Includes a recommended reading list at the end for every age.
  • Better Business Writing by Bryan A. Garner – Should be required reading for every college graduate.
  • Something They Will Not Forget by Joshua Gibbs – On the benefit of catechisms in the classroom and at home. Full of wisdom about education in general, Gibbs writes in a way that is dense with insights, but is easy to chew on. It makes me want to read his other books.
  • Titan by Ron Chernow – Another great biography from Chernow.
  • The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – More of a short auto-biography, but a quick read and easy to swallow. Filled with great stories.
  • State of the Arts by Gene Veith – How the arts reflect our culture and framed with a biblical defense of the arts.
  • Principles of Biblical Interpretation by Louis Berkhof – this book cetainly gets the job done. More of a quick reference.
  • The Poem’s Heartbeat by Alfred Corn – A book that assume no knowledge. If you want to know the basics of English poetry, this book is for you, though he starts to disect it so much that I started to get irritated.
  • How to Write One Song by Jeff Tweedy – Practical tips cushioned with a philosophy on creativity. I would recommend this book to anyone.
  • Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey – A good summary of the bigger picture on how worldviews are totalizing and how Christians should get wiser. It lacks some meat when it comes to practicality, though.
  • Reading Between the Lines by Gene Veith – not really a book on reading between the lines, but more of an introduction to literature and its importance.
  • Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Age by Richard N. Longenecker
  • Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by H. R. Rookmaaker – this got a bit long-winded and repetitive at the end, but its a good overview.
  • Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis – fictional letters about prayer.
  • The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis – a series of essays on various topics ranging from heaven to pacifism.
  • Suprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis – an autobiography with keen insights. Great for all fans of Lewis.
  • The Conversations by Michael Ondaatje – if you are curious about film at all, this book will be eyeopening. Also great for any creative endeavor.
  • The Discarded Image by C.S Lewis – an extended essay on the Medieval model of the universe. Fascinating. And it makes you long for something just as glorious.

Fiction

  • Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson – Builds to the typical crescendo where Sanderson wraps everything up in neat yet surprising ways. Always enjoyable.
  • The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw – I read this in preparation for my kids to read it as part of their literature/writing/history program. A powerful story about friendship and perseverance, with ancient Egypt as the backdrop.
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – I’m not sure how to feel about this book, but it was masterfully done. A low-key dystopian alternate history. A very slow tragedy that gradually reveals a systemic horror.
  • God King by Joanne Williamson – Another historical novel I read because my kids are supposed to read it for school. It came across as a 2nd draft. Some ideas were clearly undeveloped, but they were interesting ideas.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – On audiobook. Still great.
  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis – A little dry but still great and full of interesting ideas that are explored further in the next two books.
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis – My favorite when I first read this series, and I think it remains my favorite. Lewis’ vision of a pre-fallen world is captivating.
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis – A prophetic novel. We are still trying to construct Babel, only we are far dumber than the villains of this book.
  • The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck – This is a slice-of-life novel where every character is painted with depth and understanding. Each one is vivid and different. There is no real plot. Just a bunch of characters interacting in various ways as they react to their shared predicament.
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – first Christie mystery since middle school and I enjoyed it. A classic for a reason.
  • Jeeves in the Offing by P.G. Wodehouse – one of my favorites. Fast-paced and streamlined.
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – still relevant and powerful, though not for the reasons modern communists think.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy – this is one I’ll revisit from time to time. Moving. Depressing. Hopeful. Aspirational.
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – should be revisited often.
  • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis – another relfection on our sins and the ways we pretend to be rightousness. A great read.
  • Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis – a great example of an unreliable narrator.

What I Read to the Kids

  • Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten – Forget everything you know about this story. The Disney movie does not do it justice. This is a fantastic, haunting, poetic book about the passing on of wisdom and tradition, and about one of the fundamental truths of the universe.
  • The Adventures of Pinocchio by Collodi – Weird and random, but memorable. Nothing like the Disney movie and the lessons lean more heavily toward obedience to parents. My kids loved it.
  • The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson – The promise of the series finally starts to be fulfilled. Lots of good stuff in this one, with better pacing.
  • The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald – This has the feel of a story written specifically for the author’s daughter. Delightfully strange and beautiful. Vivid pictures of courage and faith.
  • The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson – A good conclusion, though it dragged in places. And the allegory was a bit too on the nose. This really could have been a trilogy, instead of a quadrilogy.
  • Brave Ollie Possum by Ethan Nicolle – A fun story that my kids loved. It’s obviously a first novel and has some pacing issues, but the story and illustrations make up for it.
  • Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry – A short book packed with memorable moments. Great for boys, in particular. And if your kids love the movie Moana, this story is set in a similar culture, without Disneyfication.
  • King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green – An accessible, and fun, collection of the stories of King Arthur. It organizes them into a more cohesive narrative/structure.
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – a good conversation starter about WW2 and courage. The appendix at the end had me tearing up.

Reading List from 2020

Past reading lists: 2017 2018 2019

Total: 40

Non-fiction

  • The Household and the War for the Cosmos by C. R. Wiley – A follow-up to his other book on households, this one is also eyeopening. It introduces some passages from Xenophon’s Household Manager dialogue, which are relevant for a whole bunch of things.
  • Clean Code by Robert C. Martin – A must-read for every professional programmer, and probably a must-own. Several things clicked into place for me while reading this book and working through its examples.
  • Field Marshal: The Life and Death of Erwin Rommel by Daniel Allen Butler – An even-handed treatment of the Desert Fox, and a fun read. Men of principle are never perfect, and can still get swept up in the spell of someone like Hitler.
  • John for Everyone, Part 1 by N.T. Wright- I like commentaries that include the text itself, and this one is a quick read with some good insights.
  • Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Not sure why it took me so long to read this one, as Anti-fragile is one of my favorite books. This one is also excellent and thought-provoking while being entertaining at the same time.
  • Phaedo by Plato – An account of the last day in the life of Socrates, before he acquiesced gracefully to his own execution. The dialogue focuses on Socrates attempt to persuade these companions (and himself) of the immortality of the soul. One I will need to revisit from time to time.
  • Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield – A decent “kick in the pants” of good advice, but mostly a rehash from The War of Art. It also doubles down on the mystic Neo-platonism, which was a bit of a turn-off.
  • The Grace of Shame – An overview of how the church has failed homosexuals, usually as a result of cowardice in the face of cultural pressure. Some of the issues with modern translations around effeminacy were eye-opening.
  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug – a good primer or refresher on basic UX.
  • Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein – An enlightening book that doesn’t really have any hard lessons. The author presents you with examples and research and wants you to decide for yourself. I personally thought it was helpful, in terms of how people learn and how we harness creativity.
  • Content Strategy at Work by Margot Bloomstein – A good, rubber-meets-the-road intro to content strategy and the value it can bring to a project.
  • Impossible to Ignore by Carmen Simon – This should be required reading for anyone writing and presenting content. A dive into how memory works and how it persuades.
  • Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts – The first biography of Churchill I’ve read, and this was a good portrait. Focused more on WW2 than any other time.
  • Traffic Secrets by Russell Brunson – The title sounds spammy, but this book is a great overview of how to get attention online. Most of the tips are evergreen, though he does dive into some specifics on a few platforms. I would recommend this book to any beginner on the topic, with minor quibbles.
  • A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman – A summation of Friedman’s experience and work, this book is like looking at the code of the Matrix. Leadership is not about tools, but about navigating emotional processes and maintaining your own presence.
  • The Content Fuel Framework by Melanie Deziel – Better to skim. More of a lead generation for the author’s workshops, but some good prompts for brainstorming.
  • Tending the Heart of Virtue by Vigen Guroian – You will never look at fairy tales and fantasy the same way again. And you will look at the Disneyfication of them with disgust. Recommended for any parent or teacher.
  • Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson – All about storytelling and persuasion in selling. If you follow this, you will most certainly make money online. This is a resource to refer to often.

Fiction

  • Starsight by Brandon Sanderson – The sequel to Skyward, and much better. Now that’s he gotten a lot of the clunky world-building out of the way, he can start having more fun expanding the universe. And it is a lot of fun.
  • Emma by Jane Austen – This book had me chuckling from start to finish. Full of funny fools and great lessons.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque – A powerful, fictionalized account of the trenches in World War 1. Depressing to read, and it doesn’t offer much hope, and in that way, it felt a bit too self-important and indulgent. Still, I would recommend everyone read it at least once.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – A fun read, but nothing groundbreaking. It didn’t make me want to rush out and read the sequel. Lilah Bard is grating at times, and she never seems to learn her lesson. Also, all of the really interesting minor characters are killed off way too quickly.
  • The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein – Not bad for a first novel. It has a good voice and is pretty fun to read. However, the world-building is hit or miss, anemic in some places, and it gets some blatant facts wrong about some popular Bible stories. For a book labeled “hard sci-fi,” it didn’t really live up to the label.
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – I can’t believe it has taken be this long to read this book, but of course I enjoyed it. Still relevant and insightful.
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen – This was in the running for being my favorite Austen book…until the last third. Still very, very good. It felt more modern than the others I have read.
  • Peace Talks by Jim Butcher – A fun read, as all Dresden Files books are, though this was one of the weaker installments. Some great scenes, but clearly a part 1, which is what we were told going in.
  • Battle Ground by Jim Butcher – Non-stop action with some great character moments. Butcher knows how to earn his really big scenes, and there are several in this book that took my breath away. Looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.
  • Night Watch by Terry Pratchett – I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time. It lived up to the hype. Some good metaphors to put in my commonplace book.

What I Read to the Kids

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – The kids loved the dragons. The climax, where Voldemort returns to power, contains some of Rowling’s best scenes, but the rest of the book shows some weakness. So…many…adverbs.
  • The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall – Delightful. It captures the days of summer while young, and why those days always loom so large. Fun characters.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling – We did this one on audiobook because I remember it being long and a slog. And my memories served me well. The movie is much better than the book because the screenplay did what a good editor should have done to the book. Still fun, but much more of a grind than it needed to be.
  • The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – This was my favorite of the Narnia books the first time I read them, and it remains my favorite.
  • The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame – A short, fun book that plays with expected stereotypes.
  • Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper – I had always heard good things about The Dark is Rising series, and we finally started it. Lots of promise, though this one does suffer from some extra padding. This was the author’s first novel, however, so it can be forgiven.
  • The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper – This one fell a bit flat. The writing is evocative and beautiful, but it’s just a series of things that happens to Will, for no apparent rhyme or reason. He doesn’t seem to have any real agency and I almost never felt any tension.
  • The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff – This one is clunky and inelegant, but it gets the job done. How many other children’s books out there are about the founding of Switzerland?
  • The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit – Delightful, and very British. Some laugh out loud moments, good lessons, and a happy ending.
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson – Decent for a first novel, but not tightly plotted. And it plays with the old conceit of the grown-ups hiding a secret from the kids, and that’s what everything else swirls around, which I found a bit lazy. We’ll see if it gets better because the kids enjoyed it. It can trigger some good conversations.
  • Give Me Liberty by L. M. Elliott – This book is a great conversation starter. It takes place on the cusp of the American Revolution with the viewpoint character being a 13-year old indentured servant. Thoroughly researched, tt raises good questions without demonizing the founders. A lot of the big names of the revolution make a cameo at some point.
  • North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson – The second book in The Wingfeather Saga, and it was much better than the first book. Still some rough edges but the plotting was tighter, the author didn’t overwhelm with irrelevant footnotes, and the lore of the world has started to round out.

Your Bookshelves are not Trophy Cases

I love the Library of America imprint. They compile the works of great authors and wrap them in accessible and attractive editions.

When I’m on my periodic browsing trips to Half-Price Books, if I ever see a compilation I don’t own yet, and it’s in good condition, I immediately grab it (usually for less than $10, which is a stupid deal). I don’t even care who the author is. I know they will be someone worth reading or referencing, in some capacity.

Continue reading Your Bookshelves are not Trophy Cases

Crash Course – Our Homeschool Plans and Curriculum

For those parents being dragged kicking and screaming into the homeschool life by sudden necessity, I thought it might be helpful to lay out my families plans and curriculum, sprinkled with some advice.

This is not meant to be a prescription. Homeschooling is personal and different for every family and child. That’s part of what makes it great. It’s flexible. But it can also be overwhelming. So take this post as a few signposts on the road that you can choose to follow or not, and even if you don’t arrive at the same destination as me, at least you won’t be completely lost.

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Printed Workbook for Proverbs Memorization

Printed workbooks of Write Noble Things: Friendship & Anger are now available for pre-order. The first 10 orders receive 15% off, using code “early-bird-wntfa”.

Pre-order page is here: https://gumroad.com/threefoldword#sCTLA

Why did I compile this book? Because I wanted something like it for my own kids, especially my boys. The proverbs are something everyone should learn at a young age, giving them time to seep and saturate their hearts.

Continue reading Printed Workbook for Proverbs Memorization